Confused about what is causing latency in Garageband

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Keith Shergold, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. Keith Shergold macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2008
    Yellowknife, Canada
    Hi Everybody,

    I just bought a new MacBook Pro in December for me and my wife. She uses Pc-type computers at work, and I (incredibly) have never really owned a computer, just so any advice-givers here realize what a state I'm in. I am a complete idiot when it comes to computers.

    Anyway, on to the problem. I discovered the Garageband program after buying the computer, and was very pleased with it. I don't have a recording background either, but the thing I like about this Mac is it sort of teaches you how to do stuff as you go along. Anyway, I managed to record a couple of songs, and they turned out pretty well. Then, while recording a third song, using the same effects, I ran into "Latency". I noticed that Latency only occurs when I try to use the guitar effects while recording. When I record clean, or from the "pre-amp out" socket on my amp, everything is cool.

    So, I can still use Garageband, just not the effects, like "cool Jazz", etc.

    I have researched Latency, so I know it is discussed at length in other forums. I know that converting the signal from my guitar to digital, writing it on the hard drive, adding the effect, and piping it back up the earphones uses up all kinds of processing power. I realise that shutting down other applications will help the computer run faster. I understand that using a digital interface will reduce latency compared to just using the "line-in" port.
    I know that adding my effects from the amp or a pedal and just recording that sound with "no effects" will eliminate the latency. I know all about reducing latency in the garageband preferences menu. etc, etc, etc.

    However, I am confused because when my computer was BRAND new two months ago, I could simply plug my guitar into the "line-in" hole, add some light effects, and record a tune with no latency.

    Now I can't. Something has changed.

    This is not simply a case of, "oh yeah, you will get latency in Garageband, you need to live with it or circumvent it using this or that product" I already know this. I am living with it and I am circumventing it by using the pre-amp from my fender twin.

    I am worried that something inside my new computer is broken, or running slower because of something I've done. It seems to be behaving like a computer should for the most part, sometimes I get that little pinwheelie-thing and have to "force quit"(not in Garageband, actually) but I gather this happens to the best of us every once in a while. I have no idea how to diagnose any problems with it, and besides, I gather that many other peoples' computers are doing the exact same thing because of all the discussion I see posted on the internet.

    I guess my question is: if latency is normal, the why did I not have it all along? Why was the computer Latency-free until the fourth song I recorded?

    By the way, I installed "leopard" when I first got the computer, it's a macbook Pro, and I don't really know anything else about it.

    My life won't end if I don't solve this, Garageband still works well enough I suppose, I'm just very curious. Worked perfectly before, works less perfectly now, how come?
  2. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    there is always latency when recording to digital. it takes time to convert an analog signal to digital, there's no way around that.

    when latency gets annoying is when you're trying to monitor what you're playing and you can detect a delay between your action and what you're hearing.

    if you want to monitor your guitar playing through digital effects on your mac, then there will be latency, from:
    1. going A/D
    2. using plugs
    3. going D/A

    in order to monitor w/o latency, you must tap the analog signal of what you're playing before it gets to the A/D stage. many dedicated interfaces offer "no latency" features, and that's all they do: grab the analog signal and send it to the headphones (e.g.) before conversion.

    doing it this way means you won't be able to hear your mac plugs while tracking your guitar. if that's important to the part, then you're a bit stuck*. if it's not important, then you can either:

    1. monitor the analog signal as i described above, or
    2. track the guitar w/o effects (there'll still be some latency, but not as much) and apply the effects to the track later.

    (please note that when using plugs in a DAW, it makes no difference if you have them on while recording or if you put them on later, because what is written to your hard disk is the unaltered signal anyway. same thing with the fader: it's applied post-record, so if you turn down your fader, it does *not* record at a lower level).

    * unless you want to buy some hardware pedals and do all that processing before you convert it to digital
  3. Keith Shergold thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2008
    Yellowknife, Canada
    OK, well maybe my problem isn't Latency then I just picked up the word "latency" from the internet because it sounded like the problem I was having.

    Like I said, I DO track the guitar W/O effects now, and there is no perceptible latency. I guess you're right about latency being there all the time, but I'm talking about the kind that makes it impossible to monitor a recording.

    It was NOT there in any perceptible amount while recording a song, with a fender telecaster, plugged into the "audio in" socket on the computer, with the effect "thick jazz" selected, with my headphones on. There was no delay at all while I recorded myself playing a six-minute song, along with the bass track that I also recorded, from the beginning of the song to the end of the song. Period. This was in January.

