Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
jbfunk3
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Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by jbfunk3 » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:19 pm

I'm trying to decide what processor to use to build my first PC. I've read up on multicore support here but it's all very confusing. How big are the benefits of multicore if I'm running a lot of VST's? I've gone over the performance of processors on the performance test but I haven't found the answers I need for my situation which is heavy VST usage.

I'm gonna run Windows 7 64 Bit on my new pc and the latest version of Live 8. I will almost exclusively be using Native Instruments VST's: Maschine, Kore, Kontakt on Live. So here's my issue. Live is supposedly multicore and the NI software isn't so I'm stuck between a super fast dual core or a slower quad core.

I'm going with AMD because of the upgrade path and bang for the buck so I'm keeping my budget fairly low for now. The 2 chips I'm looking at are the Athlon II X4 630 quad core or Phenom II X2 555 BE dual core. If I have to, I'll move up to a Phenom II X4, but I'd rather wait till new ones come out much later this year and get a system up and running now for less. Any advice about which processor I should use? Will the benefits of a quad core outweigh the sacrifice of pure speed to run the NI stuff? Or, should I go for the fastest chip and go multicore down the road?

I appreciate people's thoughts and advice. The last time I dealt with Live performance issues was on 5.2 on my IBook G4. It's been a long time. Thanks for everybody's input.

Imaulle
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by Imaulle » Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:21 am

go with the Intel i7 920

it's 4 cores with 8 threads

jbfunk3
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by jbfunk3 » Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:42 am

Thanks for the suggestion. The i7 920 is 4 core not 8 core. The 4 virtual cores are from hyperthreading. From the research I've done on this site, hyperthreading on the intel processors is useless with Ableton and in some case may even slow down the speed of the processors. It's also terrible for single core processing which includes almost VST's at this point. I'm looking at AMD because all the cores are real and will be used by Ableton. Do you have any experience with dual vs quad core use of ableton?

If I were to spend the money it would cost for an I7 920, 1366 motherboard, and triple channel memory, I could get an AMD Phenom X4 at about 90% of the performance of the I7 920, motherboard with integrated graphics, and ram for at least $100-150 less. I'd then put that money into an SSD drive. I don't have that budget right now though so I'm looking at the chips I already mentioned. Do you have any experience with those? Thanks.

longjohns
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by longjohns » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:02 am

jbfunk3 wrote: motherboard with integrated graphics
that does not necessarily sound like a great idea

longjohns
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by longjohns » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:04 am

Imaulle wrote:go with the Intel i7 920

it's 4 cores
jbfunk3 wrote:The i7 920 is 4 core
seems everyone is in agreement about this

jbfunk3
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by jbfunk3 » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:22 am

longjohns wrote:
jbfunk3 wrote: motherboard with integrated graphics
that does not necessarily sound like a great idea
The ATI Radeon 3300 gpu on the 790gx motherboards from what I've researched is actually quite good for running a DAW. It's not gonna give you top end performance for games but it's great for music apps. Plus it saves me about $40-50 for a separate GPU. Do you have any experience with dual vs. quad core or AMD in general? My issue right now is trying to decide between the speed of a dual core vs the multicore benefits in Live. I'm also looking at the Phenom II X3 720. Might be the best of both worlds for a budget cpu. Anybody use this one?

Khazul
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by Khazul » Sat Jan 30, 2010 12:01 pm

More real cores will help, however I understand it very much depends on your audio routing complexity how well this will work, or at leastb that appeared to be the case with Live 7, now Im not sure sure as both DAW and plugins seem to be using multiple cores more evenly.

As for real core vs hyperthreading cores, the i7 920 has 4 real cores. Each core has different functions within it, for example, integer calculations, floating point calculations and other bits. All hyperthreading does is to allow more than one bit of a core to be working on different instructions, so for eg, doing integger work in parellel with floating point work in the same core.

In a DAW - all the audio work is typically floating point, while looking after the user interface, audio and midi I/O, USB, Firewire, hard disc etc processing and alot of other background processing in your computer is mostly integer work, so yes hyperthreading helps a bit, but for a DAW - its physical cores that really count rather than total number of virtual cores.
Nothing to see here - move along!

