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Topic: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Los Angels
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    New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    Opinions?

    P4 last I heard/read where running quite hot still.

    FPU seems to be better on AMD (which is much needed for VST plug-ins).

    http://techreport.com/reviews/2004q3...0/index.x?pg=3

    Any opinions? Also, what are some great websites to read about audio pc building.

    Thanks

  2. #2

    Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    www.cyberpowersystem.com , They have some pretty nice deals. Check 'em out and let me know what you think of their prices.

    Beeson

  3. #3

  4. #4

    Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    AMD64 has seriously better performance at low latencies (5 msec and under), at least with Sonar. Scott Reems (LiquidDAW) has done some fairly convincing tests -- check out the Sonar Test thread on the Sonar forum: http://www.cakewalk.com/forum/tm.asp?m=34827

    The AMD64 has an integrated memory controller on the chip, while the P4 uses a memory controller in a separate chip. This seems to make a big difference.

    Another factor is whether the CPU uses a single-channel or dual-channel memory controller. This makes a big difference for the P4 architecture (dual gives almost twice as much throughput). For the A64, it's not as important (because that integrated memory controller is very efficient), at least for soft synth usage. On the other hand, some flavors of A64 come with 512K of L2 cache, while others come with 1M. Here, Scott's tests seem to show that more cache gives better performance (and is more important than a small bump in CPU speed: a 2.0G A64 with 1M cache outperforms a 2.2G A64 with 512K cache, again for softsynths). If you're crunching numbers (SIR reverb, MP3 or DVD encoding), it's more of a wash.

    A64s come in "Socket 754" and "Socket 939" varieties. The 754 versions use a single-channel controller, and it's hard to get use more than 1G of RAM (you need to use 2 x1G DIMMs for 2G, for example). This is because the 754 is happier with a max of two DIMMs -- you can use 3, depending on the motherboard, but you may find speed throttled down from DDR400 to DDR333, which is not what you want! OTOH, the 939 versions have a dual-channel controller, and will happily work with 4 DIMMs, so getting to 2G is cheaper (and you can do it in steps if you like). For sample-intensive work, 2G is not overkill (I have 1G at present and could use more).

    A system using Socket 939 will have a longer upgrade life: it's the "performance" socket for AMD, while socket 754 is now the "value" socket. Which means you can currently get a 754-based system for less than a 939-based system, for a given CPU rating (CPU speed, cache size). Lots of choices, no clear "best choice" -- depends on your needs, as always.

    I'm planning to build a new DAW (A64, probably 939-based), which is why I researched all this. However, I keep spending money on soft synths etc. -- like the Old Lady group buy now under way -- and a powered monitor died recently (power amp), so the DAW project is on the backburner.

    - Jim

  5. #5

    Thumbs up Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    Good advice Jim - right on the money. AMD64 939 socket is the way to go if you're looking for something with great performance now and some allowance for the future.
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  6. #6
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    Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Wright

    I'm planning to build a new DAW (A64, probably 939-based), which is why I researched all this. However, I keep spending money on soft synths etc. -- like the Old Lady group buy now under way -- and a powered monitor died recently (power amp), so the DAW project is on the backburner.

    - Jim
    I agree the 939 is the way to go, however, are the 939 chips available with the 1 M cache or is this limited to the FX series? The FX series is much more expensive, the good news though is that any 939 motherboard will take a FX chip down the line, should one decide to go with a lower CPU 64 939 with 512 cache.

    The other item is PCI express, which means upgrading the graphic card as well, and am wondering how much of a performance bump this would have.

    Lastly, on the Intel side, apparently, some of the newer chipsets inlcude a new TCQ? Task Cue (or something like that) that allows for SCSI like performance on newer SATA drives. Something that the AMD boards lack at this time. Am also wondering if there will be controller cards that will offer this.

    thanks

  7. #7

    Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    retroz -

    At present, you do have to go up to an FX (or an Athlon 64 4000+, about as pricey) to get 1M L2 cache in the 939 format. That's a drag, but what can you do?

