When running a DAW session with many virtual instruments and sample libraries, there are a few steps you can take to help reduce CPU or RAM usage and improve computer performance to prevent drop outs in audio and or large latencies when attempting to play a part live.
DAW BUFFER SIZE
One of the most important elements in determining latency and computer performance is your DAW buffer size. This setting determines the amount of time the computer has to process your audio. Lower buffer size places a greater burden on your CPU but reduces latency, while higher buffer sizes reduce CPU consumption and increase latency.
When playing back audio for mixing or editing, you are free to set a higher buffer size to reduce CPU consumption. This is the first setting you should address if you are experiencing pops, clicks, or audio drop outs during playback. The specific value of the buffer will vary depending on the power of your computer and the number of tracks, plugins, virtual instruments, or other programs that are open.
When playing a part live, such as when you are recording MIDI into your computer with a controller, you will want to have the lowest buffer size your computer can support without audio dropping out. This make the delay between when you press a MIDI note and when the virtual instrument makes a sound the absolute smallest it can be, thus making the virtual instrument perform more closely to a real instrument.
If you are unsure on where you can change your DAW buffer settings, below are some articles on doing so for a few more common DAWs.
- Pro Tools
If you find that increasing the DAW buffer size still yields pops or clicks for playback in your session, or you are unable to achieve a low enough buffer size to record MIDI without overloading your CPU, the next step would be to look at freezing tracks. Freezing a track is the term used to describe rendering an audio file from a track that has a virtual instrument or plugin processing on it. Rendering the track as audio allows you to deactivate the plugins or virtual instrument, which in turn frees up the CPU and RAM usage. Most DAWs have this as a built-in functionality and allow you to 'unfreeze' the track if you wish to further edit the MIDI or plugin information.
Below are some articles on how to freeze tracks in some common DAWs. If you DAW is not listed here, please refer to your DAW manual for steps on how to do this.
- Pro Tools
If you continue to have trouble with playback from your Spitfire dedicated plugin or Kontakt library, there are a few settings within the plugin settings you can adjust that may affect performance as well. Have a look at the articles below on optimising your plugin settings.