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Upgrading: Quad Core vs. Dual Core

Member for

21 years
I'm upgrading my DAW and the first decision I have to make is processor. For the same $190, there is a slower Quad Core and a faster Dual Core.

#1. Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16 GHz with FSB 1333 MHz and 6MB L2 cache

#2. Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.40 GHz with FSB 1066 MHz and 8MB L2 cache

Mostly what I do right now is rock music. I record in Windows XP using Cubase SX. A typical song will have 6-8 tracks of audio with minimal processing. I run keyboards as VSTs, usually only 1 or 2 per song. And for drums, I use EZdrummer (which is the main resource hog).

My current setup:
Soundcard: Presonus Firebox firewire interface
OS: Windows XP Pro
Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.8 GHz FSB 533 MHz with L2 cache of 512kB
Motherboard: ASUS P4C800-E deluxe with Intel 875P chipset. Has built-in ethernet and firewire.
Memory: 1 GB of DDR 400 running underclocked at 333 MHz
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 250GB SATA 7200rpm

Where I most notice the lack of performance is with the use of EZdrummer while multiple audio track are playing. I basically have to freeze the drums to an audio track to be able to keep recording. Also, burning down to a WAV file sometimes gives me pops and clicks with more than 8 audio tracks.

So, would a quad core processor be beneficial, even though it has a lower overall speed than the duo core? I'm guessing that quad core is the way to go, as multiple VSTs might be distributed to different cores. For example, cubase might run on one core, while the EZdrummer VST could run on another core, and the remaining VSTs be distributed. I also want the best system for the future, so if quad core is going to be utilized more by recording software, I would like to be on-board.


Member for

16 years 7 months

pr0gr4m Wed, 09/17/2008 - 22:04
2 months ago I finally upgraded from a P4 2.8 laptop to a Quad-core 2.66 (Q9450) desktop.

I debated the dual vs quad and went with the quad sort of as a way of future-proofing. I use Cubase SX2 currently but Cubase4 (which i have sitting in a box next to the computer) is supposed to be able to make use of 4 cores...althought that seems to be a bit iffy from what I've read on their forums. Anyway, at the time I was thinking (hoping) that the direction plug-in programmers were going would be toward more native plug-ins and having more cores will definitely help with that. Plus I'm REALLY tired of freezing tracks all the time.

Of course right after I buy everything UA goes and releases the UAD2. So much for my native plug-in prediction. :x

Anyway, my new machine is smokin fast compared to the old one. I'm still breaking it in but so far I'm very impressed.

However, from your description of the size of and makeup of your projects, a faster dual core would probably be more beneficial than a slower quad core.

I can recommend the Gigabyte boards. I got a GA-X48-DS4 and it's great so far. By great I just mean it does what it should. It was easy to install and I had not problems with drivers. I'm not doing any overclocking or stuff like that so I can't say how it behaves when doing that. I've got 2 SATA drives, 2 DVD drives, 1 vid card and plenty of room for expansion.

Member for

14 years 5 months

Link555 Wed, 09/03/2008 - 08:49
I bought the Quad core system from ADK a few months back, while I like it, I can't say I see many improvements over my friends dual core system. My track count seldom exceeds 32 tracks at 44.1kHz. I use stereo buses to reduce the amount of plug ins I need, but worst case I might use 20 on a 32 track project.

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 09/03/2008 - 12:57
So you guys are saying that my bottleneck in my system right now is probably the FSB speed, right? That would make sense why a heavily sample dependent program like EZdrummer wouldn't run very fast--it has to get large amounts of data through a FSB that can only handle 533 MHz.

Thanks guys, I think I am going to go with the Core Duo now. Next question is a stable motherboard with a TI firewire. Preferably one with built-in video card, because it's been so long since I've bought a video card, I wouldn't know where to start!

I've looked at some Gigabyte boards, it seems that their boards with P35 chipsets all use TI firewire interfaces. ADK, what motherboard do you use with the Core Duo?

Member for

13 years 9 months

Codemonkey Wed, 09/03/2008 - 20:44
Just make sure your mobo isn't from Hong Kong, and/or made by Foxconn. They make Behringer look good. Really.

The gamer in me would go for a dual core because half the games dont use multicore and the few that do don't use them properly.

Quad should be better to run more plugins.
Remember there are other bottlenecks - memory speed/HDD speed that will make more difference than the FSB.

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 09/04/2008 - 03:03
True, fixing one bottleneck generally creates another. But, theoretically, the memory speed should match or exceed the FSB speed, no? And HDD speed, I honestly don't know how a SATA drive stacks up against a FSB of 1333Mhz. I'm guessing HDD speed will forever be the limiting factor in sample heavy recording.

Still looking for a specific motherboard reccommendation. In the past, I've been burned by poor quality boards. I think motherboard choice is really where systems are made or broken. Help!

Member for

16 years 9 months

Reggie Thu, 09/04/2008 - 20:04
For the same money, I would get the quad core. They overclock to 3GHz quite easily and you never know when you might wanna do something goofy where you could use an extra couple cores. Especially if you get into video stuff at some point down the road. I believe Cubase will use all 4 cores.
For a dual core processor, I would recommend the E7200 at $120 being a sweet spot.
For motherboards, P45 is great, or even the slightly older P35. I have an Asus P5Q which is quite nice. And even with cheap DDR2-800 memory, you can up your FSB to 1600 if you want, and adjust the CPU multiplier down to an appropriate level so that you don't have to feed a ton of voltage to the CPU to keep it at a rediculous GHz speed.

Member for

21 years

Guest Fri, 09/05/2008 - 05:56
Codemonkey wrote: Quad should be better to run more plugins.


Remember there are other bottlenecks - memory speed/HDD speed that will make more difference than the FSB.

1) unless doing 96k the HDD is no where near the bottleneck

2) memory speed is ALL ABOUT FSB. and driven by GHz

i didnt post this on this forum but here is a linkon another one