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Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby altruistica » Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:03 am

I have a HP Z800 PC which I use with Presonus Studio One 4 Professional and a Presonus Studiolive Series 3 32 channel desk. The CPU has dual Xeon X5560 @2.80GHz. The installed RAM is 64Gb, running Windows 10 Pro, version 1909. I also have Cubase 10 and Dorico 3. I also have fitted an NVIDIA NVS 510 video card that allws me to run 4 ASUS Monitors, two over the Nektar Panorama P6 keyboard for programming and two above the Studiolive console for mixing.

Like most guys doing music, I am a trained musician, but not had any formal training in building PCs or electrical. All this has been self-taught. About mid-way last year, I tore the whole system down, because I could hear pops and clicks creeping into the sound, but was damned if I could find out why. I then went back to what I know, an analogue desk and hard disk recorders. But I want to record an album of my wife singing classical stuff, so I've dug the whole lot back out to have another go. I only have a couple of libraries, NI Komplete 11 with the upgrade of Symphony Series and Fluffy Audio's 'Dominus' choir. With these, I am pretty sure I have all I need to get the thing recorded. I have over the years had lots of PCs (still have 3 Acer Z5610, a Lenovo i5 ). I never made the move to Mac, but I'm wondering if that is the root of my problems ie. things that just don't perform together well.

What seems to happen fairly frequently, is that I'll start off a track and it will begin to sound pretty good. I may then record some live stuff and somewhere along the way, I'll notice either a pop, or something sounding distorted or something else that rarely happened when dealing with hardware pieces of gear. Then I'll spend an inordinate length of time back-tracking to try and find out where it went wrong.

Since the last time I used the setup, Nektar released a template for Studio One 4 which allows you to control things from the keyboard. Along with a few templates that I've created for NI Symphony Series, I can use the sliders for expression / volume /attack / release etc and also buttons to switch articulations (using notes outside instrument ranges C-1 etc). This has worked well for programming but I'm still sure either my 'install' is incorrect or things are not playing with each other nicely. For example, my latest track takes a long time to open up (maybe more than 7-9 minutes). Studio One doesn't shut down correctly (I have to 'Task Manager' to close it down. I have unplugged all internet from this PC (although there is still an ethernet connection direct to the Studiolive console in order for 'DAW' mode to work on the console.

My question (and I'm sorry it's taken so long to get here) is:

Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my problems?

If not, what would solve my problems?

For examples of things I'm trying to achieve, here is the track I mentioned above. We're going to record the vox again (my wife was tired at the time) and try recording it in stereo and maybe dispensing with the 'Air' reverb plug-in.

https://soundcloud.com/altruistica/ave- ... 20-04-2020

Thanks for any advice. Al
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby Pete Kaine » Tue Apr 21, 2020 3:25 pm

altruistica wrote:I'm wondering if that is the root of my problems ie. things that just don't perform together well.

Checking your spec I think you're underpowered for what you wish to achieve.

altruistica wrote:What seems to happen fairly frequently, is that I'll start off a track and it will begin to sound pretty good. I may then record some live stuff and somewhere along the way, I'll notice either a pop, or something sounding distorted or something else that rarely happened when dealing with hardware pieces of gear. Then I'll spend an inordinate length of time back-tracking to try and find out where it went wrong.

That to me sounds like the drivers etc... are working well together, so given it happens underload it sent me to check the CPU specs.

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cp ... Hz&id=1301

A 3000 score is incredibly low these days, even a pair of those working together would still only equate to a low-end laptop.

For comparison, the 9900k in the midrange has a score around 20,000 and higher up the 3950X is closer to 40,000. These are consumer range, single-chip solutions.

You can check to see if you're running out of power, hit open up a project that is crackling, hit "control + alt + delete" and select "task manager" followed by the "performance" tab.
Right click on the CPU graph, select "logical processors" and now it'll tell you what each core is doing. I'm expecting to see at least one of them redlining when it crackles.

Another problem to note with dual chip systems that you might be seeing here is that they have additional internal latency that can be tricky to deal with. The CPU holds your data in memory before processing and physically they design it so that the nearest slot services the nearest core. This helps keep the latency down and ensures everything goes smoothly.

The problem comes when you run out of space locally to a given core and it passes any extra data to another memory controller which if it's found on the other CPU half-way across the board, well, this introduces physical latency to the process as they swap data.

The sound cards work with the ASIO buffer to pass data to the CPU's X amounts of times a second. If data isn't processed quickly enough it's thrown away (what you hear as crackles in the recording), so if you add physical latency to the process that data isn't going to be processed in a timely fashion.

Depending on the buffer sizes you use, I tend to advise that I would expect to lose 20% or even more of the advised overall available performance at low buffers on this sort of setup. Raising the buffer time helps to solve this, but of course, at the cost of input latency whilst you're playing.

