Best Master/Slave setup for demanding orchestral projects? Advice Needed!

Configure and optimize you computer for Audio.
KVRer
28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am

Hi guys,

I'm Francesco, this is my first post ever on KVR Audio so please forgive me in case this is not the right place where to write about this, or if this has already been discussed! (and sorry for the long post....Questions n. 4, 7, 8 particularly urgent to me!)

I work full time as composer and especially in orchestral (symphonic/classical) productions. I use a lot of VSTs and lately I've felt the need to upgrade my computer system. I often run something like 40-50 kontakt tracks (or more...) playing classical instruments from large libraries.

My problem:

Often I experience glitches or audio interruption while playing passages in which there are many plugins/voices used. Also Cubase runs very slow, but only when projects are very busy with tracks and plugins. Kontakt "disk" meter goes often to red. I've never been too expert in computer hardware, but now the machine that I have is slowing me down, and I find myself to think about orchestration in order to avoid using too many layers. That can't be done, sometimes, when doing orchestral music!

Here's my current setup:

Mac Pro Mid 2012 - 3,33 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon - 20 Gb RAM.
Cubase 9.5
Only HDisks, no SSDs at the moment.
I've got my libraries split on 3 separate internal hard drives (HDs)

And my questions (sorry if they're too many..)

1) Are my problem much likely related to processor, RAM, or the fact that I'm not using any SolidState Drives to improve the flow of samples? Or all of it?

2) In your opinion, would it be better to upgrade only HDs to SSDs, or a new processor and ram upgrade would be paramount?

3) If I get a powerful slave machine and use my current Mac as a Master (perhaps only by upgrading its boot disk to a SSD, so to run Cubase smoothly) will I experience a fast, smooth, reliable workflow, or will the "old" Mac Pro processor put any limit to the potential power of the newly built slave machine?
(I'm planning to have Vienna Ensemble Pro to control VSTs on the slave and communicate in master/slave mode on Cubase)

4) Very noob question: If I use a midi keyboard and midi controllers connected to my master, will these devices be able to control any midi parameters of VSTs loaded on the slave? (ie: midi cc and program changes to switch articulation, pans, faders....all controlled by midi controllers currently attached and configured to my mac pro). Can I have all VSTs parameters (microphone, dynamics, faders) recorded normally as automation tracks in cubase, with all samples loaded on the slave and controlled from master?

5) Buying something like a i9 Processor, 128 Gb of RAM is too much? My idea is to invest now to create a master/slave configuration that can prove to be efficient also in 7-9 years at least.
Any motherboard/processor to advice, that can stand to the test of time?
My budget would be around 4000€ in total for the slave computer who loads samples.

6) I'm in Europe, and since I have zero experience in building computers, I'll use some company specialized in this. I was looking at pc specialist website (in UK).
Do you guys know if it's good? or can advice based on personal experience about some good similar places where to buy? (Europe only).

7) If I use lots of VSTs and orchestral voices, loaded in a slave computer (connected with Vienna) is it more important to have a powerful processor installed in the master (where I run cubase and audio plugins) or on the slave (where I run around 200 VSTs tracks) ?

8) If I'll need to upgrade the processor in my Mac Pro 5,1 2012, from a six core to a 12 core double processor.....is that a difficult thing to do? I have zero experience with handling processors, and I've seen online videos about thermal paste, cutting wires and.....hell, I'm just a composer! :D

Thanks to everyone reading this and hopefully someone can give me good advice! :)

User avatar
KVRian
570 posts since 21 Aug, 2017 from Brasil

Post Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:31 am

Hi,

In UK check https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/custom/daw-d ... ations#anc
Kaine from Scan and is a member here, his last test viewtopic.php?f=16&t=513190

I can only help you for a PC/Win configuration...
I would wait a bit for the new x299 motherboards like the new Asus Prime X299-Deluxe II
https://techreport.com/news/34173/asus- ... -of-core-x
Image

For CPU the new Skylake-X CPUs, maybe the new i9-9940X or i9-9920X.
https://techreport.com/news/34163/intel ... and-solder
Image

64GB RAM (4x16GB DDR4-2666MHz), can add more latter...

