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Slave Machine minimal specs

MoeWalsaad

Member
Hi,
I need tips on buying my first slave machine to load my collection of libraries, and I want that computer's specs to be as minimal for this task and as cheap as possible because I'm not gonna use it for any other purpose. cost, size, and portability for this machine will be a huge plus.

So the questions in mind:

  1. Does CPU Matter? Any recommendations?
  2. If I have a large SSD Already, will I need a huge amount 32/64GB of RAM?
  3. How about Laptops? why not or why yes?
  4. Will, I ever need a powerful Graphics card?
  5. What other aspects I missed and I need to consider about a Slave machine?
  6. Are there Hardware Tools that can just plug into my main computer and serve as a substitute to a slave computer that can serve the music production purpose?
  7. Any other tips and advice you can share about this topic are appreciated.

    Thanks in Advance
 

j_kranz

Active Member
Also in the market for a relatively cheap slave PC. If you don't already have it, I'd highly recommend Vienna Ensemble Pro (7) for routing audio/midi between the systems... that negates the need for audio/midi interfaces etc... As for other hardware, you might look at using a KVM switch for switching between screens/mouse/keyboard with your main system. There are probably software solutions to that as well but I'm admittedly IT challenged so I can't give too much advice there.

For your other questions, I don't think CPU is as important as it would be for your DAW. I probably wouldn't go below and i3, but it doesn't need to be blazing fast. Assuming most non-sampler plugins will be on your main system, RAM is likely the most important gauge of how much you can load. These days you probably want 32GB or more, depending on how much of the load your DAW will still be handling. Hope that helps!
 
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MoeWalsaad

MoeWalsaad

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Also in the market for a relatively cheap slave PC. If you don't already have it, I'd highly recommend Vienna Ensemble Pro (7) for routing audio/midi between the systems... that negates the need for audio/midi interfaces etc... As for other hardware, you might look at using a KVM switch for switching between screens/mouse/keyboard with your main system. There are probably software solutions to that as well but I'm admittedly IT challenged so I can't give too much advice there.

For your other questions, I don't think CPU is as important as it would be for your DAW. I probably wouldn't go below and i3, but it doesn't need to be blazing fast. Assuming most non-sampler plugins will be on your main system, RAM is likely the most important gauge of how much you can load. These days you probably want 32GB or more, depending on how much of the load your DAW will still be handling. Hope that helps!

Thanks for the reply,
I indeed plan to use VEP in my flow, thanks for mentioning KVM which I will research further.

I wonder wouldn't be efficient if I trade RAM with SSD space? I mean that can I just make my sampler read from one large SSD drive (as DFD) instead of reading from RAM and get a smooth result playback?
 

Pietro

Senior Member
If you plan to use the slave to play all your sample libraries, it's where you need all of the 3 - high end CPU, RAM and SSDs. It will basically offload your main machine from anything that is on the slave. You do need a decent CPU to handle all of it.

SSD won't replace RAM either. There is a limit to how low you can go with the preload buffer and that also means, the lower the buffer, the higher the SSD load and CPU load.

- Piotr
 

fraz

Member
If you have room Moe maybe an Intel and an AMD slave machine but start with one to begin with.

The 3900 X (12C/24T) 3700 X (8C/16T) 3800 X (8C/16T) all look good - But maybe wait for the AMD GEN 3 hype to pass over and prices will drop.

The Iintel route would be a 9900 K or what ever comes next.

Over a period of time as your projects get bigger you'll use the CPU's more.

Learn how to over clock possibly by learning the BIOS to get the best clocks with the lowest temps.

Example, I OC'd Xeon E5_1680_V2 (2nd hand)__to 4.3 Ghz all cores for under 1.2 v _v_core to get max temps on air cooler of around 60 C - 62 C but under 70 C which I was very happy with but the VRM on the backpanel I/O side of the machine were very hot (spot cooler needed_)

Good luck with your build !
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
The answer depends on what you're doing but any i7 w/ 64 GB of RAM is a good starting point. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on CPU - 6 cores is plenty for a slave. Processor speed has a lot more effect than # cores once you're over four coures. You can get by with 32 GB (again, depends on what you're writing) but I think 64 GB is the best bang for the buck these days.

Then load up with as many SSDs as you can.

For a sample machine, the following have relatively little effect:
- Video card
- RAM speed
- # cores (assuming you're using six or more)
- Network interface (1 GB Ethernet is more than good enough)
- Power supply

If you're building it yourself then I'd say $1250 is the max you should spend on the hardware with the possible exception of drives - if you need a lot of SSDs then that'll push you over $1250.

One thing I would recommend strongly against is multi-processor machines: they generally provide a double-whammy of more cost and less performance.

Regarding laptops - you can get by with a high-end laptop for sample streaming these days (i7 w/ 64 GB RAM and 3x internal NVMEs) but the equivalent desktop will cost about half as much. So you're paying a lot for portability.

