Android 4.1 low-latency audio could lead to better music, audio apps

Google Android 4.1 includes a number of media improvements including built-in support for encoding and decoding AAC 5.1 audio, support for multichannel audio output through HDMI, and support for USB audio output.

But Peter Kirn at Create Digital Music notes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Android team is also working to enable support for low latency audio across a range of Android phones and tablets. That could be very good news for musicians and audio professionals looking to use Android to create and edit sound.

Audio Evolution Mobile

Audio Evolution Mobile

In a nutshell, audio latency is the gap in the time between the moment when you tap the screen and the moment when you actually hear something. It’s hard to do serious audio production if that gap is too long, but Android software and hardware haven’t traditionally prioritized low-latency audio.

That’s one of the reasons you see far more apps for musicians on iOS than Android.

Apple has things a bit easier, because the company controls the hardware and software, while Google makes software that runs on a wide range of devices. But the company is shooting for latency of 10 milliseconds or less through software enhancements. Google could also eventually set requirements for hardware makers so that in order to provide a Google Certified device, phone and tablet makers would have to meet targets.

That would means a virtual piano app, drum pad, or digital audio workstation designed to work on one Android 4.1 device should theoretically work just as well on other devices running Google’s latest operating system.

For now, this is all just a theory though. Until third party developers start writing new music apps to take advantage of Google’a latest audio enhancements and device makers start working with Google to support low-latency audio, Android devices will probably continue to play third fiddle to those running desktop operating systems ( such as Windows, Mac, or Linux) or iOS.

  • digi_owl

    And at the same time, the few companies that made tablets with full size USB ports are dropping them in the race towards thin.

    • http://rationaldreaming.com/ Mike

      How is this a big deal when USB to microUSB converters are a dime a dozen?

      • CyberGusa

        Because those adapters don’t change the fact that microUSB doesn’t provide much of any power to connected devices and without a OTG plug adapter then most will not enable Host mode.

        Leaving your options to mainly just connecting the tablet to a computer but little else and even with a OTG adapter you’ll likely need an external power source to use most devices.

        Though there are wireless alternatives, you can even get a WiFi or Bluetooth based mouse these days and for a little extra their are portable WiFi hard drives.

      • digi_owl

        Less wires to carry around, and potentially misplace when needed.

  • gadgety

    Samsung has Apt-X low latency bluetooth audio on their latest tablets. That would be a nice boon across the Android range.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paulreynolds1234 Paul Reynolds

      does the nex 7 have apt-x

    • http://www.facebook.com/paulreynolds1234 Paul Reynolds

      fl studio is being made for android

  • Miguel Mayol

    Sabayon with its 1000 Hz kernel or Ubuntu Studio with ist low latency kernel or installing it are excellent Linux distros for multimedia, and I think arch has too a low latency kernel
    sudo apt-get install linux-headers-lowlatency
    sudo apt-get install linux-lowlatency
    sudo update-grub