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SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

For anything relating to music-making on Windows computers, with lots of FAQs. Moderated by Martin Walker.

Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby ZombieSlugs » Wed Nov 23, 2005 9:45 pm

I probably skewed the results a tad (lol), I rarely have more than 8-10 tracks as much more than that results in an aural mush, at least to me... but each usually has 1 synth + 1 or 2 effects, not to mention the effects I throw across the stereo outs...

My Western Digital audio drive copes just fine with frozen tracks, when I do have to freeze, which is actually fairly rarely even with my 3GHz. P4.

It's interesting to see what other folks are doing, good poll! 8-)
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Smithee » Thu Nov 24, 2005 1:23 am

Martin Walker wrote:
Smithee - thanks for your format clarification. Tell me - what audible improvements have you noticed after moving your softsynths to 88.2kHz and 176.4kHz, or are they primarily a choice dictated by the end format?

Well it's a funny thing really. I did some informal tests using my own equipment whe choosing an audio interface (RME Fireface in the end) and on certain material really high sample rates (176.4, 192) did sound better than the equivalent 44.1 recording. I'm with Robin Bigwood and what he said in the MOTU Traveler review in that the difference wasn't quite what I was expecting and the improvements were subtle at best. However the reason I use the high rates isn't dictated by perceived increases in quality, but rather what the end format dictates. I've been messing around with DVD Audio and SACD and as such have been using 176/196 and DSD more than I used to.

Martin Walker wrote:And did that 80-track peak result from lots of foley (FX) tracks on that film project, or were they all music?

The music side, although quite involved only came (!) to about 25 ish tracks. The rest was foley, voice overs etc... There was one part with lots of different voices swirling around (in a sort of sixth sense horror way) and that alone took over half a dozen tracks. I would imagine it was less taxing on my system than 80 tracks of archestral arrangement would have been, but I was pleasantly suprised at how well the system coped.
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:05 pm

This is all very interesting stuff 8-)

Now, with 75 votes cast, 10 to 30 audio tracks seems to be becoming the favourite song size, with under 7% of our voters running more than 30 tracks, and 80% of use are only running 1 or 2 plugins (and occasionally 3 or 4).

I'm still surprised that so few softsampler instruments are being run, but perhaps as a Gigastudio user I'm skewed on that one. Softsynths are still the biggest variable, and as I said earlier I suspect this has something to do with the amount of CPU wehavve available - I know I'd probably run more if I had a more powerful PC.

all_on_black - it's difficult for me to come up with a 'basic spec' for the various choices, since as we've seen, a single hard drive can run as many audio tracks as most of us want, and softsynths are the biggest variable. For instance, I've just reviewed Korg's 'Legacy Collection - Digital Edition' for SOS, and managed about 64 voices of its M1 softsynth for just 25% of my own Pentium 4 2.8GHz processor. However, I also love the AAS String Studio, and its physically modelled engine typically took 30% of the same processor for just four voices. See the problem?

Guy - I didn't deliberately exclude Mac users by posting my poll in the PC Music forum, but was particularly interested in PC ones as research for future PC Musician features, to get a handle on what most of them were trying to achieve.

TheWoolyLoach- don't worry about skewing the results. Just be honest ;) I often have less than ten tracks in total for the same reasons, but remember that some people may have half a dozen devoted just to individual drums (so they can apply different plugin effects to each one).

Smithee - I rather suspected that your high sample rate choice was more dictated by the final format than by audio quality, but it's ironic that some of us are starting to 'fit the format' rather than choosing sample rates by highest audio quality. I can often hear subtle audio improvements at 88.2kHz and above, but haven't yet heard any sufficiently large over 44.1kHz to persuade me to halve the number of plugins and softsynths I can run.

As for your huge track count, I also suspected that foley work was to blame. perhaps we haven't got any large-scale orchestral composers in this survey yet, but again I suspect that some may layer three or four similar instruments of a particular genre for added richness or realism, rather than having a huge number of individual lines of music. And again, orchestral drums and percussion may account for a lot of separate tracks that may not contain a lot of 'notes'.

