Trying to understand the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x latency issues.

****I am a composer active in various subgenres of electronic music (mostly the more experimental ones), but I also write songs, record vocals for them and play keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar. I should make clear though that I don’t record more than one instrument at a time, that means no band, other musicians or other apparent reasons to arm-record more than two tracks at the same time, and I say two because sometimes, (not always even), I also record vocals. In any case, it’s either a synth (audio or midi) or one guitar + vocals AT MOST.
Apart from my solo work, I am also trying getting into scoring for films, video art, theater plays and video games. That doesn’t mean I’m Hanz Zimmer though of course, or that I am going to record an orchestra or something. I am very much dependent on vst instruments and Kontakt libraries so I’d like to be able to work with a couple of CPU-hungry VST instruments such as Omnisphere without hiccups.

So, initially I was going to build a system around the i9-9900K, because well… Intel is what where we’ve all started from… Then I got to know about Ryzen 9 and 3900x and decided to choose that instead, since it simply seems to perform better for less money and my budget is limited. I was (and still am) pretty confident it will cover my needs when it comes to cpu power but then I started hearing all those whispers about latency causing all kinds or trouble and saw this article
(that I should admit I don’t understand 100%), and I am worried whether purchasing a 3900x would be a bad choice.

When it comes to latency, the only time I had to worry about, was like 15 years ago with the “keys pressed on a midi keyboard – note playing delayed” latency, but I haven’t faced something like that with post 2005 Computers/audio interfaces, even with an old, poor i3 I used to work. So is the problem random stuttering, audio dropouts and crackles? That’s even worse if so/if true. I do understand it also has to do with buffersize but again, I don’t quite understand whether I am gonna be affected. As I’ve said I am used in working with very weak equipment so I’ve only ever messed with buffersize trying to make a weak CPU, 4 GB or ram and 5200 rpm hard drive laptop (terrible, I know, that’s why I am building a new system) stop giving me asio and cpu overload spikes. Of course that didn’t solve the problems, cause the system is weak, but I’m just saying I’ve worked with a couple of tracks with a buffersize as high as 256 or even 512 samples (recording was fine, not being able to load as many plugins as I’d want wasn’t, but again, I don’t think that’s a buffer/latency issue), so I am not even sure whether those latency issues occur in a level close enough to affect me.

  1. Can a kind soul please explain, even by linking to sources for additional reading, what the problem is with simple words?
  2. More importantly and even if 1). isn’t possible, since I’ve explained my workflow and what I expect from my new system, can you tell me whether those latency issues is something I should be concerned of to the point I should simply stay away from the 3900x? Or is it something that will not affect me and I have nothing to worry about?
  3. Since I understand that audio interface drivers may also have to do something with that, does anyone use UR22mkII along with a 3900x on Windows?

I could really use some help here, cause I stand confused right in between seasoned pros with expensive studios (who I respect of course, but I can’t help but wonder whether those latency issues might be problem for them but not for my intended home studio workflow), and the AMD and Intel fanboys whose opinion should be taken with a grain of last at best…
TLDR: Do those documented Ryzen 3900x latency issues mean there’s a good chance to ran into audio dropouts, crackling, crashes and all kinds of trouble if I just record two channels at the same time at most and I just want a powerhouse to handle a couple of CPU-hungry VST instruments/plugins on my sessions i.e should I simply avoid 3900x and choose i9-9900K instead?

People also have issues with Intel, yet they’re not “infamous Intel issues”. Know what I mean? You shouldn’t have to worry as far as I can see.

Scan has a brand new test out:

In addition you can read about builds on in the “computer hardware” section where there’s a thread called “Today we build a studio PC” or something like that. It’s a very long thread so start from the end or search for “Ryzen” or “3900x” or “3950x”.

I would say that the 3900x is confirmed to work, and the only thing you have to consider is if it does what you need it to do in terms of the amount of voices played back. Sounds like you should have no problems.

Thanks for your input!

Yes, I’ve been following closely that thread, there are definitely some people who seem to know their stuff there, and I’ve already got some useful ideas for my build. Btw, people there strongly recommend purchasing a motherboard with Thunderbolt headers in order to be able to connect an audio interface via Thunderbolt by adding an add in card, if necessary, at some point in the future . Thunderbolt implementation is limited to Asrock motherboards for now when it comes to AMD, they aren’t exactly cheap and I think I could go for a better quality/brand motherboard without TB for the same or even less money. As I’ve said, the UR22mkII, for the time being at least, has served me fine, do you think thunderbolt support is something I shouldn’t neglect in my new build based on my workflow?

Gave that article yet another read and the phrase “anyone working above a 128 buffer has little to no concern there as it appears to recover in full by the 256 buffer” along your post, have helped easing my concerns considerably. At worse case scenario, I think recording with a 256 buffer isn’t that bad, not sure whether working with a 48 or 96 KHz samplerate also has a negative impact on latency and introduces crackles and pops though.
In any case, without expecting any crystal ball reading abilities of course, would you say fixing those latency issues at lower buffersizes is possible? I mean, since they are chip-related, I’m not sure how a software/driver or even bios update could help.

the only thing you have to consider is if it does what you need it to do in terms of the amount of voices played back.

