Creating Endpoints with Multi-track VSTs

John Barron’s excellent Discover Dorico tutorial on creating Endpoints and Playback Templates focused on a VST plug-in that only holds one sample.

Many VSTs, like HALion, or Kontact, or ARIA Player, can load 16 or more separate samples, each on a different MIDI channel. I wanted to know whether using 16 VST instruments with 1 sample in each would use more memory and take more time to load than 1 VST instrument with 16 samples.

So I did some testing to find out. My sample project has 14 Players, using a mix of ARIA Player and Kontact samples.

The first test is 14 samples each in separate VSTs, compared to 7 samples in just 2 VSTs.

The second test is to see the effect of loading multiple (duplicate) samples into one Kontact VST, compared to using several VSTs. This is using my 2014 MacBook Pro.

My conclusions are:

You get significantly faster loading times by filling one VST with lots of samples than by using separate VSTs with one sample. So when building endpoints, you may want to consider what types of ensembles you commonly use.

In my case, I do a lot of choral writing, which may be scored for SATB, SSATB, SATB-SATB, SSAAATTTTBB, etc. It’s more efficient for me to create one Choral Endpoint filled with SATB-SATB-SATB-SATB samples, and use that for a variety of scorings, than to have separate VSTs for each voice or just one VST with SATB samples.

The other thing I’ve discovered is that moving my sample libraries from my 2018 Mini onto an external SSD has made them much slower than my older MBP!

Funny you’ve just posted this - I was online looking at the exact same thing. I came across this … https://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2019/mar/14/can-an-external-ssd-match-the-mac-minis-pricey-inbuilt-storage

Thanks the info on VST’s - something I’ve been wondering about.

I have 512 GB in my Mini, but I have a 2TB SATA SSD, and I thought I would offload 50 GB of sample libraries onto that. It looks like I need to move them back. I’ve still 300 GB to spare, but I don’t like having disks that are too full.

I don’t mind if a document takes 30 seconds to load – but when you switch between two open projects…

How have you connected the SSD?

Via a USB enclosure: I get around 530 MB/s from it, which is more than from my Samsung T5.

The 2014 MBP, on which I did the tests, reads at 1500 MB/s. The Mini’s internal storage gives 2850 MB/s, so I’ll definitely move them back!

One could argue that on the internal storage, and with 32 GB RAM, none of this really matters!

USB speeds are a complete minefield, partly because different designs of connectors only support different versions of the spec, and the two timelines of “faster versions of USB” and " new connector designs" don’t match up in any logical way.

For example the original “large” Type A connectors actually support faster speeds than the more modern “small” Type B, and “Mini” connectors don’t support USB3 at all!

FWIW if your 2014 MBP supports USB3.1 (which was published in 2014) the theoretical maximum speed is 10000 Mb/s. If it only supports the earlier 2011 standard, that reduces the maximum speed to 5000 Mb/s.

The USB spec is 10 Gbps, which is bits, with a small b, per second. MB/s is Megabytes per second. I’ve been careful to use the exact unit style from Blackmagic Speed Test.

Typo in units fixed. Apologies for that confusion.

Later versions of the USB spec increased the maximum speed from 10 to 20 and then 40 Mb/s, identical with Thunderbolt 1, 2 and 3.

The only real difference between USB and Thunderbolt is that Apple helped develop the spec, and therefore got the exclusive first release of it and could choose its own name for it, rather than being stuck with something boring and corporate like USB 4.0 :wink:

Weirdly, I’ve moved everything back onto my fast internal drive, but my test files are still taking much longer to load than on the older Mac!! I’m looking at 34 seconds!!

Something is very wrong.

UPDATE: Well, I’ve fixed the problem on my Mini, and come up with some interesting further finds on the subject:

Some VSTs are quicker to load than others. Kontakt is quite slow. ARIA Player is very fast. Having multiple VSTs of ARIA affects the startup time very little.

The effect of a faster disk is not directly proportional, as loading is only part of the job. I’m seeing 18 seconds from document window appearing to Green light in Play on the MBP, and 16 seconds on the Mini, despite nearly twice the disk speed, plus faster CPU.

Dorico is multi-tasking at this point, so you can still be loading samples and doing other stuff.

In short: I think I’ve got my Playback Template finally sorted out!