Using Cubase with a live band for guitars amps/effects, synths, vocal effects, etc

So I’m a big fan of Cubase, having switched over to it last year. It’s been great for recording and song writing.

I’m starting a new rock band, and I’m thinking about using Cubase live as it’s great sound quality and can do so much. However I need to know, can it work with a live band, is it practical? Could it be possible to run all guitars and mics through Cubase and use the vocal effects, and the guitar amp VSTs such as Amplitube? If so, is it possible to set up a MIDI foot controller to change guitar sounds during a song, or is that only possible if i use Amplitube as a standalone VST outside of Cubase? What about changing vocal effects within a song too, can that be done by a controller? I would also use the VST synths in Cubase for the keyboard parts.

I currently run Cubase on a Windows 10 laptop with a Tascam USB interface. I guess I’d need an interface with enough inputs to handle every instrument going into it. I guess I would take the line outs from this and run it straight into the PA system. How would I set up monitors (or in ear monitors)? And would we still need an external mixing desk?

Is using a DAW live the way to go, or not? Obviously we’ll still be playing all our parts live. I just wondered if anyone here does this? Why lug around a ton of equipment when it can all be generated in a DAW?

To make the setup even more compact, what about using Cubasis on Mac or Android? Would that work for what I’m looking for? I’m actually looking to do some busking as well with battery powered amps like the Roland Cube Street EX, so using Cubasis might be good for that as it’s much more compact and portable that lugging a laptop about. However for bigger live shows the laptop version of Cubase would be better I suppose.

Sure sounds like you want to put a lot of eggs into a small basket.

Folks do use Cubase as a sort-of mega-instrument live without issue. But you’re adding in using Cubase as a live mixer (hello latency, latency, latency…) and also a guitar effects unit, plus whatever…?

Is that something that it is possible? - Yeah sure maybe in the broadest sense of possible.
On a laptop? - Depending on the laptop somewhere between ‘really, really pushing it’ & ‘dream on’
Reliably? - Not really
While gigging at different venues? - That’s just asking for trouble
Without an entirely redundant system in tow? - It will be a really ugly gig but a great story in a decade


You would require a computer and interface that can go to really low latency while having effects inserted. I can get the low latency but inserting effects usually kills this but it depends on which effect you use. Also the more you use the more you will struggle to run at extremely low latency. It’s not something I would want to do live


Even if you cherry pick your plug-ins to be 0 latency, and you manage to find a rock solid interface, you’d have to wield a heck of a CPU for those plug-ins to reliably work at real-time. You’d also need quite a bit of ram depending on what VSTs you want to use, anywhere from 32-64 gigabytes. At this price point, a laptop is more expensive than a 24 channel mixer plus an arranger keyboard.


In addition to managing the technology, it also puts whoever is in charge of Cubase in the cross-hairs of scorn by fellow band members, when they don’t get the sound they like/want/need or really, if anything at all goes wrong.

You might find yourself looking for new band mates rather quickly.


there is better software availablefor this task…

Live Professor, Waves Multirack, Waves Superrack, Cantabile just to name some…

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I know of a band who do just this, and they play their projects with automation which changes guitar fx, and synth patches for them as it plays through - they also have accompaniment tracks that play alongside their live playing to add an extra dimension to the sound. (Although they like to keep this quiet)

They sync it up via the drummer, who controls the laptop by his side. And they all have wireless earphones that pipes the guide track through to them. (One signal shared).

There’s some advantages to be had, such as songs with complex string or brass sections which they couldn’t play before, and also if someone can’t make a gig they can enable a recording of that players parts to fill in.

The guitarist and singer are also able to do small scale pub gigs with the same setup, straight into a PA.

Sounds scary to put so much reliance on a single computer as the entire backbone of a performance… But they’ve not experienced anything drastic. I asked about latency before, and they’ve never thought about it - in fact, they say playing live is better/easier as the timing is spot on due to the guide track.

For an originals band wanting to dynamically control patches via MIDI hardware - I think that’s too high risk, overly complicated, and takes the enjoyment out of playing live (personally). Being primarily a covers band it has been very successful for them (pre covid of course).

So yes, it’s very much possible. But just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. It really changes the band dynamics and can make people feel worthless, and lose excitement for the band as a whole when it becomes an IT Session each rehearsal. Depends on why the band exists, I guess…

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+1 for Cantabile for this. (If you’re on PC) I’ve been using it for years for running vsts in my keys rig and it’s bomb proof… It’ll do all that you need and it’s written specifically for the purpose of running vsts live, you can control it from any midi device you happen to have and you can set up songs into setlists very easily.

IMHO, and as others have said, you’re kind of asking for trouble to use Cubase live for this, it’s really not designed to perform like that…

Just my 2 pence…


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We used to use a sequencer to send midi to control everything back in the 90s but this is different as it’s using audio and effects.

