Ableton GUI Lagging? 11 Typical Reasons (Solved)

Ableton Live is a powerful and feature-packed DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), boasting industry-leading tools and effects as well as a large bank of sounds and samples.

With all that power, it’s bound to be resource hungry on your computer.

But don’t fear, we’re here to help you figure out what might be causing your GUI lag.

Two computers open with midi keyboard on desk

1. Your Computer Might Not Have Enough Resources

Any high-level DAW is going to be very resource hungry on your machine, and Ableton Live is no different. Ableton would need a sufficient amount of CPU power and RAM to ensure that it runs smoothly, without any GUI lag.

Ableton describes the minimum requirements to run Ableton Live 11 as follows:


  • Windows 10, Windows 11
  • Intel Core i5 processor or AMD multi-core processor
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 1366×768 display resolution
  • ASIO-compatible audio hardware for Link support


  • macOS High Sierra 10.13 to Ventura 13
  • Intel Core i5 processor
  • Apple silicon
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 1280×800 display resolution
  • Core Audio compliant audio interface recommended

Make sure that the computer you’re running Ableton on meets these requirements to make sure you get the best out of your Ableton Live experience.

Please also check out our article exploring how much RAM you really need for Ableton.

2. You Might Be Running Too Many Plugins At Once

Running too many plugins (virtual instruments or effects) at once within Ableton Live might be causing strain on your CPU, which could be the root of your GUI lag.

Let’s jump into some ways we can try to alleviate that CPU strain.

  • Reduce the number of plugins in use!
    • Filter out any plugins that aren’t in use but are still within the channel track. Also, remove any unnecessary plugins that aren’t adding enough to the overall sound of your project.
  • Use Ableton Live’s “Freeze” feature.
    • The freeze feature allows you to render the audio for a track containing multiple plugins. This will alleviate a lot of the CPU usage of those plugins.
  • Some plugins are just much more resource-intensive than others.
    • Make sure to research the CPU usage of your plugins so that you know what might be pushing your project over the limit.

It also might be a good idea to bounce out specific plugin-heavy tracks, re-adding them to your project without the original CPU-heavy plugins.

Check out our easy solution guide for rendering errors on Ableton Live.

3. You’re Running Other CPU Heavy Programs Running At the Same Time

Ableton Live is most probably the most power-hungry program you’re running, but that doesn’t mean that other programs aren’t going to be adding to the CPU usage on your computer.

Make sure to monitor what programs are open at the same time you’re running Ableton Live and close any that might be interfering with your CPU usage.

To assess what might be peaking your CPU, Mac has a program called Activity Monitor, where you can monitor what programs are using too much of your CPU or memory (RAM).

On Windows, the alternative is Task Manager, which offers the same functionality as Activity Monitor.

Sometimes programs that may not seem very resource hungry are still interfering enough to make Ableton Live not perform smoothly, so it’s important to close any programs you don’t absolutely need to have open.

4. You Might Have Too Many Tracks Or Instruments Playing At Once

It goes without saying that the more tracks you have open on a project, the more power-hungry that project will be.

Often Ableton Live projects can become cluttered and overly busy, resulting in performance drops and GUI lags. This is especially true with specific VSTs that might be resource hungry, often found in synth plugins like Sylenth or Diva.

Too many effects on individual channels, intense automation lanes, and large sample banks are all possible factors adding to your CPU overload and can easily pile up when you’re not paying attention. The more complicated your project, the more Ableton Live has to process.

5. Your Sample Rate Might Be Too High

A sample rate can be described as the number of samples of audio being carried per second. This means that a lower sample rate would result in less demand on your CPU.

Sample rates are best changed at the beginning of projects, as adjusting while working on an existing project might cause issues.

To adjust your sample rate:

  • Open Ableton Live ‘Preferences’
  • Next, select ‘Audio’
  • Under ‘Sample Rate’, select the drop-down menu and select your preferred sample rate.

Standard sample rates are either 44100 or 48000 Hz.

6. Your Buffer Size Might Be Too Low

The buffer size can be described as the amount of time your computer is allowed to process audio from your audio interface/sound card. Buffer size affects latency, which is the delay in processing audio that might occur when recording.

