it’s true that even entry-level computers now include multi-core
processors and generous amounts of memory, CPU management is still an
issue if you plan to use a lot of virtual instruments. Half a dozen
instances of a sophisticated physical or analog modeling synth can
bring even a power-user computer to its knees. Here are some tweaks
to get more mileage out of whatever computer you have.
your CPU’s gears.
Virtual instruments involve trade-offs, like CPU load versus
fidelity versus latency. So, some CPU-intensive instruments let you
adjust the power consumption in preferences (click image at left to enlarge). When
you’re tracking, select modest CPU consumption. When mixing, render
the soft synth to an audio track using maximum CPU consumption. Then
you can archive the instrument to disconnect it from the CPU—but if
your host can’t do that, save the instrument’s preset and remove
it from the host after rendering. If you want to re-edit later,
insert the instrument, load the preset, and edit away.
benefits of recording at 96kHz.
I covered this in the September 2014 issue; check out the article at keyboardmag.com/recordat96.
What the article doesn’t cover is a workaround if your synth
doesn’t do oversampling and you’re recording at 44.1 or 48kHz.
Export the MIDI file driving your virtual instrument, then open a
96kHz project. Insert the synth, load the MIDI file, and render the
synth track. Then, sample-rate convert it to 44.1 or 48kHz and import
the audio into your original project. Even though it seems
counterintuitive that lower sample rates would retain the benefits of
initially recording at higher ones, this works.
Although most modern synths let you specify a destination drive
to install libraries, what if you later want to move a library to a
new or different drive? Create a new folder, move your samples to it,
then see if the program’s preferences let you enter an alternate
folder location (click image at left to enlarge). If not, there may be a configuration
text file where you can replace one folder reference with another.
In Windows, sometimes a registry entry points to a sample library
location. Because editing the registry is scary, you can use Windows’
mklink function to create a link from the folder the program
references to a different folder. Run
cmd.exe in Administrator mode, then type (without the
brackets, but with the quotes):
path of existing sample folder]” “[drive letter]:\[file path of
new sample folder]”
samples from an external USB drive.
With a laptop, it’s likely that all your sample and audio
data lives on your main system drive. If an instrument’s samples
take up a lot of space, streaming from disk puts an extra load on
your system drive, but loading them into RAM may push up against the
system’s limits. So load an instrument’s sample library on a USB
thumb drive, then point your sampler to it as described above. Make
sure it’s a fast drive and at least USB2.0, and if you stream truly
dense sample sets (e.g., large orchestral libraries), an
external Thunderbolt drive is worth your while.
your latency. Latency is
a buzzkill. One solution is a faster CPU, but with Windows, go into
Device Manager and disable (do not uninstall) all drivers under
“Sound, Video, and Game Controllers” other than any for your
audio interface. It can’t hurt, and you can always re-enable them
for general-purpose use later. It’s common to increase your DAW’s
sample buffer setting as a song becomes more complex, which can be a
drag when you need to do an overdub. The remedy: “Freeze” all
your virtual instrument tracks to lighten the load on your CPU. Then
you can lower the latency, play your part, and when you’re done,
unfreeze the instruments to re-establish real-time control over them.