Rubber Band Library

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Integration notes and examples

  1. Conceptual notes
  2. Which options to use
  3. Common problems and queries
  4. Examples

Conceptual notes

A time-stretcher such as Rubber Band Library has to be handled a little differently from a typical audio effect.

When speeding up or slowing down audio, there is by definition a difference between the input and output "rates" of the processor. If you supply N samples as input to the processor, then you will get more than N (when slowing down) or fewer (when speeding up) as output.

This must be the case for any audio time stretcher library. But on top of this, with Rubber Band the effective rate can also differ locally depending on the locations of detected features such as percussive transients.

This means that the input and output rates are not always in a stable ratio: the ratio you set behaves a little bit like a long-term average, rather than a fixed ratio for every processing block.

A consequence of this is that you cannot just provide a certain number of samples at the input and expect to see a fixed number of samples at the output. This is true even if you are using the processor only for pitch-shifting, and in fact can be the case even if you have the time and pitch ratios both set to 1.

After supplying samples to the input with process, you must always query how many samples have now been made available at output using available. See this discussion for more details of how that might work when pitch-shifting, as well as the examples below.

For real-time use especially, it may be simplest to use Rubber Band if you are able to integrate it using a "pull" configuration rather than a "push" one, so that the number of samples you supply to it (for a given number of output samples) is allowed to vary.

That is:

This structure can be seen at work in the Mini Example with Qt and Sonic Visualiser code examples below.

Which options to use

Rubber Band has many configurable options, which you select by passing a bitwise "or" of RubberBandStretcher::Option constants to the constructor of the stretcher.

The number of possibilities can be daunting, but the good news is that — once you have decided between offline and real-time processing modes, a choice normally dictated by the application architecture — the stretcher will work tolerably well with almost any combination of options.

So you can integrate it without messing about too much, then tweak it afterwards.

That said, here are some rules of thumb for ideal option selection using Rubber Band 3.1:

Some examples of applying the above to various scenarios:

Finally, if you're doing data augmentation on a large scale for machine learning, please use one of the less CPU-intensive combinations. This means either using the R2/Faster engine (with the command-line tool this is the -2 flag) or, from v3.1 onwards, using the short-window option with the R3 engine (-3 --window-short). The full R3 engine uses a lot more energy and is probably unnecessary for this task.

Common problems and queries

Playback is dropping out because the stretcher doesn't return enough samples in my play callback.
This is usually the problem described in the conceptual notes above. Review those.

Output in real-time mode is not aligned with the timing I expected.
Check the documentation for getPreferredStartPad and getStartDelay. You need to pad the start of the input with the number of samples returned by getPreferredStartPad, and drop from the start of the output the number of samples returned by getStartDelay.
Offline mode does this for you, but real-time mode doesn't. (You may wish to ensure the initial pad and delay handling occurs outside the real-time callback cycle. Although real-time safe, these first calls may take longer to complete than a regular process cycle because the stretcher has to prime its internal buffers. The same applies at the end of processing, to any process call in which the final flag is set.)

Output in real-time mode is aligned from the start, but misaligned after a scheduled change of ratio.
This is related to the previous issue. The stretcher applies ratio changes immediately to the next input it processes, but there is a lag between input being received and output being produced. Therefore the change unavoidably takes place slightly later than the moment at which you request it. To get the timing right after a scheduled ratio change, schedule the change a little early — by the same getStartDelay as used when managing the initial delay as above.

What is the typical delay returned by getStartDelay?
This depends on the engine and some other parameters as well as the sample rate. With a typical configuration at 44100/48000 Hz the values are:

Engine  Window setting  Delay (samples)

Can I get better results by using a higher sample rate?
Generally no. Rubber Band is tuned for audio sample rates of 44100 and 48000 Hz, and both "faster" and "finer" engines are designed to perform at least as well at those rates as any. Although you can run a Rubber Band stretcher at any sample rate from 8000 to 192000 Hz, it's not expected that you would get detectably better output with higher rates than 48000 Hz.


Here are some code examples. We don't recommend trying to use any of these as a cut-and-paste source, but they may help as documentation to address specific points of concern.

Illustrative examples published by Breakfast Quay:

Third-party examples from open-source code using Rubber Band Library: