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I'm through with training wheels, ready to dump Mainstage


PianoMan51

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In 2007 I bought Logic. Great product and price. Included was this free app called Mainstage. Wow! I can use my Macbook for live performance. And, it has many colors and bells and whistles and colors and buttons and colors! Did I mention colors? So amazing.

 

Most importantly, it held my hand through a bunch of technologies I didn't know, and didn't particularly want to know. Nice intro. I've been using it since 2008, on more than 300 gigs. And as long as I tested out my setups before using them live, and kept the laptop out of the sun, all has been good.

 

Now I find myself nearing the end of my Macbook's life. Lion is the highest OS it will handle, and with 4Gb of RAM, there's no point is worrying about 64bits. But $3k for a new one makes me choke.

 

After six years on the Mainstage tit, I realize that I don't want all the baggage. I'm not watching the laptop screen while I'm playing. I'm not using any of the Logic instruments. I just want to play Kontakt 5, UVI and GSI VB3 with my two keyboards.

 

So, is there an AU Host I can use to replace Mainstage, and hopefully get a few more years of use from my Macbook? I have a copy of AU Lab and it's buggy, especially when trying to close or quit. I've also looked at Bidule, but it appears that it can't be used standalone.

 

Any suggestions based on personal experience will be appreciated.

 

Jack

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I've been using it since 2008, on more than 300 gigs. And as long as I tested out my setups before using them live, and kept the laptop out of the sun, all has been good.

 

Now I find myself nearing the end of my Macbook's life. Lion is the highest OS it will handle, and with 4Gb of RAM, there's no point is worrying about 64bits. But $3k for a new one makes me choke.

...

So, is there an AU Host I can use to replace Mainstage, and hopefully get a few more years of use from my Macbook?

I'm missing something... You want to get a few more years out of your Macbook... why do you need a new host, why can't you keep doing what you've been doing? I know you said "I just want to play Kontakt 5, UVI and GSI VB" - can you not do that in your current system?

 

Though if you do want a newer Macbook, you certainly don't have to spend $3k, even new... and you could also pick up a recent used model on eBay... or check out the deal on refurbs from Apple at http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/mac - recent laptops from $849, or from $1199 with 8 gb RAM. That $1199 model has 256 mb flash storage, that would probably be my choice.

 

Some people have put together rigs around the Mac Mini, too.

 

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Maybe Ableton Live?

 

I've got MainStage 2.2 AND Ableton Live 8. Live 8 runs with lower CPU and is more stable with third-party plugins, but it is nowhere near as obvious to me in terms of controlling a rig. It's all clips and instrument racks. I mean, I think I could get Live to work, as many others have, but again, the metaphors it uses aren't as direct as what you get with MainStage.

 

Anyway, you can download a demo and see if it works for you.

 

As for getting away from laptops altogether, and still play software, the Receptor is probably your best bet right now.

 

Even then, I'd keep a cheap laptop in the bag if I need to remote into the system in case of issues. Of course, you'd STILL want to put time into testing combinations of plugins and scrolling through your set, just to ensure no hiccups.

 

BTW, I've got a Receptor 2 Pro Max, bought used, and my success with it depends entirely on the plugins I'm trying to run. VB3 1.2 runs ok. 1.4 has hiccups. Kontakt 5 crashes on me if I switch up instruments a lot, but may the new OS (version 2) is more stable. As far as I know, there are still issues registering some Kontakt 5 expansion libraries (e.g. Alicia's Keys). The UVI engine can't comment. The newer operating system (version 2) may address some of these problems, but I can't swing the $200 upgrade fee right now.

 

And right now, I'm putting together a rig that uses MainStage as the brains of the operation, and the Receptor as a module.

 

What are you currently using to control Mainstage?

 

-John

I make software noises.
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ABECK, I'm actually trying to get deeper into the laptop game, but want a platform that doesn't weigh down my Macbook with stuff I don't need.

