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musikman1

Best Hardware for a PC Upgrade? - Help pls

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Hi my friends,

My current PC setup:  AMD FX-6300 Six-Core Processor, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 380 series, WD 1 TB HDD, Windows 10 Pro 64bit

I know this is likely a wide open query, and many of you will have different opinions as to what's best, so I'm just asking in the most general sense for the PC hardware specs for a music studio PC that will handle a lot of audio tracks, and a good amount of plugins, some of which are getting very CPU intensive these days.  I've learned quite a bit of the necessary technical stuff to get me by,  but I'm no computer guru, so I'd appreciate the opinions of those well educated in the technical end of computer recording here for their opinion.  Basically, I don't want to have to upgrade again a year from now cuz I made a wrong choice, if that makes sense.  I apologize if this question should be in a different forum, but I couldn't find one just for computer topics, maybe I missed it.

I've been thinking about investing in an upgrade for my studio PC in the near future.  One thing that got my attention was I've been noticing lately that the Data Transfer activity meter in CW is always in the red in the Performance Module.  I checked my HDD and it is in fact over half full,  (539 GB Used and 390 GB Free)...would deleting some unnecessary data or moving it to an external storage help that situation at all?  Unfortunately this is happening even in projects with just a few audio tracks.  I did delete the files in the Picture Cache, and that helped a little.  My buffers are at 256, but when I try to up them to 512 I get too much latency with most of my VSTi plugs. (My audio interface doesn't help, I'm using a Behringer Xenex 1202FX mixer as my interface, soon to be replaced!) The CPU performance seems ok, usually quite low unless I use a couple of CPU intensive plugins, then it may max out at around 30-40% on average. 

I was wondering what the best setup would be, especially for the Hard drive. I know a SSD will be in order, but I've noticed there has been some controversy as to whether or not to have more than one active HDD.  Further on that, I'm not sure what would be stored on each if I do go with more than one.  From what I have read, it seems typically the Windows OS and all apps/programs go on one, and all CW Projects and data on the other. This scenario can be a little confusing to me, because if this is the case, and if for example I have one regular HDD, and one SSD, wouldn't the drive that is taking the brunt of the data transfer be the one where I store all my CW projects and audio?....., and shouldn't that be designated to the SSD drive and not the regular HDD since the SSD drive accesses data faster?  Or should I maybe need two SSDs?  The confusion comes in as to which drive gets the most wear and tear from constant project playback/mixdown, the one with the Windows OS, or the one storing all the CW projects and audio? I would guess the latter.

As for the rest I would likely be looking at a better CPU, I have a six-core at the moment, which seems to handle projects with a lot of audio pretty well, but a friend said I probably can get a 16 core now for the same price.  Definitely need more RAM, at least 16GB RAM, or maybe even 32GB.  

But again,  generally speaking here I'm just asking what the most important factors are when considering the main essential hardware pieces I'd be upgrading to for a music PC. Thanks, I appreciate the feedback.

MM 

Edited by musikman1

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I can't answer the general question as I think your computer might be more powerful than mine ( i7 quad)  but I can say I noticed huge improvements to all my computers ( 6 of them) when I slapped SSD drive in there. My main DAW has two 240 GB SSD drives and then a 3rd 1TB HDD 7200 drive. 

I just keep my working projects and stuff on the second SSD. I archive and back up to the 1TB drive as well as a few externals and the cloud.

I only have 12 GB RAM but more is always better.  I would be tempted to just add more RAM and the SSD drives first. What is your CPU usage showing on your biggest project?? if your not maxing out then you might buy a few more years out of what you have with just a simple upgrade to those parts.  