EDIT - I'm assuming you're already using VE Pro. If not, add that cost to the $1250.


rgames
 

Mishabou

Senior Member
The answer depends on what you're doing but any i7 w/ 64 GB of RAM is a good starting point. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on CPU - 6 cores is plenty for a slave. Processor speed has a lot more effect than # cores once you're over four coures. You can get by with 32 GB (again, depends on what you're writing) but I think 64 GB is the best bang for the buck these days.

rgames

Doesn't VEP pro spread your instances across # of cores, so with lots of instances you're better off having more cores than core speed ?
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
Doesn't VEP pro spread your instances across # of cores, so with lots of instances you're better off having more cores than core speed ?
It does but I have found that processor speed still matters more. There's a post on VI Control somewhere where I looked at # cores vs. clock speed but I can't dig it up. I do remember that dropping down below 4 GHz reduced # streaming voices in Kontakt and polyphony in Omnisphere much more quickly than dropping number of cores.

I think 6-8 cores is a practical max these days but four is still fine (I still have a four-core slave and it'll do 2500+ streaming voices for a well-scripted Kontakt library at ~ 6 ms total latency - there's a post on that one as well, somewhere...). For DAW/slave I haven't seen much advantage beyond 4-6 cores.

In general you need specialized software to really make use of a 10+ core machine. 10+ cores can help a bit with video editing/rendering but not a lot and most often not at all. I've never seen a DAW project that will run on a 10 core machine but not a 6 or 8 core machine. Sure, they run at different CPU usage levels. But they all run. So unless you're concerned about a CPU usage meter then I haven't seen any advantage to large numbers of cores (8+) for DAW use.

It's not that much of an issue these days, though, because clock speeds are 4+ GHz for everything. So more cores generally won't hurt nowadays because you still have good clock speed. But they're not really helping, either. Back in the day, high(er) core counts went with clock speeds well under 4 GHz and that penalty offset any advantage in number of cores.

The truth is that pretty much any i7 is perfectly fine for music production these days. So buy whatever.

rgames
 

fraz

Member
People on VEP forum claim the software will use all the cores you can throw at it.

From looking into CPU's - 9900 K has better multi-threaded performance than the Broadwell i7 6950 X - 9900 K also has excellent single-threaded performance as well.

9900 K is Coffee Lake architecture which is newer than the current Skylake X architecture of the HEDT X299 CPU's.

The two main segments are enthusiast, think, Z390 and HEDT, think X299, that is for the Intel CPU's.

The HEDT CPU's are very pricey indeed but will support quad channel RAM where as Z390 will be dual channel RAM but won't make much difference overall.

Regarding CPU's and sockets it gets confusing with all the code names and architectures.

A few years back enthusiast platform, the gamers etc.....and music folks had a chipset of Z170 with a CPU 6700 K which was Skylake architecture (the same as the current HEDT architecture, Skylake X)

Due to higher numbers of cores Intel uses a mesh instead of a ringbus for efficiency (more differences) between HEDT and enthusiast platforms but then it gets more technical regarding the manufacter of the CPU's which is a world away from music !!!! -

Suffice to say that enthusiast platform currently Z390 Intel gets the newer architectures before the HEDT does so is more advanced in some ways.

9900 K uses a ring bus which is what some users prefer.

Now I'm no expert but have picked up bits here and there from others who are - Apologies if anything here is not correct.

The best Intel options for new CPU's are - 9900 K - 9700 K 8700 K - 9600 K (i5)

The main motherboard makers are MSI, Asus, Gigabyte and AsRock - "commercial"

And then there are the AMD options as well.

If you need the cost as cheap as possible - There may be some older AMD CPU's such as Ryzen 7 1700 or 1800 X (1700 X) or 2700 - But you may not be happy with the results overall as a slave

Reading up on things is best......
 
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MoeWalsaad

MoeWalsaad

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SSD won't replace RAM either. There is a limit to how low you can go with the preload buffer and that also means, the lower the buffer, the higher the SSD load and CPU load.

- Piotr

Valuable to keep in mind, thanks Pietro
 
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MoeWalsaad

MoeWalsaad

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If you have room Moe maybe an Intel and an AMD slave machine but start with one to begin with.

The 3900 X (12C/24T) 3700 X (8C/16T) 3800 X (8C/16T) all look good - But maybe wait for the AMD GEN 3 hype to pass over and prices will drop.

The Iintel route would be a 9900 K or what ever comes next.

Over a period of time as your projects get bigger you'll use the CPU's more.

Learn how to over clock possibly by learning the BIOS to get the best clocks with the lowest temps.

Example, I OC'd Xeon E5_1680_V2 (2nd hand)__to 4.3 Ghz all cores for under 1.2 v _v_core to get max temps on air cooler of around 60 C - 62 C but under 70 C which I was very happy with but the VRM on the backpanel I/O side of the machine were very hot (spot cooler needed_)

Good luck with your build !
Thank you Fraz, valuable information, I will keep it in mind.
 
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MoeWalsaad

MoeWalsaad

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The answer depends on what you're doing but any i7 w/ 64 GB of RAM is a good starting point. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on CPU - 6 cores is plenty for a slave. Processor speed has a lot more effect than # cores once you're over four coures. You can get by with 32 GB (again, depends on what you're writing) but I think 64 GB is the best bang for the buck these days.

