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    Dual core P4 for pro audio applications - building a specialized box


    Context: I am building a PC for one purpose only, and that is to serve as the centerpiece for my home recording studio. This machine will not ever have any games or other spurious software installed, not be used for internet except for program updates. It's sole purpose is audio recording and softsynths.

    Due to space and limited use of the machine I am building in a microtower, looking at a gigabyte 775 motherboard with built-in VGA (I don't need high end graphics, it's not for gaming) will have 2GB of dual-core RAM and SATA-150 hard drive with a second drive to be added later.

    I'm looking to keep the CPU price under $300. Due to heat concerns I am avoiding AMD chips. I am strictly interested in an Intel-to-Intel comparison.

    Basically in the left corner is the
    Intel Pentium D 820 2.80GHz / 2MB Cache / 800 FSB / Socket 775 / Dual-Core / Processor

    And in the right corner is
    Intel Pentium 4 640 3.20GHz / 2MB Cache / 800FSB / Socket 775 / Hyper Threading / Processor


    Here are the demanding applications I plan to run on it:
    Sonar 5 (which boasts a "64 bit audio engine")
    Reaktor 4
    BFD
    Garriton Personal Orchestra
    Albino 2
    Fruity Loops
    Various audio fx vst/dxi plug-ins
    and other vst/dxi soft synths

    Considering that I demand primarily the best real time processing from as many of these simultaneously running at the same time as you can imagine, would you assert that the dual core would provide a better performance?

    Or if you have any other considerations for other intel chips.

    Thanks for any words of wisdom. Cheers. (Due to software constraints the OS must be XP)
    Last edited by medialint; November 7th, 2005 at 07:39 PM.
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    Originally Posted by medialint
    I'm looking to keep the CPU price under $300. Due to heat concerns I am avoiding AMD chips. I am strictly interested in an Intel-to-Intel comparison.


    Intel is the one with heat issues.

    Best bang for buck under $300? Look at the Opteron 165's. 1MB cache for each core, each core runs 2.0GHz at stock but Opterons typically overclock well. You'll find them right around $300.




    Honestly I'd go with AMD... I know I'm a bit biased, but when I post something like this I back it up. Single core, yes, I'd recommend a P4, but dual-core? Iffy. They're very IO limited, and that huge 31 stage pipeline is only somewhat efficient at high clock speeds. As Intel is already having a hell of a time with heat (and hence the sudden push towards dual core while scrapping Tejas and the P4-line that was supposed to go over 5GHz) piling one core on top of the other is not ideal - both cores are restricted coreclock-wise for the heat. The fundamental design sucks. Intel admits they basically glued two cores together, Netburst was never designed for this, so the processors have to communicate with each other through an outside bus, which makes the total IO problem worse and increases latencies.

    AMD's K8 was designed for dual-core from the ground up... Total theoretical IO for the processor package increases as more cores and CPU sockets are added thanks to HyperTransport links, and the on-die memory controller means that RAM IO via the FSB isn't bottlenecked like it can be on the Intel side.



    When going dual core, keep in mind that you won't get double the performance. You get more in some tests than others, but Intel won't appear to make as much of a gain as AMD. This is because all those "single core" tests we compare the dual core chips to were using HyperThreading. To some extent on the Netburst architecture HyperThreading helped use resources not otherwised use per clock - better efficiency, and the ability to kind of work two threads at once. Double the number of cores, and remove HyperThreading, and you loose some of the efficiency and you don't appear to gain as much because that and the fact that you're moving from a semi-multiprocessing environment to a true one, where you won't see the full benefit of two true cores.










    Now, whether to go dual core or not... hmmm.

    How many of those apps actually use two threads? If you're running multiple ones at once, on single core, Intel has a hell of a lead. It doens't have to do nasty cache-wide context switches to process a new thread. If you're talking dual-core, assuming Windows can do a decent job with scheduling threads to each core, dual-core could help. You loose the HyperThreading advantage on the Intel side, and as such you loose some of the advantage of context switches, but I'd say in theory running two cores should be faster than one core, even if it isn't as efficient on a per-core basis.



