Track Instruments vs. Rack Instruments in Cubase 7.5

I have always used Rack Instruments (in the old VST Instruments list) in previous versions of Cubase. I have done this for two reasons:

  1. Rack Instruments were the only way to access additional MIDI channels on multi-timbral instruments such as Kontakt.
  2. Track Instruments didn’t allow you to keep different MIDI versions of tracks. Any time I wanted to duplicate a track as an alternate version (while keeping the old track as well,) Cubase would create a new instance of the instrument plugin on the duplicate track! (Perhaps I was doing something wrong here.)

But as I understand it, in Cubase 7.5 it is now possible to route MIDI tracks to the VST instruments contained on Instrument Tracks (and address individual MIDI channels on multi-timbral instruments). Moreover, with the Track Versions feature, it is no longer necessary to actually duplicate tracks to try out different versions.

So my question is whether there is any purpose to Rack Instruments now that there are no significant limitations to using Track Instruments? Have Rack Instruments been kept around merely for compatibility with older projects? Or are there still benefits to using Rack Instruments that I am not aware of?

I am trying to set up a new default template and need to decide which Instrument type to use (Track or Rack). Thanks for your help!

If you are starting fresh there are only advantages to the new system, they do everything the VST Rack does with similar limitations.

Yes, the VST Rack stays in place for backwards compatibility and to accomodate users who like it.

(There might be benefits to the Rack that I’m not aware of, in which case hopefully someone else will chime in.)

What are the advantages of the “new system”? As far as I can tell, Instrument Tracks and Rack Instruments do almost exactly the same thing now. With Rack Instruments you do have to create a MIDI track to access the VST instrument (or have Cubase do this for you automatically via a preference setting). But using a MIDI track isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This way you can rename your MIDI track “Bass” for instance without changing the name of the audio fader in the Mix Console (which would retain the name of the VST instrument unless you intentionally change that as well).

For that reason alone, I think I am going to stick with Rack Instruments.

I think I may have figured out the pros and cons of Track Instruments vs. Rack Instruments.

Both allow you to:

  • Route multiple MIDI tracks to the same VST instrument
  • Access instruments on different MIDI channels within multi-timbral instruments such as Kontakt and Omnisphere
  • Use the multiple outputs of VST instruments

Track Instruments have one advantage as far as I can tell: If you use the new “Visibility Sync” feature of Cubase 7.5 to sync the Arrange window with the Mix Console, whenever you click an Instrument Track, its audio fader will be selected in the Mix Console. The same thing does not happen when selecting a MIDI track routed to a Rack Instrument.

The big disadvantage of Track Instruments for me is that you apparently can’t name your Arrange page tracks something descriptive like “Bass” without also changing the name of the corresponding audio fader in the Mix Console. I prefer to keep my audio faders named after the VST Instruments themselves. For instance, I would prefer to see “Omnisphere” as the fader/track name in the Mix Console rather than “Bass”.

It’s a subtle distinction that will probably either be lost on most people or not matter one way or the other.

Hm, perhaps you haven’t yet added midi tracks and routed them to an Instrument track, if you do, it will be like a VST rack instrument.

No, I get that. It’s just that in this case Instrument Tracks and Rack Instrument work exactly the same way. There is no benefit to using one over the other except for what I mentioned in my previous post.

Quick question from me. Suppose we have a VSTi with 16 outputs, can you do the following:

  • Create 16 “instrument tracks” which are each routed to the appropriate MIDI and audio channel in the VSTi
  • Have automation available on each of the 16 tracks for the VST instrument and corresponding audio channel

In Cubase < 7.5, you would have the following when using the instrument rack:

1 x VSTi track - ALL automation for the 16 tracks would reside here
16 x audio tracks - For each corresponding output, automation for the audio outputs would reside on each of thisi
16 x MIDI tracks - Each of these would only send note and CC data to the instrument

What I’m hoping for is:

16 x instrument tracks - Each can automate the VSTi, its associated audio channel and send MIDI / CC data

Is this possible in v7.5? If so, then I’ll definitely upgrade from v6.5! :slight_smile:

I know exactly what you are going for. But unfortunately, if you create separate Instrument Tracks, this instantiates additional copies of the VSTi. So you would end up with 16 copies of the same VSTi.

So you still need to create 16 (actually, 15) MIDI tracks for each channel in a multi-timbral VSTi like Kontakt. Each of these would be routed to the single Instrument Track that holds the VSTi.

Because of this, I don’t really see any reason to use Instrument Tracks other than to possibly make it a little easier (conceptually speaking) to automate the audio fader for the track. But you can do this with Rack Instruments as well.

