You know the feeling: You’re tracking or doing an overdub with a virtual instrument or amp sim, but you’re frustrated by the excessive latency inherent in complex projects with lots of plugins. And with older computers, latency may be an annoying fact of life.
Of course, Studio One has clever low-latency native monitoring. However, there are some limitations: plugins can’t introduce more than 3 ms of latency, FX Chains can’t use Splitter devices, and external effects using the Pipeline plugin are a non-starter.
This tip’s universal technique has only one significant limitation: it’s oriented exclusively toward having the lowest latency when tracking or doing overdubs. Fortunately, most of the time that’s when low latency is most important. Latency doesn’t matter that much when mixing down.
Here’s the process:
1. Make a premix of all tracks except the one with the virtual instrument or amp sim you want to track with or overdub. Do this by exporting the mix (Song > Export Mixdown) and checking Import to Track (fig. 1). The imported track becomes a premix of your tracks. Note that if any of the tracks use Pipeline, the premix must be done in real time.
Figure 1: The first step is to create a Premix of all your tracks. Make sure you select Import to Track (outlined in white).
2. Select all tracks except for the Premix and the one with the virtual instrument or amp sim you want to use for your overdub.
3. In the Arrange view, right-click on the selected tracks. Choose Disable Selected Tracks (fig. 2).
Figure 2: In this example, all the tracks are selected for disabling, except for the Mai Tai instance in Track 23 and the Premix.
4. Now you can overdub or track while listening to the premix. Because there’s now so little load on the CPU (fig. 3), you can reduce the Device Block Size and Dropout Protection (under Studio One > Options > Audio Setup) to lower the latency.
Figure 3: The Performance Meter on the left shows CPU consumption with all tracks except the Mai Tai and Premix disabled. The Performance Meter on the right shows CPU consumption with all the tracks enabled.
5. While listening to the premix as your reference track, you’ll be able to play your virtual instrument or through your amp sim with much lower latency.
6. When you’re done with your overdub or tracking, you can delete or mute the Premix, and return the latency to a higher setting that allows for mixing without dropouts or other problems.