Here is an excellent in-layman’s-terms explanation about how it happens that your CPU load might be only at 40%, but your Cubase Performance meter is topping out to the red.
CPU Performance vs. Real-Time Performance in Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) - YouTube
Thanks, Steve, for posting. That is a great explanation of CPU vs. Real-time performance!
Here’s another angle that I’ve discovered in my Cubase travels. The DAW performance can have a lot to do with how you route audio through groups. After watching some informative mixing videos, years ago, I developed a template for mixing that had me using a lot of groups to submix. Imagine Top and Bottom Snare going to a SNARE group, which then feeds a DRUMS group, which then feeds perhaps an ALL MUSIC group. Let your imagination go wild here. This kind of templating made a lot of sense to me in a workflow context - I could work with the SNARE bus, the DRUMS bus, etc. What didn’t occur to me at the time was that I was forcing Cubase to compromise on multi-threading. Any processing (plugins) taking place on my Top Snare track has to finish before any processing (summing and plugins) on my SNARE group, which then feeds into the subsequent groups (more summing, more plugins). Imagine how difficult it can get for Cubase to finish all the required processing, up to my MASTER buss, to feed audio into the audio buffer, if my audio routing is more serial than parallel?
I started having projects max out on the performance meter, and read a lot of threads on DAW performance vs. CPU cores, before realizing that I had some ability to fix my own problem. By cutting down on the “length” of my audio routing (fewer serial paths through groups) and instead using a more parallel audio routing, I found that Cubase was much more able to utilize the multiple CPU cores (parallel processing ability) and get the job done within each audio buffer.
Using VCA faders rather than Groups is a great compromise in this situation. If you don’t need plugin processing on your SNARE group, for example, use a VCA fader instead to avoid a level of unnecessary summing.
By organizing my audio routing in a new way, I was actually able to use far MORE plugins than before, without taxing the real-time processing. It didn’t make logical sense at first, but I found that, for example, I could put the same plugins on every drum track that I used to put on the single DRUMS group, with less strain on performance. Sure, this is an extreme example, and who wants to duplicate to that extent, but if you’re stuck for performance, give it a try.