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Budget computer for DAW use

Configure and optimize you computer for Audio.

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KVRer
 
3 posts since 8 Nov, 2012

Postby flashback_rtk; Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:28 pm

Hello,

I am going to build a computer for various uses like DAW/audio production work, some gaming, and the usual browsing, media and documents use. In the future I may do some video-related stuff. I know that by being on a budget I won't be able to build a very powerful computer but I don't think the projects I will be doing for now (or the games for the matter) are going to be very heavy. Anyway I will value upgrade-ability on my build.

Of all these uses I want the computer for, I want to put the audio work use as the first to think of in the criteria when choosing components. In order to do that I would like to know some stuff about how does the DAW software use the system. My main questions are: How does the DAW software (or the audio processing itself) benefits from having more cores in the processor? Does it benefit from having faster memory? Is the GPU of any use in any program? What's the benefit of having more RAM? I am going to use mainly Ableton Live, Cubase, Adobe Audition and some tracker software. Anyway I would like to try diverse programs.

My budget goes from 400€ to 450€. I have two systems chosen, one based on Intel and the other one on AMD. Each of those have its advantages and disadvantages.

From what I have been reading at the moment Intel is making better processors than AMD, with more IPC and less power drain. The processor I have chosen for the Intel system is the i3-3220. It is a dual core, hyper threaded 3,3Ghz. What I like about this setup is that the processor is very efficient, with good performance and less power drain. I also like the fact that the processor is an Ivy Bridge so it's brand new technology. I know from looking at the results of some benchmarks that the i3 cache access speed is higher than the AMD one. Also if I think about upgrade-abilty I think Intel has been keeping the same socket for a while right?

The AMD system is based around either the AMD FX-6100 or the Phenom II X6 1045T. These processors are a six core, 2,7GHz (the Phenom) and a "3 modules with 2 cores each", 3,3 GHz AMD Bulldozer (the FX). Each module in the Bulldozer has two cores that share the floating point unit and some other stuff. The conclusion I drew from analysing benchmark results is that in some tasks the FX acts as a six core and in some cases it's like a three core. Performance seems to be similar in most cases. The Phenom is better by being a true six core. Also, I heard that this particular processor is not in production anymore so I would be grabbing it now or never. The FX is better by being faster, newer and apparently more overclockable. Anyway both options let me overclock both the processor and the memory buses, which is not possible with the Intel system. I consider the overclock an upgrade option.

My biggest concern with the i3 is it being a dual core. That's why I would like to know if I will notice higher performance with more cores. Also is Hyper Threading useful? Another concern I have is that with the Intel system I can't use memory speeds as fast as the ones I can with the AMD system. Even though I am not that worried because I heard that the FX does not scale the memory speed that well (and I am sure Intel's controllers and chipsets are good) I would like to know what benefit do I get, when working with audio, from having a faster memory. Last concern is that it's not overclockable. My biggest concert with AMD is that apparently the Bulldozer technology is not as good as Ivy Bridge (and Piledrivers are a bit more expensive), and the Phenom is not really new (even though is good), and that both of them drain more power and run hotter than the i3. So basically for the same price AMD is offering me more cores and overclocking possibilities by having worse cores and efficiency than Intel. Basically what I want to know is if that "extra" performance I get from the AMD system is worth it when working on audio related projects or if it matters at all.

In the benchmark results I have looked into the FX-6100 sometimes is like the i3 (or worse) and sometimes it's almost like an i5. In some tests though i3 seems to beat out almost full AMD lines just by being an Intel processor. Anyway I don't know how do those tests relate to the kind of work a processor does when working with audio.

Later I will update with a list of the components for both systems (now I don't have time). But for now, do you have other suggestions? Should I take into account something else/something I haven't mentioned? Anything else I should know?

Sorry if my post is really long or repetitive for a budget computer. I would like to use my cents wisely and it's really good if I learn something as well. I hope some of you can answer some or all of the questions and I hope this can become a nice discussion. Also sorry if my language is sometimes strange, English is not my mother tongue. Thank you very much for your time.

Have a nice day!
KVRian
 
632 posts since 6 Jun, 2009

Postby Ashe37; Thu Nov 08, 2012 7:59 pm

My warning would be about the bulldozer CPU.... for most DAW use, its going to be a three core processor, as most DAW operations are floating point.

(well, straight mixing isn't but most VSTs are)
KVRian
 
1110 posts since 4 Nov, 2004, from Manchester
 

Postby Kaine; Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:40 am

This looks familer? Was the another thread asking the same questions about the various CPUS?

flashback_rtk wrote:My biggest concern with the i3 is it being a dual core. That's why I would like to know if I will notice higher performance with more cores.


Loaded question. Performance is governed just as much by the chipset tech itself and the generation of the chip than anything else. You could quiet easily build a dual core cpu that beats a hexcore cpu given the right design and tech so you can't really ask that question.

Go off the benchmarks and what tell you and forget about the amount of physical cores, it just isn't important.

Also is Hyper Threading useful?


Yes

Another concern I have is that with the Intel system I can't use memory speeds as fast as the ones I can with the AMD system.


Really? I thought the Intel boards supported faster memory than the AMD ones. In either case you don't want to go above 1600MHz really as neither chipset plays nicely when you start getting the higher clock speeds in there... and honestly you'd never notice the difference between 1600mhz and 2133mhz for audio.

Basically what I want to know is if that "extra" performance I get from the AMD system is worth it when working on audio related projects or if it matters at all.


As noted above it'll probably lose performance on all th FPU based stuff, but how much of that is relevent is hard to call without knowing all your software and how it's optimized.
KVRer
 
3 posts since 8 Nov, 2012

Postby flashback_rtk; Sun Nov 11, 2012 9:40 am

First of all thank you for your answers.

My plan is to go with the Intel system unless the AMD proves to be superior. In various benchmarks I have looked at the results are quite variable. Benchmarks are not always representative of real use that's why I wanted to ask you who have experience with audio software.

Loaded question. Performance is governed just as much by the chipset tech itself and the generation of the chip than anything else. You could quiet easily build a dual core cpu that beats a hexcore cpu given the right design and tech so you can't really ask that question.

Go off the benchmarks and what tell you and forget about the amount of physical cores, it just isn't important.

My warning would be about the bulldozer CPU.... for most DAW use, its going to be a three core processor, as most DAW operations are floating point.

(well, straight mixing isn't but most VSTs are)


From what you tell me and what I have been reading, when using floating point operations the i3 would be like two excellent cores and the FX like three OK cores. Both chips run at 3,3 GHz and Bulldozer is quite new. Anyway I would go for the i3 because its TDP is lower. No way that extra core is worth it (even if it's not as good as the Intel ones)? What about the integer cores (the ones that are actually 6)? What are they being used for?

In phoronix they do a test called Dolfyn, which computes fluid dynamics, where every Intel processor beats all the AMDs. I don't know what fluid dynamics is but to me it sounds like sound (and liquid physics) and that made me worried about the FX not being suitable for DAW use. There is another test called LAMMPS which seems to be quite similar. Anyway in Anandtech there is a benchmark that compares the i3-3220 and the FX-6300 (which is a Piledriver so is not 100% accurate to what I am comparing) and the FX does really well on multi-threaded tests and video encoding (which I know I will do) while being beaten by the i3 here and there. The results are quite equal overall across the chosen tests. But floating-point operation is more critical for audio than multi-threaded (mostly) integer operation, right?

PS: If I try to put the component list the page says my message is too spamy. How can I do it? In a separate post?
KVRer
 
3 posts since 8 Nov, 2012

Postby flashback_rtk; Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:37 am

Found a way

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