Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question
Solved

Advice on upgrading performance of music production pc

Last response: in CPUs
Share
November 13, 2013 4:45:55 AM

Hi,

I currently have an i7 2600k overclocked to around 4.7ghz, with 1866mhz ram, vista 64, with an rme fireface 800 audio interface, used solely for music production using Ableton Live. I find that I max out the CPU more and more often these days (as I use lots of tracks and cpu intensive effects, large sound libraries etc) and was looking to upgrade my machine as it's disruptive to my workflow (constantly having to freeze tracks to clear cpu). However I can't find any good info online on what the best machine for this would be or even if I would get any significant improvement in performance with a new system.

As I understand it, I can either upgrade to a 6 core i7 like the new i7-4960x which I guess may be able to overclock to around the same as my current system. Or I could purchase a xeon system, with for example this processor:

Two Intel® Xeon® Processor E5-2667 (Six Core, 2.90GHz Turbo, 15MB, 8.0 GT/s)

Or the new Mac Pro at 8 or 12 cores which i guess will be similar to the above xeon.

My two questions are:

1. Which of these chips is likely to give better performance in my application? It is not clear to me whether more ghz or more cores are best for performance in ableton. Reviews of chips and performance comparisons on the never mention music production performance so I don't know what scores to look at in terms of performance for my application.

2. How much more performance would I get very roughly over my existing machine for my application? Eg Are we talking 20% or double?

Another point is that projects I have are often over 10gb in ram so fast ram for quicker loading is also a consideration.

Really hope someone can help here as I'm definitely lost! Thanks for looking at my post.

a b à CPUs
November 13, 2013 5:33:11 AM

The 4960k is the boss. It would be faster than all single socket Xeons. You should notice about 70% or more productivity over your 2600k.

As you already know, you should definitely get high frequency RAM as well.
November 13, 2013 6:21:11 AM

koreanoverlord said:
The 4960k is the boss. It would be faster than all single socket Xeons. You should notice about 70% or more productivity over your 2600k.

As you already know, you should definitely get high frequency RAM as well.


Cool thanks, but I'd get a dual xeon not single. How would the 4960x compare with a current dual xeon like the one I listed, for music production?
Related resources
a c 301 à CPUs
November 13, 2013 8:50:54 AM

The i7 4930k offers 90% of the performance of the i7 4960x for 50-60% of the price.

Dual 6-core Xeons will perform 50-80% better than a 4960x depending on the Xeons chosen.

November 14, 2013 12:16:48 PM

Thanks for the info cturbo. Do you also have any idea what performance means for music applications, ie is it ghz or core count that matters more or do they matter equally? Ie can you be sure that xeons will offer more performance than i7 for my application or does it matter how the application draws its juice?
a b à CPUs
November 14, 2013 1:23:38 PM

Truth is neither will net you that much of a gain. Ableton Live isn't multithreaded too well and without big buffers doesn't seem to get much faster. I use Logic now but have worked with Live since v6 to v9 and I've always found that I get far better performance out of other DAWs.

Even on my old system (Q6600/8GB) I remember I would start running into to CPU issues at about 45% CPU usage (from the top right of Live, not Task Manager)

November 14, 2013 1:58:24 PM

Genz - that's a shame to hear. I know ableton live puts one whole track on one core, so if you have something heavy on one track, the ghz level is important as you'll need it for just that one track. Did you used to have particularly heavy single tracks when you used live or did you have lots of tracks, none too heavily loaded?

You've put the notion of switching from live into my mind, something I never want to do. But it's gotta be better than freezing everything all the time. Perhaps it's worth me trying to replicate a project in another daw to see how much it loads it...
a b à CPUs
November 14, 2013 2:22:31 PM

Sach160 said:
Genz - that's a shame to hear. I know ableton live puts one whole track on one core, so if you have something heavy on one track, the ghz level is important as you'll need it for just that one track. Did you used to have particularly heavy single tracks when you used live or did you have lots of tracks, none too heavily loaded?

You've put the notion of switching from live into my mind, something I never want to do. But it's gotta be better than freezing everything all the time. Perhaps it's worth me trying to replicate a project in another daw to see how much it loads it...


To be honest, inefficient resource usage is why I finally went the Hackintosh route. Back when I went to University, they used Logic in the studios and I hated it, but even on the Mac Mini I got for Uni (2010 model with a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo/8GB RAM) I could run 30-50 tracks of intensive VIs (2 or 3 Massive, 5 or 6 Omnisphere and the rest Kontakt and the like) with 3-7 plugins on each (all the same I was using on Windows with Live) with the odd timeout but without freezing a single track. When I got Hackintosh working for my PC the difference was night and day, even with Ableton Live running on OSX side by side I was having issues with 30 track projects on the Live side in a system that was twice as fast (the Q6600 above).


It's not like I'm the only one who thinks that Live Eats CPU pretty quickly, see:

https://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=120983&st...

^^second post

https://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=70947

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/807253-a...

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/801419-l...

