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Topic: Any benefit to using multiple sample drives?

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  1. #1

    Any benefit to using multiple sample drives?

    Hi all,

    Whenever I'm programming a jazz piano trio piece, I have CPU overload/polyphony issues.

    In my pieces, the drums tend to be very busy, and feature a lot of cymbal hits with long decay tails...

    The piano is also fairly busy, and features a lot of sustain pedal...

    During drum rolls or crescendos, I'll often see the CPU meter spike, and hear this godawful "crunched" sound come out of the speakers. I have to stop the piece, in Cubase, and hit "play" again once all of the sounds have died away.

    To date, I've dealt with this, quite effectively, by freezing individual tracks within Cubase.

    Still, it'd be nice to be able to work with all MIDI tracks simultaneously, since a change to one instrument's part often inspires changes to the other instruments.

    So here's what I'm wondering:

    Would putting the piano on one samples-only drive and the drums on another samples-only drive make things any better?

    Obviously, if my problems are strictly CPU-related, it probably won't make a difference... the CPU will still have to process the same amount of stuff...

    Yet, I wonder if part of the problem involves having to seek multiple sounds, simultaneously, off of the same drive. This might wear out a drive faster, but could this also cause any more "immediate" problems, of a type that I would hear during playback of a song?

    Thanks for any thoughts/comments!!

    .
    — alanb

    ...........................

    http://alanb.org

    http://www.myspace.com/arsperspicuus

  2. #2

    Re: Any benefit to using multiple sample drives?

    Setting up your system with two drives will help a little. Currently the drive speed, access time and data seek time of disk drives are a true bottleneck of a PC. If the CPU has to find and stream two high polyphony instruments from the same drive, you're doubling the amount of traffic. Once you have each instrument on a separate drive the data stream and more important the data seeks on each drive are reduced by 50%. So yes, naturally, two sample drives helps.

    On the other hand, having a piano and dense drum parts should not overload your system. Too bad you did not post what sampler you are using (my guess is kontakt). The key is setting polyphony limitations and/or memory-streaming correct for the piece you're doing.
    Kontakt for example allows you to set disk streaming for a large instrument. If you keep the setting to RAM (memory and not DFD) the polyphony count can be dramatically improved. Memory is many times faster in terms of seek time and access time. So if a piano fits in memory, why sc+ew things up by setting it to DFD disk-streaming? With 3 GB of Ram, a patch that allows large memory on windows applications and the correct settings of sample (memory and DFD) you can streamline and optimize the performance of your system.
    OK, a drum kit should always fit in RAM. Why set disk streaming on drums if you have free RAM? It only introduces disk streaming limitations, crackles, CPU spikes etc. You must make sure the amount of RAM in your system is used in a meaningful way; dedicate enough RAM to samples that need high polyphony and leave low polyphony instrument to disk streaming.

    Polyphony; the other big issue. How many voices does the dense drum part play? Hoping the drum part resembles a human performance, the number of samples that should play back at the same time can never go higher than what?...30 voices. You need to set the polyphony limitation of each instrument in a drum patch to the optimum setting. For example, a cymbal should not be allowed to play more than 2 or 3 simultaneous instances. In reality a cymbal never plays two sounds; it plays only one sound at the same time. The sampled cymbal can be allowed to play 2 or 3 sounds, so that the previous sound is not horribly cut off at the beginning of a new hit. But don't allow it to build up polyphony. If there is no polyphony restriction set for the individual sample, playing repeated hits on the cymbal can result in polyphony hits of 100+, effectively maxing out your system with just one note!
    Same is true for piano. Never allow a piano to play more than 88 notes.

    Combining these above two methods can drastically improve the performance of your system. Even so much that you find that the same piece plays without problems, even with all samples coming from one drive.
    Best regards,
    Michiel Post


  3. #3

    Re: Any benefit to using multiple sample drives?

    In Gigastudio, I find the Ride is the culprit which always brings down my machine. I found editing the ride cymbal release to 1 to 1.5 seconds helps a lot. Because I am typically hitting repeated rides you never notice the tail missing. You could have an untouched key assigned for ending a phrase of course. Play with the release to find a sweet spot that works for you.

    I like this solution better than the voice stealing option. It sounds more natural to my ears, FWIW.

    Scott

  4. #4

    Re: Any benefit to using multiple sample drives?

    'allo Michiel -- Thank you for the quick response!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Michiel Post
    On the other hand, having a piano and dense drum parts should not overload your system. Too bad you did not post what sampler you are using (my guess is kontakt).
    Oops -- it used to be in my .sig at the bottom of each post.

    I'm running GS3 and GVI3 (and beta-ing GS4 and GVI4).

