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Old 10-22-2019, 11:10 PM   #1
ericzang
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Default Looking for new live performance computer

I'm looking for what would be the most capable low latency/live performance system (non desktop). So far my deduction has come to the MSI GT76 Titan (and it IS relatively large and quite heavy) with a 9900k, due to (what I can deduce) the apparently superior cooling system (over the Alienware Area 51m or Clevo P750TM1, other 9900k desktop replacement class). The implication being that better cooling would allow higher sustained CPU speeds.

Another hypothetical is if I'm reconciled with the size and weight of the above, just a little more size allowance and instead I could perhaps build a slim size mini-itx 9900k. Comparing dimensions of the gt76, an example of a slim style mini-itx case is only 1 inch wider and about 3 inches thicker.
https://www.silverstonetek.com/raven...&area=en&top=C
15.04" (W) x 4.13" (H) x 14.33" (D)

On the other hand, to go for a smaller size, this i9 nuc looks interesting, coming next year supposedly, but the cooling looks comparatively basic. Would want to wait for some reports about its effectiveness. https://www.tomshardware.com/news/in...ost-canyon-nuc

For audio interface, so far I've come to the Presonus Quantum, due to wanting 8 pre amps in a single rack (I like RME, but they don't have a single rack with 8 pres, and Antelope's reports/reputation is quite discouraging (looked at the Discrete 8) ).

Thanks for any thoughts!
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:14 AM   #2
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what will the computer be doing exactly ? vst playing ?
multi backing tracks ? vst effect processing ?
all of the above?

For perspective I run a backing track system (at most 16 stems)on a atom z8350 cpu with 4gb ram. its a touch tv box type pc. all flash storage so it can handle massive vibration. reaper does quite well on such a mini system.
we are using either the soundcraft ui24r or behringer x32core with s16 box..
sending at most 8 backing tracks to foh or running the whole stage through these boxes for mixing.

IF i was going to use it for vst playing , id probably build a desktop system that doesnt use a laptop cpu, as they are managing power/electricity usage rather than just giving the most power per buck.
Laptops generally have quirky battery saving software specific to manufactures that mess with audio latency related tasks. I guess if your willing to spend a fortune on a top tier laptop you'll probably get away with what you want to do.

Not sure what presonus are like with driver efficiency but rme are really top notch in that regard. No soundcard i've used has the best response and stability that rme has when it comes to live vst instruments buffer settings on the same computer.

So my hypothetical vst playing rig would be a modest desktop cpu build with a rme interface.
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Old 10-23-2019, 02:00 AM   #3
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Thanks, yes the main use of the system would be for low latency mixing/monitoring of mics/instruments and use of many effects applied to that live audio. Some vsti use would also be a good option to have. Wouldn't be using any huge sample libraries though (figuring 32gb ram will be a good start), and likely could suffice with relatively lower cpu hit soft synths.

Right, I'm also thinking the "desktop replacement" oversize "laptops" using the 9900k desktop processor is the way to go. Though they are notably bigger and heavier, the computer and associated sensitive other gear hopefully could just work out under the limits of flight carry-on baggage.

I am using RME digiface + adat rack(s) for my current system (is from 2010). RME works great. Its possible I could use the digiface with a new laptop by using an ExpressCard to Thunderbolt adapter (does exist). Disadvantage there is two more small-medium units added to the system (adapter box + digiface) compared to a single rack. According to that gearslutz latency thread, the Quantum is ranked among the better ones (RME PCIe is first), and user reports generally are good from what I've seen so far.

Thanks for your reply!
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Old 10-23-2019, 05:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dazastah View Post
what will the computer be doing exactly ? vst playing ?
multi backing tracks ? vst effect processing ?
all of the above?

For perspective I run a backing track system (at most 16 stems)on a atom z8350 cpu with 4gb ram. its a touch tv box type pc. all flash storage so it can handle massive vibration. reaper does quite well on such a mini system.
we are using either the soundcraft ui24r or behringer x32core with s16 box..
sending at most 8 backing tracks to foh or running the whole stage through these boxes for mixing.
My 2012 MacBook will run 60 opened project tabs of 20+ tracks without a sweat. I never have more than 3 tabs online at the same time. But still. Itís pretty effective. Iím always amazed at how effective Reaper is...
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Old 10-23-2019, 05:44 AM   #5
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Nice. For the host, I'm interested to use Reaper of course, but its apparent inability to be a clock/sync slave to an external source (not ideal for performing in sync with other computer based musicians) makes me have other hosts on the list to check out, such as Usine or Logelloop. I haven't explored them hardly at all yet except for reading/watching about them. Already have Ableton, would work overall, but been working with it for a while and tired of making work arounds (mostly via scripting in lemur).
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Old 10-27-2019, 01:03 AM   #6
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Agreed that desktops have fewer power saving mechanisms than notebooks, but notebooks are so much more mobile friendly, that I only use notebooks for live usage.
(Almost) all the performance killers in notebooks can be eliminated via configuration.
I use exclusively Reaper for live mixing 16 I/O channels via USB3 (Zoom UAC-8 + 8 channels from another ADAT Pre-amp: Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 with USB disconnected).

