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Best CPU for a Digital Audio Workstation

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November 20, 2009 10:50:17 PM

Hello,

I am in a market for a new computer. I am a professional music producer and run very resource demanding Audio Software in real-time (all my plug-ins are run through the CPU and RAM without any DSP Cards). I am not concerned about rendering times, as much as I am concerned about my system being stable and responsive regardless of how many multi tracks I am running (withing reason of course).

I am currently on a Core i7 machine with 6GB RAM, running x64 Win7. My system does crash a lot recently with more advanced/newer projects as I am become more skilled.

I am trying to go DUAL CPU and 12GB ram. I am on about $3000 budget. Graphics are irrelevant.

Thank you very much for all the suggestions and comments!
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November 21, 2009 6:51:48 AM

What kind of add-in cards and peripherals do you need?

This motherboard might do: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The cost partly depends on what you can bring over from the i7 system. This motherboard has integrated video, but it is beyond bad... transplant the video card you must have for the i7.

This board can also use normal DDR3 and fits in an ATX case, so you might be able to keep your current RAM, case, and PSU. One of the reviewers on Newegg is using a 750W PSU. The motherboard (apparently) has only one CPU power connection, so you don't need a special PSU.

The motherboard has no integrated audio, so if you need a sound card (not knowing what you use in your workstation) grab this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... It's a proprietary card for that motherboard.

Once you've worked out what you'll need and how much it'll cost, go look at the Nehalem Xeons ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E... ) and purchase two to fill out your budget. Don't forget some decent cooling--a Newegg reviewer claimed that non-Intel cooling solutions are pretty much a no-go. If that's the case you'll want a couple of these: http://www.amazon.com/Intel-BXSTS100C-Solution-2-Socket... They're Intel's best 1366 server CPU cooler. Oh, and the CPUs don't come with them, you must purchase separately.

Once you've worked out more specifically what you need, try heading over to the New System Build forum and make a thread there--check out the sticky for what you should include. :) 
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November 21, 2009 7:50:30 AM

I seriously doubt it is crashing due to workload on the i7. Add more ram, run a spyware scan, etc..
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November 21, 2009 4:19:10 PM

You need a good sound card. All of your plugins are probably far too taxing on the system to be running solely through the cpu and the ram. Get an Asus Xonar STX or something of that caliber.
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November 21, 2009 5:08:59 PM

actually id go with a 12 core AMD 2p setup. Intel doesnt have a 6 core yet or id advise that.

2 6 core opty's should give you the processing ability you need. and do 16gb of ram.

Make sure that the workstation is soley for audio no fluff programs at all and not internet attached. real studio pc,s as far as I know NEVER go online or have any fluff programs installed at all.

As one person said a dedicated DSP is helpfull but you can do 12 cores which is 3x the load distribution you have now.
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November 21, 2009 5:14:05 PM

verndewd said:
actually id go with a 12 core AMD 2p setup. Intel doesnt have a 6 core yet or id advise that.

2 6 core opty's should give you the processing ability you need. and do 16gb of ram.


:heink:  Intel has no 6 core cpu yet. hmmmmm........

http://www.intel.com/p/en_US/products/server/processor/...
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November 21, 2009 5:19:24 PM

I had no idea ,,,,,, awesome yeah id do that instead . I totally missed that news release. :D 
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November 21, 2009 5:22:37 PM

verndewd said:
I had no idea


Yea i understand. They realy didn't make a big announcement out of it so some people missed it. i know i didn't know about till like 2Q of this year. ;) 
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November 21, 2009 6:40:48 PM

Dunnington is a 6 core socket mPGA604 penryn.
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November 22, 2009 12:43:27 AM

Thank you for all the replies people. I do have enough RAM, my CPU meter goes to 90-100% in my Host when I am running my projects.
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November 22, 2009 2:45:24 AM

dsp takes alot of processing power

the downside to your proposal is that rather than having hardware to handle dsp ad/da conversion you rely on software algorhytms, which when added up can really tax a cpu.But its debateable which method is best, having a dedicated dsp card would really untax your current setup. You should jot down your audio setup specs in software.
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January 11, 2010 3:24:33 PM

Hi peoples,

thank you for all the great suggestions. I am not using DSP really. Most of my plugins are VST natives running on the RAM and CPU.

I am thinking to just taking my old workstation and adding a second Core i7 and upgrading the motherboard from a P6T Deluxe to something 1366 Dual Socket.

What motherboard will allow me to use 2x Corei7 or there is no Motherboard that supports that and I will only have to use a Xeon?


PS: To provide more information, I am currently on Cubase 5 64bit, using around 4GB RAM per project, running around 30 channels in 32bit float. I have around 5 plug-ins on every channel. 15 out of 30 tracks are VST Instruments, others are Audio tracks with compressors, gates etc on each channel. Like I stated before, my CPU meter definitely maxes out in my bigger projects, RAM comes close to a cap too.
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January 11, 2010 3:37:20 PM

no i7 can be used in a dual socket board you need a 1366 socket xeon for that
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January 11, 2010 3:38:01 PM

obsidian86 said:
no i7 can be used in a dual socket board you need a 1366 xeon for that


Thank you. I appreciate your help.
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January 11, 2010 3:40:42 PM

How do these 1366 Xeons compare to Core i7 2.96GHZ in terms of benchmarks? 1:1 and if you get two of them, will it smash the performance of Core i7?
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January 11, 2010 3:58:11 PM

there is only minor differences between a 1366 i7 and 1366 xeon
so an i7 2.96 ghz will almost equal a xeon 2.96 ghz the xeon will be a fraction better due to higher binning so 2 i7 @ 2.96 ghz will almost be as good as 2 xeon's @ 2.96ghz
the xeon's strong point is it an be used in multi socket configurations
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January 11, 2010 4:19:04 PM

logika said:
How do these 1366 Xeons compare to Core i7 2.96GHZ in terms of benchmarks? 1:1 and if you get two of them, will it smash the performance of Core i7?

If I were in your place I would wait a bit.

http://vr-zone.com/forums/530931/evga-dual-socket-1366-...

That's right.. Dual Socket LGA1366 for the Core i7 is on the way. Of course you will be needing a pair of Intel Corei7 980x Extreme Edition 6 Core (12 thread) CPUs.

That means a total of 12 Cores and 24 Threads at your disposal for around the $3000 USD budget you've set for yourself (as you can use your current RAM too no need for ECC like you do with Xeons).

Might be worth it for you.
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January 12, 2010 6:02:41 AM

what elmo said

add alot of ram tho12gb is what I am thinking. it would be cheaper to do a dsp card and its a dedicated processor . that said i would like to see a 2p recording setup bust some azz.
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