A silent PSU
By using the https://outervision.com/power-supply-calculator gave-me +- 500W
The Corsair RM1000i can stay silent up to 50% load
https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Cor ... 00i/5.html
Image

A cooler like Corsair H115i Pro
https://techreport.com/review/33035/cor ... s-reviewed
Image

For GPU Gigabyte GV-RX550D5-2GD
- Not expensive +-£100
-No problem with latency
-The fans only runs when HOT, most 3D/games

For Boot/Programs a NVMe SSD like Samsung 970 EVO
For the rest SATA SSD like Samsung 860 EVO
(Nowadays Samsung is the choice for SSDs)
For backup Seagate Barracuda PRO + Icy Dock Duoswap MB971SP-B
https://youtu.be/UvrmmGH-cBY

For case Fractal Design Define R6 Black(without the window)
https://youtu.be/C3r4bIan9Vs
Last edited by Pictus on Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
KVRian
570 posts since 21 Aug, 2017 from Brasil

Post Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:42 am

(...)

KVRer

Topic Starter

28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:54 am

Wow, lots of info to dig in, thanks a lot Pictus!!!
Pictus wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:31 am
Hi,

In UK check https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/custom/daw-d ... ations#anc
Kaine from Scan and is a member here, his last test viewtopic.php?f=16&t=513190

I can only help you for a PC/Win configuration...

KVRer

Topic Starter

28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:56 am

PS: Do you guys know, in case I order from Scan in UK, if I have to pay any import duties to delivery the pc to France?
Pictus wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:42 am
(...)

KVRAF
1928 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Post Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:35 am

Not at this point, we're still in the EU. Next year... your guess is as good as ours!
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am
1) Are my problem much likely related to processor, RAM, or the fact that I'm not using any SolidState Drives to improve the flow of samples? Or all of it?
Yes, probably most of it.

Memory might be fine, you can run your busiest project and check your system memory availablity whilst doing so. You'll soon spot it if it's capping out.

The storge, well, I think you've already answered that one with the drive activity redlining!

That Xeon in the systems is equal to a last generation i5 now where it pulls around 9000 in CPU benchmark. A good mid-range chip currently is going to double the performance you have there, and a top end chip is going to be a multitude faster. Audio for film composers tend to be amongst the more demanding users we see, so I can see why you might be hitting a wall here as a current generation i5 I wouldn't view as being overly suitable for modern scoring tasks.
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am
2) In your opinion, would it be better to upgrade only HDs to SSDs, or a new processor and ram upgrade would be paramount?
I can't comment on memory, you need to check that.

HDD's are redlining as you've indicated, so that is cleary going to be a bottleneck that you'd notice.

CPU restricts the total amount of plugs you can handle concurrently, and that does seem like it could bottleneck here for you, once again through, you need to check it running under your busiest projects to find out if your hitting the wall, which I suspect you might be.

