Why You Should Look at 8-Core for Your Next System, or, a Muse Receptor

By • February 9, 2009

Yes, I’m suggesting that you look at an 8-core (however they name it) whether it be on a Mac or PC for your next system. This is not the consideration of a geek who has nothing better to do all day then read tech manuals as he drinks chai tea.

Sorry, this is the in-the-trench observation of someone writing and producing music and video who can see the handwriting on his screen.

Mene mene tekel parse.

Translation: You have been weighed in the scales of justice and found wanting.

That about sizes it up.

Simple Example #1 – As part of job in writing for Film Music Mag I have to go to Best Buy every so often (I would personally prefer Olive Garden but there aren’t any computers there to look at). “I looked over Jordan and what did I see?” A brand new QUAD core in Best Buy comin’ after me, for GAMING! That’s right – gaming. A gaming computer from Alien Ware is running a QUAD! Now if it takes a QUAD to run a game (albeit a writing source for many), why are we surprised in music that we need a quad or dual quad (8-core) to produce our music?

This article from InfoWorld was written by Randall Kennedy. I post this because, and not to be critical, we have this tendency to become myopic and not look outside music production to see where development is going to better understand what’s happening in our world. Kennedy points out that by year end, it’s going to be an 8-core world, not a Core2Dual world.

Simple Example #2 – My P4 can beat up your Core2Dual.

“No it can’t!” you say!

“Yes it can!” I retort!

“So’s your old man!”

“Neno neno neeee no!”

Proof on the PC. On a Core2Dual with 2GB of RAM my poor wife is trying to do some work in Photoshop and InDesign. The Core2Dual with Vista grinds to a halt. (Heavy sigh!). She then burns the project to CD, goes into the studio and powers up her P4. The job is done in a fraction of the time. Literally.

Simple Example #2 My dual G5 2.7 Ghz can beat up your Core2Duo on OS 10.5
I’m handed a trailer in QuickTime format. They need 30 seconds of music. For fun, I load it into Logic 8.02 on my wife’s Core2Dual with OS 10.5. On its own, it runs fine. Inside Final Cut Express, it runs fine. Inside Logic 8, I had to call the Rescue Crew to resuscitate the poor thing.

I then run the exact same video inside my “old” G5 with Logic 8.02 on OS 10.4.11 and it purrs like an engine given an oil change with Castrol.

My point here is that while the Core2Duo is a great CPU for certain applications, for heavy duty stuff, a more powerful CPU is needed, or is going to be needed.

I extend this observation (for my studio and yours) to those computers we now call farm systems. Here’s the caveat emptor: depending on your virtual instrument choices, and the direction Native Instruments goes with 64bit Kontakt, you may not be able to put your virtual instruments on a cheap or cheaper machine.

For Vienna, those who opt for MIR, will need a powerful farm machine to run MIR, the Vienna Ensemble 3, and the Vienna Instruments. Depending on development time, by late Q3 or Q4, the multi-DVD set of MIR will be released which will also run other company’s virtual instruments. So a powerful machine is going to be needed there.

For EastWest, developer Nick Phoenix wrote on one of the forums that PLAY was designed for 8-core and the future.

SONiVOX made the business decision to not be backwards compatible on the Mac for the G5s for their new downloadable players.

In the absence of companies producing benchmarks, all I can do is read the anecdotal information and watch the trends. In doing that, why should we be so surprised that music technology, like game technology, like art graphics technology, is pushing the frontier for faster and bigger.

If you’ve got P4 systems running now and they’re working great, keep working ’em! That’s what I’m doing for sure. But if you’re going for new, again I say, new, then looking at anything less than an 8-core might be an unwise choice.

There is, however, another consideration, one which interests me a great deal and soon I’ll be getting a review unit to tell you about. That’s the Muse Receptor which runs under Linux.

Muse Receptor has not been as well received by we writers as it has by live performers. One thing for sure, it runs Kontakt, and hence, Kontakt libraries and virtual instruments with no problems. It comes with its own internal mixing board and UniWire, which means audio and MIDI travel over a LAN cable. But it does have a pair of audio outs and a MIDI connector on the back if you want to go in that direction.

What I have been told, but what I haven’t seen demonstrated, is that because the system is under Linux, operating system bloat is eliminated with many programs running faster and better under Receptor than with a standard computer.

If you don’t want to wait for my review, you can book a private demo.

Speaking for myself regarding the farm machine situation, I’m looking to see what virtual mixing board I’m going to use. That for me is the determinator, not the CPU. My preference is to wait for the version of the Vienna Ensemble that runs all the VSTi’s, as long as I can get it not bundled with MIR. If one virtual mixing board will do the job, then I can wait because I have no desire to learn the ins and outs of three or four virtual mixing boards no matter how “cool” the features. And it’s dual platform.

