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Importance (or not) of memory bandwidth for enormous sample libraries.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Post Importance (or not) of memory bandwidth for enormous sample libraries.

Good morning,

We're currently in the throes of putting together a parts list for our new main studio PC. We run Nuendo 10 with some monster orchestral templates loaded to the brim with EastWest, Vienna, Orchestral Tools, Spitfire, Omnisphere etc. etc. etc. We mix at 96/32 and require a high level of reliability and redundancy in addition to some serious processing grunt.

My main question is to anybody with knowledge of the RAM bandwidth requirements for such a setup. With Ryzen 9 supporting ECC RAM, it is currently between the 3950x (dual channel) vs a Threadripper setup (quad channel). Furthermore, can anybody recommend a Threadripper chip that offers the best performance for our use? Clock speed? Cores? The usual.

Budget isn't really an issue (we can't afford a supercomputer that predicts the weather) and we'd like to opt for an AMD platform.

Apologies for the boring post, but needs must!

Many thanks in advance for any advice...

Rain Man.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Addict
 

In principle quad channel should give you better performance although I don't know how much that will affect audio performance and loading huge romplers. My gut tells me even if there is a performance increase it won't be dramatic for your use case.

As for the CPU chip, pick the one with better single core/single thread performance. Clock speed is not the ultimate measure of performance. When looking for a CPU check the results on these websites:

https://browser.geekbench.com/processor-benchmarks

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/singleThread.html

https://www.cgdirector.com/cinebench-scores-updated/

I'm currently building a Ryzen 3700X for daw use. In your situation I'd get the Ryzen 3900X which is one of the fastest AMD CPU on single thread performance and on multithread it's comparable to the fastest Macs available (see Geekbench).

You should also invest in silent components. I can recommend the Noctua NH D15 CPU cooler, the Asus Strix GPUs (there are many models) which turn off the fans when the GPU work load is low, and the Corsair AX power supply units which also turn off the fans with low power loads. Also look for a silent PC case maybe from Fractal Design, or BeQuiet.

If you are getting a 3000 Ryzen CPU be sure the motherboard supports it. Many Ryzen motherboards need a BIOS update to support the newer CPUs and you won't be able to update the BIOS without a supported CPU... in my case I had to buy an old cheap AMD CPU just to be able to do that.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 

You want RAM speed for Ryzen. The faster, the better.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
Here for the gear
 

Thank you so much for your advice. We were looking at the 3900X and may wait to see how the 3950X fares next month.

Hadn't thought about RAM speed, but if Ryzen is sensitive to it, we'll have a think about budgeting towards some faster sticks. I'm guessing ECC isn't important unless it's 24/7 critical...

Runing an old 2012 Mac Pro at the moment so I'm pretty sure anything we stick together will run like a dream in comparison.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
We were looking at the 3900X and may wait to see how the 3950X fares next month.
We'll see how it goes in a couple of weeks, but I don't think the 3950X will be the best Ryzen option for audio since it's designed for very heavy multi-core loads. The base clock is actually lower than the 3900X.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
OK1
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
Good morning,

We're currently in the throes of putting together a parts list for our new main studio PC. We run Nuendo 10 with some monster orchestral templates loaded to the brim with EastWest, Vienna, Orchestral Tools, Spitfire, Omnisphere etc. etc. etc. We mix at 96/32 and require a high level of reliability and redundancy in addition to some serious processing grunt.

My main question is to anybody with knowledge of the RAM bandwidth requirements for such a setup. With Ryzen 9 supporting ECC RAM, it is currently between the 3950x (dual channel) vs a Threadripper setup (quad channel). Furthermore, can anybody recommend a Threadripper chip that offers the best performance for our use? Clock speed? Cores? The usual.

Budget isn't really an issue (we can't afford a supercomputer that predicts the weather) and we'd like to opt for an AMD platform.

Apologies for the boring post, but needs must!

Many thanks in advance for any advice...

Rain Man.
I may have a fairly different approach to solving your core issues, but do spare a moment to think through my comments. In another life I spent a few years tuning performance on servers for a mission critical industry.

1. My top priority is not going to be performance but stability. 100% stability, you do not want to be loading those large templates after a crash or lose work from a crash.

Choice of processor CPU alone cannot be a criteria for achieving this ultimate requirement of a high end production workstation.

What you need are components that you are assured will work together reliably with much lower opportunity for things to go wrong.

What you need are components that have a greater likelihood of having been well tested together.

