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.

Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign


Contribute via PayPal

* If you are using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin and seeing a pop-up message at the bottom of the screen, we have a guide that may help you disable it.

Subscribe to Liliputing via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,544 other subscribers

8 replies on “Android 4.1 low-latency audio could lead to better music, audio apps”

  1. 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

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

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

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

      1. 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.

Comments are closed.