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Thread: Best Performance Upgrade - Advice?

  1. #1
    Spinal Pap Tomahawk's Avatar
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    Question Best Performance Upgrade - Advice?

    Hey,

    I am basically writing this on behalf of some friends (and because I am interested as to what to upgrade also, as they want me to upgrade their machine for them..), who have their own Recording Studio set up within their flat. They are currently recording their new album and on one song in particular, because of the number of tracks they have recorded (a total of 90 all layered to create the final song..), when they try and play the song the computer has trouble with this. It usually lags, or jumps around.. or locks up completely.

    Bearing in mind these 90 odd tracks are not all 'full' so to speak and are more various parts of each section layered to create the fullest sound, for example a mandolin section..

    They said that the only way they can get it to play better, is to close every application except for the obvious vital ones. So clearly the PC is being pushed to its limit. When I checked windows task Manager, the CPU was being fully utilized at 100% usage, just before the system locked up.. But here comes the question.

    What would be the best upgrade to enable the best performance boost (and one which will enable them to play the song with 90 tracks within it, without any problems), with a £200 budget?

    Here are the current PC specs..:

    *Intel Pentium4 2.80GHz
    *Gigabyte GA-8SG800
    *1x Corsair 512mb PC2700
    *1x Samsung 512mb PC2700

    I have included the basics, although I do have more information on the size of the cache, and the RAM timings. Also they are using Cubase SX to carry out their recordings, and they have an M-Audio Sound card.

    Any help/suggestions would be MUCH appreciated.

    Thanks


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    Admin team peterb's Avatar
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    So difficult to say where the bottlenecks are occurring... It could be the hard drive, so instaling a raid system would be worthwhile for this application, but that would soon use up your £200 budget. I notice the RAM isn't matched, which could have an (albeit small) effect. Upgrading the processor would probably entail upgrading the motherboard and memory as well - again blowing your £200 budget. I wouldn't advise overclocking for a critical application, reliability is likely to suffer...

    First thought is to see if ypou can get a faster processor that is compatible with the mobo (and the memory you have), if that doesn't solve the problem, then look at mobo/processor/RAM then RAID. But by that time you are pretty much looking at a new PC...

    Sorry this is a bit nebulous, but there are so many variables that it is difficult to say that fixing any one will solve it. In the mean time, have you tried simple system maintenance like defraggoing the hard drive etc?

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    I would agree with peterb, it is hard to work out what the issue is. My flatmate also does a lot of audio work, and songs with many layered tracks - can't tell you specific number of layers, but from some of the compositions I've seen there's a good chance he's pushing 60 odd layers.

    He's only using an athlon 1300 and doesn't experience the issues you do, so I would try a defrag, check free drive space on the virtual memory drive. If the HDD is a 5400rpm which is unlikey a 7200rpm with a decent (8mb+) cache would help.

    Maybe a windows reinstall would help? Also make sure there aren't any nasty gremlins/spyware programs running in the background...

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    The free solution would be to temporary bounce all the tracks not in use down to audio. Therefore you will have one audio track and then a few tracks that you are currently working on with the mixer, sends and inserts and midi.

    This way there is no need to upgrade the computer. If they are using Cubase SX 2 or newer, there is a function called freeze tracks that does the above for you. If it is Cubase SX 1, then unfortunately they will have to do this manually.

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    • CountStex's system
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    If it's playing better with everything else shut down thats hinting that the memory size might be having an effect.. might be worth checking how much memory the software is trying to use by looking at the peek memory values in Task Manager.

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    Yep that sounds like you're running out of RAM. Check how much Physical Memory is available in Task Manager.


    An upgrade to 2GB of RAM would probably solve their problem.

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    2GB of ram should solve your problem.

    You can get some decent sets for quite cheaply. Geil value PC3200 2GB is £150, Corsair 2GB DDR XMS3200C2PT TwinX is £190 for your £200 budget.

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    I disagree with it being a memory problem. Sequencers are very demanding on the processor when using multiple tracks and especially when using soft synths, sends and inserts. But no matter how fast a processor or how much memory you have, you will always run into stuttering problems when using a lot of tracks simultaneously.

    It's more of a work flow problem, realistically how many tracks can you operate at once, even if you have a huge mixing desk? Therefore I would still suggest to bounce down some tracks and save yourself £200 and spend it on something else.

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    I agree with more RAM and what soundcard they got? I mean would a nice quality new soundcard make a helluva lot of difference? I don't know: just asking

    In that case a gb RAM for like £60 and an audigy II ZS OEM would solve the issue
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    HEXUS.timelord. Zak33's Avatar
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    My turn:

    Ram first:
    Then Hard drive, because it MUST be accessing the music from there mid processing-thread, it cant hold it ALL in ram even with 2 gig.

    Funnily enough though, I'd try a defrag first and spend NO MONEY to begin with.

    Defrag TWICE if its ina right state and hasn't been done for ages. Defrag with all the ram you have in the machine.

    Then try the process of mixing etc.

    Then I'd take OUT a stick of ram and retry the micing process, see if it gets worse...if it gets really bad straight away, moreRAM will help.

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    Spinal Pap Tomahawk's Avatar
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    Well thanks alot For ALL the replies, much appreciated!..

    Basically suggestions on Spyware/adware, defragging, clearing un needed apps etc.. Are all done regularly. Also all the music/recording of tracks are ALL stored on a seperate drive to the operating system and the Page File is contained on this drive.

    Although I will have to try the RAM idea Zak, as that seems a great idea, so thanks for that.

    It seems VERY hard at the minute to kind of Advise them to buy any specific item/component, as there are many strong suggestions contradicting one another.. So I will make sure to test the RAM, as that seems a good logical way of seeing whether extra matched RAM would benefit them.

    Thanks again for all the suggestions!.. Any others would be awesome.. As I'm currently trying to figure out what the best option for them would be, given all the information I have been.



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    Nox
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    How much space is on the HD? you want atleast 50% really, 25% absolutel minimu motherwise it will start behaving very badly!

    Defrag, double the size (or triple) of the pagefile and set it to a static size.

    Watch task manager, watch what happens when it starts juddering, is it when the page file fills up? Zaks ram idea is good.

    I would of thought its most likely to be ram, but it could just as easily be an incorrectly set up BIOS.

    Nox

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