[linux-audio-dev] Re: [MusE] More ideas :) [Track freeze] - Alsa Sequencer

Jay Vaughan seclorum at mac.com
Mon Jun 16 01:26:36 UTC 2003

>Some of my points of view:
>- you want the latency (time between user action, eg. tweaking a real-time
>   control or pressing a key) as low as possible. But don't get trapped in
>   all the marketing stories people want to play

I say that this is poor advice.  As a soft-synth developer, one 
should *ALWAYS* pay attention to latency.  It is one of the key 
factors (user interface being another) which will sell or kill your 

The lower the latency, the better your product will sell - people 
*DO* notice latency in soft-synths, and regardless of sound quality a 
high-latency synth plugin will gradually get less and less use.

Latency is a marketing issue in the synth world because it seriously 
effects performing/professional musicians' ability to perform. 
Hobbyist synthesists may not care about latency, and may be fine with 
pre-rendering everything, but in a performance situation this is not 

>   My experience is that even with without low latency it is possible to play
>   an instrument, though is more difficult and takes more practice to get the
>   timing right. A latency of >20 ms makes a piano feel kind of sluggish; a
>   latency <10ms gives your the feeling of instant sound. The curch organ is
>   a nice example of an instrument that is difficult to play because of
>   extremely high latency, but good musicians do manage...

True, the rule is that good musicians can make music with anything.

But there's another rule too, and that is that good synth programmers 
care about and know how to deal with latency in a way which does not 
interfere with performance ... and can still write amazing 
synthesizer algorithms without tripping up the latency problem.

>   "Recording engineers" who claim that they can't make a decent mix if the
>   latency is above 10ms might be right with that statement, but I'll be glad
>   to put a bet for a crate of beer on it that they can't do a decent mix
>   with no latency either ;-)

I find this to be a highly ungrounded point of view.

Professional engineers wouldn't use a high-latency synth if it meant 
it gets in the way of their production.  It's okay for hobbyists who 
didn't pay a dime for the plugin, but its not okay for professional 
music production environments where a lot (not just money, but also 
stress, prestige, and client relationship) is on the line in an 
average recording session.

Linux Audio Developers would do well to keep in mind that latency 
should never be justified ... there will always be someone else 
around who doesn't need to justify it.

>- In the end, all that counts is that the parts of the composition arrive at
>   the listner's ears at the right time. This implies that you would need to
>   know about the latencies in your system, and compensate for it:

I think you *HAVE* to also include the earlier part of this equation 
in the mix: when the user does something with the synth, physically, 
it had *BETTER* respond, and respond well.

>   In the end the only thing that matters is that it sounds OK and that when
>   the recording is reproduced it sound the same... (already not a trivial
>   question)

No, please, be careful with this "recording" ideal when dealing with 
abstractions which will effect performance.  Not all music is 

>ps: I'm still a very lousy keyboard player, and am heading for some serious
>beer now.  Cheers!

Us lousy keyboard players may not care about latency, but the kind of 
pro musician who can really make a difference in the way a market 
responds to an audio platform does ... and since Linux is a new audio 
platform, this is pretty important to keep in mind throughout *all* 
levels of development.

In my opinion, of course, which isn't worth much ...



Jay Vaughan
r&d>>music:technology:synthesizers - www.access-music.de/

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