You are here

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 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:
DePulse
Regular
Posts: 113
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Europe
TritonExtrMOSS/EX800, NordRack2, ATC1, D550/XV5080/MKS70/MKS7/MKS50/MKS80/S550/JP8080/Ju60/JD990, Blofeld, Mopho, TG77/An1X, ESQM, Emax, Esynth, AkaiS5k/MPC1k, Indigo2, Rogue, Machinedrum, ProOne

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!
User avatar
Wease
Frequent Poster
Posts: 819
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Sunny Walsall

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.
User avatar
DrBob
Poster
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 1:00 am
Location: Belgium

dB Studio - recording, mixing, transfer
www.dBStudio-Liege.net


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.


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 15565
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

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.
DePulse
Regular
Posts: 113
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Europe
TritonExtrMOSS/EX800, NordRack2, ATC1, D550/XV5080/MKS70/MKS7/MKS50/MKS80/S550/JP8080/Ju60/JD990, Blofeld, Mopho, TG77/An1X, ESQM, Emax, Esynth, AkaiS5k/MPC1k, Indigo2, Rogue, Machinedrum, ProOne

Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Nov 29, 2005 2:21 pm

I haven't yet done any personal tests on this (the CPU in the review machine as a 4800+ with 1MB cache), but I get the impression that the cache size wouldn't make much practical difference with music applications. The only possible exception is if you're running a lot of reverb plugins that can 're-use' more cache data, although I'm nto usre even in that situation that it would make much difference.

As for Cubase, SX 3.1 has improved multi-processor support for more than two processor cores, but I don't know of anyone who has run eight cores simultaneously so far.


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 15565
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby marsnic » Tue Nov 29, 2005 3:41 pm

Martin Walker wrote:

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

Keep those results coming!


Martin

Yep!! It's phenominal what is possible on a laptop now.
User avatar
marsnic
Regular
Posts: 276
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Southborough, Kent UK

Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Sam Handwich » Wed Nov 30, 2005 7:10 pm

Maybe it's because I'm rubbish at finishing anything (or just rubbish), but my typical song doesn't have any audio at all committed to disk, 12 softsynths, and 2 soft samplers, all with 1 or 2 inserts, and 7 effects buses(delay and reverb). Very few, if any, effects are native (Logic Gold) - almost all are Powercore.

So more CPU power for me, please (3.0ghz P4 at 12ms latency).

Look forward to that review, Martin.

SH
Sam Handwich
Poster
Posts: 17
Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2004 1:00 am
Location: Actually, quite close by

This message was sent from my I and I-phone, an' t'ing.


Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Scramble » Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:13 pm

This year I finished my novelty masterpiece and it had over 330 tracks.

(Windows computer, 2.4Gb Pentium CPU, Cubase SX 2, 1 Gb RAM, two fast hard drives -- forget which ones now -- I think their speed was 7200. Recording at 44.1kHz and 24 bit (I think, or was it 32?).)

The system was certainly straining -- the display was often behind the music, for example, and most processes would take a long time to execute -- but it always played back perfectly. I don't think it could have taken much more, though.

Disclaimers:
1. No soft synths were used.
2. Almost all FX were done using a separate DSP card (the UAD-1). I think I used an SIR reverb at one stage, but I probably froze it.
3. Most tracks were short, and I probably had no more than 50-75 going at any one time.

The reason I had so many tracks is because rather than, for example, setting up a separate volume automation track for synth part X in order to control the various volume changes that occurred during the song from one section to the next, I found it easier to split this keyboard part up into different tracks, with a track for each song section, and then set the overall volume for that track.

This meant that during mixing, if I wanted to adjust the volume level for synth part X for one section, I just needed to move a volume fader up or down, and I didn't have to fiddle about re-drawing an automation track.
Scramble
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2468
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2002 12:00 am
 

Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Brian Moynihan » Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:22 am

Thought I should point out: Users of different sequencers may report inconsistent track numbers in the poll. I was thinking about Sonar, and how since Version 4/5 basically track count is a little difficult to specify. If you want a track to crossfade itself in realtime (i.e. you've done one good take of a vocal section that you want to overlap repeatedly) then traditionally you would have to run two tracks that are identical with the parts shifted to overlap. With Sonar this is done away with by using the multiple "takes" within a single track, where Sonar is capable of having them all audible simultaneously, overlapping.

I know I'm being pedantic but this could make someone report 32 tracks in Logic and 16 in Sonar for the exact same song

:headbang:

I was surprised at the results coming up, I didn't realise I was such a heavy softsampler user 8-16!! and maybe getting a bit overblown with my 50 audio track opuses ;)

Bob
User avatar
Brian Moynihan
Regular
Posts: 82
Joined: Thu Nov 14, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Boston

Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby DrBob » Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:20 pm

Martin Walker wrote: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.

Martin

Well it's OK actually, because I disable the hungry plugins via the automation whan they're not used. In this case, even if the CPU usa does not drop to 0 for this plugin, it's still seriously reduced.
And if it's really only a small chunk of audio, I then use off line processing.
User avatar
DrBob
Poster
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 1:00 am
Location: Belgium

dB Studio - recording, mixing, transfer
www.dBStudio-Liege.net


Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Dec 01, 2005 7:04 pm

This has turned into an even more interesting thread than I imagined, largely due to the number of interesting posts from people explaining what they do and why they do it.

Bob- fair point about Sonar crossfaded parts in tracks, but I think we'll still call them a single track for the purposes of this poll, because I was more interested in song structure than absolute counts.

EP Gumby - the beauty of sequencers is that disk load is dependent on the current track count, so if you 'only' had 50 to 75 audio tracks playing at any time you probably could run 350 in total. Your PC would no doubt have bitten the dust though if you'd used software plugins instead of the UAD-1.

DrBob - now that's a clever technique. Temporarily disabling plugins via automation to lower your instantaneous CPU overhead. Now if only Cubase had an option to disable track plugins automatically as soon as the audio output dropped below a user-specified limit, or after a user-specified time.


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 15565
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: SOS PC Music Users Typical Song Survey

Postby Simon Millward » Fri Dec 02, 2005 1:12 pm

Interesting thread.

I generally record at 24bit/44.1 since much of my material is destined to end up on a standard audio CD (however, I will be seriously trying 24bit/96 for future projects).

My use of plug-ins, soft synths and samplers actually varies wildy, depending upon the nature of each specific project. For example, I have recently being doing a lot of live recording into Cubase SX, where I am recording onto only one or two tracks (no plug-ins). This is achieved using a Mac Powerbook G4. This is in direct contrast to another recent project involving an orchestral arrangement where I have 30 or so MIDI tracks triggering 2 instances of Kontakt 2. This takes place on my music PC (Pentium 2.8GHz, 1GB RAM) in Cubase SX and also includes 7 or 8 EQ plug-ins and the onboard convolution reverb of Kontakt 2. This takes my CPU load to around 50 or 60%.

I think it is fair to say, therefore, that the same user could have radically different plug-in/soft synth counts for each project, and may not stick to the same formula for all their work.

Regardless of the project, I always feel safer having plenty of headroom both for my CPU load and storage performance, so I would tend to push up the power of my computer resources much higher than my real needs.

Regards,
Simon
Simon Millward
Poster
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2002 12:00 am

Previous