- Find out what ASIO4ALL is and why it exists
- Do you still need to use ASIO4ALL in 2019?
- Does ASIO4ALL for Mac exist?
- What are the best cheap soundcards under $200 to fix latency issues?
Do I Need ASIO4ALL On A Mac?
The short answer is: no, you will not need to install ASIO4ALL if you own a Mac.
Even if you wanted to, you’re not going to find a Mac version. It simply doesn’t exist, so stop looking.
Macs use high-quality audio drivers called Core Audio, and make ASIO4ALL redundant for Mac users.
What Is ASIO4ALL?
“ASIO4ALL is a hardware-independent low latency driver built for Windows operating systems and designed to reduce latency.”
Why Do I Need ASIO4ALL?
Now that we have the Oxford Dictionary version out of the way, you’re probably still lost as to precisely why it’s necessary. Let me attempt to explain…
When your manufacturer builds a sound card, there are these clever little mechanisms called drivers, which are responsible for how the audio interface communicates between the application’s software to the hardware device itself.
In a way, it’s kind of like how the central nervous system in our body works, connecting our brain to the rest of our organs in order to transmit signals and tell the body what to do.
ASIO4ALL is that driver.
OK, but why can’t I just use my computer or laptop’s in-built drivers?
Look, you totally could — if you enjoy tearing your hair out over latency issues and audio lag.
In the old days (back in my day etc), Windows was quite a primitive piece of software. If you didn’t have your own external soundcard, you were pretty much at the whim of Windows’ laggy audio processing, as the entire signal had to be run through Windows own proprietary mixer, which meant that simple audio processing tasks would get bogged down by all the other processes in the signal path that Windows was already taking care of. In a word, it was inefficient.
A few improvements by Windows were made over the years, but nothing very substantial.
Then a few impatient heroes in capes, who went under the name of Steinberg (commonly known as the developers of Cubase), came to a gentleman’s agreement with Windows and offered up a solution known as ASIO.
ASIO, the drivers in question, worked by re-routing audio processes in the signal path, bypassing the Windows mixer and thus reducing the workload necessary to process tasks.
Steinberg essentially offered up a new standard of how external audio and MIDI devices could be handled in Windows, and the audio world rejoiced.
The Birth Of ASIO4ALL
So, ASIO was great and all — but there was one major problem with it: compatibility.
As with all revolutionary technologies, it takes time for the industry players to catch up to a new ‘standard’, and there were a ton of interfaces out there that just didn’t support ASIO yet.
So, ASIO was great for those of us with pro audio cards that supported ASIO (newer models etc), but what about everyone else?
This is where the ‘4ALL’ in ASIO4ALL comes into play.
ASIO4ALL acted as a bridge, a middle-man if you will, from Windows to the audio application itself, but with all the clever delegation features that were implanted in the original ASIO.
I’m Just Getting Into Music Production. I Don’t Have An Interface. Do I Need ASIO4ALL?
If you’re operating straight from Windows, and without any sound card or audio interface, I highly recommend downloading and installing ASIO4ALL.
Do I Need ASIO4ALL If I Have An Audio Interface?
Provided your soundcard isn’t an absolute dinosaur (made before 2009), you most probably won’t need ASIO4ALL.
Most audio interfaces come loaded with their own drivers now, and so ASIO4ALL is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
In fact, it is probably advisable that you don’t use ASIO4ALL if your soundcard has its own drivers. The company-specific drivers they’ve provided you with are there for a reason, so use them and forget about ASIO4ALL.
What Is Audio Latency?
Audio latency, or commonly referred to as lag, is when digital audio playback suffers from unwanted, delayed response time.
It kills a musician’s ability to play in time, and is both a musician and a producer’s nightmare.
And audio latency doesn’t just happen with recording ‘live’ instruments, either. This can also affect plugins. If you’ve ever loaded up a soft synth VST, played a note, and heard the note playback a fraction of a second later, that’s latency.
What Causes Audio Latency?
In most cases, audio latency is caused by a lack of computing resources which bogs down the ability of your computer/laptop to handle audio processing correctly. Here is how audio travels from sound source, through the computer, and out of the speakers.
- Your voice enters the microphone.
- Your voice is then passed through Analog/Digital converters to turn your voice into digital information.
- This data then passes through a bus, and enters an input buffer on your PC or Mac.
- The CPU then has to deal with this information, while simultaneously having to deal with other processes like your 40 Google Chrome tabs that have been left open for 2 months.
- Once the computer has fully processed the information, along with any effects that it also had to process in the chain, it’s then rerouted through an output buffer, back through a Digital/Analog converter (in order to convert it back to audio).
- Your voice can now be heard through your speakers.
It may seem like a lot for a computer to handle, and if you’re running a computer made in the 90s, it’s going to struggle.
But any decent, modern computer or laptop will be able to process all theses stages in a matter of milliseconds.
The problem is, they can add up to a noticeable delay, and a rubbish soundcard that is not designed to handle professional-grade audio processing will suffer from lag.
Do I Still Need ASIO4ALL In 2019?
Users of Windows 7 and upwards all use something called WASAPI (Windows Audio Session API), which has superceded ASIO4ALL.
So, if you’re using anything older than Windows 7, you will still need ASIO4ALL (if you aren’t using a dedicated soundcard with its own drivers).
Right, So Do I Need A Soundcard For Music Production?
For all the points above, a soundcard is absolutely advisable for anyone who is looking to take music production seriously. At the very least, even if you’re looking to pursue it purely as a hobby, you’ll want to buy a soundcard so you can enjoy the experience without tearing your hair out over latency issues. It is the biggest buzzkill to creativity.
What Are The Best Soundcards For Music Production?
If you’re currently producing without a soundcard, and this article has given you the encouragement you need to finally invest in one — we’ve provided a short list of the top 3 soundcards for recording music in 2019.
Getting into music production has never been cheaper, and good quality, entry-level audio interfaces can cost you less than $100 USD.
Mackie’s foray into the budget audio interface world has been nothing short of a success. The Onyx promises, and delivers zero-latency monitoring, pristine preamps, and is a powerhouse of an audio interface for the price.
You get a 1/4″ TRS input and XLR mic input. The controls and I/O are a little limited compared to the Scarlett, but considering the price it’s an absolute bargain.
Check out details and specs here.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has been the undisputed champion of budget soundcards for new producers, due to its reliability, quality preamps and attractive price point.
It’s feature-packed, and allows you to select the source type for each input, and has visual indicators of when your signal is clipping/distorting — which even many of the expensive audio interfaces lack!
This is great if you’re new and still learning how to correctly gain stage, but honestly — it’s just handy to have, regardless of skill level.
On top of that, you get high-speed USB connectivity, two preamps, and it also comes with four bundled plugins and even a copy of Ableton Live Lite!
Check out details and specs here.
If you’re new to music production, you might not have heard of Audient before, and that’s because they’re not as old as some of their counterparts.
Their brand name has quickly become synonymous with having the best quality preamps that your money can buy, under $200.
It’s a simple 2 in, 2 out interface that has a mic preamp (with phantom power so you can use a condenser), and an instrument input too for your guitar, or bass.
You also get a main output for your speakers and a dual headphone output.
It’s USB powered, and thanks to Apple’s camera connection kit, it also works with an iPhone/iPad.
If you can afford to spend a little more, you won’t be disappointed with the Audient ID4.
Check out details and specs here.
Other Tips You Can Try To Improve Your Audio Latency
Reduce the audio buffer size
Buffer size dictates the time required by your computer in order to process data. If you set this too large, you’ll get latency. Conversely, reducing the buffer size by too much will place strain on your computer and glitch out your audio. Experiment with different buffer sizes to see which works best for you.
Looking for studio setup ideas to help you build and customize the home studio of your dreams? Head to our Studio Setup Ideas category for more glorious studio porn to deck out your music studio with. Also, check out our favorite music studio decor ideas here for even more studio goodies.
Last update on 2020-02-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API