Aah thanks so much for clarifying for me. So in the case that you create the 15 extra MIDI channels, I assume that each of these is a plain MIDI channel with no ability to automate the VSTi parameters or audio channel effect parameters? I’m guessing that you can ONLY do that on the first “instrument track”?

If this is the case, then as you said, they end up being almost identical to the old-school VST instrument rack with no real improvement to the original limitations.

In Logic Pro, Ableton Live and Studio One, you can actually do what I’m saying. I have a few friends who have purchased Cubase in the hope of moving over from Logic Pro and they look at me funny when I tell them they need 33 tracks to control a 16 channel multi-timbral instrument. They look at me even more funny when I explain that the VSTi automation for ALL 16 channels won’t actually be on the respective MIDI channel, but squashed all together in the single VSTi track.

I was really REALLY hopefuly when I saw Instrument Tracks 2.0 since I thought it would finally address this :frowning:

Well… after a quick test, what is the new thing about the Instrument Tracks ?? Nothing. I will never work with this ever. Look at this picture :

The first channel has the three outputs attached to it while it should only have the one it is linked to, in this case the first one. Then when you add the second midi track it doesn’t name itself Omnisphere 02 but Midi 01 which is absurd. And it doesn’t nest with the previous group as it should be, it’s just a midi track…

Never understood the instruments tracks…

Damn! So as per your screenshot, the automation for all things related to MIDI 01 in your screenshot will ACTUALLY be under the track Omnisphere 01.

Just for my sanity’s sake, can you please check what parameters are automatable in MIDI 01? Is it just the standard MIDI controllers or do you now have access to the VSTi parameters too?

just wonder, maybe it is some kind of simple sounds layering, you know one instrument track, multiple outputs / different sounds from one instrument i.e. omnisphere which you could control independently form you DAW… i don’t know :confused:

Oh man, why still using multitimbral instruments at all? This method originates from the good old MIDI era, when you bought just one expensive hardware synth and wanted to get 8 or more simultaneous sounds out of it (workstations). At that time I wished I could have 16 Roland D550 - one for every MIDI channel.

Today you buy just one virtual instrument and may have as many multiple instances of it as you want.

One track - one task - one instrument. It’s simple and clear, especially for organisation and mixing. I’m using Kontakt too, but one instance for every track. That could make 20 or more Kontakt instances per project. Each additional Kontakt instance has a footprint of only 32 MB (!). And this way you can use the Kontakt multi instruments for easy sound layering.

Keep up with the times!

It’s just the standard MIDI controllers. To automate the VSTi parameters, you have to use the Instrument Track. But from what I can tell, this only allows you to automate the first instrument/patch in a multi-timbral VSTi. So if you want to automate the VST parameters of two Omnisphere patches, for instance, you have to instantiate two copies of Omnisphere. Not the end of the world. But certainly not ideal either.


I love the new track instrument. Take exceptions like drums for example, where the virtual isntrument is seperated into key ranges (kick drum, snare, etc.) and you want to put those isntruments out on different channels.
But otherwise… I’m on Fantacyzer’s side. I don’t get it. Why aren’t people simply using several instances to keep everything… well… simple?
Maybe someone with such a workflow can enlighten me? Are there any benefits I’m not seeing at the moment?

What if you want to load a Kontakt Multi that has 64 orchestral patches all ready to go for a particular type of project? It would be ridiculous to have to spend half a day setting this up in Cubase as 64 separate Instrument Tracks.

Use your head!

Drum Kit = 1 Kontakt instance
Each Drum sound = 1 Kontakt instrument in that instance

So if you have a drum kit with 20 drum and percussions instruments, that’s just a Kontakt multi with 20 instruments. Now that instrument channels may have multiple outputs, you can direct each instrument to single mixer outputs. I for myself prefer drum mixing within Kontakt and use just one stereo out.

But all happens on ONE instrument track!

I’ve tried that. When you have 50 copies of Kontakt open they start eating away at the CPU. And Cubase has to keep track of them all (routing, sync …whatever else it does) when you hit the play button which again uses more CPU compared to 3-4 instances.

There’s no need to use “Visibility Sync” for this to happen. It works just fine in 7.0.x (and in previous versions, I believe).

How, then. do your sort out the mess of having 10 faders, in the MixConsole, all named “Omnisphere”?

For heavy sample use this is not an option. Wasting a gig on just a simple orchestral template is too much. Kontakt also gets better voice counts with less instances. With Play I would recommend this workflow though. If you don’t have other machines running VE Pro that is. Then you’re back to square one.

What should’ve been a great new thing still leaves Cubase in the shadow of REAPER and Logic. There’s still lots of other things to make up for it (Steinberg’s attention to the score editor being a big one for me), but it’s a shame this didn’t get done with a more flexible design, when there was clearly an opportunity for it.