Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Configure and optimize you computer for Audio.
Kaine
KVRAF
1817 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:37 am

fmr wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 9:44 am
There's something weird in those results.

How can a CPU clocked at 3.2 GHz in single core performance outperform another CPU clocked at 4.2 GHz?

And yet another CPU clocked at merely 2.9 GHz almost equal the performance of the latter?

Another curiosity: The iMac Pro performed miserably in single core tests.

It's beyond my understanding. :shrug:
The 8700B Turbos to 4.6GHz
The 7700K Turbos to 4.5GHz
Xeon's (Mac Pro) normally have more restricted turbos than consumer level chips.

Geekbench appears to be measuring the strongest core in this instance, which means the turbo clock is skewing it completely.
fmr wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:53 pm
OK. Next question: Will this translate in plug-in counting? Or is this just a benchmark thing? I ask this because I was thinking in the 7700K for a possible next machine (my 3770 is starting to show its age) but if the 8700 (not K) performs this well, maybe an 8700K would be a better bet. I have to confess I am surprised.
Not really, it's only really as strong as it's the weakest core (i.e. the first one to overload). This is why I set all the cores to the same in benchmarking, single core turbo scores aren't really realistic for gauging audio use.

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fmr
KVRAF
7839 posts since 16 Mar, 2003 from Porto - Portugal

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:39 am

Kaine wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:37 am
fmr wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 9:44 am
There's something weird in those results.

How can a CPU clocked at 3.2 GHz in single core performance outperform another CPU clocked at 4.2 GHz?

And yet another CPU clocked at merely 2.9 GHz almost equal the performance of the latter?

Another curiosity: The iMac Pro performed miserably in single core tests.

It's beyond my understanding. :shrug:
The 8700B Turbos to 4.6GHz
The 7700K Turbos to 4.5GHz
Xeon's (Mac Pro) normally have more restricted turbos than consumer level chips.

Geekbench appears to be measuring the strongest core in this instance, which means the turbo clock is skewing it completely.
fmr wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:53 pm
OK. Next question: Will this translate in plug-in counting? Or is this just a benchmark thing? I ask this because I was thinking in the 7700K for a possible next machine (my 3770 is starting to show its age) but if the 8700 (not K) performs this well, maybe an 8700K would be a better bet. I have to confess I am surprised.
Not really, it's only really as strong as it's the weakest core (i.e. the first one to overload). This is why I set all the cores to the same in benchmarking, single core turbo scores aren't really realistic for gauging audio use.
Thanks. Your clarifications were precious to me :tu:

So, in your opinion, will the 8700K (if it exists) or even the simple 8700 be a better choice for an audio workstation than the 7700K?
Fernando (FMR)

Kaine
KVRAF
1817 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:04 am

Depends... and this is where being clear on the options is going to matter.

I'm going to give you the base clocks for various chips, to cover a few bases comparison wise.

8700K - 3.70
8700 - 3.20
8700B - 3.20

7700k - 4.20
7700 - 3.60

So, the 8700B is just a BGA (soldered) edition of the stock 8700 chip.

8700 vs 7700 = the 8700 is about 10% lower on the base clock speed, but the IPC was about 10% between generations, so I would expect them to be fairly neck and neck in real terms.

The 7700K's base clock and 8700K base clock are pretty much the same deal, with the 7700K being about 10% higher, but the 8700K having the performance gains.

If you can overclock/clock lock (if you have full BIOS control) then I'd take whichever was more appealing to you on cost out of the K's and either kill the turbo or ramp the clocks up a bit to optimize it depending upon your requirements.

If you're talking about running a MAC, then I have little to no idea about how accessible the BIOS is these days or if clocking is possible. Someone else can probably answer that, but I'd be looking to go with which ever chip has the highest base clock out of your available options.

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fmr
KVRAF
7839 posts since 16 Mar, 2003 from Porto - Portugal

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:07 am

Kaine wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:04 am
If you're talking about running a MAC, then I have little to no idea about how accessible the BIOS is these days or if clocking is possible. Someone else can probably answer that, but I'd be looking to go with which ever chip has the highest base clock out of your available options.
It's for a personally assembled PC (no Mac). So yes, I will have full control of the BIOS (AFAIK).

The current prices here for an 8700K are roughly about 100 euros more than the 7700K, but it seems prices are lowering. Also, I saw a "delidded" 8700K clocked at 4.8 GHz for an extra 80 euros. What do you think of that "delidded" option?

By "kill the turbo", you mean disabling it completely? What would be the benefit of that in the overall performance?

Sorry if I'm derailing the thread too much. Thanks again :tu:
Fernando (FMR)

Kaine
KVRAF
1817 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:14 am

fmr wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:07 am
The current prices here for an 8700K are roughly about 100 euros more than the 7700K, but it seems prices are lowering. Also, I saw a "delidded" 8700K clocked at 4.8 GHz for an extra 80 euros. What do you think of that "delidded" option?
You can all core turbo that chip to 4.7GHz with little to no real effort and you'd still have to do the overclock portion with the board anyway with either option, so the 80 euro surcharge seems a little steep unless they are offering a stunningly good warranty too.

