Intel i9 7940X & 7960X Dawbench Testing.

Today we have a few more models from the Intel i9 range on the desk in the shape of the 14 core 7940X and the 7960X. I was hopeful that the 18 core would be joining them as well this time around, but currently, another team here have their hands on it so it may prove to be a few weeks more until I get a chance to sit down and test that one.

Now I’m not too disappointed about this as for me and possibly the more regular readers of my musings, the 16 core we have on the desk today already is threatening to be the upper ceiling for effective audio use.

The reason for this is that I’ve yet to knowingly come across a sequencer that can address more than 32 threads effectively for audio handling under ASIO. These chips offer 28 and 32 threads respectively as they are hyper-threaded, so unless something has changed at a software level that I’ve missed (and please contact me if so), then I suspect at this time the 16 core chip may well be well placed to max the current generation of sequencers.

Of course, when I get a moment and access to the larger chip, I’ll give it a proper look over to examine this in more depth, but for the time being on with the show!

Both chips this time around are advising a 165W TDP figure, which is up from the 140W TDP quoted back on the 7920X we looked at a month or two back. The TDP figure itself is supposed to be an estimate of the power usage under regular workloads, rather than peak performance under load. This helps to explain how a 14 core and 16 core chip can both share the same TDP rating, as the 14 core has a higher base clock than the 16 core to compensate. So in this instance, it appears that they have to some degree picked the TDP and worked backward to establish the highest performing, clocks at that given power profile point.

Once the system itself starts to push the turbo, or when you start to overclock the chip the power draw will start to rise quite rapidly. In this instance, I’m working with my normal air cooler of choice for this sort of system in the shape of the BeQuiet Dark Rock Pro 3 which is rated at 250W TDP.  Water-loop coolers or air coolers with more aggressive fan profiles will be able to take this further, but as is always a concern for studio users we have to consider the balancing of noise and performance too.

Much like the 7920X, we looked at previously, the chips are both rated to a 4.2GHz max two core turbo, with staggered clocks running slower on the other cores. I took a shot at running all cores at 4.2GHz but like the 7920X before it we could only hit that on a couple of cores before heat throttling would pull them back again. 

Just like the 7920X again however if we pull both of these chips back by 100MHz per core (in this instance both to 4.1GHz) they prove to be stable over hours of stress testing and certainly within the temp limits we like to see here, so with that in mind we’re going to test at this point as it’s certainly achievable as an everyday setting.

As always first up is the CPUid chip info page and benchmarks along with the Geekbench results.

Intel i9 7940X @ 4.1GHz

7940x CPUid 7940x CPUid Benchmark

Geekbench 7940x

Intel i9 7960X @ 4.1GHz

 

7960x CPUid7960x CPUid Benchmark

 

Geekbench 4 7960X

Both chips are clocked to the same level and the per-core score here reflects that. The multi-core score, of course, offers a leap from one chip to the other as you’d expect from throwing a few more cores into the equation.

Geekbench Comparison Chart
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The DAWBench classic and newer DSP test with Kontakt follow this and once again as there isn’t a whole lot I can add to this. 

DAWBench Classic
Click To Expand

 

7960x DB6
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The added cores give us improvements across both of these chips as we’ve already seen in the more general purpose tests. The 7960X does appear to offer a slightly better performance curve at the higher buffer rates, which I suspect could be attributed to the increase in the cache but otherwise, it all scales pretty much as we’d expect. 

Given the 7940X maintains the roughly £100 per extra core figure (when compared to the 7920X) at current pricing that Intel was aiming for at launch, it does seem to offer a similar sort of value proposition as the smaller i9’s just in this case more is more. The 7960X raises this to roughly £125 per core extra over the 7940X at current pricing, so a bit of cost creep there but certainly not as pricey as we’ve sometimes seen over the years on the higher end chips in the range.

The main concern initially was certainly regarding heat, but it looks like the continued refinement of the silicon since we saw the first i9 batches a few months ago has given them time to get ahead of this and ensure that the chips do well out of the box given adequate cooling.  

