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Steve Karl
04-13-2005, 04:53 AM
I'm exploring some VST hosting options and would love to hear your opinions and what you're using.
Pros cons ... any thoughts.

I love Forte's interface and the fact that is has sync. but did notice some latency when playing live into it.


Thank you,

Steve

shadowbox
04-13-2005, 04:12 PM
I tested every host I could get my hands on. Forte is the simplest and best if you have to have midi sync. But it does have more latency than others. After all of my testing, I have gone with V-Stack. It had the best interface and low latency (7-12 ms typical with buffers set to 256). I was hesitant to go with V-Stack after reading that it had a MIDI time out bug. After 8 hours it would stop working and require you to restart the application. But I discovered that if you hit "Play" on the V-stack transport control it would work again. No need to restart. So that bug has become a non issue. And any plugs that I need sync for I just use on my Mac.

Here is a clip from my original post on northernsounds.com:

I have compared just about every VST host I can get my hands on. (Those with free demos available.) They include:

Forte
EnergyXT
Chainer
VSTHost
Spin Audio VMC
Plogue Bidule
FL Studio
RT Player

I have 3 main criteria that I am looking for:
1) Low Midi Latency
2) Ability to Sync to Midi Clock
3) User interface

I am using a PowerMac G5 with ProTools as my DAW/sequencer and running the VSTi on a separate PC (P4 3.2 G, 2GB Ram). On the PC I am using a WaveCenterPCI card and going out ADAT Optical to ProTools. I was using MIDI through the PCI card but switched to MIDIoverLan CP. The latency times were slightly better with it so I am sticking with it. Also MIDIoverLan allows for very flexible routing and I am no longer limited to 2 MIDI ports from the Mac to the PC.

MIDI Latency:
My test was pretty simple. Set up a track in ProTools with 4 quantized quarter notes and played them back with EWQLSO Harp, NI FM7 E-Piano, and Stylus RMX. The ASIO buffer was set to 256. Surprisingly each of these softsynths had latencies within 1-2 ms of each other.
Forte, VMC, and RT Player had the worst latency. In my tests their numbers were all between 18-21ms. Not terrible, but if you are a keyboard player this is pretty noticeable while playing. Especially fast passages.

The others were all better. Their times all fell between 8-12ms.

As a reference point I tested my Roland XV-5080. It's latency was consistantly about 2-3 ms.


Ability to sync to clock :
Forte, VMC, and Bidule can all sync to external clock. But they can't handle abrupt tempo changes. They all swoop down or up to the new tempo. Bidule was the slowest in changing while Forte and VMC seemed about the same. This is important if you are holding a rhythmic loop or arpeggiated synth over the tempo change. Unfortunately, for me the only way to do this consistently is to use a plug-in within ProTools. Otherwise it's sloppy.

The others don't sync. Or if they do I couldn't figure out how. It's surprising that FL studio doesn't sync to external MIDI clock. Maybe I just missed it.

User Interface:
Forte has the easiest, simplest, interface hands down. It is basically a virtual rack. I don't know why there aren't more options like this out there. Unfortunately, I couldn't try out V-Stack because there is no demo. Chainer is also pretty simple. But not as nice as forte. FL Studio has a very nice interface but is a slightly different beast. It's not simply a VST host. It is more like Reason. It does some cool stuff. And probably with the right template could be pretty easy to use. Spin Audio VMC is pretty decent, but seems more complicated than it needs to be. Also it was less stable on my PC. And it had a problem syncing to external word clock. Bidule and EnergyXT are interesting but a bit complicated and not simply virtual racks. They are more like modular synths. But again perhaps with the proper template it would be ok.

Conclusions:
I really wish Forte had better (lower) MIDI latency. I will probably end up using Forte and then compensating the Midi Tracks in ProTools using the MIDI track offsets feature. Since the latencies are pretty consistent this should work well. It's also too bad that the External Tempo Sync isn't a bit tighter. But it doesn't seem like there is any host out there that does a better job, so maybe it's the nature of the MIDI clock beast.

It's too bad that FL Studio doesn't sync to MIDI clock. If I missed it and somebody knows how to do this, chime in. With the right template, this could be a very cool application to use. Bidule also could be cool. It does have tempo sync and good latency times, so I may fool around with it more and see if I can get used to it.

I'm really surprised that a company like Native Instruments doesn't come out with a VSTi host. I would imagine if a company like that came forward and made a good looking, easy to use, VSTi host with a Rack-like interface they could sell a ton of copies.

Steve Karl
04-13-2005, 06:11 PM
I tested every host I could get my hands on. Forte is the simplest and best if you have to have midi sync. But it does have more latency than others. After all of my testing, I have gone with V-Stack.

