DAW build comparing i9-10940X with Ryzen AMD & 10900K

Hello everyone,

a few months ago I had to build a new DAW PC system and also reached out in this forum. There was not much information out there and that is why I decided to shoot a video about my experiences with the i9-10940X and why I decided not to get an AMD Ryzen processor. I hope this video might be helpful for anyone who is looking for some real life review from a musician, because most of the CPU/processor reviews out there seem only to focus on gaming:

https://youtu.be/fiSGHWFVBnE

Best, Chris

I really don’t think there are “plenty of people” reporting compatibility issues for software versus all current gen AMD processors. I’ve seen very few so far. There may be other things where compatibility matters, but for software I haven’t really seen it yet.

As for performance it still looks to me from the actual DAW tests I’ve seen that the Ryzen 3950x outperforms the 10980xe on the DSP test and is very close on the VSTi test, and if the 10980xe 18 core CPU is a better performer than the 10940x then the 3950x would outperform the 10940x (for less money).

Both base and all-core max frequency seems to be higher on the 3950x, though I don’t know if the actual usage is reaching 100% so the work done might be different.

I also don’t really see how longevity is an argument in favor of Intel. I don’t recall any issues with my previous AMD build which was pushing 8-9 years (I forget) and was running fine by itself until I loaded up heavy new software, nor do I recall anyone else having such inherent issues. Seems to me both have good longevity assuming you’re buying the correct CPU and aren’t getting a ‘dud’, though AMD has a better track record as far as providing a longer lasting platform for their CPUs, i.e. sockets.

It’s also not correct to say that AMD CPUs can only support 128GB RAM. I think you’re a bit “loose” with names since you’re ignoring Threadripper CPUs it seems (which also have close to double the amount of lanes, with PCI 4.0 to boot) but aren’t spelling that out clearly.

I am just sharing the result of my research and the advice I got a few months ago, after doing extensive research. I reached out to several forums, because I wanted to make the right decision. I am not an Intel or AMD fan, I just want the best DAW that serves me a long time. So maybe in the meanwhile there is a better AMD processor out there, but I would love to see a real life music producer review on it, not only gaming and video editing benchmarks.

As I mentioned in the review, the 10980XE has a slower base and boost clock speed, so the 10940X even outperforms the 10980XE in certain tasks, especially in Cubase, since Cubase can’t utilize all the cores of the 10980XE.

My longevity comment is about workstation CPUs. Before the 5960X I always just bought PCs from the shelve and they never lasted as long as the dedicated DAW build with a workstation CPU that runs very cool and is meant to run even servers 24/7.

Regarding RAM, the 3950X only supports up to 128 GB and only has 2 memory channels. Like I mentioned in the video, several tests show that 4 memory channels make a huge difference, if you run huge libraries on Kontakt or SIR3.

Building a DAW takes a long time and I wish more people would share their experiences, since I was researching myself few months back and it was hard to find information on it. I am not saying the i9-10940X is the ultimate DAW, but it was the decision I made for my build thanks to the advice I got in several forums and from my DAW builder in Berlin, I am really satisfied with.

If you’re only seeing gaming and video editing benchmarks then you weren’t looking very hard at all.

For actual benchmarks you can check out Scan’s testing or a far more recent one in Sound On Sound.

As it turns out I only looked at the Scan review because I didn’t bother with the latter, but now that I’m looking at the benchmarks in SoundOnSound’s review I actually see a direct test between the AMD 3950x and the 10940x and also the 10980xe.

The 10980xe beats the 10940x in all tests, and the Ryzen 3950x beats the 10940x in both tests as well.

So, the 10980xe is the best CPU based on those benchmarks if you’re using virtual instruments, and if you’re more into mixing it appears the 3950x is the better choice by far.

And if money matters the 10980xe is about 20% better than the 3950x at a buffer of 128 samples using virtual instruments so we’d expect it to cost about 1.2 x $710 = $852, but it’s closer to $1,100. And at a buffer of 64 samples the difference in performance is near-zero.


That’s benchmarks tailored for audio production.

As for user reviews you could look at Gearslutz perhaps.

Sure. I agree.

I really mentioned RAM because you phrased it as a blanket statement about AMD CPUs, and the Threadripper allows for 512GB worth of memory over four channels. So yes, Ryzen specifically has a memory size limit that’s lower, but it’d be good if you were clear about it. I can pretty much guarantee you that one or more viewers of your video is going to take what you say literally and when someone talks about a Threadripper they’ll say that it only supports 128GB of memory, because you said so.

I’m sure it’s a great CPU and a great setup. Certainly far, far better than my first-gen Ryzen 1700.

Of course, I also checked Scan’s testing, gearlutz, vi-control back then. The Sound On Sound review was not out yet. And yes, the perfect DAW build totally depends on the use case. I run many audio tracks, virtual instruments, and many plugins for mixing and mastering. So I needed a CPU that has both: higher clock speeds and cores Cubase can actually utilize. And the information I got was, that Cubase is only capable of utilizing 14 cores at the moment.

