Plugin recommendation for a catch-all keyboard setup

I was playing around yesterday with a non-song/project specific Gig setup;
where I would have 4 I/Ps (electric guitar, vox mic, acoustic guitar and monitor send from FOH);

the eGTR routed to an amp sim, vox mic to a processing chain, as well as the acoustic guitar,
a (fairly large) handful of synth plugins that would cover all of the usual suspect sounds,

and these would then be sent to 2x stereo outputs (IEM mix and FOH mix)

  • IEM gets eGTR, VOX, aGTR & KEYs + MON feed
  • FOH gets eGTR, VOX, aGTR & KEYs
    (vox is basically backing vocals which is why I just mix all of the sources together into one stereo output - but in the wiring I have it setup so that I could easily break out to more outputs if I’m using a bigger interface).

For the miscellaneous keyboard sounds I loaded a bunch of Kontakt and Arturia stuff.

On Kontakt I started with the factory Grand Piano, but quickly changed to the Arturia Piano
also on Kontakt I had a Harpsichord loaded as well as a String Ensemble.
Other Arturia plugins were the B3, Rhodes, Mellotron Strings and Flutes (sent to the same submixer as the Kontakt String Ensemble and mixed together there), Jupiter 8, OBX and MiniMoog.

They all come up on a 8 faders on a 16ch mixer
(PNO, HARPSICHORD, B3, RHODES, ORCH (strings+flute+ensemble), JUP8, OBX, MOOG)
which I can turn on/off (bypass) and control the volume of with 8 faders on M-Audio Code61.

So running this with a MIDI player while I was testing the sounds etc (and with amp-sim (Amplitube 5) with loads of effects and 3x amps, two of them Tbeing oneX models) I went from about 45% CPU to about 70%, i.e. between Idle and sending the MIDI to the VIs.

I still haven’t added the VOX and aGTR processing so I’m suspecting that this maybe too heavy of a setup on the VI side to be stable.

So I’m wondering; what would be a lowerCPU-cost variant for this kind of always-loaded/catch-all type of keyboard setup instead of the Arturia-suite?


You can try this

How does the cpu percentage change when you bypass Amplitube 5?

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maybe 15-20%, probably less though.

it’s a valid point - I would probably not be using the amp-sim when playing keys but I was more wondering about whether there were other good sounding but CPU-friendly VIs out there.

interesting, thanks.

Great and versatile setup you have there, but no wonder it’s quite heavy on CPU. Amplitube is arguable the worst, I’ve also been playing around with both Amplitube and Tonex and in my system avoid using them in live-situations, simply too heavy for my relatively modest laptop. I don’t know whether it’s the fancy GUI or other stuff, Amplitube is easily the heaviest amp sim I’ve ever come across. If you wish to try out some alternatives, Scuffham S-Gear has a 10-day free trial.

But enough about the guitar stuff, I’m mainly a keyboard player so I’ll provide my two cents.

Generally the Arturia stuff is good, so if you’re happy with what you’re getting out from them you could mostly stick with them. Some older versions of their synth plugins are notorious CPU-hogs, but I think they have improved on that front. It varies from plugin to plugin, but at least the newest version of the Jupiter is definitely not their worst.

Only plugin I would consider swapping right away is the Mellotron Strings, since you have a good free alternative: just download any freely available Mellotron sample pack (like SonicBloom) and load the samples into Kontakt. There may even be some packs available that are readily mapped for Kontakt if you search more carefully. You’re getting basically the same classic Mello-sounds without the added CPU-load the Arturia’s plugin with all it’s bells and whistles will surely add. Your “kontakt mellotron” won’t look as fancy, but it’ll surely be lighter.

Next thing to look at: optimizing the plugins. Reducing polyphony, dropping unnecessary built-in effects and adjusting sample rate and buffer size will all have effect on the CPU hit of each individual plugin. Since you’re playing in a live band setting, you can propably reduce the polyphony of V Piano quite drastically and still sound great. Try out different settings and listen critically. You might get away with much less detailed piano and rhodes sounds, they may even sound BETTER in the context than the hyper-realistic concert grand with all the symphatetic resonance magic filling the frequencies.
Same applies to synths: see how dense chords you’re actually playing with the JUP8 and OBX and choose the maximum polyphony accordingly.

