Sound f/x Cue Playback Software


Wireless Guy
Premium Member
Since this seems to be a recurring topic for discussion, I'd like to make a sticky thread in this forum to describe the various applications out there for sound cue playback. Please post a short description of a cue playback program if you are familiar with it, as well as requirements (platform, interfaces, etc) so that folks unfamiliar with the options available can decide what program(s) best fits their needs.

I'll start:

QLab (Mac Only)
QLab :: Live Show Control for Mac OS X
Free; Advanced licenses available (>2 channel playback; MIDI; Video)
QLab is a Mac-based cue playback system that can play back audio files, video files, MIDI cues, and many other things. It features the ability to use up to 8 channels of output in the free version, as well as advanced cueing features. There is a large user base for QLab, and an active mailing list dedicated to user support.
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Active Member
MultiPlay (Windows Only)
Freeware. Feature requests and bug reports welcomed.
MultiPlay is a Windows based audio cue player that supports wav, mp3, wmv and other audio files. Cues can also contain a list of audio files to play sequentially for pre-show, intermission, etc. It can also send strings to (and be triggered from) the serial port. Each audio cue can be assigned to one of 4 audio groups. Each group can be assigned any one of the available stereo audio cards. A preview function can be routed to a 5th stereo output. Cues can be linked in various ways to play at the same time or after each other, etc as well as stop/fade other cues. Cue lists can be named, saved, loaded, printed and exported.
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Active Member
Sound Cue System - Windows based cueing system. Supports Vista, XP, 2000 and NT. 256MB RAM recommended. Good soundcard recommended for better performance - but not requried. It comes in many different packages.
Sound Cue System Lite (Windows Only)
Sound Cue System Lite's features are:
  • Build and save a list of Audio File Cues
  • Assign the required level (volume) and pan for each cue
  • Loop audio file cues
  • Include Stop/Fade-Out Cues to terminate or fade-out cues when required
  • Play several audio files simultaneously
  • Set up Hot keys to play selected audio file cues at any time
  • Start cues by a mouse right-click or by clicking a 'Go' button on the screen. You can, for example, step through the cues for a show using a simple right-click on the mouse.

Sound Cue System Standard (Windows Only)
Sound Cue System Standard's features include everything in SCS Lite, plus:
  • Play List Cues for your pre-show and intermission music
  • Support up to two sound cards or channel pairs on a multi-channel card
  • Set start-at and end-at times within an audio file (so you can play just part of an audio file)
  • Level Change Cues enable you to automatically adjust another cue's level and/or pan over a specified time
  • Set up cues to auto-start at a time relative to the start or end of another cue.
  • Time-Based cues, triggered to start at a specified time of day - useful for unattended pre-show announcements.

Sound Cue Professional (Windows Only)
Sound Cue System Professional's features include everything in SCS Standard, plus:
  • Support for up to 8 sound cards or channels on a multi-channel card
  • MIDI control of cues using one of several methods including a subset of the MIDI Show Control (MSC) standard
  • RS232 control of cues
  • MIDI Send Cues that enable you to send control messages to an external device, such as for scene changes on a lighting board or a sound desk.

Sound Cue System Professional Plus (Windows Only)
Sound Cue System Professional Plus's features include everything in SCS Professional, plus:
  • Support for up to 16 sound cards or channels on a multi-channel card
  • Support for up to 8 output devices per audio file cue or sub-cue.
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Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Cue Player Premium (Windows Only)
$99 USD
There is a family of Cue Player software, including a free version. to accommodate the needs of various sized venues. The primary product is the Premium version which allows for any number of simultaneous playing sounds, multiple sound cards, timed fades, equalizer and reverb by cue, automatic panning or fading from front to rear in a 5.1 system, among other features. OSC and MIDI messages can be sent and received. References to some of the theaters where it is used are on the web site.
An add-on for $99 is available that integrates control of video projections via a second or third video output. A slave computer can be controlled if there are more than two projectors.
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SFX™ Standard (Windows Only)
$495 USD
SFX™ Standard is the choice for smaller, cost-conscious theatres and venues. Yet it doesn�t skimp on the features and benefits for your productions. The Standard version will play WAVE files, MIDI Commands and Sequences, and CD tracks. In addition, the volume can be adjusted on each audio cue by using the built-in FADE effect. Cues can also be linked using the WAIT and AUTOFOLLOW commands.
There are other versions as well.
This is what we use at BMDS for sound cue maintenance.
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Active Member
iTunes (Windows or Mac)
It's free and it's easy. If you've got a noob running sound cues it's hard to beat. Importing sound files of any type is a snap and the interface is easy to learn for the few that aren't familiar already. If the computer's got other things to do, the interface can be minimized to just the playback controls.


Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
... I d/l'ed it and the interface is almost too simple. Maps sounds to various keys. Supports multiple sounds playing at once.
Give it a look.
A poor (or frugal) man's 360 Systems Instant Replay? Do theatres use those?

And, as seems pertinent to this topic, because the signal from whatever the playback software on the personal computer still has to pass through a mixer on it's way to the amps/speakers, you need...


...a 3.5mm Stereo Minijack to dual RCA cable and a Whirlwind PCDI. More information in this thread.


Active Member
First, get an external sound card. If you are using a laptop, the noise that is generated within the unit is horrible. I have seen a Beringer external USB sound card (RCA Line level in and out appx. USD $30) in use without a DI or any other ground lift methods and it worked and sounded way better then the high imped. output of the headphone jack. Plus all of the extra "computer related" noise was not there.

Personally, by the time you make the cable and buy a decent DI you could most likely pick up something like the MAudio 410 on ebay.

We use the 360 a lot. It is very frustrating that the thing can't be hooked up to a computer like an external HD. That way you can transfer audio files directly into it. We never have the same one twice in a row. Every show we have to reload all of the sounds into it. It has an AES input but everything is freaking real time. Most people I have seen are switching away from these in favor of a computer based solution.



Well-Known Member
Ran into a problem with Qlab this past weekend. I have an audio track for a dance number in this show I'm working on. There's about six or seven seconds of silence at the end of the song, then a tag the dancers dance off-stage to. When I add the track to my cue list in Qlab, it cuts off the tag at the end. I found a way around it by making a separate cue for the tag, but that leads me to my question.

Does Qlab automatically end a cue if it senses silence of a certain length? I'm running QLab v1.2 for Mac.


Active Member
Does Qlab automatically end a cue if it senses silence of a certain length? I'm running QLab v1.2 for Mac.

I am not sure about QLab but I have run into other software that will "autosense" the end of the track. It may work in some applications but "automatic" tends to not work well in a professional environment.

Look in the preferences panel to see if there is some way to turn it off. Mac software has this annoying method of control+click on a track or between tracks and labels (ala FCP) to get other options.



Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
...Mac software has this annoying method of control+click on a track or between tracks and labels (ala FCP) to get other options.
Oh, my dear Kris, that's a Feature! In many programs, <cntrl><click> is the equivalent of Windoze' <right><click>.


Active Member
Oh, my dear Kris, that's a Feature! In many programs, <cntrl><click> is the equivalent of Windoze' <right><click>.

I get the whole <Cntl>+Click bit. It's the Cntl+Click on the one pixel wide bar between the blank and the blank to get to another underdocumented feature.



Well-Known Member
Well this one has me stumped, and the help file is even less than unhelpful (it doesn't even describe the crosspoints, which I assume are essentially pan controls). I just fired off an email to their support people, and we'll see what happens.

I must say, this is my first show using Qlab, and I really like it for what it does. It's so much easier than worrying about a pile of CD's and/or tapes (who gives tapes anymore anyway!).


Well-Known Member
You don't know how right you are sir.

EDIT: Heard back from Chris (very helpful, what customer support should be) today. Here's the email:

Hi Ian,

Thanks for the note! More below:

On Jun 3, 2008, at 3:29 PM, Ian Garrett wrote:

Hello, my name's Ian Garrett. I've been using the free version of Qlab (v1.2 I believe) for Mac OSX on a show I'm currently working. One of my cues is an audio track for a dance routine (Greased Lightning if you care). At the end of the track, after about five or six seconds of silence, is a tag that the dancers dance off the stage to. Before this, I edited the track in Garageband, exported to iTunes, from there copied it to the folder my show files are in, then loaded it into Qlab. Up until Qlab, it had the tag.

My question is does Qlab autosense silence of a certain length and automatically end a track?

No--it shouldn't. It's possible, though, that if you dragged a new version of the file onto a previously created cue it may have erroneously kept the old start and stop times for that cue. You could try entering some very large number as the end time and QLab will truncate it to the "natural" length of the file.

Let me know if that does the trick,

Figured that might help someone who has a similar problem. Took care of mine.
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Active Member
Premium Member
Heard back from the QLab people (very helpful people, what customer support should be) today.