Regarding problems with AMD Ryzen, Sound on Sound states what I found similiarly on other forums:

In the past, we’ve sometimes seen older USB hardware act a little fussily with non-Intel controllers, particularly on newer USB 3 setups. With the majority of PCs (including Macs) having had Intel chipsets for well over a decade, it’s not surprising; its easy to see how they’d become the testing default. Also, the AMD X570 range has moved to PCIe 4.0, which affects some older cards and is causing some users teething problems. AMD have been working with various manufacturers to resolve such issues. Some BIOS updates have targeted audio hardware specifically, which is encouraging, and for other issues there are often documented workarounds. Again, while there are some risks at this stage, a little research upfront can result in a smoother ride.

But I am happy, if everything runs smooth on your system.

I do agree that my statement about the RAM is misleading and I will re-upload the video. Thank you very much for your time and your response. I really appreciate it.

did you test latency? apparently Intel = less latency.

No. That’s not how it works.

Not how what works? Intel typically has around 40ns of latency, and AMD around 80ns of latency.

If you know that that’s true and somehow important then why did you ask?

The latency you talk about isn’t relevant to audio apps unless it results in something tangible. I mean, what is that latency you’re talking about? The sample buffer is what it is. It doesn’t change depending on what CPU you’re using.

I’m pretty sure it is relevant in audio application

K. Please explain where that latency is and how it affects audio performance.

The 3950x is killing everything in the SoundOnSound DSP test, and is beat only by the significantly more expensive 10980xe… DESPITE supposedly having twice the “latency”.

What latency are you talking about specifically? Where in the CPU is it measured? Why doesn’t the Intel beat the AMD CPU in the DSP test? Why is it only slightly faster while having 2 more cores and being more expensive in the VSTi test?

Explain please.

All CPUs have a base latency, as all digital component does. What most people are benchmarking is accumulative multi-tasking performance. This has to do with input latency I’m talking

This is why video people are using AMD, they not too concerned about input latency, it’s all post production loaded into RAM.

Yes, latency is also a problem. I looked for one of the articles I read back then that points out different problems with the current AMD chips and confirmed my purchase decision to go with the i9-10940X back then:

http://www.scanproaudio.info/tag/dawbench/

First off the big omission is the new Threadripper chips and model dependent I saw two different problems that tripped me up here.

In testing on the 64 thread 3970X I saw it refuse to run cleanly on the DB VI test at a 64 buffer, where it simply crackled constantly with little to no load applied. It did run better on a 128 buffer, but the score still placed it behind a number of far weaker chips, so it didn’t look to handle itself well. The 256 buffer and upwards seemed to slowly creep towards the sort of performance levels I would hope to see, pretty much repeating the sort of issue’s we saw in previous generations with the low latency performance hole.

So, we thought there might be a few usable scenarios to be had, but then we ran the DSP test and hit another snag. The projects in that SGA DSP test would always overload at around 60 %- 65% load and I didn’t see a way around this in the time I spent with it. I’ve tried different memory types and speeds, but no matter what it seemed to cap out there.

I also took a look at the mighty 3990X, although was beaten here as well for a slightly different reason. There have been reports in the wider press about software having trouble addressing all the cores currently due to underlying Windows interactions, and we saw pretty much that there. With Reaper, we could only address 64 threads out of the 128 and it behaved much like the 3970X in the testing above. I had wondered if the Windows Pro Workstation build with its support for improved addressing across more cores might help, but the feedback so far is that it’s currently ineffective and comments from Microsoft and AMD would appear to currently bear this out and it remains one to keep an eye out in the future.

Thanks for your testing and research, I will be building a new machine by 2021 and was sort of bewildered about all the AMD hype and if I should switch, but, I think I will stick with Intel and probably ASUS. I’ve always done Intel and ASUS and it’s always worked good for me.

You should use either the quote function or quotation marks when quoting articles. A reader that isn’t thinking will believe that the text above is reflecting your own research and testing, not that it is written and done by Pete at Scan Pro Audio.

So what tests that are relevant to audio can we look at that show the downsides of this latency?

And what are the actual real life circumstances where this latency manifests itself?

PS:

You do realize that 40ns = 40 BILLIONTHS of a second, right?

Any input - AD/DA to mouse-clicking


40 billionths of a second but it’s not that base time you are comparing when you think about this, we’re not concerned about the difference between 40ns and 80ns if transferring one bit of data, so this can have an accumulative effect on performance vs latency. It’s like, no one can hear the difference between 44.1khz and 88.2khz if you are just listening to a short blip, and also on that, much in the same way, you get lower latency with 88.2khz because 2x the speed = 1/2 the time.

So what tests that are relevant to audio can we look at that show the downsides of this latency?