Back to the original question, picking up any modern single CPU arrangement is going to offer you a stack more performance and stop you banging you're head against the current system pitfalls.

However, the imac you're looking at is a 2012 model (going off the GPU part of the spec) and looks to be using the 3770 CPU which pulls 6500 in the same benchmark I mentioned before. Given that your current setup is pulling 5750ish I would say that was more of a sidegrade (although it would solve the dual-core balance concerns) and that you would be better looking at something from the last couple of years if you want to make sure you have the overhead there it sounds like you need.
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby altruistica » Tue Apr 21, 2020 7:46 pm

Many, many thanks Pete.
I have 64Gb RAM which I thought would help the situation.
Is that a waste of RAM then on this HP Z800?
I think the manual says the Z800 will take 192Gb RAM.
What would be the point of this much if the computer couldn't compute?
Could I perhaps upgrade the dual processors on this motherboard to a single one, or are we talking new motherboard and CPU?
Thanks for the reply so far.
Al
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby Pete Kaine » Wed Apr 22, 2020 11:17 am

altruistica wrote:I have 64Gb RAM which I thought would help the situation.
Is that a waste of RAM then on this HP Z800?

Depends if you're using it or not.

The RAM is a data cache in the middle that holds data for the CPU as well as holding data from your storage drives. Drives are slow, so the data needs to be held ready and waiting for when it's wanted for processing.

As noted before the timing is critical and it has to be made available fast enough to be able to fulfil every request the CPU makes to it in a timely fashion.

When you set up a sampler (Kontakt for instance) you can adjust the pre-load in order to put more of it in RAM and reduce the strain on the storage drive, which is great as it allows you to then leverage the extra saved bandwidth to stream even more tracks from the drive.

That's only one direction however and this works both ways. The CPU itself is also storing data in the same RAM, which means if we run out of RAM for any reason the CPU will then start having to dump it to the storage drive instead which slows everything right down and will cause the audio to underrun and drop out.

So, the key is having enough RAM, having excess RAM will not help speed things up as the ASIO buffer and CPU are our fixed points and everything else feeding into it storage wise has to be simply fast enough.

altruistica wrote:I think the manual says the Z800 will take 192Gb RAM.
What would be the point of this much if the computer couldn't compute?

It's scenario-specific and the ASIO handling method is unique to audio users, video guys for instance (they also use buckets of RAM) do offline rendering, so the system handles it as and when. It's only us guys who are this demanding!

The real answer here is that we as a user base tend to use Xeon's for a task they were never designed for. These are machines for running fortune 500 company internal e-mail services where you keep 3 - 5 years worth of user messages available 24/7. We're talking the ability to cache huge databases worth of data and have it available to 1000's of people simultaneously, this takes both RAW performance and insane amounts of storage to be able to maintain and is pretty much exactly what these setups are designed for.

Another note with the current machines, the top end consumer systems can handle up to 256GB of RAM and even most of the more humble ones can do 128GB without issue. Most people are getting nowhere near that, but the workstation market that services video and audio production users have been one of the few segments where it's been well leveraged by those who've needed it.

I even had clients on similar machines to yours back when these came out running 80GB+ templates for orchestral scoring for film who eventually maxed out the RAM over the years. They were a rare breed of user through as it's very usage scenario specific.

altruistica wrote:Could I perhaps upgrade the dual processors on this motherboard to a single one, or are we talking new motherboard and CPU?

We're probably talking more than that I'm afraid. Performance within a generation didn't generally tend to have that much variance back then. The highest chip in that generation range looks to be the 5590X with a 3500 benchmark.
There were a few next-generation chips that might work on that board, but I wouldn't expect any of them to break a 5000 benchmark score.

Ok, I feel I should probably explain a bit more background here, because it feels like your shopping on clock speed just being faster, without a deeper understanding of the differences this involves.

Each generation of chip has what we call IPC improvements, normally we expect to see about 15% each generation, although sometimes it's a bit higher than that with each generation change coming about every 12 - 18 months.

Talking in Intel range terms, where the world reset in 2009.

You're on a 2nd gen enterprise chip with your Xeons.
The iMac was a fourth gen consumer.
We're currently on the 10th gen chip cycle for both consumer and enterprise.

What that means in real terms.

LIke the imac you might see a chip rated to 3.8GHz and have 4 cores from 2012
You might see another chip rated to 3.8GHz and have 4 cores in 2020.

the second chip in this instance is probably going to have in excess of double the IPC score and so in real terms will be easily twice as powerful, even though the clock speed and core count on paper is exactly the same.

Now consider that for the price of that new chip in 2012, you can probably get a chip now that has 16 cores at 4.2Ghz.