And speaking of synths: what is your reason for using both the JUP8 and OBX? If we’re talking about bread-and-butter poly-analog stuff, is there a possibility that you might get away with using just one of the two? Of course they do have some differences, but very similar types of sounds can be achieved with both. And about the Moog: unless you absolutely need to have polyphonic moog-pads, always stick to the mono-mode! Most Minimoog-plugins turn into horrifying CPU-eating monsters when the polyphony is increased, and I think the Arturia Mini-V is no exception.

If still after all tweaking and optimizing your plugins of choice seem too heavy and you have some money to spare, here are my personal recommendations:

JUP8V → TAL-J-8. At least equally “authentic” sounding, lighter on CPU, freely scalable GUI (looks much better on smaller screens than any Arturia stuff).

OBX → discoDSP OB-XD. Used to be one of the best free poly-synths out there, now it’s commercial but very cheap. Much lighter than Arturia’s take on the OB.

B3 → GSI VB3-II OR AcousticSamples B-5. Both are affordable, lightweight and IMHO sound better than the Arturia. VB3 also comes with a separate GSi Rotary FX-plugin.

V Piano → Pianoteq. Physically modeled just like the Arturia, just more authentic, versatile and lighter on CPU. Can also cover rhodes, wurlitzer, harpsichord and plenty of others.

Minimoog V → The Legend. Best MiniMoog clone I’ve tried so far, and at least slightly lighter on CPU (unless you go crazy with polyphonic stuff).

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Why not Blue3?

In my experience TH-U is good and fairly light as a guitar plugin suite.

I tend to use Pianoteq for piano and Rhodes and Blue3 for Hammond. I have the full Arturia set as well, and I like them. I just tend to use the others as my defaults.

If I’m running multiple instruments (e.g., keyboards, guitar, drums, vox) on one machine I usually separate the instruments into different instances of GigPerformer. That will allow them to run on different processor cores and you’ll generally get much better overall performance. With very few exceptions all of my Gigfiles are now instrument specific.

If you’re running a bunch of different VSTs and silencing them at the mixer you’re using up CPU for nothing. Loading them all into one Rackspace is fine, but if you’re not using the sound of a VST you can Bypass the VST (or stop the MIDI notes from getting to the VST, which is what I usually do) to reduce the CPU load. In a typical keyboard rackspace I usually have at least two piano VSTs and four other VSTs loaded but MIDI getting routed to only two or three. I have them all routed into a 16 or 24 channel mixer, but if I want to mute them I block the Note On events and that will generally take their CPU usage close to zero.

Simple reason: I’ve never tried it :grimacing: I’ve seen people praising it on these forums every once in a while, maybe I’ll give it a spin one day since there seems to be a free demo.

Propably the reason I haven’t gotten myself to try it has been their sound demos: they do sound good, but not “omg I gotta try this now”-good. For example, the first IK B-3X demos got me clicking download in seconds. My personal history with organ plugins goes:
from Native Instruments B4 II to the (very disappointing) NI Vintage Organs to GSi VB (first and second versions) to Acoustic Samples B-5. I do think the B-3X is currently the best sounding out there, but it’s soooo heavy on CPU and overpriced, I’d rather stick with the B5 which I can make sound almost equally good with some tweaking.

(Of course getting some of that IK magic with smaller CPU hit is possible by using their T-Racks Leslie and your choice of hardware or software organ. Crumar Mojo + IK Leslie works nicely for me also.)

I use the IK Leslie in Amplitube. It is definitely CPU heavy. Thankfully, if I use it alone, I can get away with it.

I would guess (could be wrong) most of the CPU use of the B-X3 is due to the (Leslie) amplification, rather than the organ itself. (I also think the Leslie Amplification is what creates the magic. I use it with the NI Vintage Organs which, I agree, is weak on its own).

Totally agree on the point about the Leslie creating the magic. I’ve even witnessed some much cheaper organs becoming truly alive when amplified through a real Leslie (something that was pretty common already in the 70s in Finland, since there weren’t so many real Hammond organs available here and rotary speakers were easier to acquire).