While many plugins will run on an AMD CPU, I am aware of a few which will not. This is one area you do not want to take chances, and feel really stupid when someone installs a new plugin and it does not run on AMD !.

The one thing you can be 100% sure of is that all audio software plugins released since about 2005, will run reliably on an Intel CPU. All plugin developers test on Intel as a 1st candidate CPU. ALL.

When you consider that the other components on a computer cost about the same, any incremental savings you obtain from the higher performance per dollar investment in an AMD processor, over an Intel equivalent is negligible when you consider the overall cost of the entire system and compare.

Taking the total cost, including all the risks and possible issues over the lifetime of the workstation + future resale value at time of disposal, there is very little advantage in an AMD CPU, for a music workstation.

If you were running CPU intensive apps in a cloud, or gaming my opinion would be different, cos other things such as being able to overclock, keep power consumption low, may become important when you have a server farm of several hundred CPU's and the lower costs of AMD CPU may start to become material.

But for a workstation farm with no more than about 5 computers (or only one) there is no point trading the greater stability and compatibility (with fewer surprises) which an Intel CPU provides.

Forget specs, a Lamborghini that breaks down unpredictably, when it's time for to convey you to an important meeting, is not worth the effort no matter how fast it can go.

For the avoidance of doubt I suggest you consider an Intel CPU. You have stated that cost savings are not your top priority. In further posts I will discuss some of the other aspects to consider.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
OK1
Gear Head
2. Performance

Pretty much all modern computers have a few bottlenecks which we make every effort to ameliorate. In the technology business these constraints are described as :

a. CPU bound
b. I/O bound
c. Memory bound

or any other area in which the computer may be limiting performance. Different kinds of apps have different aspects in which a computer may become a constraint.

Any time you solve one area of the limiting performance, by providing ample hardware or tuning the software to meet the demand, or changing the processing algorithm to work better with the hardware, the bottleneck becomes another component, and you solve all this until you can meet the demand or eventually admit, you need a completely larger platform which is much more capable, no point tinkering around with the current computer - time for an upgrade.

My approach would be to solve each of these bottlenecks, starting with the ones that are easy to achieve with modern technology at very reasonable incremental costs. We start with I/O. in the next post.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
OK1
Gear Head
3. I/O = Input/Output.

As this is a production system, which cannot afford to be down, for any reason, I would suggest at the very least a mirrored solution where every hard drive is mirrored either :

a) Manually for certain drives which do not change content such as the installed copies of the vast sample libraries. i.e you are responsible for copying the data across to a backup drive whenever new data/software is installed.

b) Pseudo manually - some DAW's can create copies for you across two different locations, which you can set to two different physical drives. You can also use certain backup tools to achieve this auto.

c) By the Operating System, ie in Windows, Windows is responsible for the mirroring. doing this in Windows does have a slight performance penalty. Why, cos it needs the Intel CPU to be involved......

e) in hardware by the motherboard/SATA hardware, so this is transparent to Windows...Windows sees only one disk which is the end result of a hardware mirror of two disks.

Others may mention RAID 5, which is a cheaper method, but this gets into complex arrangements requiring ideally 3 or more disks per disk group, and any failure will need a lot of know how and monitoring to recover from the failure.

Mirroring is the most expensive approach for redundancy but the easiest to configure.

For each disk redundancy approach you choose, you must be certain that you understand how to do things like break the mirror pair, and recover/replace a faulty disk. Ideally such procedures are simulated and tested ahead of a real failure event, so there are no surprises - like fire drills, to prevent total disaster in the event of a real fire.

The slight overhead of mirroring processing, is justified during reads by the ability to almost double the data read speed from two disks read at the same time.

So with each disk pair as a virtual disk, I suggest you have at least four sets of virtual mirrored disks listed below, a to d.

a. Operating system - for Windows + apps - on 2 TB 7200 rpm hard drives, for a system which is not started and rebooted several times a day, I do not think there is any advantage in SSD's here. Yes a contrary opinion but this is justified. Once your apps are loaded which is once a day max, an SSD provided no advantage to a spinning disk, for the typical apps and operating system tasks. The only overriding reason to use an SSD here is zero noise..

b. SWAP - for Windows (this is optional as you could use the same disk in (a)). - SSD or 7200 rpm spinning disks - you choose... Mirroring the SWAP disks may be overkill, and you can use the smallest cheapest disks here. If you have enough RAM, the incremental performance of high end SSD's will be unnoticeable.

c. Audio Files for any recorded audio, or any bounce down audio, from the sample library plugins. SSD's if you want the best performance. However contrary to the opinion of many spinning 7200 rpm disks are adequate, unless you are mixing down over a hundred channels of audio from disk, reading and writing simultaneously, a single 7200 rpm hard drive is more than adequate. SSD' are simply insurance. - just in case.

d. Sample Libraries - definitely here you need SSD's. I would not suggest any spinning disks here. Beyond the use of SSD's here, you may want to distribute libraries across multiple SSD's, for even better assured performance.

Note for sample libraries I would suggest the fastest NVMe M.2 kind of SSD, which can reach speeds of over 2 Gigabytes per second. per disk. sequential read...

So we conclude disk I/O should no longer be an issue, no matter how many hundred channels of audio samples and microphone channels are being played back from your sample libraries, per instrument...

I'll take a break now and tomorrow, discuss RAM.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by OK1 View Post
While many plugins will run on an AMD CPU, I am aware of a few which will not. This is one area you do not want to take chances, and feel really stupid when someone installs a new plugin and it does not run on AMD !.
Huh? What plugins do not run on AMD?

Quote:
When you consider that the other components on a computer cost about the same, any incremental savings you obtain from the higher performance per dollar investment in an AMD processor, over an Intel equivalent is negligible when you consider the overall cost of the entire system and compare.
It really depends on the type of system. For the ultimate high end savings of $300-400 might not be much, but a lot of people are building systems in the $2-3K range where a 15% in cost makes a difference between buying a second SSD or even more RAM.

Quote:
Forget specs, a Lamborghini that breaks down unpredictably, when it's time for to convey you to an important meeting, is not worth the effort no matter how fast it can go.
Are you implying that AMD chips break down unpredictably? What proof do you have of this?

Also, it's not like Intel hasn't given us some surprises over the years either. From the top of my head I remember the infamous 7700K and its heat spikes.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that performance without stability is worthless, but people have been using AMD chips for a long time. AFAIK the problem was about having lower performance compared to Intel not lower reliability.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
OK1
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by pier25 View Post
Huh? What plugins do not run on AMD?



It really depends on the type of system. For the ultimate high end savings of $300-400 might not be much, but a lot of people are building systems in the $2-3K range where a 15% in cost makes a difference between buying a second SSD or even more RAM.



Are you implying that AMD chips break down unpredictably? What proof do you have of this?

Also, it's not like Intel hasn't given us some surprises over the years either. From the top of my head I remember the infamous 7700K and its heat spikes.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that performance without stability is worthless, but people have been using AMD chips for a long time. AFAIK the problem was about having lower performance compared to Intel not lower reliability.
There is an excellent unbiased review here from a highly respected source. Enlightening for those who want more detail than I provided.

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/info/audio-pc-processor

1. The OP stated clearly that they were ready to spend within reason, as long as the additional cost was not put of order(supercomputer), and if this is true, IMHO I did not think there was any advantage in going the AMD route. I assume the OP will be buying no more than 5 systems, and even at that the max saving will be about $1500 in the cost of CPU saved, by choosing AMD CPU's/compatible motherboards. If they are only buying one or two systems, this savings becomes negligibly small in the whole scheme of things, down to less than $800. IMHO not worth the risk.

2. Sure people use AMD, I have done so in the past, but not for mission critical DAW use. The OP needs a no excuses system. Furthermore when you add up the total cost including the DAW software, saving $300 on the cost of a CPU, having spent several thousands ( I estimate at least $5,000 on the total cost lifetime cost of hardware and music software/libraries purchase or rentals on this system) becomes even more negligible.

3. My earlier Lamborghini example was about fitness for purpose, not about hardware reliability. Every plugin and music software will work with Intel - guaranteed, why take a risk with AMD, if you especially have a business or a serious hobby to run.

4. http://avid.force.com/pkb/articles/e...m-Requirements

Some software vendors are very specific - Intel only please.... Buy anything else at your own risk. Not saying it will not work, but you may not have any support from the vendor for not sticking to their minimum requirements.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by OK1 View Post
There is an excellent unbiased review here from a highly respected source. Enlightening for those who want more detail than I provided.

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/info/audio-pc-processor

1. The OP stated clearly that they were ready to spend within reason, as long as the additional cost was not put of order(supercomputer), and if this is true, IMHO I did not think there was any advantage in going the AMD route. I assume the OP will be buying no more than 5 systems, and even at that the max saving will be about $1500 in the cost of CPU saved, by choosing AMD CPU's/compatible motherboards. If they are only buying one or two systems, this savings becomes negligibly small in the whole scheme of things, down to less than $800. IMHO not worth the risk.

