Hearing what you record is important in music production. The direct monitoring switch on your audio interface helps you better with this.
Direct monitoring bypasses DAW and computer processing. It allows you to perceive a direct signal with NO DELAY in timing, even with many instruments involved.
We will explain this function in detail, along with what sets it apart from regular monitoring and why it is important.
- Direct monitoring can help you perfect your music production by letting you hear your work in its purest form with zero delays.
- You will be able to notice the tiniest details and remove the most minute mistakes so that your music comes out perfectly.
What is Direct Monitoring?
An audio interface is an integral device of the music industry, and one of its features is direct monitoring.
When this function is switched ON, you can perceive sounds through your headphones or speakers without latency.
Latency is the time difference between what you play or sing and what you hear as it is recorded.
This feature separates input sound as it passes through your audio interface. It sends a signal to your digital audio workstation (DAW) or computer for it to be recorded.
It also sends an exact copy directly to the output of your audio interface.
Mute your recording channel in your DAW to remove the echo-like effect of your voice or instrument from your audio interface.
You can unmute the channel once you finish recording. You can do so for any recording software.
Simple Direct Monitoring
An on/off button controls Simple Direct Monitoring. Since the feature is in its simplest form, you must make the necessary adjustments to the other features of your audio interface.
The first thing you have to do is adjust the gain control knob.
This ensures that your audio interface sends your instrument or microphone signal CLEARLY to your DAW at the right level.
Set the volume level of your headphone or speaker output to perceive your input better.
You can adjust the master fader of your DAW to supplement this. The master fader regulates the volume of the playback of previous recordings and click track.
You don’t have to adjust the master fader for audio interfaces with a knob as direct monitoring control.
Direct Monitoring With Effects
We’ve mentioned that you must mute your DAW’s recording channel while using direct monitoring.
This also cancels out the effects that you have enabled on that channel.
You may like a little reverb and a slight delay on your vocals to enhance your performance. You can still do so even with direct monitoring ON.
The Pre-Fader Send is your key for this! This feature lets you put your DAW channel through a specialized reverb or delay channel.
You will hear the effects of your channel even if it is muted. High-end audio interfaces usually have built-in effects with them.
Monitoring of Audio Interfaces with Multiple Inputs and Outputs
There are audio interfaces with multiple inputs and outputs. An example of this is the Scarlett 2i2.
These interfaces often come with an app to set up direct monitoring on the software instead of on the audio interface itself.
This is useful when you’re recording many instruments at once.
It allows you to set the volume level of every instrument instead of having one volume level for all instruments.
When you’re recording many musicians simultaneously, the apps can also allow you to set the balance of every output.
This allows each musician to have their own monitor mix!
What is Input Monitoring?
Input monitoring is your regular monitoring. Needless to say, this gives you a little latency.
It involves more processing time for your software.
Your audio interface sends your input signal to your DAW software, which sends it back to the interface. This is only when the interface sends it to your output speaker or headphones.
There is an additional processing time from the DAW to the interface and then to the output. This creates the time difference between what you play or sing and what you hear.
Regular Monitoring vs. Direct Monitoring
The main difference between direct monitoring and regular monitoring is when you can hear your recording.
For the former, it is BEFORE it is processed by your DAW, software, or plugin. For the latter, it is AFTER it is processed.
Aside from this, the following are their other differences:
Effects of Your DAW and Plugins
A difference between the two is the quality of the sounds they produce.
- Regular monitoring allows you to hear the processed result of your gear and software. This includes the effects that your DAW and plugins can add to your input. This monitoring will maximize its effect if you’re using an amplifier simulator for your guitar recordings.
- Direct monitoring allows you to hear input directly from your chosen output. If you’ve directed a microphone to your guitar amplifier, it would be better to turn this feature on.
Processing Power and RAM for Real-Time Audio
Another difference is the capacity requirement for your DAW or computer.
Regular monitoring requires a POWERFUL computer to send a signal through an audio interface, a DAW, and an output for real-time playback.
