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Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:00 pm
by casioman11
Hi all need some help and advice if possible. It would be really appreciated.

I currently have a late 2011 Macbook Pro 2.2ghz I7 with 16gb Ram in and two internal SSD Drives 120gb Boot and 250gb Data drive. I save my projects to an external 1TB western digital passport. Most of my sample libraries are on the Data drive and my boot is used to boot up and has Ableton on + other programmes. I have left about 15-20Gb free on Boot to avoid bottleneck more free of data drive and plenty on the 1tb external.

I purchased this set up a year or so ago with the intention of running quite CPU intensive projects in Ableton as I have quite a few plug ins but nothing I would consider massive in terms of CPU drain. I also increased the ram to 16gb to help. However I am finding that whenever I use quite a large number of audio tracks (30 tracks) and a few plug ins (Tal uno) or massive etc and some sound toys effects I am hitting a brick wall with my projects. CPU starts to spike and audio drop outs occur. Even when I bounce these down to audio it os still a problem with CPU and the laptop seems to run hot. Really it makes the project pretty much unworkable and freezing etc takes a long time and often still is not curing the problem.

Can anyone advise if their is anyway to solve the performance issues on the macbook or should I just cut my losses and sell it and upgrade to 3.4ghz iMac Desktop? I already find maschine pretty much impossible to run on this computer as a correctly routed plug in but now I'm finding it hard to work with even 2 or 3 vat synths and maybe 3-4 effects vsts.

Help and advice appreciated on this one as I'm stuck!
Cheers Gez ;-)

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:17 pm
by casioman11
I also notice that ableton index seems to be taking around 50% Cpu? Is this correct...

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 2:25 pm
by Dragonbreath
Thats wierd! You have pretty powerfull machine I would of imagined you coul run larger projects. What buffer size and sample rate are you using, what id your sound card?

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 2:43 pm
by casioman11
Buffer is 512 but have tried turning up to 1024 which improves but does not cure the problem...?

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 2:44 pm
by casioman11
Souncard apogee duet FireWire. Running mountain lion

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 3:21 pm
by Harmonic Progression
First of all, are you CERTAIN that it's CPU usage that is causing the performance problem? There are other reasons for performance problems, not necessarily due to CPU weakness.

How is that external hard drive hooked up? USB, USB3, or what?

Also, is the external hard drive one of those "green" models with the slower 5400 RPM spindle speed and possibly less cache memory? Check first.

How much memory does your 2011 have?

How many reverbs and other effects are you using in your projecct? If you put an effect on each track, that causes a geometric increase in CPU usage. May be better to bus them and use fewer effects.

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:01 pm
by fishmonkey
are you sure you aren't getting disk overloads?

those MacBook Pros only have USB 2.0 ports...

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:06 pm
by alpertt
I am on 2012 non ret. mbp (2.6 Ghz, 8 ram, boot is ssd, data hd is 5400 rpm)

I run maschine/massive/reaktor etc. and 20-30 tracks. I mostly run ableton on 128 buffer 24/44.when project loads heavy i increase it to 256-512. I've never seen 1024 though. Only sometimes i hit to "ram" brickwall (all because of kontakt that is!)

So you really check somewhere else as @Harmonic Progression suggests.

On Avid site there are also some good recomendations for optimizing audio.

btw, What is ableton index?

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:26 pm
by casioman11
First of all thanks for the responses each is appreciated. Harmonic Progression in answer to your question I am not totally convinced it is a CPU problem as the external drive is hooked up via USB (and someone has pointed out this must be a USB 2 based on model). Sometimes the red light flashes also which I believe is a sign of disk read/overload problem? However I have tried shifting the project on to the other internal drives which are SSD's and the performance is similar. Also it does seem that the introduction of VST's pushes the project over the edge even if it is just one or two of them. I have bounced down most of my CPU intensive plug ins earlier in the creation process and I am running most of the effects as SEND/Returns (Bus) so I am not applying individual effects to each channel and most of these are internal ableton effects (bar the reverb). I do have a max convolution reverb running on one of send channels and I use fab filter eq plug ins on most channels but this plug in seems light on CPU. I could get a thunderbolt drive or something but I am concerned that I may be throwing more money at this when it might be better just to go for a faster IMAC with some headroom because I seem to hit a similar point with each project one way or another. I will have a look at the optimization stuff but I have already read through able tons (e.g. switching off blue tooth wifi etc and while they may be making some difference it is not enough so far)

Recommendations….new external drive, new mac, re-insall system down and start again, optimise? Could the low ghz speed on the quad core be the issue? Also if I disable plug ins in the project and switch then off does this totally stop them impacting on CPU as I oftn do this when freezing and bouncing down.

So many questions. Cheers? ;-)

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:29 am
by kitekrazy
Laptops are for portability. CPU heavy projects need a desktop.

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:37 am
by Stromkraft
kitekrazy wrote:Laptops are for portability. CPU heavy projects need a desktop.
Do you by that mean that for instance a 4-core i7 Macbook Pro always is slower than a desktop 4-core i7 iMac, Mini, Pro with the same CPU clock speed using SSD for storage?

I would say that isn't as self-evident. Obviously, one should watch out for 2-core machines when shopping portables and consider that fact that desktop models come with even faster 4-core CPUs. Even so, it's does appear somewhat unreasonable to just dismiss all portables as "slow".

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:49 am
by pencilrocket
Mini is also using mobile CPU. Mobile CPU is utilized to use as little voltage as possible. This causes desktop CPU normally runs faster than mobile CPU. And heat in the small chassis is one of the causes.

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:08 am
by casioman11
I could be wrong but I also feel it could be a heat issue. I've read a few posts online about thermal paste issues and macbook pro fans kicking in early on some models of MBP. It seems to me that when the computer has got hot the spikes tend to start occurring. I have installed SMC fan app and Istat to try to monitor is this is the cause. But I'm not totally sure what I am looking for tbh.

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:31 pm
by Dragonbreath
Yeah the thermal issue could be it. You said you had two ssd internal into your MBP?

Maybe they are drawing too much power from the power supply. Does the spot were you connect the charger get really hot when you get the issues?

Re: Ableton CPU Time To Upgrade?

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 1:09 pm
by Stromkraft
pencilrocket wrote:Mini is also using mobile CPU. Mobile CPU is utilized to use as little voltage as possible. This causes desktop CPU normally runs faster than mobile CPU. And heat in the small chassis is one of the causes.
What I must assume you really mean here is that better heat dissipation in iMac* allows for faster CPU clock rates. This doesn't mean a "mobile CPU" of a specific quadcore i7 running at X clock rate is significantly slower than a desktop quadcore i7 running at X clock rate. Allowing for individual differences for specific I7 models, of course.

While heat could reduce the clock rate of a CPU to some extent, heat issues can be handled with stands, cooling pads, etc, in the extreme cases that warrants it. If Macbook Pros typically slowed down, that would be indicated in benchmarks. As far as I know this is not so.

*If we're comparing to current Mac Pros that's of course in another ballpark both performancewise and moneywise.