More RAM or Faster CPU?

Zen Cat

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Morning!

I'd like to upgrade my PC, as I'm sick and tired of Cubase SX 3 getting overworked by the plethora of power-hungry plugins that I'm using.

Current Specs:

Pentium 4 - 2.6 Ghz
1 GB of RAM
Shuttle SB61 G2 Motherboard (not amazing, but does the trick)
Win XP Professional
M-Audio Delta soundcard (2 in 2 out, not the 10 one)

So....

What is likely to make the most noticable difference to Cubase SX 3's ability to handle lots of VSTs running at once?

Is upgrading from a P4 2.6 to a 3.2 really going to make that much of a difference?

Would I be better of shoving another Gig of RAM into the PC instead?

I'd like to do both, but then all my friends and family will get soap-on-a-rope and new socks for their Christmas presents instead of something decent. I'd like to think I'm nicer than that.

Although.... :iwink:

Any tips gratefully received! :iyes:
 

Zen Cat

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@ Purusha

Absolutely!

A typical track would have:

Albino 2
Vanguard
Battery 2
Novation Bass Station
Korg Poly Six
Whoosh (Free VST)
Z3ta
QuadraFuzz, other distortion, compression plugins, and Waves REQ on various inserts
Metaflanger and bog standard Cubase delays on Sends

What annoys me is that a P4 2.6 is not really such bad CPU. However, on one of my tracks, it's so overloaded that the track can't play for more than four bars without skipping! I don't tend to bounce down until the end of a track and I know this will have a marked effect.

@ Makdaddy and White Dog:

Cheers for the tips guys, will optimise it tonight and see how it goes
 
M

makdaddy

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dude, thats a very CPU heavy typical setup, perhaps get used to working alittle different too by knowing when a part is finished and bouncing it as you go along

or use a freeze plugin is always an option
 

The Phonographist

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Why don't you bounce down till the end of the track ? If you can get in the habit of bouncing sections of audio out then, you can turn off instruments and save on critical power.



I'd personally try that approach before getting more RAM, though another gig I'm sure would be useful if you don't want to adopt that method.
 

ChrisCabbage

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I'd say the processor ain't too bad, and I'd be surprised if you're hitting memory limits. It's worth bearing in mind though that you don't have to have 1GB's worth of memory used by your modules for swapping /memory paging to take place (which uses CPU cycles).

Memory *could* help, but I wouldn't count on it being a fix-all. However, it's relatively cheap these days, so might be worth a shot. Or maybe you could borrow some off someone to see if it makes a difference?

I'm on a 3.06GHz P4 (couple of years old now) and can max that out quite quickly if I try. I usually just use the SX3 freeze feature on heavy tracks when necessary.

Further down the line it might be worth you considering something like FX Teleport with one or more extra machines (Bill 'Cosmosis' went that route). The other alternative is using a DSP system like UAD1 or Powercore. I offload a lot of my FX (especially reverb) onto my Powercore for example.
 

psyfi

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Might be worth cheking what your fromt side bus speed is also and seeing if your cpu or ram is downgrading the other to the lower speed. And of course the other main factor is the speed and buffer/cache of your HHD.
I also don't like to bounce down whilest writeing a tune.
 

ChrisCabbage

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Good point Psyfi. A mate of mine had problems with mismatched RAM modules such that things would run OK for a while, but he'd get outrageous latency for short bursts at arbitrary intervals.

It's worth checking that your RAM is correct for your set-up and I'd say ideally it should be same manufacturer and model. per stick.
 

Zen Cat

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The RAM is definitely correct for the set up. I made sure I checked that before I bought it. The FX freeze option sounds like it might help, but I really like to be able to change things as I go along, and bouncing down (in whatever form) feels like it restricts my creativity.

Judging by what's been said on here, it looks like the issue is far more likely to be processing power than RAM.

Is there really that much difference between a 2.6 Ghz and a 3.2 Ghz?
 