Imaulle
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by Imaulle » Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:59 pm

with windows 7 the 4 cores / 8 threads from HT is 99.99999999999999999% the same as having 8 physical cores

davepermen
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by davepermen » Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:28 pm

for live, sure only consider an i5 or i7 by now. live's multithreading capabilities vary much depending on the workload. so getting a cpu that can overclock if there isn't multithreading going on, and still have tons of cores/threads to handle if there ARE is the way to go.

especially if you consider to "export wav". which by now is still singlethreaded.
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shatzer
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by shatzer » Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:46 pm

jbfunk3 wrote:
longjohns wrote:
jbfunk3 wrote: motherboard with integrated graphics
that does not necessarily sound like a great idea
The ATI Radeon 3300 gpu on the 790gx motherboards from what I've researched is actually quite good for running a DAW. It's not gonna give you top end performance for games but it's great for music apps. Plus it saves me about $40-50 for a separate GPU. Do you have any experience with dual vs. quad core or AMD in general? My issue right now is trying to decide between the speed of a dual core vs the multicore benefits in Live. I'm also looking at the Phenom II X3 720. Might be the best of both worlds for a budget cpu. Anybody use this one?
You will get better performance using a dedicated graphics controller. Onboard video will share resources with your system so its advised to use a separate graphics card usually between 256-512MB of onboard memory (onboard the card). After 512 it starts using your system again. Also check to see if anything is sharing in your IRQ settings. I'm quite sure it will work and you might not ever have any problems but i like to get every bit of performance out of something that i can. If thats not the case then why upgrade at all?

jbfunk3
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by jbfunk3 » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:16 pm

My understanding of hyperthreading is that while it doubles the threads for processing it's not necessarily reflected in performance gains on Live. I'm guessing it's great for running Windows 7, but not for Live. What I've seen so far from other users is that while LIve might be taking advantage of the virtual threads in the cpu monitor, the gains are not reflected in the Live cpu usage monitor. Do you have any evidence hyperthreading benefitting Live? My understanding too is that while getting double the threads the speed of each physical core is essentially cut in half which while fine for mulitasking is bad for single core software like most VSTs. Native Instruments strongly recommends turning Hyperthreading off because it bottlenecks the cpu making NI software almost unusable in some cases. Do you have anything that shows otherwise? I'm open to the possibility. Is anybody using Maschine or Kore in Live with a multicore cpu?

Will Live on a multicore cpu evenly distribute VSTs across the physical cores or will the VSTs get log jammed on one core??

Also as far is the IGP on the 790gx chipset, it comes with 512MB of memory for video, which should be more than adequate for integrated graphics of an audio workstation.

I appreciate people's thoughts. Funny to think how innocent and easy it was back in the day when all we had to do was look at the GHZ or MHZ of a processor and just get the fastest one. :?
Cheers

davepermen
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by davepermen » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:20 pm

hyperthreading benefits responsiveness. if you have more threads running than cores (and in any os, any time, there are more threads/processes EXISTING, but most idling), having hyperthreading helps. when ever one of those gets awake, there's a hyperthread able to handle it instantly.

your system gets more responsiveness, less chance for any form of visual, or hearable stuttering.

but not much performance increase per se, yes.

but the i5/i7 are about increasing the responsiveness of your system + trying to balance out the performance to fit your workloads.

and they're great at both of those things.
http://davepermen.net my tiny webpage, including link to bandcamp.

steko
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by steko » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:36 pm

Rahad Jackson wrote:My Awesome Mix Tape #6

jbfunk3
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by jbfunk3 » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:57 pm

Thanks for the link. I've read it before, but it helps to check it again. This stuff is so darn complicated. :) So what it sounds like is Live is multicore in the sense that it will evenly distribute individual audio tracks across the physical cpu cores during composition and mixing. It also sounds like it is essential to not load up too much stuff on one track because that will clog the multicore support. Now does this distribution work for VST's like Nativie instruments? For instance, if I open a project in Live and in the project I load up Maschine on 1 track, 2 instances of Kore over 2 tracks and 1 instance of Kontakt on the last track those 4 tracks will be distributed over 4 cores? Or, will they all end up put on one core? Does anybody have any experience with NI software in Live on a multicore cpu?

shatzer
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Re: Dual Core or Quad Core? Is Multicore worth it?

Post by shatzer » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:08 pm

jbfunk3 wrote: Also as far is the IGP on the 790gx chipset, it comes with 512MB of memory for video, which should be more than adequate for integrated graphics of an audio workstation.
Cheers
Yes, but is that SHARED memory???

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