Soft synths live - have I reached my computer's limits?


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Hello fellow KF members! My first post here! I've searched around for a while and haven't found any threads regarding this, but apologies if there are and I've missed them!

I'm a keyboard player in various projects and bands. So far, I've relied solely on hardware keyboards. But for my most recent shows, I started using Ableton Live for its non-linear backtrack possibilities, and a few soft synths were I found sounds that I wanted to play live but my hardware couldn't reproduce. Since I'm now taking my computer with me on stage, I started to investigate the possibilities of moving my whole keyboard rig into the computer, to make it more portable and cost effective.

So I bought a Mac Mini late 2012 with a quad core 2.3 GHz i7, upgraded the RAM to 16GB and mounted two SSD's in it. I purchased a Focusrite Clarett 8pre to go with it, and started to set up some layers in Ableton Live 9 Suite. In my mind, this rig would let me run pretty much any soft synths I wanted, and a fair number at the same time for my more advanced splits/layers setups.

My test setup included a grand from Pianoteq 5, a quite large string library from Spitfire Audio (running on Kontakt 5), and a pad and a lead from Native Instruments Massive. At 128 samples buffer size, Ableton tells me my overall latency is 6,73 ms (256 samples brings me up over 10 ms, where I prefer not to be). But when I run all the layers, I start to get some cracks and pops, especially when playing forte. Ableton Live has its own CPU meter, but it's peaking at only 40-50% when I experience these problems.

I guess the core question of it all is: Am I reaching the limits of what my computer can perform, or should it be able to do more and I'm just encountering some form of technical issue?

Maybe I can perform some measuring of my computers performance with some kind of software that can shed some light on this? Or if I'm in fact pushing my computer's limits, is it the RAM och the CPU that sets the bar in this case?

Extremely grateful for all help and input I can get! I would love to learn more about this mysterious area where musical instruments meet the computer world!
I get the feeling most people are an expert in either field, but for these types of questions and to better grasp this narrow field, you need to have a deep understanding of both musical instruments and the inner workings of the computer - and those people seem rare... But I would love to become one!

Have a great day all of you!
 

happyrat1

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Becky

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Just wanted to say welcome to the forum! :)
 
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I'm far from an expert in soft synths but I'd say that you've hit the limit on how many simultaneous VSTi programs you've loaded at once.

When big Hollywood studios want to record a soundtrack for a Dolby THX motion picture they load up a couple of these with all the options.

http://musiccomputing.com/

http://musiccomputing.com/kami-m-keyboard-production-station-macos-x/

Fully loaded with all the options those puppies run about $20K apiece.

Gary ;)
Thanks for the info!
 
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Hey Fred. Following this thread as I too am looking into soft synths. My needs are a bit different, but boil down to be somewhat similar as yours-DOWNSIZING. I'm looking for a miniature solution for live playing (I'm retired from the big bands). Getting too old to haul it all. Hoping to find something very simple, meat an potatoes so to speak. One or two small controllers talking to a soft synth with maybe ten priority sounds. Piano, organ, strings, MOOG etc...Maybe I can find an iPad app that will do the work?
 
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I've used SampleTank 3 for the last few years, and love it. There are many different versions now, including a free version that come with a few sounds. There is an iPad version as well. Might be worth checking it out!
 
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I've used SampleTank 3 for the last few years, and love it. There are many different versions now, including a free version that come with a few sounds. There is an iPad version as well. Might be worth checking it out!
Wowsa, Wilson! This may be exactly what I'm looking for. The free version looks to have all the basic sounds I need. Final 2 questions: Is it fast enough for live (low latency)? And will it support multi channel input (just two). Thanks for the tip
 
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Wowsa, Wilson! This may be exactly what I'm looking for. The free version looks to have all the basic sounds I need. Final 2 questions: Is it fast enough for live (low latency)? And will it support multi channel input (just two). Thanks for the tip
Depends on how you have it set up. I have not tested it on an iPad, but on my windows laptop I'm using ASIO audio drivers (for a usb sound card, and also ASIO4ALL when I use the internal sound card). You can change your sound card's buffer size to control the latency. But if it is set too low you can get pops and crackles. Personally I'm happy to get below 10ms of latency. But I would think that this depends on your hardware and also how many sounds and effects you have running.

On the PC and Mac versions there is a "Live" page that allows you to set up sounds in a song list type fashion. The good thing is that the sounds are pre-loaded into memory (per song I believe), so switching sounds that way is faster.

You can setup sounds on any of the 16 midi channels, in 16 "slots". You can also change the midi channel for each slot. This makes layering and splitting the keyboard really easy. If you are running it on an iPad, I believe Ik Multimedia sells interface cables for connecting to it. I have not had the chance to try to Application on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch though.
 

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