What's holding back my Mac Pro: The CPU or the HDD?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by CFoss, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. CFoss macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    I have a 2008 Mac Pro (specs in my signature). It performs everything admirably well... except for Logic Studio coupled with EWQL. It often crackles and pops while I'm playing. It's not a problem with the software, my system just can't keep up.

    Now, there are a couple of major factors:

    • Logic is in 32-bit mode, due to the PLAY engine being written in 32-bit. My 14GB of RAM is barely being touched.
    • The EWQL instruments are all stored on an individual 1TB HDD (provided by them), and still has around 200GB.

    Now, I don't want to leave Logic behind for a Windows DAW that I'm not used to... but I don't want to not use my EWQL library. I've been considering purchasing a MacBook Pro 2011 as of late, as I'm in need of a portable computer... plus, the Geekbench results indicate that the MacBook Pro out performs my Mac Pro 2-to-1. Finally, it's entirely possible for me to get ahold of a 2-eSATA port ExpressCard that should allow for a RAID setup, which should be fast enough for EWQL... I think.

    I'm pretty much in a situation I'm not sure what to do, and any path I go down will be pretty much a one-way path. Should I purchase a SSD/RAID setup? If so, should it be external or internal? Or, should I move onto a new MacBook Pro, that will give me the portability and speed I'm (HOPEFULLY) looking for?
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Well, you can add a second CPU for ~$200 and 2x1TB in RAID 0 will probably cost $100. The second CPU should double your CPU power.
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Granted, the additional 4 cores would be nice, but even then, the real problem is those cores are starving for data.

    Remember, the disk that contains the library is 80% full according to the OP, so the inner tracks aren't helping matters at all (less data per rotation as the heads move towards the spindle).

    Unfortunately, the capacity is an issue for random access performance (under the impression that individual library files tend to be small, so sequential throughputs aren't beneficial). Normally, an SSD would do wonders, but at current cost/GB prices, this may be out of budget. For example, 4x 240GB OWC SSD's (3.0Gb/s models) would be $1716 (total capacity = 960GB).

    But either a sufficient sized 10 or better yet, RAID 5 (best balance of capacity, and throughputs - both sequential and random access) would fit.

    A level 10 could be done the cheapest (i.e. 4 * 2TB disks) = $560.

    A level 5 would mean a hardware RAID controller, which would set the OP back ~$550USD + enterprise disks. Just 4x 1TB RE3's ($140 each) tacks on another $560, and to use the internal HDD bays requires a $129 adapter kit. For a grand total of $1239. Of course, this has other advantages, such as the ability to add additional disks (card price is for an ARC-1880i, which is an 8 port 6.0Gb/s model, which would offer the potential of being moved to a different system at a later time).
  4. sparkie7 macrumors 68010


    Oct 17, 2008
  5. nobiggiestudio macrumors newbie

    Jun 7, 2011
    Well, it might be your harddrive.

    You should get four SAS drives from seagate Cheetah
    For your purpose as your using logic and you might work. There might not be rooms for errors if you constantly having deadlines.

    SAS drives work in mac pro along with an Apple RAID card.
    Just normally in the harddrive bays.
    And I do recommend this for a good workflow without errors, as for servers and workstations who needs to be reliable and fast.
    SSD drives is good if you not intended to work really hard with your mac.

    What 1TB drive did they provide you with?
    If you don't know..just turn your mac of and slide it out to read what it says on the sticker.
    Please don't say the Western digital 1TB Green, it runs at at staggering 5900rpm!
    If you have it, theres your problem.

    What external sound interface do you use along with your DAW?
  6. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    What are your buffer settings and what interface are you using? Internal sound card will crackle. Buffer size depends mainly on your interface specs and CPU. What sample rate are you using? These may be more important than you running out of HDD bandwidth. Especially if the sample are on their own drive. Not sure how big the EWQL libraries are but I have no issues with a crappy WD green doing full res BFD in real time. CPU is not really the factor.
  7. MacBookPr0 macrumors regular

    Feb 5, 2011
    this looks like a perfect idea and maybe a veliciraptor
  8. Knuthf macrumors newbie

    Apr 25, 2011
    If the buffer does not work, see if you can find a version of the software in a Linux repository, and install Linux - like Ubuntu Studio.

    A 64bit CPU with the huge memory that is used now makes the hardware design of the internal bus very important. Intel never designed the CPU for this, it is made to control washing machines, addressing 4 bits at a time. Many applications are coded in Java, and this makes all models of a small "working set" silly. That is the main reason for the buffers to work - cache up the application, and the OS will determine that the recording data is "sequential" and requires minimal buffering (if any). There is no reason for more CPU will make it go faster at all. The opposite will be the case should the memory bus be the bottleneck.

    Find the resource that you twist to 100% and if there is none, not even the CPU exceed 50%, the fault is the hardware design. Another CPU will then just impose load and degrade performance. if there is no swapping (less than 15%) - more memory will also cause more load because more has to be managed.
  9. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    a pair of intel series 320 600gb ssds in a raid 0 would cure all speed issues.

    they are costly a minus they would sell for 2.2k if you can't find a deal

    as a plus you could point to this thread if you wanted to sell them on ebay, I am thinking you could recover 1.6 to 1.8k on a sale of them. another plus the two could be done inside the macpro with a software raid0. just make sure you have a few copies in case of a crash
  10. dknightd macrumors 6502

    Mar 7, 2004
    First, use top, or activity monitor, to see what is happening.
    Is the CPU pegged, are you swapping, heavy disk IO?

    Second I would not run the samples library from the supplied disk.
    I'd use that disk as a backup and put your working copy on a faster
    disk. You might find a single 2tb 7200 rpm disk is plenty.
    HD are faster today than they were even a year or so ago.
    If a single disk is not fast enough, no money has been wasted,
    buy another disk and either split the samples up, or, put
    the two disks in raid0.
  11. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Activity monitor should answer this pretty readily, but it's more than likely to be the HDD.

    That having been said, a CPU upgrade often isn't a cure-all anyway, as software is only now really being engineered to take advantage of all your system's resources. Still very little exists to take full advantage of my 2008 Octocore.
  12. WardC macrumors 68030


    Oct 17, 2007
    Fort Worth, TX
    Even a simple set of a couple Seagate Barracuda 1TB drives in RAID 0 would do the trick, I think.
  13. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Unfortunately, stripe sets only increase sequential througputs, not random access performance.

    RAID 10 or 5 however, do (both the sequential and random access performance are increased). The downside of course, is it does cost more money than a stripe set, but either RAID level is cheaper than an SSD solution (see my previous post for cost information). :)
  14. dknightd macrumors 6502

    Mar 7, 2004
    Is there a good way to determine if a mac is IO bound?
    And, if so, is there a good way to determine if it is due to sequential or random access?
  15. Alexander macrumors member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Palo Alto, CA
    RAID 1 would work -- he doesn't need more than 800GB of storage, and mirroring will increase both throughput and random access.
  16. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    From other threads I've read/been in, I have the impression the throughput requirements are higher than what a RAID 1 can provided (hence 5 or 10).

    At least a 10 is cheap enough (can actually be done cheaper than I posted, but was after the increased throughputs of the 2TB disks vs. lower density platters on 1TB models).
  17. derbothaus, Jul 1, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011

    derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    Wow. Why am I even quoted on this? It's like a short bus wikipedia write up. "If your leg is broken, break your arm. Feel better?"

    OP needs to answer some fundamental questions before the "Buy this" brigade fills up the string. OP is assuming it is HD related but gave no facts to back that up yet.
  18. CFoss, Jul 3, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2011

    CFoss thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    Sorry for taking so long to respond to this topic. I've had a surprising load of work land on me in the past day or two. I will post more details ASAP.

    Edit: Okay, I can post a few details quickly:

    • The HDD provided by EWQL is a Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALS 1TB 7200RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s. Everything else (such as OS-X, Logic Studio, Media Library, etc) is on the 750GB 7200RPM HDD provided by Apple. I have room for two internal HDDs, and have room for eSATA ports via PCI-Express card (perhaps something from OWC).
    • I have been using the stock internal soundcard by Apple. I am unsure what to go with. Essentially, all I'm looking for is something to improve the sound, and to provide inputs for speakers/headphones, perhaps MIDI and XLR. I am unsure whether to go with internal or external (as far as I know, there's very little support for internal sound cards for Mac).
    • RAM levels seem pretty stable while running Logic Studio with EWQL. It will be interesting to see if the 64-bit support that's supposed to come with the next PLAY update will make a difference.
    • CPU occasionally spikes, and Logic occasionally "Overloads". The main problem is the crackling that occurs regularly (ESPECIALLY when I hold the sustain pedal down for any length of time). This is what makes me doubt it's the HDD speed... but... I'm just not sure.
    • The piano is connected via USB.

