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#309403 - 09/05/06 01:24 PM Latency with softsynths
freddynl Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 11/17/99
Posts: 1150
Loc: netherlands
Since I am fairly new to softsynths and softsamplers I wonder IF todays PC systems are fast enough to avoid the unacceptable latency I experienced a couple of years ago. Which then quickly decided me to give up on that route. (mm..must be longer ago if I recall now)
Anyway it's apparently not my soundcard from those days as it was reporting 5ms latency (delta1010 19"rack version)which should be sufficient as Frank pointed in another thread.

I do have a long time experience with midi so setting up is not the problem.

This is how I basicly work:
1. Compose the drumtrack in midi
2. Play and record all the midi tracks in real time on one of my keyboards

Now the midi file is ready(in Sonar) and I start doing the audio parts.
Usually in this stage I record all miditracks to audio multitracks in CEP.

So the midifile could look like f.i.:

Track 1 Midi channel 1 Kurzweil patch
Track 2 Midi channel 2 Kurzweil patch
Track 3 Midi channel 3 Kurzweil patch
Track 4 Midi channel 4 Acces Virus patch
Track 5 Midi channel 5 Acces Virus patch
Track 6 Midi channel 6 Nordlead patch
Track 10 Midi channel 10 Roland R8 or elektron machinedrum

As all the recordings (exception the R8/elektron) are done in realtime, all sysx info is already in
the miditrack including damper/volume/sustain

From there on I play the midi file (midi-out) to the instruments involved which are recorded thru my delta rack into CEP as individual tracks.

From here I record new audio tracks (if needed) like guitar parts/singer(s)/baseguitar etc....while the earlier recorded midi to audio tracks are playing.

No latency problems at all on my far outdated PC Pentium III - 500 (1024mb ram)

Roughly I can go to approx 24 mono audio tracks without a problem, which is mostly more then enough.

To replace the hardware with softsynths/softsamplers I tried using Giga when it came out (no idea when that was exactly but at least some years ago) I loaded a giga sample and replaced one midi-out track with the giga sample.
This was no go due to the latency.
I also tried to play the giga sample in real time, same problem.

I understand that my old fashionned system cannot handle these large plug ins, so upgrade is needed. (This is also one of the reasons I am using CEP for audio recording as its very light software and does not need the lates state of the art PC)

So the question is this:
Are todays systems fast enough to handle at least 4 plug ins at the same time...?
If not can the mediastation do this...?

What would you think is the minimum processor speed and ram memory you will need?
What are your own experiences with plug ins?

Look forward to all comments and suggestions.

Keyboards/Sound Units: Kurzweil 2600S, Roland VR-760, Acces Virus C, Roland G-800, Akai AX60, Minimoog, Machine Drum, Roland R8-M, mediastation x-76

#309404 - 09/05/06 06:53 PM Re: Latency with softsynths
Frank L. Rosenthal Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/18/00
Posts: 1008
Fred, almost any PC with an average run of the mill soundcard will do much lower latency (10ms or less) than any workstation or arranger keyboard. Latency is the time from when you hit the key to when you hear the sound. Some of the things which affect latency include:

Hard Drive speed if you use disk streaming samples (7200 rpm with 8 mb Cache).
Average quality soundcard with ASIO drivers.
Amount & quality or RAM ....if you use alot of samples (disk streaming) you should install 2 GBs.

CPU speed has some impact but it is relatively minor.

Finally, there are other general things which can help and they include tweaking Windows XP for multi media or music applications. You should remove things which are not required for music, e.g., Internet Explorer, etc. The HD should be defragmented, etc.

As I have said many times the proof is in the pudding. The vast majority of serious composers and screen writers use PC or Macs for their live and studio music productions. I have switched from arranger keyboards to the software solution many years ago and have never looked back....quality, reliability and efficiency.

I hope this provides some general guidelines.

#309405 - 09/06/06 12:26 PM Re: Latency with softsynths
richard_shiflet Offline

Registered: 02/25/04
Posts: 172
Loc: Greenwood, SC -USA
Fred, Iím not that familiar with the softsynths but I can tell you what my experiences have been. When I play a giga piano sound on my Mediastation, I hear absolutely no delay at all, but as Frank Rosenthal has stated less than 10 ms cannot be noticed by most people. (See Frank I do listen to you. Lol)

Though I have not performed any latency diagnostic tests on the Mediastation yet; I have played it solo, along with the arranger, along with mp3 files, and along with other live musicians (drums, bass, guitar) and I have not had any problems. If it is there, as we have been told it is with all keyboards, I canít detect it. I have been playing it every weekend for over 3 months in live settings.

