Some basic questions - i7 or Xeon E5?


4 years ago I built my current DAW based on an i7 950 (3,04GZ, 4 Cores) and an ASUS Board.

I about to build a new DAW soon - after beeing completely “away” regarding computer knowledge for 4 years (making records all the time) I basically start at zero again - for now I have researched quite a lot and I see at least 2 options - both are based on a Asus P9X79 WS:

  1. i7 4930K - this seems to provide me with quite some power for relatively small cost.

  2. Xeon E5 - for example 2690-v2

I am confused by the sheer amount of models and variations of those CPUs.

Are there (beside money vs cpu power) things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right model? Are there differences which are relevant for use in an DAW?

There is a third option - the third option would be based on a more “server” style setup with Dual CPU - but maybe this is a little bit too expensive but it is an option… Would I be able to have twice the power (–> plugin load in a session) when using a setup with two of those Xeon E5? Is this recommended for a DAW setup?

Sorry for the case that these are a pure and simple questions - but in the moment I am not able to find a “go to” setup when searching through the resources… Years ago there was always some kind of “go to” DAW on the Nuendo Board… 12 years ago a certain ASUS Board with a P4… later a certain Tyan Board with Dual Opterons on it… and so on… I can not find any tendency at the moment! And the marked increased a lot, too many options!

Thanks for any info!

FWIW… my opinion.

first this:

it gives an insight in the different architectures of intel.
Then think about what is your goal. The example above is an intel doc for CAD computing. So this is far heavier than audio processing.

Spending heavy amounts of cash on expensive cores is one thing. It is not every time the best solution for DAWs, certainly if budget is important. An expensive system needs to be alligned overall.

example taking from the internet:

An alternative option is to spread the resources over multiple systems and link them.
Look for software like this:
This software is add on for a DAW like cubase and makes a network of computers but they are handled within the DAW that acts as a master. The other systems are slaves.
It gives you an opportunity to go into some direction without spending all at once.
drawbacks: more workflow to learn and more dongles are needed (but a dongle is cheap)

also watch out for internal graphic cards of the i-family processors. For the moment they are stable since the last update, but when graphics need to be handled by the processor, this can interfere with the audio processing.

choosing between xeon an i7 is like choosing between fiat and bmw. So yes xeon is more stable, has broader pipelines, is build for servers and thus more durable, and so on. The price tag is likewise.

but with an i7 you can run 50 vstis nowadays without any problem within cubase as long as you take the core handling into account. (never do too much within one vsti, since it will blow a single core and blow your performance, and leaving a lot of power unused)

so hope this gives you some starting point. I hope others on the forum with studios will jump in and guide you towards more…

kind regards,

Roel, thanks a LOT!

This is exactly the type of info I need. There are thousands of hardware resources in the www, but usually it’s all about gaming. Hard to find valuable info in the audio world, because usually everyone has another opinion…

I have to add some additional info:

I am using an Nvidia Quadro with 4 screens connected ( - so no need for grafix on the CPU. Is it better to use a CPU without that grafic processor then or will that grafic thing automatically be disabled when using a dedicated grafic card?

I am doing audio only here - sometimes VSTi - but usually VERY big mixing sessions - for example 500 tracks (audio, groups, fx) VSTis are rendered at that stage. Maybe “some” VSTis are in the mix (drums, a piano, last minute orchestration) So no way to split the DSP to various systems like I did in the past using FX Teleport.

Basically my current setup is fast enough to handle those 500 track sessions - but time goes by and new plugins are coming… I need a second UAD Card because I tend to use the newer versions of their processors which are eating DSP like hell, those Slate plugins are too good to not use in a mix, but they are hungry…

So I need a rocksolid setup with quite good processing power…


Oh - when I compare the price of those two CPUs (i7 vs Xeon E5) I would save basically enough money to get myself an additional UAD Octo… maybe I this would be more DSP-for-the-buck? Or not? Or installing both :slight_smile:

Hey tx.
Your studio is a bit bigger then what i’ve got :slight_smile:
Try to pick up info from the seniors.
Most of them are pro and using the kind of gear you have.
Don’t bother to pm them.
They will be glad to give their insights.
Marcus is one of the moderators. Maybe he is a good idea.

Budget seems not the real problem here.
If you want the biggest and baddest machine, i normally reference to this guys.

These guys are pro at all levels and are probably one of the companies that build the biggest and baddest.
They go up to 48 cores and more and stuff like that. All xeon.
It is america but they deliver worldwide. I bought one of their little ducks in a promotion. :slight_smile:
They will call you when you place an order and build rock solid machines.
It is very professional.

For your kind of setup the vienna pro is certainly also something to be taken into account to.
This is pro stuff too and the scalability, even with very expensive gear, is a nice thing to have.