Hi,

Thank you. Yes. I did see your original post over at the other forum, and I was using it as a reference to do my own testing.
V-Stack was next on my list but I haven't been able to find it anywhere.
Can you point me to a place where I can get it?
Thank you,

Steve

dcoscina
04-13-2005, 09:25 PM
I just downloaded it from Pinnacle Systems- they have a downloadable version for $49 US. It seems to work okay but honestly I found the demo of Forte to be friendlier on my PC. V-Stack, like every other Steinberg program I have seems to be buggy or else I haven't set things right.

I'm getting a lot of crackling when I play back a fast violin/celli part in unison from Overture using the Maple Midi virtual connection. If Forte wasn't so much more money, I would have gone with that methinks. :(

Steve Karl
04-13-2005, 10:11 PM
I just downloaded it from Pinnacle Systems- they have a downloadable version for $49 US. It seems to work okay but honestly I found the demo of Forte to be friendlier on my PC. V-Stack, like every other Steinberg program I have seems to be buggy or else I haven't set things right.

I'm getting a lot of crackling when I play back a fast violin/celli part in unison from Overture using the Maple Midi virtual connection. If Forte wasn't so much more money, I would have gone with that methinks. :(

hummm ... I'm gonna do some more research then.
Thanks for the pointer to Pinnacle. I'll have a look.

Steve

shadowbox
04-14-2005, 05:46 AM
I haven't had any problem with crackles. One of the things I like about VStack is that you can put custom names on each MIDI port. So for example, using MIDIoverLan I have 16 MIDI ports. Each Port can be assigned to a different soft synth. I rename the port to match the softsynth. It makes setting up a rack very easy.

Also, I was able to download V-Stack using the European store since the American store seems to be closed. The price is the same--$49. When you are on steinbergs site navigate to the Virtual Instruments page. At the top under Shop you can choose European store.

dcoscina
04-14-2005, 07:05 AM
I had to make some alterations to the latency and all that, once I found that screen. It seems to be working better. I do like the fact that you can assign various outs from EWQLSO Gold to the mixer thus giving your mixes greater control or effects routing- good job! I think Forte runs a little smoother because it reads Dxi plug-ins. V-Stack is just a VST host so that might be it. But I also downloaded the program for $49 (US) which is a better deal than choosing the Canadian price which is $89- obviously they haven't adjusted the price difference in accordance with the stronger Canadian dollar these days. Forte was just too much cash- and Overture 4 will soon be coming out (upgrade price for users- $25 or something along those lines) that will import VSTi's. But I'm glad I bought V-Stack because now I can use my laptop as a "synth rack" with many plug-ins.

I wish Cakewalk would do something like this though......

Steve Karl
04-15-2005, 11:41 PM
I retested Forte today after making sure my sound cards were set to the best options.
Did some playing ... I'm not having a problem with any latency. It feels good to me.

Gonna have to wait a week or 2 but I'm going with Forte.

Steve

SpIdErWeB
04-16-2005, 08:07 AM
Hi,

I use Karsyn (a Forte derived) on my neKo, and I really like it !

The latency is really low. I don't exactly know how, but enough low to play in realtime without problem...

Bye
Spid

Steve Karl
04-16-2005, 09:59 AM
Hi,

I use Karsyn (a Forte derived) on my neKo, and I really like it !

The latency is really low. I don't exactly know how, but enough low to play in realtime without problem...

Bye
Spid

Hi Spid,

I can't even find a picture of it or a place to research it.
Do you have any links?

Thanks,

Steve

dcoscina
04-16-2005, 10:35 AM
I retested Forte today after making sure my sound cards were set to the best options.
Did some playing ... I'm not having a problem with any latency. It feels good to me.

Gonna have to wait a week or 2 but I'm going with Forte.

Steve

I've done a couple things with V-Stack and it's working pretty well with my plug-ins. Some features are pretty cool like the mixer where you can see all of the settings for every plug-in. Cool!

SpIdErWeB
04-16-2005, 10:51 AM
Hi Spid,

I can't even find a picture of it or a place to research it.
Do you have any links?

Thanks,

Steve

Yes Steve,

There's no place to download it, because it's an host deliver with the Open Labs products only...

You can almost see it on some pictures I took on MusikMesse, here :

http://AfterTouch.net/MusikMesse2005/DSCN2340.jpg

http://AfterTouch.net/MusikMesse2005/DSCN2346.jpg


But it's derived from forte, it's mostly the look (skin) which is changed to be adapted for the touchscreen...

Bye
Spid

Steve Karl
04-19-2005, 04:00 AM
Nice pics!

Thanks Spid.

Steve

SpIdErWeB
04-19-2005, 02:35 PM
You're welcome steve :)

Bye
Spid

LHall
04-19-2005, 03:15 PM
Arent' those pictures of RMX? :confused: