Finished Group Setup
Since all four vocals are going through one aux track, the EQ plug-in on the aux track effects all four vocals. Obviously, one plug-in uses less CPU power than four would. This is more CPU-efficient than inserting the same EQ plug-in on each of the four vocal tracks.
7. Freeze Tracks
Some DAWs offer a “freeze” function, which renders a track’s signal—after the plug-ins, but before the fader—as a temporary audio file. For as long as the track remains “frozen,” its plug-ins will be disabled and the temporary audio file will be played, thus saving system resources and still allowing adjustments to the track fader, sends, and pan. If the plug-ins need to be tweaked or changed, just “unfreeze” the track. The plug-ins will be activated and the temporary audio file removed. You can always freeze the track again to save power!
8. Use Region-Based Processing
Some plug-ins in some DAWs can be used offline on specific regions rather than in real time on a track. This region-based processing renders a new audio file with the plug-in effect permanently applied, effectively “recording” the effect to the file. Once the rendering has completed, no CPU resources are used by the plug-in.
That’s a massive advantage, but there are drawbacks. You can’t simply pull up the plug-in later for quick tweaks. If you want a different plug-in setup in place of the rendered one, you’d have to return back to the original unprocessed audio, then go through the region-based rendering process with the newly configured plug-in. Another disadvantage is that this method doesn’t support plug-in automation. So, region-based processing is good for saving CPU power when you’re ready to commit to static plug-in settings.
9. Bounce Tracks
This method feels as old as time. Bouncing tracks allows you to lower the CPU and RAM load by reducing the number of tracks used in a session. Many people also refer to this process as “printing stems.” It’s really nothing more than recording a stereo mix of certain tracks such as synths, then using the recorded mix in place of the original source tracks.
I suggest only utilizing this method if no more changes need to be made to the individual tracks. For example, don’t bounce the synths if you still need to edit them. Although the exact process differs from DAW to DAW, here are the basic steps for bouncing tracks or printing stems.
Solo the desired tracks
Use your DAW’s “Bounce” function
Import the bounced file back into the session
Make the original tracks (the soloed tracks) inactive
With the original tracks inactive, they will not use system resources. If you ever need to change the original tracks, you’ll have to activate them, which will once again use CPU power.
10. Convert the Session to a Lower Sample Rate
The higher the sample rate, the more CPU power plug-ins use. A plug-in at 96 kHz takes more CPU power than the same plug-in at 48 kHz. There are endless debates about the merits and faults of high-resolution sample rates; I am NOT going there right now. However, consider this point: If working at a high sample rate prevents you from being able to work effectively, creatively, and efficiently, maybe it’s more important to “sacrifice” your high-resolution fantasy in order to have a functional reality.
If you convert the whole session to a lower sample rate, each plug-in will use less CPU power. That can give you more power to work with. As with most functions, this process is DAW-dependent. The image below shows the function in Pro Tools. It will save a copy of the entire session at the chosen sample rate. Doing this conversion, closing the original high sample rate session, then opening the lower sample rate session would reduce the CPU load and RAM usage.