Routing Multiple Inputs and Outputs Between Cubase and Kontakt

Hey, and welcome to another music production tutorial. I normally do two posts a week, but life has been getting really busy, and I’m now working on three game projects plus my two bands, plus dealing with the rest of the things life throws at me (like figuring out this “job” thing). I think I’ll be running back to one tutorial/lesson a week for a little while until I can write and schedule up another series. ANYWAY, as you may have gleaned from the title, Today I’m going to show you how to quickly get multiple inputs and outputs running on Kontakt 5. I’ll be showing you specifically the instructions and screenshots for dealing with Kontakt, but keep in mind you can use these general rules for just about any VST instrument out there and the instructions will be pretty similar. As most of my stuff has been, I’m a Cubase user, so my tutorial will deal with Cubase. Your DAW will likely be different, but probably not by much and the same principles will definitely apply.

WHY IS IT USEFUL TO USE MULTIPLE INPUTS?

Quite simply, using multiple inputs to a VST allows you to get more overhead. Kontakt is an incredibly sophisticated piece of software that can produce some very realistic bits of audio. But running six instances on six tracks is going to choke up even the heartiest of computers, forcing you to increase your audio buffer size (and therefore, increase your latencies). Additionally, routing multiple inputs keeps your session cleaner. Once your MIDI signal reaches Kontakt you can also use it to activate multiple instruments at once, allowing you to create an endless variety of textures.

WHY IS IT USEFUL TO USE MULTIPLE OUTPUTS?

It makes mixing simpler! Especially in a VSTi like Kontakt, you can quickly gauge the relative levels of each instrument without leaving Kontakt and set them individually. Additionally, you can export each output INDIVIDUALLY so that you can mix them later, without having Kontakt (or whatever VST you route out) installed on your mixing desk. This also gives you the freedom to turn off more VST’s during the mixing phase, freeing up even more valuable CPU cycles.

So lets get started!

I’m going to try and keep this simple and short, using as many pictures as possible. If any of this doesn’t make sense, leave a comment!

Start a new Cubase project (or whatever you use. But I like Cubase) and hit F11 to bring up your instrument rack, and select the 16-out version of Kontakt (you can use the 8 or even the 1 as well. I prefer the 16 because it makes setup faster. You can delete channels much quicker than creating more of them). When prompted to create an accompanying MIDI track, say no – we’re going to create those ourselves!

Populate your new Kontakt instance with whatever witches brew of instruments you desire, and set their channels up in a manner consistent with how you want to route them. One of the incredible things about Kontakt, as you probably know, is your ability to create “multis” – or multiple instrument racks – defined and played by any combination of single or multiple inputs and outputs. Because of this, you should remember to map your outputs and inputs logically (ie: If you’re using certain pads together, group them to one output. Put your guitar(s) on another layer, etc) decided by how you’ll use them (if you want certain instruments to sound in tandem (not necessarily in Unison! You can use the “Tune” knob to set them certain intervals apart!), put them on the same MIDI input channel).

Here’s a simple output map where everything is on it’s own input and it’s own output (Click to zoom in!). Note that, again, I used the F11 instrument rack, rather than creating an “Instrument Track” (which is NOT the same thing), and have declined Cubase’s offer to create a MIDI track for me.

Kontakt Tutorial 1
Here, I’ve added 3 guitars, a bass, and two synthesizers instruments. The red circle area on the first instrument is where you will set your inputs and outputs. The dropdown menu displayed shows how to set your input. Also pictured is the open VST Instrument Rack (F11)

Now, step two is click the “Outputs” button at the top of Kontakt (It’s the fourth icon!) and then select “Batch functions > Clear Output Section and Create one Individual channel for each loaded instrument” (this works for quickly establishing a series of channels. You can create them manually if you want – but if you don’t know how to do that, it’s time to hit the manual! Here’s another image of what you’re looking for:

Tut2 - clearoutputs
Of course, you can always create your own routing as well – I chose one instrument per channel because it’s faster to set up since there is a pre-built functionality to create that routing, and it works in most any simpler Kontakt instance.

