CPU choice for Cubase 10.5, number of cores VS core speed

Hi,

I’d like to upgrade my DAW computer. I’m actually using an i7 6700K with z170 motherboard (1151 socket)

I think I’m going for a 2011-v3 socket as i saw it’s compatible with the i7-6950x https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/94456/intel-core-i7-6950x-processor-extreme-edition-25m-cache-up-to-3-50-ghz.html who looks like a huge upgrade compared to my actual setup, and can be found at a very decent price on ebay.

According to the benchmark on soundonsound https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/intels-latest-cpus-which-ones-best-audio, it is the best of its generation, but then I started to investigate all the xeons processors that use the same socket. As they are not designed for consumer PC, they seem more reliable, have better life span and can be found as well at very decent prices as they are 4 years old and many firms have already upgraded (and I like the idea to recycle). I’m considering a single CPU, not dual.

There are a lot of different versions with very nice specs. In general the more cores, the less core speed, crazy amounts of cache memory.

So as I was scrolling through the different versions, I realized I’d have to make a compromise between those specs.

I have 3 examples :

  1. Intel Xeon E5-2697A v4 16-Core 2.60GHz 40 MB L3 cache
  2. Intel Xeon E5-2687W v4 12-Core 3.0GHz 30 MB L3 cache
  3. Intel Core i7 6950x 10-Core 3.0GHz 25MB L3 cache

I’d like to know if someone has been using those CPU with Cubase and which gave the best results.

I’m using Cubase for producing, mixing and mastering. I like to do it all in the same session, all VST active (frozen when I have no choice), sometimes big chains (on vocals for example), a lot of groups like for example lead vocal with parallel processing and sends that all go into the lead vocal bus with more processing, then to the vocal bus, going then into my premaster bus with mastering chain, etc… same with vsts, processing on the track then into the instrument bus where more processing occurs, sidechaining, etc… what’s more I’m starting to use very demanding plug-ins like Acustica and my meter frequently goes red even with maximum buffer size.

For my kind of workflow, I’d like to know if Cubase would benefit from more cores (is there a limitation ? ) or more core speed, how important is cache memory ?

I’ve read this article on Steinberg’s site https://helpcenter.steinberg.de/hc/en-us/articles/206929270-DAW-Components :

Processors with faster cores are preferable to a higher core count for real-time audio performance.
The more cores are available, the more thread synchronization is required. This can lead to a reduced processing power and slow down the system after all.
A higher core count might require a different RAM configuration (dual channel, quad channel) for optimal performance.
A higher amount of CPU cache (L2, L3) can have a positive impact on the real-time processing.

so it seems faster cores is still preferable, but will the next Cubase updates or versions will take into account multicores better ? Real-time audio performance is more important to me than offline processing.

Any advice you could give would be much appreciated !

You can do a search in this section and on Gearslutz.com and you’ll find opinions about all of this.

My 2 cents is that if my internet search is correct then I’m not so sure it makes sense buying an old server CPU off of Ebay versus buying a new Intel or AMD CPU for what appears to be around the same price.

Is there any reason you’re not going for the current generation CPUs?

I read that Xeons are more reliable, stable, have better life span as they are designed for heavy duty. I read on gearslutz people comparing them with i7 and i9 with similar specs claiming that they were more efficient. I was thinking I could benefit from the extra cache memory they carry, and finally I can get a top of the line x99 mobo like Rampage V extreme (12x Sata, 10x USB3 on the back, 4 memory channels) for a fraction of the price of the new ones with similar features, that’s why I was considering giving it a try.

UPDATE :

I finally got an Asus Rampage V extreme (200 bucks on eBay) with a Core i7 6950x (325 bucks on eBay from a Chinese seller).
I understood it has the same amount of L3 cache per core (2.5 MB) as many intel processors, including the xeons so the extra cache in the xeons was only due to more cores. On this generation of CPUs, it seems like a standard.

I started with Windows 10 on a Samsung 970 EVO Plus (1TB), and installed Cubase 10.5 plus all the plugins and VSTs. First, I had some issues with some plugins being blacklisted (StandardClip, Massive X, one or two SoundToys ones), with no more explanation than “32 bits plug-ins are no more supported”. Some others were blacklisted like the CableGuys ones, but could be reactivated from the plugins manager. Then I did all the Windows 10 tweaking for audio optimization I found online, overclocked my 6950x @4.0 GHz (I chose this one as xeons can’t be overclocked, were more expensive on eBay, and with a good Noctua CPU cooler it stays super cool) and opened my most CPU intensive project, the one that was hitting red in the audio performance window and made me think it was time for an upgrade. Even with some plugins left to install (so not loaded) I was already hitting red, so it was a MISS !

I was very disappointed and did all imaginable tweaking with no tangible results, and what’s more I never managed to have the above-mentioned plugins not blacklisted, which might be a Windows 10 problem as I had them working on the same Cubase 10.5 on Windows 7.

I woke up one morning and as I wanted a fresh start, I put back the 970 EVO Plus of my previous system on my new mobo (with Windows 7, Cubase 10.5, etc… installed, all my plugins, etc…) that I had not formatted, just to give it a try as I had bought a second one just in case and the computer booted quite well ! Windows 7 launched, I installed all the drivers of my new mobo and graphic card (MSI Geforce GT1030 Fanless as there are no integrated graphics on my new CPU), disabled hyper-treading in the BIOS, loaded my test-project and Voilà ! Performance meter was hitting more or less 85% and never going red. From there I was able to load many more plugins, and the performance meter barely moved, so I think its behavior is not very representative of what’s really going on with the CPU load, at least it’s not linear. What’s more I was able to run in parallel the very CPU hungry Pure analyzer from FLUX and started to feel the contribution of more cores (even without HT). This would have been totally impossible on my previous system. I could even lower the buffer size of my Fireface UFX (from 2048 to 1024 on this project, didn’t try less) and real-time audio was still going flawlessly. I noticed as well the export time was reduced by half on most of my projetcs, which is a big time saving !

So my conclusion is the following : the supposed performance gain of my new configuration was totally annihilated by upgrading to Windows 10. I’ll stick to my good old Windows 7 untill I’m sure the next Cubase will be optimized for win10 and really benefit from it and more CPU cores. If Cubase 11 is not compatible with windows 7, I’ll simply not upgrade. I’m tired of spending days on forums, tweaking the BIOS, tweaking Windows, writing to plugins editors to sort out how to get them not blacklisted (and getting replies like “are you sure you did not install the 32-bit version?”). I have a powerful and stable system now, nearly by luck, and even if I like computers and technology (it was an interesting adventure, I learned a lot), my priority is to be productive with music, not trying to do magic with softwares and OS that are from my experience not really optimized to work together and take advantage of hardware resources.

PS : I won’t rely much on benchmarks anymore, I did my tests with real life projects. The performance gain was not as promised double, but the upgrade was worth it.

i7-10700 is 344 bucks new. Significantly better single-core performance, same multi-core performance, less power consumption. Overall the better CPU than the 6950X for +19dollars.

i7-10700K is better in all matters for 379 bucks new.

i9-10850K even more better, 450 bucks.


All these CPUs are just as stable as the 6950X.
RAM-speed (not OC) i7-6950X: 2400Mhz
RAM-speed (not OC) i7/i9 10th gen: 2933Mhz

You get a better machine for the same price if you buy latest technology…you even have warranty… I dont see any reason to buy used stuff…

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