How To Reduce Annoying DAW Latency
Save your home studio desktop environment. Reduce your CPU load.
One of my favourite feelings is laying on the warm sand in the middle of summer. Or having a nice hot bowl of soup in the middle of January. Some things are just better when they’re hot.
Your computer’s processor isn’t one of them.
Like any machine, your computer has its limits. Producing music pushes them to the max.
Your DAW starts to sloooowwww waaaayyyy doooowwwwn. Not good for when you’re trying to bang out hit tracks. And even worse: lag can cause clicks and distortion on your track. Don’t let lag write your song for you.
Give It a Break
Here’s 10 ways to give your computer a break while it’s doing the heavy lifting of music production.
1. Wi-Fi Won’t Fly
Turn your Wi-Fi off. A lot of applications are constantly checking in for updates, new info, or upgrades. This sucks up more processing power than you might think.
Turning off your wi-fi is also a great way to reduce pesky distractions. That kills two annoying birds with one stone.
2. Shut It Down
While you’re creating in your DAW you probably don’t need to be playing games, watching movies, and live tweeting your progress. Shut your unnecessary programs down. These will be the biggest processing suckers of them all.
To find out what’s taking up the most power go to your OS’s process manager (on Mac it’s the Activity Monitor. Windows it’s called the Task Manager).
They’ll tell you which sneaky little process is taking up the most juice.
3. Freeze or Be Frozen
Most DAWs have a feature that allows you to ‘freeze’ specific tracks. Freezing means you can pause a track’s power sucking while you work on different stem.
It’s like being able to pause your dog while you play with your cat so no one gets sad.
4. Cool it on The Effects
Obviously you need effects. But you’ve gotta draw the line somewhere. 30 different reverbs on one bass track is just too many.
The more effects you have the harder your computer is working. Think of your computer like a little train trying to get up the hill. Effects make the hill way steeper.
5. Limit your VST and Plugin Count
Virtual instruments rule because you can have as many as you want. But putting every single one on your song is gonna turn your DAW into molasses. Same with big beefy plugins. They suck up processing juice real quick.
Limit your VSTs as much as you can. Simpler is usually better for your sound anyways. Pick only a few and use ’em wisely.
6. Make Your Buffer More…Buff
Increasing your buffer during the mixing phase will give you way more CPU wiggle room.
Keep in mind that the lower the sample rate, the higher the audio latency will be at a given buffer size (the short delay between inputting something and hearing the output). But this will decrease your CPU load overall.
7. Upgrade Yourself
Your computer has given you years of dedicated service. It’s fine to feel some emotional attachment to it. But if you can afford it, it might be time to let go.
New usually means more power. But if you can’t let go of your trusty friend quite yet RAM upgrades are a nice cheap alternative.
8. Trim Your Hard-Drive Fat
Full means slow. No one’s winning a hundred yard dash right after thanksgiving dinner. Your computer is the same way. The less that’s in its belly (hard drive) the faster it’ll run.
Be ruthless with your trashing and do it often. More space means more power. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least 10% of your hard disk free.
9. Extra Externalized
If you’re like me and you like to digitally hoard stuff (I can’t even count all my sample packs at this point) cloud storage is your best friend.
If you’re in need of some extra storage for your music, the new LANDR app doubles as cloud storage. Anything you put through LANDR mastering software is automatically backed up. Plus, cloud-based mastering takes all the pressure off your processor.
10. Update Your Softies
Audio software manufacturers are constantly releasing updates. A big reason they do this is to optimize performance.
That means if you’re still using that copy of Pro Tools from 1995, your CPU might start acting a bit funky.
Updating to the newest release of your software should speed things up and reduce power drain on your processor.
Happiness Is No Lag
Now that you’ve reduced your lag, producing will be a major breeze. Use these cool (literally) tips on your next project.
And let us know your what your tricks are for lowering your lag. We’re always trying to squeeze out as much producing power as we can.
Rory Seydel is a musician, writer and father who takes pleasure in touring the world and making records. Creative Director at LANDR.
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