The problem is, swtiching to another chip from that generation isn't really going to help you here, so realistically the drives are going to be the easiest upgrade, the cheapest upgrade and the upgrade you wouldn't have to throw away in the event that you then decided in 6 months time to get a new setup anyway.
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am
3) If I get a powerful slave machine and use my current Mac as a Master (perhaps only by upgrading its boot disk to a SSD, so to run Cubase smoothly) will I experience a fast, smooth, reliable workflow, or will the "old" Mac Pro processor put any limit to the potential power of the newly built slave machine?
(I'm planning to have Vienna Ensemble Pro to control VSTs on the slave and communicate in master/slave mode on Cubase)
Well, your bottle necks from first glance appear to be resource related and using an external box is just farming out those requests. Yes, by spreading out or relocating your sound libaries the smoothness of your session should improve and no, the performance of the master machine won't hamper the slave unit.
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am
5) Buying something like a i9 Processor, 128 Gb of RAM is too much? My idea is to invest now to create a master/slave configuration that can prove to be efficient also in 7-9 years at least.
Plenty of users have gone that route. You can add multiple nodes, so even if you max out a system in that time frame, you could still just throw another system in alongside it.
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am
7) If I use lots of VSTs and orchestral voices, loaded in a slave computer (connected with Vienna) is it more important to have a powerful processor installed in the master (where I run cubase and audio plugins) or on the slave (where I run around 200 VSTs tracks) ?
The slave tends to be favoured with the grunt. You also don't mention your DAW of choice, I know of more than a couple of Logic users who run a MAC frontend with the heavy lifting done by PC.
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am
8) If I'll need to upgrade the processor in my Mac Pro 5,1 2012, from a six core to a 12 core double processor.....is that a difficult thing to do? I have zero experience with handling processors, and I've seen online videos about thermal paste, cutting wires and.....hell, I'm just a composer! :D
They don't make it easy, and the problem is you'll be restricted to chips that can fit on that board, which means largely 2012 vintage silcon, that isn't really going to get you the performance gains that your gunning for here.

KVRer

Topic Starter

28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Wed Oct 24, 2018 4:58 am

Thanks a lot Kaine! Your answers help a lot!

I'm a Cubase user since ever. I'm probably going to invest in a slave now, and will perhaps buy the next new Mac Pro in a couple of years, if they don't go nuts with prices/performance ratio. Otherwise I'll go 100% Pc/Windows. In this way, if I understand well, I won't invest useless money in outdated cpu technology available for my Mac Pro 2012.

Can I ask you if this slave configuration would work all together, and in combo with my Mac Pro as a master?


SLAVE CONFIGURATION (would cost around 4500 Euros) :

Processor: 16 Core Intel® Core™ i9-7960X (2,8*GHz) 22 Mb cache
Motherboard: ASUS® PRIME X299-A : ATX, USB 3.1, SATA 6 Gb/s
RAM Memory: 128 Gb Corsair VENGEANCE DDR4 2666 MHz (8 x 16 Gb)
Graphic Card: 2 Gb NVIDIA GEFORCE GT 1030 - DVI, HDMI

Hard Disks:
Boot Disk: SSD EVO 1 To Samsung 860 2,5 SATA 6 Gb/s
Libraries Disk: SSD EVO 4 To Samsung 860 2,5 SATA 6 Gb/s

Power supply: CORSAIR 550W TXm SERIES™ 80 PLUS GOLD
Cooling: Noctua NH-U14S Performance

External Case:
FRACTAL DEFINE R6 NOIR

LAN Port:
PORT 10/100/1000 GIGABIT LAN (Wi-Fi Not included)

Ports:
MIN. 2 PORTS USB 3.0 ET 6 PORTS USB 2.0 back + MIN. 2 PORTS front


Thanks a lot again for your help!





Kaine wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:35 am
Not at this point, we're still in the EU. Next year... your guess is as good as ours!
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:34 am
1) Are my problem much likely related to processor, RAM, or the fact that I'm not using any SolidState Drives to improve the flow of samples? Or all of it?

KVRer

Topic Starter

28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:04 am

UPDATE:

I'm running some tests to understand where my current bottleneck is when playing lots of voices from many orchestral VSTs, from my current Mac Pro setup. Hopefully this will also make me understand what could happen if I buy a new pc as slave, and keep using this Mac as master.

Current Problems on Mac Pro:

- I need to use a very high buffer in the audio card to avoid the real time playing getting stuck.

- Kontakt "disk" light goes often to red. Almost always, in busy passages.

- In the mac's "activity monitor", the cpu usage stays under 25%, which seems good to me.

- The 20 Gb of RAM are almost entirely used as soon as I open a busy cubase project.



