Vienna Ensemble Pro 6 – First Impressions
The venerable audio networking solution Vienna Ensemble Pro (for the sake of brevity from now on called VEP) has been updated to version 6.
It comes with a long list of new features and improvements, including a new code base and a redesigned user interface.
So how does it work in practice, is it a step up from VEP5? Here are my thoughts after a couple of weeks use in live projects.
A quick note: there is a demo available but be aware it will overwrite existing installs of VEP, so it would be inadvisable to upgrade at a mission critical moment.
Vienna Ensemble Pro 6 User Interface
VEP6 has not only had a facelift – now being retina (HiDPI) ready – it’s also undergone a few changes that improve workflow and assist the composer in keeping their instances organised.
Rather than having a separate VEP server window open with a list of active instances, the UI has been unified, with instance names displayed along the top of the window in tabs. The tabs can be coloured and freely moved around to change their order.
This is a fantastic way of keeping templates neatly arranged. The only downside is if your workflow requires a high instance count (a method often employed with Logic X). The number of tabs can take a bit of scrolling to navigate.
When you connect to the VEP server from your DAW, the plugin will also reflect the colour of the instance. A very useful visual cue.
The mixer can now be customised to remove elements you don’t use and channel strips can be collapsed further than previous versions.
For those that want to have everything at the ready in their VEP template but don’t have a slave powerful enough to have several large libraries open at the same time, this feature allows you to ‘disable’ channels, essentially ‘freezing’ them. This takes them completely offline – no longer using CPU or RAM.
Even better, you can automate the enable/disable process from your DAW using the inbuilt parameter.
Mac VST Hosting
This is a huge step forward for those who would like the ability to move VEP templates between Mac and Windows. In my unscientific test, a template I create on my Windows 10 slave opened perfectly on my Mac. It goes without saying that you need the same VST plugins installed on both computers for this to work.
VCA Folders mean you can now keep your instrument channels colour coded and organised easily.
Auto Raise Instance is a great feature that will show the connected instance when you open the open the plugin window in your DAW.
The software feel responsive and efficient to use, CPU usage has certainly improved (70% less usage according to the blurb), but by far the biggest improvement I’ve experienced is with connection time.
Whereas before I’d sit twiddling my thumbs for a few moments waiting for the instances on my PC slave to connect to my DAW, now it’s virtually instant.
This is even more noticeable with my Logic X template which requires a high number of individual instances. With VEP5 connection would take around 5 minutes, with Vienna Ensemble Pro 6 it’s done in around 10 seconds. A massive improvement! I can now fire up Logic and everything is ready to go without any waiting.
As with any new release there are a few quirks to be ironed out. I found the following:
When I try to merge VEP projects the software crashes (this has been acknowledged by the developers and is to be fixed).FIXED When using Logic X there is a delay of a couple of seconds between pressing play/record and the transport responding.FIXED
- The act of scrolling through a high tab count appears to make the software unresponsive to subsequent tab colour changes.
VSL are generally excellent and responsive at dealing with issues, so I’ve no doubt fixes are on their way. I’ll update this article as bugs are squashed.
Overall I’m very impressed with Vienna Ensemble Pro 6, it’s a solid mix of useful new features and improved performance.
I’d have upgraded based on the tabbed UI and fast connection time alone.