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Building a Dedicated Soft Synth Computer?

Configure and optimize you computer for Audio.

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Throbert
KVRian
 
527 posts since 29 Nov, 2008, from Denver CO USA

Postby Throbert; Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:01 am

synthmanDS wrote: Lately, I've been toying with idea of building a dedicated soft synth computer to possibly convert some of my hardware synth over to software versions now that it appears the processing power finally may be capable of do this.

While there is a wealth of information regarding soft synths and even individual computer requirements per each manufactures products, I haven't found much clear info accumulative requirements beyond speculation at best.

A good example of what I'm would put together is a windows xp based tower system 2.66 dual core, 2GB RAM, 350 GB 7200 HD with a pci audio/midi card. Midi in/out on the pc would go into a standard midi interface which is connected to a separate Mac DAW. The PC would essentially be a "hardware device". Composing would be done in a MIDI environment, then complete songs track recorded to digital audio.

I built a Midi PC, It cost about $1300 I use a 10K rpm SATA drive for my OS (XP) and apps for faster booting that my MOBO and CPU could deal with I use another SATA drive 7200 Rpm for audio and samples. If I was to upgrade I would use SSD's instead. they are quiet, faster and smaller so more air will be able to flow.
I am researching the use of Linux wich will be a PITA to set up but will be more reliable than Windows. Here's some specs
Sorry about the format I couldn't find a place to upload it to use as a URL.

I-Star D-300 3U rackmount case $100.00
I-Star TC-3U46 460w Power TC-3U46 Quieter Fan Option $90.00

2) AcoustiFans 60mm Dust Proof $64.00
3)80 mm Nexus Quiet Case Fans $46.00

AcoustiPack™ ULTIMATE 3-Layer PC Sound proofing Kit $47.00

"ASUS P5Q-E LGA775 ATX
Motherboard, Intel P45 Chipset, Supports Intel Core 2 Extreme CPUs, Dual DDR2 1200, SATA 3Gb/s RAID, CrossFireX Ready, PCI-E 2.0 " $160.00

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Quad-Core Processor 2.4GHz, 1066FSB, LGA775, 8MB $194.00

ZALMAN CNPS8700 NT Copper Intel/AMD CPU Cooler $60.00

CORSAIR DOMINATOR with DHX Technology TWIN2X4096-8500C5DF 4GB PC2-8500 (DDR2-
1066) DDR2 Memory $116.00

"ATI All-In-Wonder 2006 PCI Express / Radeon X1300 / 400 MHz /
2048 x 1536 @ 60Hz / 256MB GDDR2 / CATV / FM Antenna /
DVI / HDTV/S-Video/Composite If you can find one $50.00

Zalman ZM-17Cu Silent Video Card Copper Heatsink $17.00

Western Digital Raptor WD740GD 74GB Serial ATA 10,000RPM Hard Drive w/8MB Buffer $95.00

Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500JD 250GB Serial ATA 7200RPM Hard Drive w/8MB Buffer $42.00

2) Smart Drive 2002 Copper Cool, Quiet Hard Drive Enclosures $154.00

Pioneer DVR 212BK DVD Burner get a 318 for $50.00

Total #1,285.00
A minor scale is a major scale starting 3 half steps down from the major and visa versa. Any Chord has as many versions as it has notes.
jcschild
KVRian
 
1176 posts since 25 Dec, 2003, from Kentucky y'all

Postby jcschild; Thu Aug 20, 2009 6:58 am

to the OP,

so far you have not recieved much in the way of good info.

assuming your main system is powerful (core i7) and this system is a slave box for samples only.

memory bandwidth is king for sampling. present leaders are

Nehalem dual Xeon 38MB/s
Core i7 28MB/s
AMD AM3/DDR3 13MB/s
Core 2 duo or quad ddr2 8MB/s (slow for samples)
see this benchmark (2nd one down Kontakt test)
http://www.adkproaudio.com/benchmarks.cfm


AMD AM3 and 4gig DDR3 1600 and XP Pro is the most affordable yet powerful
keep all you 32bit software on this system and make you main a 64bit system.

or AMD AM3 and 8gig DDR3 1600 and Vista 64 and hope for the best compatibility. (install host in 32bit)

bear in mind the AMD will not do as good with hybrids like Omnisphere. better to have that on your main system.

oh and dont even consider a 5400 rpm drive thats obsurd... dpending on the size and quantity of your sample sets you may want to spread them over 2 drives. never fill a drive more than 1/2 full.

Scott
ADK
UncleAge
KVRian
 
1312 posts since 11 Jun, 2005, from Phoenix, Arizona

Postby UncleAge; Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:19 am

jcschild wrote:...never fill a drive more than 1/2 full.

Scott would you expand on this a bit?
jcschild
KVRian
 
1176 posts since 25 Dec, 2003, from Kentucky y'all

Postby jcschild; Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:36 am

HI,

as you fill an HDD it becomes slower. this is an actual physical aspect.
the outside of the platter spins faster than the inside

this would be a wise idea for both audio drive and samples
no so much for so for OS

years ago a trick we used to do was to partition a drive the first partition was always faster. with todays drives is sort of pointless but again you dont want to fill a drive either.

Scott
Chemik
KVRist
 
93 posts since 18 Mar, 2003, from Jacksonville, FL

Postby Chemik; Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:57 am

Several things. First off, for affordability, I've yet to see a custom computer configurator be as cheap as www.cyberpowerpc.com

I've bought my last 4 computers (and will buy my next one from them next month) and never had any issues.

Now, as some have said, there are some current synths that probably need to be optimized that are consumption hogs. However, none of the synths you mentioned you are using are that bad. I have all of them I think and could put them all in one song with 5-10 audio tracks with no problem.

The system you've configured is a beast. You should have no problems with it.
Professor Al
KVRist
 
36 posts since 19 May, 2009, from Washington DC

Postby Professor Al; Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:19 am

synthmanDS wrote:Lately, I've been toying with idea of building a dedicated soft synth computer to possibly convert some of my hardware synth over to software versions


I cant help you with a lot of information, but I can share my own experiences: I have a clunker WinXP PC in my room loaded with nothing but free soft-synths from this site. It is MIDI'd together to a Roland D50, and a stock M-Audio Delta 66 interface into an Allen & Heath mixer lets all the music come out.

Essentially, I treat this as a multi-synth module with an analog output, meant to be plugged in to other equipment. It doesn't replace my hardware, but adds to it. Among the goodies in this machine are Bohn's free Glass Armonica, a ton of DSK and HG Fortune VSTi plug-ins, Superwave, a fistful of string synth emulators, several dozen more and I'm still looking. All are individually wrapped in Savihost for freshness :D.

The computer (with WinXP installed) was obtained from the Craigslist classified ad service and cost me maybe $50. The Delta card was a Christmas gift. IMO, fifty bucks for more than a hundred synthesizers is a bargain that's hard to beat.
Alan Peterson CBT, CAE
Professor of Audio Technology
Montgomery College
Rockville MD / Washington DC
synthmanDS
KVRist
 
60 posts since 3 Aug, 2008

Postby synthmanDS; Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:23 am

www.cyberpowerpc.com

I checked these guys out. Good prices, seem gear more toward gaming and only could find 64 bit processors available. I'm going 32 bit - for now.

I have a clunker WinXP PC in my room loaded with nothing but free soft-synths from this site. It is MIDI'd together to a Roland D50, and a stock M-Audio Delta 66 interface into an Allen & Heath mixer lets all the music come out.

Essentially, I treat this as a multi-synth module with an analog output, meant to be plugged in to other equipment.

This sounds kind of like what I want to achieve. Is this you main music computer? It sounds like you use just for analog audio tracking with no midi recording involved. Do you have the pc midi'ed to a midi interface which feeds into a separate DAW or are you using it as your DAW with the D-50 being the soft synth controller?

I just wonder what kind of audio and mid latency we are talking about going from the pci midi card (which should be super fast) on the pc into a standalone midi interface then into the Mac DAW. It shouldn't be much more than hardware synths which do exactly the same thing? (I hope!) Then again you are pushing all the midi data from all the soft synths at the same time through a single in/out port. Damn this is a pain in the ass to work through without physically having everything to try out.

I may have to test this out on my Vista laptop first with a simple single in/out usb midi interface feeding into my standalone midi interface and using the 1/8" headphone jack for audio out into the mixer. It's a 1.73 GHz dual core with all the aero nonsense turned off. I'm not expecting miracles but none the less, should work better than ok with a few softies going.
UltraJv
KVRAF
 
5978 posts since 30 Dec, 2004, from London uk

Postby UltraJv; Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:40 am

64 bit processors will run 32 bit OS and software, its the only thing available if u buy new.
Chemik
KVRist
 
93 posts since 18 Mar, 2003, from Jacksonville, FL

Postby Chemik; Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:58 am

synthmanDS wrote:
www.cyberpowerpc.com

I checked these guys out. Good prices, seem gear more toward gaming and only could find 64 bit processors available. I'm going 32 bit - for now.



They have just about every processor under the sun. Here is their Athlon XP configurator:
http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/AMD_ ... figurator/

With them, it is all about using the configurators. Don't look at their built to ship systems.

Another option for you would be to get a complete system from geeks.com or newegg. The ones that aren't the latest and greatest chips come at excellent prices. I just bought my parents a stinking powerful Athlon XP system for $325 including Vista installed.
User avatar
xh3rv
KVRAF
 
1591 posts since 10 Dec, 2008, from Minneapolis

Postby xh3rv; Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:58 am

jcschild wrote:HI,

as you fill an HDD it becomes slower. this is an actual physical aspect.
the outside of the platter spins faster than the inside

this would be a wise idea for both audio drive and samples
no so much for so for OS

years ago a trick we used to do was to partition a drive the first partition was always faster. with todays drives is sort of pointless but again you dont want to fill a drive either.