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you describing something not so special…

There are many bands on the road with similiar concepts.
But the original post mentioned the live FX thing… that’s completly different than playing some backing tracks…

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That’s exactly what may mates do, they’re going through live amp modellers VST stomp boxes with DI guitars and vocals.

People on here saying it’s not possible due to latency, but it is. But because it ‘is’ doesn’t mean you ‘should’ is my general point. :slight_smile:

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And a crucial point it is.

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I’m sure it is with the right gear but would I want to? Nope.

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Thanks for the replies everyone. I did not consider that latency would be a big issue, so maybe I should rethink this. How about I used Cubase for my guitar and synth sounds only, and use a digital mixer for everything else (vocals, routing to in ear monitors, etc)?

The reason I want to use Cubase for my guitar is because Amplitube has a model of the Soldano SLO 100, which is exactly the tone I’m looking for (for high gain distortion). As I play 80s rock/hair metal, no other amp model comes close in my opinion, and a real Soldano will cost £3000 - £4000 as well as be really heavy to lug around to gigs. Another option is that I use Amplitube on an iOs system (either iPad or iPod touch) to make it more compact. What do you suggest?

I need to use Cubase for my synth VSTs too - that way, I can have one controller keyboard and get all the synth sounds I need via Cubase without having to lug dozens of synths to gigs.

Two instruments are more doable.

I’ve personally done this at gigs. Of course, nothing mission critical, but I didn’t experience critical failure either. I was playing at 96/24, for as less latency as possible and I had exactly one audio channel, a cuban tres, with some eq and compression. I was also using a small keyboard, feeding two instrument tracks, one pianoteq and one halion sonic se. Now, this wasn’t a demanding setup by any means, but that’s because I wasn’t using many vsts or effects to begin with.

You’ll have to perform some stress tests and decide for yourself. Two instruments is certainly more doable.

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Amplitube has a standalone version compatible, if needed, with a midi footswitch for live purpose. It would be less a strain for the computer to run Amplitube than Cubase and it would be dedicated to it.

For running everything throught Cubase, it would depend on the synths and effects that would be loaded at the same time. It can be easy to reach a point where running at a 64 samples buffer could choke you system. Another point to consider/test: I think monitoring with no playback would be easier for the system than monitoring while playing back tracks at the same time.

Overall, as Skijumptoes said, it would work, but having a redondant system is highly recommanded (an eLicenser is easy to damage, along with esoteric and random computer bugs).

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You need to unpack your needs.

  1. Playback. I’ve used Cubase on a laptop on stage for payback of beats etc, and it’s fun to control going in and out of looping sections using midi pedals. It’s fun, but you always worry about software stability, and having delicate laptops in risky environment.

  2. Hosting virtual instruments. You can use Cubase to host virtual instruments, to play back live using a midi controler. Or to manage program changes etc of external midi hardware. You need to watch cpu load, and get the latency low, as you would with any live playing of VSTi’s. And like the others say, there are better dedicated software apps for that. But it’s feasible.

  3. live audio effects processing eg. of some guitars or vocals?? Like the others say latency is going to be the challenge. But could be done.

  4. mixing desk? You’d need a big audio interface with sufficient mic-pre’s and ports. And the latency would negate the whole idea.

Rock on!

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I’m doing something pretty similar. For writing / recording I do everything on my PC & there’s no way I’d lug that around with me. I’ve made a pretty versatile live/rehearsals rig with a mac mini + some ipads. The mac mini (2014 8GB 256GB SSD) runs audio tracks (bounced down to stems from my PC) in 11 Pro to keep the CPU low, it also controls my lights with the DMXIS vst & sends MIDI control messages to my RCF mixer & TC Helicon Voicelive Play. SSD is crucial to playing live, anything else & the bass vibrations in a club will cause havoc on a laptop/mac, beleive me, been there before. The ipads I have are running Cubasis 3 & IC Pro. You can get away with a lot more latency on ipads than you can with laptops, just wish I could sync it with Cubase. I have no problems running vocals through my ipad mini 5 running Cubasis 3 with Waves Tune Realtime + Waves H-delay with 11ms latency, you can’t tell the difference between that & the hardware TC Helicon., & I know 5ms of that is because I have the ipads attached to Focusrite docks. My bass I have pedals for but I could easily get by with the free apps available for ipads just for rehearsing. I’m sure one day you’ll be able to sync Cubase with Cubasis but for the time being I’m having to use both independently.

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By ‘redondant system’, do you mean having a backup computer in case the main one fails at a gig?

I’ve never used Cubasis so far - only Cubase on a Windows PC - but I’d like to experiment with a DAW like Cubasis on Android or iOS as it’d be a lot more portable and compact. But what I need to know - can the same VSTs I use in Cubase be loaded into Cubasis? I have a lot of 80s synth VSTs, for example so I need to know if they will work in Cubasis. Is the format for VSTs the same on tablets as on PCs?

And can I hook my MIDI controller keyboard up to an Android or Apple tablet computer by USB? I presume it will be a mini USB instead of a normal size one?