Live Performance – Logic Pro X vs Mainstage

logic pro x macbook

For those wondering whether they should be using Logic Pro X or MainStage for live performance, here is one factor that may have a big influence in that decision.

Mainstage vs Logic Pro X

If you’d like to stack sounds, i.e. have multiple channel strips responding to the performance data (think track stacks in Logic Pro X), there is a significant difference in how the two applications handle this. Below are two screen swipes. One is from Logic Pro X, one from MainStage. Both had the same Play plug-in and instrument in each channel strip. Logic Pro X had 5 of them, MainStage had 6. Both load tests had 10 voices played simultaneously.

Important to note: Logic Pro X’s sound was very broken up, MainStage relatively clear.


Below is the MainStage CPU load report. It was certainly being pushed, but MainStage spread out the processing over multiple cores, allowing for more plug-ins before overload (I added the sixth as 5 wouldn’t distort, even at 6 it was usable). It took me a while to figure out the percent reading. By comparing it to the Activity Monitor, I believe 3825% in MainStage is the same as 382.5% in the Activity Monitor. Since 100% is one core (200% with Hyper-Thread), any number over 200 (2000 in MainStage speak) is clearly more than a single core.

mainstage cpu load history

Logic Pro X

Below is the Logic Pro X screen showing a track stack and the CPU meter. You can clearly see all the processing is being done by only one processor, thus the distorted, unusable sound I experienced.

logic pro x cpu performance

Doug Zangar

Doug Zangar

A Logic Pro user since the late 80’s with its predecessor Notator, Doug has become an expert in Logic Pro and MainStage. He has been an Apple certified trainer since Logic 6, created and leads the Seattle Logic User Group, and has authored numerous video tutorial series on Logic Pro and MainStage as well as other DAWs and plug-ins.

Based in Seattle, he runs Apple certified trainings, teaches Logic Pro for the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program Masters in Music degree and tutors individual users. His use of Logic Pro includes writing for film, commercials, web sites and working with singer/songwriters.
Doug Zangar

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  • Post a patch document (or at least describe which plugins) so we can tell how our systems do?

    • Doug Zangar

      Sure. The same instrument/patch was in each channel strip. It was Play’s Hollywood Strings 1st Violin Sus 13 DB 4th pos. DIV A. I sustained 10 notes for each test.

      My goal was to see which program handled a multi channel strip patch better. The plug-ins are immaterial, just load something up in Logic in a track stack until you get a serious CPU hit, and then duplicate it in MainStage and compare the CPU response.

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