 

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My specs on the latest build, which handles anything I can throw at it from Bandlab:

Asus PRIME Z490-A
Intel Core i7-10700 Comet Lake 2.9GHz Eight-Core LGA 1200 Boxed Processor (10th Gen)
2 x G.Skill Ripjaws V 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3600 PC4-28800 CL16 Dual Channel Desktop Memory Kit F4-3600C16D-32GVKC - Black
1 adata xpg sx8200 pro 500GB (OS)
1 adata xpg sx8200 pro 1TB (Samples)
1 500GB Samsung SSD for Project Archive

 

 

Edited by hockeyjx

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Basically, the faster the better. I found that core speed is more important than the number of cores. SSD is far better than a mechanical drives. More memory  is better than less.   Most important is a good solid audio interface.  

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You will need a new motherboard and memory because the new cpus won't be compatible with your old stuff. I would build a new system around a ryzen 5000 series cpu but the availabilities are a mystery right now. The 5000 series cpus give a very tight latency and a lot of muscle. Just what you want for a daw computer.

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AMD has finally gotten their ultra low latency performance together with the new Vermeer (5xxx) series.

I've got a 5950x based DAW (I'm typing on it right now).

 

The 10900kwill out-perform the 5950x when it comes to ultra low latency performance (example below).

In heavily multi-threaded scenarios (video rendering), the 5950x will significantly best the 10900k.

 

Lets say you want to run Helix Native (plugin version of the Line-6 Helix guitar processor)... at latency equal to or lower than the hardware version (which is 2ms).

When it comes to ultra low round-trip latency, the Presonus Quantum is as good as it gets.

Set Quantum to 96k using a 32-sample ASIO buffer size.  This results in 1ms total round-trip latency.

Load Helix Native and create a significant patch using two 2048-sample Cab IRs, delay, reverb, etc.

The 5950x is the first AMD CPU to be able to sustain this ultra low latency scenario completely glitch-free.

With the Threadripper 3970x, you'll experience glitches.

Needless to say, this is excellent performance.

With the 10900k, you can actually set the ASIO buffer size down to 16-samples (sub 1ms round-trip latency)... and it'll sustain the load glitch-free.

It's the first CPU we've tested that could actually do this...

 

The 10900k is a $500 CPU.

The 5950x is a $800 CPU.

 

Competition benefits all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The problem I'm finding with increasing the buffer size is that I immediately get latency, even just going from 256 to 512, and especially latency when using my midi keyboard to trigger VSTi instruments. I had been using a mastering plugin which was a drain, and I set my ASIO from "normal" to "relaxed" and that helped with the dropout I was getting, however, I can't record at that setting so I would switch it to "relaxed" only when mixing, then back again to "normal" for recording.

I've got over half full out of the 1 TB available I have 539 GB Used and 390 GB free. Could that be causing the breakup? I'm asking cuz the little disc icon in the Data Transfer meter in the Perf Module is showing red all the time during playback, and I even tried an empty project and added one audio track at a time, when I got to only 3 audio tracks playing at once, the disc icon turned red. That doesn't seem right to me. I suppose only having 8GB RAM isn't helping. I'm just trying to pinpoint what might be the likely cause.

As for the upgrade, all great advice, I appreciate it.

17 hours ago, John Vere said:

I just keep my working projects and stuff on the second SSD. I archive and back up to the 1TB drive as well as a few externals and the cloud.

John, just so I have this straight....so I assume on your first SSD you have your Windows OS and all your programs/apps, including CW, then you keep all your CW Projects along with their respective audio on the second SSD.  So tell me, which SSD drive is taking the most punishment from continuous playback, for example if you're doing a 4-5 hour mixdown session and constantly playing the tracks over and over? Would it be the SSD with the CW program on it, or the second SSD with all the project and audio? or both?   I assume it would be the second, am I correct?  If that's the case then I'll definitely be looking at getting two SSD drives, unless I have to budget, then I can maybe go with a regular HDD 7200rpm for the OS and Programs, and have only one SSD for projects and audio, if the projects and audio drive is going to be taking the most beating.

 

14 hours ago, John said:

Basically, the faster the better. I found that core speed is more important than the number of cores. SSD is far better than a mechanical drives. More memory  is better than less.   Most important is a good solid audio interface.  