 

I believe you when you describe your results, but recently I've tried to add some new instruments and have maxed out my CPU and then wondered if there isn't a better way rather than just keep buying faster laptops.

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Thanks AnotherScott for your comments. Yes, I am starting to have some performance problems.

 

Regarding a new laptop I guess I've got an aversion to buying into obsolescence. The downside of the new Macbook Pro Retina is that you can't upgrade the internal parts, so you have to buy based on what you imagine you'll need in a few years (16Gb Ram, 1Tb SSD). The upside is that the PCIe buss for the 1Tb SSD is considerably faster than the existing SATA. Given that most of my instruments are sampled, this seems like a good, but expensive choice for performance.

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Thanks AnotherScott for your comments. Yes, I am starting to have some performance problems.

Since it worked so well for so long, I'd try to figure out what has changed. It's probably not component failure (the issues would probably be less subtle), I would suspect a software issue. My inclination would be to back everything up, format the hard drive, and re-install everything from scratch. There's probably no reason it can't perform as well as it did for your first 300 gigs.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Johnchop

 

A lot of ideas from you, so I'll answer one at a time.

 

I'm open to Ableton Live, but would actually prefer a simpler AU Host rather than learn a new DAW. However, I like the demo idea. We'll see.

 

For the Receptor, guess what? My two most used instruments are Alicia Keys and VB3 1.4. And I just bought the SonicCouture Clav which only runs on Kontakt 5 player. So your answer has saved me a lot of time.

 

Re: UVI, I'm confused. The engine is free. I use it for VILabs True Keys and Acoustic Samples OldBlackGrand and Wurlie . Just downloaded version 2 a couple of weeks ago.

 

I play with two MIDI controllers: Studiologic VMK 161 organ and VAX77 extra heavy weight.

 

thanks,

 

Jack

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Another Scott wants me to look into that deep black hole that no man can look into: figure out which software blocks don't work well with the others. Then restart. Arggh.

 

But let's go down this road. It was a cold and stormy night just before Xmas, when our protagonist, knowing quite well that no one will buy him any really cool toys, read in KC that the SonicCouture Clav was really good. I have the Logic and Scarbee versions and don't care much for either. So, bought the new Clav. Oh, it won't run on Kontakt Player 4, it needs 5. Oh, the Kontakt Player 5 won't run on OSX 10.6.8, it needs 10.7 and up.

 

And here is where I find that my Macbook can never run an OSX higher than 10.7, while the newest is 10.9. Yes, there's that sinking feeling. Oh, and because of that it will never run Mainstage 3.

 

At the same time I also bought Acoustic Samples Wurlie. Which, by the way needs an upgrade to UVI Workstation 2.0.

 

So, I have OSX 10.7.5, Kontakt 5, UVI 2.0, SC Clav and AS Wurlie newly installed and things start to fall apart. In Mainstage I have gotten used to cycling through all my presets in a Concert before playing. Now when I first access (without playing) the Clav or Wurlie I sometimes get a massive CPU burst (why???) and Mainstage loses the audio-out connection. I can get Mainstage back to 'normal' by re-applying the audio preferences. And then I'm back in business, but still iffy.

 

Now, back to the beginning. Something is screwed up, but I'm running two operating systems and two Mainstage versions behind the curve. Why would any of these companies want to debug their products to work in 10.7 ?

 

So, I come to two possibilities:

 

1). Get a new Macbook, upgrade everything to Mavericks and then start my troubleshooting with willing Customer Support.

 

or:

 

2). Replace Mainstage with a smaller, simpler, faster, more appropriate AU Host, and see if that can buy me a few more years on my current Macbook.

 

Actually, if I can find a good AU Host, and maybe that's Bidule, I'll probably, over time, do both.

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There is a possible workaround... Svengle the NI forums and you can locate the old Service Center app for 10.6.8. (When I re-locate the link I'll post it here). That's really what Kontakt 5 is looking for. It's worked for me for everything except Scarbee Mark I.

