Latency Compensation
By default Audacity will compensate the latency present in your system by 130 milliseconds. Using this procedure you can estimate and set the proper value for your system.
This video explains how to compensate latency in Audacity
Note: Latency Compensation is only important for the following recording scenarios:
  • Overdubbing: recording a new audio track while listening to previously-recorded track(s). You want what you play to be synchronized with the tracks you are listening to.
  • Punch and roll recording

Measuring latency in your system

There is an automated method available now, which is available at https://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=125770​
It's currently in beta, so please leave your feedback in the forum thread

Step 1: Adjust your Audacity preferences

1. Set your Devices Preferences

  • On Windows open the Edit menu and select Preferences... or press Ctrl + P in your keyboard. On macOS open the Audacity menu and select Preferences... or press Cmd + P
  • Select Devices in the left pane of the Preferences window
  • Select the preferred Interface Host: MME or Windows WASAPI should work
  • Verify your preferred Playback Device is selected
  • Verify your preferred Recording Device is selected
  • Set the Latency compensation to 0 (zero) milliseconds
  • Click OK to save your preferences
Select Edit > Preferences... or press Ctrl + P to open Audacity Preferences and click on Devices

2. Set your Recording Preferences

  • Select Recording in the left pane of the Preferences window
  • Enable Overdub: Check Play other tracks while recording (overdub)
  • Make sure Software playthrough of input is not checked
  • Click OK to save your preferences
Select Edit > Preferences... or press Ctrl + P to open Audacity Preferences and click on Recording

3. Set your Selection preferences

At the bottom of the Audacity window you will find the Selection toolbar
  • Set Snap-To to Off
  • Select Start and Length of Selection as your selection format
Audacity Selection Toolbar

Step 2: Measuring the latency

Hardware Setup

To measure the latency you will need to record the audio from your playback device using your microphone. To do this place your microphone next to your speakers/headphones
Place your microphone next to your speakers or headphones

Recording while playing a test track (Overdub)

  • Open the Generate menu and select the Rhythm Track... option. Set Number of Measures (bars) to 2 and set the Beat Sound to Ping (short). Click OK to generate the track.
  • Press Shift + R to record a new track. The rhythm track will be played back and recorded on a new track.
Recording a new track while playing the previously generated track (Overdub)
  • Zoom in so you can see the clicks on the top track and its delayed version on the bottom track
  • Create a selection that goes from the start of one click to the next
You should see something like this:
Drag a selection to measure the latency
You can read the latency directly from the second panel of numbers. In this case it is 0.184 seconds or 184 milliseconds.
Click on Edit > Preferences, click on Devices tab and enter the negative of this number in the Latency compensation box. In this case it would be -184. Press OK to save your preferences.
Set Latency compensation value according to the measured latency

Step 3: Checking the result

  • Delete the second track by clicking the close box in its Track Control Panel
  • Click in the Track Control Panel of the remaining track to select it
  • Press Shift + R to record a new track
After the recording is finished Audacity will apply the Latency compensation by pushing the newly-recorded track back by the Latency compensation value.
Recording with latency compensation applied to the second track
Note: If you change any of your recording or playback devices (for example, if you change from using the line input port on your computer to using a USB audio interface) or if you use the same device but change the Audio Host in Device Toolbar, then you will need to do this test again. The test you just did only applies for the specific inputs and outputs and host used during the test.
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Measuring latency in your system
Step 1: Adjust your Audacity preferences
Step 2: Measuring the latency
Step 3: Checking the result