Someone sent me and email asking why he was hearing his voice two seconds after he spoke/sang into the microphone (this kind of delay is called “latency,” if you care:)). My first thought was that he must be trying to record with a really old sound card that probably came with a really old computer. But he went on to say that though he was using a pretty old laptop, he had a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface!
It shouldn’t matter if you use an old computer (as long as it has USB ports, which is how many interface units attach) if you connect a decent external audio interface like the 2i2. It (the 2i2) will give you real-time monitoring, which means you can hear what you are recording in real time. No delay. But you definitely have to make sure your headphones are plugged into the interface box and NOT the computer. In fact, you should make sure that the on-board sound card is disabled. You can do that in your operating system audio preferences or control panel. If you don’t do that, you might end up recording audio both from the intended microphone plugged into your interface, AND potentially from a built-in microphone on the computer somewhere.* This is especially true for laptops, with their helpful (apply sarcasm to that last word) automatic web cams and mics.
Anyway, latency may not be that huge a problem if you’re just recording a single track of audio like a voiceover, though two seconds is pretty distracting. However, it can make multitrack recording pretty much impossible. You need to be able to sing (or play) along with the already-recorded track(s). So if you are overdubbing – layering additional audio tracks to previously recorded audio – latency needs to be addressed.
Below is my reply to the person who sent me the email:
This is almost certainly not the fault of your old computer IF you are using the Focusrite 2i2. But you have to make sure you’re using ASIO as the driver type. You can check this in Reaper under Options/Preferences then select Audio/Device. In the drop down menu in that screen, next to where it says “Audio Device:” you must select “ASIO.” Then you should see your Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 as the input and playback (output) options.
Then I would double-check in your Windows settings (Control Panel then navigate to Audio Devices) to make sure your default input/recording device and playback device is the Focusrite.
One last thing – make sure your headphones are plugged into the Focusrite. If you’re trying to monitor playback through the laptop headphone jack, that could cause this problem.
If you make those changes, you should not have the latency (the term for the playback sounding delayed like you describe), we can check something else. Good luck!
So if you have any issues with latency
* This actually happened to a guy I was helping to do voiceover recording. He had a good mic (Rode NT1) and interface (Avid Fast Track Solo), and yet his audio sounded noisy and really echo-y, like he’d recorded it in the kitchen from really far away, into a terrible mic. We tried several solutions to no avail. Finally, I asked him to check in the Windows 7 “Manage Audio Devices” section to see what microphones were enabled.