M

makdaddy

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dude you wont get that much more poke from another processor - basically systems have their limitations, you have hit yours.

when you bounce as you work, dont delete your synths and parts, keep them (disable them - can you do this in SX?, i know you can in logic), then when you need to use them again re-enable them.

or get yer notepad out and make notes of the synth setup / fx / levels etc and them re-instate it as and when you need it !

or freeze it, when you want to make amendments unfreeze, then re-freeze again
 

Zen Cat

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makdaddy said:
dude you wont get that much more poke from another processor - basically systems have their limitations, you have hit yours.

Okay, I take your point, but I can't believe this is as good as it gets. Surely PC's have become sufficiently adavanced to cope with this sort of thing by now? Surely if I spent shitloads of cash on a brilliant system, it would make a huge difference.

So really, what components of this dream system would make the biggest difference? Processor, harddrive, RAM and motherboard. Of those, I imagine that the processor and motherboard would have the greatest effect.

I must say that until I have optimised it, there probably isn't much point to buying new components. Maybe these optimisation tips will make such a massive change that I won't need to. Hopefully!
 

JPsychodelicacy

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Zen Cat said:
Okay, I take your point, but I can't believe this is as good as it gets. Surely PC's have become sufficiently adavanced to cope with this sort of thing by now? Surely if I spent shitloads of cash on a brilliant system, it would make a huge difference.

If you look at the sheer amount of near-parallel computation that your average DAW has to do to even get to the level you're hearing now, you'd be more impressed.

So really, what components of this dream system would make the biggest difference? Processor, harddrive, RAM and motherboard. Of those, I imagine that the processor and motherboard would have the greatest effect.

The motherboard actually has a very limited effect in itself - your priorities are Processor speed, RAM speed, RAM quantity, HDD speed and HDD quantity, in that order. The motherboard chipset *does* limit things like max processor and RAM speed, but most go to the limits of what the processors are capable of.

I must say that until I have optimised it, there probably isn't much point to buying new components. Maybe these optimisation tips will make such a massive change that I won't need to. Hopefully!

It will be noticeable - switching XP from 'optimised for programs' to 'optimised for background tasks' alone should make a difference. But in the end nothing compares to a little forethought when using plugins, such as "Do I really need all these compressors on the inserts, or can I bung them on a couple of sends instead?", or "Can I bounce that reverbed snare now and save myself a few cycles?"

J.
 

nik

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when upgrading your system you have to think about the future situation. how long will it be before you'll want to upgrade again?
soon many users will be using 64 bit software perhaps if you are thinking of upgrading, now is the time to make the move to 64 bit....or at least be prepared for when this change arrives.
 

Zen Cat

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I guess the issue here is that I want to have my cake and eat it, so to speak. :ibiggrin:

I want to be able to bung loads of plugins on, whilst avoiding any kind of bounce down until the last moment. Judging by the various responses, unless I shell out vast sums to buy some mammoth über-beast of a computer replete with power cores and cool flashing lights, I'll have to start bouncing things down as I go along.

Damn! :iconfused

Mind you, I'm hopeful about this XP optimisiation chat. Sounds like it could really make a difference.

Thanks for all the responses! You're all top people and welcome to marry my sister anytime. And don't be put off by the overbite, hunchback and tendency to throw things. She's a top girl. Honestly.

:ibiggrin:
 

mafkaroo

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I think that you should be bouncing things down that rarely change. Surely not all of your track is that dynamic (eg kick drum precussion, fx and stabs?). Running everything of midi is guaranteed to quickly make any machine run out of resources. You can take off expensive fx until mixdown as well such as subtle reverbs, choruses and compressors, until you actually need them.
That said most of the processing in vsts is just pure maths which is perfect for processors, and therefore cpu performance is critical for this. Ram is more important for having lots of vsts, programs, rewire etc opened at the same time.
 
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