External Instruments Primer?

I’m sure this has come up before. Maybe some recalls a thread in the old archives?

So, I set up my external synths in VST Connections and associate the synths midi device.

So far so good. But how do I then record them? Where is input and how do I route it to an audio track and select it for recording the audio?

I used to just setup inputs in the input window for the actual inputs the synths pipe into … but when I setup an audio input in the External instruments part of VST Connections it breaks the connections at the input busses.

Help please.


OK … it’s been over a week. Before this falls completely off the board, I’m bumpin’ myself.

Nobody here ever used VST Connections for their hardware synth outputs?


Hi - I’m not sure if this is answering the question you are asking, if not, sorry about that.

First I arm a MIDI track to record my external synth, play away, and there is a nice MIDI performance in Cuabase.

Then I arm an audio track in Cubase to record the audio output of my synth.

Then I route the output of that MIDI track to my syth MIDI input (it kind of already is, I’ve got a USB connection, but you can do it with MIDI cables if that’s the way your sound card works).

Finally, I playback the MIDI part. The signal path is MIDI track of Cubase >> Synth MIDI In >> Synth audio out >> Cubase audio record in.

I always have to double check I remembered to disarm the MIDI track recording before that last step.

Hope that helps!

Alexis … your help is much appreciated, but not really what I am asking about.

I do the same as you describe, recording through the the inputs of my audio interface, which is connected to the output of my synth hardware.

Those are the inputs that you see in the first tab in VST Connections. However, if you look to the right you will see that the last tab before the Studio tab is called ‘External Instruments.’

When I go there and connect the audio interface inputs that connect to the synth outputs, it accepts them.

However, now, those inputs are no longer available in the input tab. When I go to an audio track and look for inputs, the external instrument inputs do not show up.

I thought the purpose of the ‘External Instruments’ connections were to be able to set a delay compensation time for the synth to sync up with Cubase. That’s clearly one of the things that is part of the ‘External Effects’ connections.

So … I’m trying to understand the ‘External Instrumentst’ connections and how you are supposed to use them. Having them unavailable for recording the synth output doesn’t make any sense.


External FX take a dedicated Output(s) and Input(s) from you audio card. They will NOT be available for use as track inputs.

I have a loop set up that goes through some stomp boxes. I use channel 7 of my audio card, both in and out mono. This channel becomes unavailable for anything else within Cubase.

External Instruments require dedicate Input(s).

I have a keyboard set up with a Stereo in using INPUT channels 5/6. These channels will not be available for anything else in Cubase as inputs. They are dedicated to the instrument.

It’s too bad you can’t have them assigned both as inputs/outputs AND associated to FX/Instruments, but you can’t.

JM … then help me understand what ‘External Instruments’ VST Connections would used be for?

Would it only be for live performance with sequencing for delay compensation purposes?

And is that input then directly routed to the master bus?

It seems … to my admitted ignorance … a bit of teats on a boar.



Well, let’s start with External FX as that seems to be easier for everyone to grok. By setting up an external fx I can select the loop as a plug-in on any track insert.

I have the stomp loop set up to go out channel 7 and come back in channel 7. There is a ping function on the pop up that will set the delay compensation for you, or you can set it yourself. You can also adjust the Send and Return Gain. This is awesome because I have some really nice outboard guitar effects that I like to use with VSTi and vox. WIth the downside of not being able to use in/out 7 for anything else in a Cubase project.

Hopefully it’s clear why this is cool (other than the dedicated channel requirement that I still think is poor implementation). Make sense?

Ok, External Instruments have a lot more to them. But, primarily they take over a MIDI channel and Input audio channel(s).

Once set up, you select them just like a VSTi, which supposedly saves you a massive 3 or 4 seconds of plumbing time.

Then, your external keyboard is treated like a VSTi. Notice the MIDI out is set to QS8 as if it is a VSTi. The Add External Instrument is where I created the connection between an External Instrument and a MIDI Device. It’s the combination of a MIDI Device and an External Instrument that brings the advantage.

