Just curious. I’ll admit I haven’t brushed up against this limitation yet… But it’s got close a few times.
I don’t think it’s that insane to imagine as a possibility, especially on busses- once you add a reverb, compressor, EQ, utility plugins (gain, stereo, Izotope Insight, etc), maybe a delay too etc you can easily get to at least 10 inserts.
It just makes me a bit uncomfortable that I might be subconsciously not adding necessary effects on a bus because I’m worried about the effort required if I hit 15+.
I think having that many inserts on a single track is a bit “silly”. Not long ago it was only half that many. You haven’t hit that limitation yet, which is good. If you do hit that limitation, you should be seriously rethinking your strategies. Just my opinion, of course!
Don’t get me wrong, I like Cubase, but there are warts and this is one of them. It’s up to me how many inserts I want to to put on my track. The arbitrary limit of 14 is just that, arbitary. You don’t get to say what I’m doing is silly- you don’t even know what genre of music I make! Double-compressors are not an uncommon technique in my genre, and multiband compressors too. Also usually a precision EQ and a tonal one. Then reverb, maybe some delay, gain/stereo utilities and another insert to measure dbu/dbfs for gain staging in front of all that… And that’s before any creative effects like modulations, distortion/saturation, etc. Like I said, I already get up to 10 quite easily on audio busses.
If you know everything, you should know that you can insert 16 plugins, and you can add “chainer” plugins if you need more, and you still have the channel strip, with additional EQ, compression, limiting.
And there are techniques available that let you apply FX without requiring additional insert slots on a channel. They can work in every music style.
And for 99.9% of the users, 16 plugins are enough.
So this is not a real problem.
That’s not efficient for several reasons. I always find myself putting too many effects on a track trying to seek out the perfect sound but it’s just not a good practice. There are several techniques you should try to employ instead of having a ton of inserts on 1 track that will help keep your project stable and cut down on render times:
Use sends and FX tracks or Group tracks for Reverb and similar effects. Ultimately this is way better because you can set the reverb mix to 100% and then control the volume of the reverb with the standard volume fader and more easily automate it too. You can also use this to give groups of instruments/vocals the same reverb settings instead of using the insert a bunch of times and then you can control the settings in 1 place.
Use Group tracks to apply the same effect to multiple tracks that need it. By essentially creating a bus and applying the effect to that bus you can cut down on processing time. Why use the same cloner effect 12 times on 12 vocal tracks when you can route all the vocal tracks into a single bus and apply the effect 1 time to all of them? Use direct routing or sends depending on how you want to control the effect.
Use the two principles mentioned above for “stem” mastering. If you have 30 tracks of various instruments and vocals, for example, try to use direct routing to group them into busses (Group tracks) which start out fairly specific and get broader until eventually your final 2-3 group tracks route directly to the stereo mix. This allows you to apply inserts at different levels and think about your mixing more efficiently. You could have groups like “Horns”, “Guitars”, “Percussion” and “Vocals” and then those could go into “Instruments” and “Vocals” and then those would both go straight to the stereo mix. Then you can apply effects to things at the instrument level or within a certain type of instrument or just all the instruments vs. the vocals, etc.
If you make better use of group and FX tracks you are going to get better performance out of the DAW and you should rarely ever need to think about having more than a few inserts on each track. I like to group all my vocals together so I can just use 1 compressor and 1-2 reverb inserts, for example. Reverb inserts are especially insidious as they can suck up CPU cycles and start to make your mix sound like an underwater mess as you begin to lose track of them.
True, but if your guitar pedalboard is In-The-Box those inserts become your pedals. It’s performance, not mixing.
I don’t work like that though.
Instead I use an FX track as if it were a pedal. It makes it easier to control, and easier to see what is going on especially when improvising, and moving quickly between instruments.
I posted elsewhere on this forum where I tested having multiple inserts on a track vs. FX tracks for the performance effects. I believe that I found better performance with multiple FX tracks over inserts.
I have since tried similar effects chains in Live and found no way to easily replicate the performance I get in Cubase, but the same performance issues when many inserts are placed on the same track.
