This is actually the second symptom of a bug I’ve reported to Steinberg before, to which I got a reply that that’s the way it’s supposed to work. No. No, it’s not.
Background: to use Cubase with an external synth or other MIDI thingee, you can either create separate MIDI and audio tracks or you can create an Instrument track, selecting “Steinberg | External Plugin | Cubase_MIDI_device_you_created_for_your_synth” as the VST. Instrument tracks have several advantages, including timing and level compensation, and only one track to deal with: you record your performance with MIDI, then Freeze the track to capture the audio - sort of like a very very handy Render In-Place.
When you Freeze an Instrument track, you are given several options, including “Unload Instrument when Frozen”. This is a very important option, because it releases those resources to be used on another track. If it’s a software VST, that free’s up RAM and CPU. If it’s an external synth, it free’s up that device (i.e., MIDI ports and audio channels), so you can use it on another track (Cubase allows only one instance of a MIDI device through “External Plugin” as described above.). I mean, that only makes sense, right? You’ve rendered the MIDI to audio; Cubase doesn’t need to hold onto those ports anymore.
HOWEVER, Cubase does NOT release the “External VST” devices after Freeze,even with the “Unload Instrument when Frozen” box checked. Steinberg tech support claims “that’s the way it’s supposed to work,” that doesn’t pass the laugh test. Why would it be designed to stay loaded, whether or not I choose to have it unloaded? It wouldn’t; this is a bug.
Today I found the second symptom of this bug, underscoring my point that this is NOT the way it is supposed to work. The second symptom of this bug is that, even when an Instrument track using an external synth is Frozen, Audio Mixdown insists that an external plug-in is being used, and therefore forces the render to be done in real-time.
C’mon, Steinberg, please fix the “Unload-After-Freeze” bug, such that External Plug-ins unload properly after Freeze, per the UI checkbox. These are more than just bugs; they’re loss of functionality.