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I want to record my singing. I want to hear myself sing as I sing. With QuickTime Player and Garage Band, there is a big delay between an external mic (Blue Snowball) and AirPods Pro headphones. When the AirPods Pro are also the microphone, the delay is shorter but still noticeable.

It looks like a software problem to be because the laptop can record in real time (clearly!) and it can stream audio to headphones- so the software must cause the delay?

I am using a MacBook Pro M1.

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2 Answers 2

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There is no way round this [without buying new hardware].

Latency is inherent on both the input and output - bluetooth considerably more than hard-wired USB.
The way this is avoided in [semi] pro setups is to use a USB interface with a direct feed straight back to the user's [wired] headset, avoiding the round trip through the computer entirely.

Using something like GarageBand or Logic, you can switch to a low latency mode, which bypasses any high latency plugins currently in use. You still cannot ever achieve zero latency by this method.

When recording into any kind of DAW, the input latency is compensated, so the sound once recorded sits correctly in time. You cannot do this on the fly, only for playback.

Without external hardware, your shortest latency would be the USB mic to a wired headset via the DAW. Most DAWs you can change the buffer size, lower buffer == lower latency. The lower limit on this is when the computer can no longer provide sufficient processing power & drop-outs will occur.
[A quick Googling tells me the buffer size isn't adjustable in current versions of GarageBand, unfortunately]

Part of the problem of having a Blue Yeti or similar USB mic is you can't route directly through a USB interface - you have to send the mic through the Mac. An XLR-cabled mic would go into your USB interface thereby allowing the mac to be bypassed.

You can get a basic entry-level [but perfectly serviceable] USB interface starting around $£€30. I'd always suggest searching an actual 'music store' rather than eBay, as there are a lot of even cheaper devices that are not up to the task. One reputable large EU-based music store is http://thomann.de/gb/usb_audio_interfaces.html
Behringer is generally accepted as being the 'functional bargain basement' of pro audio manufacturers.

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  • What's a DAW and why does there need to be a buffer at all? Can a USB mic go into an audio interface using a USB -> audio adapter?
    – Lucien
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 11:40
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    Digital Audio Workstation. There's always a buffer required so the computer has time to process, as well as do all the other tasks it needs to do. It processes in batches, too small for you to hear. If there was no buffer, the entire CPU would have to be ready at every microsecond to process the audio. Think of an equivalent of YouTube with a really slow connection, it keeps having to buffer & can't maintain smooth playback. You get the same halting playback if your audio buffer is too small.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 11:44
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    A dedicated unit, of course, has no other job to do except deal with your audio, so even though it probably does have a very small buffer internally, as it has no other tasks it must break off to do, its entire CPU can be dedicated to your audio signal, resulting in unmeasurable latency.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 11:50
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You need wired earphones for this. Start with the $20 ones and then as your recording needs advance, get dedicated audio hardware like this which works with iPads, iPhones and Macs.

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  • You can start a lot cheaper than that - basic entry-level [but perfectly serviceable] devices start around $£€ 30. I'd always suggest searching an actual 'music store' rather than eBay, as there are a lot of even cheaper devices that are not up to the task. One reputable large EU-based is thomann.de/gb/usb_audio_interfaces.html
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 12:26
  • Behringer is accepted as the 'functional bargain basement' of pro audio manufacturers.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 12:32
  • Agreed @Tetsujin most people don’t even need ableton live or dedicated hardware once they see what inexpensive wired headphones do for latency. Only when you have a nice mic and set of cans and know what signals you’re going to mix should you get external DAC.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 15:16
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    I will actually try with wired earphones first before buying dedicated hardware. The time gap can't be too long but it being 10% of the cost I'd be silly not to try!
    – Lucien
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 13:05

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