Action-Sound Latency: Are Our Tools Fast Enough?

McPherson, Andrew and Jack, Robert and Moro, Giulio

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

The importance of low and consistent latency in interactive music systems is well-established. So how do commonly-used tools for creating digital musical instruments and other tangible interfaces perform in terms of latency from user action to sound output? This paper examines several common configurations where a microcontroller (e.g. Arduino) or wireless device communicates with computer-based sound generator (e.g. Max/MSP, Pd). We find that, perhaps surprisingly, almost none of the tested configurations meet generally-accepted guidelines for latency and jitter. To address this limitation, the paper presents a new embedded platform, Bela, which is capable of complex audio and sensor processing at submillisecond latency.