With the launch of the CoffeeLake’s in the midrange, some of the value of the lower end enthusiast chips appear to have quickly become questionable, but the i9 range above it continues to offer performance levels henceforth unseen by Intel. The’s a lot of performance here, although the price matches it accordingly and we often find ourselves at this time where more midrange level systems are good enough for the majority of users.

However, for the power user with more exhaustive requirements who find that they can still manage to leverage every last drop of power from any system they get their hands on,  I’m sure there will plenty here to peak your interest.

Previous CPU Benchmarking Coverage
3XS Systems @ Scan

Tips & Tricks: Kontakt Optimization – The Batch Re-save Feature

Native Instruments Kontakt is one of my most commonly used tools in the studio so it’s massively important to ensure it’s performing as efficiently as possible. I’ve previously touched on how to enhance workflow with the Quick-Load feature but there’s another little tip to optimize instrument load-up times regardless of whether you’re using a beast of computer or whether you’re running a rig with limited resources. This is something that can be particularly beneficial for composers who will more than likely be using large templates where hosting multiple orchestral libraries is the norm.

Anyone who has ever used Kontakt will undoubtedly have encountered the “Missing Samples” error. It’s easily enough resolved by selecting the location where the samples for library in question reside. It’s a case of then saving the patch so that the file paths are preserved.

The Batch Re-save function goes one step further and allows you to correct the file paths for an entire library but it can also drastically improve load-up times especially for larger, more ram-intensive libraries and almost certainly if your sample libraries are hosted on mechanical drives. This process will effectively re-assign the samples to each patch within the library accordingly based on your own system’s storage configuration.

To do this simply select the “File” menu and hit “Batch re-save”. You’ll be presented with a warning message. As long as you then select the original folder where the library is located (typically one level above the “Samples” folder) this is nothing to worry about. The reason for this warning being if any 2 instruments utilize the same naming structure for their samples, this process could potentially assign the wrong sample to the wrong instrument.

Then just sit back and watch as all the file paths are checked are re-assigned. Depending on the size of the library, this can sometimes take a while but it’s well worth it in the long run.

Batch re-saving is now the first thing I do whenever I install a new library. From personal experience I can honestly say this has greatly improved my instrument load-up times. Give it a try… See if it makes a difference!

Universal Audio Return With More Fantastic Q4 Promotions (Part 2) – Apollo Twin Rack + Free Satellite

Following on from the last post regarding Universal Audio’s epic Q4 promotions we have an offer that is sure to tempt plenty of people into the UAD fold.

If you buy any Apollo rackmount interface you get yourself a free UAD Satellite QUAD or OCTO. Yes, you read that right – buy any Apollo rack unit and turbo charge your DSP processing power with a free Satellite. How good is that?! All you have to do is register the product and fill out the prompted shipping information, Universal Audio will deal with the rest and ship your Satellite in 6-8 weeks.

Depending which unit you buy will determine which freebie you get:

Apollo 16 or 8P – UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt OCTO worth £1081

Apollo 8 DUO or QUAD – UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt QUAD worth £756

Apollo Firewire – UAD-2 Satellite Firewire QUAD worth £756

We think this really is an amazing promotion offer and if you’re interested you can find all our Apollo rackmount’s here.

Universal Audio Return With More Fantastic Q4 Promotions (Part 1) – Apollo Twin MkII or USB + Free Plugins

Universal Audio seem to bring out the big guns when it comes to Q4 promotions. First up is a great deal for any new purchasers of the highly regarded Apollo Twin MkII and USB interfaces with a varying amount of freebies depending which model you opt for:

Apollo Twin Solo – Fairchild Tube Limiter Plug-in Collection worth £229.

Apollo Twin DUO or Apollo Twin USB – Fairchild Tube Limiter Plug-In Collection, Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ Plug-In Collection, Oxide Tape Recorder Plug-In worth £573.

Apollo Twin QUAD – Fairchild Tube Limiter Plug-In Collection, Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ Plug-In Collection, Oxide Tape Recorder Plug-In, Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb worth £833.

The promotional plug-ins will be automatically added to your account upon registration of the interface. Also worth noting is that if you already own any of the promotional plug-ins you will be able to pick from a list of alternative plug-ins!