    You'll have to do a little research... Anandtech.com would be a great resource for this... see how respective processors from either manufacturer at yor pricepoint perform in tasks related to what you do. I'd imagine AMD will b beat for much of what you do in a single-core arena, but their advantages in dual-core may help them pull ahead there.


    [Edit] And the 64-bit audio engine you mentioned.. meh. I'd imagine it's talking 64-bit float, because it can't use 64-bit int most of the time, and doing so at least thus far would yield it really no advantage.

    But I guess from an advertising standpoint things are different...
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    Thanks. Problem

    Intel is the one with heat issues.
    More sensitive, yes, but also runs cooler normally. I am not going to be overclocking, and eventually probably install liquid cooling to reduce noise. My ambient temp will exceed 100F and I can't affect that in any measureable way.

    Although you do have many other good points, that's why I'm running P4s presently, as well. And this PC I'm on will continue to do the grunt work.

    In the end I might build two such machines and probably go the cheapest I can now as a test then use that one for my soft synths and end up with a second computer for recording. That's the two year plan ;-)
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    Actually you're right.

    On Intel EM64T and AMD64 based systems running Windows XP x64 Edition, SONAR 5 introduces 20-30% processing performance gains and ground-breaking advances in RAM allocation with access up to 128 GB OF physical RAM.

    just trying to sort the facts. not building anything for a few weeks (or months as it may be) ;-)
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    Originally Posted by medialint
    More sensitive, yes, but also runs cooler normally.
    I've no hands on experience with them, but new P4s are hot in general, aren't they? Prescotts on DevH have the nickname of 'Preshotts.' According to one of our stickies there:
    Pentium 4 Prescott Core stock cooling
    45c-70c average and 75c worry limit
    My 3500+ A64 is overclocked to 2.4GHz and over-colted slightly right now, and after running for several days straight folding at 100% CPU usage, it's now running at about 55C. That's on stock cooling, though I did lap the HSF a bit and add some AS5 instead of the crappy thermal pad that came stock.

    I am not going to be overclocking, and eventually probably install liquid cooling to reduce noise.
    Then why are we worrying about which runs hotter? Heat isn't a big a deal if it fits the manufacturer's temp levels, and if you're going for watercooling that won't be an issue anyway.

    My ambient temp will exceed 100F and I can't affect that in any measureable way.
    Why will it be over 100C, and why can't you affect it? Get a decent case, I got a Thermaltake Tsunami, and even though many say stock cooling on it sucks, the two 120mm fans have this thing running at about 17C at full load, or about 63F. If you're running water cooling, ambient temps should drop a bit and you can always add higher cfm fans and a few other things.

    In the end I might build two such machines and probably go the cheapest I can now as a test then use that one for my soft synths and end up with a second computer for recording. That's the two year plan ;-)
    Probably not a bad plan. By the time you build the second machine, hopefully we'll have a MS OS that handles multithreading better, as well as application support for it.

    On Intel EM64T and AMD64 based systems running Windows XP x64 Edition, SONAR 5 introduces 20-30% processing performance gains
    Interesting. I wasn't aware of much that could really do something useful with 64-bit int ops, but I guess they found a use for some new instructions. I'd be curious to see how performance varies across architectures. If it's media encoding stuff, I'm guessing it's not very branchy, and therefore the faster the coreclock the better? Pure speculation on my part, but if so, Intel would have the upperhand.

    and ground-breaking advances in RAM allocation with access up to 128 GB OF physical RAM.
    That's probably just the fact that it really has an x86-64 version, and therefore has access to larger amounts of RAM without using dirty hacks. At any rate, I'd be surprised if the 4GB limit on 32-bit OSes limits much anyone right now, and on a 64-bit OS you're hardware limited in that you can only have 1GB per stick right now and most motherboards only have 4 DIMM slots.

    just trying to sort the facts. not building anything for a few weeks (or months as it may be) ;-)
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    Thanks for taking time to discuss.