I actually did try out the individual Leslie amps and cabinets inside Amplitube before getting the T-Racks Leslie collection. T-Racks gives you the options of either using the amp inside the TR Suite OR as an individual TR Leslie -plugin. I highly recommend that you try out the single plugin option, since it’s much lighter on CPU than loading the amp inside Amplitube while sounding identical.
And I personally prefer the GUI of the TR version, too much stuff going on inside Amplitube if you just use it for Leslie, the TR window is more focused on the main thing.

Not shure if this is of any help in this specific usecase vs. the OP:

i combine it, mixer volume and bypass control:

i put the mixer control -per channel- on a Fader, on my HW controller.
plus, i add a knob widget.
the knob widget is grouped with the mixer channel control, and mapped to the bypass of the instrument that runs into that mixer-CH.

this is the curvature for the bypass widget

i add then to the mixer control a initial “value set to zero” plateau,
to match the bypass:
Bildschirm­foto 2023-03-17 um 05.32.36

this gives an enormous flexibility to run different instruments in one patch,
with full control over CPU load.

Tip: if FX are used specifically for only one instrument,
add them also to the bybass group ! just bypass everything that is not in use.
all handled just by the HW volume control vs. the mixer.

it opens up doors,…but ofcourse only to some certain degree :wink:

do same in a DAW or any other host…haha :laughing:

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Yep, when I bought Amplitube Leslie is was on sale for about $100 less than T-Racks Leslie for I think $29.99 (?). So I just grabbed it,

But, I have have heard that. Something to consider going forward.


on request from @npudar, …since this thread was now linked to a “tipps-topic”:
“I add here” a Gig file that shows the “4x instrument volume + bypass switch @ mixer”.
The bypass switching of the instrument is coupled to the volume Fader of the mixer.

4xInstr+byp_4Forum.gig (1.1 MB)

Rack 1: NO CPU load
Rack 2: i took 4x Pianoteq / Steinway D, / VST3.
Rack 3: 4x “lost in the 70s” Instruments / VST3 ( comes free with Deskew original GP version )

…just use the “Replace plugin command” within GP (right click) to “replace” any of the plugins.
Ideally, map at least CH-1 Fader to your HW control, to see how it works.

special notes:
Piano #3 and #4 are pitched +3 and +7.
try it out, mix it ! …change midi pitch values.
(another funny trick, …and since we can “Bypass” plugins within GP… :rofl: )
the original Volume widget curvature is Channel 1


One thing I learned on this forum.

If you enable all 3 signal paths in Amplitube, then deactivate everything in the unused paths, you can save much cpu :smiley:


Great tip. I missed the original mention. Thanks for bringing it back. I use AT5 all the time.

I definitely needs to try this.

I basically know nothing about using this plug in, so I have to figure out what it means to “deactivate everything in the unused paths”. But, I will dig in, maybe watch some videos.


Thank you all for your inputs - a lot of valuable and food for thought stuff here.

I still kinda like the idea of ‘killing’ the sound at the mixer, but it is a very good idea to link the instrument’s fader at -∞ dB to the bypass of the plugin; I’m gonna try that out and see if there’s any show-stopping latency when enabling the plugin again when the fader is raised.

I agree with the other amp-sims mentioned here - I like the sound of Scuffham, but it’s a little fixed in its ways and I’ve used the TH-U extensively and really like it - but I loaded the Amplitube to test out the new ToneX profiles (also thinking about profiling my own amps, but maybe the NAM (NeuralAmpModeler) might be an alternative choice for that as well).

And thanks for all the alternate plugin suggestions, this is exactly what I was looking for but even more for the suggestion of reducing the polyphony; I’m sure that and the plugin bypass would ease up the CPU load.


No, no problem vs. latencys, or anything else !
Glad you like the idea :wink: …it opened big doors for me to think in this way.
check the initial flat plateaux on the fader volume.
but frankly speaking: its even not necessary in most cases.
I do it, to have it a habit, and to be on the save side. (sober job)
Tip: you can save these curvatures ! do it. Create a Folder structure ( name-concepts) that will work “for you”. “There” lies some of the work to do.
Personally, often enough, i would even not search for saved curvatures, and just draw it out fresh. Yet, it is a good idea to learn to create a folder structure that follows a certain logic, and to learn, NOT to create a plain mess.
Ask why i know, haha (its really not as trivial as one might think ( a good folder structure vs. “save curvatures”)

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hope this helps a little

but I missed an important detail. You must Mute everything in path 2 and 3.