    Now, in March, with the same computer, the same line-in jack, the same song, and the same guitar and the same headphones, sitting in the same chair in the same room at the same time of day, with the same effects selected, I can start the recording and start playing, and the delay between the time I pick a note and the time I hear it becomes longer and longer until after about twenty seconds I can no longer play along with the song. Also, at random intervals there is a little "crackle" sound when I hit a note and it is at this moment that the delay becomes more pronounced. I am not imagining this.

    Also, if the delay was merely the result of the time it takes the computer to process, record, modify and play back the signal from the guitar, wouldn't the latency be consistent with time? Here, it increases as the recording progresses. If I stop the recording and re-start it, the latency goes back to a minimum and then worsens from that point.

    I believe something has happened to my MacBook that has reduced its ability to process the guitar signal as quickly as it did before. I believe that when the computer was completely shiny new it ran GarageBand better than it does now, and this delay or latency or whatever you choose to call it is a symptom. I have read some posters speculating that a recent software update has caused this to happen.

    Also, I think the same thing is the matter with other people's computers, and like you, they tell themselves that latency is the nature of the program and fix it using outside solutions and products, like I am doing right now. I can tell you, however, that as the program was when I first started using it, whatever latency was inherent in the design of the program, it was manageable and minimal, and now it's worse and I want to know why because I spent 2500 dollars on this computer and I think it should be running as well now as it did a month ago.

    Sorry for ranting and raving.

    P.S. I just re-read the message above. I am actually doing what you suggest there, and recording without the mac plugs for effects. When I want to hear effects while recording, I am using the pre-amp from my stage Amplifier and running that to the computer. It' actually better in one way, because now I can change effects mid-track, in real time while recording, which you can't do with the mac plugs.

    My issue here is that the latency has gotten worse for an unknown reason.
  4. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    yes. there's definitely a problem with your setup that looks to have nothing to do with latency.

    if you're not doing so already, i suggest recording to an external (7200 rpm) firewire drive. that's basically a must-do anyway once recording and/or playing back more than 1 or 2 tracks.
  5. Keith Shergold thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2008
    Yellowknife, Canada
    I was thinking about that earlier. I was thinking that maybe it worked well before because my hard disk was almost completely empty, but now I've got it almost a quarter full with itunes, and pictures, and stuff. I wonder if an external hard drive would restore some speed to this program.

    Thanks for taking time to respond, by the way
  6. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    writing audio to disc doesn't take a ton of resources (not for a couple tracks, anyway), but it can be a problem using the main disc for that, since it's busy doing things like accessing the OS, the app, bits of audio you've already recorded to play back, etc.

    i don't know if this will fix your issue, but it's a good practice regardless.
  7. Tarkovsky macrumors 6502


    Jan 4, 2007
    Hi keith, it's very unlikely that there is something wrong with your computer. Possible reasons I can think of are

    1) You're running other applications at the same time that are slowing it
    2) Something's gone wrong with garageband and you need to reisntall/download it
    3) You're laptop hard disk has too much on it (this is not an issue about free space to record, but that hard disks become slower as they are filled up) - this is especially an issue with 5400 rpm drives
  8. JeanE macrumors newbie

    May 1, 2006
    Go offline with Internet.
    Disable Bluetooth and Airport.

    Close all programs you do not need for recording

    "Clean" your Mac with "Onyx"

    Record now with less latency.
  9. rympy macrumors member

    Nov 7, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    same issue

    I think we found each other on a different forum..

    for what it's worth, I've been experiencing a similar thing See (

    Since then I've taken the MBP to apple service and they diagnosed my MBP with a problem. The tech said that he was 'unable to verify that my CPU was working at 100%, and that is seemed to be under-clocked'

    They replaced the whole logic board and gave it back to me.

    I am STILL experiencing the same behavior. I've been in touch with Apple head office about replacing the computer. This is an unacceptable problem for me, considering the reasons i bought it in the first place.. and since my PowerBook G4 1.25Ghz 1.25GB was able to easily manage the same tasks.

    Apple head office tells me that i have to take it in to get repaired again, as they can't replace the computer after only one repair attempt..

    We'll see what happens.
  10. Keith Shergold thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2008
    Yellowknife, Canada
    Holy Crap, Rympy.

    It sounds like you had exactly the same trouble as me. I've been thinking lately that maybe this is just what that program does. Did your MBP do anything else out of the ordinary, or was it the performance of Garageband that made you suspect the computer was screwed up?