John, I understand, and the audio interface is where I'm lacking as well in my current setup.  That Behringer mixer is not good as an audio interface. For one, it only is 2-way usb, so I did pick up a Soundcraft board, which gives me much better drivers and multi-track usb, just haven't swapped them out yet, can't wait actually.

Jim, thanks, I'll have to look up the hardware you mentioned, as I'm not familiar with it just by the model numbers. Sounds like it's worth checking into though. I have a friend who is great with building PCs so I'll also run all these options by him at some point.

One last question....as for my Record and Render bit depth settings, ...based on my current setup, what would you recommend I set those at?  Currently I have it set at 16 for Record and 32 for Render, but a friend of mine recommended at least 24 for Recording.  The thing is, for Rendering, if I'm going to go with basic CD quality wav file, isn't it necessary to set the Render at 16?

Ty

MM

 

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i would either add a second HDD or get an SSD to replace your main drive and use the HDD for backup/other files. sounds like your computer is doing what you need it to do still, so I'd hold off on the upgrade (unless you are bored and just want to, by all means). I'm still running a 1st gen core i7 860, and it does everything i want it to still. granted, im not a super power user, but it handles everything i do in cakewalk with ease (albeit my projects are pretty small, admittedly).

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9 hours ago, Bruno de Souza Lino said:

Replace your main OS drive with a SSD first before buying a new PC and see if I you can either add more RAM or upgrade to the FX 8000 models.

I like your suggestion for budget reasons it would save me a bunch of $$.  However, I suppose whether I do a full upgrade or just add the SSD to replace my HDD, I'm going to have not choice but to reload all my software, unless I can manage to make a ghost image of my HDD then have my friend transfer that to the new SSD. But I'm not sure if that transition is possible because they are two different types of drives, so I'll have to ask him if it's possible. I had it done successfully once before from one HDD to another HDD.  As for the chip, I'd have to find out if I could continue using my current motherboard if I upgrade to the 8000. 

5 hours ago, eezye said:

i would either add a second HDD or get an SSD to replace your main drive and use the HDD for backup/other files. sounds like your computer is doing what you need it to do still, so I'd hold off on the upgrade (unless you are bored and just want to, by all means). I'm still running a 1st gen core i7 860, and it does everything i want it to still. granted, im not a super power user, but it handles everything i do in cakewalk with ease (albeit my projects are pretty small, admittedly).

Makes sense. I think my chip would likely handle my projects, especially with the addition of more RAM, I'm barely at the minimum right now at 8 GB. Part of the concern I have is that my projects mainly consist of 90% audio tracks on average, and I do use quite a few audio FX plugs, and the occasional VSTi, but if the project gets kind large I usually freeze those or bounce them and archive the original tracks containing the plugs.  I also do a few video projects from time to time, but mostly audio.

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2 hours ago, musikman1 said:

I like your suggestion for budget reasons it would save me a bunch of $$.  However, I suppose whether I do a full upgrade or just add the SSD to replace my HDD, I'm going to have not choice but to reload all my software, unless I can manage to make a ghost image of my HDD then have my friend transfer that to the new SSD. But I'm not sure if that transition is possible because they are two different types of drives, so I'll have to ask him if it's possible. I had it done successfully once before from one HDD to another HDD.  As for the chip, I'd have to find out if I could continue using my current motherboard if I upgrade to the 8000. 

The urge to upgrade is often strong and in some cases, like mine, upgrading to a new PC would be beneficial... If I could afford to do that.

However, if your cpu is somewhat recent and you have enough RAM, the more recent instruction sets and fast enough video hardware and storage, getting a new machine might only represent a marginal update in performance. If were taking a PC that's purpose built for audio, reliability is more important that performance. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If I'm not mistaken Steve from Gamers Nexus, a YouTube channel about enthusiast hardware, still runs a FX 8000 CPU in his personal computer. In his words, it does everything he needs and the types of games he plays run fine in there.

