22
Feb
1

When it comes to music creation, modification, digital instruments effects, and the like, iOS has always been overwhelmingly ahead of Android. There's one simple reason for this – it's not because of hardware limitation. It's not because developers and effects manufacturers don't want to to support Android. It's because of the audio-in latency – it's simply too high. For those who may not know, audio latency is "a short period of delay (usually measured in milliseconds) between when an audio signal enters and when it emerges from a system." In this case, it's the amount of time it takes to get the signal from an instrument (or similar creation device) through the Android OS. Logically, if it takes the system too long to process the first note, the second, third, or even tenth could already be on its way before the first is finished processing. You can see how that's a massive problem.

On iOS, audio-in latency is around 20ms, which is perfect for recording software or producing real-time effects on something like a guitar. On Android, however, the latency is around 200-300ms, which is absolutely unacceptable in terms of audio recording and digital effect processing. It just doesn't work. Typically, the audio-in latency needs to be below 25ms to be useable.

Despite this being an issue that has been in the Android bug report system for well over two years (and garnering over 2000 stars), Google hasn't done anything to correct it. Now, don't get this confused with the audio-out latency issues that were fixed in Android 4.1 – that has absolutely nothing to do with low-latency on the input channel. Of course, the two do go hand-in-hand, so it's good that Google at least fixed one side of the signal chain.

Now, a company called Sonoma Wire Works – which is responsible for some incredible guitar effects processing software for iOS, as well as the famed GuitarJack – has fixed the issue in Google's stead, which includes an API so other developers can utilize it for their own apps. It actually showed off the tech at the recent NAMM show, complete with a demonstration of real-time guitar effects being produced with a Galaxy Nexus:

So, when can we expect this fix in our devices? Well, that depends. Since it's an OS-level modification, the company is looking to license it to hardware manufacturers – HTC, Samsung, LG, the like – to get it incorporated into their respective Android builds. Hopefully each device manufacturer will see the value in this code, as music-producing apps are a big part of the allure of iOS for many people (myself included – don't shoot me).

Of course, that means there's no actual timeline as to when these types of apps and accessories will become a reality on Android, either; that, and there's nothing stopping Google from getting to it first. After all, a built-in fix that wouldn't require licensing from a third-party and would be more affordable for manufacturers. Fortunately, Sonoma is OK with that solution, too. When we asked the company how it would react if Google released a low-latency fix for the audio-in channel, it had this to say:

We will be happy when all the devices have it, no matter who provides it, because we could sell more products to a wider market.

I'm of a similar mindset here – I don't care who brings it to life first, I just want it. Now. Alas, patience is a virtue, but one thing's for sure:  we'll definitely be keeping a close watch on this one, as it will be a game changer once it's actually available.

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Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://www.kovdev.com/ kover

    I came here hoping the fix was submitted to AOSP. Now I'm leaving disappointed.

    • JESUS

      typical trotskyist parasite which is mixing up open-source, and food stamp and works for the new order.

      • http://twitter.com/RvLeshrac RvLeshrac

        What the fuck?

        a) English better.

        b) If it was in AOSP, the company would be able to make *MORE* money faster, since they would have more devices on which to sell their actual software.

        • JESUS

          a) shut up
          b) shut up
          c) shut up

  • EMullins

    This company is acting strange. If they really want it to get to all devices, they should contribute the code directly to the AOSP team. I don't know why they only mention licensing it to other handset OEMs.

    ...unless that's the more expedient way to get the AOSP team to pay attention to their code?

    • marcusmaximus04

      It is kinda strange, they don't really have much leverage here. But they're probably figuring they have nothing to lose by TRYING to license it, and they just might find a sucker to pay for it in the meantime.

      • EMullins

        Yeah but on an open platform like Android, they'd have to know that OEMs probably won't accept a licensing agreement on something that Google will probably fix themselves, especially considering that the audio latency issue isn't a particularly large consumer-demanded fix.

        I guess their rationale is that the AOSP team is too slow and bureaucratic and giving it to somebody like Samsung will ensure it gets into big selling handsets (like the Galaxy S) faster like and thus more money in their pockets from all those handsets being all to run their software perfectly.

        • marcusmaximus04

          Ya, I think it's also a case of: what do they have to lose? If they fail to license it to anyone, then they give it for free and it's the same as if they don't attempt it. If, for some reason, some manufacturer(s) actually pay for it, they get some extra money.