After heavy treatment on windows 10 it is capable to run 32-Sample buffer at 44.1 kHz stable, but for live mixing I use 64 Samples, and if recording is enabled I use 96 Samples, just for safety.

The necessary treatments for no clicks in audio stream at low latencies:
In Device manager search ACPI battery: right-click disable it (yes it really interferes)
Set the power plan to high performance and check in details, if USB power saving is properly disabled.

The following steps are only for the fearless!

Use Windows 10 1607 with no updates (from pre-Meltdown-and-Spectre era)

Put these lines in a file like audiooptimization.cmd and run it as administrator before each live performance (some settings get reverted after reboot, only some remain):
__________________________________________________ ____
rem NVIDIA Tray Service
net stop NVDisplay.ContainerLocalSystem

bcdedit /set disabledynamictick yes
rem bcdedit /set disabledynamictick no

taskkill /f /im OneDrive.exe
taskkill /f /im RuntimeBroker.exe

net stop TimeBrokerSvc
sc config TimeBrokerSvc start=disabled
net stop TimeBroker
sc config TimeBroker start=disabled
net stop WpnService
sc config WpnService start=disabled
net stop WpnUserService_27e14
sc config WpnUserService_27e14 start=disabled

net stop wuauserv
sc config wuauserv start=demand

taskkill /f /im TiWorker.exe
net stop TrustedInstaller
sc config TrustedInstaller start=demand

net stop WSearch
sc config WSearch start=disabled
net stop SysMain
sc config SysMain start=disabled
net stop OneSyncSvc_27e14
sc config OneSyncSvc_27e14 start=disabled
net stop SCardSvr
sc config SCardSvr start=disabled
net stop SNMPTRAP
sc config SNMPTRAP start=disabled
net stop wscsvc
sc config wscsvc start=disabled
net stop DcpSvc
sc config DcpSvc start=disabled
__________________________________________________ ____

From rehearsal to concert and after-show party you will run Reaper as live mixer with 64 Samples for 12 hours without any glitch or interruption or restarting any software. I wouldn't see the need for a desktop computer for this kind of setup.

For heavy VSTi-usage I would use a separate computer.
If you use other software than Reaper for syncing reasons, the Windows 10 treatments will be useful in the same way. MAC-users may be happy anyway (but not for too long: meldaproduction Email from Apple about Catalina)
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Old 10-27-2019, 01:21 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rain View Post
Almost) all the performance killers in notebooks can be eliminated via configuration.
One common saving feature with Laptops is shared Main and Graphics RAM.

"Gaming" laptops usually have dedicated graphics RAM and hence avoiding cluttering the main memory and bus with accesses to provide screen display.

-Michael
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Old 10-27-2019, 02:00 AM   #8
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Thanks, great to know of such explicit tweaks! The commands in your audiooptimization.cmd, did you mean those are only applicable if using Windows 10 1607 ? (I'm guessing they are applicable to any version).

(So far I'm leaning toward the MSI GT76.)
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Old 10-27-2019, 04:05 AM   #9
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Yes, MSI is ok, I still use an older gaming Notebook MSI GE60 from 2013 happily.

The tweaks are made for Windows 10 1607, but applicable in general, but newer Windows releases introduce new offending services or tasks, so the CMD file might need to be expanded evry 6 month, if one does this harm to himself.

Finding those offenders within ca. 100 . . . 200 processes is very time consuming, if they hit into the audio stream only every 30 minutes, but hit bad enough to ruin the artist's performance once in a while.

Current Windows users have to live with the performace cut because of Meltdown and Spectre "Fixes".
Funfact: Linux users avoid them too: make-linux-fast-again.com
Windows users need to stick with 1607 no updates policy to be equal with Linux performancewise. ;-)
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Old 10-27-2019, 06:33 AM   #10
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Wow, interesting, thanks! I did some looking around about 1607. So far seems its only available through "alternate" routes.

If I understand correctly, I also read some posts about the 9900k cpu apparently having those patches implemented at a hardware level (with a corresponding deactivation of the software patches by Windows). So I suppose in that case the older Win10 version wouldn't help. As a consolation, there were some mentions of the 9900k being less impacted by the patches compared to older cpus.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:27 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericzang View Post
Nice. For the host, I'm interested to use Reaper of course, but its apparent inability to be a clock/sync slave to an external source
So I'm not super experienced with using Reaper, and don't have an external source to sync to, but the manual definitely states that it can sync to an external source. See page 449.

https://dlz.reaper.fm/userguide/Reap...Guide5984c.pdf
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:51 PM   #12
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Thanks for getting me to revisit that. I had come to that conclusion a while ago based on my experience of not being able to have Reaper recognize the Midi Clock sent out of Mobius looper (via internal midi loopback device). Indeed Reaper does not have an option to sync to "Midi Clock", but the other options such as SPP, ASIO Positioning Protocol (interesting, never heard of that one before!), etc will prompt me to re examine Reaper's syncability in the context of the specific external program (such as another DAW or DJ software) and see if it has a sync format that could be compatible with Reaper.