Then load up with as many SSDs as you can.

For a sample machine, the following have relatively little effect:
- Video card
- RAM speed
- # cores (assuming you're using six or more)
- Network interface (1 GB Ethernet is more than good enough)
- Power supply

If you're building it yourself then I'd say $1250 is the max you should spend on the hardware with the possible exception of drives - if you need a lot of SSDs then that'll push you over $1250.

One thing I would recommend strongly against is multi-processor machines: they generally provide a double-whammy of more cost and less performance.

Regarding laptops - you can get by with a high-end laptop for sample streaming these days (i7 w/ 64 GB RAM and 3x internal NVMEs) but the equivalent desktop will cost about half as much. So you're paying a lot for portability.

EDIT - I'm assuming you're already using VE Pro. If not, add that cost to the $1250.


rgames
Thank you Rgames, great detailed information, all has been noted. Have a great day!
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I don't use any CPU slower than 4.x these days. I don't know if it's the libraries I use having a lot of scripting (I suspect it is) but less than that is a problem.

Having good luck with 64GB and the i9-9900k, overclocked to about 4.5GHz.

@rgames has good advice overall. He's right not to ignore CPU speed.

The most expensive aspect of what you asked is "portability;" if by that you mean "laptop" that is going to cost far more for similar specs than a desktop, and usually has less drive capacity, and may be expensive compared with desktop storage.
 

rlw

Rod Wilson
I bought an Imac Pro 10 core with 128gb the first week they came out. My dream was to use just one computer, but sadly, I have had to face that with my large Orchestra Templates with full orchestra, I use 124gb of memory and most of a slave PC with 6700K Intel CPU and 64gb of memory. The issue is that Logic Pro locks up frequently on my large projects. I host instruments with VEP7 on the Master Machine, lemur is doing my articulation switching with controls to adjust as many as 16 mics available on a track. When VEP7 or Logic Pro freeze, I have to shut everything down and start over on the Master Mac. I finally relied heavily on freezed tracks and when Logic Pro freezes up logic loses the freeze data every other day, so I have to re-freeze the tracks which with 200 instrument tracks is a major time issue. After much examination, I I believe i can be more stable by reducing or removing the VEP7 Instance to slaves. Smaller projects work fine on the one iMac Pro machine. Even though my master machine can do more on its own, there is a level when Logic and/or VEP 7 lock up after an hour or so. My workflow suffers badly because of the number of times I must shutdown and start over. My slave machine seems to be unaffected after the lock ups. Since I have decided to add slaves I would like to add one more apple machine with at least 64gb and possible another pc to spread out the load. I have built my PC with no issues. It works great. However passing any VEP projects is not possible since I use VST3 on the PC and AU instruments on the Mac. All the Kontakt multis must be reconstructed. So will PCs are cheaper, my workflow suffers in the migration of VEP Project. Has anyone use the Mac Minis (64gb) as Slaves. I agree with @JohnG that I need to be at lease 4GHz on the slave machine, 4 to 6 cores. Any recommendations is welcomed.
 

Chocobo

New Member
Contemplating the VEP setup myself.

CPU is for concurrent playing. Even if you have the best CPU on your slave, you won't be able to playback 100 sample-based tracks at the same time. You could overcome that by having more slaves.

RAM is like the buffer for HDD/SSD. Every sound HAS to go through RAM. It doesn't matter if you have 512gb of it. Once you load 508gb of sound (with 4gb of system overhead), any additional sounds/ system activity you initiate cause the RAM to first off load some of its existing data to storage, then load the new data to RAM, which translates to a slowed down/ freezing system. In a good case the system will still respond, but certainly not at the 6ms response mark while it's churning.

If you have unlimited amount of RAM, you can use the slowest HDD, load up every library to ram in the slave once, and then you become bottle necked by the CPU again as long as you don't shut off the slave.

So IMO the best plan is to get 128gb of RAM, get a 6 core CPU as mentioned, then balance SSD/HDD according to your usage/remaining budget. You still need to plan ahead and see which sounds you really want to preload (from HDD) to the RAM for instant playback since you'll use up 120gb in no time. Next is to do freezed tracks while deciding which sounds to put on SSD/HDD.
 
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Auddict

Senior Member
One thing to add to this - from personal experience some years back :) There are a lot of shady CAT cables around, marketed as higher CAT-number than they are. I went overkill with everything just to make sure I got have the fastest transfers after finding out that my low speeds were due to dodgy cables bottle-necking everything. Either that or go with something trusted which you know will deliver the transfer rates promised.
 

SomeGuy

Active Member
Hopefully ok to bump, but for a pure sample slave is there any reason for an ssd system drive? Totally understand the need for ssd sample drives, and MAYBE for your system drive on your daw machine, but beyond booting up faster, does a system ssd help sample slaves at all?
 
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Heinigoldstein

Active Member
Hopefully ok to bump, but for a pure sample slave is there any reason for an ssd system drive? Totally understand the need for ssd sample drives, and MAYBE for your system drive on your daw machine, but beyond booting up faster, does a system ssd help sample slaves at all?
Good point, would like to know this too !
 
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