  • marcusmaximus04

    It'll be interesting how successful they are in selling this to manufacturers. Seeing how they have software that will rely on it, it's actually in the manufacturer's best interest to decline to pay for it and wait for this company to commit it as a fix in AOSP for free. This company has more to gain in it being available across all devices than the manufacturers have to gain in incorporating it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I highly doubt any of the big OEMs will bite, and I hope they open source it in the end for possible AOSP inclusion.

  • Colin Bell

    Google should pony up the cash for this. Reward the developer and incorporate it into the OS for us all.

    • http://twitter.com/sam1am John Samuel αΩ

      Google should fix major bugs in a reasonable amount of time and not wait for someone to build an industry off of how crappy some pieces of their OS are.

    • al

      Ha! Now you know why Android is open-source. you probably thought it's because that's what's "cool" or something...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Google is perfectly capable of figuring this out on their own really, if they prioritized it over other tasks. Or they could try to work with this company and incorporate their changes into AOSP for a nice fee and save some time.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        ... Or, and bear with me here, Google could buy the company.

        Apple already has pretty high quality apps for movies and music, with a medium quality app for photos (just look at iTunes ratings for iPhoto, they aren't particularly positive). Google has the start of something great with Snapseed. The Movie Studio app isn't that great, but it's workable in a pinch. I would love to buy a Nexus tablet equipped with an app for multitrack recording and editing.

        Their products look pretty good and generally well designed. Google has already demonstrated an interest in higher quality audio with the Nexus Q. Plus, Google gets this mystical fix to their audio problems as part of the package.

  • andy_o

    Another crucial thing to fix though is the inability for apps to set true gain http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=9913. This is not only bad for recording apps, but also on some phones like the nexus 4 whose mic gain is set very high, the audio gets clipped very easily. There are examples in this XDA thread:

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2046613

    Actually it's also on the old bug report linked in this article, the "d".

  • OmarioAmriky

    sweet

  • mechapathy

    It's incredible that this issue doesn't even have an owner in the bug tracker. Since July 31st, 2009. Shit like this pisses me right off.

    • sdfgsdf

      nobody cares so google doesn't either. And there's a lot of other bugs -some extremely serious- that google is never going to fix simply because they don't affect a lot of people. Welcome to democracy

      • Paul

        For christ's sake, why don't people like you stop taking their own perspective for granted and the only true one?
        Only because you don't care doesn't mean that others don't care, too.

      • mechapathy

        I care, as does any musician who uses Android who may want to experiment with the possibilities that touch control can bring to their signal chain. For example: it'd be much easier to modulate effects by using multitouch on a tablet at waist level rather than reaching down and tweaking knobs.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

          This. I absolutely cannot wait to incorporate Android into my playing.

          • mechapathy

            Neither can I. I'm thinking kaos pad on steroids.

          • http://twitter.com/RvLeshrac RvLeshrac

            There are also hundreds of thousands of people who explicitly ONLY buy Apple hardware because this is not an issue in iOS. They can spend $400 + $40 to get, say, a pocket amplifier+mixer+tuner rather than spending $600+ for all the actual hardware.

  • David Gerber

    Good luck trying to license a GPL kernel.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      Judging by some of the things I'm seeing, I don't think it's just a kernel modification that they are pushing. It could be that the only thing truly needing a fix is in the kernel, and they've just added the extensions and SDK to make this thing licensable product, but they are offering more than just a code patch to anybody that bites.

  • Itchy_Robot

    I have been threatening to buy an iPad for 2 years now just to get a good music input device. I wish Google would hurry up fix this issue because I really really don't want to buy an Apple product.

  • philm

    I'd buy their app if they give the fix away for free, they have nothing to lose, they should release before anyone else with some audio apps that we will all buy.. win win.

  • NoreenD

    Thank you to Sonoma Wire Works for their hard work and efforts on the issue. I hope that the results are a successful win/win for them and for Android!

  • Adrian Meredith

    this is really good to see but its dead in the water unless they can get google on board

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    Great. Until you think about this: even if Google, and other OEMs all pay to license the fix and incorporate it into their next updates, it will still be MONTHS before most people can see the fix thru an OTA update. In the Android ecosystem, the only group of people who will guarantee to receive updates in a timely manner are those who pay to buy unlock phones that are supported directly by the manufacturers. Everyone else will have to pray and hope their carriers approve the update as fast as possible.

