Cubase 12 eats so much M1 CPU

I use Cubase 12 Pro (12.0.60) on macOS Ventura, and it seems to use significant amout of CPU.
For example, right now I am not even plaing anything in cubase, and it shows 150% usage of the CPU on a Macbook Pro 13 2020 with M1 CPU.

Does anyone experience the same thing with the resources consumption on an M1 Mac computer?

I think we need some more details here. What audio interface are you using? At which buffer settings? How many tracks? What instruments and plugins are activated? Is multi processing activated, and what are your ASIO guard setting? Native or Rosetta 2?

Depending on all above, there may be not so much difference in CPU usage between playback and no playback.

I use either built-in Mac audio or (very old) ESI UGM96 USB audio interface. For both of them, I set the buffer to be 512 samples. I have not changed any other settings: multiprocessing and ASIO guards are checked, and the ASIO guard Level is Normal. Cubase runs in Apple Silicon (Native) mode.

The project has 30 tracks, most of the plugins are built-in Cubase’s plugins. Some of them external (Izotope Nectar, Voxengo SPAN, SoundID reference). If I drop all the external (non-Cubase) effects, then the CPU usage drops from ~170-180 to ~100-110%. Are this numbers normal for Apple M1 CPU?

P. S. OK, it seems like I can at least avoid the problem of high CPU usage, when I tick “Release audio driver in the background”, so that when I switch to another app, the computer is not sluggish.

Overall, I don’t think that there is basically any problem with your system. Simply, it is just the way it is. Each track and each plugin is consuming CPU power. And Cubase does not stop computation of all plugins used if you stop playback (knowing that this is very simplified as the processing inside the audio engine is quite complex and depends on many factors like armed tracks, active inputs, ASIO guard settings etc.)

If you activate “Release audio driver in the background” Cubase turns off the complete audio engine if it is moved to the background. This in fact releases CPU resources as all computation is stopped. But the drawback is that any playback is stopped at the moment you are switching applications and move Cubase to the background (i.e. have a look at the mixer application of your audio card).

Please have in mind that 100% CPU usage does not mean that all available CPU power is used. If you have a 10 core CPU, 100% CPU usage is just 10% of all available cores. And in addition, the CPU usage of Cubase is not linear to the track or plugin count. For example: If you have 10 tracks with identical setup and 100% CPU usage then additional 10 identical tracks don’t raise the CPU usage to 200% but to a lower level like 150%. This is at least my personal experience.

Thank you for the explanation, @stanft.

My CPU has 4 performance and 4 efficiency cores. So, load of 170% CPU is then just 2 cores, I guess.

In a way, yes. If all 8 cores are used to the max it would be 800% CPU usage (or a load factor of 8.0). But a load of 170% is not handled by 2 cores but probably by all 8 cores … to some extent.

Have a look at the macOS Activity Monitor. It has an additional view called “current CPU usage”. This view shows all cores and their specific usage.

But one important advice that has helped me a lot: If you are using Cubase (or any other DAW) don’t look at the activity monitor or the CPU usage to much as it does not necessarily correlate to the audio performance headroom of your system. In Cubase, there is a specific performance meter which provides a more audio engine-specific view on the current resources used - and the headroom still available.

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