The firm you reference might be binning and cherry picking them, which would be what you're paying for (well, and some warranty to cover the delid). Either way, you'll be investing in some decent cooling, so I really wouldn't be surprised if most of the chips could hit 4.8GHz by the end of the product cycle, the only real question is what sort of max temps you'll be seeing by shifting from 4.7GHz to 4.8Ghz.
fmr wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:07 am
By "kill the turbo", you mean disabling it completely? What would be the benefit of that in the overall performance?
Yes, if you disable it completely and it sets a known overload point so you're not second-guessing yourself mid-project.

Say, you have a stock chip that has the following clocking profile where the turbos are stagged over availible cores

Core 1 = 3.7
Core 2 = 4.0
Core 3 = 4.3
Core 4 = 4.7

So, if you're lucky then the heaviest workload will be allocated to the strongest core and the lightest workloads will be assigned to the slowest core. This is generally how it works, and depending upon the sequencer and OS revision, it can normally eak out maybe 80% of the CPU load if your lucky... right up until the point where the load balance process will hit core where it's already busy and it ends up bumping it to a less capable core.

At that point, everything falls over and crackles like mad.

If you core lock, you'll get closer to 100% as the load balancing isn't having to deal with the complication of trying to second-guess the available overhead. A great result tends to be 90%+ average load, although I've certainly seen it capable of bouncing around 98% with some setups and plugin dependent.

Running a test like dawbench where all the plugins are the same size, kinda levels the playing field somewhat and a few hefty plugins in the real world might completely skew this further in real terms, but it's pretty much the best way we have of at least getting a grasp on this in a practical way for a comparison.

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Rockatansky
KVRist
253 posts since 3 Jun, 2017

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:58 am

Don't forget that the 8700 uses significantly less power, 65W against the 95W of a 7700K. That's about 40% less, if my maths didn't fail me there. So although the performance gain may be little per-core, you'll save on the power bill in the long run.

I do agree that single-core performance is important, but I don't agree with the sentiment that it's the measure of what a CPU can do. If you have 6 cores of a certain speed against 4 cores of the same speed, plus hyperthreading which doubles the number of cores to 12 vs. 8, you'll definitely have more performance headroom for plugins. Yes, if you have one plugin that uses up an entire CPU core, then sure, it sucks if the core has less speed than in another CPU. (8700 vs 7700) But if one plugin doesn't eat up an entire core, you'll get 6/12 instances of it on the 8700 over 4/8 instances of it on the theoretically faster 7700K. All you need is a host that can make use of all present (hyper-threaded) cores, and you should be able to get a LOT more plugins running on the six-core than on the quad, looking at how little performance most of today's plugins require.
Confucamus.

keyman_sam
KVRAF
3998 posts since 8 Mar, 2005

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:58 pm

Now I need to think about HOW to transition to a Mac smoothly...All my ssd drives, samples, plugins etc.

Any tips from folks who’ve crossed over to the other side?

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el-bo (formerly ebow)
KVRAF
10682 posts since 24 May, 2009 from A galaxy, far far away

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:24 pm

keyman_sam wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:58 pm
Now I need to think about HOW to transition to a Mac smoothly...All my ssd drives, samples, plugins etc.

Any tips from folks who’ve crossed over to the other side?
Regarding plugins, it will depend on which daw you plan to use. Really, you are looking at getting all the latest installers for what you own. From there, maybe install both AU and VST, unless you are on ProTools.

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gunark
KVRist
90 posts since 1 Sep, 2003 from Studio Telex

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:52 pm

keyman_sam wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:58 pm
Now I need to think about HOW to transition to a Mac smoothly...All my ssd drives, samples, plugins etc.

Any tips from folks who’ve crossed over to the other side?
I just tried the other way and frankly MacOS to W10 is a headache, especially as most of my tracks used audio units. However if you go the other way, just make sure you install the VSTs as well as the AUs so your tracks pick them up.
Image

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Rockatansky
KVRist
253 posts since 3 Jun, 2017

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:10 pm

FWIW, I ordered my 6-core earlier today.

I'll get one of those OWC 4-port external M.2 NVMe drive bays, so I can additionally have my ultra-fast 500GB M.2 Samsung connected via TB3 to start with, and I can add others later when they become more affordable. (They will.) Switch them off while browsing or coding, switch them on while making le muzak.

I guess I'll have to wait a month, but I'll also be getting an eGPU, that's a graphics card in a TB3 enclosure. The Razer Core X clocks in at around 300€, with exchangeable fan and PSU (good if too loud or broken), and then I'll see if I can make "the Moj" accept my GTX 970 in it. Maybe with nVidia web drivers or a patch from some suspicious GitHub repo. If not, gotta add another 300-400€ for a (cringe; friggin) Radeon Vega 64 or something. A lot of cash for a graphics card in total, but I'm sure it'll last forever. And if it doesn't, I can just swap out the card at some point. Best thing: my TV has several HDMI inputs, so when I don't need/want the eGPU box to run, I can just switch the Razer off and switch the TV over to the other HDMI input, and continue on the Mini's onboard GPU.

The disappointment and shock I first felt when I read those Mini specs vs. the prices have completely left me. Yes, I'll pay dearly, but I'm pretty certain (from my past experience with Macs) that it will be worth it if I don't fight their system but embrace it.

I hate having 20 extra boxes and cables all over the place. But I figure the modularity is a lot more energy efficient than running a huge gfx card and all my SSD drives (as economic as they may be) from when I power up the machine until I power it down again, every day. "Spend now, save later", I guess.

Anyway. One thing to remember when transitioning machines: before you format or dispose of anything, always, ALWAYS deactivate any licenses you have activated to that specific hardware, especially hard drives. I forgot to do that once, and it made my life hell. Waves, iLok soft licenses (ew), ReValver (remember that one?), anything that's activated against your hard drive or maybe CPU serial or so.

gunark is right, when you transition from Win to Mac, always install your plugins as VST as well. If the manufacturers didn't screw anything up, the Mac VSTs should have the same plugin IDs, so any VST based project ported from Win to Mac should open without major issues in most modern DAWs. If you're not bound to AU by using Logic or GarageBand, I would generally advise to use only VST2 or VST3, exactly because of the portability aspect. Because it also works the other way round, Mac VST projects should load on Win as well. AU... not so much. ;)

edit for _imho_ interesting video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ0sPcU8GtY
Confucamus.

Kaine
KVRAF
1817 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:39 am

Rockatansky wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:58 am
I do agree that single-core performance is important, but I don't agree with the sentiment that it's the measure of what a CPU can do. If you have 6 cores of a certain speed against 4 cores of the same speed, plus hyperthreading which doubles the number of cores to 12 vs. 8, you'll definitely have more performance headroom for plugins.
I do agree with all that, it's just that in this instance we were discussing two specific chips with the same core count.

keyman_sam
KVRAF
3998 posts since 8 Mar, 2005

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:15 pm

Thanks for the installing suggestions.

One thing to note - the RAM seems fairly tricky and not so user-installable. I've decided against upgrading my own.

I'm looking at the thunderbolt multidock2 but wondering if it's worth the high price (costs nearly as much as a computer!). Isn't it just a dock? Why is it so expensive?

User avatar
Rockatansky
KVRist
253 posts since 3 Jun, 2017

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:29 pm

Kaine wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:39 am
I do agree with all that, it's just that in this instance we were discussing two specific chips with the same core count.
fmr was asking about the 8700 (six cores) and the 7700K (four cores), which are the top-of-the-line Mini/iMac (non Pro) CPUs. Apologies if I misunderstood something there.
keyman_sam wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:15 pm
Why is it so expensive?
Because Apple collects royalties from products that use Thunderbolt and call themselves Thunderbolt something. And what's even worse, it calls itself Blackmagic, so you pay an extra Blackmagic tax for having their name on it. Because, you know, having the Blackmagic logo on something will make you an instant pro. Of whatever. And it's probably been tried and tested, so it's not like the usual China rubbish you plug in and struggle with for the rest of your life, but it's probably just going to work. And it seems well designed and made, so it's not just some flimsy piece of thin molded China plastic but can probably take a dent or two. But mostly for the Blackmagic logo, probably.

Here's a full teardown video. Looks manageable, but they just had to use different screw sizes than before. Previous Mac Minis used T6 and T8 torxes that are hard enough to come by as is, the 2018 one seems to add T5 and T10. And I have to say, the way that plastic cover snaps off in the video, I probably wouldn't try opening the thing more than once or twice...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UrSLnnMyeg
Confucamus.

Kaine
KVRAF
1817 posts since 4 Nov, 2004 from Manchester

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:02 am

Rockatansky wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:29 pm
fmr was asking about the 8700 (six cores) and the 7700K (four cores), which are the top-of-the-line Mini/iMac (non Pro) CPUs. Apologies if I misunderstood something there.
Nope, you're right, fully my error, I miss-read it myself.

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tehlord
KVRAF
7689 posts since 22 Sep, 2008 from Windsor. UK

Re: Anyone considering Mac mini for their new DAW?

Post Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:09 am

Kaine wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:02 am
Rockatansky wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:29 pm
fmr was asking about the 8700 (six cores) and the 7700K (four cores), which are the top-of-the-line Mini/iMac (non Pro) CPUs. Apologies if I misunderstood something there.
Nope, you're right, fully my error, I miss-read it myself.
Will you be selling configurable Mac Mini's? I'm sold.

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