Difference between Instrument tracks vs racks (Cubase 9)

Instrument tracks vs. Instrument racks …

Can someone clearly state what tracks can do that racks can’t? It’s hard to find a reliable source of info about that.

I use instrument racks now, and would rather not change if there is no advantage.

Thanks -


I’m still a relatively new Cubase user with only about 18 months experience – spent years working with Sonar and other programs – and here’s my take on it currently.

There’s no real difference, but with Instrument Tracks I’m finding I like that I have Audio and Midi inserts and sends under one roof with an Instrument Track. My basic logic is to Use “Racks” for my multitimbral instruments and Tracks for Single output Instruments such as Retrologue 2, Pad Shop and similar.

I also end up thinking about my Tracks in terms of what’s on them and no as much as what instrument is playing them and I tend to group similar tracks together into folders, again, regardless of what instrument is playing them and if they be Inst. Tracks or a Rack instance of an instrument.

So, I really have no good answer on this. I like that there are both Instrument Tracks and the Rack but, as I go along, I don’t seem to much care as long as my folders and basic routing is logical (to me). It was a big confusion to to me when I first began, but now I’ve adapted.

So, the short story – there’s no difference with my eyes closed, but perhaps I like that compactness of the Instrument Tracks for the single output instance instruments and the multi-out handling for multitimbral synths.

Good luck

Hi, the main purpose for introducing racks was to handle multitimbral instruments. After that users complained about defining one midi channel for single instrument - so instrument tracks came to solve this problem. With the development of other features lime user presets for tracks the difference disappears.
My way: i got track presets for all vstis with midi channels pointing to racks or tracks. In the track window only midi channels appear (hide instruments). Mixing is with the instrument tracks or routed vsti outputs - so the mixer hides all midi channels. I do that since many years with presets and templates - the advantage is also always the same colours for instrument types .

One of the advantages of Instrument tracks is the ability to make use of midi loops. You can save a midi part, instrument settings, audio inserts and channel settings in one go.
Currently not possible with rack instruments.

This is not really as I remeber it. (Yes I’m an old fart.)

The VST rack has been in Cubase since the VSTi standard was introduced, some update to Cubase 3 in 1999 if I’m not misstaken. It was a big thing (mindblowing) and one of the first VST instruments you could buy, Model-E from Steinberg, was multitimbral from the start.

Instrument tracks was introduced later and was from the get to criticized for not giving the users the possibility to utilize instruments with multiple audio outputs and multiple midi channel input.

Today both the rack and using a instrument track is pretty much the same except you can’t load/save track presets the same way.


Thank you all for your thoughts!

LarsErik, can you expand on that a bit please? And which way of loading/saving track presets do you prefer - the instrument Track way, or Rack way?


I find they are both useful to have as confusing as they are at times. Rack Window is not exactly pretty, either.

instrument - tidy in the Arranger because it reduced the need to have midi channel + instrument, and routing necessary for that. The output is handled as audio.
Rack - for multi instruments… composing… where all midi data can change (templates) from project to project but the loaded instruments stay the same.

They both can essentially do the same thing. Since C7 (??? I think, maybe C8 or a .50 ???) you could route MIDI Tracks to an Instrument Track. This allows Instrument Tracks to function just as well for multi instruments as Rack Instruments. I almost exclusively use Instrument Tracks because they are simpler to setup, don’t require any additional routing step, and make it easier to see what’s going on.

There is one significant capability only found in MIDI Tracks. They have MIDI Sends & Instrument Tracks don’t. So if you want to route a single MIDI Part to multiple destinations you need to use MIDI Tracks (but those destinations could be Rack Instrument(s), Instrument Track(s), or both). For an Instrument Track an alternative to using MIDI Sends is to use a VSTi that supports multi instruments and set them all to the same channel.

One thing that really sells me on instrument tracks is being able to use the Listen bus. I use it to focus in on a particular instrument. This cannot be done with midi tracks+rack instruments.

Yeah, that is huge. Super useful, thanks for mentioning it.

I have posted this in just about every comparison thread so apologizes if anyone gets annoyed.

If you use the feature “save selected/load selected” this will not work for instrument tracks.

I think this was broken in C7 but not positive.

As a side note, I think its interesting to note since this doesn’t work with instrument tracks, that more users have not complained. My conclusion is that “save selected/load selected” might be a duplicate feature that should be phased out? The feature is sort of convoluted in that when you save the multiple tracks you have to load the exact same number of tracks…or it won’t work.

Also I think File>export>tracks accomplishes the same thing without the need to remember the number of tracks like you do with save/load selected?

Anyway there are some differences between Instrument Tracks and Instrument Racks.

Recording drums is where I made the decision early on to use instrument tracks because everything was discreet in that I could separate each drum element for unique processing but that also required having a separate instance for each drum. That was ok until I started running out of computer so it was then I considered using midi tracks into the one instance of drum machine. With that and the way the instrument was set up, I felt I didn’t have the same discreetness for effects editing so I switched back to instrument tracks and upgraded my computer to handle it. As mentioned before, it is a much easier setup than having the 2 tracks for each instrument.
I don’t know if things have changed since Cubase Studio 5 in the regard that using the midi rack was the only way you could freeze the track and making Cubase treat it like an audio track, effectively eliminating the processing power taken to run the instrument and effects.

What I meant to say was that track presets are only available for instrument tracks. Sorry for the confusion.

Personally I always use rack instruments. Not because they are better or anything, just because that’s how I’ve always used Cubase.

If the VSTi supports multiple Audio Outputs there is no need to use a separate instance for each drum. I use 1 instance of BFD3 on an Instrument Track but have separate Audio Channels in the MixConsole for overheads, kick, snare, etc.

Render In Place will convert an Instrument Track into audio.

That was the reasoning I went to rack midi but in Addictive Drums, I seemed to get some bleed through on the overhead, room and buss tracks. I know there’s probably a workaround for this but I was always in the middle of a project and didn’t pursue. In the instrument tracks it was all contained.

Good to know. Is this reversible? Don’t think this was available in Studio 5.
With freeze, it was convenient because I could immediately unfreeze to bring it all back allowing me to make changes to the info on said track.

Totally. When rendering you have the option to Disable the Instrument Track (or not). Basically the same as Disabling/Enabling a Track independent of rendering.

Don’t know about Addictive Drums but in BFD3 you can set the amount of bleed for each drum into other mics. And of course some bleed contributes to making it sound like a real kit recorded in a real room, 'cause that is what happens there.

Ok, thanks.

That’s exactly why I didn’t want to disable the mics or room effects in AD. It creates that natural drum ambience.
It was easier to harness all that in making the instrument track.

I work much the same way. When working in the Mixer, I tend to keep MIDI tracks of multitimbral instruments Invisible with the audio outputs of the VSTis showing. If I’m working on MIDI Tracks in the project window, I tend to hide the audio outs, or they are just at the top or bottom of the project and if not out of sight, they can be tucked in folders and more out of mind. My Midi Track Faders are Dark Purple/Red and my Instrument Track Faders are Bright Yellow – it works for me.

It’s good to hear how you work and find that it’s similar to how I’m doing things – makes me feel like I’m on the right track. Take care. :slight_smile:

Excellent tip. I’ve not learned that function yet, but it sounds interesting. I’ll have to take a look at it.