[PC] Do optimizations really do anything? If so, which ones?

As I stated in this other thread http://www.steinberg.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=81&t=859&p=8204#p8204, I recently found the top-of-the-line HP i7 box on sale for $1680 and snaped it up.

It has a 6-core i7 980x @ 3.33GHz
1.5TB HDD
10GB RAM

I installed a completely clean copy of Win7 Ultimate, hooked it up with my existing ProFire 2626, and ran some tests with and without hyperthreading. Got almost identical results using the DAW Bench Cubendo native test with the Cubase x64 multiband compressor:

i7 980x 6x 3.33GHz
64 samples latency: 152 Mband compressors
128 samples latency: 179 Mband compressors
256 samples latency: 207 Mband compressors

This is a little less than 3x the performance of my old Q6600 (a $600 PC two years ago). Based on the info I had been reading about how amazing the i7 was relative to my Q6600, I was a little underwhelmed. So I started looking around for optimizations that still applied to Win7 and found this

http://support.presonus.com/entries/119099-optimizing-your-computer-for-audio-windows-vista-windows-7

This covers probably most of the optimizations I’ve seen floating around the web. I tried some right out of the gate–turning off all of the nonessenial background services on boot, disabling my realtime antivirus protection (temporarily!), turning off all visual effects so it looks like Win NT, setting the PC for performance over visuals, and optimizing for background servies not UI. None of these really did anything to increase the number of multiband compressors I could enable before hearing the occasional glitch. I’m starting to think OSes and processors are advanced enough that these optimizations aren’t really doing much anymore… as my tests show. Is there something I’m missing that I should be doing?

When I bought my current i7 920 based system about 10 months ago I ran similar tests and came to pretty much the same conclusions you did. Besides, in these months I haven’t come even close to maxing my computer resources so I haven’t felt any need to do extra optimization. I even have Aero and all eye candy on.

Not that it matters to you as you haven’t come close to scraping the ceiling in your real work, but I was wondering if you’ve run the DAW Bench tests and how many compressors you could enable before you start to hear glitching at 64, 128, and 256 samples of latency.

I did some DAWbench tests when I got the computer but that was mostly just because I wanted to find out how much it made difference compared to the old AMD 3200+ I had earlier. I really can’t remember any numbers but AFAIK they were pretty much in line with test results on dedicated sites.

I think you will find the vast majority of optimization are just noise against the processing power of the newer CPUs. They were mostly written when dual core first came out. There are optimizations to fix stuttering and compatibility type issues, but your best bet for performance is OCing. That 980x will go to 4Ghz on the stock fan easily. Assuming the power supply doesn’t suck.

Just turn on hyperthreading…
10gb ram is really strange. Should be a multiple of 3. so 6gb or12gb would be expected.

2.4 x 4 = 9.6 for your Quad
3.3 x 6 = 19.8 for the i7

Your actually getting 9.6 x 2.5 = 24 so your well up there on what you would have expexted and at half the latency no doubt.

I7s really shine when you overclock towards 4 Gig with daw gains often greater than the percentage overclocked.

Hippo

Why? HP was offering this as the ‘standard’ amount of RAM as part of the sale. What bad happens if I leave the 10 in there? I have 6GB in my old Q6600 and never used all the RAM. So I don’t need 10GB RAM but unless there’s a perf issue with having it in I’m not inclined to remove it.

At 128 samples of latency I was running 63 mband compressors before I heard artifacts on my old machine. So I’m getting 2.8x the perf t the same latency. I guess I was expecting closer to 6x after what I heard about how a similarly clocked i7 outperformed a Q6700 by a wide margin.

All seems about right for stock speeds to me

Hippo

The Windows background tasks processing scheme is very important still. Other than that, the pc’s and OS’s have gotten so good that other tweaks have only minor effect unless you have a driver or hardware problem.

I’m using a Q9550 with 8GB RAM and am able to run big projects that before I bought the Q9550 probably would have stuttered my system. I did in fact do the plugin test… it was interesting, but irrelevant since I was not even coming close to over taxing my new system when using the DAW. I haven’t done any optimizations and probably won’t. That strikes me as Win98SE stuff

Also: doesn’t overclocking shorten the life of your CPU’s? I always read that your CPU’s lifespan is inversely proportional to the amount you overclock it – heat issues and such

Well it doesn’t appear that I can OC the HP i7 980x anyway… :wink:

Do you recall your results? I ask because everybody’s use of Cubase is very different… this is the great equalizer.

Can you support this statement? I’m finding it hard to confirm experimentally, and research finds no clear information on how it applies to multicore systems.

I think I read on one of the steinberg knowledge base topics that on W7 it’s not that important anymore?

It is very CPU dependent. But typically, if it is cooled and powered properly it doesn’t cause a problem. People who suffer the short life span tend to be the budget OC people.

The i7s have heat guards at 100C IIRC. They just shut off. These kind of guards help avoid the CPU abuse resulting from part failure elsewhere in the system. That used to be the big CPU killer. Like when a water pump dies or slows significantly. The heat would spike for no visible reason.

Of course if you run the CPU at insane OCs using liquid nitrogen as a hand poored coolent, then your CPU life might be in jeopardy.

Finally, there are types of OC’s that can be dangerous. For example on the i7 their is a voltage relationship between the VDIMM and the CPU VTT (or QPI Voltage). Raising the VTT more than .5 volts over the VDIMM can damage the CPU. But, this is only for extreme memory overclocking.

To get the 980x to 4Ghz is trivial.

I haven’t bothered to test it myself, but several manufactures still mention it. And why would Windows 7 even have this option if it’s not important?

From Native Instruments:
The “Processor Scheduling” setting lets you choose if your computer should process “Programs” with higher priority, or “Background Services” with higher priority. In this context, “Programs” refers to applications you can see running on your screen. “Background Services” refers to software that you don’t directly interface with, but that is running in the background and is taking care of essential “invisible” tasks. The most important example of a background service in the context of this guide, is the driver for your audio interface.

Most of the time, the reason for dropouts and audio artifacts is because the audio interface driver (or the driver’s buffer) can’t process all data in time. Increasing the processing priority for background services (and with it, the priority of the audio driver) often contributes to better over-all audio performance.


From Presonous:
Processor scheduling determines which types of processing are given a higher priority by Vista/Win7. The default setting is to devote more to your programs. This seems good on the surface; however, audio drivers run in the background, not as separate programs. In order to get the most performance from audio gear, it is best to set your processor to handle background services first.


From AVID:
Adjust Processor Scheduling
This optimization allows the computer to run Pro Tools more effeciently.

•Click on the Start Menu, right-click on Computer.
•Choose Properties.
•Choose ‘Advanced System Settings’.
•Under the Performance section, click the Settings button.
•In the Performance Options window, click the Advanced tab.
•Under the Processor Scheduling section, select the Background Services option.
•Hit Apply and then OK to close the Performance Options window.
•Click OK to close the System Properties window.
•Restart the computer for the changes to take effect.

These are official statements - not forum posts. But hey - I don’t know really. I have it set to background services - I have no problems - I’m happy :mrgreen:

Lots of legacy stuff gets left in new programs and operating systems. Anyway, it’s not just about Windows version, it’s about whether the switch is still needed when the “background process” may have it’s own core to run on. I’ve nothing against switching it on the basis “it used to be necessary, and it doesn’t seem to do any harm”. But I’m still interested to know.