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Old Dog/New Tricks: Using HD4000 for Your Pro Audio/DAW Builds

BoomR

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Preface
I shudder when I think that I've been doing this computer + music thing for as long (if not longer) than many of you reading this have been alive. I got my start back in 1983 when I purchased the first Yamaha DX-7 to be shipped into the state of Iowa (where I lived/worked @ the time). The following year, I rounded out my live MIDI rig by adding Roland's very first hardware-based MIDI sequencer, the MSQ700 (held a whopping 6500 notes and new songs had to be loaded via cassette "data" tape), Roland's very first MIDI drum machine-the TR-909, and a 2nd MIDI keyboard, Roland's Juno 106.

By the early 90's & the advent of the rack synth/sound modules, I'd added things like the EMU Proteus, and Yamaha's TX16W - a 2U rack sampler to my setup. I'd also graduated a few years before from the MSQ700 to computer-based MIDI sequencing - initially using Master Tracks Pro on a Commodore 64, then to an Atari ST running C-Lab's Notator Logic (the great-great-grandpa to Logic Studio). You see, at that time, the Atari was billed as the musician's computer because it has a built-in MIDI interface! Here's a pic of me in the early 90's, sitting behind the mixing desk (white t-shirt) at Lahaina Sound on Maui. LS was owned at the time by jazz guitar legend George Benson. You can see my Atari monitor on top of my rack case, and we're trying to sync Notator Logic with the multi-track reel-to-reel tape deck and dump a bunch of pre-sequenced MIDI tracks to tape:
benson2.jpg

But enough of this self-indulgent walk down memory lane. The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes, when a new technology comes along, it's hard for long-timers to embrace it & believe that it will work as good as "the old way" of doing things - hence the belief that for pro audio/multimedia workstations, one really should have a dedicated GPU.

DAWs & Video Performance
I have had first-hand experience over the past 7-8 years with poor graphics performance on PowerMacs and MacPros using Logic & Digital Performer. Relatively high track counts + lots of windows open with lots of VU meters, scrolling wave form overviews, etc and manipulating those windows frequently caused on-screen artifacts, sluggish video rendering (video playing "behind" the audio timing), and even lockups. And this is WITH a dedicated GPU in an Apple product.

So when I stumbled across the Tonymacx86.com forum and did my first MacPro replacement build, I was DEFINITELY on the bandwagon & preaching/recommending that those folks doing similar builds strongly consider a dedicated GPU. While I had not tested HD3000 graphics in my first DAW build, I was of the opinion: Let the Sandy Bridge CPU focus on the core processing & not task it with video rendering, too.

Times - they are a chaingin'...
Now with the newest gen HD4000 graphics + the new Thunderbolt motherboards I got to thinking: Why not give HD4000 a shot? At the very least, a) I'll not have the added cost of a dedicated GPU, and b) no GPU means no extra fan noise or extra heat build-up inside the case. If I'm wrong, I can always add a card later.

So far, I'm happy to report that the graphics performance in Pro Tools 10, Logic Studio 9.1.8, and Digital Performer 7.24 is nothing short of AMAZING. I've only had my new Studio 2.0 build up & running for a couple weeks, but so far absolutely ZERO problems with poor video performance. Now, mind you - I'm not a commercial studio facility working on huge TV or movie mixes. Nor am I trying to drive multiple monitors...so YMMV. But my 27" Cinema Display (mini-DP version) has amazing clarity & performance on all 3 of those DAW apps.

One of our fearless leaders/admins Stork asked if I would create this thread & post some samples/examples of the 3 main DAW apps using HD4000 graphics. To even further reinforce the point that HD4000 graphics is sufficiently powerful for DAW/multimedia workstations consider this: In addition to the 3 DAW apps you're about to see, I'm also running a screen recording app called Camtasia (v2.3) that is also recording full-screen Cinema display (2560-by-1440) @ 30fps. This in & of itself takes a bunch of horsepower. So if the latest gen CustoMacs using HD4000 graphics can both run your DAW and run a background app recording your screen, there's PLENTY of CPU and GPU horsepower to go around! So here we go! BTW, all videos are in HD, so if you view full-screen, change YouTube's resolution to get the best quality :thumbup:

Pro Tools 10
Here's an example of HD4000 graphics while running the Pro Tools Demo session:
[video=youtube;Io7c-pAZzJA]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io7c-pAZzJA[/video]

Logic Pro 9.1.8
Here's an example of HD4000 graphics while running the Logic Pro Demo session:
[video=youtube;pIkG0klnz-c]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIkG0klnz-c[/video]

Digital Performer 7.24
Here's an example of HD4000 graphics while running a rough mix of one of my arrangements of an Ambrosia tune from the 80's called Biggest Part of Me:
[video=youtube;iRFIiO1BO9M]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRFIiO1BO9M[/video]

So there you have it! If you're thinking about a new build for music, save yourself anywhere from $100-250 and consider HD4000 for your GPU. The $$ you save here could buy you a new plug-in or 2!!

Enjoy!
 

Stork

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Great post, BoomR! :clap: I especially like the videos which prove the HD4000 is ready for the prime applications.:thumbup:

"...it's a numbers game..." I was moving to the grove! :lol:
 
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Great thread and the G5 looks awesome. I don't have the balls or patience to put something like that together.

Just one question BoomR, do you get any of the lag issues with Logic 9.1.8 and the stock EQ's with Analyzer hi-res on?

Seems to be a huge discussion on the apple boards about Lion and in particular, Mountain Lion being really laggy with just 2 or 3 EQ's with the Analyzer on.
 

BoomR

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Great thread and the G5 looks awesome. I don't have the balls or patience to put something like that together.

Just one question BoomR, do you get any of the lag issues with Logic 9.1.8 and the stock EQ's with Analyzer hi-res on?

Seems to be a huge discussion on the apple boards about Lion and in particular, Mountain Lion being really laggy with just 2 or 3 EQ's with the Analyzer on.
Yeah - that's a real CPU cycle-hog. It's like using multiple instances of Space Designer with really huge IR files. Maybe Apple will have it optimized on the next major release of Logic. I'd also make sure you were running in 64-bit mode & had a boatload of RAM when using Analyzer :crazy:
 
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Hey I have the same build but with a Thunderbolt Display. I couldn't be happier with it. The hd 4000 graphics are good enough for what I do. I'm not a gamer but I do photoshop and music recording. Best Mac ever for a fraction of the price.
 
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Does anybody have any experience with HD 4000 Cubase 7 and a dual monitor setup ?
 
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Very nice man! I'm very happy with my current setup (also running Logic and Pro Tools) but will consider this for my next built! Keep rockin'! :headbang:
 
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