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Synthesizers plugins and cpu usage

VSTi plugins - instrument plugins and cpu usage
| @ 16 Sounds music production blog

A brief article on VSTi plugins, CPU usage and latency

In this article we look at CPU usage and plugin latency with focus on the composition and production phase prior to mixing.

What is latency?

Latency is a word describing the over all computation time the computer needs to process incoming signals before you hear it in the speakers.
It includes ASIO buffer size and plugin latency.

A modern DAW has latency compensation which means it tracks it in samples and delays everything according to the longest latency to keep the music in time.

The downside of latency compensation is that it can delay the output too much rendering recording instruments impossible. 

VST plugins - Channel plugins

Channel insert plugins are VST and are processing incoming audio signals.

Zero latency is always preferable but not always possible. Zero latency means no additional latencies from the plugins you insert in the daw.
With a ASIO buffer size at 128 samples and 0 latency plugins it is possible to record real time while monitoring like you mix without the need of direct monitoring solutions.

Some good zero latency VST plugins

Most DAWs have zero latency basic plugins like eqs and compressors.

Here is some good 3. party zero latency plugins in VST format


  • SSL Duende ChannelStrip
  • Metric Halo ChannelStrip 3
  • Izotope Neutron 2 in 0 latency mode
  • Waves Scheps Omni


  • Fabfilter Pro Q2 and Pro Q3
  • SSL Xeq


  • Waves CLA76
  • Waves API 2500


  • Still Well Audio Event Horizon in clipping mode


  • Waves H-Delay

Instrument plugins

Instruments are plugins that generate sound based on input signals like midi.
We have tested CPU usage on some instrument plugins and here is the result.

VSTi Synth plugins CPU usage shootout. CPU usage metering.
Reaper CPU meter with processor usage and Plugin Delay Compensation

The image shows Reaper CPU meter with some synths ordered by use.
PDC is plugin delay compensation in samples. 0 means zero latency and 128 means 128 samples due to the fact that Reaper delays in ASIO buffer size chunks.


Native Instruments FM8 is an old processor light synth still worth using for its characteristic FM sound.

Kontakt Analog Dreams

The new Kontakt Analog Dreams synths are surprisingly heavy for what they are. Probably due to the new Kontakt 6 wavetable engine and better build in reverb.

Omnisphere 2

Omnisphere 2 is a sweet spot synth. A Versatile synth that sounds good with reasonable usage.

NI Massive

Like Omnisphere 2 Massive is a sweet spot synth regarding CPU usage and it is still at potent synthesizer.

Izotope Iris 2

Izotope Iris 2 is a nice synth with unique features but its time-stretching and spectral filtering algorithms are heavy. If you freeze the tracks it is quite a usable synths.

Massive X and Pigments

Massive X and Pigments are new synths and they are not that CPU heavy.
Some heavy ones not in this test are Serum, u-HE Diva and u-HE Repro.