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Slave: why you should have one? :)

reset85

New Member
Hi everyone,

totally frustrated in trying to decide how to upgrade my current DAW. Totally newbie also, wanting to understand more, so any link is much appreciated!

What is a slave computer and why an ITB soundtrack composer should have one? I'm now (happily) running an Hackintosh but it's time for me to move to PT 12 and a thunderbolt audio interface.

Let's say you ave 2k € as budget: Mac Pro (trashcan or old)? New Hackintosh? Mac mini + Slave (how does it work?!)?

Thanks a lot for you help.
 

mc_deli

n trepreneur
If you are a total newbie then you should read up about VE Pro. I'll wager 99% of composers using slaves are using VE Pro on the slave machine(s).

My understanding is it's all about voice count. When you need more voices, you need more CPU power and more RAM, and when you can't fit more power/RAM into your main machine, you need a slave.

The overwhelming answer about "what slave" you are are going to get here is: get an i7 PC.
VE Pro works on Mac/PC and 32/64 bit. VE Pro on your slave. Connects via ethernet to your main machine. Elegant. Brilliant cross platform solution. Takes some setting up of course but works great. The preserve feature is king.

Buying a slave means buying as much power as possible for the money. Trashcan is not a slave and a 6 core is what 4k plus at least? Cheese grater Mac Pro 2010 onwards is a great machine (no TB). Mac Mini 4 core 16GB from 2012 is also good value.
The 2010 MP is a great buy as a main machine (check createpro - will still set you back 3k+ for a serious set up with 48GB+). The Mac Mini if portability is a real issue. The only real justification for a Mac slave is if you already have the machine or if you have a windows phobia.

But on price/performance you get so much more from a PC. Search the DAW forum here for lots of builds/parts.
 

Saxer

Senior Member
Seriously: if you don't know what you need a slave for you don't need one. It's only useful if you have a fast computer with lot of RAM and still have CPU overload and RAM problems.
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
As said above, whether you need a slave (almost always) depends on your voice count requirements.

The good news is that now is a great time to build a slave. You can get a top-performing slave for under $1000, so you can get two for your budget. Using your current machine as the master you will get performance far in excess of anything possible on a single machine.

Again, though, you might not need such performance. If you can get by with a single machine then there are good reasons to do so.

One thing is for certain - don't fall into the trap of thinking that spending more money yields better performance. It does not always - make sure you compare what you need against the capabilities of what your options are. I think an overclocked i7 6700k is as good as anything out there these days and you can build one for under $1000. I just built two for slaves and spent under $1500 (reused case, powersupply and drives).
 

CACKLAND

Active Member
As said above, whether you need a slave (almost always) depends on your voice count requirements.

The good news is that now is a great time to build a slave. You can get a top-performing slave for under $1000, so you can get two for your budget. Using your current machine as the master you will get performance far in excess of anything possible on a single machine.

Again, though, you might not need such performance. If you can get by with a single machine then there are good reasons to do so.

One thing is for certain - don't fall into the trap of thinking that spending more money yields better performance. It does not always - make sure you compare what you need against the capabilities of what your options are. I think an overclocked i7 6700k is as good as anything out there these days and you can build one for under $1000. I just built two for slaves and spent under $1500 (reused case, powersupply and drives).

rgames, could you provide the specs / components for your recent builds?
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
rgames, could you provide the specs / components for your recent builds?
Sure:
Motherboard: ASUS Z-170E $106
CPU: i7 6700k $350
RAM: G-Skill Ripjaws V Series 4x16 GB (64 GB total) $206

I re-used a case, power supply and drives but figure $75 for case and power supply then however many SSDs you need to hold your libraries. Figure about $250 for SSDs and you're under $1000.

I have another one that uses an Asrock motherboard that was about $120 more but gave the same performance.

I have a mix of different SSDs in them - Samsung, Crucial, OCZ, etc. I also have a Samsung NVMe drive that reduces load times about 15% but gives the same voice counts.

