Focusrite Scarlett And Garageband: 4 Common Issues (Solved)

When discussing DAWs, few programs have proved more useful than Garageband over the years. As a paired-back version of Logic Pro X, Garageband has shown that it is more than a gimmick in digital recording.

In this article, I’ll unpack some issues regarding Garageband and how efficiently it works in conjunction with a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface.

Some of these issues and troubleshooting may apply to other audio interfaces, but the focus here will be on the Focusrite Scarlett.

GarageBand music making application being used to compose a song on an Apple iPad Pro in a home environment.

Major Latency while Recording using Focusrite Scarlett

Latency can be defined as the time delay or lag between the input signal or sound being produced and the output signal being produced by the speakers, monitors, or headphones.

Latency, usually measured in milliseconds, is a very common problem in recording setups and an issue that makes recording accurately timed audio almost impossible.

If, within Garageband, you are experiencing major latency while recording using your Focusrite Scarlett then there are a few steps you can take to minimize this:

  • When recording, be sure to turn off all unnecessary plug-ins on the channel strip (e.g. compression, delay, reverb) plug-ins, especially ones that have high CPU demands, can cause latency.
  • An adjustment can be made to the audio settings with Garageband that may help with latency; in advanced audio settings, deselect the “24-bit” tick box to record at a lower audio resolution of 16-bit.
  • Adjusting the sample rate may help with latency as well. We recommend setting your Focusrite to record at 44.1kHz or 48kHz which can be done through the Focusrite Control software.
  • Make sure you are using the latest drivers for the audio interface.
  • Check for Garageband updates.
  • Close all other unnecessary programs running in the background that may be using CPU.
  • Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your PC or laptop (this will stop your computer from checking for updates or syncing internet accounts in the background).

It is also important to note here that the Focusrite Scarlett range has a hardware monitoring feature whereby the interface enables you to listen to input signals from microphones and instruments in real-time.

Can’t Adjust Record Level in Mac OS Preferences

Some users have brought up the perceived issue that the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the recording level is “grayed out” in Mac OS preferences.

There is a very simple explanation for this; when an audio interface is plugged into a MacBook the laptop then hands the ability to adjust mic sensitivity over to the physical controls on the interface and the gain controls within Garageband.

All tweaking and adjusting of levels must be done on the audio interface or via synced software like Focusrite’s Control software.

Monitoring Issues

Monitoring issues are not an uncommon thing in recording and there are quite a few variables at play here.

As mentioned above, I recommend using the hardware monitoring (or direct monitoring) option on your Focusrite Scarlett, as this will give you the most direct monitoring feedback with little (or zero) latency.

If you want to monitor through Garageband, then the first setting that needs to be checked is within the audio settings of Garageband.

The output device can either be set to “Built-in Output” (referring to the laptop speaker, headphone jack or connected external speakers) or to the Focusrite Scarlett. These two options are each worth trying.

Secondly, be sure to have the monitoring button enabled on the instrument or microphone you want to hear during recording (found in the track heard to the right of the headphone button). Be sure to turn the monitoring button off when not in use, as this can cause a feedback loop within your audio setup.

In addition, I recommend using the “Feedback Protection” function within Garageband (found in the bottom window of the screen in track controls).

Other checks to consider in troubleshooting monitor issues are cable faults, port damage on the laptop/PC or interface, and jack damage on headphones or external speaker cables.

Corrupt Project File

There have been latency and other audio glitches due to a corrupt project file.  If all other troubleshooting has failed to produce solutions then a corrupt project file must be considered as the cause.

The most effective way of solving this problem is by starting a new GarageBand project.

If the issue occurs and you are far into your music creation process and have too many tracks to replicate, then the best thing to do is to export each track as an audio WAV file and then import these tracks into your new project.

Using this method will save your musical progress but give you a fresh start in terms of a project without corruption.

Garageband vs. Ableton: Which DAW is best for Focusrite Scarlett?

In some ways, it is quite challenging to compare Garageband and Ableton. Garageband was never created to be a fully-fledged professional DAW like Ableton is.

Quite honestly, it is impressive what you can do within Garageband.

As a free application, it is incredibly useful, especially when it comes to getting demo song ideas down or recording a simple single-track podcast.

It is important to note that the best DAW to use depends on your needs as a musician, producer, or broadcaster.

Having said that, there are limitations to using Garageband as your primary DAW in conjunction with the Focusrite Scarlett.

Here’s a list of these limitations:

  • Unlike other more professional DAWs, you cannot adjust the buffer size in Garageband to a specific number of samples; this is a very useful tool in minimizing recording latency.
  • More advanced DAWs have a “low latency mode” for recording which is a useful tool for capturing precise audio. Unfortunately, Garageband does not have this feature.
  • The level of detail with which you can process, mix, and master audio in Garageband is far more limited than in more advanced DAWs like Ableton Live.
  • Garageband does not offer the option of creating auxiliary busses, which are important in monitoring multiple channels simultaneously without adjusting the master mix levels of the channels.
  • Garageband is made available exclusively to Apple users, which can be a limitation if the need arises to use a different operating system with your preferred DAW.

As much as it may be tough to compare Ableton and Garageband, there is no doubt that Ableton is far superior in every way to Garageband and it is fully compatible with the Focusrite Scarlett range.

If you’re looking for “free” tools, Garageband is a great choice, but if you’re looking for a more detailed DAW to pair with your Focusrite Scarlett, then Ableton is a fantastic choice for studio recording and live performance.

Please also check out our article about common issues with Focusrite Scarlett and Logic Pro X – with solutions!


What is Audio Latency

Focusrite Control Tutorial: 1 – Understanding Focusrite Control

Garageband User Guide