Now, go back to your VST Instrument Rack (F11 if you’ve closed it) and open the (somewhat hidden) dropdown menu to “Activate All Outputs” (or activate as many as you need – I only needed six in my example). The outputs you set in Kontakt will now forward their signals to the outputs you are now creating in Cubase.So, now we’ve created the back end of the signal chain. If you click a note on the virtual onscreen keyboard in Kontakt, you should hear something right about now, with each instrument going to the appropriate channels that you’ve just activated (and hopefully gone and named!)

Tut3 - activateoutputs
You’re looking for that drop down menu next to the little E icon. It’s easy to miss if you haven’t seen it before. Simply activate as many as you’ll need. They’re defined in the outputs section of kontakt as the “1|2” “3|4” buttons at the bottom of each channel strip. That’s why a 16-out version of Kontakt has eight stereo outs. You can also have 16 mono should you desire!

Our next step is to create the input of this signal chain – the MIDI tracks which will push data to Kontakt to create sound. So right click on an empty area of the channel strip and create however many MIDI tracks you’ll need. Name them as appropriate and then go and set their outputs to refer to Kontakt 5 and designate their given channel. If you’ve created the tracks all at once, their channel output should be sequential. You’ll find these settings on the channel strip on the left hand side of the screen.ย  Select “1 – Kontakt 5 16-out – Midi In” for the channel outputs, and immediately below that, set the channel to a number. So if your “Funk Guitar” instrument is looking at Channel 1 (which you set up in the very first step), you’ll want to feed your “MIDI Guitar” track through to Kontakt on Channel 1, and if your bass is channel 3, you’ll want to send your MIDI track on channel 3 as well. Simple! Here’s a small image of where these settings are found:

Tut5-set your channels
If you’re not hearing things correctly, you should probably recheck these settings, and be sure that the MIDI input is your desired keyboard, too!

The next step is simply to record your midi tracks – draw them in, play them on your keyboard, or import them from other files. Do whatever it takes to get them on your track. When playing it back, you should notice the meters in the VST section light up, showing how awesome you are. I’m not going to lie, I drew in the following at about random so you could just see what a setup might look like while it’s still small and relatively simple. Just imagine, there’s no drums in this session yet. This technique of multiple ins and especially multiple outs is essential for getting a great drum mix, because isolating parts lets you control them in the mix better.

tut7-recordyour stuff
Record your midi as normal!

Annnnnd we’re almost there! You’ve now got stuff playing from MIDI to audio. What’s the final step? Exporting it of course!

tut8-export
It is dangerously easy to forget to tick that “Channel Batch Export” box!

You can select the box atย  the top of the Export Audio Mixdown window to do a Channel Batch Export, and click the VST Instrument Channels box to quickly select all of the instruments you’ve assigned. Then let it rip and…there you go! You remember how I said you can go back and turn off your VST instrument to save CPU power? Hit that magic F11 and turn off Kontakt (don’t delete it, just hit the blue power button). You can group your new tracks into folders, mute the MIDI tracks to ensure their silence, and mix the new tracks as if they were normal audio files – because they are! You can now transport these files as if they were any other kind of audio file, and use them in the same ways.

tut9-cleanedup
All done! Your VST has now converted MIDI to stem audio tracks which can be used and processed much more efficiently than always keeping Kontakt on and running!

Hope this tutorial helped! If you have any questions or need any help, leave a comment!

Happy Routing!
–Chris

5 Replies to “Routing Multiple Inputs and Outputs Between Cubase and Kontakt”

  1. Man. After I activate the channels in Kontakt 5 they don’t appear in Cubase 7s vst instrument drop down list thing. Even after restarting.

    To complicate things I installed and uninstalled a 64 – 32 bit rewire bridge thing today and in the process removed rewire.dll

    Is this necessary for cubase to run vsts properly?

    Cheers.

    PW