This makes me understand what follows, but please correct me if I'm wrong:


- I need to switch to SSD drives to avoid glitches and kontakt "disk" to go to red.

- Cpu seems to do just fine for now?

- I need more ram, unless I use the slave to handle VSTs.

- Willing to add a slave system, the current Mac would be released from all the cpu and ram work with samples, so it should run smoothly, perhaps I should just use SSD as boot drive, and add a bit of RAM on it, but processor should be fine to handle busy projects, if working mainly with samples, given that I also have the slave new processor working with VSTs?

What do you think? What seems to be my bottleneck on the current machine?

Thanks a lot again to you all!

KVRAF
1928 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Post Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:23 am

Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 4:58 am
SLAVE CONFIGURATION (would cost around 4500 Euros) :
Power supply: CORSAIR 550W TXm SERIES™ 80 PLUS GOLD
That's my only sticking point. The X299 boards are 8+4 pins for the CPU socket supply and whilst it'll run on a single 8 pin (which is what the 550w will be running) I tend to favour going with a slightly bigger PSU with the 8+4 pin atx support.

This isn't crucial and without an overclock you can probably ignore it, just my own best practice.

Rest of the spec looks fine otherwise.
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:04 am
- I need to use a very high buffer in the audio card to avoid the real time playing getting stuck.

- Kontakt "disk" light goes often to red. Almost always, in busy passages.

- In the mac's "activity monitor", the cpu usage stays under 25%, which seems good to me.

- The 20 Gb of RAM are almost entirely used as soon as I open a busy cubase project.

This makes me understand what follows, but please correct me if I'm wrong:

- I need to switch to SSD drives to avoid glitches and kontakt "disk" to go to red.
Yes.
- Cpu seems to do just fine for now?
Unsure. The fact you need to raise the buffer would suggest that it isn't.

It's possible for an older/badly optmized plugin to overload a single CPU core with ease, and if one core falls then the whole lot topple.

When you were watching the CPU activity, were you watching a measurement that was 1 score for the whole CPU, or were you watching a meter for each core in there?

If it was the former, just re-run the test again, but find a tool that can measure each core and show you whats going on.

If it remains at 25% and none of the cores are showing as overloading or even breaking 50% then you're in the clear for now. If one of them is ricocheting around like a bullet in a Tom and Jerry cartoon, then you need to spring clean some plugs.
- I need more ram, unless I use the slave to handle VSTs.
If however, the CPU is looking healthy then it's going to come down to either the sample streaming (the drive) or the memory not being able to pre-load enough to make it smooth. In which case you look at RAM or Drive upgrades.
- Willing to add a slave system, the current Mac would be released from all the cpu and ram work with samples, so it should run smoothly, perhaps I should just use SSD as boot drive, and add a bit of RAM on it, but processor should be fine to handle busy projects, if working mainly with samples, given that I also have the slave new processor working with VSTs?
Sounds one way of doing it. I suspect you just need to offload enough to make the first machine smooth, it probably won't take a whole lot to do so. However, the more overhead you give yourself, the longer you'll be able to keep everything in service.
Last edited by Kaine on Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

KVRAF
1928 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Post Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:24 am

*double post*

KVRer

Topic Starter

28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:10 pm

Thanks Kaine!!

A friend of mine advised to get at least a 750W power supply instead of 500W. Is it more a matter of Wattage or pins/plugs? Power supplies find me as a total noob in the subject....

He also advised an AMD graphic card, because it causes less driver problems which slow down the DAW (Cubase in my case).
Do you know any good AMD usable in this environment, to run up to 2 monitors on the slave?

I'll look into some software to monitor cores separately, thanks. The Activity Monitor told me that cpu reached something between 300-400% peak (100 = one core used fully, 200 = two cores used fully, etc...) so in theory I had still 1-2 cores of headroom, right?
I guess then with a slave I would have much more cpu headroom on the master, being the slave to use all its cpu for VSTs....

Thanks again!

Kaine wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:24 am
*double post*

User avatar
KVRian
570 posts since 21 Aug, 2017 from Brasil

Post Wed Oct 24, 2018 1:28 pm

Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 4:58 am

Processor: 16 Core Intel® Core™ i9-7960X (2,8*GHz) 22 Mb cache
OK
Motherboard: ASUS® PRIME X299-A : ATX, USB 3.1, SATA 6 Gb/s
This motherboard is only good for LCC CPUs
LCC= Low Core Count
HCC= High Core Count
Image
For HCC CPUs you should use a motherboard with stronger VRM like:
Gigabyte X299 Designare EX(built-in Thunderbolt)
or
ASRock X299 Taichi XE(must be the XE) + Thunderbolt 3 AIC *if* need Thunderbolt.
Graphic Card: 2 Gb NVIDIA GEFORCE GT 1030 - DVI, HDMI
Do you know any good AMD usable in this environment, to run up to 2 monitors on the slave?
The AMD Radeon GV-RX550D5-2GD is more than usable...
Power supply: CORSAIR 550W TXm SERIES™ 80 PLUS GOLD
Nah...
The SSR-750PX noise will remain under 20 dB(A) up to about 550W of load.
https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/se ... 556-5.html
Cooling: Noctua NH-U14S Performance
The minimum is the NH-D15

Anyway, I build a PC(i9-7940X) from French sites and costing +-4500 Euros
You can edit to meet the requirements/budget, check
https://fr.pcpartpicker.com/list/tRGfRJ
Image

And another version with the i9-7960X + 2 EVOs 860 2TB instead one 4TB
https://fr.pcpartpicker.com/list/sMM8yX
Image

BTW, for more €45 you can have the Fractal Design Define R6 USB-C
https://fr.pcpartpicker.com/product/ggm ... def-r6c-bk
Image
USB-C: Everything you need to know
https://www.trustedreviews.com/opinion/ ... ow-2932202

KVRAF
1928 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Post Thu Oct 25, 2018 2:43 am

Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:10 pm
A friend of mine advised getting at least a 750W power supply instead of 500W. Is it more a matter of Wattage or pins/plugs? Power supplies find me as a total noob in the subject....
You could get away with a 500w on paper although higher wattage tends to mean the fan will spin up only at higher loads (most switch off under 50% load) and it means you shouldn't have it spinning most of the time, so nice and silent and possibly why your friend suggested it.

You also don't tend to find many PSU's under 750W coming with 8+4's however, so in this instance, it's inadvertently wattage + pins.

3 ranges I tend to favour.
Cheapish = Seasonic Focus Plus Platinum
Mid-range = Dark Power Pro
All out = Seasonic Prime Ultra Platinum.

The higher the efficiency, the less wasted power and heat loss. The Seasonics have a switch to jump between hybrid and full mode (hybrid is as I discussed up top), whereas the Bequiets are using their own fans on aggressively low fan curves which are just decent low noise solutions anyhow and all three should offer twin ATX connections.

If you're looking to stick with Corsair, I think the RMx 750 should have it covered, as well as units from the AX range.
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:10 pm
He also advised an AMD graphic card, because it causes less driver problems which slow down the DAW (Cubase in my case).
Do you know any good AMD usable in this environment, to run up to 2 monitors on the slave?
It doesn't slow down the system, the complaint is that they'll spike the driver every few mins briefly, although the spike they throw out the is about 35% of the total DPC load capability. The reason it doesn't overly concern me with DPC in this instance is that It takes a 101% load to run the risk of anything happening and it's more critical over time whereas quick sharp spikes tend to not really impact it, unless there are other problem drivers already in there.

Still, my Nvidia preference largely comes down to CUDA support for video editing duties or largely work outside of audio editing. If you've no need for it, then grab the ATI regardless. Although, that leads me to the other problem I have with ATI which is the fact they seem to have given up on passive cards. The last ones that appeared widely were the 230/250's and they no longer have current driver support they are that old and I've been asking about new passives from team Red for ages now.

