9 Things To Check On Before Ordering That New Mac or PC

By • July 8, 2008

This week I had some interesting conversations that made me wonder if those building the new Macs and PCs had been paying attention to the issues we’ve been discussing here for months. Sad to say, I was left underwhelmed at the feedback I was getting. Since QLSO is PLAY scheduled to ship on July 15, I thought it a good idea to give you a list of issues to review with your system integrator.

1. Has the system integrator know that PLAY libraries should use Soundflower? This question is going to “tweak” some system integrators in the center of their ego. So, one more time, here’s what you (they!) need to know. Both Logic and Digital Performer are 32bit and don’t operate above 2GB of RAM. On Logic, the EXS24 sampler has been designed to access 4GB of RAM. With QLSO PLAY libraries, to not max out Logic resources, you need to run any PLAY library outside Logic and route the audio into Logic via Soundflower. That’s because PLAY is designed to access the higher amounts of RAM.

2. Does the system integrator know that on the Mac, both PLAY and Vienna Instruments are 32bit? I refer you back to my article on April 25, 2008 where this was discussed.

3. Does the system integrator know that on the Mac, Vienna Instruments should NOT use Soundflower? I got this directly from Vienna’s Paul Steinbauer. The Vienna Ensemble is sufficient.

4. Has the system integrator spent their own out-of-pocket money to order in any copy of a PLAY library and Vienna’s Special Edition and Vienna Ensemble 3 to pre-test them on their systems before selling them to you? This includes authorized Mac resellers, too, including the Mac Store. Unfortunately, I keep hearing from some of the main system integrators that they’re not getting review copies of the software to properly develop (e.g., R&D) effective systems.

If a developer doesn’t want to give out an NFR to system integrators, they can make them available at a special non-resale system integrator’s price. The two to work with are StormDrum 2 and the Vienna Special Edition. Since a custom system is going for $3000 up (on a PC with 8GB of RAM, $4900 and up on a PC with 16GB RAM, and more on a decked out Mac), I’m sorry, but there’s NO excuse (read my lips – NO excuse) for a system integrator not spending a little R&D money (which is tax deductible in the US) to insure they know what they’re doing on your system.

But here’s the other issue with systems being built, by musicians for musicians, who, in not getting either an NFR copy or a reduced rate, didn’t spend their own money to effectively test: passivity. [REF – see my pre-4th of July Barbecue Chicken article for further insight].

You see, it’s just so much easier to blame Vienna or EastWest then it is to take personal responsibility and pride in what the company is doing to buy the materials to do the proper testing.

So I encourage you to ask the question.

5. Does the system integrator know that PLAY and GigaStudio 4 stream, but that the Vienna Instruments load into RAM? This is an important observation because as Jeff Laity from Tascam pointed out in the April 25th article, once you’ve hit the polyphony peak, it doesn’t matter how much RAM you have in the system, you’ve maxed out the polyphony. This is solid reason why for the sake of computing efficiency, you should have a system with a number of hard drives, I think 4-5, so that you have the C Drive, then one drive for each orchestral section, or however you want to segment it.

6. Do you know how many slots there are on the motherboard for RAM, how the RAM is configured, and the best way to order RAM so that when you upgrade, the old RAM doesn’t go into a shoe box? For example, one motherboard has 4 memory slots. You order an 8GB system that has four 2GB RAM modules. Then you decide to upgrade to 16GB of RAM. Now you have to replace the 2GB RAM modules with four 4GB RAM modules (4×4 = 16). So what happens to the four 2GB RAM modules you originally bought? If you don’t have another comparable system to put them in, guess what, you got 8GB of RAM you can use. On the PC, the standard today is a motherboard (aka mobo by all the in “geeks”) with 8GB of RAM. When you move up to a PC motherboard with 16GB to 36GB capability, or better, you’re now using a server board that takes the dual Xeon. Check the various ways RAM is configured so that when you upgrade tomorrow, you won’t have wasted, unused RAM.

7. On a farm system with PCs, is a motherboard with or without video being used? My personal choice, and it is a personal choice, is that I prefer motherboards for farm systems with onboard video. This way, if there’s every a problem, the repair is quick – just replace the motherboard. Not everyone shares that opinion. Some prefer a motherboard where you add the video card. Unfortunately, one issue when working with developers is getting them to tell you the specs of the computers they used for beta testing so you know whether there was a pro or con between the two options.

8. How many hard drives does the case contain? This is a very big question. The Mac Pros have a maximum of four (4) drive bays. If you need to extend beyond that on the Mac, you then need eSATA connections or other options. Skulking around, I found for the PC an Antec tower case that has 10 drive bays and comes with a 650 watt power supply.

9. What audio cards are now 64-bit/Vista compatible and Leopard compatible? I published a pre-NAMM list. But that was six months ago. An eternity has since passed.

Well, that’s my 9-point list.

So what do you think? Are there more points to check on? Less? Give us your feedback.

Comments

By Benjamin on July 9th, 2008 at 7:29 am

Hi Peter,
Very interesting stuff. I am not sure whether this is appropriate but my experience when composing using East West sounds (and I’ve got most libraries) is quite limited on my PC. I am using a Vista PC with 4Gb RAM and when I have more than 9 VST tracks playing, and it doesn’t have to be together, I get this hissing sound… ooups!! must be the RAM!! (how frustating!) So I think it’s time to invest in a 32Gb RAM PC based home studio and hopefully this time I’ll be able to have more than 30 tracks playing together!!

Cheers

Benjamin

By Rohan Stevenson on July 9th, 2008 at 8:17 am

peter,

there are quite a few inaccuracies in your report here. firstly, logic as 32bit application has access to 4 Gb of RAM (in practice about 3.7 Gb) not 2 Gb. but it can access more if needs be. thus the exs24 can access about 3.7 Gb per instance, for a theoretical limit 947 Gb of installed RAM. vienna instruments is 32 bit as well, but it can access RAM outside of logic in the same way. with the exs you will need to have a minimum of 5 Gb RAM installed.

you can also use the IAC driver to access standalone applications outside of logic which i suspect is how the EWQLSO will work, you don’t need to do it through soundflower i believe. the reason vienna should not use soundflower is because it is unnecessary and vienna instruments will not integrate properly with the host. (you won’t get the cool legato features etc).

also, the issue is not just RAM, but streaming. you should always balance between amount of streaming you expect, and the amount of header loaded into RAM. knowing a little about how the sample libraries work can really help you to figure out to optimize them.

By Peter Alexander on July 9th, 2008 at 8:48 am

Benjamin! Thanks for writing in.

A couple of questions about your experience so everyone knows better where you’re coming from.

1. Is the system with the “hiss” a dedicated “farm” computer?
2. Are you sequencing with this computer, and during sequencing, once you’ve hit the VSTi limit you’re talking about, are you hearing the hiss?
3. If yes, what program are you sequencing with?

PA

By Peter Alexander on July 9th, 2008 at 9:03 am

Rohan! Thanks for writing in. I went to you website in hopes of seeing what you’re sequencing with, but I couldn’t get a sense that you are sequencing. So first, for this article to be useful to the most number of readers, how about telling us what you’re sequencing with.

For everyone who doesn’t know IAC here are some links:

Nick Fox-Gieg’s Tutorial
http://fox-gieg.com/tutorials/2007/inter-application-midi/

Discussion on Sonik Matter, no response
http://community.sonikmatter.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=39530&mode=threaded

Discussion on Apple Forum, no response
http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1572480&tstart=89

IAC Driver Issue – post unresolved
http://post.monome.org/comments.php?DiscussionID=831&page=1

If you’re sequencing on the Mac and using the IAC driver, perhaps you’d be willing to explain your setup and how you’re achieving your results.

I covered streaming and RAM in Point #5.

Regarding theoretical limits. Again, is this your experience? Because as most of us understand it, the EXS24 is written to access up to 4GB of RAM, not the Logic program.

My experience with “theoretical limits” has been on the PC where we built many farm systems. Until recently, most PC motherboards were limited to 2GB. So to get to 4GB required a different board. Once installed, to get the different apps to work with it (often Native Instrument programs), you had to execute the 3 gigabit switch. Above 3GB, many of these programs became unstable.

Now that’s our field experience.

So if your’s is different, please consider sharing what you’re doing and how you’re achieving it.

Thanks so much for writing in.

PA

By Peter Alexander on July 9th, 2008 at 9:05 am

MEMO TO APPLE AND MOTU AND SONAR AND CUBASE!
We professionals all want to have a great sequencing and recording experience. So please, you’re invited to post to answer these questions and to provide other insights.

Peter Alexander
Music Technology and You Editor
Film Music Magazine

By Andrea at Redmatica on July 9th, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Just a quick comment: the EXS24 in Logic Studio/8 can access and use more than 4GB of RAM, and this is a *great* feature for orchestral/score music. This functionality becomes automatically active once your Mac system has more than 5GB of RAM installed.

Andrea Gozzi
Redmatica

By Jeff Laity on July 9th, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Nice article. A few notes:

– I don’t think there is a 64-bit host on Mac, is there?
– I have GS 4.01 and VI 2.0.3170 working together on my XP 64-bit system
– I also just tested a RME Raydat (PCIe 32×32 interface) on my system.
– I’m pretty sure VI is a streaming player

Otherwise I agree with much of what you said. Although I’m not sure “Soundflower capability” tops my computer shopping list. 🙂

By Peter Alexander on July 9th, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Jeff, VI loads into RAM. Soundflower is MAC only.

What’s the status of testing PLAY running in GS4?

By Brian Miller on July 9th, 2008 at 3:02 pm

VI is a streaming player.

Read all about it :

http://vsl.co.at/en/211/442/347/229.vsl

“Extremely powerful proprietary streaming audio engine, ”
“64 stereo voices per instance streaming from disk.”

By Chris on July 9th, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Peter,

Some interesting points. Correction through-Vienna Instruments and Vienna Ensemble are definitely streaming from disk in the same way Play, Kontakt, and Giga will. There is a short bit of the sample in ram with the rest streaming off disk. I’m looking at the Activity Monitor right now playing a violin sustain sample and watching the disk activity.

By Markus Fritze on July 9th, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Logic Pro/Express 8: How the EXS24 sampler addresses RAM in Logic 8

One of the changes to the EXS24 in Logic Pro/Express 8 is in the way it handles RAM. In previous versions, the EXS24 shared memory space with Logic, meaning that the total maximum RAM footprint for Logic and all instances of the EXS was a bit less than 4 GB. In Logic Pro/Express 8, the EXS24 addresses its own memory space. This means that EXS24 instances can use as much RAM as is available on the computer.

Here is the link: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1041

By Peter Alexander on July 9th, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Markus, I recognize your name. Thank you so much for taking your time to write and clarify things.

Peter Alexander

By Rohan Stevenson on July 9th, 2008 at 11:42 pm

hi peter,

sorry for not mentioning my setup: i am on a mac G5 running logic. i forgot to mention that the IAC (inter-application-communication) is a mac OS X only feature. its easy to forget there is a whole world of PC users out there! other points have been clarified already but just to add: if you are on a powerful mac with plenty of RAM, what used to require a couple of computers and a complex setup can now be achieved all on the one computer. first with vienna, then the exs, and now PLAY (most likely – i don’t know much about it). i personally use a highly optimized blending of libraries, including some of my own samples within the EXS24. it works pretty well, and i don’t want for much, but at some point soon my whole rig including samples will want to be updated, hence i keep informed. but i well also need some downtime…

By Peter Alexander on July 10th, 2008 at 7:06 am

I OWE EVERYONE AN APOLOGY.

Usually I am very strong on my fact checking. And because of the amount of samples the Vienna forums have talked about loading samples into RAM, I thought that Vienna was using another technique I’m aware of to load samples and not use streaming.

I AM WRONG.

I asked Daryl Griffith in the UK who is super savvy on these things and he wrote me back this:

“Yes, Vienna streams, and I believe that the pre-load is set at 60kb. There is no way that a library of this size could be loaded into RAM, with current desktop machines. I think that Herb managed to get the whole Cube into a 32GB machine. If it was all loaded into RAM then this would mean you would need well over 300GB of RAM in your machine.

“If you want to test this sort of thing, then the ideal example is the new PLAY system. EW has come up with a way to use more RAM on a Mac, since 64bit is not yet available on OSX. However, with a 32GB machine, and DFD turned off (which is how they do it) you can actually load less patches than when using 2.5GB in a standalone instance, with DFD switched on.

“I hope that this helps to clarify things.”

It does. And I earned the Technology Writers Eat-Your-Hat Award of 2008.

:0(

PA

By Rohan Stevenson on July 10th, 2008 at 9:20 am

well, i hate to be pedantic, but even daryl is slightly inaccurate in point of fact. OS X and many of its processes ARE 64 bit – but maybe he was talking about the EW PLAY system. it is not necessary for a 32 bit application to be 64 bit in order access more than 4 Gb of RAM. the technique to do this is how logic gets around it with the EXS and how vienna instruments does as well.

By Peter Alexander on July 10th, 2008 at 9:29 am

1. The Mac is 64-bit.

2. Logic is 32-bit

3. Neither Vienna nor PLAY are 64-bit on the Mac.

4. Per Markus Fritze, EXS24 is written to access as much RAM as you have installed on the Mac.

5. While PLAY can operate in AU within Logic, it’s best to use PLAY as a standalone routing audio into Logic via Soundflower.

These points are confirmed.

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