Xeon vs i7, DDR4 vs ECC DDR4, cores vs threads

Hello everyone,

Question 1: I’m about to buy a new workstation PC for Cubase for serious use with monstoriuos amount of VSTs (Dual mortherboard, quiet case, 1500 W, min. 128 RAM and so on). I was thinking Intel i7 processors with DDR4 vs XEON processors with ECC DDR4 memory. Do you advise using XEON processors with ECC memory? Are there known issues? I’ve read that Xeon processors with ECC have far less system mistakes and so I can operate 24/7 without any or little crushes.

Question 2: Processors have # of threads and cores, what is best when working with Cubase and multiple VSTs. More cores? More threads? Is there an optimal advise? Amount of flash memory?

Question 3: Is there any advise about amound of RAM, the bigger the better? Any advice on speed of RAM?

Please advise, thank you for your support in advance!
Vladimir T. :question:

WOW! That’s quite the system!

Ok, I’m going to try to answer in as clear but short of a way as I can…

  1. I would stick with i7 and DDR4, unless you absolutely need your system to be on 24/7.
    You are more likely to need ECC for more memory, but I think it is overkill even for 128Gb, unless you absolutely need it on all the time and can’t survive any down-time. Like, if it would cost lives or millions of dollars if it’s down…
    Bit errors are rare. Unless you are taking your computer into the stratosphere, or are next to a nuclear power plant, bit errors should be very uncommon. On the order of one bit error per gigabyte per several years. (Just stick to quality parts and don’t try to overclock it!)

  2. I’d say as many cores as you can find, but make sure it’s got at least 3Gz clock.
    Cache matters too. I would say a few MB of cache is the same as a few hundred MHz.
    For example 4 core, 3.2 Ghz, 16Mb L3 cache, would be considerably better than 4 core 3.5 Ghz, 4Mb L3 cache, even though it’s got a tiny bit lower clock speed.
    Of course, this depends on how it’s used…

  3. Speed is more important, as long as you have enough. More can be better, but some instruments won’t use it. Many instruments have a limit on the memory they are allowed to use. You can usually change some settings to let them use more, but that can also make them take longer to load. I have 16Gb RAM and even with a dozen or so EWQL patches (very memory intensive due to large number of samples), I usually only see 50% memory in use… and they take FOREVER to load…

One other thing that is REALLY important is your file system. (Your hard drives, etc)
I recommend getting multiple high performance hard drives (WD Black series is a good choice), and setting them up in a RAID configuration. This will make things able to load faster. 4 Hard drives = 4x shorter load times!
I would stay away from SSDs though. They are cool for laptops, because you can drop them and they are fine, but they get slower over time, and are not nearly as fast as they claim to be.

One other piece of advice.
If you don’t need it to perform something live, you can try using the ‘freeze’ function to pre-render only one instrument at a time. This can make a big difference. My computer can’t actually handle 50 EWQL instruments at the same time, but if I spread them out into maybe 8 or so instances, and freeze those one at a time, I can get the whole thing done.

…so much for being short… :unamused:
Hope that is of some use!

Thanks a lot for the answer! I guess I’ll stick away from ECC for now. But I do use SSDs at work, and after I started using Samsung Pro SSD it started working like 6 times faster. So my guess you are wrong at this point. Also thanks for telling about the cache! That helped a lot, waited so long for anyone to answer :wink:, thanks again!

I have installed a SSD Samsung 950 pro 512 GB drive, and it is super fast. :wink:

In the cubase manual from page 1080-1085, information about performance is explained. Maybe you will find that helpful…

Interesting… I have a Samsung 850 Pro 128GB and it’s hit or miss on performance. Some things are really fast, and other things are weirdly slow.

Then again, my SSD is one of the oldest of the new manufacturing process Samsung is pioneering, so maybe they have improved since. I think if we are talking about Samsung specifically, their drives last longer too.
It used to be that you just plain couldn’t use an SSD for your OS drive because the virtual memory thrashing would wear out the SSD in just a few months.