The promotion runs until 31st December and all applicable Universal Audio interfaces can be found here.

M-Audio Team Up With Softube For The M-Track C Series Passive-Active Pack Promo

The new M-Audio C Series interfaces certainly look the part, I’ve not had chance to get a hands-on with them but if they sound half as good as they look then they make for a great entry-level interface. So recently we got the news that M-Audio have teamed up with venerable plug-in developer Softube to give existing and new users of the C Series interfaces a classy collection of three very different equalizers.

Everybody loves free stuff, but rarely do you get much useful stuff for free in this life! First up in the Passive-Active Pack is the Passive Equalizer, meticulously modeled from an iconic German three-band EQ for a nice and clear, open sound.

Next up is the Active Equalizer, modeled from a distinctive Swiss EQ design and is perfect for surgical cuts and boosts in your mix. Total mix precision.

The final part of the pack is the Focusing Equalizer, an untraditional and inspiring method of EQing and is a concept exclusive to Softube. There is even an additional saturation circuit based on the distortion and compression from their famous FET Compressor.

These will be available through December 31st and all M-Track C Series interfaces can be found here.

Presonus FaderPort Expands To 16 Channels of Motorized Fader Goodness

Presonus has made quite a name for itself in both the software and hardware worlds of late. Studio One has become a well respected household name as far as DAW’s are concerned and their accompanying hardware isn’t too shabby either with the Quantum audio interface making waves pretty recently and swiftly followed by it’s sibling, the Quantum 2. The FaderPort line has seen some R&D attention over the past year, evolving from the initial FaderPort, a small single channel motorized fader with transport and DAW controls into the FaderPort 8, a completely redesigned 8 channel unit with a plethora of controls…Well, 8 channels obviously weren’t enough and they have just released the FaderPort 16 – a 16 channel behemoth with all the bells and whistles you could want for mixing and engineering.

The FaderPort 16 comes equipped with 16 touch-sensitive, 100mm motorized faders, Scribble Strips, 89 buttons covering 104 different functions that allow you to quickly zoom in on audio files for editing, modify plug-in parameters, manage aux mixes and control track levels with the touch of a finger.  The Session Navigator provides easy access to 8 mission critical functions, used in conjunction with the large encoder and companion buttons to mix with much greater efficiency than using just a mouse and keyboard. There is one glaring omission though, where is the metering?

Of course, no Presonus hardware is complete without seriously tight integration with Studio One. You even get a free copy of Studio One 3 Artist with the FaderPort which is a nice addition! It will work with other DAWs on the market too but don’t expect instant plug and play functionality without some configuration steps.

Now the FaderPort 16 doesn’t come cheap. At £899 it is on the more expensive side of the spectrum with regards to MIDI controllers but comparing it to lesser devices wouldn’t be fair as I can’t think of any that have the scope of features this has and personally if I had the spare cash to throw down on a DAW controller I would be seriously considering adding this to the studio.

The FaderPort 16 is available for pre-order here.

In Praise of the Mini: Valeton EP1 Mini volume / Wah pedal

 

One of my contenders for the Best value pedal of this year, is the Valeton EP1.

Small enough to not cause any Real estate problems on your board, but powerful enough to justify its position 5 times over…

Apart from it’s remarkable size, there’s not much unusual about this little gem.

It’s a simple Volume/Wah with a click foot switch to swap between the two.

As a volume unit, which is obviously it’s default mode, it has a smooth linear volume curve, which despite the relatively compact size, is very controllable and very usable. Those of you who like to pull bends and country slides will find the addition of a volume swell will lend authenticity to your playing, as well as the ubiquitous  ”swelling of the stationary chord” violin pad effect.

However, the real surprise in this package is the Wah.

I must have used over 20 different Wah pedals in my time, and it’s true that some are better at certain things than others. I still rate the Vox Wah as the crispiest “Shaft” type sound I’ve used, while the ubiquitous “Cry Baby” was always better at the controlled Howl or the Mid-range “Honk” a La Michael Schenker, but the Wah sound in the Valeton has a pleasing take on both these voices.