Keep up the good work everyone, and thanks for the feedback :bouncy:


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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Power of Nip » Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:31 pm

Yeah, proteusX can be cpu heavy so I tend to bounce some of the midi parts when it gets a bit jittery thus up goes the track count.

I wonder if there is an equation for that?

:roll:
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Nov 25, 2005 3:39 pm

Yes, the simplest equation is:

Slow CPU :frown: + Several Softsynths 8-) = 1 Frustrated Musician :protest:


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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Power of Nip » Fri Nov 25, 2005 3:45 pm

:bouncy:
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby JSB » Fri Nov 25, 2005 9:14 pm

so ,believe it or not, most musicians here could probably get away with a typical 5400rpm laptop drive

I still use a 4200rpm drive!!! But I'd be lying if I said it was without it's problems :D I get around the softsynth issue by doing all the sequencing in FL Studio Producer and then converting everything to .wavs which I then mix in Acid 4 where I also add the vox and guitars. Obviously this gives me quite a few tracks as I'm doing Latino-like stuff with loads of shakers and guiros and other percussion and I often have to do sub-mixes and then mix them together. My hard disc IS a pain on that score. But the point I would like to make is this... the finished result is very good indeed and I have had professional music people ( a composer/producer for the BBC and another TV music bod!) comment on the finished result. They both said the same thing actually... they said they COULD get it slightly better but considering how it was done with the equipment available I should be proud of myself. The way I see it the quality is good enough for a publisher or a record company to get a good idea of everything. And I think I could play it on the radio as well - although I haven't done that yet!!!

I've made a pact with myself never to upgrade from what I have now unless it all blows up. I have a:

1.5Ghz Acer Centrino, 512Meg Ram, W2K
Edirol PCR 30
UA25
FL Studio Producer
Acid 4
Se2200a mic
FM7 softsynth
Moog Softsynth
And some other softsynths that I never use!
Loads of percussion, drum, bass samples.

I am really thinking of getting an external 7200 drive but I don't want the hassle of carrying it around. But I think I might admit defeat on that one as the benefits would be manifold. But I'm sure you will agree that it's a pretty minimalistic set-up. I don't read spec sheets anymore - I just listen to what comes out of the speakers ;)
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby John Willett » Mon Nov 28, 2005 11:49 am

Interesting but not the correct answer options.

For me:-

Q1 = 2
Q2 = 0
Q3 = 0
Q4 = 0

;)
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Nov 28, 2005 1:35 pm

Ah, good point John - I didn't cater for those exclusively recording real instruments or vocals on audio tracks.

But you're not running ANY plugins at all?

Not even a little corrective EQ?


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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby John Willett » Mon Nov 28, 2005 2:05 pm

Martin Walker wrote:But you're not running ANY plugins at all?

Not even a little corrective EQ?

No EQ at all - it's all done by mic. placement.
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby DePulse » Mon Nov 28, 2005 3:10 pm

So for the first time in history of computer music we actually have enough harddisk speed for the average user. We are also approaching enough computing power? (until we get "intelligent" computers that resembles HAL in 2001).

Martin, regarding computing power, are you planning to discuss dual-core processors in any of your columns?

It would be interesting to have real life test figures for these processors. The tests at Tom Hardware etc are giving some information but the gaming world is a bit different from the music needs (in theory around 185% the power of a single core processor, i.e. only a 15% loss).

We are actually more or less doubling the processing power for little extra cash (at least in case of the AMD64 X2 processors).

I went from a P3 550 to a AMD 2000 (not counting my AMD64 3000 laptop). To have the same increase again I would have needed a 7 GHz processor (which seems to be impossible without water cooling). But building a PC based on a AMD64 X2 3800 or 4200 would actually achieve (or excede) this.


Fantastic times we are living in :bouncy:
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Wease » Mon Nov 28, 2005 3:40 pm

Great topic and some top replies

I often record up to 16 "real channels (drums, bass etc)" and add some softsynths after....I don't really have any recording issues....the worst comes from mixing - where I find often have to set the latency down quite a bit to avoid any crackling/dropouts.
I suppose cause i like to run a separate EQ for each channel - with buss reverbs etc (then more EQ for them if needed) - It comes from my desire to emulate a "proper" big audio desk I suppose - with EQ on every channel.

