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Not Enough CPU for Mixing? How to Maximize Your Plugin Count

Oct 08, 2020 | 29,384 Views

Never let a mix be held hostage again by insufficient computer resources. Learn how a Waves SoundGrid server can turbocharge your system to run more plugins in your DAW than ever before.

In this video we present a real-world mix scenario suffering from insufficient native computer resources. Watch to see how quickly the native System Usage meters in this session plummet from maximum to barely being used, once a SoundGrid server takes the full load of plugin processing away from the host computer.

One of the most frustrating challenges producers and engineers face in digital audio production is when native plugin processing computer resources run out in the middle of a mix session. We've all encountered this at some point. It's a real showstopper that busy audio professionals cannot afford to allow too often.

When a session splutters to a halt, engineers find themselves forced into one of two workarounds to get their mixes up and running again:

  1. Increase their DAW's HW buffer size in the playback engine.
  2. Deactivate CPU-hungry plugins or freeze tracks to free up some valuable resources.
Pro Tools deactivating plugins, HW Buffer increase

Deactivating plugins isn't a popular choice with producers who are in the midst of a mix, as removing plugins often feels counterproductive. Freezing plugins is also not always desirable as systems already pushed to their limits may not open certain power-hungry plugins in a way that’s stable enough for changing controls.

What other options can get a stranded mix working fluidly again?

If increasing the buffer hasn't released a little more mixing horsepower, engineers usually find themselves considering either:

  1. A new computer purchase (the expensive option).
  2. Additional RAM cards (the inexpensive option).

While slotting in a few extra cards of RAM sounds like the easiest remedy here, it isn't an opportunity many Apple computer users can explore.

User-upgradable components, such as RAM, have been phased out in recent years. Instead, components such as RAM and hard drives are now soldered directly to computer logic boards in manufacturing. This means a computer you invest in today with soldered innards will forever have the specifications you chose when placing your order.

So, what can you do if your computer isn't upgradable or powerful enough to run plugin heavy sessions?

This is where a Waves SoundGrid server has the answer.

What is a SoundGrid Server?

A SoundGrid server (such as SoundGrid Impact Server-C or the SoundGrid Proton Server) is a compact DSP solution that takes the load off your computer, giving you more plugin processing power when mixing in the studio or live.

You can add the SoundGrid server to the regular audio interface and DAW you already have – no need for a dedicated audio interface! – in order to free up your computer and offload your plugins to the server.

(If you also want to use your SoundGrid server to record through plugins without any audible latency, you can do that too – you will also need to add a SoundGrid audio interface. But if you just want to mix and get more CPU power – the server is enough, no extra audio interface needed beyond what you already have.)

Learn How to Set Up SoundGrid with Your Own Audio Interface

What’s great about the SoundGrid server is that to get up and running you don’t need any additional hardware. You can simply connect the device via CAT6 to an available ethernet port on your computer (or via a supported SoundGrid network switch, if needed), and use the audio interface you already own.

Watch our video below to learn how to get set up with SoundGrid Studio.

Value-Added SoundGrid Combos Save You Money on Plugin Bundles

As we’ve shown in our real-world mixing with a connected Impact Server, SoundGrid powered plugins can easily supercharge your mixes. You can run plugin-rich sessions, using your existing computer and audio interface, safe in the knowledge your system is stronger and more capable than ever before.