Audio latency has always been an issue for Android, not a massive deal breaker of an issue for the average user, but an issue none the less—especially for those of us who use applications such as VoIP clients or emulated instruments. For those unaware of the problem, audio latency is the delay between an audio event being triggered and the sound emerging from the speaker. For example, if you press a key on a piano application and notice a delay between touching the screen and hearing the sound, that’s latency.
The issue was actually brought up at I/O just over a year ago and the response was this;
“Latency is a big problem. We’re working at, hopefully we hope to be able to do something about it with ICS. As we investigated it it’s actually a pretty complex problem. There are a number of different places where latency gets introduced. Most of the latency is introduced below Android. Basically it’s happening in the drivers or in the chipsets or somewhere in there, and some of these are really obscene amounts like hundreds of milliseconds of latency in the audio path. So, that’s something we’re going to push on. We started/ I think we introduced something in CDD Gingerbread which was a “should” hit certain latencies. But it’s a problem we want to deal with and hopefully the next release will get it. Obviously it’s not going to solve the problems for legacy devices but it’s going to get better.”
Well, unfortunately the next release didn’t get it. Android 4.0 still suffers from this annoying flaw, and for some the problem seems to have worsened. We can only assume that the problem lies beyond the reach of the Android developers, or they simply had more important issues to address. Perhaps somebody will ask the question again this year at I/O. Nudge nudge, wink wink…
However, Nexus S and GSM Galaxy Nexus owners have a modification that improves the audio latency of your device thanks to XDA Forum Members Windows X and vonVideo. The fix is basically a modified version of their respective audio libraries. Although the original mod for the Nexus S is in a much more advanced state than the mod for the Galaxy Nexus, both seem to have had positive effects for users. It’s worth mentioning that these fixes are not applicable to all ROMs and kernels, so make sure to read the original threads and create a backup before making any changes.