Benchmark Results: Digital Audio Workstation
We used two different Digital Audio Workstation tests. First, we used DAWBench, which is about as close to an industry standard test for the DAW market as there is. Secondly, we used a ‘score’ piece written just for our purposes. Both tests are performed under REAPER. The system is equipped with a Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium PCIe card. But because Creative Labs disables their ASIO drivers under 64-bit versions of Windows, we had to use the ASIO4All drivers instead.
DAWBench is a DAW-oriented metric that tests the digital signal processing ability of the system when playing back audio on your workstation in real-time. The test is run at various latency settings (set by the number of samples). The DSP ability of a DAW system in real time is critical when working in your DAW, as you can run out of processing power. It works by applying multiple copies of a multiband compressor (specifically, Wave Arts MultiDynamics 5) to audio tracks within the software during playback until the system cannot keep up with the workload. This usually means the audio playback starts breaking up. The ‘measure’ of the test is how many copies of the compressor are applied before audio breakup occurs, and the “Samples” is ASIO latency, in samples.
DAWBench shows almost a 71% improvement across the board from Hyper-Threading. Higher latency settings benefit less from Hyper-Threading, possibly showing that the system is encountering another limitation like cache size or memory access times. A professional audio card with ASIO drivers native to it (as opposed to using ASIO4All running on top of the Creative drivers) would likely improve the performance of the system in this test.
Tom’s Score Test
This benchmark employs a piece of music consisting of two audio tracks (percussion), plus multiple tracks of software synthesizers (brass, strings, pads) and choral vocals. Reverb, compression, and equalization are applied to the tracks separately.
This test, like the 3D tests, was designed as more of a ‘real workload’ test instead of something synthetic. The results indicate how long it takes to mix the piece down to a stereo 24-bit WAV file at the highest quality settings. Two different sample rates are used in the test: CD-quality 44.1 KHz, and the highest sample rate of 192 KHz.
Like DAWBench, the score test also benefits drastically from Hyper-Threading. The audio driver issue that affects DAWBench is not likely to affect this test, as it runs purely on the CPU.
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So JF was right to say that HT should be disabled in some scenariosReply
hmm ... I wonder if you could make a D3D/OGL comparison test in some 3D modeling software ? I don't actualy know if any of them supports both APIs.Reply
BTW you dual PCIex16 comment is wrong. There were dual PCIex16 slots in HP workstations since xwX400 models (6400,8400,9400).
Some of the other models have dual x16 slots... but they are rare in baseline models. At some point we'll look at how well an SLI config works in workstation OpenGL tests.Reply
3dsMax uses Direct3D (and OpenGL), but prefers Direct3D (it is 'recommended' by Autodesk on my GTX 460-equipped primary machine...), but Maya does not, it requires OpenGL.
As for whether HT should be disabled? Still questionable. If you're doing animation, and have HT off, you'll gain some interactivity when working, but as soon as you need a test render you'll be losing time. If your 3D application does multithreaded interactiivty tasks, then you're better off with HT on- for instance, the VPR interactive shading mode in Lightwave 10. Its largely dependent on how your software responds to what, and hopefully we'll have more answers on that with the next workstation we look at.
Nice cable managment...Reply
It came that way! The other models in the z-series have better cable management even, specially with the shrouds.Reply
2GB Ram - Not even close to be considered a usable workstation. - Nevermind, I messed up. I didn't see the (x3)
250GB main/2TB raid 0 - raid 0 setups in workstations are used for scratch disks, and thats it - storage is too risky. 2x 250GB in raid 0 makes much more sense cost wise as you'll never use more than 500GB on a scratch disk, with a 1TB for temporary storage. I say temporary because a workstation is just that, once the work is done (and during) it's backed up and rarely used again.
Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium PCIe - Any Audio professional needing sound quality is going to be using almost exclusively external hardware. The analog outputs all anyone else is going to need.
Who ever chose the specs for this machine needs to be shot.
This was an interesting review, but the real machine to test would have been the dual-processor Z800. The big advantages of a workstation are better reliability and stability than a standard desktop and the ability to use multiple processors and more RAM than a typical desktop. Perhaps a Z400 vs. Z800 test would have been interesting as there were a mix of poorly-threaded and well-threaded applications in the test.Reply
This machine is pathetic. Any decently configured OC'ed quadcore i7 will run circles around this thing, ugh.Reply
It was agreed to start with a z400... the workstation tests were actually developed on this machine, hence why it has a Gen 1 board. Mayhap we'll look at a z800 later.Reply
Most video editors use a RAID array for their video files unless they are just editing DV. HD footage shot on a decent quality camera would quickly overwhelm your proposed 500GB array- the raw P2 footage alone for my film project was 350 GB, and that's before the scratch files generated for color correction and transition renders- and the P2 footage is pretty strongly compressed for semi-pro camera footage. (40 Mb/s) If you're editing uncompressed 1080 HD, you're dealing with 124 MB per second of video. With a larger array, a system like this could be set up for editing uncompressed HD with the simple addition of a BlackMagic Decklink in one of its HD flavors, or the HD version of the Avid Mojo if you prefer to work in something like Media Composer. With the transition of TV to HD, more and more projects are being finished for HD in an attempt to future-proof them- which has actually been going on for about five years before the transition. If you want to see something truly horrible, look at the data rates required for 2k or 4k playback...
HP doesn't sell their machine configured with any kind of professional audio interfaces. They submit their machines for certification by Avid, and the 'full' Pro Tools (Pro Tools HD) comes from Avid on a z800.The audio interface choice for the system was either the Creative card, or the onboard RealTek codec, because that's what HP had and could configure a system with.
You'll find a surprising number (like, most) audio guys including musicians these days working with a mix of software and hardware, and the mixing is done on a computer, not on external hardware. There are audio interfaces with two, four, six, eight and more inputs... my personal music workstation has eight analog inputs, plus ADAT and S/PDIF in. (Note, I need more like twice that in inputs.) You need all these input to capture multiple instruments on completely independent tracks simultaneously , so that they can be given separate effects and the mix can be adjusted on each track. (That's right, you can capture all those tracks at the same time.) Some of these audio interfaces are an internal card , some are an internal card plus an external breakout box (M-Audio Delta series, MOTU 2408, etc), and most are USB or firewire external (Presonus, TASCAM, Echo, Digidesign, Focusrite, et al) boxes with all the hardware located within it. In addition, many have PCI or PCIe DSP accelerator cards from UAD or TC electronic for effects processing and synthesis.
The big advantages of a workstation are better reliability and stability than a standard desktop
I'm not sure I understand this. A machine built with the best enthusiast-class hardware should be basically 100% reliable. The most unreliable part is the hard drive. This machine uses Seagate hard drives, probably the most unreliable brand of drives. This machine also uses an HP motherboard, and HP is below average in reliability in their retail products. Should we expect the workstation components to be better? As for stability, it's using the same OS that everybody else has access to.
All of our CAD machines here use i5/750 CPU's, aftermarket coolers, 8GB, Gigabyte motherboards, a Velociraptor or SSD for the boot drive, a WD Black for the storage drive, ATI FireGL video cards, Win7 Pro 64bit. The machines run at 3.5GHz 24/7 with no problems. I add 2 cooling fans to each case and that in conjunction with the aftermarket cooler keeps things running real cool.