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Latency, Performance & Distance
Latency, Performance & Distance

How Elk actually works

Björn Ehlers avatar
Written by Björn Ehlers
Updated over a week ago


The main problem that Elk fights is called latency. Latency is the time it takes for the sound produced to reach the ears of the listener. As sound travels 1 meter per 3 milliseconds in air, technically latency always exists, even when playing in the same room. But it starts becoming a problem when you introduce factors like distance and digital processing in the audio path.

Elk & error concealment

One thing Elk LIVE does well is error concealment.


The thing is, the internet is pretty fast as it is. But it's hard to use it at full speed. If you do, you end up with a signal so full of dropouts (lost packages of information) that it's unusable. This is the case with all live streaming over the internet; the common solution is to use a transmission protocol called TCP.

To put it simply TCP prioritizes stable delivery before speed. But that doesn't cut it for a low-latency system like Elk LIVE.

Instead, we go with something called UDP. To put it simply, UDP is a transmission protocol that prioritizes speed over stable delivery.

Elk error concealments

So by using UDP we prioritize getting the audio to your bandmates as fast as possible. But by doing so, we risk getting dropouts; this is where Elks error concealments come in.

Once a package has been identified as lost, Elk can reconstruct it or conceal the missing information keeping the signal intact for you and your bandmates.

To put it simply, Elk utilizes more of the speed your internet connection already has.

Performance & Distance

The question we get the most is what latency can I expect with Elk.

Before trying to answer it's important to point out that we are now only referring to latency on the incoming sounds from your bandmates. Elk adds no latency to the sound you produce.

This is important because your ears are much better at compensation for latency on sounds you're not producing yourself.

A good reference point is that it takes sound 3 milliseconds to travel 1 meter in air. That means standing 3 meters from each other in the same room gives you 9 ms of latency.

The latency you will experience with Elk is a question that is impossible to give more than an estimation on, as it depends on distance and your specific internet connection.

But here goes...

In general, you get about 15-20ms of latency over 1000km (621 miles) on a fiber connection.

This means that playing with someone 1000 km away will give you about the same latency, as you will get from being 5-6 meters apart in the same room.

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