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Computer processing question

wahfreak

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,269
Is there an accurate way of pre determining the load on a processor and/or memory when upgrading to newer programs? Each program has it own minimum requirements but what happens when you start adding them together? I mean, if I have a 2.8GHz machine with 1Gig of memory with a bunch of plug ins, how can I determine if an upgrade to a newer sequencer and Superior drummer for example will put it over the edge in terms of memory or processing causing me to spend more money on a new machine?
 

JMulhollan

Member
Messages
52
The way I look at it is, the newer or more upgraded programs tend to use more CPU and memory than previous versions did and the more your going to be running, obviously is going to eat up more memory and CPU. I've run out of memory before and I have 2 Gigs of memory on my machine so you might want to be cautious
 

wahfreak

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,269
The way I look at it is, the newer or more upgraded programs tend to use more CPU and memory than previous versions did and the more your going to be running, obviously is going to eat up more memory and CPU. I've run out of memory before and I have 2 Gigs of memory on my machine so you might want to be cautious
That's exactly my question. It would be nice to know before hand if the new programs I install would cause drop outs or latency issues or crash all together. There's nothing worse than buying a cool program only to find out that the current system can't handle it thus forcing another unexpected purchase of memory or a new machine all together.
 

LSchefman

Member
Messages
13,432
Having just bought an 8 core Mac Pro so I could handle the many upgrades I've made to my plug-ins over the past couple of years, I sympathize with your dilemma.

When you say "newer programs" that covers a LOT of territory. Do you mean recording software packages, which in and of themselves don't usually max out the machines, or does that include the latest soft synths and samplers that can be VERY processor intensive? Or effects and dynamics plug ins, that I find to be less CPU hoggy, except for convolution reverbs.

Macs have built in software that will tell you what your CPU and RAM are doing as you work the computer; I know that lots of recording programs (such as Logic) have CPU and disk activity meters built into the interface.

Bottom Line: There's an escalating relationship between the latest software and the latest hardware; the hardware folks come out with more power, and the software folks want to max it out; this leads to the hardware folks making even more powerful gear, and the software folks then maxing THAT out; and so it goes, a constant spiral trending towards more and more of everything.

My own belief is that if you want to run the most powerful software, you need the most powerful hardware. Compromises can, of course, and sometimes must, be made.

A 2 or 3 year old dual processor machine can still do an awful lot in the studio. Only the most processor intensive synth or sampling software is going to hang it up, and even then, you can always freeze tracks.

Programs like Digital Performer 6 reduce the CPU load on plugins once you close the window of the plugin by automatically pre-rendering instrument track output before playback begins so that you can run more plugs. Pretty cool, and may save older machines a lot of effort. I love this idea, but I just switched from DP5 to Logic, so for now...I'm sure that Logic and other programs will follow this lead as time goes on.

However, a single processor machine is not going to keep up with the latest software as well as a dual, quad or 8 core machine. And if you want to use the latest and most processor-intensive software, you're stuck with the need to buy a more recent machine.

More RAM definitely helps, and it's cheap enough that I'd certainly try that before upgrading the machine. But don't overbuy; A Mac program can handle more than 4 GB of RAM, but I'm told a PC program is limited to using 4 GB. I am going only on what I'm told by my PC - using buddy, who just built a Quad Core PC that is very slick.

But as with most things studio - upgrading one link of the chain leads inevitably to needing to upgrade other links, and this is true for digital gear now as it was always true for analog gear. The good news is that you can buy a very powerful computer for less than the cost of a single synth or piece of decent rack gear back in the "good old days" of analog studios. When I think of the load of money I sank into analog or digital gear that became relatively worthless...well, let's just say that a new computer every few years is a relative bargain.

When I started my studio the Mac IIc had just come out, and I "loaded it up" with 8 whole MEGS of RAM - at $1000 per megabyte, not gigabyte!!!! $10,000 for an 8 Meg Mac IIc that is now probably recycled into I dunno what...I gave it away to a friend a few years later...A 20 Megabyte hard disk was $1200. My big five figure analog tape machine ultimately sold for a tenth of its new price...I could go on... how about my first hard disk recording system, 8 tracks for $22,000, no plugins or processing at all, just basic recording and editing in a little LCD window and I flipped over how cool it was? ;)

I'm not complaining, I was told when I started out in the studio world, "If you want to have a studio and end up with a million dollars, start with two million."
 
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