So - the actual recording is usualy fine - I run out of CPU when mixing...which incidently is when I'm usually using the most plugins per track - a compressor/eq/bit o verb and 1 extra can lead to 80 plugins per song(never done this yet - but one day)!

I do find that by actually converting my softsynth midi tracks to audio I can usually mix a lot easier...not only does the latency stay higher, but i don't get excessive screen drag and other associated display issues

My system? - an AMD 2.8 on asus board with a maxtor 80gig hard drive and 1 gig ram running an RME 9652 wth cubase sx and some fairly modest plugins. - so it's getting on a bit - but still does quite well thanks all the same.

I suppose i should really invest in a powercore - looks like this would solve any mixing issues I have as regard high CPU use. - and from what I've heard - they got some mighty fine comps and EQ's!
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby DrBob » Mon Nov 28, 2005 5:14 pm

I'm recording at 44.1/24. Typically, when recording a pop/rock band, I'd have 12 to 15 tracks recorded at once when we do the basic tracking (drums + bass and draft guitar+vocals).
For the plugins, I tend to be quite "generous", because the UAD-1 and the Powercore get the load from the CPU.
The final song has typically 20 to 30 tracks, but generally some of them have just small chunks of audio on them, so it's probably more like 15 to 20 tracks together at any given time.
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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Nov 29, 2005 12:21 pm

105 votes now - and apart from John Willett's (all audio+no plugins+no softsynths+no softsamplers - anyone else with this scenario please assume you're running one of each so you can vote ;)) we still seem to be staying on track with the greatest number of people running 10 to 30 audio tracks, mostly 1 or 2, but occasionally 3 or 4 plugins per track, one to four softsampler instruments, with the greatest variation in the softsynth section, where most of us run anywhere between 0 and 8, again I suspect partly due in many cases due to the amount of CPU available.

Please keep those votes coming in.


John - ooh you clever person you ;)

DePulse - I've discussed dual-core processing in general in PC Notes January 2005 and PC Musician July 2005, but what I think you're really after are some practical tests of a dual-core PC. If I'm right, you'll be pleased to hear that I've reviewed a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 PC for the next (January 2006) issue of SOS, out on Thursday 15th December.

Wease - yes, this has turned into a good topic hasn't it? Your EQs shouldn't take much CPU (unless you're using exotic ones that it), but I suspect that the UAD-1 may be even better for your DSP requirements, as its compressors are renowned. However, the Powercore is renowned for its EQs and reverbs, so perhaps we all need one or more of each :beamup:

DrBob - it's a shame then that your 20 to 30 tracks are all consuming plugin resources all the time, even if only 15 to 20 tracks are sounding at any time. Samplitude lets you apply plugins to individual parts, so they only consume CPU when that part is actually playing.


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Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby DePulse » Tue Nov 29, 2005 2:08 pm

Martin Walker wrote:DePulse - I've discussed dual-core processing in general in PC Notes January 2005 and PC Musician July 2005, but what I think you're really after are some practical tests of a dual-core PC. If I'm right, you'll be pleased to hear that I've reviewed a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 PC for the next (January 2006) issue of SOS, out on Thursday 15th December.

Martin


Martin, sounds interesting, another 15 days of waiting...

Do you or anyone else have any idea if the 512 kb extra cache of The AMD64 X2 4400 give it any more DAW performance compared to the 4200?

How well does Cubase (and Windows XP) scale for multiple processors? With the Opterons available and a suitable 4 processor server motherboard it would in theory be possible to have 8 cores running at the same time. A well multithreaded (web)server etc can use all this power, but would it be feasable and worth the investment also for Cubase etc?

Five years ago I tested at work an 8-way server (costing 50000 euros) under Windows 2000 and it didn't perform better than a comparable 4-way server, much to the frustation to both Microsoft and the hardware supplier that had to take it back. Computing performance is not linear with multiprocessor systems, but at least with the dual-core the overhead seems to be manageable.
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