I guess by that you mean the same thing seen in the same article as “DAWBench VI - Kontakt Polyphony count”?
Does the “1900” number mean you could have multiple kontakt instruments opened playing 1900 voices/notes at the same time before CPU hits 100%/crackles appear? Or 1900 voices in the same project in general, regardless of whether they are playing simultaneously or not?

I don’t think anyone else can tell you. I mean, do you foresee needing to connect anything with TB?

Again though, I wish people would stop calling this an “issue”. It’s not. I mean, did you look at the charts? Every chip performs less well the smaller the buffer is. Every chip. Does every chip have “issues”?

Generally speaking it seems that with OS updates and BIOS updates and microcode updates performance indeed does change. Sometimes Intel chips improves, sometimes Intel chips’ performance gets worse. Same for AMD.

As for sample rates:

Higher sample rates = lower latency
Lower latency = higher ‘stress’ on the CPU

In other words, with a higher sample rate the latency is lower because the samples are processed faster. But since the buffer is filled by a number of samples, not a fixed fraction of a second, it means that the buffer empties faster as well. Since it empties faster the CPU needs to be able to process everything with a smaller margin (per second).

I believe it’s 1900 total voices in the project playing back simultaneously.

PS: I can’t recall if they test Cubase/Nuendo with ASIO Guard on or off, but generally performance goes up with it “on”.

Well, maybe I upgrade to a better audio interface at some point and I need the better latency results Thuderbolt supposedly provides over USB?
But I am not sure whether future Thunderbolt incarnations will render the current add in cards and/or more importantly the Thunderbolt headers on the ASRock motherboards useless. I am reading Thunderbolt 4 coming up this year and I don’t think I am going to need TB so soon, so if there’s a good chance I won’t be able to connect a future audio interface with my motherboard via Thunderbolt in like, 2+ years from now, maybe it doesn’t make sense to make sure my current motherboard supports it and get a better quality motherboard for the same or less money instead?
Or the high end audio interfaces from the likes of RME and Motu are more or less guaranteed to work with the current X570 motherboards with TB headers (ASRock’s) for a good number of years anyway, independently of what happens with the Thunderbolt protocol?

Again though, I wish people would stop calling this an “issue”. It’s not. I mean, did you look at the charts? Every chip performs less well the smaller the buffer is. Every chip. Does > every > chip have “issues”?

I know. The author seems to highlight latency issues with the 3900x though. And people, as you’ve noticed, keep bringing this up. Along with the “single core/thread performance is more important for DAW performance and i9-9900K is better than the 3900x when it comes to that, as it’s the consumer CPU with the best single core performance right now” argument (there’s probably some truth in this), and the “many plugins are not compatible with Ryzen / Ryzen has problems with audio interface drivers” argument (a quite abstract statement, I can link several examples - none of them mention any plugin in particular - when it comes to audio interfaces/drivers, UAD comes up).
Which as you can imagine, to a person who might not be up-to-date with the latest CPU generation and possesses significant less technical knowledge compared to the author of the article and some audio production forum gurus, like myself (and I haven’t pretended otherwise), creates a mist of confusion.

As for sample rates:

Higher sample rates = lower latency
Lower latency = higher ‘stress’ on the CPU

In other words, with a higher sample rate the latency is lower because the samples are processed faster. But since the buffer is filled by a number of samples, not a fixed fraction of a second, it means that the buffer empties faster as well. Since it empties faster the CPU needs to be able to process everything with a smaller margin (per second).

That’s interesting, thanks for explaining.

Where? I don’t see it.

Ok, no offense but, you keep using the word “issue” and then other people are going to see you say there are “issues” and they are going to think there are issues because they see people using the word just like you just used it yet none of you have any idea what it’s about. You just keep repeating the word.

If you’re worried about this then just pick Intel. A million people have problems with Intel CPUs as well but it’s not called “issues”, so whatever. You seem to have made up your mind that there are problems with AMD CPUs in general so just pick an Intel CPU.


i am using i9 9900k pc and another asrock x570 taichi pc with asrock thunderbolt 3 aic r2.0 daughter board. Asrock has updated its bios and all uad cards are compatible. the 3900x processor does better than my i9 9900k. the only negative point would be very low latency. then in this case the i9 does better. from a 256 sample buffer the ryzen 9 3900x leaves no chance for the i9. today the new ryzen including the 5950x still offers between 15 and 20% more power with a shorter clock cycle. this will greatly help amd low latency users.

I’m using 16 samples buffer size with a latency of about 2ms without any problems whatsoever. See my specs below.