They've started to adopt fan profiling and creating hybrid cards (spin up only under heavy load), although they are a few generations behind Nvidia with this and their fan scaling hasn't been as smooth in previous testing, although this could have changed as I haven't been paying attention as much recently to current cards. I'd love to see a fully passive or cheap semi passive option appear from them again through.

Any card out there currently can do 2 screens though, so that at least is the easy answer.
I'll look into some software to monitor cores separately, thanks. The Activity Monitor told me that CPU reached something between 300-400% peak (100 = one core used fully, 200 = two cores used fully, etc...) so in theory, I had still 1-2 cores of headroom, right?
Nope, that's a problem.

You can't split a channel chain, it's just too inefficient and time-consuming to do within the restricted audio buffer cycles you're working with. So, say you have 10 cores, it'll fire 10 channels at 10 cores in one shot, process them and as each one finishes in turn, it'll then call for more data and another track is submitted to the CPU for processing.

If all the channels are processed before the cycle completes and the next cycle begins then all is right in the world.

If one of the channels can't finish in time, then it crackles... and as we know, there is no such thing as "a little crackle" in audio. As such, that means if one channel overloads a single core, then the end result is one that you wouldn't be wanting.

KVRer

Topic Starter

28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Thu Oct 25, 2018 3:55 am

Hey Picts thank you so much for the hardware advices! I’ve gone step-by-step following your advices, but I’m kind of limited by the fact that, having zero experience in assembling myself, I’ll use PC Specialist website (they assemble, and are in UK, which means zero import duties for me, and they have lowest prices). They don’t have all the parts you suggested. 
Would you help me to understand if any of their options are valid as well? When/If you have time :P

They offer as alternative motherboards:

- Asus Rog Strix X299-E
- Asus Rog Rampage VI Extreme (expensive…worth?)
- Gigabyte X299 UD4 PRO

I’ve read online after a quick research that the Rampage VI is very good to work with a i9-7960X. Some others said it caused problems (not in a audio prod. environment though)
Would any other of those in the list above be on par or better than the one you adviced, VRM-wise? Or would these all be insufficient and not give justice to the processor I’m buying?

Graphic cards:

Since I’d like to go AMD because their drivers cause less latency/problems in music prod. environments, I was looking at AMDs they have:

- AMD Radeon Pro WX 2100 / WX 3100 / WX4100 / WX5100 / WX7100 / WX9100

Is any on these good? They only have DP connectors, can I always use DP to HDMI adapters to use any monitor, or would that cause problems?

Power Supply:

They only have Corsair. Would a Corsair RMx series 850W or 1000W be good/similar to the one you advised?

SSD Drives:

Is it better to split libraries on 2 x 2T ssd disks, or all together on one 4TB disk?

Gigabit Port:

Do I need to install any Gigabit port, or it comes inside any motherboard? (Sorry for my ignorance on this subject!) 
On the website there’s the option to add an integrated “GoLAN“ Gigabit Lan port….do I need one for connecting Master and slave, or I use the one on the motherboard?

French website: 

I’m an italian living in France, too. Could you tell me which was your website? DO they send the pc already assembled and ready to use?

Thanks a lot again!



Pictus wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 1:28 pm
Grape_Brotherhood wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 4:58 am

Processor: 16 Core Intel® Core™ i9-7960X (2,8*GHz) 22 Mb cache

KVRer

Topic Starter

28 posts since 22 Oct, 2018

Post Thu Oct 25, 2018 4:32 am

PS (continuing previous post):

@Pictus, on this webpage they're testing a i9 7980XE with an asus x299-A and it seems to work well?
https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page= ... reme&num=1

Also, the website I'm using to build should only pair components working well together....I hope :D
So, I'm a bit confused now since you said that motherboard wouldn't be a good choice for a i9 7960

Anyway...hopefuly one of those other motherboards I listed in the previous post will be ok...?

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