Scott


I've heard the same thing with a slightly different technical reasoning - moving the read head across tracks is expensive time-wise, and the outer tracks require less track jumping.

I think SSD drives could be big for dedicated studio sample libraries in a few years, they're just a little too pricy now for most consumers (not by much though!). I wonder if anyone will be putting out hybrid drive packages, one for reading and one for writing (which SSD can't do so much ...)
LiteOn
KVRian
 
797 posts since 1 Apr, 2005

Postby LiteOn; Thu Aug 20, 2009 12:49 pm

jcschild wrote:to the OP,

so far you have not recieved much in the way of good info.
Says who?

jcschild wrote:assuming your main system is powerful (core i7) and this system is a slave box for samples only.memory bandwidth is king for sampling.


This is what the OP wrote
synthmanDS wrote:NI FM8
Korg WS/M1 Legacy digital version
Sonic Projects OP-8
Waldorf PPG
Modular Moog V2

(A possible software based sampler)
Note that heavy sampling does not appear to be the main target use of this machine.


jcschild wrote:oh and dont even consider a 5400 rpm drive thats obsurd... dpending on the size and quantity of your sample sets you may want to spread them over 2 drives. never fill a drive more than 1/2 full.
Indeed, these tipps are absurd, especially for what the OP has asked for.


Cheers,
LiteOn
Throbert
KVRian
 
527 posts since 29 Nov, 2008, from Denver CO USA

Postby Throbert; Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:34 pm

xh3rv wrote:
jcschild wrote:HI,

as you fill an HDD it becomes slower. this is an actual physical aspect.
the outside of the platter spins faster than the inside

this would be a wise idea for both audio drive and samples
no so much for so for OS

years ago a trick we used to do was to partition a drive the first partition was always faster. with todays drives is sort of pointless but again you dont want to fill a drive either.

Scott


I've heard the same thing with a slightly different technical reasoning - moving the read head across tracks is expensive time-wise, and the outer tracks require less track jumping.

I think SSD drives could be big for dedicated studio sample libraries in a few years, they're just a little too pricy now for most consumers (not by much though!). I wonder if anyone will be putting out hybrid drive packages, one for reading and one for writing (which SSD can't do so much ...)


the cost of 10k rpm SATA drive is at least $100
the cost of Copper Cool, Quiet Hard Drive Enclosure is about $70
the cost of a comprable SATA SSD is about $230
so yea about 35% more
A minor scale is a major scale starting 3 half steps down from the major and visa versa. Any Chord has as many versions as it has notes.
jcschild
KVRian
 
1176 posts since 25 Dec, 2003, from Kentucky y'all

Postby jcschild; Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:46 pm

LiteOn wrote:
jcschild wrote:to the OP,

so far you have not recieved much in the way of good info.
Says who?


Indeed, these tipps are absurd, especially for what the OP has asked for.


Cheers,
LiteOn


LOL since you asked...

5400 rpm drive? :help:

quad core? none of the samples listed are multi-threaded a faster dual core would be better. see same benchmarks i linked.

4 gig ram? really none of those listed are large address aware nor do i think you could create a set with those that came anywhere near 1 gig

so why the 4gig and quad core? looking toward the future?

:D
LiteOn
KVRian
 
797 posts since 1 Apr, 2005

Postby LiteOn; Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:49 pm

jcschild wrote:5400 rpm drive? :help:
I'm doing absolutely fine with my 1 GB 5400 drive for audio. It's more than sufficient to handle _my_ samples load which is usually short samples and some stem tracks per track. And Trilogy I can use quite well too. So, for me: together with my SSD system drive this combination is a perfect compromise between performance and low noise. And only once the drive should reach its transfer limits I'll get a faster one. Changing a drive usually is amongst the easiest hardware upgrade tasks.

jcschild wrote:quad core? none of the samples listed are multi-threaded a faster dual core would be better. see same benchmarks i linked.
Are you refering to the Kontakt sample playback test? Anyway, on a plugin plattform load balancing across CPU cores is clearly the job of the host, isn't it (which is clearly proven to work by the Dawbench DSP Universal test, btw).


jcschild wrote:4 gig ram? really none of those listed are large address aware nor do i think you could create a set with those that came anywhere near 1 gig
You're right here - as long as no Nehalem cpu is chosen.


Cheers,
LiteOn
janostman
KVRist
 
92 posts since 21 Aug, 2009, from Sweden

Postby janostman; Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:08 am

I actually took this concept a bit further by building a hardware synth keyboard with a VSTi engine. The motherboard boots of Compact-flash.

You can find it here http://janostman.wordpress.com

As this is a prototype it is built from junk I had laying around but it still performs 4 voice poly with the Synth1 plugin and performs and sounds like a dream.

The real thing will be built around a 1.6GHz Atom Mini-ITX board.

Check it out
/Jan
___________________________________________________
Developer and proud owner of http://www.dspsynth.eu
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