The general gist I get from diggin back into why is that Live does not do any track freezing automatically, and all other DAWs will stop processing audio effects on tracks that aren't actually doing anything, so adding an empty track in Live will actually use up CPU whereas in everything else it would just be ignored. This is down to the Live nature of Ableton's engine and the fact that turning anything off could introduce latency or loading, and Live needs to be able to work in a live environment without any of that getting in the way of your DJing.

I also learned that because Logic's sound engine is actually built into OSX (and system sounds actually play on a subset of Logic's engine) it has the best performance of all DAWs as far as track and plugin count are concerned due to drivers plugging directly into Logic rather than through ASIO etc.

Not suggesting that you should go Logic, it's just what I moved to from Live.
a b à CPUs
November 14, 2013 2:32:01 PM

I'm going to install Live on my 3930k Machine and report back. If I think the increase in speed is worth it I'll let you know in a couple hours.
a c 301 à CPUs
November 14, 2013 7:13:23 PM

Sounds like the 4770k is going to be your best bet.
a b à CPUs
November 14, 2013 7:31:38 PM

It's actually a lot faster here, sorry I got carried away lol and eventually OOM'd and crashed due to memory limit (only got a copy of 8 to hand, 9 is at the studio and I won't be deactivating the license there to run it here anytime soon just in case) I can't tell if that's because of just my CPU or the fact I've upgraded to a much lower latency interface too, but it does seem a lot faster on my 3930k. I can't seem to actually run out of CPU.

Btw thsi is what I did, I messed around and made a song skeleton with 7 tracks. This used 4% CPU, then I made a new track and put 5 plugins on it:

Massive, using a intensive patch set to ultra (12% CPU per note pressed) then MLimiter, Lexicon Reverb, Guitar Rig 5 with a loaded patch, Sound tools Decapitator then PSP Mixsaturator. That's a pretty intensive track for Live. Then I duplicated it while it was playing with the intention of seeing how many I could do. It got to 42 before it crashed out of memory, but that was much more than it would have done and at that stage it was at 42% usage. It seems it is properly multithreaded, so that Xeon might not be so bad an idea.
November 15, 2013 2:17:49 AM

Genz, many thanks for looking into that, much appreciated. It's understandable that ableton live uses more resources than other daws due to its 'always on' requirement for live use and warping. It's a shame though they don't provide a producer mode, whereby stuff not running is automatically turned off.

Anyway although I max out my CPU I don't need too much more performance - I want to get all the juice I can to future proof a bit but a 50% increase would probably suffice for now.

The unknown is whether the xeons' low ghz compared to my i7 overclocked means that although I get more CPU overall, I'll be far more limited in individual tracks given ableton doesn't split tracks across cores. In which case going for the i7 might be better. But it's a question of weighing that overall against the xeons extra CPU juice.

I hear the new Xeon 1680 has eight cores and may be over clockable which might be my best option for high ghz and maximum cores but it's very expensive. I might wait to see what they put in the new mac pros.
November 16, 2013 2:29:04 AM

Hey the only good comparison of CPUs for music performance I've found so far online:

http://www.adkproaudio.com/benchmarks.cfm

See the second graph. While live does eat CPU, it seems a dual xeon would solve my issue and offer a major upgrade to my i7 2700, though at a ridiculous cost for above 3ghz performance.

Best solution

a b à CPUs
November 16, 2013 5:44:35 AM
Share

http://www.scanproaudio.info/?p=551 correlates.

Reading into the blurb on each of the benchmarks, it seems that if you mainly synthesize, you probably will be fine with this. I mean elsewhere I also found information suggesting that cahce provides a huge boost to effects processing speed. Disproportionately so, as often the same procedure is done to many samples of audio and the more of that procedure that can be held in cache the less idling your CPU does waiting for it to be fetched from RAM (a very long task in CPU land).

The 1680 actually looks like a good match for your needs although if I could hold off for two months I would. The next generation of Xeon is going to be 8, 10 and 15 core units that may seriously bring down the price of the 1680 as well as making more powerful units fit into your bracket.

If you want a stopgap may I suggest a 3820 or 3930k mated to a socket 2011 board as that is the socket type you will want for the next set of Xeons. I do believe the performance advantage will be due to the downgrading of i7 to consumer class and trying to pull top end gamers into the low end Xeon (or at least 2011) bracket eventually. It certainly seems that way from the reduction of options given to gamers from the Intel camp as far as 8 core and unlocked models is concerned.

Either way if those new chips don't tempt you a single 1680 will serve you great. 1680's however will not work in a dual socket configuration. You'll want a Xeon E5-2667 v2 or E5-2687W v2 for that level of performance per CPU on a dual board.
a b à CPUs
November 16, 2013 5:49:00 AM

For me, the performance limitations aren't really there as I've switched DAW and now the 3930k is plenty. For you however I see the point of investing in a Dual octo to get seemingly limitless performance. The only other thing I will say is that all of these tests are conducted on Cubase so have a little enquire o nthe Ableton Live forums about people using DUAL CPU configurations with Live to see if it's properly optimised for that.

Back when dual-quads came out Cubase was not, despite claiming to be completely able to handle unlimited cores. This actually resulted in a huge performance decrease if you had two sockets filled on your mobo.
!