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bump your ram to at least 16G, the rest of your spec looks fine (SSDs are quicker, but you will have to reinstall a bunch of stuff if you swap your OS drive for one)

upgrading can be done in steps, you don;t have to do it all at once

4 hours ago, Bruno de Souza Lino said:

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

or, "if it ain't broke, fix it until it is" ;)

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32 minutes ago, pwalpwal said:

bump your ram to at least 16G, the rest of your spec looks fine (SSDs are quicker, but you will have to reinstall a bunch of stuff if you swap your OS drive for one)

upgrading can be done in steps, you don;t have to do it all at once

or, "if it ain't broke, fix it until it is" ;)

Or "If it ain't broke, fix until it breaks then complain about it."

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7 hours ago, pwalpwal said:

SSDs are quicker, but you will have to reinstall a bunch of stuff if you swap your OS drive for one

Not if you "clone" your existing OS drive onto the new SSD before swapping it.

For example, Samsung even provides the cloning software to move your system onto one of their SSD drives. I've used it several times. Works great!

All you really need in addition to accomplish that is an external USB to SATA cable to temporarily attach the SSD during the cloning process.

After the clone is ready, just swap it in and boot... away you go!

Edited by abacab

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1 hour ago, abacab said:

Not if you "clone" your existing OS drive onto the new SSD before swapping it.

For example, Samsung even provides the cloning software to move your system onto one of their SSD drives. I've used it several times. Works great!

All you really need in addition to accomplish that is an external USB to SATA cable to temporarily attach the SSD during the cloning process.

After the clone is ready, just swap it in and boot... away you go!

yep, fair enough, though sometimes you might find some sw that doesn;t play nicely 🤷‍♂️

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Just now, pwalpwal said:

yep, fair enough, though sometimes you might find some sw that doesn;t play nicely 🤷‍♂️

What do you mean?  I've not had any issues with broken applications, as a clone is an exact copy of the original drive. Are you referring to activations where sw detected a hardware change?

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10 minutes ago, abacab said:

What do you mean?  I've not had any issues with broken applications, as a clone is an exact copy of the original drive. Are you referring to activations where sw detected a hardware change?

yes, though i haven't tried this for years so maybe it's not at all an issue now? (fwiw, the cloned drive will have a different hardware id)

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6 minutes ago, pwalpwal said:

yes, though i haven't tried this for years so maybe it's not at all an issue now? (fwiw, the cloned drive will have a different hardware id)

I believe that most vendors will allow some leeway with drives.

So worst case is to be safe, just deactivate any Waves or iLok based plugins first. The re-activate them afterwards.

I don't recall my last drive swap causing this issue, but a recent motherboard swap under Windows 10 caused just about everything to require re-activation, even Windows.

Edited by abacab
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15 hours ago, Bruno de Souza Lino said:

If I'm not mistaken Steve from Gamers Nexus, a YouTube channel about enthusiast hardware, still runs a FX 8000 CPU in his personal computer. In his words, it does everything he needs and the types of games he plays run fine in there.

I agree it's likely save me a bit of dough just improving on a few things rather than a full upgrade.  I'm gonna try finding out how much of a difference in performance it would mean going from my FX6300 to the FX8000.  If not much than I'll try the RAM and SSD first. This chip is pretty fast for most applications, it's just that DAWs and plugins and VSTs give it a good run for the money.

3 hours ago, abacab said:

Not if you "clone" your existing OS drive onto the new SSD before swapping it.

For example, Samsung even provides the cloning software to move your system onto one of their SSD drives. I've used it several times. Works great!

That's what I am hoping I can do.  I should be able to at least ghost the image to an external like I usually do now. My friend who works on my PC says it's no problem either. It would save a whole lot of time to not have to reload, re-register, re-activate, etc... not fun, I'd rather be using the time to write and record.

 

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