FYI, there are no QLab "people", LOL, just Chris--who recently left his "day job" to work full time on QLab. I finally had a chance to meet him at the recent Broadway Sound Master Class, and he's a really nice guy, in addition to being great at both the software and customer support side of things :)

I'll share my experience from software use. I've been through 3 systems, SFX, Sound Cue System and Q-Lab. Each has merits, each is kind of the same flavor, just a different language. Some of these do things better than others.

I'll say right off that in terms of the detail levels of cueing, SFX and Q-Lab are on par with each other for each of the two platforms (PC and Mac). When I've done most of my cueing, I've done it in Sound Cue System, which I bought for myself to do a black box show a few years ago. Last summer when I was designing in Ohio, there was not a cueing system at the theatre, and I used my own PC running SCS.

I sometimes give the edge to Sound Cue System mostly because the process of cueing is a little less numerous. SCS gives you 5 cue types to choose from: Sound, Level Change, Stop, Midi and Playlist. The thing that I like about the Sound cues is that you program your start and stop positions either by actual time or you can click the start and stop positions on a wave diagram. The same is with looping, where it is easy to start a file at the beginning and have it perform a seamless loop. A stop cue positioned after a loop can either stop it dead, fade it out or release it from the loop at the end of the current loop and continue on with the cue.

With SFX and Q-Lab, to fade a cue from nothing requires the sound cue with volume down, and an autofollowed fade up. Sound Cue System allows you to type the fade up and down times directly into the sound cue if you desire either or both. It's this feature that I refer to when I talk about SCS cueing being less numerous.

Another feature that was added to SCS version 9 was the playlist cue. I understand that the latest SFX has added something similar, but I have not had a chance to try it first-hand. The SCS playlist cue is a great solution for pre/post show music or for those instances where you have background that needs to select from a lot of files. The playlist cue allows you to add any number of music files to be played. It also has options to use the files in the order listed or by random order, and to automatically add transitions between the files. These transitions can be crossfades, starts or stops, or anything in-between. You can select these transitions individually by song, or apply them to all the songs in the playlist. The playlist can also be set to repeat until told to stop. If anyone has tried to program pre/post show music in older SFX or Q-Lab, you know how numerous that programming can be.

My only gripes with SCS are the device assignments, particularly with the playlist cue. With the Professional Plus license, you can assign 8 stereo pairs for a total of 16 independent outs, but when you assign your audio device in the initial settings for your particular show, you assign both left and right to one device. For example, if you have an 8-output sound device, SCS does not look at the 8 outputs as independent sends. When setting up, the devices are assigned as stereo pairs, and when you program cues, if you want it routed only to one of the outputs, you have to set the pan in each cue. It's not a big gripe, granted, but it is something you have to consider as you program, especially if you're used to the mixing consoles that Q-Lab and SFX provide in their interface. As for the Playlist cue, my major gripe is that you're only able to assign two stereo pairs, instead of the full potential 8 pairs depending upon your license. Again, not insurmountable, but it can be limiting depending upon how you have your show configured.

Sound Cue System has thus far been friendly with most multiple-output sound devices. I use an M-Audio 410 with mine, and it has been rock solid. I know Q-lab has not been M-Audio friendly, but it's quite good with Motu. And I honestly haven't used SFX with anything but a built-in multi-channel card of unknown origin, so I could not speak to its reliability with different devices.

Anyhoo, that's my contribution. Anyone else who has had experiences with Sound Cue System feel free to add to this. Given the cost for the full professional license, it's a system I personally would endorse in a PC environment, with Q-Lab being my Mac favorite.

Richard Sprecker


Active Member
I have a long history with Sound Cue System and have never had any gripes with it beyond human error. About half of the major theatres in Dayton Ohio use SCS at least here and there during a season (Mostly thanks to myself and a sound designer I work with) I was trying to MIDI to work with our light board at my school and had problems so I posted on the sites forum and the creator of the software responded in a couple hours with a full instruction manual quality tutorial he created for me (He's never even heard of our board, yuck, lehigh, but we went through the manual and extracted screen shots and everything) Alas it never worked it ended up lehigh lied about midi implementation so it was their end. I've tested the midi on my personal board and it's worked flawlessly. I have the professional license and love the software. SCS 10 is in beta right now and it is looking great, I'm beta testing it and it has a lot of cool new features so keep an eye on this product.

P.S. A great tip is when using this software during tech remember to mute the computer BEFORE you play pinball during a long hold so all the directors designers and SM don't hear the start-up noise.

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