Audio recording & ramdisk - worth it?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by bubingaisgod, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    I've been on a long and hard path these past few years, working to uncover the realities of PC-Based, intensive audio recording. I've been a lifelong PC supporter and technician, and have always fought against the stigma that PCs are only good for gaming and Apple is the only option when you want a stable working environment.

    I personally for years was struggling with recording sessions, especially when my VST and track count started rising.

    When I was ready to invest in a serious studio system, the great brotherhood of The Gear Page was my primary guidebook. Now I am running almost flawlessly, when my DAW crashes, it comes back like nothing happened a 20 seconds later. Windows boots in 7 seconds. Dropouts happen, but they are very minimal.

    What I would like to optimize now is the audio scratch disk. I've heard that RAMDISK can allow either a paging file using my RAM, or I can have SONAR allocate it's scratch disk to the RAMDISK drive.
    Is this worth using? Am I overreaching? I have a very high end system, listed below

    Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit
    AMD FX-8150 8 Core CPU
    16GB Corsair 1866mhz DDR3 RAM
    OCZ Revodrive 3 X2 240GB (BOOT DRIVE)
    WD Raptor 10,000 RPM - 600GB (Recording Drive)
    Samsung 6\GB SSD 256GB (Samples & VSTs)
     
  2. johnfv

    johnfv Member

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    I'm not offering advice here but I'd like to hear more about your rig. What is your audio interface? I've done lots of 16 simultaneous track recording on crappy old Pentium machines no problem but have been struggling to get beyond 16 tracks with my Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 (x 2) setup because of driver issues, the dual unit mode keeps crashing my PC.
     
  3. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    That's the most difficult part. You shouldn't buy exactly what you need when expanding your system. You should base your system also on the needs you anticipate for the future as well.

    So I chose the RME UFX for my audio interface, because like Avid(protools), they have multipule products that cover everything from audio production, digital converters, and live recording, to video integration, mixing and mastering. If I never need to expand, they have a huge variety of products that will fit right into my system. I'll get more into my system later.

    Now the part that might help with the issues your having, which are exactly the same issues I was having, is configuring your PC so that (a) your not asking too much of your computer at once, and (b) that your software is not conflicting with anything. These two issues cause 90% of the problems we face.

    You need to have a seperate hard drive specifically for recording, NOT a Solid State Drive.
    Second is services, you can google this, there are many services you can disable in windows that will smooth out system performace.
    Third is virus protection and the like. You must disable all of that when running any audio applications.
    Fourth is your ASIO drivers. You need to make sure your programs are set up to share your ASIO drivers with other audio applications. Otherwise you will experience system crashes when using multiple programs. Focusrite is known for having sub-par drivers and latency issues. ALL audio applications and drivers have latency, the only way to circumvent this is to use TOTALMIX durring monitoring, Totalmix is an application for RME devices, and is EXCELLENT for monitoring. Zero latency. If you monitor using your DAW tracks, you will get latency no matter what you do. Otherwise, Apple computers use Kernel based audio streaming, and have much less latency issues inside of software applications.

    Here's the list of my recording setup

    Sonar 8.5 Producer Edition
    Waves Mercury Bundle
    RME UFX (Interface\Firewire 400)
    SIIG Firewire 400\800 PCIe card(Texas Instruments Chip)
    Mackie MCU Pro Control Surface
    M-Audio Axiom Pro 61 MIDI Controller
    Native Instruments Maschine
    Rolland Fantom X8
    Presonus Central Station
    M-Audio BX8a Monitors and Sub
    Neve Portico 5012 Mic Pre
    Peavey 16FX Mixer
    DBX 266XS Compressor
    Furman PL-PLUS D Series II Power Conditioner
    Live Wire Power Conditioner
    Cyber Power UPS Battery Backup

    Shure SM7B Mic
    Blue Bluebird Mic
    Blue Encore Mic
    Senhiser e906 Mic
     
  4. johnfv

    johnfv Member

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    Thanks for all the detail. Yes, I have a dedicated stripped down machine (no antivirus, firewall, etc.) with a dedicated drive for audio files. Actually I even built a new quad core machine hoping to make it all work (I also have a lengthy PC background in software development). I have been lusting after the RME UFX but had a hard time justifying the cost. However, I have wasted many hours trying to get the (sub par) Focusrite drivers to work. It crashes with no applications running, just trying to get the Focusrite driver and Mix Control app to recognize both interfaces. I probably could have saved a lot of headaches just going for the RME stuff first. I'm going to give a few more attempts on the Saffire stuff before giving up. I can do 16 tracks with a single Saffire and an Octopre via ADAT no problem but any time the 2nd Saffire is on the PC crashes and/or bsod. Literally weeks spent with their tech support - not fun...