This is interesting. So you think it is worth holding out for the new ones? I have an opportunity to get a great deal on a 3950x…but i am wondering how much it is worth it to hold out for the new ones (even though i will end up paying more)
I haven’t built a computer for a while so i am totally out of touch.

Regarding latency, i am starting to think that the better option these days is to just get a new interface that has some DSP for tracking. Kind of takes that problem out of the equation for me.

Dorian, you can probably just do the math on the cost for the entire systems you’re considering and then consider what you’ll use them for and for how long you think they’ll last, and then see if it’s worth it. I know that’s a vague answer but I think it’s probably accurate.

I just saw the 3950x for about $710, and the 5950x is supposed to be $800 list price. So from a pure performance/dollar the price is 800/710 = a 13% increase, but you’re probably looking at 15-20% better performance in best case scenarios, which could be worth it.

Like I said, you probably have to take the entire system into account though. I’m on an older first generation chipset AMD motherboard and I might be able to upgrade my old CPU to a 3950x. To me that might be worth the money. On the other hand I’d really only buy a top-of-the-line CPU if I wanted to keep the system for many years, and a completely new computer would need a new motherboard, and AMD will probably move to a new socket either next year or the year after. So between those considerations and possibly new Threadripper chips it’s a bit of a tough sell for some people.

If I were you I’d wait just a little bit. I would imagine that Black Friday here in the US (if that’s where you are) would maybe be a good time for vendors to clear out old inventory of AMD 3xxx series CPUs and we might see good prices then… maybe.

Thanks for your response.
No that makes perfect sense, i was asking as i have seen a 3950x for 340 pounds, which is incredibly cheap. It is in ‘like new’ condition and has a warrantee, so i am just thinking about whether to grab it or not.
I am building from scratch; moving over to windows and building a new machine for this purpose. I am ok with upgrading in three or four years really.
I am assuming there will be no black friday sales on the new chips when they are out?
Cheers again!

In the US? I doubt it.

My understanding of AMDs approach is that they have a component that is the smallest compute unit and it (a “ccx”) is basically “binned” into performance brackets. So the best ones are the ones that draw the least power per performance or the ones that just perform the best, and the rest get put into lower numbered CPUs. So with this in mind it becomes a matter of picking enough great parts to build the best CPUs. In other words will there be enough supply to warrant sales this soon after product launch. I’m betting that demand is high and supply will be medium, so no sales… I could be wrong though, and it could also be that some vendors will bundle the CPU with other components to increase sales and give you a discount on the other components instead. That I would definitely expect.

Interesting times ahead for DAW builders…

Right i see what you are saying (i think) it doesn’t make sense for them to do a sale this early as they simply won’t need to due to demand.
That makes sense. So i guess i just need to decide whether to wait for the new one and pay a bit more, or just go with the 3950x.
I am a bit slow on all this stuff, it has been a while since i did anything like this. using apple products for years has dumbed me down a bit when it comes to parts/builds. I suppose thats part of the attraction of apple - don’t think about all that stuff.
However i am quite excited to learn and build a decent machine.

Do you run both your computers together? Or are they separate rigs?

I might have written that poorly. I’m only using one computer.

NO worries, i am a little slow on this stuff. I think i may just take the deal on the 3950x, with a view to making another build (probably when the new sockets come out.) That seems to make sense to me. That means i get a computer reasonably soon, will be reasonably powerful (without costing a ton) etc etc.

It has got me thinking about interfaces too. Currently using an SPL crimson…love the sound, but the drivers always seemed a little unstable.
Really starting ti see the appeal of an interface with basic DSP for monitoring purposes.

Might be a good deal for you. I’ve always been pretty pragmatic about these sorts of things if I’m paying for it myself. My system (sig) is only the second one since around 2001 or so. I really just look at what I think I’ll use it for and how and then see what a reasonable investment is. Truth is that for the work I do the 8-core CPU I have now is actually fine. It’ll probably be fine for another 2-5 years. I’m suuuuper tempted to get the next gen 16 core chip and new memory etc, but really, I won’t take advantage of it enough to warrant the investment just yet.

I would guess you’ll be quite happy with the 3950x.

Yeah i know what you mean…the idea of an extra 20% power is very appealing. My guess is i will definitely run either one to its full capacity. But if i can get a 3950x for around 350 pounds…thats pretty good. Either way i will have a much better system than i do now!!

hello Dorian

intel will be less powerful but easier to use. amd requires a lot of configuration. there are more risks. the new ryzen 9 serie 5950 … would have improved this low latency problem. but amd requires memory speeds of 3733mhz or 3600mhz so that the processor can demonstrate its full power. so if i can save money on buying an amd processor the rest of the configuration seems to get more demanding and more expensive … an i9 10900k is a stable and cheaper solution. we should look. I will not change my processor as I planned. I wait two years for the price of the ryzen 9 5950x to drop. the price in France is 980 euros … I think the computer stores take us for fools … so I will not be able to test AMD’s progress. sorry.