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View Full Version : What can today's computers do? And do we need what they offer?




motulist
Oct 14, 2009, 11:12 PM
I've been using a 1 ghz powerbook G4 for the past 6 years now, and when I used to do audio stuff on it, it did much of what I wanted it to do. I could do a couple of softsynths at a time, but then needed to freeze the tracks to reclaim processor power. When mixes got complicated the software interface (of digital performer) got slow, but the audio still played fully and correctly. I haven't done any audio stuff in about the past 4 years, and now I'm looking to get back into it. So I'm wondering, what can today's computer do these days?

My 6 year old powerbook did a lot already, but with some significant limitations. So I'm imagining that today's computers can simultaneously do like 50 softsynths, 50 polyphonic notes of symphony samples, and 50 high end reverbs, while recording 16 tracks, and still the interface is speedy and responsive. Is that type of thing still a fantasy, or can today's computers really deliver this type of essentially limitless audio power? If not, then what sort of capabilities could I expect from a modern imac or lowend mac pro?



salientstimulus
Oct 14, 2009, 11:21 PM
So I'm imagining that today's computers can simultaneously do like 50 softsynths, 50 polyphonic notes of symphony samples, and 50 high end reverbs, while recording 16 tracks, and still the interface is speedy and responsive.

I can't speak to an 8-core mac pro, but I promise you an iMac would start sobbing if you tried that...

That said, I've had 8-10 audio tracks with 3-5 plug-ins each, non-frozen, and recorded new tracks (also with 3-4 plug-ins on software monitoring), with latency below 3 ms, without ever knocking the CPU out. HD access is another issue, but that's apparently why god created FW800.

motulist
Oct 14, 2009, 11:34 PM
I can't speak to an 8-core mac pro, but I promise you an iMac would start sobbing if you tried that...

That said, I've had 8-10 audio tracks with 3-5 plug-ins each, non-frozen, and recorded new tracks (also with 3-4 plug-ins on software monitoring), with latency below 3 ms, without ever knocking the CPU out. HD access is another issue, but that's apparently why god created FW800.


Not nearly the audio wonderland that I was imagining, but it's an improvement. Actually, with the supposedly great leaps in processing power that are claimed to have happened in the past 6 years, I'm actually really surprised at the relatively modest real-world improvements that you're describing. I mean, that's still greatly improved, but I thought computer power had increased much more than that since 2003. What specific computer are you using to get that level of performance?

ChrisA
Oct 15, 2009, 09:33 AM
... I'm imagining that today's computers can simultaneously do like 50 softsynths, 50 polyphonic notes of symphony samples, and 50 high end reverbs, while recording 16 tracks, and still the interface is speedy and responsive.

Yes, I think you could pull that off today. But not on a Mac Book. You'd need to configure a computer and disk storage subsystem specifically for audio. What you are talking about is running an entire studio multi-track off a computer. You'd need some expensive components. You'd need 16 mics and 16 preamps. But anyone who'd think about using 16 mics at once likey owns 24 or many more good mics. The cost of the audio gear, mixer control surface and the room itself is enough that the high-end computer is "nothing" when you look at the big picture.

So yes computers can do a lot can the cost is such that the computer is not the largest cost item.

zimv20
Oct 15, 2009, 11:31 AM
Following on Chris' comment, the largest commercial mixes done off a computer (the kind with hundreds of tracks) are still running off a multicard PTHD system. i.e. NOT native.

I run PTLE on a dual 2.0 ghz g5 powermac with 2 gig RAM. My software version maxes out at 32 tracks. I can mix down that, using a few dozen plugs, and never get past 50% CPU usage. Usually nowhere near that, even.

Sorry, no data on s/w instruments.

salientstimulus
Oct 15, 2009, 11:10 PM
Not nearly the audio wonderland that I was imagining, but it's an improvement. Actually, with the supposedly great leaps in processing power that are claimed to have happened in the past 6 years, I'm actually really surprised at the relatively modest real-world improvements that you're describing. I mean, that's still greatly improved, but I thought computer power had increased much more than that since 2003. What specific computer are you using to get that level of performance?

Just to clarify, that's as much as I've pushed it, and haven't had the CPU meters into the red (at least that I've ever noticed). If it behaves linearly, I'd expect to get twice that before things get jammed up. This is on a recent iMac 2.93 GHz (dual-core) with 4 Gb 1066MHz DDR3, so I'm assuming a maxed-out Mac Pro could do a hell of a lot more.

amd4me
Oct 15, 2009, 11:20 PM
I can't speak to an 8-core mac pro, but I promise you an iMac would start sobbing if you tried that...

That said, I've had 8-10 audio tracks with 3-5 plug-ins each, non-frozen, and recorded new tracks (also with 3-4 plug-ins on software monitoring), with latency below 3 ms, without ever knocking the CPU out. HD access is another issue, but that's apparently why god created FW800.I am going to start sobbing if you keep making crap up. I use pro tools on my iMac all the time and it works amazing. I also know that various recording studios use imacs as their main rig. Audio is not very demanding at all.
Especially when compared to video editing.