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Nominal upgrade or more of a rebuild for a four year old box?

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July 21, 2012 9:07:40 AM

DISCAIMER: I built my first 486 in 93 and have since successfully built about nine or ten computers for myself and others so I'm familiar with the intense amount of research involved in successfully matching components. I've already done a bit of research in order to keep this box going; I know I could do more and intend to do so. However, I'm allowing myself to be what I would have considered in the past to be a bit less self-sufficient. I hope you won't think it lazy.


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I recently upgraded my CPU, memory, and bios in order run Win7 x64 and Cubase 6 but I wonder what would be gained by doing more of a proper rebuild, other than being able to run more RAM.

I’m running out of CPU power using Cubase with about eight to ten VST plugins and only two or three audio tracks with little to no processing or fx. It seems like the 1100T should be able to handle this and more. I’m wondering if some of the older components are holding the CPU back. The motherboard is old but the bios update AMD issued was specifically for these new Phenoms. I've kept it because it has a lot of slots and ports even by today's standards. I’m using two PCI slots, two PCIe slots, all the internal SATA, all the USB, and both IDE ports. The machine uses three separate, dedicated, swappable system drives for x64 audio apps, x86 photo/video apps, and x86 legacy audio apps


The computer is built around an AMD K9A2 Platinum mobo with updated bios and a gently overclocked Phenom II 1100T x6 (periodically monitored with HWMonitor and maxing out at 50c in the worst case scenario of a crazy hot day in the Crescenta Valley with no AC). The box is modified with two very large external fans that take up one entire side panel and encloses the following:


• one SATA docking port for swappable system drives (instead of a single drive with three partitions)
• four SATA data drives (audio, video, photography, samples)
• two optical drives (one IDE & one SATA)
• one IDE floppy drive
• two dual head ATI FireGL V3350 cards (four monitors)
• two M-Audio Audiophile 192 cards
• a front panel multi-card reader
• six USB ports
• a 950 watt power supply



Okay, to the point I originally stated…

What would be the benefit to a rebuild (or even just another mobo) vs my recent upgrade and how many current components do you think I might be able to salvage?

It’s been over four years since I did a build so I really appreciate any input.



Kind regards,


Mick

More about : nominal upgrade rebuild year box

a b B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2012 10:28:47 AM

What is the actual motherboard, the ram amount and speed, and the size of those 4 SATA drives?
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July 21, 2012 3:15:41 PM

{EDITED}

Motherboard is AMD K9A2 Platinum with the latest bios update for the Phenom 2
8 gig of G.SKILL 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 PC2 8500)
System drives are all 350gb
The video drive is 750gb and the other three are 500gb

Thanks,

Mick
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2012 3:34:53 PM

"I’m running out of CPU power using Cubase " From the tech level of your post when you say running out of CPU power you probably mean it.... however I'll ask anyway. Have you used windows "resource monitor" to see what CPU utilization you are running? Just to make sure the bottleneck is not disk? (Are your disks in a raid configuration?) 1100T in a multi-threaded application is pretty strong.

Have you turned on multicore support in cubase? "If I go to Tools > Devices > Device Setup, and then click on "VST Audio System", there is a tick-box for 'Multi-processing' in Advanced Options. Looking at the help function, it states "....this option is only available if there is more than one CPU in the computer. If activated, Cubase will distribute the processing evenly between all CPUs...."" https://www.steinberg.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=108705

Have you considered GPU acceleration? http://gpuimpulsereverb.de/?p=4

IF you rebuild, a swap to a hyperthreaded i7 Ivy Bridge CPU/MB might be huge if the bottleneck is CPU. Rest of parts should carry over. Intel seems to have huge CPU performance lead at the moment.

edit: 4GB ram. hmm. check 'resource monitor' to ensure no paging. Also consider buying memory and going into disk properties and turning off policy for write cache buffer flushing on your data drives. (You have good backups?) That will let you build up large output write queues as you are reading data.

edit2: Using DDR2 memory? Maybe you are memory bound? Can you try ADDING latency to your memory and see if that slows things down? If not you are not memory limited. If slowing memory slows operation then try to get tight (OC) memory timings and see you get improved performance. Note: 1100T with 6mb l3 cache is not typically memory limited but maybe is with audio processing workloads. Guess this is what Jerreddredd's post below is hinting.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2012 3:41:57 PM

I think a MB upgrade to a AM3+ mobo and 8-16GB 1600mhz DDR3 ram might revitalize your rig. Maybe an SSD too.

since replacing a MB is big jobe you might want to switch it an i7 ivy or sandy. the intel CPU architecture is much faster than that of AMD.