Albeit doesn’t have the same long treadle time as a full grown Wah, there’s more than enough to get some very usable voices out of it, and for £59.00 for the both in one pedal, its extraordinary value, considering how small and light it is ( No bad thing for a Pedal on a crowded board.)

Valeton EP1: LN 80747

First Look At The Intel 8700K As The i7 Range Gets A Caffeine Injection.

I’ll be honest, as far as this chipset naming scheme goes it feels that we might be starting to run out of sensible candidates. The Englishman in me wants to eschew this platform completely and hold out for the inevitable lake of Tea that is no doubt on the way. But alas the benchmarking has bean done and it’s too latte to skip over it now. 

*Ahem* sorry, I think it’s almost out of my system now. 

Right, where was I? 

Time To Wake Up and Smell The….

Coffee Lake has been a blip on the horizon for quite a while now, and the promise of more cores in the middle and lower end CPU brackets whilst inevitable has no doubt taken a bit longer than some of us might have expected. 

Is it a knee-jerk reaction to the AMD’s popular releases earlier this year? I suspect the platform itself isn’t, as it takes a lot more than 6 months to put together a new chipset and CPU range but certainly it feels like this new hardware selection might be hitting the shelf a little earlier than perhaps was originally planned.

Currently its clear that we’ve had a few generations now where the CPU’s haven’t really made any major gains other than silicon refinement and our clock speeds haven’t exceeded 5GHz from the Intel factory (of course, the more ambitious overclockers may have had other ideas), the obvious next move for offering more power in  the range would be to stack up more cores much like the server-based bredrin in the Xeon range.

What is undeniable is that it certainly appears even to the casual observer that the competitor’s recent resurgence has forced Intel’s  hand somewhat and very possibly accelerated the release schedule of the models being discussed here.

I say this as the introduction of the new range and i7 8700K specifically that we’re looking at today highlights some interesting oddities in the current lineup that could be in danger of making some of the more recent enthusiast chips look a little bit redundant. 

This platform as a whole isn’t just about an i7 refresh though, rather we’re seeing upgrades to the mainstream i7’s, the i5’s and the i3’s which we’ll get on the bench over the coming weeks.

The i7’s have gained 2 additional physical cores and still have the hyperthreading meaning 12 logical cores total. 

The i5’s have 6 cores and no hyperthreading.

The i3’s have 4 cores and no hyperthreading.

Positioning wise Intel’s own suggestions have focused towards the i5’s being pushed for gaming and streaming with up to 4 real physical cores being preferred for games and then a couple extra to handle the OS and streaming. The i3’s keep their traditional entry-level home office and media center sort of positioning that we’ve come to expect over the years and then that gives us the 6 core i7’s sat at the top of the pile of the more mainstream chip options. 

Intel traditionally has always found itself a little lost when trying to market 6 cores or more. They know how to do it with servers where the software will lap up the parallelization capabilities of such CPUs with ease. But when it comes to the general public just how many regular users have had the need to leverage all those cores or indeed run software that can do it effectively? 

It’s why in recent years there has been a marked move towards pushing these sorts of chips to content creators and offering the ability to provide the resources that those sort of users tend to benefit from. It’s the audio and video producers, editors, writers and artists that tend to benefit from these sorts of advances. 

In short, very likely you dear reader.

Ok, so let’s take a look at some data.

8700K CPUz at 4.7GHz

CPUz 4.7 Benchmark

At base clock rates the chip itself is sold as a 6 core with Hyper-threading and runs with a clock speed of 3.7GHz and a max turbo of 4.7GHz. For testing, I’ve locked off all the cores to the turbo max and tested with a Dark Rock 3 after testing various models before starting. With the cooler in hand, it was bouncing around 75 degrees after a few hours torture testing which is great. I did try running it around the 5GHz mark, which was easy to do and perfectly stable, although with the setup I had it was on the tipping point of overheating. If you updated it to a water cooling loop I reckon you’ll have this running fine around the 5GHz and indeed I did for some of the testing period with no real issues, although I did notice that the voltages and heat start to creep up rapidly past the 4.7GHz point.

