How Cubase Manages Latency


first of all, I know all about buffer sizes and latency compensation etc… My issue is, I don’t feel in control of the latency in whatever buffer setting I use. It feel that some plug-ins will add latency no matter what my buffer size is set to. Is Cubase using hidden buffers that adjusts in real time? Besides Asio Guard.

Sometimes I feels like between 1024 samples and 64 samples, there is no percevable latency when in fact there should be.

We all know that the lowers we set my buffers, the smallest latency we get but it feels like Cubase does it’s own thing. It should not be playable with 2048 samples and yet it is.

Lastly, sometimes I feel more latency on a session at 64 samples with lots of plugins running then on an empty session at 1024. What is up with that? If plugins are getting to rough on CPU, I’ll notice and change the buffer size. Right now I feel like there are hidden buffers.

Can anyone explain to me how or if Cubase manages this differently than other DAWs


François Beauvais
Cubase 9
Windows 10

I don’t understand it all - but there is this ASIO Guard that has it’s own handling of things.
And there are some settings for a delay threshold when to use that.

I turned AG off - since I understand the basics with soundcard settings and then plugins on top of that and then possibly track delays you set.

Otherwise there is a function - Constrain delay compensation - and to use manually when you record and want to get rid of(silence) stuff that introduce latency over soundcard. As I recall there is a threshold in preferences for that too.

Yes, roundtrip latency must be hiddeous if 1024 or 2048 samples.
If soundcard is capable and activated ASIO Direct Monitoring and Cubase too - the input can be looped back in soundcard and just some tails from reverbs and stuff put from daw. Some soundcards/interfaces has it’s own direct monitor, just internal loopback from a button or a balance knob what you listen too.

I like how ProTools make you feel in control having this in mixer:

That’s because VST plugins themselves can set a certain a latency for their processing. So one plugin with lookahead of 1 second will give the project a latency of 1 second if that’s the highest latency.

There is an option/button “Contrain Delay Compensation”, which will ignore plugin delays but then they will finish processing late.

As far as I know, you can’t see the latency of a project. Tell me if I’m wrong anywhere here.

I am no guru or tech wizard. But I do know that some plugins are CPU hogs no matter what you are doing.

Example: I cannot use Fabfilter Pro-L on master bus out while tracking vocals. Even at buffer at 64 it causes latency for the whole project. So while tracking I use the simple Cubase Limiter. Mind you I am talking about a 150 track fully mixed 28 song project with a bunch of effects. It is just this one plugin that I have found that causes latency.

Not sure if this helps at all, but I have found there are times when you can use plugs that oversample and look ahead, and times when you shouldn’t…

Of course.

That´s becuase plugin delay and Soundcard buffer settings do not have anything to do with each other, and of course Plugin delay will add up to the soundcard latency. So stacking plugins with high plugin delay will increase total latency with every Plugin you add in series.

No problem with direct monitoring on…

Thanks guys, yes your answers help. I guess we could use a latency monitor inside Cubase. I’m not talking about What the device setup Control Panel tells you but one that would reference the total latency from input to stereo out and what the plug ins can add.

For those who mentioned direct monitoring, yes of coarse I do use that when tracking audio. RME’s Totalmix FX is great for direct monitoring. No problem there.

In my opinion, plug-ins should not add buffers, at least not discretely. There should only be a main buffer setting so we could be aware of how demanding the plug-ins really are. When I set my UFX to 48 samples, that is what I want and noting more. If a plug-in induces pop and crack and causes CPU spikes, I’ll bring the card’s buffer up and then know that that plug-in is demanding. I can understand that iZotope’s Ozone 7 for exemple on the stereo out for mastering purposes can affect the latency of the whole project but an effect on a certain single track affecting in secrecy the whole project latency is non sens to me.

That said, I’ll certainly read more on “Constrain Delay Compensation” and “Asio Guard”. I’ve only switched to Cubase for 10 months now but I’ve worked with it 40h a week since so I’m getting to know it pretty well. It’s become a love\hate relationship tho. I guess I could go back to the manual.

My main reason for minimal latency is because I like to use a Roland V-Drum for triggering drums and percussions. Unfortunately nothing gives away latency more than a snappy snare hit.

Well then you have your answer why 2048 are “playable”.

In anyone´s opinion and inthe perfect world that´s how it should be, but real digital life is different…

Then use plugins with no plugin delay

But to anyone else who relies on time aligned signals which is probably 99,9% of the audio industry.

Come to think of it, I spent years with Ableton Live and I’m not 100% sure but I have never felt the effects I’m describing with Ableton. Maybe because it is ment for live application and has a different way of treating plug-ins. But with Ableton, I’ve always felt that my card’s buffer was master. Anyone can confirme or refute this?

Your answers are not very helpful. I know about direct monitoring and I was not talking about that when I said that tracks are playable at 2048. I’m not a total noob. Secondly, When you say “use plugins with no plugin delay” , that is exactly what I’m talking about when I said they should not be discret, there should be a way to know what kind of latency each plugin induces. And lastly, of coarse I rely on aligned signal. That is why the card’s buffer is there. I work full time in the video games music business and I’ve toured with cirque for years around the globe. That’s why I come from Ableton Live. So I think I’m part of 99,9% of the industry. I don’t appreciate when people give me pretentious, useless answers. Is there anything constructive you want to add?

ASIO buffer 64 samples works for me doing drums in Superior Drummer and eDrums kit - among the few VST instruments I use.

All external midi gear I use have to be calibrated - between 100-400 samples delay in 48k between unit receive midi and audio response.
So I use a track negative delay on midi track to make it line up, just a note what to use on each unit.

I tried using external instruments, but feel it is occupying inputs and midi ports in a way I don’t like.
You cannot even make multiple instances of external instrument - would like some settings how to handle that.
On separate midi tracks you can use as many instances to a port you like.

No, that´s why full plugin delay compensation is there, and that´s why any single Plugin on any single track is affecting the whole project´s latency - independent from the soundcard buffers.

One of the features of Melda MCompare is it gives the latency of each plug-in. Having said that, I never use that information, I just track with direct monitoring on, and some zero latency comfort reverb built into the interface (UR28).

I always thought that the card’s buffer was master in charge of the project’s latency and that delay compensation was re-aligning and compensating for any latency induced by the card’s buffers and not the plug-ins buffers. I guess I had things mixed up. Of coarse it makes sens that if a certain plugin takes more time to calculate then it delays the whole project for it to be synced. But then again why couldn’t we have a master buffer and set everything to that latency?

I still don’t get why it’s not managed by the card’s buffers. If it delays the whole project then what’s the point in having low buffer settings? Why do we need different buffers? Couldn’t we just bring the card’s buffer up when we have CPU spikes from certain plugins?

The cards buffer works with system performance. It is not directly related to any software or plugin performance. The software itself causes it’s own latency. That is why we need to have the ability to adjust our buffer settings. More stuff, bigger buffer needed for the system to keep up.

Faster/more powerful systems need less buffer to keep latency down.

Here man, this video should actually be stuck in the Cubase 9 forum as well. It is in the Cubase 8 one. It explains how the buffers work quite well.