Delay Compensation

  • Live Versions: 9-10
  • Operating System: All

What is Delay Compensation and how does it work?

Certain devices, plug-ins, and track delays may introduce latency. These latencies or delays arise from the time taken by devices to process an input signal and output a result. Live's Delay Compensation automatically compensates audio, automation, and modulation by offsetting all tracks by the required amount to keep them in sync with each-other. Delay compensation is on by default and doesn't need to be adjusted in any way, however it can be disabled in the Options menu if required.

Sources of latency in Live:

  1. Negative Track Delays: Using a negative track delay on one track causes all other tracks to be delayed accordingly. The amount of negative track delay is added to the Overall Latency amount in Live's preferences

  2. External Instrument and External Audio Effect: As these devices send and/or receive audio from outside Live, they will delay the audio by the Overall Latency amount in preferences. In addition, when setting the 'Hardware Latency' slider to any amount other than zero, this will add extra latency.

  3. Ableton Devices, third-party plug-ins or Max for Live Devices: Any of these devices which use oversampling or convolution algorithms can add latency. Max for Live devices will also introduce additional latency when their editor window is open.

  4. Devices using "lookahead": Dynamic processors often come with a "lookahead" feature, which introduces a negative delay on the sidechain signal to allow the gain reduction to catch fast transients more effectively.

Display the latency by hovering your cursor over a device title bar in Device View. The latency in shown in the status bar. Find out which Ableton devices introduce latency.



Which elements are not compensated?

  1. Graphics Elements are not compensated
    Level meters, video playback and other graphic elements might be displayed slightly ahead of time with respect to the audio.

  2. Built-in device modulation synced to the Live transport (i.e., synced to a specific beat-time position) is not compensated
    Devices that depend on
    beat-time information such as song start, position in the song, or position within the bar, may be out of sync when latency-inducing plug-ins precede them in the chain (or in other chains or tracks in certain routing scenarios). These include certain devices with LFOs and devices that generate quantized patterns.

    One example would be the Auto Filter LFO (in Sync mode), which might be slightly off depending on the position the device has in the effect chain. Specifically, if the Auto Filter is located after a number of devices introducing a large latency, the modulation might be offset to an earlier position with respect to the grid. This only happens with devices which sync to a specific song position. Devices such as Ping Pong Delay, Filter Delay, and Simple Delay are always correctly compensated.

  3. Return tracks are not compensated when routed back to an audio track if the respective Send on the destination track is active
    To restore the correct delay compensation for Return tracks routed to Audio tracks, disable the respective sends. You can disable a send by right clicking on the Send knob and choosing "Disable Send". For example, if you route Return Track A to Audio Track 1, right click on Send A on Track 1 and choose "Disable Send" to restore the correct latency compensation.

How to check if a Device introduces latency

The actual amount of latency experienced by the user is dependent on the sample rate settings, so for the purposes of this article, we will assume a sampling rate of 44.1 KHz and list latencies in both samples and milliseconds. For more background information about what latency is and how Live handles it, please refer to our Latency overview.

The latency introduced by a device is displayed in the Live Status Bar upon hovering with the cursor over a device title bar in Device View. The device latency is shown both in samples and in milliseconds. If "Delay Compensation" is not active under the Options menu, then it won't be possible to display the latency of a device. 



Collision: due to the built-in limiter, this instrument introduces a latency of 64 samples (ca 1.5 ms).

External Instrument: Once the 'MIDI To' is set, latency is introduced. The latency is the same as that currently displayed in the 'Overall Latency' field in Live's audio preferences.

Dynamics processors

While Live's dynamics processors do not introduce latency per se, they do if the Lookahead feature is enabled. Because Lookahead introduces a negative delay for the side chain signal triggering the gain reduction, Compressor, Gate and Limiter add an amount of latency equal to the amount of Lookahead.

Glue Compressor:  this device does not come with a lookahead feature, but it introduces 32 samples latency (0.73 ms) when in Oversampling mode.

Other Effects

Corpus: due to the built-in limiter, this instrument introduces a latency of 64 samples (ca 1.5 ms).

Dynamic Tube: 4 samples (0.091 ms), in Hi-Quality mode only.

Erosion: 221 samples (5 ms)

EQ Eight: 16 samples (0.36 ms) in Oversampling mode only.

Overdrive: 5 samples (0.113 ms)

Reverb: 8 samples (0.18 ms)

Saturator: 4 samples (0.091 ms) in Hi-Quality mode only.

External Audio Effect: The latency is the same as that currently displayed in the 'Overall Latency' field in Live's audio preferences.