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  • Help/Advice setting up Mac Pro to run VSL

    Hello all-

    I write music for TV and film and am (finally) about to invest in my first VSL system, so please forgive the newbie questions. I have read through the forums quite a bit, but I am still a bit confused as to what type of system I'll need to handle this.

    I plan on using VSL for mostly smaller ensemble work (maybe 16 instruments or so), but imagine I will need to occasionally write for larger ensembles. I will, however, be running video and a number of other virtual instruments and plugins including Ivory, Spectrasonics, Waves, Sound toys, etc...

    Currently I have:

    • Mac Pro (early 2009)
    • OS: 10.7.2
    • Eight (8) quad-core Intel Xeon processors
    • Four internal 7200 RPM SATA 1 TB hard drives (system, samples, audio, back up)
    • 6 GB RAM (currently), but I can expand it to as 96 GB with OWC's memory upgrade kit or more easily(cheaply!) to 32 GB.
    • Logic 9.1.5 (usually running in 64 bit)
    • MIO 2882 2d Expanded +dsp

    I plan on purchasing the solo instruments, the chamber ensembles and probably a few other DVDs. I also plan on purchasing VIP2 which I've read has  some advantages handling the larger libraries. Down the road I may purchase VEP5 and MIR.

    Here is my rather long (sorry) list of questions:

    1. Will my current Mac (if I expand it) handle VSL or do I need to buy (ugh) a newer machine?
    2. How much more RAM do I need to install?
    3. Do I need additional hard drives and if so, what kind and how should they be configured (internal/ external, RAID[:)])?
    4. Do I need a slave computer (man I hate that expression)?
    5. Is there any performance advantage(s) to using VEP3 and or MIR now? And if so, will that demand another computer?

    Thank you all. I so appreciate the help and information I find on these forums.[:)]

    Best,

    ds


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    dsilver, I saw your message on the other thread. I'll be happy to give my input. Just keep in mind that sometimes hardware advice can be just as disputable as which library to invest in. lol (Note, I being one of the few AMD users on here may reflect that a bit)

    @Another User said:

    Do I need additional hard drives and if so, what kind and how should they be configured (internal/ external, RAID

    How much library do you want loaded at once? You don't need a RAID setup configured in order to run anything. Some will argue for raid, but keep stability in mind. Some raid setups are more stable and so on, but that's more preference than anything at that point. The most important think, imo (and I believe in most people's opinions on here) would be that your system can handle your library and then be as stable as possible. There is no need to boost your speed even more than what it takes to run your library.

    SSD or more ram? Both? I'd honestly recommend both. 6GB of ram and a SSD with VI Pro 2.0 would be plenty to do a lot with. Just remember that you'd want to set the preload buffer accordingly in VI Pro 2.0 if you get a SSD. I would recommend getting a SSD instead of the 96GB of ram, then gauge where your ram requirements are. Keep in mind, unless you plan to spend a lot on a big SSD, you're entire library may not fit on it. You can split up the VSL library, and people will tell you that the license verification can take more time, but that's hardly a real delay. Your 7200rpm drives are fine for the bulk of your VSL library. I would put the most important things on the SSD, like chamber or solo (whichever of the two you'll use more).

    Part of my mentality with getting a SSD is that it can allow you to load up to 10x more into memory. More ram is linear. An SSD means that more ram is more of an exponential growth. Your ram goes much farther with an SSD. SO, if you have an SSD with 6GB of ram, it could turn your ram into a potential 60GB. Another thing about your 7200RPRM drives to consider. I have both a WD 10,000RPM raptor (the original older ones, not the newer ones with improvements) and I have an SSD. If VI Pro needs to load samples in the middle of playback that it purged from the memory, then the raptor has a noticable cut off of the samples. The samples play for a moment then cut out. This is fixed once the samples are loaded again, but the point is this- the raptor if running means a short moment of the cut off problem. If it was in idle, then it takes a number of seconds before the samples are fully loaded. With my SSD, it's fast. Super fast. In fact, I don't know that I have even noticed this happening with it.

    Part of the problem with an SSD in place of ram would be that MIR requires ram, and a lot of it. Ultimately if I were in your shoes and I planned to get MIR, I'd get an SSD to use in conjunction with the 72,000RPM drives you have, and I'd get the smaller ram package. That might be costly, but you could run MIR and you'd have more ram and storage speed for both needs.

    [quote=dsilvercoin]Do I need a slave computer (man I hate that expression)?

