Mac Mini i7 and Cubase 7.5 setup help

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k1r2
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Mac Mini i7 and Cubase 7.5 setup help

Post by k1r2 » Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:31 pm

Hello,

I'm sure someone is already laughing, but I'm an old PC user, know all about them. I just moved to a Mac Mini i7, OSX 10.9 (Maverick, 64bit), 2GB RAM, 1TB HDD, FocusRite Saffire Pro 40, dual lcd monitors, Cubase 7.5. This is a dedicated computer I only have Cubase, the Saffire MixControl and the drivers for a Tascam US-1800 installed.

Does anyone know what processes I can stop/disable to improve the performance of the system. Especially the I/O.

With the Focusrite and a buffer size of 256 I have 5ms in and 5ms out reported by Cubase. If I lower this to 32 I get 1.5ms in and 3.2 out.

For the people who have a lot of Mac experience, should I increase the RAM?
(I've heard CB7.5 has a problem with 8GB, which seems bogus to me, but it was a Mac savvy Cubase user who told me this.)
My options are increase to 8 or 16 GB

Are SSDs really that better? Would it be worth the price to get one installed?

Any "tricks" that can be used on the Saffire Pro 40?

Any serious suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I am a percussionist, and high latency really shows up and was readily heard, when I was using CB 5 LE on a PC.
Thanks for your time! :)

Hugh
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Re: Mac Mini i7 and Cubase 7.5 setup help

Post by Hugh » Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:30 pm

Hello K,

Creds - We have deployed a number of Minis with Nuendo using high I/O counts and large sessions so I pretend I know something about it.

The most important thing with what you quoted is to increase the memory - Cubase and the MacOS will constantly be swapping things out of ram with only 2GB. We prefer to go with 16GB because these are production environment machines so the more the better. 8GB will work depending on your sample requirements.

SSDs are highly recommended but not the Fusion Drive. The SSDs will make your machine feel and perform much faster because, like all modern OSes, it's constantly reading and writing logs, prefs, etc. and the SSD improves that. Do some research on the model and determine your price/performance point and be aware that third-party SSDs are not natively TRIM-enabled on the MacOS but you can do it manually. The OWC drives do not normally require TRIM but there are caveats so do your research. If you're familiar with the guts of PCs then researching SSDs will be easy for you.

Your latency discrepancy between in and out is due to the Saffire driver - it's adding an additional safety buffer to the output at low latencies because it needs it, as many usb and firewire devices will do. Example - I just checked an RME interface here that's 1.375ms in and out at 32 samples. Each interface's driver will be slightly different and there may be additional delays in the Safire that are not reported to the OS making what you're hearing worse. There's nothing wrong with the Saffire, it's a fine interface for certain needs. However there are slightly lower latency models out there and if that is a high concern then you may want to investigate.

Beyond the hardware there are a number of other things -
Disable sleep
Disable "spin down hard drives"
Disable Notification Center by setting all the apps to "...not..." (you'll find it)
Disable screen saver
Disable display dimming
Disable automatic updates and automatic checking for updates in App Store
Set keyboard to have "normal" F-keys
Disable Spotlight on record drives during recording
If you don't use Bluetooth turn it off, otherwise disable "discoverable"
Turn off file sharing during large sessions
Eject network drives during large sessions unless needed
Turn off Flash in System Prefs
Turn off Java 6 in Safari or Java 7 in, wherever that is again, forgot.
If you don't need network access turn off wifi, we always do during recording even if we need it between recording.

That's what I randomly thought of, there are more I'm not thinking of. No need to go in and turn off services; beyond automatic updating and network access there isn't much that conflicts.

Good luck,
Hugh

k1r2
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Re: Mac Mini i7 and Cubase 7.5 setup help

Post by k1r2 » Thu Sep 18, 2014 7:04 am

Thanks Hugh!!!

Very very good stuff here!

I missed the "disable spotlight on record drives" and a couple of others on that list. :/

I really like your advise on SSDs and I'll look into them!

Any "lower latency models" you like better than others?

Thanks again for your time and reply!!!!
Have a great Day!!!
kr

ps 1.3 in and out,,,, oh would I be happy happy happy!!!!! :)

Hugh
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Re: Mac Mini i7 and Cubase 7.5 setup help

Post by Hugh » Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:11 pm

Hello kr,

I prefer the RME interfaces, they have several things going for them -
- high sound quality
- stable drivers
- low A/D and D/A delays
- low-ish latency operation compared to others
- Totalmix
- they write their own interface chip (usb or pcie), it's highly optimized for what they do.

However there are many good interfaces out there depending on what you need.

"Latency" is a red herring in many ways and folks throw the term around. It's composed of several things (simplified explanations) -
- Input A/D time
- Input DSP time
- serialization time (conversion to protocol)
- interface buffer time (usb or?)
- input latency buffer (time in memory for cpu to get to it)
- DSP time in daw, varies
- output latency buffer (time in memory for cpu to get to it)
- interface buffer time (usb or?)
- de-serialization time (conversion from protocol)
- Output DSP time
- Output D/A time
(for you tech nuts, there are more steps, that's a simplified version). Some are very fast, some are not. The latency reported to the OS/daw may or may not encompass all of those minus the daw dsp time of course. My point in bothering to write all this is if you're getting only 1.5ms in and 3.2 ms out, and that was your only delay, it would be pretty good, but it's not the only source of delay.

Also, running at 32 samples only works some of the time depending on your session, especially on a Mac - PCs with the same approximate load can operate at lower latencies, usually. You need an interface with a DSP mixer so you can monitor the input, not the through-the-box output, when recording. Then you can run high latencies and give your cpu a break. I apologize if this is basic and you're saying "do you think I don't know that?" I never know.

Note - Macs don't have Direct Monitoring like PCs do thanks to Apple's not bothering to issue APIs for it (technically a manufacturer could start the standard on Macs but no one has and probably won't, that was a discussion on developer boards for a number of years). Therefore you'll use your DSP mixer in your interface to do the Direct Monitoring manually.

Hugh

k1r2
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Re: Mac Mini i7 and Cubase 7.5 setup help

Post by k1r2 » Sun Sep 21, 2014 9:14 am

Thanks Hugh! I'm digging your replies, albeit they are not too deep. I didn't mention this but I have several degrees in computer science, problem is they were concentrated on Sun Spark 10 and DEC VAX/VMS. When M$ "acquired" Dave Cutler from DEC, DEC won the law suit and M$ was forced to form the DEC/M$ Alliance and DEC got a copy of everything Cutler wrote for M$, and that is where most all my PC training came into play. Point being, you are saying enough to get me started understanding Macs, their acronyms, etc.; I get it when you talk about PCs.

Of particular interest is you comment of "Latency" is a red herring," yesterday I read a post that was telling a novice that as long as the latency was kept around 500ms, they would not notice any echoing.... (yeah,,, sure)

I am finally reaching the point in life where I have the time to really dig into the DAWs, the drivers, the OS, etc. (I've always played music and always had a DAW of some kind going all the way back to the early CakeWalk days. I had an Aardvark on that old system with 5ms in and out, not the best but, ok for Win98! LOL)

The issue that has me stumped now is I have a Focusrite Pro 40, Cubase reports 1.6ms in but 3.2 ms out, and I can't find out why it is taking longer to get out of the machine. But, I guess if I had to choose, I would rather have it low going in.

Thanks again for all the info, I'm off to check out the RME interfaces!:)

Have a great day!
kr

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