 

Kontakt (and, btw, Applied Acoustics VA-2) are CPU hogs compared to the built in Logic instruments. If you have the luxury of time between patch changes (i.e., change the patch and wait a second before you hit a note), the CPU spike will dissipate and not screw up the audio. That's been my experience.

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Nord Electro 5D, Novation Launchkey 61, Logic Pro X, Mainstage 3, lots of plugins, fingers, pencil, paper.

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Another Scott wants me to look into that deep black hole that no man can look into: figure out which software blocks don't work well with the others. Then restart. Arggh.

LOL... but not really what I suggested.

 

Format. Clean install of 10.7.5 and your music apps. See if that fixes the problem. That's all.

 

It's possible that you had some other software installed (at some point) under 10.6.8 that did some things that 10.7.5 isn't happy with, and the remnants of that software are making 10.7.5 less stable than it should be.

 

The problem I'm seeing is that you seem to be assuming that all your woes are coming from Mainstage, and that if you just replace Mainstage with some other host, all will be well. But that seems to me to be an arbitrary diagnosis. I'm assuming you're running a version of Mainstage that is compatible with Lion (i.e. 2.1.3). If Kontakt 5, UVI 2.0, SC Clav and AS Wurlie aren't running for you well under Mainstage and 10.7.5-upgraded-from-10.6.8, why assume that simply replacing the Mainstage element is the thing that will make everything hunky dory? If what you have is supposed to work, then changing to a different host seems like a bit of a shot in the dark. If it is indeed supposed to work, I would try just re-setting up what you have from scratch as a good starting place. You don't have to buy anything, you don't have to learn any new software, and if it doesn't work, it is possible that whatever is going wrong will go wrong with whatever Mainstage-replacement you come up with as well. (Though it might be beneficial if your new host used less RAM than Mainstage does. The newer OS probably uses more RAM; your other new additions may be using more RAM; so maybe the cumulative increasing RAM requirements are contributing to the flakiness.)

 

As a partial version of this approach, you could also just create a new User under 10.7.5, and set that account up to do nothing except run the music programs. Depending on what else you have going on in your main account, that might be enough of a "blank slate" to make the difference between the combo running smoothly or not. It's not as complete as a reformat/reinstall, but it could conceivably still fix the problem, and it has the virtue of being something you could try that would only take a few minutes.

 

 

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Using a product like Ableton Live is pretty straightforward. What is required is that you have a controller/keyboard that supports zones and can send patch changes at the zone level (most do).

 

In Live you just add soft synths to individual tracks and MIDI channels, e.g.:

Tr1, MIDI Ch#1: Kontakt 5

Tr2, MIDI Ch#2: VB3

etc.

 

All tracks are set for monitor enabled mode so they're ready to accept MIDI data all the time. Unlike Mainstage there is no jumping between live and bypassed instruments (probably the cause of your CPU spiking). And you can really maximize your synths if they support MIDI program changes for presets as you can simply send MIDI program changes to switch between presets. In Mainstage you'd have to set up multiple instances of each synth with a specific preset enabled.

 

Bidule could be set up the same way as I described above or you can make it work more like Mainstage where it controls the zones, or somewhere in between. Bidule is very open, complex. You're basically wiring the thing from scratch.

 

I understand your frustration with Mainstage. I have moved away from it myself.

 

Busch.

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Kontakt (and, btw, Applied Acoustics VA-2) are CPU hogs compared to the built in Logic instruments. If you have the luxury of time between patch changes (i.e., change the patch and wait a second before you hit a note), the CPU spike will dissipate and not screw up the audio. That's been my experience.

 

I can't speak to VA-2, but I don't find Kontakt to be a CPU hog at all. It is vastly more capable than EXS-24 (scripting, multi-timbral, etc.). MANY Kontakt instruments take advantage of scripting which can add to CPU usage, but when you just play back samples, as you would using EXS-24, it's VERY efficient.