My system is optimized for music though, the Mediastation uses the Linux OS and the program that plays my giga sounds, Linux Sampler, runs in Linux as itís native OS, so no problems there. When I play the Native Instruments B4 organ program however it is through WINE, the Windows emulation for Linux, and not the native OS. Still it performs perfectly as expected with no problems or latency that I can notice.

As to how many plug-ins it can handle at one time, I do not know. I have used a couple of plug-ins at one time, but never had a need for more. I think Domenik with Lionstracs told me one time he had around 12 plug-ins running and a video playing all from the Mediastation simultaneously. I will ask him for clarification.

As to the problem you had a few years ago, you mentioned that it was when Giga first came out. If the program you were using was Gigastudio or its predesessor Gigasampler, then your problem could have been insufficient processor speed.

I do not know much about these programs, but I have read that many professionals use dedicated Gigastudio PCís to run that program exclusively; while using another connected PC to run their other sound and music programs. I think it was because these programs were very CPU intensive. Maybe someone with more knowledge on this issue will comment. Perhaps Kontakt 2 would be an option for the disk streaming samples. You could use Linux Sampler but then you would have to load Linux or an application like VM Ware.

I think that the Mediastation could definitely do the job for you, but there are also many computers out there that could as well. It all depends on what you are looking for. I can tell you that the sounds on good quality VSTís are exceptional .I agree with Frankís post above, ďThe proof is in the puddingĒ as I have read about a lot of composers that are using orchestral vstís to score films and other high profile projects.

I may not have answered many of your questions but I hope this helps some


#309406 - 09/07/06 12:01 AM Re: Latency with softsynths
abacus Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/21/05
Posts: 5083
Loc: English Riviera, UK
Giga Sampler was the start of mainstream disc streaming, and it allowed large samples to be played without requiring large amounts of expensive Ram, (Up until recently it was only server computers that could read and use a large amount of Ram) and it basically works like this, when you select a sound, the first part of the sound (Which could be less then a second) for each key is loaded into Ram, (Tip: make sure all the sounds you require for the tune are preloaded into Ram by the VST) when you press the key the first part of the sound is played, which gives the program time to load the rest of the sound off the hard disk, (Streaming) if however you do not have enough Ram, then the program cannot load in enough of the sound to cover the time it takes to access and stream the rest of the sound from the hard drive. (Hence the apparent latency, although it is actually delay)
Most of these programs (Which include Kontakt 2) recommend a minimum of 1GB of free Ram to work correctly; however these types of programs do not normally require large amounts of CPU power.
Emulations and effects VSTs (B4.FM7, Guitar Rig etc) rely on the CPU power to produce and process the sounds, therefore the more CPU power the better. (Large amounts of Ram are not normally required unless a lot of these programs are loaded in at the same time)
As you can see from the above, it is not possible to say how much Ram CPU and Hard Disk is required, without knowing what programs you intend to use, however a good way is to look at the specifications that the VST manufactures say are required for there instruments, then add together the specifications which will give you an idea of how much Ram, CPU and hard disk is required. (You can use the minimum specs as it is unlikely that every note pressed will require the use of every VST)
Donít forget the OS, and any other samples you have loaded, will also take up Ram and CPU power.
Hope this helps.

English Riviera:
Live entertainment, Real Ale, Great Scenery, Great Beaches, why would anyone want to live anywhere else (IÔŅĹm definitely staying put).

#309407 - 09/14/06 10:46 AM Re: Latency with softsynths
freddynl Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 11/17/99
Posts: 1150
Loc: netherlands
Thanks, Frank,Richard and Bill for your comments.
It more or less confirms what I thought.
In my situation I will need a fast cpu and large ram.
As I have to replace my old PC anyway, I will built a new PC later this year, so let's see how that new PC can handle both plugins and real time sample playing.

Will keep you informed.

Thanks again, Fred
Keyboards/Sound Units: Kurzweil 2600S, Roland VR-760, Acces Virus C, Roland G-800, Akai AX60, Minimoog, Machine Drum, Roland R8-M, mediastation x-76


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