Hope you get some pro advice soon from other forum users.

kind regards,

Thanks a lot Roel! Well, it only looks big on the fotos - in real it is quite a small room! :smiley:
Thanks for the resource, I will dig into that more…

another idea can be to check the vienna forums.

Most of the guys who use this kind of software are in music and film industry.
Very friendly forum and very quick to the point answers.

kind regards,

It’s an English site but very good, they do music specialist builds and their engineers are pretty efficient and communicative. They will be able to tell you the latest developments and qualities of recording machines.
One of the staff posts on the Sound on Sound forum as Peter Kaine if you need a quick reference.

Dual Xeons are a complete waste of money for 95% of studios.
a Xeon and a desktop processor are the exact same product.

the only reason to go Xeon on a single processor board is to jump to 10/12 core and you had better buy one of the higher GHz Xeons or its going to be slower than the 4930K.

if you over clock the 4930K a Xeon even with 12 cores would be hard pressed to keep up.
a big plus 1 for scanUK
or Daw plus in Germany.

titan is clueless about audio


thanks a lot for this great info. That is exactly that kind of information I am looking for. I am trusting your words a lot.

So - I hope it is ok to ask a few more things:

  • the 4930K is fine for Audio-PCs?
  • regarding the Board - is there anything wrong with that Asus P9X79 WS? I am open for any other option as long as it will gives me the options I need regarding i/o & pci-e slots etc.
  • Overclocking: I am using Music Computers since 98 or so and Overclock was always a bad idea for serious audio systems. Has that changed? I would guess that I can not go wrong with a mild overclocking, but in any case “safety before speed”…
    Most likely your time is limited - but are there good resources in the www dealing with stuff like that?


There is speculation that we will see an 8 core ‘Extreme’ edition of i7 later this year. I imagine it will be something along the lines of the 4960 with additional cores. I’m waiting on upgrading my 4 core i7 2600 until then.

As far as overclocking is concerned, I overclock my i7 using the automated ASUS BIOS feature and my rig is very stable. If I set the overclocking values manually and push it too far the BIOS ‘puts me in my place’ and the machine boots to BIOS automatically and provides notification that the selected overclocking values are not permissible.

More on the new Intel… “Devil’s Canyon” Haswell-E Series…

  • 8 Core
  • DDR4
  • Intel X99 chipset
  • LGA2011-3 socket
  • Up to five devices in PCI Express 2.0/3.0 x8 mode (four graphics cards and one solid-state drive in PCIe card form-factor)
  • 10 Serial ATA-6Gb/s ports, up to six USB 3.0 ports (14 USB ports in total)
  • No word on clock speeds yet

This thing is a beast… Very exciting… From what I can tell so far this will double my current processing capacity

4930K is what we sell the most of yes. and a good 70% are over clocked. over clocking was NEVER bad for a professional workstation if done correctly, really bad if done wrong. been selling OCed systems since 1997.
however in early days the potential to “fry” the chip was there. this is pretty impossible now.

there are tons of how to’s on the net for OCing. many are not designed for quiet however.
we never recommend using the “easy bios” for OCing. or even installing the included software. (can cause DPC issues)
some have luck with it however.

Well, when not using the Easy Bios OR the software for overclocking - how to do it then? I understand that you might not want to share all the details here, but at least I need some starting point for my research. Thanks for any additional info here, Scott!

Back those days I remember that I overclocked an Athlon using a small piece of wire to connect two pins on the socket… Quite a stone age strategy I would guess. :smiley:

And I have to hijack my own topic now to add another question…

I wanted to use Win7 64bit ultimate again because all I know about Win8 is that it is “the next Vista” and that you better stay away from it. But doing research it seems that a lot of user are using Win8.1 with great success.

I heard that there might be Firewire Issues under 8/8.1… I am still using two Powercore Firewire units and I need/plan to continue using them on my new system. So I will most likely keep Win7… or no?

I remember those days also the pencil trick with Athlons later.
fortunately nothing that crazy anymore.

too complicated to list here sorry

I would stay with win 7

Thanks Scott, it helps!!

I will do research :slight_smile:

Most likely doing the OC thing later… Are there any arguments against setting up a system without OC first, starting work, doing OC stuff later?

none at all
however memory is crucial (pun intended)

for socket 2011 you must buy a higher grade 1.35v ram and that’s just for normal use
OCing really needs quality ram (and no you don’t OC ram ever)

socket 2011 caused us to have our own ram made because of the issues we ran into

I am looking at 32GB Corsair Dominator GT DDR3-1866 DIMM CL9 in the moment…

nope its 1.5v
Gskill maybe…

Mh, Asus listed that Corsair Dominator Ram in their docs - P9X79-E WS… Now I am slightly confused.

There are only 1,5V Ram recommendations - and some 1,6V…