Tap Arduino: An Arduino microcontroller for low-latency auditory feedback in sensorimotor synchronization experiments

Behav Res Methods. 2016 Dec;48(4):1591-1607. doi: 10.3758/s13428-015-0671-3.


Timing abilities are often measured by having participants tap their finger along with a metronome and presenting tap-triggered auditory feedback. These experiments predominantly use electronic percussion pads combined with software (e.g., FTAP or Max/MSP) that records responses and delivers auditory feedback. However, these setups involve unknown latencies between tap onset and auditory feedback and can sometimes miss responses or record multiple, superfluous responses for a single tap. These issues may distort measurements of tapping performance or affect the performance of the individual. We present an alternative setup using an Arduino microcontroller that addresses these issues and delivers low-latency auditory feedback. We validated our setup by having participants (N = 6) tap on a force-sensitive resistor pad connected to the Arduino and on an electronic percussion pad with various levels of force and tempi. The Arduino delivered auditory feedback through a pulse-width modulation (PWM) pin connected to a headphone jack or a wave shield component. The Arduino's PWM (M = 0.6 ms, SD = 0.3) and wave shield (M = 2.6 ms, SD = 0.3) demonstrated significantly lower auditory feedback latencies than the percussion pad (M = 9.1 ms, SD = 2.0), FTAP (M = 14.6 ms, SD = 2.8), and Max/MSP (M = 15.8 ms, SD = 3.4). The PWM and wave shield latencies were also significantly less variable than those from FTAP and Max/MSP. The Arduino missed significantly fewer taps, and recorded fewer superfluous responses, than the percussion pad. The Arduino captured all responses, whereas at lower tapping forces, the percussion pad missed more taps. Regardless of tapping force, the Arduino outperformed the percussion pad. Overall, the Arduino is a high-precision, low-latency, portable, and affordable tool for auditory experiments.

Keywords: Auditory feedback; Microcontrollers; Motor timing; Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI); Sensorimotor synchronization.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavioral Research / instrumentation*
  • Behavioral Research / methods
  • Feedback, Sensory*
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Software*
  • Young Adult