PCI Express and Hardware DSPs

Hello –

I have a question for you which will expose my ignorance with PC Hardware architecture. I have a music studio and I’m currently getting rid of all of my hardware synths, modules, etc., and start seriously using soft-synths. Moving these functions to a PC platform requires LOTS of processing power, because each soft synth needs to be able to generate sounds in real time, and with multiple synths, multiple effects (EQ, compression, delay, etc.), not to mention vocal tracks which also need to be processed. An average song can easily have 10 simultaneous instruments along with 10 simultaneous vocal tracks (backgrounds, harmony tracks, lead tracks, etc.).

Certain manufacturers (TC electronics, EMU) have hardware DSPs to offload the processing, and although their internal cards are currently PCI, I’m sure they will consider PCI-Express in the future.

Considering what motherboard I should purchase (SLI vs Standard), my question to you is, can I run a hardware DSP in a PCI Express (x16) slot which is connected off the MCH (such as the second SLI supported x16 slot on SLI boards)? Are these slots dedicated for Video only? If I run the DSP card in an x4 slot or an x1 slot, will the bandwidth between the ICH (where the x1 slots connect) and the MCH be enough to handle the I/O requirements of a hardware DSP (keeping in mind that this DSP will generate lots of traffic to it AND from it)?? Thanks for the time and I look forward to your responses.

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  1. So far as I know... a PCI Express card will only run in the slot it was designed for; IE a x1 card will only run in a x1 slot, a x8 card will only run in a x8 slot, etc.

    Even if I'm not quite right about the above, the x1 card would not suddenly work at x16 just because you put it in a x16 slot... it would still be limited to x1 because of the physical connection.

    <font color=red> If you design software that is fool-proof, only a fool will want to use it. </font color=red>
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