Optimizing FL Studio performance
If your CPU or disk usage climbs too high you will hear clicks or pops in the audio (buffer underruns). The good news is, CPU and disk usage can usually be lowered considerably if you take the time to make some adjustments to the FL Studio Audio settings. Why does this happen? The Audio Buffer stores the audio data before it's sent to your audio device. This allows FL Studio to even out momentary spikes in CPU load when processing may be slower than 'real-time'. If the Audio Buffer runs dry, because your CPU or hard-drive can't keep up with the real-time audio stream, then your audio device will make cracking or stutter noises. It is worth noting that underruns can ONLY occur in real-time playback, they will not happen while exporting to wave or mp3 file. If you do hear that sort of thing in an exported audio file, then it is likely a plugin behaving badly, check the plugin settings in that case.
Further information is available in the FL Studio Optimization
First settings and things to check
Some very important settings are located on Options > Audio:
More items to try if required
This section assumes you have worked through all the points above.
- Set these Audio Settings to ensure maximum performance:
- Buffer length - Your buffer is not less than 10 ms (441 samples) is it? We already said not to do that above! 20 ms (882 samples) is recommended.
- Mixer Interpolation - Should be set no higher than 24 point sinc (lower is better).
- Sample rate - Set to 44,100 Hz (or 48,000 Hz if that is not available). Sample rates such as 192 kHz and 96 kHz, will use significantly more CPU than the recommended default of 44.1 kHz.
- Reset plugins on transport - Make sure 'Reset plugins on transport' is disabled as this can cause significant glitching on start/stop events when using VST plugins.
- Priority - Set to 'Highest' and deselect 'Safe overloads' (don't worry, an 'unsafe' overload will just lock up interface controls momentarily).
- ASIO Options - Try the Mix in buffer switch and Triple buffer options. NOTE: If these do not help, make sure to deselect them again before proceeding.
- Consolidate patterns - Use the Playlist Track (header) Right-Click menu option 'Consolidate this track' to convert your highest CPU usage patterns to Audio Clips.
- PPQ setting - The PPQ setting sets the event resolution for the current project. Settings above 192 PPQ can have a significant impact on CPU
load. Generally use 96 PPQ unless you need the extra temporal resolution.
- For projects heavy with audio-tracks - Turn OFF 'Keep on disk' for any Sampler and Audio Clip channels. This ensures samples are pre-loaded into memory avoiding underruns caused by disk-to-RAM swapping delays OR zoom out the Playlist, (Ctrl + Right-Click) on a blank area, so all Audio Clips are visible prior to pressing Play. This forces Audio Clip data to be cached into RAM.
- Reduce the plugin count - Try to reduce the number of plugins (instrument and FX). These are the most CPU hungry parts of the program.
- Limit Polyphony - Use the maximum polyphony setting to reduce the maximum polyphony of channels (see Miscellaneous
Channel Settings). This often reduces dramatically CPU usage in complex melodies. You can still set FL Studio to ignore the maximum polyphony settings
when exporting to wave/mp3 file (see Exporting to .wav/.mp3/.mid).
- Disable MIDI - Disable all the 'Enable MIDI...' options using the Options menu as MIDI processing uses CPU resources even when not in use.
- Playlist sluggishness - Try disabling 'Playlist menu > View > Keep labels on screen'.
- Plugins behaving badly - See this section of the manual.
System related issues
- Competing & background programs - Close all non-essential programs that may be competing for resources, e.g. Instant messaging programs (AIM, MSM/WLM, Skype, Yahoo! Messenger), torrents, web browsers, audio/video players, etc. If you experience intermittent issues, check for scheduled activity like virus scans, backups, windows updates, disk defragmentation, even Wi-Fi & Blue-Tooth adapters have been known to cause issues, particularly if they are constantly re-making flaky connections.
- Hardware issues - Unplug unused HDMI, USB, BlueTooth & FireWire devices if you are experiencing unexpected CPU spikes and glitches to discount these as causes.
- Driver issues - Update your Audio driver, Video driver and Motherboard BIOS in that order, checking each time if the issues go away. Make sure to use the latest driver from the manufacturers website for your operating system.
- Extend your memory - Check the manual page on the CPU & Memory panel. Adding more physical RAM can improve responsiveness where data was previously
saved in the Page File. This is only likely to help if you are using 4 GB or less.
- CPU performance check - Search for your CPU's performance score on CPU Benchmark. Here's how we grade scores - Weak: Less than 3,999. Medium: 4000 to 6,999. Strong: 7000 to 9,999. Very strong: more than 10,000. If your CPU is in the 'weak' or 'Medium' categories, show it respect, don't throw 30+ high-cpu load plugins at it and wonder why it chokes. Audio processing, as performed by DAW software, is one of the most CPU intensive tasks done in real-time on computers today. It's more CPU intensive than 3D games, that offload a lot of work to the video card GPU. Each audio stream needs real-time calculation of at least 44100 samples PER second multiplied by the number of plugins you are running multiplied by their own internal shenanigans. But, all hope is not lost, limitations breed creativity, work with what you have and rejoice in the democratization of modern music production. If you would like to upgrade your system, we have a detailed Knowledge Base article here on Building an Audio Production ready computer.
Psychology Reality Check
Having the lowest Buffer length setting is not a competition. If you are happy with 20 or 30 ms then that's great. Remember, the lower the buffer length setting, the higher the CPU load. We strongly recommend 10 ms (ASIO mode) as a minimum setting. At lower settings than 10 ms, most people don't experience improved 'responsiveness' and the CPU load climbs rapidly. To put 10 ms in context, the delay between pressing a key on a real piano and the hammer hitting the strings is in the order of 80 ms and the time taken for that sound to reach your ears is a further 3 ms, something to ponder.