I'm no signal processing guru, so I'm looking for a pretty basic explanation that I'll understand. I've seen this question about Phase Locked Loops, but I have a hard time understanding that, especially in relation to digital audio workstations (DAWs).

What I want to know is how DAWs align the phase of signals when sending them through AU or VST plugins. How do they know how much the plugins will delay a signal they send through it?

I may be mistaken in my assumption that any correction is actually necessary, but then how do DAWs correct for delay of each channel in parallel processing?


As the author of a few AUs/VSTs an AU hosting app, I'll chime in here:

  • There is usually no phase alignment of signals passed through effects processing (AU/VST)
  • The "latency" of the effect is normally reported by the effect to the "hosting" environment on initialization. This way the hosting app can keep all channels in sync (i.e "wait" until all effects have returned the same time-range of audio before mixing, etc). Core Audio SDK states that AUs should implement this property kAudioUnitProperty_Latency if their latency is > 0 seconds.
  • Sometimes effects do not report their latency to the host app, so there are tools like Voxengo to work around that problem.

If the hosting environment doesn't have an automatic way to handshake & compensate for latency, then its compensation is a manual affair. For example Ableton Live has a feature (17.5 Device Delay Compensation) to help work around these timing issues.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much! That's exactly what I was hoping the answer was! $\endgroup$
    – KFox
    Aug 17 '15 at 17:48

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