    On the 754 side, you can get 1M L2 in a 3400+ ($239 at newegg today) or in a 3700+ ($449). However, that's with a Clawhammer core, which is 2 major revs behind the current core (Winchester, using a spiffy new 90nm process, which makes the chip smaller, a bit faster, and I think heat dissipation is reduced as well).

    There are also "DTR" version available for 754, but these are desktop replacements, funky to install into a normal motherboard, and can be problematic with various BIOS's. Overclockers like them; I looked at them and decided to stay away.

    So, the choices boil down to
    a) Go 939, live with 512M cache for now, upgrade the CPU in a year or so when prices drop (but keep the same motherboard, ram etc.)
    b) Go 939, mortgage the house, buy an FX.
    c) Go 754, buy a Clawhammer 3400+ (I'd recommend the MSI nForce3 K8N Neo Platinum motherboard, $126 at newegg today), and either buy 2x1G DIMMs (OCZ is good for this CPU/motherboard) or live with 1G RAM.

    Frankly, 939 and option a) is how I'd go right now. Over the summer, even the cheaper 939 parts were fairly pricey. Today, you can get a socket 939 A64 for $160! (3000+ performance rating, a bit slow), and a 3500+ part for $270-290, depending on which core (Newcastle or Winchester) you want.
    I would probably get the 3500+ myself, to help compensate for the reduced amount of L2 cache.

    BTW - if you're not comfortable building a system from scratch, don't try it if you've got anything critical line up to do with your system. It's very likely you could learn how to do it, but a few toasted parts along the way are not unusual, and there's also a fair bit of Windows-tweaking that should be done to optimize your system for DAW use. All stuff you could learn (www.musicxp.com is, I think, one site that covers that), but there can be a hefty learning curve. That's one of the advantages of people like Scott Reems (www.liquiddaw.com); building and configuring DAWs for audio pros and musicians is what they do, and the good ones stand behind their work. (I wouldn't buy a system from the local music store unless you're REALLY sure they know what they're doing -- I've heard horror stories).
    Caveat: I haven't bought a system from Scott, or anyone else (I usually build my own), but I also have no business connection with Scott or any other DAW builders. All the feedback I've heard from his customers has been good, however.

    Oh, check out Martin Walker's columns in SOS (PC Notes, PC Musicians). He's usually got very good advice, and talks about system building etc. as well as other PC-related matters. They're mostly available online, for free (all but the last 6 months. I have an eSubscription, very much worthwhile.

    - Jim

  8. #8

    Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    On PCI Express -- I wouldn't bother with it, myself.
    I use a Matrox 650, dual-head display, and it's great for audio work. PCI Express is mostly aimed at gamers (IMHO), who have very different video needs. You just don't need super-trans-ludicrous-speed video bit blasting for using music software.

    The TCQ stuff sounds interesting, but it's not really field-tested yet (? - not sure here, but certainly it's not widely deployed). I'd avoid the bleeding-edge technology stuff -- pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their backs. I've heard pretty good things about non-TCQ SATA drives (just be careful about noise levels; the really fast ones sound like a Harrier jet taking off).

    The nForce3 chipsets for the Athlon 64 support RAID with SATA drives, which is a much-better-established way of getting better throughput, better data security, or both. It really depends on what kind of track count you need. FWIW, I'm using a pair of 200G Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM PATA drives, 8MN cache, very quiet, and more than adequate for my current needs. I'll go SATA when I build the next DAW (cabling is easier, plus I'd like to have more than 4 mass-storage devices).

    - Jim

  9. #9

    Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    How are Macs in this respect too? Can they compete at all?

    Thanks,
    Sean R. Beeson

  10. #10

    Re: New System, AMD64 vs P4.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Beeson
    How are Macs in this respect too? Can they compete at all?

    Thanks,
    Sean R. Beeson
    Oh, no... don´t start this, please...

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