Delay Compensation FAQ

  • Live Versions: All
  • Operating System: All

What is Delay Compensation?

Certain devices, plug-ins, and track delays may introduce latency. 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. 

Take for example three tracks: Track 1 contains several devices which brings its overall latency to 100ms, Track 2 has a latency of 20ms and Track 3 has a latency of 50ms. With Delay Compensation active, all tracks are delayed to the longest track latency time; therefore Tracks 1, 2 and 3 are adjusted so they all have 100ms of latency.

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. 

What devices/processes cause 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.

How can I view the latency of a device?

Hover your cursor over a device title bar in Device View.


Which elements in Live are not subject to delay compensation?

  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 and plug-ins 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.
  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.
  4. Monitored tracks are also not affected by “Delay Compensation” when “Reduced Latency when Monitoring” is turned on.

Exporting Audio from Live

Please note that, in order for Delay Compensation to be applied to exported audio, Delay Compensation must be enabled before exporting.

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: