How do I fix audio latency on Android?

What is Audio Latency?

Audio latency refers to the time it takes for an audio signal to travel from its source to the speaker outputs ( It measures the delay between an audio signal being generated or processed, and that signal being audible from a speaker.

Low audio latency is crucial for music apps, musical instruments, and games. It allows the sound from taps or controls to be heard instantly. High audio latency results in a noticeable lag between pressing a button and hearing the corresponding sound. This lag disrupts the user experience, especially for music performances, gameplay, or voice calls.

Common Causes of Audio Latency

Audio latency occurs when there is a delay between an input to an audio system and the output heard through speakers or headphones. On Android devices, some common causes of audio latency include:[1]

  • Older or slower Android devices that have less processing power
  • Too many background apps and processes running that consume RAM and CPU resources
  • Outdated, buggy, or incompatible audio driver software that creates processing delays

Older Android devices tend to have higher latency due to slower processing speeds and limitations of older hardware components. Newer devices with more powerful chipsets generally have lower latency. But even latest generation devices can suffer from latency issues if too many resource-intensive apps are running simultaneously.

Incompatible, buggy, or outdated audio driver software is another common source of audio latency on Android. Audio processing requires specialized driver software that interacts between the app processor and audio interface hardware. Problems with this software can introduce delays and glitches.[2] keeping the audio driver software updated can help minimize latency related to drivers.

Overall system load from too many background processes combined with hardware and driver limitations on older devices are key factors leading to latency problems on Android. Closing unused apps, updating drivers, and disabling unneeded services can help. But ultimately, newer and faster devices have the best chance of avoiding latency issues.

Check Your Android Version

Newer versions of Android generally have lower audio latency. This is because Google has made optimizations to the audio pipeline over time. For example, Android 10 introduced a new audio latency API to allow apps to output audio with less than 40ms of latency on supported devices (source).

Here are some audio latency benchmarks for different Android versions according to Google’s measurements:

  • Android 9: ~45ms
  • Android 10: <40ms (on supported devices)
  • Android 11: <24ms (on supported devices)
  • Android 12: <15ms (on supported devices)

So in general, upgrading to a newer version of Android will provide lower audio latency. Android 11 and 12 are particularly optimized in this regard. When purchasing a new Android device, check that it ships with a recent version of Android to get the best audio latency performance.

Close Other Apps

Closing unused apps running in the background can help free up your phone’s RAM and CPU, reducing latency while using audio apps. Apps like games, streaming video, and social media tend to use more system resources even when minimized.

Some of the most resource intensive apps on Android include:

  • Facebook and Facebook Messenger – These apps are constantly running in the background using RAM and CPU.

  • Chrome – The Chrome browser uses a lot of RAM especially with multiple tabs open. Closing unused tabs can help.

  • YouTube – Streaming and buffering video requires heavy CPU usage. Close the app when not actively watching videos.

  • Snapchat – The Snapchat app is resource intensive due to all the graphics processing.

  • PUBG and other 3D games – Complex games require a lot of CPU and GPU resources to render graphics.

Try closing any apps you aren’t actively using in the background before using audio apps that require low latency. You can also use a task killer or memory optimizer app to aggressively shut down unused background apps.

Disable Power Saving

One of the main contributors to audio latency on Android is power saving features or modes. Android devices use techniques like CPU frequency scaling and entering deeper idle CPU states to conserve battery life. However, these same techniques often result in higher audio latency.

To reduce audio latency, it’s recommended to disable any power saving settings that may impact performance. Go to Settings > Battery and check if any power saving modes like “Power saver” or “Battery saver” are enabled. Turn these off. You can also go into Battery > Battery Optimization and make sure apps related to audio like music players, synthesis apps, audio drivers etc. are not set to “Optimize” or “Intelligent Control”. Setting them to “Don’t Optimize” prevents Android from limiting their performance to save power.

According to the Android source code documentation on reducing audio latency, “For CPUs, this means keeping frequency as low as possible, and idle states as deep as possible” (source). So disabling techniques like CPU scaling and deep idle can help, but may impact battery life. You have to balance audio performance versus battery efficiency.