8700k at 4.7

Geekbench 4 8700K
Click to expand

The Geekbench 4 results show us some interesting and even slightly unexpected results. With the previous generation 7700K being clocked to 4.5GHz when I benched it and the 8700K being run at 4.7GHz I was expecting to see gains on the single core score as well as the increase in the multicore score. It’s only a few percent lower and I did retest a couple of times and found that this was repeatable and I had the results confirmed by another colleague.

The multicore score, on the other hand, shows the gains that this chip is all about with it not only exceeding the previous generation as you would expect with more cores being available. The gains here, in fact, highlight something I was already thinking about earlier in the year when the enthusiast i7’s got a refresh, in that this chip looks to not only match the 7800X found in the top end range but somewhat exceeding its capabilities at a lower overall price point.

DAWBench DSP 8700K
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DawBench vi 8700K
Click to expand

In the testing above both the DAWBench DSP and the DAWBench vi tests continue to reflect this too, effectively raising questions as to the point of that entry-level 7800X in the enthusiast range.

The is almost price parity between the 7800X and 8700K at launch although the X299 boards tend to come in around £50 to £100 or more than the boards we’re seeing in the Z370 range. You do of course get extra memory slots in the X299 range, but then you can still mount 64GB on the mid-range board which for a lot of users is likely to be enough for the lifecycle of any new machine.

You also get an onboard GPU solution with the 8700K and if anything has been proven over the recent Intel generations, its that those onboard GPU solutions they offer are pretty good in the studio these days, perhaps also offering additional value to any new system build.

Grinding Out A Conclusion

I’m sure pricing from both sides will be competitive over the coming months as they aim to steal market share from each other. So with that in mind, it’s handy to keep these metrics in mind, along with the current market pricing at your time of purchase in order to make your own informed choice. I will say that at this point Intel has done well to reposition themselves after AMD’s strongest year in a very long time, although really their biggest achievement here looks to have been cannibalizing part of their own range in the process. 

That, of course, is by no means is a complaint as when pricing is smashed like this then the biggest winner out there is the buying public and that truly is a marvelous thing. Comparing the 8700K to the 7700K on Geekbench alone shows us a 50% improvement in performance overheads for a tiny bit more than the previous generation cost, which frankly is the sort of generation on generation improvement that we would all like to be seeing every couple of years, rather than the 10% extra every generation we’ve been seeing of late.

Whether you choose to go with an Intel or an AMD for your next upgrade, we’ve seen that the performance gains for your money are likely to be pretty great this time around on both platforms. If your current system is more than 3 or 4 years old then it’s even more likely that the will be a pretty strong upgrade path open to you when you do finally choose to take that jump. With hints of Ryzen 2 being on its way next year from AMD and the likelihood that Intel would never leave any new release unchallenged, we could be in for an interesting 2018 too!

All DAWBench Testing

3XS Audio Systems @ Scan

The Intel i9 7920X On The Bench

Back in June this year we took a look at the first i9 CPU model with the launch of the i9 7900X. Intel has since followed on from that with the rest of the i9 chips receiving a paper launch back in late August and with the promise of those CPU’s making it into the publics hands shortly afterward. Since then we’ve  seen the first stock start to arrive with us here in Scan and we’ve now had a chance to sit down and test the first of this extended i9 range in the shape of the i9 7920X.

The CPU itself is 12 cores along with hyper-threading, offering us a total of 24 logical cores to play with. The base clock of the chip is 2.9GHz and a max turbo frequency of 4.30GHz with a reported 140W TDP which is much in line with the rest of the chips below it in the enthusiast range.  Running at that base clock speed the chip is 400MHz slower per core than the 10 core edition 7900X. So if you add up all the available cores running at those clock speeds (12 X 2900 vs 10 X 3300) and compare the two chips on paper, then the looks to be less than 2GHz total available overhead separating them but still in the 7920X’s favor. 