When converting performance focused sound design In-The-Box, FX tracks in Cubase tracks are the way to go .
Another member urged me to take back my invective words a little, and I think they’re right. so I will. Apologies to those in this thread whose necks I went after a bit strongly. I’ll edit my other posts accordingly.
@sagebrushfire: Thank you for the advice. I am still learning, always. I do use busses and groups already, but it’s often on those final busses (master, and other ‘root’ busses) that I come close to the limit. I have a lot of ‘utility’ plugins- things like SoundID, SuperVision, Ozone, yada yada. For the stem busses it depends, but for example palm-muted low-tuned guitars take a fair amount of processing IME to get right- you need EQs to take out resonances, EQs to fit them in the mix, multiband compression to quench palm-mutes, maybe another compressor to glue the parts a bit and control transients, reverb; as well as some of those utility plugins (gain, DBfs/DBu meter, Haas, Insight). Like I said in my original post, I haven’t reached the limit actually yet, but as I’m getting close I thought I’d ask.
I could put the EQs together in to one, of course, but I just don’t like to work that way ¯\(ツ)/¯. That’s why I took some umbrage at people getting snarky with me saying that what I was doing was silly- it’s just the way I prefer to work.
Definitely agree on the reverb. I try to bus instruments that should be “in the same virtual space” on to the same reverb busses; so they sound coherent. But that’s tricky in its own way sometimes.
It can be easy to get caught up into a kind of effects usage feedback loop where each effect causes you to want to add an additional effect. You start by adding a delay, but that makes the part sound shrill, so you cut some EQ, which makes it get lost in the mix, so you add some compression which…
Over time I’ve come to appreciate the value of less is more with audio engineering. That doesn’t mean not messing sounds up a bunch, but in my experience the simpler path usually gets me there while a more complicated path makes the goal more elusive. With all the cool toys/tools we have, it doesn’t take much to be enticed into over using them.
If you find yourself getting close to the limit that may be a red flag to rethink some of your bus/track setups. You could chain 2-3 final busses together if you really wanted to (e.g. have a Stereo Mix 1 that goes into Stereo Mix 2). In all honesty that seems better than having the option to put twice as many inserts on a single bus anyway because otherwise you’d have to have this massively tall track open to see all your inserts at once and it sounds like a nightmare.
But to me it sounds like you might also want to experiment with using track versions and the “render in place” feature. Let’s say you record a guitar and it’s just the raw pickup so you do amp sims and all kinds of stuff to get it sounding cool and end up with 8 inserts on that track. Using track versions, duplicate the current track version and then use the “Render in Place” option (flyout menu on the audio event) and bounce the audio to a new file with all your current effects. Then delete all your inserts because they’re already baked in. Now you can proceed with different effects like reverb or stereo imaging, etc. as though you were just working with a guitar track you recorded from an actual amp with the appropriate settings/effects. You still have the original track version you can go back to if you think you didn’t get it right.
Track versions are immensely powerful for allowing you to really pack a lot of different stuff into a single track; they’re useful for far more than just backing up work.
I think think the whole idea and notion of what a DAW is, is slowly changing from being a virtual approximation of a traditional, analog recording studio to something that is not constricted by old, physical limitations. E.g. on an analog console there has to be a limit on how many sends each channel has. In a digital realm there doesn’t. Same with track count, inserts and what have you.
Cubase is based on traditional tape machine recording processes (as opposed to Ableton Live etc) and console based mixing. I don’t mind that. It’s a workflow that is tried and tested and one I’m familiar with. I think other DAWs will be on the forefront when it comes to innovating DAW workflows whereas Cubase (PT and others as well) will likely stick to tape machine style workflow.
That being said, I do not see any reason why limitations from an analog world would have to carry over into the digital one. So yes, there really isn’t a good argument to have limitations on “objects” such as insert points, number of VSTi, channel counts, etc.
PS I’m struggling to remember last time I ran out of insert slots in Cubase, but if I ever do, feeding the signal through another group bus is a pretty quick work-around for an issue that may happen once in a blue moon.