PC spec and plugin count

Hi, I’m very new to Cantabile and yet to decide whether I’ll buy a full Performer license as I need a better understanding of what else I’ll need to buy in order to run this platform without audio glitches.
Have to say I think it’s a brilliant platform and love the flexibility and have a stable set up on my ancient, cheap-seats i5 laptop but I would liek to be able to be able to use some of the higher end piano plugins but not sure what PC spec’s are required etc.
I’d be grateful if any PC users of Cantabile could let me know what Soundcard they are using, what spec PC they have, whether it’s a laptop or Desktop and a list of the plugins you run so I can gauge what can be achieved with my budget range.

This has been my thought process when upgrading hardware. I assume that this PC will only be used for music production.

First off take a look at what you budget is; That will drive your decisions!

Second, you want to prioritize your spending in the following order:

  1. Processor/motherboard
  2. Memory (at least 32G)
  3. Solid State Drive (NVME, 1T minimum) Typically the bigger it is, the faster it is.
  4. Sound module (if needed) This is the most important piece outside your PC. This takes the place of a soundcard in my system.

I don’t use a sound card or video card. Today’s motherboards have plenty of video power for what we are doing. As mentioned I use a separate sound module (MOTU 828x, $600 when purchased several years ago) and connect using USB2. There are better modules out there; search the forums for others recommendations. I have had really good luck with this module once they got the driver stabilized.
I like Gigabyte motherboards. You want to get the best you can afford and pair it with the best processor you can afford, and then add the best SSD you can afford. My latest build is based on:
Gigabyte Z790 UD AC ATX LGA1700 motherboard
Intel Core I&-13700K processor
G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB 64 GB (2 x 32 GB) DDR5-6400 CL32 Memory
Samsung 990 Pro 2 TB M.2-2280 PCIe 4.0 X4 NVME Solid State Drive (I have a second drive 970 pro also)
Get a good power supply of at least 650 watts. you will need a good CPU cooler; air cooling is fine.

The software you use is important too. I use Process Lasso, as recommended on this forum. Also, setup your PC settings using Brad’s Glitch-Free manual (available on Cantabile website).

I put everything in a 3U rack case and that, along with my sound module goes into a 5U rack. Total weight about 25 lbs.
This current iteration cost me $1100 in July; I had some parts available from previous build, just to give an idea of cost. The emphasis is on system speed because that is what big plugs require. Plugins that use samples need fast disk IO, plugs that synthesize/create the sounds rely more on the processor.

Others may recommend larger or smaller systems, that’s fine. My bias is build bigger because in 3 years you will need it.
i use Win10.

Plugin count is about 40; not all are used at one time.


Thanks for the detailed reply. Will take all of this into account . I’ll be going for a higher spec.
Out of interest how many plugins have you run concurrently without and glitches? I had an issue with my trial set up where I routed a piano in my linked rack though and EQ plugin within the same rack and the latency increased to dreadful but due to the age of my laptop I wasn’t surprised.

I have a particular song made up of 16 racks. Some of the racks have 5-6 plugs in them, but only one is active at a time, so 16 voices, some with effects plugs. This is one of my main songs.
Just for a test I created a song with, I believe, 20 instances of Diva (a real CPU hog) each set to a different voice. The CPU went to about 90 percent but no glitches playing 6-10 notes at a time with damper. I regularly have several instances of Diva, Omnisphere, and Keyscape going with other things like PianoTeq, B3-X, Hive2, and Zenology. The 16 cores on that processor along with 64G of memory really help. Note the memory speed is overclocked at 6400; the board maxes at around 7200 (didn’t want to push it to the limit).
Also, didn’t mention the cooler i use which is Noctua NH-D9L. I had to use a lower profile one because of case clearance but it still keeps the temps around 140F under heavy loads. Noctua has a sizer on their website. i never overclock the CPU so it works well.
Normally, I have a moderate load running, but occasionally when the situation demands its nice to have the extra power without glitches.

I’ll give you the other side of the equation. I’m using a pair of 2013 Lenovo laptops with i5-3360 (the first three indicates its 3rd gen i5) 16GB RAM, 2TB SATA (2.5 format) drives on Windows 10 with Project Lasso. My interface is a $99 Berhinger UMC202HD.

One is dedicated to edrums - converted acoustic five piece kit with Roland type crossbar triggers and Yamaha 3-zone cymbals plugged into an eDRUMin 10 trigger module. I can play with Superior Drummer 3 kits with big kits and it’s built in effects at 64 buffers and no issues.

On the other I play B3-X, Velvet, Lounge Lizard, Zebra2, Hybrid3, Kontakt instruments and others without issues. I have to watch piling effects on top, older ones like Valhalla reverbs are fine but some newer effects can be an issue on this older setup.

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There are various threads on PC specs here at the forum - one especially that compares system performance with a standardized “benchmark setup” in Cantabile:

Key points to watch from my side:

  • “full” PC setups tend to be less problematic with live audio than laptops or NUCs (built on laptop chipsets) - the power management features of laptop chipsets get in the way of smooth audio performance and are really tricky to tame
  • No need to go completely crazy on CPU - a last-generation middle-of-the-road Core i5 does the job nicely without breaking the bank
  • RAM (>=32 GB) helps with large sample-based instruments, SSD with loading times
  • audio interface is crucial for smooth live audio performance at low latency. There are some with very efficient drivers that have proven themselves for live use - the RME Babyface / Fireface range is still at the top of the list (both performance and cost, unfortunately). Zoom builds nice and efficient interfaces; also the Behringer U-Phoria range seems to perform surprisingly well for its low price.
  • investing in expensive graphics cards isn’t necessary for a live PC - on-board graphics integrated with the CPU are perfectly fine for audio applications.