    NOTE: I didn't even want to think about OEMs which wouldn't even update their old phones to fix non-critical problems like this one. Why should they? You should buy their next and newest phones to get something working! Don't even try to think Google can escape from this behavior neither -- the Galaxy Nexus is supposed to have the hardware to support Miracast, but when Google brought support of it to Jelly Bean, it only cared to make it available to the Nexus 4.

  • Drew M

    I'm not a huge fan of PA on the desktop nor am I suggesting it's the answer here, but I'm sure there are multiple approaches that Google has to improve the audio subsystem and maintain compatibility with legacy apps...if they choose.

    http://arunraghavan.net/2012/01/pulseaudio-vs-audioflinger-fight/

  • Drew M

    Dug a little more...maybe the answer is already at hand? Anyone try this?

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1777261

  • Jamesy

    This hasn't been fixed because its an extremely low-priority issue. Why is it so low on the priority list? Because it only effects people who want to plug digital keyboards and the like into their phone or tablet...and who wants to do that? Almost no one apparently, for several reasons...only .0001% of the user space wants to do this In the first place. And since its not a buffer issue, nothings actually lost, the stream is just delayed--and while that sucks if you're trying to manually sync up the latest tune you're playing with the tune your device is playing , that stuff is often handled in post because its easier. Content creation on all tablets, and phones, and other mobile devices only goes as far as would be useful, and in most cases, that means editing. Capturing just isn't very important, because it isn't common. Capturing photos and videos works great, where its needed...which doesn't go much beyond catching the latest NASCAR mass casualty event...or bar fight.. The problem doesn't effect sound recording, which is about the closest thing to audio capture that might make a feature list look goofy if it were broken.

    And I appreciate the article, and sharing, but calling it a bug may be a little zealous. This is a personal love of the writer--and its awesome that you'd share that with us...but it isn't mission critical, and depending on the cause, it could merely be a lack of optimization of a non feature for non use. I think time would be better spent cleaning up the partition scheme, improving governor profiles, improving upon the MTP protocols, or even fixing the download issues that have been around since cupcake, and whatever other tasty treat that came before it. Presenting this as a bug, or a fundamental flaw is, well....fundamentally flawed.

    • http://twitter.com/RvLeshrac RvLeshrac

      Apple's Garageband is so popular that they've been steadily updating it for two years.

      The latency issue is also the reason that very few musicians worth a damn use anything but Apple hardware.

      This is a *CRITICAL* issue for continued adoption of the platform and OS, especially as Google works on larger devices. No one gives a shit about the partitioning, governor, or MTP, because far *less* than .0001% of the userbase even knows what any of those terms mean. But there are plenty of people who want to use something similar to Garageband and don't want to buy an Apple device.

      • Jamesy

        So popular? First, why is it so popular? I know dozens of people who have an iPad or iPhone, and I know half a dozen with garageband...of them, 0 use it. Three are content creators (excluding myself)....and one is serious about it. What's he use? He has a Mac pro, and a windows 8 workstation. What's he use his iPad for? What everyone uses their iPad for...watching YouTube videos, and little looking at pictures of cats. Sure, serious work is **occasionally** done via email, but doing any kind of serious work...even email, for anything longer than a paragraph, a 2 minute slide show,or. 2 minute video, on an iPad, or iPhone, is a joke. And ya know what? Its the same way for android. Maybe...and its a big maybe, grandma might use I movie once in her life for a slide show of her grandkids....but be honest with yourself. Unless Your a content Creator, using these apps is for goofin off. And if your a content creator...your using more powerful machines, on a device that makes sense.
        To answer my own question, **everyone** thinks its a cool idea...*no one** thinks it practical, or useful when it can be done better, faster, and easier everywhere else.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000209056572 Joris Griffioen

          Lesson one in business, marketing, development, design etc: Don't assume your own situation applies to the entire marketplace. Your world =/= my world!

  • Dan

    When Sonoma Wire Works says "license", why do all of you read it as "give us money"? If you believe that Sonoma is a bunch of idiots, then go ahead and believe that they want money from the manufacturers. If you decide to credit them with 7 or 8 brain cells that all work at the same time, you'll realize that Sonoma will make piles and piles more money if they license the code to manufacturers in exchange for having a trial/limited/baby version of their software rolled into the manufacturer's OS overlay.

  • Sootie

    Shut up and take my money!