64-Bit Answers for PC and Mac

Written with Nick Batzdorf, publisher, Virtual Instruments magazine and Jeff Laity, Marketing Manager at Tascam.

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.

Desktop Remote

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.

Gigabit Switch

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.

Summary Observations

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:

  1. EW and VSL windows closed – spikes [just to identify the dumps, look at the WindowServer in the first line – %CPU = 20.20]
  2. EWconv off + VSL no spikes [WindowServer 19.30]
  3. EWconv off no VSL, no spikes [13.30]
  4. VSL only not playing [5.20]
  5. VSL only not playing window closed [11.70]
  6. VSL only playing window closed [20.20]



  • April 29, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

    Nice article, Peter – I enjoyed reading it. Just a minor dotted T and crossed eye for the record:

    “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.”

    While I personally prefer to run stand-alone versions as much as possible in order to avoid having to reload all the time, you can run PLAY and VE as plug-ins as well. If you do both you can access more RAM and have more samples cued up and ready to play.

    Also, the Soundflower virtual audio interface works very well for routing audio from stand-alone programs into your sequencer’s onscreen mixer. But the Metric Halo 2882 and ULN2, RME Fireface 400 and 800, and Apogee Symphony card all have a loopback mode that lets you do this in hardware rather software; I’d be inclined to use that rather than Soundflower given a choice. I haven’t worked with the Symphony, but note that with the other interfaces this takes the place of the 8-channel lightpipe inputs, so there’s a price to pay. The exception is that the ULN2 doesn’t have a lightpipe input, so this feature is free.

  • Peter Alexander
    April 29, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

    Nick, clarify something for me. When you say, “If you do both…” are you saying both PLAY and VI in Standalone mode and as plugins?

  • April 29, 2008 @ 9:31 pm

    Yup, that’s right. Chances are, you won’t be able to load both to the gills, but you can sometimes eke out more RAM access by running both the plug-in and the stand-alone versions simultaneously.

    VSL’s Vienna Instruments player actually runs outside the sequencer anyway – its plug-in is just a remote control that streams audio and MIDI.

    (And I wish I could edit my last comment for typos…)

  • April 30, 2008 @ 7:54 am

    One clarification, GigaStudio 4 is not coming to the Mac. GVI4 is coming to the Mac, which is the plug-in sampler based on Giga technology. GigaStudio 4 is a stand-alone application which is PC only.

  • April 30, 2008 @ 8:13 am

    Not so fast, Batzdorf:

    “VSL’s Vienna Instruments player actually runs outside the sequencer anyway – its plug-in is just a remote control that streams audio and MIDI.”

    On Mac. I don’t think that’s true on Windows…which is something I should know but don’t, since I only have the original VSL on my Windows machines. Will check…

  • David Silberman
    April 30, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

    After reading the article and the comments, I was wondering, if I wanted to run VI and Play compatible instruments as plug-ins to Sibelius on a PC, would the hardware requirements be the same, or would you recommend a different configuration?

  • Peter Alexander
    May 1, 2008 @ 9:50 am

    Good question, David. You have to see if Sibelius 5.2 is 64-bit ready and can take advantage of more than 2GB of RAM. Be aware that the plug-in approach with Sibelius is far different than that of Cubase, DP, Logic or Sonar.

  • May 2, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

    Oh, one other thing:

    The screenshots weren’t so much to show load capacity (I didn’t attempt to max out the programs at all), they’re to show the CPU hit when you run plug-ins and stand-alone programs in various combinations. It looks like the titles are missing…will email Peter A…

  • May 2, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

    Not true either – they were to show the CPU hit when you run both plug-ins simultaneously inside a DAW (Logic in this case). Peter had asked whether it’s possible to run both PLAY and VSL together.

    Sorry about that.

  • May 4, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

    Another clarification, PLAY is not 64-bit on a Mac, it will be shortly, but it’s not today. However, we have engineered the software to access all available system ram on 64-bit Macs as is described here –


  • Peter Alexander
    May 4, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

    Updated. Thank you Jeff, Nick, and Doug!

  • May 7, 2008 @ 9:34 am

    Hey Peter, great article! I am in tech re-configure mode and have my first of 2 giga machines transformed into 64 bit GS4 and I have to say that for possibly the first time I am so completely impressed with Tascams release! Every release from them has always left us wanting better solutions, interfaces and support to problems inherant in their kernel level sample engine. This time, at least for me, its just perfect! big roung of applause to the Tascam group!