Learn once.

I can buy that.

Comments

By Graham Metcalfe on February 10th, 2009 at 10:04 am

I can vouch for the 8-core system. I had been on a Core2Duo based Mac for a while but needed to upgrade for business reasons. There is absolutely no comparison in performance, especially when running EW Play instruments which were virtually unplayable on the dual core system.

By Colin Costin on February 10th, 2009 at 11:45 am

If working in the field, I would strongly recommend using RAID 1+0 or RAID 1, as this may save a lot of time spent in case of a HDD failure, even if doing regular, weekly backups. And it also helps when reading data from those huge digital libraries.

By Robert Ellis-Geiger on February 10th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Muse Receptor is a waste of time for sample based VSTi. For a few weeks I tested the Receptor with great frustration trying to get East West Orchestra to work with more than a few instruments. We had 2GB of RAM eventually installed and the response and performance was terrible. The hardware inside is old, I mean really old, especially the type of RAM (unless this has changed). It works great when the VSTi do not require great amounts of RAM, such as none-sampled based VSTi. I have the latest Mac Pro and will never turn back to a PC.

By Peter Alexnder on February 11th, 2009 at 7:41 am

Robert – I have difficulty with your comments on Muse Receptor since first, you didn’t state if the EW QLSO was in Kontakt or PLAY format. You said you had 2GB of RAM eventually installed. On the PC with the older version in Kontakt, 4GB was recommended with a motherboard using the 3 Gigabit switch to access more memory.

You said you have the latest Mac Pro. Great machine. But Receptor isn’t a PC. It’s a special system under Linux. Here’s a brief history of Mac OS 10 which some say is or isn’t a variation on Unix: http://www.kernelthread.com/mac/osx/history.html

EW has worked closely with the Muse Receptor folks and thought enough of it to sell it to customers, too.

You also didn’t say when you got it nor where you contacted the company for tech support.

If you want to write something critical, be factual about it with your peers. But don’t slam a product and a company this way. From your description, it reads like you weren’t set up properly to start with.

By Marc Ream on February 12th, 2009 at 10:31 am

The Muse Receptor recently had a major update (Receptor 2 PRO) and is now available with a 3.0 Ghz Dual Core processor and 4 GB RAM.

By Bryan Lanser on February 13th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Robert Ellis-Geiger is most likely referring to the much older Rev A or Rev B Receptors, and not the RECEPTOR 2 PROs that not only have 4GB of high speed RAM, but also have SATA 2 drives and will support E-SATA external raids. One of my favorite demos is running the Ocean Way Drums library and trying to get it to pop, click, or otherwise misbehave… I’ve yet to get it to do anything but make incredible drum sounds! Several well known film composers are using the previous generation Receptor PRO 750 units with great results, and we’re confident that the new RECEPTOR 2 PRO and PRO MAX hardware is very well suitable for running large sample based instruments; and in fact we designed it specifically for this purpose.

By Bob Safir on February 24th, 2009 at 10:02 am

Given the price points of the Muse Receptor product line, why wouldn’t one opt instead for a second, high-powered Mac Pro that could host any virtual instrument library along with a lot of other capabilities? I can understand the benefits in a live situation, but in the project studio, I think I’d rather spend my money on something more open-ended…or am I missing something here?

By Robert Ellis-Geiger on February 25th, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Peter, I was using EW QLSO in Kontakt not play on Rev A or Rev B Receptor (I cannot remember which model). It was not my intention to put down the Muse company, sorry. After just reading through the Muse website, their new model might be really good. Respectfully, Robert.

By J Lofrano on March 9th, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Does anyone have an opinion on Emulator X and Emu products in general.

By ilter on March 11th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

With all due respect,
Why haven’t you mentioned about DVZ RT?
A DVZ RT in their turnkey system can chew VSL or EWQL SO out, me says.
I know, there might be a little price difference, but both EWQL and VSL relies on oldschool programming, samplingwise.
Yes, consider dual quads, but what about clever computing?

By Peter Alexander on March 11th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

ilter: Please point us to posted comparable demos showing head-to-head comparisons with mocked up classics as we can see and hear on the Vienna site.

By J Loughran on March 15th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

They’ve dropped the Emu hardware requirement on X3 which is now 64 bit native. You can sample or convert any sample with Chicken Systems Translator Pro. Emulator X has 56 source/destination CC slots. If I sound like an ad I apologize, it’s not my intent. I’ve just been using this stuff for a long time and find it useful.

By J Lofrano on March 16th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

The last post was a glitch with my spell checker, I used auto fix and it changed my last name. I didn’t realize it until I saw the post. Just wanted to clarify.

By Peter Alexander on March 17th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

@ J and J above – thanks for the E-MU update. Feel free to write more about Emulator X3. I’m sure more would like to know about it.

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