Performance for this setup is here:

http://vi-control.net/community/threads/i7-6700k-slave-machine-sample-streaming-benchmarks.54126/

rgames
 

CACKLAND

Active Member
Sure:
Motherboard: ASUS Z-170E $106
CPU: i7 6700k $350
RAM: G-Skill Ripjaws V Series 4x16 GB (64 GB total) $206

I re-used a case, power supply and drives but figure $75 for case and power supply then however many SSDs you need to hold your libraries. Figure about $250 for SSDs and you're under $1000.

I have another one that uses an Asrock motherboard that was about $120 more but gave the same performance.

I have a mix of different SSDs in them - Samsung, Crucial, OCZ, etc. I also have a Samsung NVMe drive that reduces load times about 15% but gives the same voice counts.

Performance for this setup is here:

http://vi-control.net/community/threads/i7-6700k-slave-machine-sample-streaming-benchmarks.54126/

rgames

What is your standpoint on both 1151 vs X99 sockets? With x99 / DDR4, would you consider this a huge advantage / upgrade over 1151 socket?
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
What is your standpoint on both 1151 vs X99 sockets? With x99 / DDR4, would you consider this a huge advantage / upgrade over 1151 socket?
I haven't seen any evidence that X99 provides a benefit for DAW use. That doesn't mean there's no benefit, it simply means I haven't seen it. I've looked, though...

You can get higher-core count CPUs on X99 so if you're CPU limited then it might help. But I've never been CPU limited, even as far back as my i7 920. You might hit CPU bottlenecks if you try to run everything on one machine so X99 might help in that regard but it's still much better to just add a cheap slave than buy a single X99 system.

rgames
 

CACKLAND

Active Member
I haven't seen any evidence that X99 provides a benefit for DAW use. That doesn't mean there's no benefit, it simply means I haven't seen it. I've looked, though...

You can get higher-core count CPUs on X99 so if you're CPU limited then it might help. But I've never been CPU limited, even as far back as my i7 920. You might hit CPU bottlenecks if you try to run everything on one machine so X99 might help in that regard but it's still much better to just add a cheap slave than buy a single X99 system.

rgames
Currently I have a 6 Core X99 setup.. When implementing a slave, and from your experience would you recommend the slave having more cores over the Main DAW PC?
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
Currently I have a 6 Core X99 setup.. When implementing a slave, and from your experience would you recommend the slave having more cores over the Main DAW PC?
For master or slave I've found that clock speed matters more than number of cores. Actually, I (and many others) have seen that very high core counts (e.g. dual Xeon systems) actually degrade performance for anything but very specific kinds of software.

4-6 cores seems to be the current sweet spot for nearly all applications, including DAW use. Video rendering tends to favor more cores and DAW use tends to favor faster cores.

rgames
 

tack

Damned Dirty Ape
I haven't seen any evidence that X99 provides a benefit for DAW use.
The main benefit is memory capacity. This is what I wrote on a related thread:

I think the 6700k makes a fine DAW CPU. (It's what I run.) The main disadvantage is indeed the 64GB limit. Xeon doesn't necessarily need to be the next stop though: the i7 6800k might be a very reasonable compromise if you can clock it up to about 4.2 or 4.3GHz (which looks doable from reports), since it can address up to 128GB.
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
The main benefit is memory capacity
That's true. But I still have a hard time thinking of a scenario where you can make practical use of 128 GB. But maybe that's just my lack of imagination...

For example: my two slaves use 25 - 30 GB each. That's with pre-load buffers much higher than necessary for running from SSD. I'm sure I could get it down to 20 GB or so if I had to, so I could easily drop to 32 GB per machine with no change in performance.

So that's well under 64 GB for WAY more samples than you could ever possibly stream from a single machine. Sure, you can load them. But you can't actually *play* them in anything but the simplest compositions.

For example, I use two mic positions for pretty much all libraries. So I could load up more and get the RAM requirement up, but then the streaming requirements also go way up because you now need more voices per note. So I'd be forced to write simpler music or bounce tracks, in which case it makes more sense to halve the RAM across two machines. Even then, I can't think of a scenario that would push beyond a 64 GB requirement on any one machine.