    Nick thanks also for all the info you give us! I am a new subscriber to VI after reading an article a friend sent me that you wrote on using 8gigs in DP on a mac. I tried your solutions and while they havent worked for me I think I am on an Intel mac where that article was pre-intel. Anyhow you both are to be commended on the fine info you bring to us, thank you!

  • Peter Roos
    May 7, 2008 @ 11:30 am

    Comment for David Silberman and Peter Alexander, relating to Sibelius 5:

    I specifically asked Sibelius, and was confirmed, that if you run Sibelius on a master laptop (in a 32 bit enviroment) connected to a slave computer that runs Windows XP professional 64 bit, that then any virtual instruments housed on that slave computer can take full advantage of the RAM installed on the slave, beyond 4 GB restriction of a 32 bit operating system. This applies even though Sibelius itself is 32 bit operating software. This assumes, of course, that the virtual instruments installed on the slave computer can run in a 64 bit and are able to use the full functionality thereof (such as the new Play engine by Eastwest). This is the reference to the post on the Sibelius website: http://www.sibelius.com/cgi-bin/helpcenter/chat/chat.pl?com=thread&start=391095&groupid=3&.

    I am technically not very savvy, to say the least, so I cannot comment on whether the foregoing is different if you run everything on one computer. I would recommend that you check with Sibelius to make sure. Daniel Spreadbury is the resident Sibelius guru and is always very responsive and helpful.

    The other comment I wanted to make is that making third party virtual instruments work with Sibelius is not for the faint-hearted, indeed – you have to create sound sets / manual sounds sets, and to do that, you need to go deep into the Sibelius architecture to understand how it operates. Sibelius will help you and have even created a software program to help you write sound set, but you still have to do a lot of homework (I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this for months now). Once everything is set up though, in the long run it should be very user friendly, or so I have been told.

  • May 7, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

    Chris, it works on Intel Macs too. I’d be happy to try and sort you out if you want to email me: nb@virtualinstrumentsmag.com.

    And thanks.

  • May 8, 2008 @ 12:34 am

    Giga 4 with MORE than 8 GB of ram.

    For VSL users polyphony may not be the key issue. The reason I am doing a 16 GB Giga Studio 4 machine is for the large performance legato instruments which eat more ram than polyphony. What really kills polyphony are harp, celesta, piano, with sustain on and 4 layer or more velocity crossfading patches. Maybe I’ll keep one of my old giga 3’s to run those instruments. :/ I’ll be starting testing tomorrow (hopefully) – going to post the results on the learngigastudio forum. In addition you can tweak the ram settings to be more friendly to polyphony than sample loading in the configuration.

    I am using 3 drives including a raptor and 2 500 GB drives for samples. The only question I have is to raid or not to raid.

  • Scott Matthews
    May 17, 2008 @ 11:58 am

    Can I use a second 64 bit pc to run GS4/ VSL and run a lan switch (which one?) to my sequencing pc (32) bit running pro tools 7.4?–PT is still not 64 bit.
    Will the 32/64 bit situation cause errors? Especially because they’re on the same network?
    I am also running VSL horizon series , which I don’t think is compatible with any of the VSL players, except the performance tool, which is now obsolete through GS imidi rules.
    I am running PT and GS4 on a 4G ,2.7 quad machine and I ‘ve had some hiccups and GS4 crashes. Is this due to the fact that PT does not like to share with kernel level sampling?
    Lots of questions , but you guys seem to have your finger on the pulse

  • May 17, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

    That’s a consulting question that’s difficult to answer. What I can tell you is that the VSL demo was with a 64bit PC with 8GB RAM, using Vienna Ensemble 3 to stream directly to a Mac running Logic which is 32bit. As long as Vienna is on a separate system, there should be no issues. However, not ever having used ProTools, I can’t comment on how it responds with programs like MIDIoverLAN or FXTeleport to give a program specific answer. For that, you’ll need to ask that question on the VSL forum.

    Either in this article, or an earlier one, I mentioned a Gigabit Switch to get. You have several choices.

  • September 1, 2008 @ 8:25 am

    I have recently built a 64xp giga4 machine with 8gig ram ,. I can load it up to the max, all 8 ports with the ram only at 50% but the polyphony crashes the system playing only 16 midi tracks at once at about 400. I have tried different settings on the synthesyser to no avail. Any ideas to help?

  • October 31, 2008 @ 4:59 am

    Does anybody of you now if the Motu 2408Mk3 (either the pci or firewire-version) has a loopback mode, as the rme or metric halo interfaces, have?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *