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Latency Defined

If you have done any work with audio on computers before, you have probably heard the term latency. If you haven't heard it yet, you'll be hearing it often now. A dictionary definition of latency is “the time that elapses between a stimulus and the response to it.” In the computer world, latency generally refers to the time that elapses between the request for an action and the completion of the action.

For computer audio users, though, latency is used to refer specifically to sound card latency: the time the sound card takes to convert what you're recording into digital data and move the data to your hard drive, or the time needed to convert the stored data back to analog audio for output (Figure 1.13). Audio latency is of critical importance. If you are playing along with previously recorded material and there's a half-second lag between what you hear playing back and what you are recording, your new material will not play back in time with the old.


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