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I'm looking to record myself playing one part at a time, but I always run into the problem that my playback slows down over time, leading me to change tempo when I shouldn't.

By way of example, if I generate a click track on my computer, and then record the click track via a microphone, the two tracks start aligned but are wildly divergent by minute three or so.

I'm pretty sure the cause has been insufficient computing power in the past; I now have the resources to get what I need to fix it, but I'm unsure what I should get. I'm currently using a Behringer Xenyx mixer for recording, but any advice I can get on software and/or hardware would be great.

  • If you've generated a click track on a computer, why do you then need to record it via a microphone? – topo morto Mar 18 at 16:48
  • The recording of the click track was just to prove what I suspected with my ears - that the playback while recording slowed down over time. In reality I want to eliminate lag so that I can perform multiple parts of a song, one at a time, listening to the playback as I go. – mkdir Mar 18 at 16:55
  • So just to confirm... If you play back a click track from one track, recording it onto another track, then pay back the two tracks together, you can slowly hear them going out of sync? – topo morto Mar 18 at 17:08
  • Yes, that is exactly the case! Thanks for helping make my language clear. – mkdir Mar 18 at 17:11
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    No your language is clear... It's just a very odd phenomenon so i wanted to double check! – topo morto Mar 18 at 18:21
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What you describe sounds like an error in the product. Take it back to where you bought it and demand the problem to be fixed, or get your money back.

It might be better to buy another audio interface. I recommend the Steinberg UR series of USB audio interfaces. Very high quality build, good sound, good solid drivers, low latency and costs almost nothing. Works on Mac, Windows and iOS/class-compliant. The UR22 has MIDI I/O, separate volume controls for headphones and stereo line outputs, two mic preamps and channel 2 has an optional Hi-Z input mode for recording guitar/bass directly into the box.

To clarify: a computer audio recording system is very complex, and most of the relevant components are not mentioned here. The problem might be in many different places, and troubleshooting it through a site like this is impossible. That's why I recommend narrowing down the search and replacing the audio interface and its drivers with known good parts that "just work". I'm not saying that the Behringer Xenyx thing couldn't be made to work with any effort, but I'm suggesting it might not be worth it. I have a Xenyx 302USB, and I've used it as a simple line mixer and adjusting levels and EQ when digitizing old analog video recordings. It did seem to work for USB audio I/O at least so I could record something with it, but it's in every way a cheap device. It's a bit noisy, and IIRC there's no way to monitor only the computer's USB signal when playing live, which is a must to use computer based guitar amp simulators - and you can't get the USB audio to work with very low latencies either. Very cheap little thing, and if you are able to do something with it, it's a nice bonus.

  • Thanks for this answer; I'm very open to another (better) interface. I see computer minimums as well for these products online, which are helpful. If you also had suggestions as to computer minimums I would take them, but otherwise this is very helpful - thanks! – mkdir Mar 19 at 0:21
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This sounds very odd! Normally, playing back one audio track while recording another shouldn't result in any obvious timing issues; there obviously are delays (latency) in getting the audio into and out of the system, but an interesting characteristic of ASIO drivers is that they are aware of these delays, which allows your recording software to compensate for them so that each newly-recorded track lines up properly with the tracks previously laid down. This has usually worked properly for me even on the much lower-powered systems of 15 years ago; the only time it didn't work was on a version of Adobe Audition that genuinely hadn't been coded to work properly for this scenario, and even then, it didn't give me issues with audio getting progressively further out of sync.

The only explanation I can think of is that your played-back audio is suffering from buffer underruns, which is causing very small pauses in the played-back audio, which over time might cause things to go out of sync. I don't even think that explanation is likely though, as AFAIR ASIO drivers deal with recording and playback in the same callback, which should mean that they are always dealing with sets of samples that correspond properly.

So apologies for a non-answer, but I agree with piiperi that you might just need to try to do some component swapping to narrow down the problem. A different interface would be a good place to start (I'm currently happily using Behringer's own UMC204HD), but perhaps try a different computer, with a trial version of a different DAW too, to try to get away fully from the ghosts in the machine...

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    We don't know if it's an ASIO setup or something else, and even then there might be hidden automatic samplerate conversions or something happening behind the scenes. Some "multimedia" drivers do that. – piiperi Mar 19 at 9:11
  • @piiperi good point, I was assuming ASIO - have asked for clarification under the question. – topo morto Mar 19 at 9:15
  • @piiperi Echoing my comment in the question, what do you recommend in terms of a computer (Mac or PC)? I've always had fairly low-end machines, but am finally in a place where I can purchase something decent. – mkdir Mar 19 at 11:45
  • @mkdir both are usable. With Windows PCs you might get a bit more CPU power for the same money if you build it yourself, but on Macs, things tend to "just work" better. Plug and play devices on the fly, low latency and smooth operation by default even with built-in audio. With PCs it's more hit and miss and you better build the whole thing yourself. If something is integrated or pre-installed on a PC, it means trouble. You have to be somewhat of a computer expert to use PCs. If you only want to get music done, get a Mac. It works for audio out of the box. – piiperi Mar 19 at 12:26

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