How to reduce CPU load in Live

  • Live Versions: 8-9
  • Operating System: All

Processes both within Live and elsewhere on your computer can stress the CPU. When this occurs you may experience dropouts, crackles or glitches in the audio and/or a sluggish response in Live. This article will provide a step by step checklist of various strategies to help reduce the CPU load of Live.

Firstly it's important to note that the CPU meter in Live displays the amount of the CPU currently processing audio, rather than the overall CPU load. To get an accurate reading of the current CPU load overall, open Activity Monitor (Mac) or Task Manager (Win). More information in this article.

Note: Live's capabilities are only as powerful as your system. While the minimum system requirements give the absolute minimum specifications needed to run Live, ideally you'll want to get the most powerful computer that you can afford. Despite this, even the most powerful systems can still run into CPU issues depending on their usage. The following tips will help you to optimize and streamline your CPU usage as much as possible.

Optimizing Live's Audio and CPU Preferences

Follow these suggestions to optimize Live's preferences:

Lower the Sample Rate In Live's Preferences → Audio. Try setting it to a value of 44100 or 48000 Hz, which will reduce CPU load drastically if you have used a higher value before. Ideally, you should pick the correct setting before starting a new project, rather than changing it while working on an existing one.

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Increase the Buffer Size in Live's Preferences → Audio, ideally to a value by the power of 2, like 128, 256, 512 or 1024. Keep in mind that the higher this value is, the higher will audio latency be.

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Disable unused inputs and outputs of your audio interface in Live's Preferences → Audio → "Input Config" and "Output Config". You can also disable the mono input pair of the same stereo input, or vice versa, depending on which is being used.

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Enable Multicore/Multiprocessor support in Live's Preferences → CPU. Conversely if you are on Windows, using an i7 chip and find that enabling Multicore/Multiprocessor support causes dropouts or glitches, your computer may be throttling the CPU. Check this article to disable CPU throttling.

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Managing CPU-Intensive Devices

Follow these optional suggestions to optimize the CPU handling of your devices and plug-ins:

Freeze tracks containing CPU-intensive devices. To freeze a track, right-click it and choose "Freeze Track". It can then be flattened afterwards to an audio file if necessary.

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Resample tracks containing CPU-intensive devices. Please refer to Live's Manual Chapter 14.5. Resampling for further instructions. 

Put CPU-intensive effects into Return tracks so that you can process more than one track with the same effect.

Place CPU-intensive plug-ins/devices on separate tracks. Each track in Live uses one thread of the processor. If the plug-ins and devices are contained within an instrument or effect rack in one track, the processing will be less efficient. Separate them into different tracks instead to spread out the processing load.

Reduce the polyphony of your devices, plug-ins and multisample instruments.

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Turn off the Spread function. Some Live devices have a Spread parameter (e.g. Corpus, Operator, Sampler). When Spread is used, two detuned voices are generated per note, this also doubles the processing requirement. Consider turning Spread off it not needed.

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Set the Reverb to "Eco" mode. This controls the tradeoff between reverb quality and computer performance. Eco uses minimal CPU resources, while high delivers the richest reverberation.

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Turn off Filters, LFOs and Effects or any other unused parameters in devices.

Disable warping in Simpler. Or use a warping algorithm other than Complex or Complex Pro.

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Managing Audio Files

Follow these optional suggestions to optimize audio file handling:

De-activate Hi-Q mode on audio clips. This setting improves the Sample Rate conversion when transposing audio files, at the cost of higher CPU drain. The Hi-Q button can be toggled from within the Sample Box.

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Use Complex and Complex Pro warping sparingly. Use different warping algorithms or turn off warping completely where possible. Otherwise consider freezing the track, or eventually consolidating/resampling those clips.

Managing other System Resources

Close other programs. Check the Activity Monitor (Mac) by pressing [cmd][space] and typing "activity monitor" into Spotlight, or Task Manager (Win) by right-clicking your task bar to see if other applications might be consuming much CPU and/or RAM on your machine, then close them.

Deactivate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the Webcam. Using these in conjunction with Live can take up more CPU.

Disk Management. Check the hard-drive of your machine to see if you have sufficient space available. As a rule of thumb, you should always have 10% of your hard drive's capacity available as free space.

Upgrade Computer components

If you're not able to upgrade your computer outright, you may find considerable improvements simply upgrading individual components. Although in some computers it's impossible to upgrade components, if your computer allows it try upgrading the CPU, upgrading the hard drive to an SSD (Solid state drive) or adding more RAM. 

Further Reading

Our manual covers some of these tips in detail.

See also our guide on how to avoid crackles and audio dropouts.