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All Things PRO AUDIO

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There are many good tips offered to the folks who use FCPX, but not a lot of anything concrete for Pro Audio. I wanted to start a new thread in hopes of using resources on this forum to build a comprehensive, BEST PRACTICES help guide for optimizing your new Hack and have them be true across the board.

Using @CaseySJ's comprehensive guide, I recently built a system based on a Z390 Designare running an i9-9900k with RX580 and have done some testing since. I didn't heed @pastrychef advice and took the risk in going for a non-naitive NVRAM motherboard in Z390 but with a few solutions like this NVRAM support seems to be looming on the horizon. With that said, over the weekend, I had the opportunity to run a test on a brand new i9 Retina 27" iMac. I'm discovering that I'm able to bounce the same project on a regular 2019 i9 iMac in about 1/3 of the time it takes to bounce using my Hackintosh. My Geekbench score is 6600+ (non-OC) for Single Core and 38K Multi-Core. E.g. on paper it is more powerful than any iMac Apple sells, but the reality is that there's something going on with either Hyperthreading or some other CPU efficiency setting on a "real" Mac that is allowing for better performance.

Baseline assumptions when planning for a Pro Audio build:

Clock Speed > Core Count*


I can tell you from personal experience with 100% certainty that for Pro Audio applications such as Logic Pro X, Cubase, Ableton, Pro Tools, and many others, clock speed ALWAYS trumps core count. This is especially true with respect to composition and live synth/soft instrument recording and playback. Folks who work exclusively work in Pro Tools may disagree with me and that's perfectly understandable. But give me a chance to elaborate.

Most folks who work in Logic, Ableton, Cubase, Digital Performer, etc. are composers/arrangers. The content they create is often times in flux and as such, they don't commit to a MIDI performance (velocity, sustain, timing, pitch, and other MIDI automation) until they perfected it. Also, to get a good idea of the good mix they are pursuing, I, like most others, add effect plugins on each channel as needed as well as busses and create additional plug-in automation and side-chaining. I'll also throw some finalizing/shaping plugins on the stereo output.

Had all of what I described above been done on pre-recorded audio, the processing is usually evenly distributed around the multiple cores. I say "usually" because some plug-ins have more efficient code than others and are able to take advantage of the multiple cores. I differentiate 'printed' audio from software samples/synths because Logic (as well as many other DAW's) stand ready to record. In fact, Logic Pro DOES record MIDI information even when you don't think it's recording. Capture Recording as described here is proof of that. Now take that concept and assume the entire signal chain that Logic stands ready to record through, as well as all of your other tracks that are going through similar processing, routing and ultimately summing.

Where Core Count becomes important

The first and obvious one is the size of your project. The more cores you have, the larger your project/session can be. The second one is Pro Tools.

Pro Tools is a slightly different animal in that, whether you're mixing or recording, traditionally it has been used for working with printed audio. The suite of audio tools, such as elastic audio, etc. is very capable but the software is not something pros like to use for composing ideas using software instruments. And compared to other DAW's Pro Tools is absolutely terrible for MIDI composition and that type of workflow in general. You don't have to believe me, but almost every songwriter/producer works in Logic/Abelton or another DAW, and only reaches for Pro Tools when he's getting ready send the stems to a mixing engineer. Because Pro Tools is used in this way, apart from your currently selected "live" track, most of your processing is distributed among multiple cores. There is also an issue with Pro Tools that very often is decried by its' many users who are NOT running PT using Avid's HDX hardware in that it's often lagging in development and basic features have been around on other DAW's for decades are simply absent from PT. Simple things, like being able to navigate around between the tracks during playback without crashing. So I'm going to conclude this section with a not so humble opinion in that despite how many people might disagree with me, they only believe that because (a) they have been using it for a long time and are just used to the workflow or (b) running natively on Intel (non-HDX hardware) is a necessary evil.

Regardless, whether you're running Pro Tools or Logic, the point of this thread is to hopefully establish a set of guidelines for optimizing your rig for working with audio BEYOND the typical buffer setting and sample rate adjustments that can be tweaked within the DAW.

With that said - I'd like to call on the usual Pro Audio junkies @BoomR, @kenntkim66, @xanderevo, @NoiseCoalition, @DJ4MCbroader as well invite the broader team of experts such as @Stork @RehabMan @pastrychef @jaymonkey @kgp @ModMike @Feartech @Jamesbond007 and others to offer any advice that would be helpful in this endeavor.

EDIT: adding a link to macprovideo which has an embedded video to famous film and TV composer Christian Henson goes to great lengths to bring down the trashcan (he refers to as cylinder) Mac Pro and the iMac Pro. The video is about 15 min long and it's worth watching the whole thing. I can say that my hack, though more capable than my old Late 2009 spec'd out iMac, is nowhere near the efficiency of the actual Mac Pro or the iMac Pro.

Direct link to the video:
 
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CaseySJ

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Good topic to discuss.

Regarding the statement that the 2019 iMac was able to bounce the same project in one-third the time as the Hackintosh, can you elaborate on the test conditions and the hardware and software used?
 
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Good topic to discuss.

Regarding the statement that the 2019 iMac was able to bounce the same project in one-third the time as the Hackintosh, can you elaborate on the test conditions and the hardware and software used?
All software and device drivers were copied from my hackintosh to a real iMac using Migration Assistant. Using the exact same audio devices. I tried both, UAD Apollo MK2 and my Slate VRS-8 Thunderbolt. I suspect that the real Mac does a better job utilizing Turbo Boost. I suppose I can try to overclock to 5.0GHz to test that theory, but I'm not delidded so not sure about the thermals.
 
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Really? Thats interesting. What drive do you use? But you‘re right, that should be a cpu related task...
I have two NVME 2TB Corsair M510 and other SSD's and RAID drives installed that I use for quick general storage. All sample libraries reside on the second (non-macOS) NVME.
 
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I guess you have plugintype enabled via Clover? Have you check with hackintool what speedsteps you have? Does your hacki clock withe the turbo clock set in bios?
Good question. I'm not familiar with hackintool yet. Where do I check the speedsteps?
 

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Or proabably DAW related settings: Did you use the same sample rate and latency?
Definitely not DAW settings. Everything was identical. 96KHz buffer used, latency set at 128 samples. Tested with UAD Apollo Twin MK2 and Slate VRS-8. I even had iStat and Dropbox active and running on both machines.

I ran this hyperthreading test by @kgp and it craps out immediately. Scroll down to the following section:

E.14) Logic-X and Audio Studio Software Functionality
 

CaseySJ

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All software and device drivers were copied from my hackintosh to a real iMac using Migration Assistant. Using the exact same audio devices. I tried both, UAD Apollo MK2 and my Slate VRS-8 Thunderbolt. I suspect that the real Mac does a better job utilizing Turbo Boost. I suppose I can try to overclock to 5.0GHz to test that theory, but I'm not delidded so not sure about the thermals.
@kenntkim66 posted an interesting performance chart that shows iMacPro1,1 delivering 3x better performance in some Pro A/V apps compared to iMac18,3 and even iMac19,1. Are you already using this sysdef?
 
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@kenntkim66 posted an interesting performance chart that shows iMacPro1,1 delivering 3x better performance in some Pro A/V apps compared to iMac18,3 and even iMac19,1. Are you already using this sysdef?
I am currently on iMac19,1. I tried iMac1,1 before and did not notice a major difference. I might just get a brand new install going on a second SSD just to test this theory.
 
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