    Was the apple guy able to "verify" the cpu was running at 100% AFTER he changed the whole logic board?

    Has anything changed since then? Was your computer able to perform tasks at one time that it became worse at over time?

    I hope my computer isn't "under-clocking". I don't even know what that means. Your problem with Garageband is identical to mine. It would be just my luck if I bought a buggered-up computer. Ther is no apple store in my city, so "taking it in" to get diagnosed will be a stupid, long, frustrating process, during which the post office will surely get their chance to damage the computer also.

    Is there some way I can see if my computer is "under-clocking"? What is that anyway?

    Good luck & let me know what happens.

  11. rympy macrumors member

    Nov 7, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    Brand NEW MBP running smoothly

    Apologies for the delay. But I haven't had a computer for a few weeks now.

    After the first episode I decided to try to isolate the problem to make sure that it wasn't hardware related. I did a 'erase and install' with TIGER and checked garageband. Suddenly it seemed to be working fine! I then upgraded to Leopard again and gb was still seemingly functioning properly. It gets better though..
    I decided to run another apple hardware test (which you can do from your MBP install discs) and I got an error message..

    So I took the MBP to a different authorized service centre (for whatever reason). I explained the symptoms again as well as the new symptoms. and left the computer there.

    I then found out that there was a problem with the (NEW) logic board and they had ordered a replacement for me.

    I immediately called Apple head office again and spoke with the woman who I talked to before. I explained what was happening and they agreed that It was ridiculous to be replacing the Logic board again (which would have been logic board #3 for that particular mac). The offered me a replacement MBP on the phone and I received it about a week ago.

    Lucky for me I got the new upgraded model at no cost. All faith restored.:apple:

    BTW. Time machine backups worked perfectly and all my settings and files and apps are where they should be.

    ALSO FYI.. the Apple guys at the first service place left an app on my computer called CPUTest. (
    See if you can find it - that might be the one used to test the clocking speed. Not too sure otherwise.

    GOOD LUCK MAN. If you call apple, my advice is to be firm, fair, and courteous. I felt they were receptive to it and they seemed kind in quickly offering the replacement.
  12. Heathroe macrumors newbie

    Dec 14, 2010
    I feel your pain

    I got the same thing going on with my computer. i just installed the new garageband on my macbook that i've had for a few years now. The earlier GB did'nt have this problem. And it's only while playing on a guitar track with the effects In GB.i find that restarting the mac works for a short period of time but soon has the latency problem. I would really like to use these effects. I hope we find a solution.
  13. riffdaley macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2011
    Delay/Latency when recording

    I was having the same problem, I found out that I had been playing around with the Pitch correction or rythym correction on one the tracks and as soon as I turned it off on one the tracks I was able to record OK with no noticeable latency.Also lock any tracks you aren't recording on at the Mo, Hope that helps
  14. Loops macrumors member

    Oct 5, 2010
    I wouldn't be surprised if some of the latest features are designed to be incentives to buy new Macs.

    However, I've found that Garageband doesn't like a variety of things, like:

    Internet running
    web browsers (especially if they have a lot of windows open)
    other large software that causes virtual memory swapping
    being open when the computer is put to sleep and then awakened
    being open, then the user uses other programs that have significant memory/processor needs, and then goes back to Garageband later

    Quitting Garageband and re-opening it often will help, as will quitting other programs and turning off the Internet. Garageband seems to have difficulty reclaiming memory once it has been swapped, so it's best to not switch to other programs too much.
  15. Rosarius macrumors newbie

    Sep 12, 2010
    Monitoring as you record, with no perceptible latency

    Hope this helps:- to those of you who want to monitor as you record in Garageband, and hear the FX or amp models as you play, then the best place to monitor the signal is directly from your audio interface (I use either Guitarport or an old Tascam US-122).

    Be sure in the track preferences when you set up the track that the input source AND the output source are set to the audio device e.g. Guitarport, then plug your phones straight into it. The result is that you hear the notes you're playing and recording with no perceptible latency. To hear the difference:- add a new guitar track again but in the box 'I hear sound from', choose 'Built-in source' and you'll get tremendous latency when you play.

    Note: if you can't 'see' the device listed when you set up a new track, be sure in Garageband -> Preferences -> Audio/MIDI, that you've chosen the device as the input and output source. This is especially useful if you use a device like the TASCAM which has inputs for guitar, mic and external FX.


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