    Originally Posted by archnaid
    I've no hands on experience with them, but new P4s are hot in general, aren't they?
    Clear me up if I'm wrong but the max op temp on the ones I'm looking at is around 74C and the AMDs max op temp is around 90C. Under similar load AFIK they will be proportionally similar respectively. This is based solely on osmosis and what I've observed of friends' AMD systems that are so loud you can hear them down the hall in the loo tinkling with the door closed. All those fans. I need a quiet system, and will install liquid cooling later if not at build time. I'm going to be recording with microphones and all. The noise floor in my present full tower set up is comprising my results, and part of the motive for this.

    Heat isn't a big a deal if it fits the manufacturer's temp levels, and if you're going for watercooling that won't be an issue anyway.
    Except uncontrollable room temperature may prove the irrelevance false is my concern.

    I meant the room temp in the summer will often exceed 100F = 38C but that kinda boosts everything else. It's a problem with fan based systems anyway, I have never built a water cooled system and still looking at those options.

    If I can build an AMD system that can run as quiet as a comparable P4 then I will. I'm just paranoid. I've overheated without overclocking here. (A stuffy converted attic - Air conditioning is not an option).

    All things considered, silence is more golden than performance and I'm trying to achieve a nice balance of the two.
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    Originally Posted by medialint
    Clear me up if I'm wrong but the max op temp on the ones I'm looking at is around 74C and the AMDs max op temp is around 90C.
    Like I said above, my 3500+ A64, slightly overclocked and overvolted, runs about 55C folding when room temps are about 73-ish Farenheit. At stock clocks and volts, it runs under load at about 50C. That's with the retail HSF; temps weren't quite as good with the thermal pad that came stock, those things really are poor quality, but I happened to have some Arctic Silver 5 around, so after installing the HSF with the stock pad to make sure everything worked (and to ease the RMA process if it didn't), I pulled the HSF and CPU out, removed the thermal pad and used some very fine sandpaper and a soft cloth to smooth the bottom of the HSF for better contact. That, plus AS5 instead of the crappy stock thermal pad, really helped my temps.

    90C is really high- past the point where physical damage could be done to the chips. For example, a 3800+ Athlon 64 running at 2.4GHz on earlier stepping shouldn't run higher than 70 C and on newer revisions 65 C.

    At higher room temps I could see where you could have a problem. It's possible to use chilled water, but I don't know how much power it would need to cool the water in such a warm environment. Water has a high specific heat, so it takes a lot of energy to raise its temps... but if it's in that much heat while trying to radiate excess heat, I don't know how well that will work.

    This is based solely on osmosis and what I've observed of friends' AMD systems that are so loud you can hear them down the hall in the loo tinkling with the door closed. All those fans.
    Which AMD processors are these?

    I don't have much experience with older (pre-K8 and post K6-2 or early K-7) AMD processors, I'm not sure what those temps would run on say a higher-clocked Barton or older core revision.

    I need a quiet system, and will install liquid cooling later if not at build time. I'm going to be recording with microphones and all. The noise floor in my present full tower set up is comprising my results, and part of the motive for this.
    Hmmm... well, my case, the Thermaltake Tsunami mentioned above, is really pretty quiet. It does a decent job cooling, and I have Cool 'n Quiet and other fan-speed regualtion turned off; all fans are running at their max 24/7. It's slightly audible from where I am, with the TV in this room muted and the TV in the other on. But for recording with microphones, espcially in a smaller, enclosed area, I can see where you'd have concerns. Soemthing like this could help. You'll still probably need sme sort of fan on the waterblock if you go for watercooling, but then again I've never really dealt with that. Maybe I should go over to DevH and post something in the shoutbox to get others to come have a look at this...

    Comments on this post

    • medialint agrees : Cheers for the advice, I am looking at AMD options now before I leap ... ;-)
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    My 20 seconds....
    archnaid is doing a good job of explaining what's good for you..and I don't want to spoil the perfect flow of discussion here...just one thing I would back him on is : Don't consider P-D just yet. They have a lot to prove and aren't the most stable CPUs right now. I am sure you don't want something such as your primary rig....

    Plus, though I am also AMD-biased, I would reiterate that there are solutions to AMD's being a little loud....but P4 isn't too bad either in your case.
    Time out over.....Continue the discussion!

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    • medialint agrees : Thanks for your input. It's obvious I need to do more research ;-)
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