2. Sure people use AMD, I have done so in the past, but not for mission critical DAW use. The OP needs a no excuses system. Furthermore when you add up the total cost including the DAW software, saving $300 on the cost of a CPU, having spent several thousands ( I estimate at least $5,000 on the total cost lifetime cost of hardware and music software/libraries purchase or rentals on this system) becomes even more negligible.

3. My earlier Lamborghini example was about fitness for purpose, not about hardware reliability. Every plugin and music software will work with Intel - guaranteed, why take a risk with AMD, if you especially have a business or a serious hobby to run.

4. http://avid.force.com/pkb/articles/e...m-Requirements

Some software vendors are very specific - Intel only please.... Buy anything else at your own risk. Not saying it will not work, but you may not have any support from the vendor for not sticking to their minimum requirements.
You keep making false claims and not answering my questions.

The Scan Audio article you linked only mentions that at the very lowest buffer size Intel might have better performance. If you look at the latest assessment of the Ryzen 3000 chips by the same company you will see this:



Source: https://www.scanproaudio.info/2019/0...-magic-number/

As you can see the 3900X which is comparable to a 9900K in price and general performance has better audio performance across all buffer sizes.

So no, the latest AMD chips do not have any intrinsic latency issues. The only "problem" some people are apparently having is that some plugins running on multicore are affected by the inter core latency inherent to all CPUs (Intel or AMD).

The Avid link you posted about doesn't mention anything about AMD compatibility. Even if it was true that Pro Tools does not work with AMD (it's not) OP mentioned Nuendo and the majority of GS users are not on Pro Tools either.

You have claimed that there are plugins that do not work with AMD. I'll ask again, what plugins do not work with AMD?

You have repeatedly claimed there are risks associates with AMD. Again, what are those risks?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by OK1 View Post
...
2. Sure people use AMD, I have done so in the past, but not for mission critical DAW use. The OP needs a no excuses system. ...
The companies mentioned in this press release (link below) also need a "no excuses" system. The list includes Google, Twitter, The Air Force Weather Agency, VMware vSphere, SAP, Real Time Analytics, RedHat, SUSE ... all to exist on AMD-based systems supplied by HPE, Cray, Lenovo, Dell...

https://www.bloomberg.com/press-rele...rld-records-1]
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
OK1
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post
The companies mentioned in this press release (link below) also need a "no excuses" system. The list includes Google, Twitter, The Air Force Weather Agency, VMware vSphere, SAP, Real Time Analytics, RedHat, SUSE ... all to exist on AMD-based systems supplied by HPE, Cray, Lenovo, Dell...

https://www.bloomberg.com/press-rele...rld-records-1]
I would not use an AMD for my Audio Workstation, and nothing that any business does, however large or dominant, would change my mind about this.

For HPC computing sure I'd use AMD, or business servers, no issues with AMD. It's simple - when I run into any issues, as an end user, I'd rather have the comfort of having eliminated the choice of CPU as one of the things I have to grapple with.

All these wonderful companies you refer to have armies of highly skilled software and hardware engineers, available 24 x 7, and in their case support for the CPU is probably done directly with consultation with AMD, and whomever makes the compilers and assemblers, down to the level of compiler specific optimisations for AMD, so we are not speaking about the same use case. These are typically not people running predominantly Windows 10 on these server farms, but some finely tweaked linux kernel, probably recompiled for either AMD or Intel, to eke the optimal benefit from the deployment.

So please lets qualify their use of AMD processors or Intel, which they also use, but in very specialised ways, with an army of techheads.

Where I need the utmost compatibility with the widest possible range of apps, that I may run into during the lifetime of a workstation, and I want a system that is not going to be a headache for me to obtain support for, or for me to manage on my own, with minimal help from the audio software vendors, for me I sleep happier with Intel, and I stand by this best advice which I have stated for the benefit of the OP.

Many small developers of pretty decent software do not have a separate AMD system to test or profile their results, and on the contrary, I am 100% certain they ALL test 1st on Intel or only on Intel, so there is every good reason to stick with Intel.

You are of course welcome to an alternate opinion, and I think we have both justified our opinions so let's leave it to the OP to enjoy the results of this discourse on diverse perspectives.