Managing a few tracks may not have much effect on your computer. But it is inevitable for these tracks to grow in number and storage weight.
For this, you will need a computer with the ability to handle this without crashing.
Without direct monitoring, your signal travels through more than just one channel. It goes through the audio interface, USB cable, computer, and headphone jack.
Direct monitoring will give your signal close to zero latency when you perceive it from your headphone jack.
This feature bypasses channels such as your USB cable and computer. It saves you the power and RAM that regular monitoring requires!
When Should I Use Regular Monitoring?
You can use regular input monitoring instead of direct monitoring for many scenarios.
Regular monitoring is enough if you’re experiencing no latency problem and the project you’re working on is not too demanding for your computer.
It would be best if you only used regular monitoring to hear a recording in stereo. Some channels are better heard in stereo only.
Simple direct monitoring doesn’t permit a stereo output.
Only regular monitoring will allow you to hear the effects of your DAW on your sound. This includes Auto-Tune.
For example, only this type of monitoring will allow you to hear its effects if you use a guitar amp simulator.
Many musicians also prefer having effects like reverb and delay. The best way to appreciate these effects is through regular input monitoring.
Why Use Direct Monitoring?
On the other hand, there are also upsides to direct monitoring. The feature has the following benefits depending on the music you’d want to produce.
It Allows You To Hear Audio Before It Is Processed
With direct monitoring, interfaces send an exact copy of your audio to your output directly.
Direct monitoring SHORTENS the process of getting your audio signal to your output by bypassing your DAW and plugins.
This feature eliminates delay from when you play or sing to when you hear your audio. You can perceive your sound recording in its RAW FORM without effects from your DAW.
You Get the Best of Both Worlds
When you switch direct monitoring on, you’re also still using regular monitoring!
Your interface separates your signal into two – one goes directly to your output while the other still goes through the DAW to process.
This is why you must MUTE the track in your DAW channel.
If you don’t, you perceive the zero-latency result AND the slightly delayed signal simultaneously, which creates an echo-like effect.
It Allows You to Listen For Specific Issues
Direct monitoring allows you to hear input directly. As such, you may immediately perceive details and issues in a certain performance.
It would be easy to miss these issues if you’re listening to processed DAW sound.
It Requires A More Specific Setup
Higher-end interfaces like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 permit you to have a mono signal on both headphone sides through a stereo signal AND direct monitoring.
Its Stereo Mode sets up monitoring through software instead of through hardware.
Some of its apps may also come with built-in effects. This includes reverb even while direct monitoring is on.
Each musician will have their own monitor mix when recording more than one musician.
Why Can’t I Hear Myself in Pro Tools?
The difference is in your direct monitoring or low latency monitoring settings. This is because they may be switched ON.
This disables the feed to your device on record-enabled tracks. You can listen to yourself from your interface instead.
To hear yourself in Pro Tools and what’s coming from it, turn these settings OFF.
How Does Headphone Mixing Work With Direct Monitoring?
Headphone mixing with direct monitoring allows you to choose the specific tracks that you perceive in your headphone while you produce music.
You may control hearing more of a certain instrument. When you record another instrument, you can choose to perceive more of that after that.
What is Direct Audio Playback?
The direct audio playback function provides playback capability to outputs like speakers. Input is usually sampled from a remote device channel.
How Can I Listen to My Guitar Input Recording from Both Sides of My Headphones Simultaneously?
Two things are important here. They are the KIND of interface you are using and your SETUP.
The interface’s knob allows you to balance the incoming signal from your microphone or instrument and the output of your software.
Interfaces with two or more inputs route audio to the monitor path in stereo pairs. Input 1 can be routed to your left ear, while input 2 can be routed to your right ear.
A guitar is usually a mono instrument. This function may not be necessary.
The direct monitoring function eliminates the delay you experience as you record a sound and hear it from your speaker or headphone.
Turning this feature ON allows you to perceive sound directly but also eliminates the effects of your DAW on it.
It’s good that this feature can be switched on and off or controlled through a knob for you to activate and deactivate as needed.
Enjoy refining your recordings better with this feature!