    Do have have some of your recordings posted?
     
  5. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    I think Focusrite drivers are just very sensitive to the hardware drivers and chipset for whatever your connecting their hardware to. I have heard many people say their Saffire interfaces work great. They just complained about the latency. Others have said it was a nightmare. So it sometimes just comes down to the luck of the draw regarding hardware compatibility. I've always used Gigabyte Motherboards, and AMD CPUs, and I've had minimal overall compatibility issues. With Audio interfaces, Texas Instruments seems to be the way to go, and firewire 400. USB works for some people. Personally I found it jittery and unstable. But I wasn't using a third party PCIe card, just the MOBO jacks.

    The thing about RME is their Hardware does much of the work processing the audio and routing the channels, and then it interfaces seamlessly with totalmix. That way your computer and the driver do the least amount of work possible, creating a more stable environment overall.
     
  6. guzman

    guzman Member

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    My PC isn't even half good as yours, and It never crashes. I use it for every day life purposes as well as recording. Go figure.
     
  7. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    I should have specified when I say crash, I mean Sonar freezes up for a few seconds, then comes right back and doesn't crash the rest of the session.
    Anyhow, my question is about RAMDISK and audio recording. I was just giving a background on the system I'm using so no one is shooting in the dark. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2012
  8. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

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    I'm having trouble understanding what causes the crash/freeze to happen - have you isolated it to "poor disk read times" or something? I'd think it's equally likely that it's CPU related if you are working with a lot of VIs/plugs. A ramdisk wouldn't help in that regard.

    One thing I've noticed about Windows 7 and SSD boot drives is that it sort of suspends the SATA drives after some number of minutes. I have all my Win7 OS w/ SSD boot drives and each also has at least one SATA drive. If I don't access the SATA drive for 15-30 minutes (I don't really know the exact amount), then when I do go to access it, I have to wait 30-45 seconds for the drive to spin. I've set my system to "High Performance" for the power plan so that it isn't putting the drive to sleep but alas. I'm wondering if perhaps that is something you could correlate here?
     
  9. wudo

    wudo New Member

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    16 GB this is much, surely you are just
     
  10. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    To stop that from happening you change your advanced power settings to never turn off the hard disk. And I'm not really worried about the crashing either, it's very managable, I never lose anything.

    I'm just wondering if RAMDISK has any suitable application within the realm of audio production. Like maybe you could load your VSTs to it and have your DAW scan the RAMDISK as a plugin folder? Or maybe use the RAMDISK as an audio scratch drive?
     
  11. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

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    Cool - I didn't know that was set! Thanks :)

    It's worth a try, right? I doubt you're going to get any real answers at this point unless you do it. The free version of DataRam lets you do a 4gb disk. But again - is disk speed/access what's holding you back? If it is, I'd think this would help a LOT. If disk speed/access isn't a real issue, then this will have zero impact. It probably takes 30 minutes to download, install, reboot, configure plugins, and then load up your project though. I hope you try it and tell us if it was worth it!
     
  12. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    Nothing is holding me back, I'm just looking for ways to optimize my work load, and maybe by posting a thread, we can bring up some helpful insights that could benefit audio engineers.

    And I disagree that I'm not going to get any real answers. Any information I haven't heard before is real to me. And I've already helped out two members with unrelated issues so I see this as a positive! :)
     
  13. jb4674

    jb4674 Member

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    Bubinga, have you always preferred AMD over Intel processors? I wonder if you switched to an i7 990 extreme (the one that does 6 cores with 12mb of cache), would your problems go away?

    I built a box for the purposes of recording primarily and I've had some hurdles along the way which have managed to tick me off severely...

    Problem 1: I bought an ASUS P6X58D Premium and had problems with it from the day I bought it. The main problem was that the mobo would lose its BIOS settings on power failure. After a few replaced boards, the problem still persists.

    Problem 2: I've had a noise problem coming in through the PC speakers since day one. At first I thought it was a bad PSU, so I called Corsair and got an RMA and got a new PSU. unfortunately, the problem still persists. I then bought a high end audio card (Creative X-Fi Tutanium HD). Installed it and the problem still persists. Tried a utility to turn down the noise on the 2x1tb caviar blacks that I use for projects and storage and.. Noise is still there. The last thing I need to replace is the hdd's. I put 4x160gb WD Caviar Blue drives (8mb of cache, nothing fancy), set on RAID 10 when I originally built the box. The reason why was because I had a stash of new drives and was trying to save some money and use what I had readily available.

    So this is what I currently have installed in this box:

    ASUS P6X58D Premium
    Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
    Intel Core i7 930 1366 CPU
    12GB of Corsair XMS DDR3 1600 RAM
    2xXFX ATI Radeon HD-5770 Single Slot in crossfire mode
    1 Dell 2408WFP Monitor
    2 Viewsonic VG-2230 Monitors
    Corsair AX-1200 PSU
    4 160GB Western Digital Caviar Blue HDD's (in RAID 10)
    2 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black HDD's (SATA 3)
    2 DVD drives
    Corsair Hydro H70 CPU Cooler
    6 Cooler Master fans
    Scythe Kaze Master Pro Fan Controller
    Corsair 800D Case

    So, my question is..(before I dump more cash on this box). Will I benefit if I add a Revodrive or just a simple SSD in one of the SATA 2 ports (4 available). Aside from the obvious transfer rates, are there any other benefits to the Revodrive?

    I haven't experienced any latency issues with the current drives but, the HDD platter spinning noise (I'm almost certain that's what it is) is driving me nuts.

    For a DAW, I'm using Presonus Studio One Pro.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  14. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    I had the Intel 3960X for about 2 weeks with the ASUS Rampage IV extreme board, 32GB of RAM, and the Revodrive, Velociraptor, etc...

    I went though 3 mother boards from New Egg, and half the time they wouldn't boot or if they did there was no BIOS. I got no POST screen on any of them. I did manage to get it loaded with windows dispite all that ********, and even have multipule drives, but I would never for a minute rely on that crap for my business. Yeah AMD is a little quirky and doesn't have the best technology, but I couldn't ask for a better system. I'll do a boot up speed competition with you via video any day ;)

    What I did ask on this thread is if there could be any legitimate use for RAMDISK in audio production.

    I'm sure there are plenty of AMD vs. Intel debates out there already though lol
     
  15. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    Oh and to answer your question, there without a doubt, is a 1000% increase in my system performace with the Revodrive as the OS drive. The key is not to have any write operations from windows on that drive so it lasts a long time.


    Windows took about 30 seconds to load with my old system. Now, basically I turn my computer on, and before I can even get settled in my seat I'm at log in.
    My DAW with the Waves bundle and about 50 synths, and 100 FX loads in 4-6 seconds.
     
  16. jb4674

    jb4674 Member

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    Can you elaborate on this?


    I used to have that luxury with the slipstreamed ISO of XP I used to run in my laptop. I used to be able to boot into windows in 10 seconds on a regular 2.5 250gb HDD (it used to piss off my friend because his macbook pro couldn't keep up, lol)

    I might get a 240gb Revodrive and replace the raid array I have in my box and add a 1tb WD caviar black to house all the extra stuff windows uses (moving the default location of the programs, my docs, downloads, user profiles, etc. to the tb drive).

    Did you have to do any registry tweaks to change default locations and such?

    The only thing that is holding me back from getting the revodrive is reading all the mixed reviews this thing has gotten and how in some instances some folks have had to wait as long as 30 seconds when the OS boots from it. Also, some people have reported having bsod's and having to reboot their boxes or even experiencing random restarts.
     
  17. Snap

    Snap Member

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    I also record on PC, but never have considered this option.
    Let us know if you try it and it improves performance.
     
  18. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    Yes, Windows uses several folders and files on your system partition(your C drive), to store needed data, and to temporally store information it uses when running certain programs and performing certain operations in Windows.

    If you use an SSD, you need to keep the write operations down to keep your data safe and the drive working for a long time. This goes double for an SSD that you have as your boot drive, because of the above mentioned write operations. If you look in google you can find many threads and guides on how exactly to eliminate these issues. I could go into it, but it's a very long list of items.
     
  19. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    I'm about to install RAMDISK and take a swing at it, I'll let you know soon how it pans out. Thanks!
     
  20. bubingaisgod

    bubingaisgod Supporting Member

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    Ok, testing is complete, and I am happy to say it worked out well. I purchased Dataram's RAMDisk, set up an 8GB partition in a matter of seconds, and moved all my VST plugins, Samples, TEMP directories, cache, and a single Cakewalk Temp folder for a current project. I then saved the image to my OCZ Revodrive, backed it up on another drive, and rebooted.

    Some people have said in other threads that it's too much of a hassle, but I disagree. The benefits I noticed are more stable read\write operations while recording, higher VST count, shortened latency when monitoring the tracks you are recording using FX through the DAW, and lightening fast import\export speeds. When you are done you can just export your project to a normal HDD, and the fresh image with a clean project folder and temp directories are there waiting when you restart. The only hitch is you need to make sure you save the image on shutdown if you are going to be installing a new program or updating a current one. If you wipe out TEMP files before the installer is done with them, your installations will fail and may cause serious issues when you reboot.

    I will repost when I upgrade to 64 GB of RAM, and install Sonar 8.5 PE and Maschine on the RAM drive. I have a feeling it will be the pinnacle of recording technology.
     

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