There’s really no need to invest massively to get reasonable audio performance - my “Live Cube” built on an ASRock DeskMini platform (small two-liter mini-PC box) with an i5-9600K CPU (on-chip graphics) and 32 GB of RAM works perfectly well for my live requirements, which are quite complex.

My current live set contains 170 plugins pre-loaded, with a working set memory of rougly 9 GB. My system runs all of my songs (some of them very complex setups of up to 50 loaded racks) without breaking much of a sweat at 128 samples / 44.1 kHz, single-buffered, using an RME Babyface classic audio interface.

This “Live Cube” cost me around 800 EUR to source the components (excluding audio interface cost) and 2 hours to assemble; you can also find people who sell them built-to-order.

Of course, I have optimized my live setup quite a bit over the years, throwing out the CPU- and memory-hogs in favor of leaner plugins - “good enough is good enough” for live use…



I upgraded to a new pc system last year, and that’s kind of what I tend to every 5-7 years.
But that also means it’s a bit more expensive than “an of the shelf Computer”.
I use a desktop solution, which I use for Live Performing with Cantabile Performer but also for Producing and Mixing in Cubase Pro in my home studio.
Regarding Soundcards I highly recommend RME, I have been using RME Cards for the last 15 years and they are without a doubt the best in the business, but also a bit expensive.
Though I do believe that any decent audio interface these days will do the job. I have heard a lot of good things about the beringer ones.

Here are the specs on my lastest pc build:

CPU: Intel I9 Alder lake 12900
SSD: 2 X 2TB Samsung 990 PRO PCle 4.0 NVMe Solid State Drives (one for samples and libries and one for Win 11 OS)
SSD: 1 X 1TB Samsung 870 EVO 2.5" SSD for Audio / projects location
HDD: 1 X 2TB Seagate Seagate BarraCuda 3.5" For Common Data Files
RAM: 64GB CORSAIR Vengeance - DDR5-5600
Soundcard: RME UCX II

Hope you end up with a good working solution!


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Many thanks for the feedback. am genuinely grateful for all your knowledge and support.

I suspect my new i9 will cover any anxieties I might have had.
Still finding my feet and learning and it’s good to know there’s some experience here to help me on my way.

Apologies for the late reply but have been working with the platform quite intensively as i’m painfully aware that I could be asking some “bloody stupid questions” .

Also had some issues logging o to this forum despite a couple of password resets but seem to be back in the loop again.

The main thing I’ve learned to date is not to bugger about with it without a back up.

Will post a scary experience I had once I’ve fed it back to Brad and get his take in it as I am still prone to schoolboy errors at the moment.

Glad you are getting settled, and welcome to the family.

Just for anybody else having a look at this issue, I am at the bottom end of the scale. I started out via buying a Yamaha Mx61 keyboard which came with Cubase Ai. Most of my playing is live, and I started getting promo ads from Spitfire Audio who got me hooked on vsts and away I went, eventually investing in Cantabile on the great advice of Derek Cook.1 Thanks Derek. However it meant I had a laptop which wasn’t ideal for this sort of work - a humble i5 1.0Ghz with 8Gb of RAM! Very basic! But I was able to run up to 12 vsts without problems for a considerable period of time. ironically the Spitfire libraries I really wanted needed a better laptop than mine,

I ran out of hard drive space, and found myself running the processor and RAM to their limits as I grew into my system (I only returned to music tech a couple of years ago after 30 years away!) so upgraded to an i7 2.8GHz and 16Gb RAM - still not the best, but great given the budget I have available, and any problems I was having have gone away. Incidentally I didn’t come across any audio problems until I had run my old laptop out of gas!

Some of my vsts are Symphobia 1 and 2 (orchestral libraries), Lunaris 1 and 2, Spitfire Audio Originals series (Cinematic Pads, Epic Strings, Intimate Strings, Epic Brass and Woodwind, Epic Percussion and Epic Choir), Soundiron Guitar Pack, Cherry Audio Quadra, Wavestate Native, Eventide Blackhole, Baby Audio Spaced Out, Seventh Heaven,Guitar Rig 6, Kontakt 7, Ascend Modern Piano, Butch Vig Drums, Contemporary Soloist Violin and Cello, Dan Keen Soft Strings, Friedlander Violin, Vocalise 3, Hemisphere Guitars, Olympus Choir Elements, Royal Albert Hall Organ, NI Session Bassist - Icon Bass, NI Session Guitarist series: Electric Sunburst, Picked Accoustic, Strummed Accoustic 2, NI Stradivari Violin, Spitfire Audio Studio Woodwinds, and finally Spotlight PIano.

I have recently run a live set with 18 vsts loaded in the new l ptop without any problems, although probably the processor-hungriest would be the two piano vsts, Spotlight Piano and Ascend modern Piano, particularly the latter, probably because it offers so much processing power, including a very detailed convolution reverb.

So there’s my stuff which hopefully shows that it is surprising just what you can run with a surprisingly low spec laptop.

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Cheers. I don’t think I’ll need to go that far but interesting to know what’s possible.