When you’re not in the recording phase, it’s always best to keep your buffer size higher to alleviate the strain on your CPU that the latency optimization would have caused.

To adjust Ableton Live’s buffer size:

  • Open Ableton Live ‘Preferences’
  • Next, select ‘Audio’
  • Then, under ‘Latency’, select ‘Buffer Size’ from the drop-down menu.

7. Make Sure That You Have Enough Hard-Drive Space

Disk Management is crucial when it comes to the performance of your computer, and can be a simple fix when performance issues start to arise.

Make sure that you have sufficient space available on your hard disk. It’s recommended that you always have at least 10% of your hard drive’s capacity available as free space.

8. Make Sure You’re Not Over-Working Your Audio Clips

A couple of simple solutions to alleviate CPU overload would be to deactivate “Hi-Q” mode on your audio clips as well as to use Complex and Complex Pro warp modes sparingly.

Let’s dive into what this means.

  • Hi-Q mode means that the sample rate conversion when you transpose clips improves, but at the cost of higher CPU usage.
    • When you de-activate the Hi-Q setting in the Sample Box, you alleviate Ableton Live from doing that extra processing work.
  • Complex and Complex Pro are two different types of warping algorithms that are high on CPU drain.
    • Consider changing the warp setting to a less resource-hungry alternative, or turn off warping altogether.

If you can’t get away with not warping the clip, it’s best to resample or consolidate the clip, so the computer doesn’t have to do any processing.

9. Make Sure to Close Plug-In Device Windows

A common mistake that Ableton Live users make is not to close the plug-in device windows when moving on to a new channel or device.

Ableton Live’s processing load can easily become overwhelmed because of the device’s GUI windows having to be rendered.

When not actively using or manipulating the parameters of a device, make sure to close the window to alleviate any unnecessary strain on your computer.

10. Some Stock Ableton Effects are CPU Heavy

EQ Eight

Ableton Live’s native EQ Eight is a very commonly used plug-in, and will most likely be a mainstay feature throughout your projects.

There is a simple but effective method of reducing CPU strain when using EQ Eight, especially on mass.

Here’s how: Once you have successfully completed all the tasks you required from EQ Eight, simply locate the Spectrum Analyser on the top right of the plug-in window, and de-activate it.

What this does is turn off the visual representation of the audio, which can often use unnecessary processing power, especially when not in use with multiple EQ plug-ins.


Ableton Live’s Reverb plug-in is also a highly popular and often used stock plugin.

What’s handy about this stock plugin is that it features three different quality settings, which can be toggled to alleviate unnecessary CPU load.

The three quality settings are Eco, Mid, and High. The higher the quality, the more toll is taken on your processor.

Switching to “Eco” will result in a significant saving of your CPU resources, especially if you have multiple reverb plug-ins active.

It’s important to note, though, that the “High” setting will produce a much richer reverberation effect. So you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons of CPU strain verse quality of sound.

11. You Need To Use More Return Tracks

Return tracks are a great way to alleviate the need for multiple CPU-heavy plug-ins. Instead of multiple plug-ins on individual tracks, you can place one VST plug-in on the Return track, and route all your other tracks through it to affect their sound.

This works especially well for reverbs, delays, and compression. The processed signals work well to be manipulated with the same effect, meaning the project has an atmosphere and feel about it that works well together.

Here’s how to insert a return track on Ableton Live:

  • First off, on the top menu bar, select ‘Create’
  • Then, select ‘Insert Return Track’
  • (You can also do this from the right-click menu on any track)

Now that you’ve created the return track, you can assign any track you want to send a signal through it.

This means that whatever VST Plug-ins are active on the return track will affect whatever signal is routed through them.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to note that there may be multiple reasons for your GUI lag all at once.

Make sure to work through each possible solution methodically, as it might be a culmination of adjustments that result in you getting the results you need.

Ableton Live is a versatile and powerful DAW and can handle a lot that is thrown at it, but its performance is also dependent on how well you set up your projects, and how well you make Ableton work for you.


Reducing CPU Load