Simple - if you want an audio workstation, which works well from day 1, no special tweaks, Intel any day. and you can do what you want with it, including deployment in a low latency environment.....

You asked for an example of software that does not run on AMD, and I already gave you a good one - Avid ProTools - pretty much the industry standard in the professional audio business, will not support you if you run on AMD. What more proof do you need ?

It may not apply to Nuendo, but a purchasing decision should take into account likely scenarios during the lifetime of the workstation. There is every likelihood that the OP may wish to run ProTools at some time during the life of this intended workstation, last thing the managers of the business want to hear is - "oh sorry we made a bit of a bad choice and have to change to an Intel CPU" to guaranty support for any Protools install..!, ato which someone will ask the intelligent question, could this have been avoided by buying Intel CPU from day 1? - Definitely YES.

AS much as they claim to run the same instruction sets, the microarchitecture influenced optimisations needed to squeeze best performance from AMD or Intel will not be identical, and who knows what uncanny gremlins lurk in the pipelining of either CPU - vis a vis specific apps running on them, that may be relevant to one use case or another. I'd rather be safe than sorry. - Intel....anyday. The one thing I am certain of - ALL developers will have profiled their code (i.e for the purpose of code specific performance optimisations - if any) on an Intel CPU.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
OK1
Gear Head
3. RAM

To the OP, as much as you have given a description of what you need, there is a lot of missing detail, how many plugins, how many tracks exactly, is there any profiling information from your current systems which could be used to extrapolate what you need going forward.

In the good old days before everything became a "cloud", major hardware vendors had and probably still do have, proofing labs where corporate customers could carry out proper tests, especially performance related ones to be absolutely certain that their application requirements are met.

So on how much RAM will be best, I have nothing to add cos I have no profiling information.

ECC or not, I do not think it is essential to have ECC. However for the kind of server grade CPU, you will most likely purchase, it is more than likely the CPU/motherboard will support ECC RAM, but its not IMHO a factor in performance.

What will improve performance overall is more RAM. Minor tweaks in performance can be gleaned by modifying BIOS Settings, but for stable system, I suggest leave well alone, and avoid any overclocking of any components including RAM, unless of course your supplier will stand by any performance optimisation choices made by them through BIOS settings.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by OK1 View Post
I would not use an AMD for my Audio Workstation, and nothing that any business does, however large or dominant, would change my mind about this.

For HPC computing sure I'd use AMD, or business servers, no issues with AMD. It's simple - when I run into any issues, as an end user, I'd rather have the comfort of having eliminated the choice of CPU as one of the things I have to grapple with.

.... I'd rather be safe than sorry. - Intel....anyday. The one thing I am certain of - ALL developers will have profiled their code (i.e for the purpose of code specific performance optimisations - if any) on an Intel CPU.
You have well-communicated the comfort zone that you want, and what you'd like to extend to others when they're making choices.

The link info I provided is only intended to help define the dimensions of various aspects of the decision criteria. For example, the list of AMD uptake vendors in the press release also includes Microsoft. They're using the AMD CPU tech for various things including their Azure offerings.

The audio-specific world is at best going to benefit from computing developments targeted to a much larger non-audio customer sets/industries that offer large revenue potential. We'll see how things play out.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
Gear Addict
Memory speed is almost irrelevant in DAW applications, more-of cheaper memory makes more sense than less-of faster memory. Spend your money on SSDs they'll have the greatest impact on library load times.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
OK1
Gear Head
I think the OP needs to engage the services of those who do this for a living and have a track record of supplying DAW's to high end users.

From the OP's handle which indicates a location in the UK, I would suggest that they discuss with scan.co.uk, who are much better placed than me, and have the time/interest to invest in creating a solution for the OP, which will not just be sold but also supported.

I have thought this through and rather than attempt to provide piece meal answers, based on incomplete requirements, best they speak to scan.co.uk. This is a business I can trust will take the time to understand the requirement, proffer a solution and is also in a position to sell and support whatever they recommend. This is a keen part of their business, providing high end PC's to creative professionals.

Gearslutz is not the best place to delve into all of the considerations for high performance audio DAW's.

One approach would be to arrive at an interim spec, with scan, and see if a loaner system could be arranged (at some cost obviously) for a short period e.g a month, that allows for double checking all the real world performance, before taking delivery of the long term acquisition... This allows for a fine tuning and improvement of the final specs, based on real world profiling. akin to running on a pilot system, before the real thing is ordered/delivered.

I will therefore no longer add any opinions to this thread..
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