    I have to ask. Because of slavery or the idea of paying for another machine? Perhaps the computer industry could have called things primary and secondary instead of master/slave. lol Anyway, you don't need one. A computer with plenty of ram, fast enough storage, and enough cpu can load a great deal. I'm sure if I had a 1TB SSD and 64GB of Ram, with 2 of the best CPU's on the market, and a nice RME or Lynx card, and 4 UAD cardes- that I could run the entire VSL library, MIR, and everything else I wanted all on one machine. So no secondary computer is needed but you will want to gauge what kind of an upgrade you'll want for loading larger projects or if you want MIR. If no to MIR, I'd get an SSD which will be more cost effective for managing more samples. Yes to MIR? I'd get both an SSD and ram. If it were me, I might even look at that option anyway. I tend to be a bit of an over paranoid person though with computers. I like to get as much as I think will last me a while. This is why I have a 16-core machine with 20GB of ram and a SSD. I knew AMD would eventually release 16-core cpu's, so now I can even have 32-cores if I want to fork out the money. Gladly, I don't need that much power just yet........yet.................. yet [;)]

    Your long list of questions promted an even longer response. Hopefully you didn't fall asleep reading, lol

    -Sean


  • Sean, 

    You really do rule. Thank you so much for the unbelievably expansive reply.

    For some reason I can't seem to quote you in my reply so hopefully I'll still be able to make myself clear.

    " I'm not sure if you mean 2 quad core CPU's totalling 8 cores"

    I believe this is what I have. When I get info about my Mac it says it has "2 X 2.93 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon" processors. In the apple literature they refer to this as 8 core, but perhaps I am missing something,

    "How much library do you want loaded at once?"

    Hmm... I don't really know yet. I imagine it'll be close to 10 instruments most of the time. Perhaps more depending on the job. I will be loading other software instruments (NI, Spectrasonics, Superior Drummer, etc)/

    "SSD or more ram? Both? I'd honestly recommend both. 6"

    I can easily upgrade my MacPro to 32 GB or Ram. Biut you would really wait until I have the SSD in place?

    • In terms of SDD, I really don't know them at all. Which ones are people using? Where do I get them?
    • Is there a reason (besides cost) not to invest in a larger drive?
    •  Can i store my other plugin libraries on a SSD and get similar benefits or do I need separate SSDs? (I'm asking in part because I'm having issues running Logic Pro 9 in 64 bit mode (some of my 32 bit plugs wont work, even with the 32 audio units bridge).
    thx again!
    ds

  • I wouldn't necessarily wait, I'd just recommend the SSD first, according to what you're wanting anyway.

    I'd look at reviews on Newegg. I used to only buy from them but now one can find good deals elsewhere as well. But they still have the uber-geek following that still faithfully submit reviews. Most reviewers seem to know enough of what they are talking about to give good feedback. Only now and then you'll see reviews saying "don't buy, it came dead-on-arrival!" but this is pointless to me. Everything out there can come dead, just exchange it. That's just part of life. Other than some of those pointless reviews, Newegg has an amazingly high level of a nerd-following. Second, is you can find most specs you want on Newegg. It's definately where I go to find something, whether I buy from them or not. Again, that's just my recommendation.

    For SSD's, many people say Intel only! But this isn't entirely the best mentality. From what I read, Intel developed a better chip? something? and yes, they are better in that sense. However, many brands actually use this same intel component in the SSD. So just make sure it has it. Mine is Kingston with 300 mb/sec and it's phenominal. I plan to get another from a different brand (can't remember which) that is 256GB and 500-600 read speed. The only thing about the ones above 300 mb/sec is they need Sata III for that speed. If your board has Sata II ports, the drive will still work, just without the full potential speed.

    Make sure it has Trim support as a feature. Lion is the only OS that supports Trim. Without Trim the SSD can wear down faster than normal. Larger? Reason? Cost? I can't think of any really. I would just find one that has good reviews, trim support, and the normal speeds or better for that price range. Sometimes you can save money by getting a 240 instead of a 256 or a 120 instead of a 128. The extra 10GB can be a massive price difference sometimes. I've seen some where you save $100+ and get even better speed, better reviews, better all around just by saving 8GB of space. So pay attention to which sizes are available, there are patterns there. Patterns! lol (That's the music in me coming out)

    I'm using VE (free version) as a 64-bit server within a 32-bit cubase. This way I get the best of the plugins and the full sized library. VE Pro will allow you to run 32-bit and 64-bit side by side and all running within VE Pro before it ever even gets to your daw. So either free or VEP you will be covered on that problem. (Another amazing thing about their software! lol)

    -Sean


  • dsilvercoin --

    The Mac Mini server may be an option for you.  There is a quad i7 Intel version, and third parties offer up to 16 GB RAM.  For about $1,100 you can get this machine with 8 GB RAM.  Not bad.  If you search the forum on the "logicprohelp" website under "MMS" you will find a long discussion of the machine as used with Logic.  I understand that the VSL folks themselves use the MMS with Lion for testing purposes internally.  I have just installed mine, using VE Pro 5 to host on that machine.  When you purchase VE Pro 5, you will get the licenses you need for up to 3 slave machines, but you must also buy the security dongle for each machine, plus a 1 GB ethernet cable to connect them.  You can use screen sharing on your master machine to control the MMS, so you don't need to buy an extra monitor.  It's ALMOST plug and play.  I should add that I had a little trouble setting up the new ethernet "network" with the machine, and am still not entirely sure I have done it correctly, but everything seems to be working.  I may ask for some help on this forum, just to be sure.  Now, in Logic, I am showing CPU demand of about 5 - 15%, and even less on the new MMS on projects that were near the limit of my single iMac 2.8 Dual Intel machine (which is where I have Logic).  The system is just loafing along now.