This is why our current scores are so much higher than the model you have there. The IPC is far higher, the core count is far higher and even the clock speed has jumped up to some degree.

If you keep looking around at the 4th gen machines, you will remain stuck in the same overall performance bracket. You might be able to get replacement chips off eBay for your current setup, but that is likely to only give you anther 15%-20% at best.

If you wanted to remain second hand, then you need a generation change really. X79/X99 (7th/8th gen) would more than likely be a fairly substantial boost to around 9000/10,000 in the benchmarks for a system that probably wouldn't turn up for not much more than £400 or so these days. If you went new, you could probably build something new with 15,000 marks for about £1000 without much compromise.

Also worth mentioning is that the components in the current setup will be long past their rated life spans. I would at the very least upgrade the PSU during any component change and start to rotate out any storage more than 5 years myself at this point.
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby altruistica » Wed Apr 22, 2020 2:44 pm

Wow Pete.
Thanks for all that. That was a fast track 10 mins training session on how old my PC really is. Because the last few years have gone so quickly, I think I picked this PC up about three years ago from Ebay, after needing more RAM. It was around £500 so maybe I should have done more research and picked up something newer.

I feel a bit of an idiot now, because after you told me how to get to the 'performance' tab, I've figured out where the crackling is coming from. In order to make this PC run faster, I'd fitted an SSD (a 500Gb Crucial) just after getting it. It came with two 2Tb hard drives and I used Macrium to clone the system to the SSD. This worked well so I thought why not get another SSD (I got a 1Tb in the same model range as the 500Gb). I then cloned the system to this SSD and things went well with two SSD and two 2Tb drives. The SSD had the sample libraries on them and the 2Tb drives were used for song storage. Things worked well, but occasionally the 1Tb SSD would not boot up. It sometimes required a few attempts until the BIOS saw the drive. No amount of searching for a new BIOS ever solved this problem (although I do seem to remember finding a thread where someone had solved it, but it was above my head in trying to follow it.).

So (and this is the part I've just remembered following your 'performance' suggestion) , I removed the SSD and put the hard drive back. No problem now in booting up, but I'd also moved the NI library back to the drive, which was now partitioned 1Tb as system, 1 Tb as hard drive continaining the NI sample library. When I checked the 'performance' tab I could see spikes all over the system drive, not surprising with 50 Kontakt instruments open and five or six tracks recorded to the system drive.

So, I think for now, I'm going to try and get the system onto the 500Gb SSD, as that SSD for someone reason was always found by the BIOS. I'll put the NI library and other sample libraries onto the 1Tb drive. I think they'll all go, and go back to having the hard drives as song storage.

Many, many thanks for your help with this.

Are you in Manchester BTW?

If so, I owe you a pint when all this lockdown business is over.
Cheers,
Al
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby MOF » Wed Apr 22, 2020 3:10 pm

As a temporary measure during this lockdown, does Cubase have a ‘freeze’ function?
I used an iMac 2009 until I upgraded in 2018 which is probably similar to the iMac you mentioned.
Freezing and unfreezing to make changes and then refreezing was driving me mad, hence the upgrade, but it was a solution to the noises you’re experiencing.
If it doesn’t have a freeze function then you could switch off all but one of your virtual instruments and bounce each one in turn and use those audio files instead, like one big multitrack.
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby altruistica » Wed Apr 22, 2020 11:30 pm

Thanks MOF for the reply.

I'm just finishing rebuilding the PC. The system is now on the 500Gb SSD that always boots well (touch wood). I'm going to put the libraries on the 1Tb SSD. I also have a couple of 250Gb SSD that I'm going to use for DATA (Project saves and WAV files) so I think I should be sorted now .....hopefully.
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Apr 23, 2020 11:55 am

altruistica wrote:So (and this is the part I've just remembered following your 'performance' suggestion) , I removed the SSD and put the hard drive back. No problem now in booting up, but I'd also moved the NI library back to the drive, which was now partitioned 1Tb as system, 1 Tb as hard drive continaining the NI sample library. When I checked the 'performance' tab I could see spikes all over the system drive, not surprising with 50 Kontakt instruments open and five or six tracks recorded to the system drive.

So, I think for now, I'm going to try and get the system onto the 500Gb SSD, as that SSD for someone reason was always found by the BIOS. I'll put the NI library and other sample libraries onto the 1Tb drive. I think they'll all go, and go back to having the hard drives as song storage.

Well spotted. Something else worth checking is that I suspect you'll be limited to SATA 2 connector on that board. If so, you'll be running the SSD's at half speed, another stop gap solution then might be dropping in a basic SATA 3 card to speed up the SSD's.

altruistica wrote:Are you in Manchester BTW?