Once configured, you can expose the capabilities of the external synth through the patch manager and the Quick Controls. Here is the patch list for my QS-8. I can set it from the drop down instead of having to do it through the keyboard.

JM … I appreciate your stalwart effort and follow what you excellently outline.

But how/ why is the external instrument any improvement over simply creating a midi device for the synth and simply creating inputs in the VST Connections for the synth hardwares audio outs?

I create midi devices for my synths and have the same options as you show as far as selecting patches … and I know about, but have never created, setting up user panels to actually use midi to control the synth’s internal parameters.

Typically, since I have a multi in/out interface, I send my synth outs to a patchbay, then patch them into my Mackie 800R and pipe the 8 ADAT channels into my RME Multiface II.

I then create separate VST Connection input busses for each channel so that I can directly record up to 8 voices at a time from the hardware (10 actually counting the SPDIF).

It’s not that this doesn’t work for me or that I don’t know how to use midi devices for my synths.

It’s just that I cannot understand what the typical use of the External Instruments VST Connections are. What you show is nothing I cannot otherwise do (as far I can see) with the decided disadvantage that if connecting through External Hardware, discrete channels from the synth hardware cannot be recorded.

That’s why I asked … and why I ask again in case I’m totally missing something … what good are the External Instruments VST Connections? What am I missing?

Thank for your patience.


lol, I guess we took the long way around so that I finally understand the question. I believe the answer is Delay Compensation. That’s it. You are basically tying a MIDI device to a known audio path that it can measure.

Thanks so much. Yes around the barn and back again!

Delay compensation it is, then. That was why I was thinking that it would be primarily for sequencing when playing live, since in the studio it’s no biggie to slide recorded tracks for syncing.

OK, I have definitely made up my mind, “I’m not for it!”


Especially when my experience is that the accuracy of the Delay Comp is inconsistent. It will just suddenly lose sync. It’s very frustrating. I’ve had similar problems with the external FX, but just re-pinging seems to resolve the issue.

I just realized … this all begs a question.

Why couldn’t they have also permitted the External Instruments returns as inputs? I sure hope there was some really good reason … because otherwise it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Must be something about keeping the audio in sync.

Anyway, I feel even better now knowing the implementation is flaky.


i have no issues with delay compensation … the external effects connection is like turning your external hardware in to a vst plug in … it has it’s own instrument channel in the mixer where you can add efx and aux’s with out latency

^ You have no issues meaning it works flawlessly for you or meaning it’s not necessary?

So, once instantiated the external instrument then turns up as channel in the mixer exactly as with any VSTi … and you could route it to a bus and then record the bus output?


FX, works most of the time for me. Don’t confuse FX and Instrument in this conversation. I only brought FX into the discussion because it is much easier to understand and its purpose in life is obvious and really cool. I do have issues with the delay compensation for FX occasionally going out of synch. I would suspect you do as well, but maybe you don’t hear it because of the type of FX you are using.

… it has it’s own instrument channel in the mixer

We’ve established that is has its own channel, but that’s no different than using the MIDI device on a track. I don’t use instrument tracks at all. I prefer having the MIDI track separately. So there is no benefit there.

where you can add efx and aux’s with out latency

You mean with delay compensation, not without latency. Again, we established that already. The question is what benefit does the “External Instrument” provide? The answer is delay compensation for the return channel.

Because of a private message sent by Como, I thought I’d drop a little bonus info on the thread. This has nothing to do with External Instruments. But, audio routing with Delay Compensation is a major part of the discussion. I thought I’d throw a bit of info about a routing capability that many people don’t understand in Cubase.

This picture has a ton of info in it.
I have configured a VSTi (CS-80) so that it has an audio channel I can record to …

  1. in VST Connection, add some busses … give them names, but no connections (in the pic M mono, S stereo)
    2)Set the output of the VSTi (Middle track on the mixer in the pic) to one of the busses (S5 in the pic)
    3)Set the input of an audio track to the Bus (Right track on the mixer in the pic)

Now you have a way to directly monitor and record your VSTi with PDC, without having to bounce etc…

Hope this is useful to someone.