Use Wired Audio Accessories

One of the most effective ways to reduce audio latency on Android is to use wired audio accessories instead of wireless Bluetooth options. As noted by Source, wired connections have much lower latency than wireless Bluetooth connections. This is because with wired accessories, the audio signal does not have to be encoded and transmitted wirelessly before reaching your ears. There is essentially zero latency with a direct wired connection.

Bluetooth audio must be compressed and encoded into a digital signal for wireless transmission. This process inherently introduces a slight delay, usually 20-40 ms but sometimes up to 100 ms or more. While imperceptible in casual listening, this extra delay can be detrimental for real-time audio applications like gaming or music production. Switching to a wired headset or earbuds is an easy fix to eliminate wireless latency issues.

Wired 3.5mm audio accessories work seamlessly with minimal lag on Android devices. Opt for wired headphones, earbuds, or aux cables instead of Bluetooth to ensure the lowest possible audio delay. Just keep in mind you will lose the freedom of wireless connectivity. But for latency-sensitive use cases, a wired connection is ideal.

Adjust Your Audio Settings

One way to reduce audio latency on Android is by adjusting the audio settings in your apps or system settings. Lower buffer sizes generally decrease latency, but can sometimes increase audio glitches or distortion. Finding the optimal balance is key.

As explained on the Android Developer site, using the minimum buffer size necessary to avoid glitches can help reduce latency. However, some glitching may still occur on certain devices depending on the audio hardware and drivers.

Settings like “Low Latency” or reducing the “Buffer Length” in apps like Superpowered can help achieve lower latency. Just be aware that too small of a buffer risks more glitches. Testing different buffer sizes to find the optimal setting for stable, low latency audio on your Android device is recommended.

In the end, there is always a tradeoff between latency and glitching. Focus on finding the lowest latency possible before audio quality is impacted too much. This balance differs across devices and apps, so some experimentation may be required to optimize your audio experience.

Update Drivers and Firmware

Buggy and outdated drivers can sometimes be the culprit behind audio latency issues on Android devices. The drivers act as the middleware between the audio software and the hardware components. If the drivers contain bugs or have compatibility problems, they may cause delayed and choppy audio output.

To update your Android device’s audio drivers and firmware:

  • Connect your Android device to your computer via USB.
  • Open your phone’s settings, go to About Device and tap Build Number 7 times to enable Developer Options.
  • In Developer Options, enable USB Debugging.
  • On your computer, download the latest audio drivers for your specific Android device model from the device manufacturer’s website. For example, Samsung and LG provide driver downloads for their phones.
  • Follow the instructions to update the audio drivers on your device. This usually involves using ADB commands.
  • Also check for firmware updates which include audio driver updates from your device manufacturer.

Updating to the latest drivers and firmware can potentially fix latency issues caused by outdated buggy drivers. Make sure to only install drivers from reputable sources like your device OEM.

Test Different Audio Apps

Certain apps may perform better than others when it comes to minimizing audio latency on Android. This source lists Superpowered Ultra Low Latency as an app with particularly low latency, optimized specifically to reduce latency on Android devices. A few other apps optimized to reduce latency include:

  • VST Host by Steinberg
  • DAW Recorder by Gismart
  • Caustic 3 by Single Cell Software

Focusing on finding and using audio production apps built to prioritize low latency can help improve results. Test out some options to determine which one works best for your needs and provides the lowest delay.

Try a Custom ROM

One way to potentially reduce audio latency on Android is to install a custom ROM. Custom ROMs are unofficial, developer-created versions of Android that replace the default firmware and software on your device.

Many custom ROMs aim to optimize Android for speed and performance. By removing bloatware and unnecessary background processes, these ROMs can free up system resources for lower latency audio. Some popular custom audio ROMs include:

  • LineageOS – A very popular custom ROM focused on clean, stock Android with optimizations and extra features. Many users report good audio latency performance with this custom ROM.
  • Resurrection Remix – Another custom ROM that is stable and fast with a focus on modularity and excellent audio capabilities.
  • OmniROM – Known for a highly customizable experience with various audio tweaks and low latency capabilities.

Before trying a custom ROM, make sure to carefully research compatible versions for your specific Android device model. Improperly flashed firmware can cause device issues. But if installed correctly, using a custom ROM optimized for low latency audio could greatly improve performance.

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