Indeed so and one day we may see a pub reopen, we live in hope!
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby altruistica » Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:10 pm

Well I got the OS onto the 500Gb eventually! I tried using the 1Tb SSD in the 2nd SATA slot (there are 4 slots) but it then led to the 500Gb not being recognised and it not booting. I think this is where some guys have done something clever to the BIOS but that's beyond me.
So I removed the 1Tb drive. Last year when I went back to the Hard Drive install, I had 4 SSDs doing nothing so I had an old external HD case knocking around. I bought a 4-way USB3 hub and 4 SATA to USB cables and housed the lot in the case. I already had a USB3 PCI card fitted to PC, so I used this external SSD enclosure to house the samples and song data. I was going to use this to transfer work between the laptop and the studio PC. So I've now got the 1Tb SSD with the three libraries on it (about 650Gb), and two 250Gb SSD with data. These are all going via the USB3 hub into the USB3 PCI card. I presume this is not the best way! Would a SATA3 PCI card that can take the SSD directly be faster and a better way?

I'm just on the last leg of the reinstall, as for some bizarre reason, although I have Kontakt 5 version 5.8.1 showing on the PC, Presonus Studio One 4 (latest) is recognising it as 5.7.3 and with that version, my Dominus Choir library won't load in as it says the version is too old.
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Apr 23, 2020 4:37 pm

altruistica wrote:I bought a 4-way USB3 hub and 4 SATA to USB cables and housed the lot in the case. I already had a USB3 PCI card fitted to PC, so I used this external SSD enclosure to house the samples and song data.

These are all going via the USB3 hub into the USB3 PCI card. I presume this is not the best way! Would a SATA3 PCI card that can take the SSD directly be faster and a better way?

That depends on the card in question and the hub in question. A direct unshared USB 3 connection gives you slightly more bandwidth to play with that SATA3 so it's viable in theory.

The card I'm guessing has a few different outputs? I would expect each of those outputs to handle the normal 640 MB/s (in theory, probably less for overhead) so on paper you would be able to connect a single SATA SSD to a dedicated port and it'll run at full tilt.

SATA is about 600MB/s in theory too ( 550MB/s on the best drives normally), so 1 drive should be able to pretty much saturate that one USB connection.

So, the question is how is the hub connected. I'm assuming that it's a single USB 3 cable to a single USB 3 socket on the card?

If so, then all the ports on the hub will have to share that same amount of bandwidth going over that cable.

If all the drives were to be used concurrently, it would put you around the same speed as an old mechanical HDD on each one. If you're splitting your library load over these, I can see why that might also cause it to bottleneck as you load up more and more instruments.

The SATA cards will give each drive connected it's own dedicated full bandwidth, so they would all get 550 each to use.
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby altruistica » Thu Apr 23, 2020 7:21 pm

Yes Pete,
All three SSD connect to the hub, which has a connecting lead into the PCI card. The good news though, is that the samples are all on the same 1Tb drive. The other 250Gb drives are for data, such as stored projects, wav exports etc. They wouldn't normally be in use once a project has say loaded.
I've managed to rebuild the PC and Studio One and got the project up and running with no problems. I've only run it once and then decided to clone the system drive now everything is installed. I'll use Task Manager to keep an eye on how things run. My orchestral template is about 25Gb fully loaded with Dominus and a pit band. These should suffice for this next project. Many thanks for all the advice.
Al
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby altruistica » Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:42 pm

I've managed to get everything playing nicely now. Kontakt was giving me problems but is now ok. Knowing I can interrogate what's going on with the 'Task Manager' is going to be hugely helpful. Everything now is playing nicely, but with 22Gb RAM loaded in my template (I have a theoretical 64Gb available) I can see I might need to re-think this. I loaded one Kontakt version per instrument as this allowed me to use the Nektar P6 better. There may be a different workaround. I'm just experimenting now with Dorico and expression maps to see how they might tie in with Studio One. I have Notion 6 (Presonus software) which has a neat 'flip' facility to send midi data back and forth between Studio One, but the package itself is not as deep as Dorico. Anyway, after 33 years, I finally recorded the Ave Maria I wrote so long ago for our weeding. Here it is. You helped me get the PC and the project finished.
Thanks Pete.
All the best Al
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkaLgtF ... e=youtu.be
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Re: Would buying an iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Quad Core i7 | 32GB | 1TB | GeForce GTX 675MX 1024MB solve all my p

Postby Pete Kaine » Tue Apr 28, 2020 9:57 am

Glad you've managed to get it all playing nicely and sounds like your better placed to keep it ticking over for the time being. Always great to hear someone getting the results they wanted finally too, even more so when it's a long-standing personal project. A happy ending all round.
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