Strange Cubase Pro 11 Performance Issues on MacBook Pro

Hi All,

I am currently running Cubase Pro 11 v11.0.41 (which I believe is the latest version of Cubase Pro 11) on a quad core 2.9 GHz i7 late 2015 MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM (the maximum available on this machine) and a 2 TB nvme system drive (from Other World Computing that I bought 5 years ago to replace my stock Apple 1 TB drive). I am currently listening to my MacBook Pro through its standard headphone jack using the standard Core Audio driver with a buffer set to 256 samples. I have connected the MacBook Pro to a mini KORG USB MIDI controller connected to the Mac via a 7-port USB 2.0 hub (in which I have also plugged in all of my iLok, eLicenser, and Waves dongles). I am also connected to an Other World Computing “ThunderBay” Thunderbolt 2 drive enclosure in which there are four 1 TB 2.5" SSD drives for all my sample libraries, etc.

In my actual home music studio, the 15" MacBook Pro is always connected via Thunderbolt 2 to a MOTU 16A 32 input Thunderbolt audio interface (in which I have plugged in over 20 hardware synthesizers). In the studio, the MacBook Pro is also connected to 3 external computer monitors (not that that probably makes any difference other than to indicate that this aging laptop is still fairly capable, at least in terms of ports).

At the moment I am working remotely from my dad’s house where I am helping care for him due to his many serious health issues. That’s why I am listening through my AKG headphones and playing via the KORG microKEYS controller and using only plugins and not my studio hardware synthesizers.

Because I have so many hardware synthesizers at home and don’t travel with my music MacBook Pro, I rarely use more than 5 synth plugins at a time (and maybe 10 or so FX plugins that I use to process my hardware synthesizers). But here at my dad’s house with only my MacBook Pro, I have instantiated (but am not using concurrently) 10 to 15 synth plugins, all with their own built in FX.

Okay, so after all that background information, here is the problem I am experiencing:

Even with no FX plugin instantiated, there are times when my Cubase performance meter is maxed out and I am experiencing audio drop outs and stuttering freeze ups. This occurs even when I am playing only a single note on one of my more CPU hungry synth plugins (the plugin itself can vary) and not using any other plugins. I am also using only VST3 plugins which as I understand it are not supposed to use any processing power when inactive.

Oh, I also have ASIO Guard set to High. (I have changed this to the other two settings and restarted Cubase and this has not improved my Cubase performance).

The other night it occurred to me that I had A LOT of other programs open in addition to Cubase Pro 11. These included my desktop Mac App Store program, Apple Messages, Microsoft Outlook 365 (so the latest version,) Evernote, iTunes, Spotify, QuickTime Pro, Steinberg Download Assistant (with no current downloads,) IK Multimedia “Product Manager” (i.e., download manager and product authorizer with no active downloads or authorizations,) several third party Menu Bar utilities including Fantastical and SnagIt, AND Google Chrome with over 70 (yes 70!) open tabs.

The odd thing is that when I checked my Apple system Activity Monitor, I still had over 83% free memory. But as soon as I played a single note on one of my VST3 synth plugins in Cubase Pro 11, my swap file jumped to 6 GB. (I unfortunately, don’t recall what my free memory was.) As soon as I closed all of these other applications, my swap file went down to 900 MB. AND the performance in Cubase improved greatly. It went from almost completely maxed out when playing even a single note on one of my more CPU hungry synth plugins down to around 20% (though not when playing Vital or Phase Plant which continued to max out my Cubase performance when playing even a single note on either of these two synth plugins after closing all these other Mac applications).

As soon as I closed and restarted Cubase (without restarting my Mac) and selected the “Empty” project template and instantiated a single plugin - even one as supposedly CPU hungry as Omnisphere, the Cubase performance meter was now down to around 5% where it should be.

So I thought, “Ok you dope. Don’t have so many freaking applications and browser tabs open when using Cubase. That will greatly improve performance.”

But as I instantiated more and more synth plugins from within this “Empty” template (with never more than 10 synth plugins instantiated at once and playing only a single note on one of these plugins) my Cubase performance meter began to creep back up. Eventually, it was maxed out again and I could barely play a single note on something as relatively CPU-light as Retrologue.

Sometimes if I deleted the last synth plugin that I had instantiated (from the VST rack and not just from its track in the Arrangement window), the performance meter in Cubase would go down to around 50% (from being maxed out). If IK Multimedia’s Syntronik 2 synth plugin happened to be the last synth plugin instantiated, then the performance meter would drop down to around 20% without fail. Weird.

So this is clearly not just an issue of having way too many other applications open on my Mac while trying to use Cubase.

My question is whether anyone else has ever experienced a huge jump in performance requirements by simply loading more VST3 synth plugins in your Cubase VST rack (but only playing a single note on a single plugin while this was occurring)?

Any suggestions for how I might resolve this issue (or issues?) is greatly appreciated.