So, as I said, I can't think of a situation where 128 GB in a single machine makes sense for DAW use. Two 64 GB machines make sense, but not one 128 GB machine.

rgames
 
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jononotbono

Luke Johnson
That's true. But I still have a hard time thinking of a scenario where you can make practical use of 128 GB. But maybe that's just my lack of imagination...

For example: my two slaves use 25 - 30 GB each. That's with pre-load buffers much higher than necessary for running from SSD. I'm sure I could get it down to 20 GB or so if I had to, so I could easily drop to 32 GB per machine with no change in performance.

So that's well under 64 GB for WAY more samples than you could ever possibly stream from a single machine. Sure, you can load them. But you can't actually *play* them in anything but the simplest compositions.

For example, I use two mic positions for pretty much all libraries. So I could load up more and get the RAM requirement up, but then the streaming requirements also go way up because you now need more voices per note. So I'd be forced to write simpler music or bounce tracks, in which case it makes more sense to halve the RAM across two machines. Even then, I can't think of a scenario that would push beyond a 64 GB requirement on any one machine.

So, as I said, I can't think of a situation where 128 GB in a single machine makes sense for DAW use. Two 64 GB machines make sense, but not one 128 GB machine.

rgames

I was only going to put 64gb in my Mac Pro 5,1. I did think about 96gb just to have some head room but the price goes up dramatically. Love your You Tube videos by the way!
 
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reset85

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Wow rgames! That's a lot of information, thank you so much!

but...:shocked: way too advanced for me. I'm trying to understand the basics of the slave/master approach.

As I said in the opening post, I need to upgrade my OS to get PT12 to work therefore I need a new Hackintosh. Now, I don't understand if it's better to invest 2k in one single machine or "split" my system up in one cheaper machine (only for Operative System and ProTools) and a super-powerful slave (only for Samples stored in SSD drives).

Many many "thanks" in RoundRobin.
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
Now, I don't understand if it's better to invest 2k in one single machine or "split" my system up in one cheaper machine (only for Operative System and ProTools) and a super-powerful slave (only for Samples stored in SSD drives).
Yeah - these discussions always get technical.

But as I said in the first reply, you will get better performance with multiple machines but one might be good enough. Basically it depends on what kind of music you write.

The good news is that pretty much any i7 will be just fine for whatever you want to do. Some are a bit better and some a bit worse but you're still the bottleneck in writing and producing music, not the computer :)
 

tack

Damned Dirty Ape
So, as I said, I can't think of a situation where 128 GB in a single machine makes sense for DAW use. Two 64 GB machines make sense, but not one 128 GB machine.
I buy your argument that there's going to be a core to memory ratio sweet spot, which is ultimately driven by voice count. And 1:16 may well be that ideal ratio. But let's unpack this a bit ...

Setting aside RT performance, which is basically going to come down to single threaded performance one way or another, that means 4-6 cores with 64GB or 8-12 cores with 128GB is about the ideal configuration, given that ratio. But the motivation to have two 4-6 core / 64GB systems instead of one 8-12 core / 128GB system is ostensibly that DAWs basically bottleneck at around 4 cores? (I'm not sure if Reaper would, but let's ignore that for now. :))

If it was just a function of cost, I suspect a 6-8 core / 96GB box (with the same clock speed as the 4-6 core option, crucially) would be the most cost effective. But if the reason not to do that is poor DAW scalability, then wouldn't the obvious solution be to run an instance of VEPro on the same box and just have the DAW talk to it via loopback?
 

mc_deli

n trepreneur
As I said in the opening post, I need to upgrade my OS to get PT12 to work therefore I need a new Hackintosh. Now, I don't understand if it's better to invest 2k in one single machine or "split" my system up in one cheaper machine (only for Operative System and ProTools) and a super-powerful slave (only for Samples stored in SSD drives).
This is one of those where it would help if you stated your system specs, what you actually do, and what you want to do.

Why oh lord do you want PT12? No core audio drivers! Subscription pricing!
"New" Hackintosh implies you have built a Hackintosh. I know nothing about PCs but I can follow the posts above.

What is it you are really trying to do here?
 
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