 

Personally, if I couldn't use Kontakt, live soft synths would be pointless for me.

 

Busch.

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It's highly program dependent, Busch. I don't notice a spike in the Scarbee A-200 or in the pianos, for example, but the VSL strings in the Factory Library nearly max my CPU, compared to the EXS24 string ensembles. It sounds leagues better, but I don't want to rely on it for live.

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Nord Electro 5D, Novation Launchkey 61, Logic Pro X, Mainstage 3, lots of plugins, fingers, pencil, paper.

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Of course you can host AUs in GarageBand if you just want a change of DAW. Most of the NI apps such as Kontakt have standalone versions though I have always found the AU or VST versions easier to use. I find Ableton Live up to and including Live 8 to be more resource hungry than Logic, though Live 9 noticeably less. Reaper is also very popular and probably the cheapest full featured DAW

 

 

"Just a tad more attack on the filter, Grandad!"
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Another Scott wants me to look into that deep black hole that no man can look into: figure out which software blocks don't work well with the others. Then restart. Arggh.

What AnotherScott has recommended is the standard debug procedure. You say your MBP with MainStage has run fine for 300 gigs, you install upgraded AU's and upgrade Kontakt and UVI and then conclude that MainStage is the issue. Doesn't make sense to anyone familiar with software that when a tried and proven configuration falls apart when new software is installed it is the tried and proven part that is at fault and not the newly installed software.

 

..read in KC that the SonicCouture Clav was really good. I have the Logic and Scarbee versions and don't care much for either. So, bought the new Clav. Oh, it won't run on Kontakt Player 4, it needs 5. Oh, the Kontakt Player 5 won't run on OSX 10.6.8, it needs 10.7 and up.

 

And here is where I find that my Macbook can never run an OSX higher than 10.7, while the newest is 10.9. Yes, there's that sinking feeling. Oh, and because of that it will never run Mainstage 3.

 

At the same time I also bought Acoustic Samples Wurlie. Which, by the way needs an upgrade to UVI Workstation 2.0.

 

So, I have OSX 10.7.5, Kontakt 5, UVI 2.0, SC Clav and AS Wurlie newly installed and things start to fall apart.Now when I first access (without playing) the Clav or Wurlie I sometimes get a massive CPU burst (why???) and Mainstage loses the audio-out connection. I can get Mainstage back to 'normal' by re-applying the audio preferences. And then I'm back in business, but still iffy.

 

So, I come to two possibilities:

 

1). Get a new Macbook, upgrade everything to Mavericks and then start my troubleshooting with willing Customer Support.

 

or:

 

2). Replace Mainstage with a smaller, simpler, faster, more appropriate AU Host, and see if that can buy me a few more years on my current Macbook.

 

Actually, if I can find a good AU Host, and maybe that's Bidule, I'll probably, over time, do both.

 

By all means get a new host if you believe that MainStage and not the newly installed Kontakt 5 or UVI 2 is the resource hog stopping your MBP from running reliably.

 

or Option 3 if all you want to do is run a small number of VST's and you no longer like or want what MainStage offers why not switch to new Windows laptop? The hardware is a lot cheaper and most can be upgraded easily to provide some future proofing and you are going to have to learn a new Host anyway.

 

As David R stated I have also found Kontakt to be a resource hog running on both Windows and MBP's. Those with machines that have adequate resources for the task at hand and who are not loading multiple resource hogs at the same time will not notice any issues.

 

Most 3rd party VST/AU vendors are small companies with scarce resources. Having migrated their VST's to 64 bit they are not going to be interesting in modifying or further upgrading their 32 bit options. Every so often a major step forward occurs in hardware evolution and software development, 64 bit is one of these. Apple is now exclusively 64 bit as you have found (and a free OS upgrade,) Windows still offers 32 or 64 bit versions of Win 7 and Win 8 with paid upgrades.

