How to get super-tight MIDI playback?

One thing I’ve always liked to do is program arp patterns in VSTi softsynths and then play them musically, i.e. I might have a simple rhythmic synth pulse and I’ll play a steady E, but periodically hit the D or the G to “catch” the arp as its playing and have it trigger these other notes. This has never been a problem in other hosts like Ableton Live or the lowly FL studio. But now on Cubase 9 I realize that, after recording the MIDI, it plays back differently almost every single go round. Is this just the price of doing business in Cubendo land, or am I missing something obvious?

Try going to Device Setup and check “Use System Timestamp for ‘Windows MIDI’ Inputs”.

Which MIDI controller and audio interface are you using?

I’m actually just clicking-in MIDI notes for Sylenth1 loaded as an instrument track. I tried that setting you suggested – thank you for that – but it doesn’t make a difference.

I just triple checked and I can program the exact same line in FL Studio and Ableton and it plays back the same way every time, but not in Cubase – sometimes the secondary notes trigger late, or for a shorter duration, or don’t seem to trigger at all.

So apparently this issue has a distinguished pedigree:

I’d record what I’m hearing vs. what I’m supposed to hear (i.e. what Ableton and FL do) but I can’t see how to do that with the free AI version of Cubase I have. I got this with the new audio interface I bought (a Steinberg Ur22mkII), and with the upgrade sale going I thought I’d put Cubase through its paces and see if it really merited a switch. And now I’m dealing with what appears to be a very old and deep bug that affects perhaps the most basic aspect of a DAW’s functionality: playing stuff back with correct timing.

I’d even accept sloppy recording! I have to deal with that in the FL ghetto anyway. But sloppy PLAYBACK? I can’t wrap my head around this.

I suppose I can just stick with the devil I know with FL, or shell out for Ableton since that apparently sucks the least. Cubase is certainly the most complete and feature rich package, but it’s also a minefield, and since electronic music production is just a hobby I really don’t feel like taking time away from work/friends/family/etc to troubleshoot these little niggles.

I don’t think words can fully convey just how badly I do not want to use Ableton. It’s a culture I really truly do not want to be associated with. And I’m entirely too old for FL. Cubase seems like a nice grown up choice. Except that it has been the least rewarding, most hassling experience of all of these. It’s as if it’s positively hostile to hobbyists, like it actively holds us in contempt.

This is the reason threads like this exist:

To whomever is in charge of marketing: “LoopMash” and “Sequel” are not the answer. “Just Works” is. That would be a fantastic feature – one I would pay hundreds of American dollars for.

(double post)

That’s not the same issue. That’s about how midi notes are recorded onto the piano roll, not timing instability.

I don’t think words can fully convey just how badly I do not want to use Ableton. It’s a culture I really truly do not want to be associated with. And I’m entirely too old for FL.

Just use the software that allows you to do what you want to do, what is this talk about culture and age?


I hardly think that this is a midi timing issue. It sound more like an ‘audio’ latency issue to me? I bet if you would send the same to an external synth you wouldn’t have this issue. Don’t forget that you use midi to trigger a VSTi but after this has been done it’s ASIO that needs a lot more time to process before a sound is produced. Try lowering your buffer size to see if that solves the issue. Optionally you could try to open a second instance of the VSTi and see if this gives you the desired result? By now most of us came to realize that the audio engine of Cubase is still not the most efficient one on the market when it comes to use of resources. But if that was the only criterion to choose for a certain DAW we would probably all use Reaper or FL Studio…? :wink:

That’s definitely not the same issue at all and I also can’t replicate OP’s issue using any of my plugins (I don’t have Sylenth1).

The issue in that thread is actually fairly minor, and AFAIK also affects other DAWs to varying extents. If playback was also affected (like you think it is) the DAW would be pretty much unusable. Recent versions of Cubase are used by hundreds of professional game, TV and film composers, so that’s definitely not the case.

Something doesn’t add up here. I thought your name sounded familiar and indeed, you sold your Cubase Pro 9 on KVR just a few days ago. Since you used Cubase Pro for at least a year you should be pretty familiar with it already. What gives?

Am I getting this right - you have an arp running and add some notes manually while this is running - and record to the same track, or?

For timing and midi and what you heard - I come to think of setting for midi if to use asio latency compensation.
This basically means that if running asio buffers at 256 or higher - the delay that produced from realtime is compensated for or not when placing midi on timeline. You can probably notice 128 samples as well as you mention supertight, so I’d go to 64 - or turn off latency compensation for midi track.

Is it this setting in Preferences possibly that needs to be changed - but this is for new tracks?
There is also a track control button to be made visible - which is not visible by default as I recall.
So this can be set for each track if to place note in time as you heard them - or compensated for asio delay.

And track recording arp should maybe not comepensate for asio latency, since it’s generated by midi clock - not in realtime to what you hear.

Maybe I got this wrong what you do - then just ignore…

Hey djw this is you too right?


I think I’ll pass on your histrionic “advice,” thanks.

Anyway, attached is an example of the MIDI I’m trying to playback through a simple 16th note arp patch in Sylenth1, running at 120bpm. What happens is that sometimes, during playback, the D1 and E1 notes are either skipped, or played at irregular times, causing the arp to do strange things. I exported that MIDI clip and imported it into Cubase and FL, only Cubase is afflicted by this issue on playback.


Cubase seems to render this out to audio just fine, whereas Ableton introduces irregularities on rendering. So far FL, of all things, is the most reliable from both a playback and rendering perspective.

Nevertheless, I found a workaround in Cubase: I extend the starts of the notes to the left by 1/32 and playback then seems reliable. Good enough for me!

How is this not proof that I try to switch to the software that works best for what I want to do?

Studio One didn’t impress me in the end, but I also have FL Studio installed for what it’s good at.

Again I’m unable to reproduce this, using the same sequence in your attachment (or any other sequence of notes) all of my plugins with built-in arpeggiators have consistent playback. Steinberg, NI, Spectrasonics…

This is probably one of these things that can be fixed by changing one setting.

I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish by digging up years old quotes that are both out of context and off topic though.

You can’t reproduce it with a different setup? I’m shocked – shocked I say.

Why don’t you leave the thread alone, you’re not contributing anything useful. Besides, I found a solution, and anybody else who has the same kind of problem now has this answer available to reference.

What you found is a workaround. I’m suggesting that there must be an actual permanent fix for this because I’ve never heard of anyone else having this issue despite using Cubase for many years.

What’s definitely not going to help anyone is that attitude of yours. Since you’re looking for a DAW for grown ups, how about actually behaving like one instead of acting like a passive aggressive teenager over nothing?

I have better things to do