    This is my basic setup:
    Cubase SX3 (v3.1.1.944)
    GigaStudio Orchestra (v3.21)
    GigaStudio GVI (v3.64)
    GigaPulse VST (v3.12)
    MOTU 2408 mk3
    MOTU midi express XT
    Pentium D, 3GHz, 2GB RAM
    Windows XP Pro, SP2, w/all updates through 2007.12.01
    My drums are all Larry Seyer Acoustic Drums, and my pianos are primarily SampleTekk's TBO and PMI's Hybrid Pianos.

    If you have any Giga-specific suggestions, I would be so grateful if you shared them!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Michiel Post
    You must make sure the amount of RAM in your system is used in a meaningful way; dedicate enough RAM to samples that need high polyphony and leave low polyphony instrument to disk streaming.
    My system has 2GB of RAM.

    When I first installed TBO (and 7CG), I couldn't get either library to load. Instead, I only saw a string of "Unknown System Errors." I played with various memory settings using Mattias' "Memory Optimization Tool," and theSampleTekk pianos finally loaded.

    Whether these changes of Windows memory have any negative effects elsewhere, I may never know. Things have been stable and worked extremely smoothly for many months now...!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Michiel Post
    Polyphony; the other big issue. How many voices does the dense drum part play? Hoping the drum part resembles a human performance, the number of samples that should play back at the same time can never go higher than what?...30 voices. You need to set the polyphony limitation of each instrument in a drum patch to the optimum setting. For example, a cymbal should not be allowed to play more than 2 or 3 simultaneous instances. In reality a cymbal never plays two sounds; it plays only one sound at the same time. The sampled cymbal can be allowed to play 2 or 3 sounds, so that the previous sound is not horribly cut off at the beginning of a new hit. But don't allow it to build up polyphony. If there is no polyphony restriction set for the individual sample, playing repeated hits on the cymbal can result in polyphony hits of 100+, effectively maxing out your system with just one note!
    Same is true for piano. Never allow a piano to play more than 88 notes.

    Combining these above two methods can drastically improve the performance of your system. Even so much that you find that the same piece plays without problems, even with all samples coming from one drive.
    For the piano, I found that drawing tiny gaps into the sustain pedal part (in Cubase's CC data) took care of most of the piano problems without any noticeable loss in sustain.

    For the drums, most of the problems occur when I've drawn in an extended roll... lots of fast, tiny hits. Not sure how to get around that...

    Your and Scott's suggestions are very much appreciated!!

    Alan
    — alanb

    ...........................

    http://alanb.org

    http://www.myspace.com/arsperspicuus

  5. #5

    Re: Any benefit to using multiple sample drives?

    Well GigaStudio has one of the better disk streaming engines. The down-side is there are hardly any options to fine-tune pre-load and buffer settings for individual instruments, let alone limits on polyphony on sounds within a patch.

    The global setting for polyphony is a slider in the general system settings. It allows you to set a specific number of voices that the system should be able to play; in other words it pre-assigns a specific part of the available RAM memory for pre-loading the samples. The technical specs of Giga don't give you specifics of how this affects the pre-loading of samples and the buffer sizes however experience shows it follows simple logic; set this to extremely low polyphony (24 voices) will leave all available RAM free for loading a large sample set. Setting a very high value (>400), will assign the majority of available RAM to load a larger part of each sample in RAM (= larger pre-load).
    Since you write that you needed a memory hack (that forces the OS to allow Giga to access more RAM) to eventually be able to load a large piano sample set it's safe to assume your system does not have enough RAM installed. With 3 GB being the theoretical maximum (see: http://www.musikbanken.se/TechLaaTiDo.aspx) you will have much better results once you have installed an extra GB stick and apply the LaaTiDo patch.
    The other option naturally is to adjust the giga slider to allow lower polyphony and listen when the system starts stealing voices in a disturbing way.
    Opening the giga editor to limit the polyphony of certain samples is an option that is supposed to work, but i must admit I never had any working results from the "self-mask" option. This is supposed to kill previous instances of the same sample when re-triggering a sample. My experience is that no matter what setting you apply you will always build up polyphony when you hold the sustain pedal down and re-trigger the same note over and over again.
    Best regards,
    Michiel Post


  6. #6

    Re: Any benefit to using multiple sample drives?

    I bought a Sonnet Tempo SATA card for my old dual 800 G4 (1.5 Gb RAM). I think it was about $80. I then bought 2 x 300 gb SATA internal drives to hold my samples. I have noticed a big improvement in performance. I can run a lot more articulations and processors before having to freeze or render anything. I am running Logic 7 and use Space Designer as my main 'verb.

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