March 21

The Sound and the Fury
Getting your audio playthrough in sync

By David Nagel
Senior producer

In case you hadn't noticed, one of the features of your new G4 is a very helpful, 0.3-second delay between the time a sound is made and the time it comes out of your speakers. This is one of those examples of Apple thinking well into the future, to a time in quantum evolution when the speed of light slows down to the point where the speed of sound operates at an impracticably fast level.

For those of us whose computer activities operate within the constraints of more traditional quantum constants, however, this feature proves unnecessary—to some even a hindrance. Say, for example, you want to record yourself playing guitar. You plug your preamp into your sound in port, strum the chord that will change mankind's understanding of music and ... well, it comes back at you about a half a second later. What's causing this delay? Is it your recording software? Is it incompatible third-party extensions? Is it faulty hardware? Is it a Virtual Memory thing? Is it a Disk Cache thing? No, no, not really, yes and sometimes.

This problem affects not only the new G4s but computers running anything from Mac OS 8.6 to 9.0.x. Some experience the problem; others don't. For some, the problem is system-wide (alert sounds, input, game sounds, DVD playback and QuickTime playback); for others, the scope is more limited.

There are several solutions to this problem.

1. If you're experiencing problems with DVD playback, go to Apple's Web site and download Audio Update 1.3. You can find it at

2. Once you're fully updated on all your audio software, all of your problems will be fixed simply by turning off Virtual Memory in the Memory Control Panel. Considering that Mac OS 9.0.2 takes up about 65 MB of RAM with Virtual Memory turned off, you better make sure you have a ton of real RAM installed in the first place. But even with lots of RAM installed, Virtual Memory is beneficial. So you'll want to turn it back on when you're done recording.

3. A final solution that does seem to work for some people (but not me) is to reduce your Disk Cache settings to "128K" in your Memory Control Panel. If doing this doesn't fix your sound problem, switch the Disk Cache settings back to default. Higher Disk Cache setting do improve the performance of your Mac, especially when relaunching applications.

When you're done with all this, write to Apple and tell them they need to provide us quantum-bound individuals with better audio performance.

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