Transitioning Mac -> Windows experience

Dorico has been too unstable on a 2013 6 core Mac Pro with SSD/128GB RAM (no useful debugging info unfortunately) so I took the plunge to Windows, since the long term plans are to transition off of Apple anyhow. So far it’s been a resounding success with some issues still to sort out.

New machine:

  • X299 i9-9940X 14 core
  • 128 GB RAM
  • All NVMe SSD
  • ASUS X299 Deluxe II w/ 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports

First I’m surprised at the greatly improved performance - I can use the BBCSO natively in Dorico with zero issues so far! Switching between tracks is instant, and overall the application is running faster. On the Mac Pro I had to put the BBCSO into VEP for it to be usable. But it’s so smooth that I’m easily writing music and editing the expressiveness, easier than before at least.

The screen presentation didn’t look so good at first, but after enabling Clear Type (thanks Daniel) I’m actually liking it more than the mac. Same monitor but it’s crisper and cleaner.

Navigation was one of my worries, but using the ‘z’ and ‘x’ keys to zoom, scroll to go up/down and page up/down to go sideways is working great.

A big advantage now is I have support for Stream Deck XL profiles in both Dorico and Nuendo, and there’s also better support for other devices.

The MIDI and audio has been fine. One issue is that Focusrite only recently added Windows Thunderbolt support, and my RED 4PRE isn’t quite working. I’m using a Clarett 8PRE meanwhile which is working with no issues.

Really there’s little I miss. Maybe just the MIDI studio that mac has, and the MIDI snooping app (there’s probably an equivalent here). But overall I recommend the experience, this monster machine cost a quarter what that stupid 2013 Mac Pro cost, and that was released already obsolete and never upgraded.

Oh and finally - the cynlinder mac is known to be quiet, this machine is even quieter. Can’t hear it at all at a couple feet away.

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I’m assuming since your mobo has Thunderbolt ports, the BIOS setting for Windows Thunderbolt support would be enabled by default, but you might want to check that if you are having issues. I’ve found most mobos have that disabled by default.

Thanks, yeah I mentioned it has 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports. The RED is TB2, but I’ve tested this with TB2 external RAID arrays, and the Clarett has also included a TB driver and it all seems to be working fine (could be my TB2-3 interface, they suggest trying different ones so I should probably do that). I have TB security disabled so everything plugged in should just be recognized. The RED things it’s connected and fine, it’s just on the PC side.

The system knows the interface is out there but it’s just unable to communicate with it. Some sort of odd problem, but their Pro support is really responsive so we’ll probably figure it out.

Man I can’t believe how fast this is. I use key commands to switch the grid values which was too slow before, now it’s instant as I’d expect. What’s up with the mac? No idea …

So it shows up in the Thunderbolt software already?
Thunderbolt

Occasionally I’ll boot and my device will show in the Thunderbolt software, but not be recognized by the UAD software. I suspect it has to do with boot order but have never actually solved it. You could try moving the Focusrite software to later in the boot order (or delaying it so you start it manually after everything else loads). For me when this happens upon rebooting it’s usually recognized.

No it doesn’t show up there

image

But there is some kind of communication going on as the RED shows connected on it’s screen, and the Thunderbolt Controller 1 list only shows up when the interface is plugged in (if there’s nothing connected nothing shows). Rednet control seems to recognize the RED is out there, but I suspect it’s picking it up over the ethernet port on the RED instead of TB.

This TB3-2 dongle works with other TB devices, so in theory should be good. There are two modes on the RED which is TB and Protools, but this has always been set to TB mode.

Oh, the other big problem is Vienna Ensemble Pro doesn’t recognize any of my VST’s. I manually set up the folders properly but no go, any idea?

I would double-check the Windows Thunderbolt BIOS settings if you haven’t already, to confirm that Windows Thunderbolt support is actually enabled as it is usually disabled in most mobos. The fact that the Thunderbolt software can’t “see” it makes me suspect it is disabled in BIOS. If you’re new to Windows this is usually done by hitting Del, F2, or something as soon as the boot screen comes up. It should say what keystroke is necessary to enter BIOS. If you’ve already done that, then I’m not really sure why it wouldn’t be showing up.

Not sure what’s up with VEP either. I don’t have the latest version (I’m on 6.5) but it seems to work for me.

Yeah thanks, I’m a Windows software developer so very familiar and yes the BIOS is fine. There’s a bunch of specialty settings settings in there with cache/throughput, I did try a TB USB setting - Windows seems to have some kind of Thunderbolt USB masquerading feature or something, but to no avail. But I’ll check it again just to triply make sure.

When I still had a UAD Apollo Twin interface there were only two TB2-3 converters that they said were “qualified” and had been tested to work, the Startech and Kanex converters. Some, like the Apple converter, were definitely incompatible. No idea about your hardware, but if Focusrite has a list of approved converters and yours isn’t on it, you could try changing it next.

I’ve got the Startech which works on this computer with other TB2 devices. Their support page says to try different converters such as the Startech or Apple (I refuse to pay Apple another dime). That page also lists Thunderbolt chip revisions, mine shows up on the list of ones they’ve found compatible (on other motherboards at least, they didn’t try this one in particular). I’ll try tech support, maybe a special BIOS setting will help.