Based on what you two have said though, I’m thinking I might be selling them short.
Samsung does have a 10 year warranty, after all.
AFAIK it’s the writing to the SSD that damages it, not reading. So if you install heavy VST instruments to it, they will be fast to load, and not wear out the drive. In theory. I have not tried this because the instrument library I wanted to install to the SSD would not fit… (Freakin EWQL stuff :imp:)

Either way, the disk system is not something to cheap out on! It’s what makes the difference between waiting 3 minutes for a project to open vs 45 seconds. Real timings based on some of my setups! The reason it takes that long is often needing to load instruments that need several GB of ram, which all needs pulled in from the disk every time. The disk really matters here! Possibly more so than the amount of RAM.

this thread is really diluted with excess info, what you should like to know is at what clockspeed should the cores get optimal performance vs core count… i know that once one core overloads it will hault the project , so having 22 cores versus 8 cores isn’t going to help you out once one of them hits its threshold of processing , the word from cubase is higher clockspeed will get you more mileage so as I’m also looking to purchase a new DAW workstation, I will likely be looking at a highly overclocked 6900K broadwell-e

furthermore cubase does not support hyperthreading so get the thread count out of your equation, and 128GB of RAM is really a high amount likely not needed by most users, unless you’re using a lot of ROM based synthesizers with large libraries for the sake of audio you should really not need more than 64GBs so 4 16GB RAM chips should be fine, ECC RAM is server grade so you’re not likely going to need RAM of that nature either … hope this helps

That’s correct SSDs reading speed is very fast (latest generation) but writing is nothing special. But for Cubase you don’t need that much writing speed. Also very interesting, is there any parameters to look out when choosing a mortgerboard?

I personally consider the motherboard to be the most important part, and choose the rest of the parts around it.
I will at least mention just in case, but you need to make sure the CPU, motherboard, and RAM are all compatible.
Motherboard manufacturers will have lists of CPU and RAM modules they have tested in their boards.
It’s safest to stick to combinations that have been tested.

Since this is for audio, you probably have an audio interface you need to connect!
Because most decent audio interfaces are firewire, you probably want a firewire port.
Thunderbolt can work too, since there’s an adapter.
Of course, since most desktop boards now don’t have firewire ports anymore, you might need to get a PCI card to add them.

Then there’s little things like how many USB ports, does it have USB3, integrated sound/video, etc.

And finally, if you are into tweaking settings, some manufacturers have more useful BIOS than others.
Gone are the days when going into the BIOS meant you see an ugly monochrome screen with ugly text.
Now everything has some sort of fancy UEFI stuff, but some are much nicer than others. It’s a minor point, but one to consider.

I am happy with my USB3 Presonus Studio 192 audio interface

Thanks for the reply, very useful comment. These mortherboard parameters are just about the inputs and outputs, is there anything to consider regarding the inside of it? Like lifetime of components, speed , bios and so on?

Yeah, there are some subtle differences between chipsets that can affect performance. Most notable is how it’s RAID controller works, or if it even has one. If you want to setup RAID then this matters, otherwise not at all.

There are also minute differences in performance, possibly due to buss transfer rates, etc. I have seen benchmarks where two systems are identical except for the motherboard, and one performs about 3% faster than the other despite everything else being the same. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know how the motherboard will perform without actually testing it, but it’s not a huge difference.

Each model also has it’s own revision of the manufacturers BIOS, and they each look a bit different from each other, while generally providing similar features. But some brands tend look much nicer and respond to input better than others. I guess you could look at screenshots, if it really comes down to that as a tie breaker. :slight_smile:

The sound card can make a huge difference.
PCIe is really the only way to go for low latency and low CPU use.
I would recommend RME, they have the best drivers on the market.

Amen to RME, once you install and set it up you can just forget it :sunglasses: .