Audio dropouts and latency are big issues in multi-track recording project. This post provides complete troubleshooting steps so that you can resolve these issues as simple as possible.
Audio dropout is defined as an intermittent drop in audio during playback or during tracking/recording session. Latency is defined as the lag between the reference recording or timing device such as a click track and the recorded track. Both are big issues and can severely affect the quality of the recording.
Possible cause of audio dropout and latency with possible solutions
1.) If you are experiencing latency or lag, then most likely you are using WDM drivers. If you are still using consumer audio interface such as those that are not designed for professional audio, it uses WDM type of audio drivers. However, these native Windows drivers in audio are not suitable for music production since it can cause higher latency and increase possibility of audio drop out during recording. Read this post for the detailed differences between ASIO vs. WDM in home recording.
Solution: To resolve this issue; use an audio interface that uses ASIO drivers; modern audio interface particularly external USB or Firewire audio interface are powered with ASIO drivers. So if you are still using the classic and old PCI soundcard for your music productions, it is a good time to replace them. For details about this topic, you can read this guide on buying an audio interface.
2.) If you are now using ASIO drivers for your USB or Firewire audio interface but still experiencing serious latency issues; then you might be using an old driver for your audio interface. A good example of this problem is the Focusrite Scarlett interfaces; the first version of the drivers receives a lot of negative feedback because of latency and other related issues such as drop out. Well the actual problems are in the drivers itself that comes with the audio interface (such as that installer CD that comes along with the package after purchase).
Solution: When there is a driver related issue, the manufacturer should fix and release an update. For example in the Scarlett issues above; Focusrite updated the drivers and any users experiencing issues would simply download the latest drivers and install it to solve the problem.
3.) You are running out of USB or Firewire bus bandwidth causing drop outs or latency issues. One thing that you should know is that USB or Firewire bus bandwidth is limited to a number of devices it can handle. If the USB or Firewire audio interface has been connected to an USB or Firewire port that is shared with a LOT of devices, then the bandwidth would suffer which can result to audio recording and play back issues.