Over the past few months we’ve been trying to answer the question as to how powerful a 64-bit machine you need to take advantage of the newer PLAY and Vienna Instrument libraries that today do take advantage of the 64-bit technology. To review, both PLAY and Vienna are 64-bit on the PC, but not on the Mac. PLAY, however, per Doug Rogers (see responses below) has engineered the software to access all available system ram on 64-bit Macs as is described at this link. An updated version of Vienna Ensemble 3.0 coming shortly that will be 64-bit on the Mac. GigaStudio 4, now released, is 64-bit on the PC and is a PC only program. Tascam GVI 4 is now 64-bit on the PC with a Mac version expected soon.
In this week’s column, you’re getting straight answers.
I got these answers through an e-mail interview with VSL’s Paul Steinbauer and Nick Batzdorf, publisher of Virtual Instruments magazine. To better understand these concepts, please download Vienna’s video demonstration of the Vienna Ensemble 3.
Two on One
Happily, Nick Batzdorf, Mac maven and publisher of Virtual Instruments magazine, found that you can run both PLAY and Vienna Instruments on the same Mac system. To do so, both must be on independent drives. For best results, PLAY needs to use Soundflower so that it can run as a standalone program. Vienna needs to use the Vienna Ensemble 3 in standalone mode. This means that when you license VE3, of the three installs that come with the license, one will be used up with the Mac.
Some important issues on the Mac.
First, the Mac Pro case is limited to four hard drives. For better load times, VSL’s Paul Steinbauer recommended multiple hard drives for the Vienna Instruments.
If you need more than the standard internal four drives available on the Mac Pro (which is possible when putting different companies on individual drives), you’ll need an eSATA card and an external setup allowing multiple drives.
With such a setup, get the most powerful power supply you can.
Vienna On a Dedicated PC
Paul affirmed my observation that the Vienna Instruments today operate best on a dedicated PC. The ever popular question, however, is how much RAM is really needed for VSL.
Here’s a happy answer: 8GB of RAM running Vista 64 Business with Service Pack 1. See example the Vienna video running Logic. Here Vienna is streaming 48 stereo pairs (on one machine!) of audio via a LAN Ethernet cable connection from the PC to the Mac. According to Paul, only 3GB of samples were loaded to execute this particular orchestral template.
But Which PC?
On a PC, you get can a motherboard with 8GB or 16GB RAM and up. With an 8GB of RAM system, you can use a Quad Core CPU. If you’re concerned for future planning, then getting a PC that can handle 16GB of RAM or better requires the Dual Xeon CPU.
With the Vienna Ensemble, the more powerful CPU allows for more instances.
The hard drives remain a key factor.
One thing that some store salesmen do is tell you that all your libraries can fit on a certain sized drive. This is true, but that’s not the issue. You want to assign one drive as one section of the orchestra (HAH! Last year it was one computer as one section of the orchestra!). Since the entire Vienna Symphonic Cube is 500GB, you want to spread that over several drives. But how big should the drives be? Well, I wouldn’t go less than 500GB per drive with Vienna, but if you’re planning for the future, possibly 750GB (remembering that you have to leave 20% of the drive free for operating integrity).
This means you want a case that can handle 4-5 hard drives. While a 4U rack would be more streamlined, a tower case is going to be the better solution because of the number of drives it can hold.
You’ll need a Gigabit LAN Ethernet connection. That’s usually built onto the motherboard. If it’s not, you can buy a separate Gigabit LAN card and install it.
With the Vienna Instruments on a dedicated system running Vienna Ensemble 3, you only need a LAN cable to connect to your sequencing DAW. No audio card or hardware MIDI interface is required.
With so many hard drives, you want a really robust power supply. I interviewed Chris at ADK Pro Audio in Kentucky (www.adkproaudio.com) and his suggestion was that for an 8GB RAM system 750watts or better is recommended. But if you go to a server motherboard capable of handling 16GB of RAM or more, than an 800 watt or better power supply is the starting point.
PLAY on a PC
The same criteria applies. Use multiple drives. For MIDI, use MIDIoverLAN and select an appropriate audio card. At this time, PLAY does not have its own virtual mixer ready. We understand that a version is coming that works like MIDIoverLAN. There are a couple of options here.
One option is to put PLAY on a standalone machine using MIDIoverLAN and an audio card. Using MOL, you can assign each MIDI port to an instance of PLAY. This gives you 16 channels per port.
A second option is to use GigaStudio 4 and PLAY. GigaStudio 4 has a new feature allowing other VSTi’s to run in it. This is now being tested at Tascam and results are promising.
You don’t need a KVM switch. If you’re sequencing on the Mac, there’s a version of Windows Desktop Remote available for you.
If you’re connecting more than one computer to a master DAW, then you’ll need a Gigabit switch to connect all the DAWs together in a network.
With the Vienna Instruments on a dedicated PC, 8GB of RAM seems to be enough. If you want to play it safe, go to a system that can expand to 16GB of RAM.
With PLAY, the same will hold true except for when you’re running the MIDI Performances, in which case you want to start with 16GB of RAM, or get a system that enables you to expand to that.
On the Mac, you can run both programs, but each should be on their own drives. You will need multiple drives if you try to do it all on one Mac system, in which case, starting with 16GB with 4GB modules is probably the best way to go.
I spoke with Jeff Laity, Marketing Manager at TASCAM for GigaStudio 4. For the PC version, a system similar to the 8GB version for Vienna Ensemble 3 is right for now. That’s because with GigaStudio, the key issue is polyphony, which at this point is up to 600 voices using 7200RPM drives. Once polyphony has peaked, it doesn’t matter if you have more than 8GB.
The following screenshots were created by Nick Batzdorf to show CPU hits on the Mac when you run plug-ins and stand-alone programs in various combinations. The screenshots appear in the following order:
EW and VSL windows closed – spikes [just to identify the dumps, look at the WindowServer in the first line – %CPU = 20.20]
EWconv off + VSL no spikes [WindowServer 19.30]
EWconv off no VSL, no spikes [13.30]
VSL only not playing [5.20]
VSL only not playing window closed [11.70]
VSL only playing window closed [20.20]