So looking at it that way, why would you pay the premium £200 for the 12 core? Well interestingly both CPU’s claim to be able to turbo to the same max clock rating of 4.3GHz, although it should be noted that turbo is designed to factor in power usage and heat generation too, so if your cooling isn’t up to the job then you shouldn’t expect it to be hitting such heady heights constantly and whilst I’m concerned that I may be sounding like a broken record by this point, as with all the high-end CPU releases this year you should be taking care with your cooling selection in order to ensure you get the maximum amount of performance from your chip.

Of course, the last thing we want to see is the power states throttling the chip in use and hampering our testing, so as always we’ve ensured decent cooling but aimed to keep the noise levels reasonable where we can. Normally we’d look to tweak it up to max turbo and lock it off, whilst keeping those temperatures in check and ensuring the system will be able to deliver a constant performance return for your needs.

However, in this case, I’ve not taken it quite all the way to the turbo max, choosing to keep it held back slightly at 4.2GHz across all cores. I was finding that the CPU would only ever bounce of 4.3GHz when left to work under its own optimized settings and on the sort of air cooling we tend to favour it wouldn’t quite maintain the 4.3GHz that was achieved with the 7900X in the last round of testing without occasionally throttling back. It will, however, do it on an AIO water loop cooler, although you’re adding another higher speed fan in that scenario and I didn’t feel the tradeoff was worth it personally, but certainly worth considering for anyone lucky to have a separate machine and control room where a bit more noise would go unnoticed.

Just as a note at this point, if you run it at stock and let it work its own turbo settings then you can expect an idle temperature around 40 degrees and under heavy load it still should be keeping it under 80 degrees on average which is acceptable and certainly better than we suspected around the time of the 7900X launch. However, I was seeing the P-states raising and dropping the core clock speeds in order to keep its power usage down and upon running Geekbench and comparing the results that my 4.2GHz on all cores setting gave us an additional 2000 points (around 7% increase) over the turbo to 4.3GHz default setting found in the stock configuration. My own temps idled in the 40’s and maxed around 85 degrees whilst running the torture tests for an afternoon, so for a few degrees more you can ensure that you get more constant performance from the setup.

Also worth noting is that we’ve had our CAD workstations up to around 4.5GHz and higher in a number of instances although in those instances we’re talking about a  full water loop and a number of extra fans to maintain stability under that sort of workload, which wouldn’t be ideal for users working in close proximity to a highly sensitive mic. 

Ok, so first up the CPUz information for the chip at hand, as well it’s Geelbench results.


7920X CPUz
CPUz 42Ghz bench7920X Geekbench 4

More importantly for this comparison is the Geekbench 4 results and to be frank it’s all pretty much where we’d expect it to be in this one.

7920X geekbench 4 Chart
Click to expand.

The single core score is down compared with the 7900X, but we’d expect this given the 4.2GHz clocking of the chip against the 4.3GHz 7900X. The multicore score is similarly up, but then we have a few more cores so all in all pretty much as expected here.

Dawbench DSP 7920X
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Dawbench 6
Click to Expand

On with the DAWBench tests and again, no real surprises here. I’d peg it at being around an average of 10% or so increase over the 7900X which given we’re just stacking more cores on the same chip design really shouldn’t surprise us at all. It’s a solid solution and certainly the highest benching we’ve seen so far barring the models due to land above it. Bang per buck it’s £1020 price tag when compared to the £900 for the 10 core edition it seems to perform well on the Intel price curve and it looks like the wider market situation has curbed some of the price points we might have otherwise seen these chips hit. 

And that’s the crux of it right now. Depending on your application and needs the are solutions from both sides that might fit you well. I’m not going to delve too far into discussing the value of the offerings that are currently available as prices do seem to be in flux to some degree with this generation. Initially, when it was listed we were discussing an estimated price of £100 per core and now we seem to be around £90 per core at the time of writing which seems to be a positive result for anyone wishing to pick one up.

Of course, the benchmarks should always be kept in mind along with that current pricing and it remains great to see continued healthy competition and I suspect with the further chips still to come this year, we may still see some additional movement before the market truly starts to settle after what really has been a release packed 12 months.

The 3XS Systems Selection @ Scan