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July 21, 2012 4:01:10 PM

Tsnor, poor choice (or lack of) words on my part. I edited the post to be less wordy and removed the word "seems".

I've monitored resources and there are the occasional spikes but neither RAM or CPU show as being maxed out unless I run Kontakt with an orchestral library or some of the Synth Squad stuff at hi quality which I expect. That has been one of the more confounding things about this.

My disks are not arrayed. Virtual memory is allotted so that only the photo/video data disk is used and system disk, sample, and audio data disks are not.

Jaerreddredd, what would Cubase use on that motherboard, other than the increased speedier RAM (no small thing to be sure)?

Thanks you guys,

Mick
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2012 4:08:39 PM

optofonik said:
..
I've monitored resources and there are the occasional spikes but neither RAM or CPU show as being maxed out ... "

My disks are not arrayed. ...


Cool, the limiting factor on your rig is not CPU (or you are *not* correctly getting CU Base to use all CPUs). Slow memory would show up as high CPU utilization (CPU waits sync for memory so time spend waiting for memory counts as cpu bsuy time). So ignore above suggestion to play with memory timings. It will not help.

Next limiting factor would be disk.

Can you run 'resource monitor' (built into win7, just type name in start search box) and goto the DISK tab when running and post the typical queue depth per disk and the typical service time. These should be numbers like queue less than 1 and service times in the high single digits. If you are seeing queues like 5 or services times 30 miliseconds or larger on any disk then we can make things better with a better disk subsystem.
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July 21, 2012 8:19:19 PM

tsnor said:
Cool, the limiting factor on your rig is not CPU (or you are *not* correctly getting CU Base to use all CPUs). Slow memory would show up as high CPU utilization (CPU waits sync for memory so time spend waiting for memory counts as cpu bsuy time). So ignore above suggestion to play with memory timings. It will not help.

Next limiting factor would be disk.

Can you run 'resource monitor' (built into win7, just type name in start search box) and goto the DISK tab when running and post the typical queue depth per disk and the typical service time. These should be numbers like queue less than 1 and service times in the high single digits. If you are seeing queues like 5 or services times 30 miliseconds or larger on any disk then we can make things better with a better disk subsystem.


Excellent, I'll try it out this afternoon if I can. Started up the AC earlier and and am waiting on an electrician to get here and replace a blown circuit before I'll have power. Thanks, Tsnor.



Mick

DARNIT! I just had to edit one of the above posts: I have 8gb of RAM, not 4.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2012 8:23:04 PM

Quote:
Jaerreddredd, what would Cubase use on that motherboard, other than the increased speedier RAM (no small thing to be sure)?


The main issue is the old MB chipset and DDR2 Mem are dragging the 1100T CPU down (kinda like putting V8 in a Ford Pinto) .
Newer chipset and DDR3 Memory bandwidth will make a huge difference. also if you are using virtual memory, your older (slower) disks aren't helping. adding a MB with SATA 6G and an SSD will help with virtual memory if you continue to use it. upgrading to 16gb should eliminate the need to use virtual memory. I would also get a SSD drive such as a Samsung 830 or Crucial M4.
after the upgrade, experiment with turning virtual memory off. with 16GB you shouldn't need it, if you do at least the ssd is wicked fast.

Suggestions:
MB (AM3+ with 2x PCI and at least 2 PCIe x16/x16) on has PATA and floppy :) 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM both MB support DDR3 1866MHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SSD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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July 21, 2012 8:37:09 PM

jerreddredd said:
Quote:
Jaerreddredd, what would Cubase use on that motherboard, other than the increased speedier RAM (no small thing to be sure)?


The main issue is the old MB chipset and DDR2 Mem are dragging the 1100T CPU down (kinda like putting V8 in a Ford Pinto) .
Newer chipset and DDR3 Memory bandwidth will make a huge difference. also if you are using virtual memory, your older (slower) disks aren't helping. adding a MB with SATA 6G and an SSD will help with virtual memory if you continue to use it. upgrading to 16gb should eliminate the need to use virtual memory. I would also get a SSD drive such as a Samsung 830 or Crucial M4.
after the upgrade, experiment with turning virtual memory off. with 16GB you shouldn't need it, if you do at least the ssd is wicked fast.

Suggestions:
MB (AM3+ with 2x PCI and at least 2 PCIe x16/x16) on has PATA and floppy :) 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM both MB support DDR3 1866MHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SSD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Jerreddredd, thanks for those links and the explanation. I'll be referencing these if the diagnostics indicate I need a new mobo (the ASRock has what I need interface-wise). Had I not upgraded to the 1100T I might have gone Intel but it's easier to swallow continuing with an AMD upgrade path for the price.

I've considered the use of a SSD as a working drive, transferring projects to and from the audio drive as needed, but I'm not sure Cubase would be nice about it. Hmmm, save the project to the SSD, close Cubase, transfer the folder to the audio drive and just transfer it back before opening Cubase to work on it again (Cubase being none the wiser about where the project data is stored when not working on it). That would mean replacing the internal audio drive with a bracketed SSD and installing the current audio drive into an external SATA enclosure. I'll have to think it through.

BTW, I'm old enough to remember those hot rodded Pintos (and Vegas). Dangerous as all get out but man oh man the power to weight ratio... :o 



Cheers,

Mick
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2012 9:27:21 PM

jerreddredd said:
Quote:
Jaerreddredd, what would Cubase use on that motherboard, other than the increased speedier RAM (no small thing to be sure)?


The main issue is the old MB chipset and DDR2 Mem are dragging the 1100T CPU down (kinda like putting V8 in a Ford Pinto) .
Newer chipset and DDR3 Memory bandwidth will make a huge difference.



But he is *not* seeing high CPU utilization. So slow memory and MB are not an issue -- they would show up as high CPU utilization.

Agree with your thoughts on faster disk ( ' resource monitor ' should tell us if disk is the bottleneck)

Aside: I've never seen a MB benchmark change throughput by more than a few percent. I wouldn't expect any significant changes based on swapping from an AM2 to AM3. Most Memory overclocking results are in the <3% range. Maybe you've seen benchmarks that show a bigger change... if any workload would show it working with sound files or video files would.

Not sure I agree with turning off virtual memory. Not much benefit, large risk of fail if you run out of memory. Maybe you can point to a few benchmarks.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 22, 2012 6:34:11 AM

tsnor said:
But he is *not* seeing high CPU utilization. So slow memory and MB are not an issue -- they would show up as high CPU utilization.

Agree with your thoughts on faster disk ( ' resource monitor ' should tell us if disk is the bottleneck)

Aside: I've never seen a MB benchmark change throughput by more than a few percent. I wouldn't expect any significant changes based on swapping from an AM2 to AM3. Most Memory overclocking results are in the <3% range. Maybe you've seen benchmarks that show a bigger change... if any workload would show it working with sound files or video files would.

Not sure I agree with turning off virtual memory. Not much benefit, large risk of fail if you run out of memory. Maybe you can point to a few benchmarks.


yes, the difference between DDR2 and DDR3 bandwidth is ~15%, the realization on the software benmarks are in the 3-5% range, but also consider the OP is running only 8 GB of PC 8500. The idea is to upgrade substructure with a new MB/Chipset jumping from not only DDR2 to 3, but jumping from PC8500 to PC 12800 or PC 14900 and from 8gb to 16gbs (up to 32GB if the OP has Win 7 pro or ultimate). with the chipset upgrade comes the memory controller upgrade and the old AMD controllers were terribly slow, the newer ones are a big improvement. Upgrading the Disk I/O substructure to SATA 6G and adding a 6G SSD will help greatly if he leaves virtual memory on. the bottom line is his system is outdated, except maybe for the CPU (though the new Sandy and Ivy Bridge chips are much faster)

I was addressing the OP's original question "What would be the benefit to a rebuild (or even just another mobo) vs my recent upgrade and how many current components do you think I might be able to salvage? " Not so much the cause of his high CPU usage in Cubase.

swap file/memory article:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ram-memory-upgrade,...
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July 22, 2012 7:42:03 PM

jerreddredd said:
yes, the difference between DDR2 and DDR3 bandwidth is ~15%, the realization on the software benmarks are in the 3-5% range, but also consider the OP is running only 8 GB of PC 8500. The idea is to upgrade substructure with a new MB/Chipset jumping from not only DDR2 to 3, but jumping from PC8500 to PC 12800 or PC 14900 and from 8gb to 16gbs (up to 32GB if the OP has Win 7 pro or ultimate). with the chipset upgrade comes the memory controller upgrade and the old AMD controllers were terribly slow, the newer ones are a big improvement. Upgrading the Disk I/O substructure to SATA 6G and adding a 6G SSD will help greatly if he leaves virtual memory on. the bottom line is his system is outdated, except maybe for the CPU (though the new Sandy and Ivy Bridge chips are much faster)

I was addressing the OP's original question "What would be the benefit to a rebuild (or even just another mobo) vs my recent upgrade and how many current components do you think I might be able to salvage? " Not so much the cause of his high CPU usage in Cubase.

swap file/memory article:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ram-memory-upgrade,...




I probably confused the issue for anyone wanting to offer help by mentioning Cubase, sorry. Having stated that, however, I'm glad to have the Cubase specific replies to help me move forward with more extensive research. I hope both of you know how valuable I consider the insight provided. Thanks again.
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July 26, 2012 2:30:29 AM

tsnor said:
Cool, the limiting factor on your rig is not CPU (or you are *not* correctly getting CU Base to use all CPUs). Slow memory would show up as high CPU utilization (CPU waits sync for memory so time spend waiting for memory counts as cpu bsuy time). So ignore above suggestion to play with memory timings. It will not help.

Next limiting factor would be disk.

Can you run 'resource monitor' (built into win7, just type name in start search box) and goto the DISK tab when running and post the typical queue depth per disk and the typical service time. These should be numbers like queue less than 1 and service times in the high single digits. If you are seeing queues like 5 or services times 30 miliseconds or larger on any disk then we can make things better with a better disk subsystem.



So, here are a couple of screenshots of resource manager and performance monitor running while Cubase is playing back:

http://flic.kr/s/aHsjAVxzos

I'm interested to know what these indicate and how you read the results. BTW, sorry it took so long, the electrical issue was a bit more complex and the electrician ended up installed a new extra circuit in addition to the one that blew. That's the way all customer service should be.

Thanks again,

Mick
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 27, 2012 9:23:01 PM

First can you verify that you have CUBASE set to run using all processors? If it was only using one processor and windows was dispatching over all six CPs it would look a bit like this.

The disk looks good. In the first snapshot the I drive is being hit pretty heavily, but response times are good for a spinning drive. If you are not CPU limited (by not having 'Multi-processing' in Advanced Options) then the limit is the IO rate on the I drive. Memory look good. Queue depth is really small making me think this is single threaded (or has a single process doing coordinated reading) Easy to check -- in the CPU tab of Resource Monitor how many CUBASE processes/threads do you see? (22% CPU utilization could be a 100% busy CUBASE spread over 6 CPs = 17% average plus 5% for rest of system...)
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August 5, 2012 4:28:32 AM

I've had to do a complete re-install from the OS up. Sigh. As soon as I'm done I can get those numbers for you, Tsnor. Till then, yes, Cubase was set to multi-processor. The "I" Drive is my audio drive but I'm not sure if Cubase stores the frozen audio files there or not although it would make more sense than in a temp file on the "C" drive.

Thanks for taking the time to offer your insight.
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