BTW, about my computer search, looks like I will be going for the big Clevo P870 with the special cooling treatments from the reseller HIDevolution.
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:25 PM   #13
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Indeed Reaper does not have an option to sync to "Midi Clock",
Am I wrong to understand that "Midi Clock" is what "MTC" selects in that menu ?

(I don't understand what "on all inputs" is supposed to mean. The manual says you need to activate "Control" on the appropriate Midi device configuration !)

-Michael
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:48 PM   #14
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Yes, MTC (Midi Time Code) and Midi Clock are different protocols.

Based on things I have used, Midi Clock appears to be quite common. But when using Midi Clock, it was not unusual for me to see "jitter" of the bpm, ie the tempo keeps varying up/down by small amounts. Hence, there are solutions such as this which purportedly can generate a solid Midi Clock:
https://www.expert-sleepers.co.uk/usamo.html
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:52 AM   #15
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Carrying a laptop for mixing and monitoring and another PC for VSTiís isnít as mobile as a fast powerful 1U PC in a small rack.
I have to automate lights, vocal FX, Synth presets, visual metronomes, and perform live using sampled instrument and articulations for our festival gigs, often outdoors where the temps can kill gear.
My 1U in a rack with audio MIDI interface is fast to set up, stable and extremely mobile.
Only thing I need is USB Powered 12Ē LCD and a mouse, just for boot up. Everything else including on the fly non menu diving manual over rides is done my from keyboard.

Reaper is a great host for these type of gigs.
Plus I get to make much more money by automating the entire performance.
No FOH, or LD needed.
All lighting cues are tight and thereís zero downtime.

If I didn't build the rack though Iíd pick a laptop, but it would still need to be a desktop replacement from ADK out of Lexington, KY.
Only other option would be a custom Express 34 design by Getac, but those are 5-6 large and they still dont clock higher than 3GHz which could choke using ZebraHZ, PTeq, Kontakt, Omnispher/Keyscape.

My PC costs 975 to build and that includes n NVMe M.2 for Spectrasonics STEAM Folder. Its great for speeding up sample loading.





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Old 11-08-2019, 06:51 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by ericzang View Post
But when using Midi Clock, it was not unusual for me to see "jitter" of the bpm,
Midi timing via USB is rumored to be rather sloppy. So this might be a cause for that.

-Michael
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Old 11-08-2019, 01:49 PM   #17
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Midi timing via USB is rumored to be rather sloppy. So this might be a cause for that.

-Michael
Huh -- yeah some details here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/synthesizer...ems_explained/

The TL;DR seems to be that if the driver for your USB midi interface isn't great, and you have a slower USB device (like a computer keyboard) connected to the same hub, then it can suffer issues.

The funny thing is that this wasn't an issue for MIDI cards, but apparently they don't make those anymore.
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Old 11-08-2019, 02:16 PM   #18
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Not funny at all: the Midi cards are connected directly to the CPU bus and not use USB.

Maybe Thunderbolt attached equipment provides a more stiff timing (Thunderbolt essentially is an extension to the CPU bus).

-Michael

Last edited by mschnell; 11-08-2019 at 11:43 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 02:35 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XITE-1/4LIVE View Post
fast powerful 1U PC in a small rack.
That sounds great! If you don't mind, might you happen to have your build's part list to share? Ideally I'd like to build it with a 9900k cpu and as much cooling as possible so as to be able to maintain moderately higher cpu speeds, 4.0-4.5 ghz I suppose would be good?

Is it the one in your photo with the yellow keyboard on top of the skb with 1u rack in it? Curious as to what software that is on the screen?

The "laptop" I've been considering is a desktop replacement class (9900k cpu), and is actually another step above what I see ADK offers on their site (my current computer is such kind from ADK from about 10 years ago). That step is due to a larger chassis which has improved venting/cooling, and the reseller (HIDevolution) delidding the cpu and applying liquid metal to improve thermals, as well as couple other treatments with the gpu (including a "vapor chamber").
https://www.hidevolution.com/evoc-p8...1070-6979.html

Last edited by ericzang; 11-08-2019 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 02:38 PM   #20
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Interesting about the Midi Clock stability and usb. So perhaps if the clock is coming from a non usb interface it could be solid, such as from PCIe card or thunderbolt?

Last edited by ericzang; 11-08-2019 at 02:54 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:44 PM   #21
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I indeed guess that this is correct.

-Michael
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