 

Look forward to hearing the outcome if you stick with your current MBP and whether replacing MainStage solves the resource issue.

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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As I am running Mainstage 2.0 on a 2007 Macbook myself and am in the process of integrating it into my own rig, this thread is incredibly timely. So far with my limited concerts, I am finding no problems. I'm running OSX 10.5 on it and don't plan on installing any new libraries (nor upgrading the OS). I'm using Mainstage mainly for samples and for augmenting some sounds on my Motif and CP4.

 

I have toyed with the idea of just getting a new laptop myself, but I don't really have the $ for it and would only need the laptop for this purpose (main computer is my Macpro tower).

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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Just looked seriously at the new Macbook Airs for the first time. I'm shocked at how feature laden they are. I can get a 256 GB SSD with an i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM for $1,550 and it has 2 USB 3 ports and a thunderbolt port.

 

This really seems like the machine to beat. I guess it'd be nice to have 16 GB of RAM, but I imagine 8 GB would be ample for non Kontakt extensive Mainstage use.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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I have the latest 13" MacBookAir, 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD. Great little machine, it can run MainStage 2 at a 64 sample buffer, but big chords with lots of sustain and glissandos will send it over the edge.

 

For lighter work it should be fine, though.

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So, I come to two possibilities:

1). Get a new Macbook, upgrade everything to Mavericks and then start my troubleshooting with willing Customer Support.

 

or:

 

2). Replace Mainstage with a smaller, simpler, faster, more appropriate AU Host, and see if that can buy me a few more years on my current Macbook.

You're overlooking a third, simple yet effective possibility: Upgrade to a good external interface.

 

A good interface compensates for a slower cpu, and allows you to run resource-hog plugins at lower buffer sizes. Caveat: there's a *huge* variability among interfaces in this regard. Recent post here, and a lot of technical discussion on this SoS thread.

 

My suggestion: use the chart linked in the post above, narrow down on a device with a DawBench score of 7 or above, find a store with a return policy, and try it out. At the very least, this involves less of a learning curve and time investment than trying out a new host. And a tiny fraction of the $$ of a new Macbook ;)

 

- Guru

Edit: Noticed your OP asks for 'personal experience'. I use several instances of resource-hungry plugins, layered on top of each other, with a drone sequence in the background, while also running my vocals through effects - at 64 buffers, with nary a pop or crackle in sight, even with heavy pedal use. Unthinkable without my firewire interface, even with my i7 Win7-64 laptop.

 

:wink:

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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Just looked seriously at the new Macbook Airs for the first time. I'm shocked at how feature laden they are. I can get a 256 GB SSD with an i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM for $1,550 and it has 2 USB 3 ports and a thunderbolt port.

 

It's quite a deal, and it's screaming fast. :thu:

 

More than adequate for my Mainstage purposes, which is to complement hardware. This time around I am staying away from 3rd party plugins, and even with a 512 SSD I use modeled instruments more than samples.

 

In my experience, Ableton is still far superior for hosting something like VB3. (I am using the new MS3 organ sim. It's not VB3 but it's not shabby at all.)

 

AG, despite my reluctance to add complexity (audio interfaces) to something which is working, I did pick up a tiny interface based purely on your recommendation. I don't think I need the processing headroom, but we shall see. :)

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AG, despite my reluctance to add complexity (audio interfaces) to something which is working, I did pick up a tiny interface based purely on your recommendation. I don't think I need the processing headroom, but we shall see. :)

Yikes...:eek:

I hope you've consulted the DawBench rating chart I specified, and it rates higher than 7/10. I would never recommend the USB ones which rate 5.5 or lower. But even with those, you might find noticeable performance improvement with those over the built-in outs.

 

The best way to test it: with the headphone outs, layer more and more resource hungry plugins, one at a time, until you start getting pops and crackles. Then switch to the interface at the same buffer setting, and you should hear clean audio. Or you could just download the DawBench suite of tests itself.