This has existed on Mac since the sdxl was first released. I got one immediately and never had any issues (2014 mini).

It’s really ancient (last update 10 years ago), but I still use the donationware program MIDI-OX. Nothing fancy, but still works. Audio Modeling’s Camelot is geared towards live performance, but apparently has a pretty advanced MIDI patchbay and router. I’ve thought about giving it a try too.

In Device Manager, do you get any of the yellow exclamation points next to any of your devices? Nothing next to System Devices/Thunderbolt Controller?

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I just found Pocket MIDI which works like a charm - updated last year even and open source.

Otherwise no dev mgr looks clean. Maybe the only PC I’ve build with drivers for everything and are apparently working fine.

I wonder if there’s a conflict with the Clarett driver? It also has a TB and USB driver (the RED lists as PCIe).

For MIDI analysis I find Protokol very useful: hexler.net | Protokol

Also LoopBe for an IAC-like virtual MIDI driver: Download ipMIDI, LoopBeAudio, Loopbe1, LoopBe30 It does feedback detection, which I don’t think IAC does (and feedback loops are a cause of rather a few problems)

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IF your setting up again, perhaps consider ditching Vpro? Use Disabled Tracks instead, works here. I presume you have the fans set up right in the Asus AI suite app too? I recently ditched my graphics card all together in favour of on board sound, so no graphics card fan noise. I added a star teck 7 port USB PCI card too, very useful.
I have 2500+ tracks in my disbled master template which comes in at under a gig in size, it uses about 18% of my Core i 7 8700K CPU and 20% of my 64 gig memory. The way I work is use this for auditioning only. This master is all my sounds organised in folders and subfolders according to instrument types . No hunting and pecking, no forgetting about the location of that muted trumpet. Everytime I get a new orchestra or sounds, I first set it up in a project template of its own (not really necessary), then I import all the sounds into the master and drag them into the categorsied instrument folders. This way all my sounds are categorised and findable.
Each new music making project is virgin an empty project. Say I am looking for a solo contrabass. I go to my master template and I can either -

a] listen and compare my dozen or so contravasses there, or

b] import the whole group folder into the new project (Import from Project/file menu), then delete the ones that dont work.

This way, there is no extra stress at all on music projects

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On this machine VEPro is still a faster in editing (basically real time now), and there’s an advantage to always having it up as I can quickly load different scores as I work in really big ensembles. But disabled tracks are a Cubase/Nuendo/Logic feature, not Dorico?

On the fan there’s just a single CPU Noctua which is practically silent, and being X299 HEDT there’s no CPU graphics. I can’t hear the card anyhow.

Thanks, good tips, yeah Protokol is very nice. And I can verify IAC happily supports feedback.

I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to transfer to Nuendo for mastering, eventually you folks are going to have some kind of linkage, but I’m going into a particular template so I still have to test out if a basic MIDI import will work. If not then it’ll be MIDI loopback with SMPTE sync.

@PaulWalmsley by the way I’m gratified to see the huge performance boost going from a powerful machine to an up to date top drawer PC. It’s a sign of the job you folks did in clearing out the artificial bottlenecks in the system so it can take advantage of all the resources on this machine properly. I hate to see it when you put an application on a much faster machine, but due to internal architectural limitations there’s little speedup.

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Great, I’m glad it’s all working well for you. We have put a lot of work into the architecture to enable the application to make more use of the multiple cores on modern machines. There are unfortunately a number of problems that are necessarily sequential - in particular for calculating the casting off and spacing. Where possible though, we try to calculate as much as possible in parallel. It’s interesting if you load a large project and watch the CPU usage: you’ll notice several separate phases where it’s able to run calculations in parallel, and other phases where it has to fall back to a single thread.

For mix and mastering, do you know that you can export stems directly from Dorico?

I’ve also just bought a Noctua case fan - it’s fantastic!

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“you’ll notice several separate phases where it’s able to run calculations in parallel, and other phases where it has to fall back to a single thread.”

Hats off, that’s usually trick to do. So far the only thing I notice is still slow is pasting in the score, and mode switching, though going to Write is usually instant now. Do you have any thoughts on if there’s a point on cores where more doesn’t help? Basically what’s the range of useful cores if there is one?

That’s tempting. Biggest nit is being able to only see one CC lane, it’s slow to keep going back and forth to try and massage a line. But otherwise thanks for the tip, I suppose if I can get the MIDI to be good enough I can do that and then manage the reverb, pan and routing for final print, then do the final master on the stems in Wavelab.

As a rough rule of thumb, I think you would stop seeing major performance improvements when the number of cores exceeds the number of players in the project, though if you have multiple flows then you might see benefits beyond that.

I put four Noctua fans in an Antec P101 case for my recent rebuild. If you choose the right ones, they are indeed silent.
It’s nice to know of something so useful and competent made in Austria, which is otherwise only known for manufacturing Mozart-Kugeln and other things bad for your teeth! :smiley:

David