    I suppose you DON'T suggest getting a MacBook Pro with the fast CPU and eSATA ports then? How difficult is it to setup RAID with internal HDDs? I'm uncomfortable with the CPU upgrade, with the amount of things that can go wrong (the thermal paste, etc).
  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Are you after something for consumer use or professional use?

    In terms of internal cards, I'm aware of 2 (RME and Lynx), but are professional cards (either can be had for $700).

    This may have to do with what you're using for cache (looks for an HDD/SSD for a cache location, and if this is shared on a disk used for other things, will slow you down).


    Via Disk Utility (OS X's software RAID functions) are easy to do.

    It's not that hard. Just take your time and exercise some common sense and you'll be fine. ;) Plenty of resources on the web as well, particularly on how to apply thermal paste and tighten down the cooler evenly.
  20. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010

    • This should be fine. Not the highest performer but I guarantee you the company tested this or they would not have shipped the samples on it.

      This may be the entire problem. Apples internal soundcard is not meant to be utilized by professional audio apps. It is a very basic PC board audio setup. You want to get a Firewire interface most likely. Due to the portability, sound quality and you can always get a laptop and use it as well (not tied to a tower). I personally use a Metric Halo ULN-2. It is pretty spendy though one of the best all in ones you can buy. The consensus for best interface in the consumer realm is the Apogee Duet (either version 1 or 2) 2 Preamp in's and midi on the breakout cable. Some of the best, most affordable AD/DA you can get. It is Mac only and you can get them for 500.00 or less. I would say perfect for you. Do not get anything from MOTU, Presonus, Focusrite. They may work in the short term and they sound fantastic against the Mac's internal sound card but they are far from the pro circuits in the Duet.

      You do know that you can run 32-bit plugins in 64-bit Logic right?
      The 64-bit bridge is limited to 4GB but then the host has all the rest of the available memory to use.

      It most likely is not the HD speed . It is likely a combination of buffer overflows and crap sound card. Does the sample library have a sample rate setting independent of the internal card settings in Audio/Midi Setup.app? If they are mismatched (ie. 1 set at 44.1KHz and one at 48KHz you could introduce crackles).

      Your Mac Pro is perfectly capable of great performance and sound. You just need a better sound card 1st. It is the single most important part of computer audio. Look to your actual computer after this if the issues remain.
  21. CFoss thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    I think for now the Apogee Duet will do me. Will it help with the CPU spikes? I'm surprised it's USB and not Firewire. My Korg M3 with USB isn't limiting the latency is it? I actually purchased an MBOX2 ages ago, but I would constantly get BSOD and Kernal Panics. I really should have returned it.

    Yes, but the bridge is extremely unstable. Not only that, but it's just awkward, as the plugin will almost "Minimize" in a way.

    Both are set to the same KHz.

    Got it. Thanks for the advice. :)

    Oh, and to explain my setup: My "balanced" speakers are a pair of Yamaha HSM50s, while my "entertainment" speakers are a 7.2 Onyko system (which I haven't setup yet, but I will be connecting them via the Optical Output).
  22. ejosepha macrumors 6502

    Jan 12, 2009
    I have a pair of AudioEngine 2 speakers connected to my mid-2010 Mac Pro. I am using the mini jack connection between the speakers and the computer. Would I get better quality sound using the left/right (white-red) inputs plugs or would it be the same quality sound? Or perhaps these two inputs (L/R) are for running another system through the speakers.
  23. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    The Duet 1 is firewire and the newer Duet 2 is USB. I can only comment on the Duet 1 version as it has been in the market for a few years. USB does have higher overhead than FW but manufacturers are "claiming" great performance. The Duet is way better sounding than an Mbox of any generation.
    Hard to say if it will help with the CPU spikes. After you get everything up and running with the new sound card, open up activity monitor and check the type and frequency of the CPU spikes. What is open and what are you doing, etc.?
    You can usually trace the issue back via the process.
    Check out this thread at GearSlutz for info on the Apogee stuff. Duet 2 vs. Duet 1.
  24. CFoss thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    The stock sound card: Is it limited to 48KHz and 24-bit? I will check on the CPU spikes asap.

    Also, would everyone suggest a HDD RAID setup, or a single SSD (for now)?
  25. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    My internal will do 96KHz. Not clean 96KHz mind you. I equate sample rates to megapixels on cameras. Nice bragging to have the highest but for rock and hip hop you want 44.1KHz. It just thumps and has a great vibe. Anything higher is sterile. So get great designed circuits with fast slew rates on the converters. Much better than higher sample rates.

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