 

Looking forward to your experiences!

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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Yikes...:eek:

 

No worries AG. :cool: Your ideas are invaluable, but I'm responsible for my own mistakes. Size and form factor matter to me. There is no way I will add a rack for the interface. If this interface doesn't add value, no problem. The system already works fine through the headphone outputs.

 

I hope you've consulted the DawBench rating chart I specified, and it rates higher than 7/10.

 

If you are referring to this ....

 

Absolutely .... NOT. :D

 

Why not?

 

1) Where are the Apogee products on that chart? Even though they are broadening out from a cubase-centric, windows-centric, daw-centric experience base, it seems likely that Dawbench has merely the tusks and tail of the proverbial elephant.

 

2) The interface I picked up has some word of mouth credibility. Size matters to me.

 

3) The items on the Dawbench which score above 7 appear to be priced above $500 which would be material to someone contemplating a $1500 laptop. (Besides, for what I am using this for, I don't want to carry a rack.)

 

Still it's helpful to see that people are finding ways to discuss latency, even though that is not my significant issue. It's a bit like the race toward keyboard polyphony in the 1980s. Once you got above 128 notes, you stopped measuring polyphony and worried about other things.

 

I'll try the test you mentioned though. Good idea. Should be educational. :thu:

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Yea, I'm completely fine with my MacBook Pro's built-in output (optical, going to a small d-to-a box) at a 128 samples buffer. I never measured the latency, and don't care what it is. It feels good to play. For going on the road - local or long distance - the less cables & external doodads the better IMO. As long as stereo-only works for me, I'm a happy camper.
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Ok, that's a relief...! Just kidding.

 

Most of what you say makes practical sense to me. However...

 

Still it's helpful to see that people are finding ways to discuss latency, even though that is not my significant issue. It's a bit like the race toward keyboard polyphony in the 1980s. Once you got above 128 notes, you stopped measuring polyphony and worried about other things.

It took me a lot of time to understand that latency is actually secondary to the DawBench study - and audio interfaces in general. If you look at the best and the worst performers on that list, the output latency differs by 3-4ms, which is hardly significant. And you're absolutely right about latency - after a point, diminishing returns kicks in and it's no longer a concern.

 

However, the best interfaces can handle 3-4 times as much audio load as the worst ones, at the same buffer size. And that's a much more practical difference. Audio load handling issues are much more frustrating than latency, as our OP has just discovered...! :grin:

 

In your case, since you have the latest i7 processor, you have TONS of headroom, so the interface would hardly make a difference there - in contrast to the OP's case.

 

I was quite interested in that NI Audio2 DJ when it came out. I think you'll enjoy the more practical benefits of having an interface - separate submixes for monitors, independent volume controls, and much greater dynamic range (103dB - just checked!). The last one is very, very noticeable with the AP plugins like Pianoteq. Have fun!

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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If you are referring to this ....

 

Absolutely .... NOT. :D

 

Why not?

 

1) Where are the Apogee products on that chart? Even though they are broadening out from a cubase-centric, windows-centric, daw-centric experience base, it seems likely that Dawbench has merely the tusks and tail of the proverbial elephant.

 

Yup. While it is educational, it is one-sided. From personal experience I can verify that Mainstage absolutely flies at low latencies on a Mac, especially compared to Cubase. I use the internal sound on my MacBookAir and it works fine at 64 sample buffers. I have tried 32 sample buffers for s--ts and giggles and it was usable, if a little too volatile for my peace of mind.

 

I can't do that with Cubase on my MacPro (with an MboxPro 3). Need to stay at 128, and sometimes even go up to 256 when loads are heavy. The same machine will run Mainstage at 32 samples without a sweat, and delivers usable performance even at 16 samples.

 

Since the MacBookAir has only two USB ports and one ThB port, I doubt a USB interface is the right solution for those looking to gig with it. ThB interfaces are few and very pricy at that.

 

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