    Steve


  • Thanks Sean!

    My goodness this is daunting. Some follow up questions:

    1. How do you know if an SSD has an intel component in it?
    2. What about the Angelbird products?
    3. How do you know if your board has Sata II ports? What is a SATA II port anyway?
    4. Do I need a PCI card for an SSD, I'm assuming yes, right? If so, which one(s) do people get.
    5. How do you find the normal (or better) speeds for a given price range? Just reasearch?
    6. How did you get VE (free version)? That sounds like it'd be perfect for my 64/32 Bit issues.

    Again, you rule.

    DS


  • Thanks so much Steve-

    I was wondering about this option as well.

    1. What is the benefit of using a MMS instead of an SDD drive (it seems like the more expensive route)? Is it that the mac mini already has the SSD drive in it, or am I wrong about that?
    2. Does the MMS let you run other instruments on it?
    3. Also, does VE (free version) give you a lisence to use the MMS as a slave or do you have to pay for VE Pro5?
    Thank you so much!
    ds.

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    @Another User said:

    How did you get VE (free version)? That sounds like it'd be perfect for my 64/32 Bit issues.

    YES, it is!!! I can't stress how happy I am with it! Once you've purchased any libraries at all, it's in your "user area".


    Another thing I didn't consider with pricing, etc. What country are you in? I guess that can also play a big role in prices.


    -Sean


  • USA (NYC).

    So far the best VSL prices I have found are at B & H, but I'm hoping there's a sale sometime soon! :)

    Thx Sean.

    d.

    PS. Wish I had the chops to build me own machine.


  • d --

    The MMS is a complete Mac computer with Lion pre-loaded, except it has no keyboard, mouse, or display, no slots for cards the way a desktop would, and is limited to two internal drives.  You use the keyboard, mouse and display of your master computer to control it, so you've got that covered.  You can hook up additional drives or shift some of your current Mac drives over to it.  You can certainly run other instruments on it, including Non-VSL instruments with VE Pro.  I run Play, Kontakt 4.2.4 AND VI Pro on it with no problem.  VE Pro is a terrific program.  Having said that, I AM having some issues with configuration of the non-multi-timbral/External instrument set up that is described in the "User Area-Needful Things" portion of the VSL website.  I AM expecting that VSL will be suggesting a way to make it work.

    I don't know about VE, as opposed to VE Pro,  and the ability to use slave computers.  Send an email to VSL support, and they will tell you, or you can check the VE Manual, which I think you can download from the website for free.  You can put up to TWO 6 GB transfer rate SSD drives into the MMS machine (swapping out the hard drives that come with it and sticking them in an external case).  A company called OWC offers the kits, as well as the 16 GB memory chips for the MMS.  I have read that there may be a general problem with SSD drives -- a little like re-writable CDs, it has been suggested that they can take only so many rewrites of their memories.  So aside from their expense for storage purposes, I am waiting to see how that comes out.

    There are others on this website that can give you a better idea about how much memory you need, even for very large projects.  I have to believe that a total of about 24 GB is plenty, so that once the samples are LOADED into memory, it doesn't matter how fast the DRIVE is, at least for VSL libraries.  The constraint then is processor and motherboard buss speed.  Where sample players save memory by loading samples from a drive on an as needed basis to save memory, then drive speed does become an issue.

    The benefit of the MMS with a multi-core processor is the speed that comes with multi-core processing.  There is a comparison of Intel chips with multi-core chips on the web somewhere, and, other things being equal, the multi-core chips are faster even than chips with fewer cores but faster clock speeds.  The other benefit of MMS as opposed to SSD, is storage, because you can add external drives to the MMS, including the new Thunderbolt interface.  Perhaps we will soon be able to buy SSD drives and install them as external drives, but using a Thunderbolt interface.  Take a look at that logicprohelp website, as there is quite a bit of discussion of using the MMS there.  Finally, it's only $1,100, compared to several thousand for a Mac Pro properly tricked out, and a few thousand for a decent PC.  You could build your own or use AMD machines as a slave machine.  The AMD machines look like they offer very good value, but I don't have the computer skill to build one.

    Steve


  • Dsilver,

    I need to make a correction from my previous comment. Regarding the Angelbird SSD's, I didn't even notice the bit in the VSL newsletter! How I missed that one I don't know. The discount is something I didn't consider before. Technically the cheaper faster point still applies, but the expandability of the slot is a nice feature that still makes this a comparible decision. So I guess I wouldn't dismiss them so fast afterall. I'm still not sure which I'd personally choose, but still. I had to correct my previous comment.

    -Sean


  • Thanks so much guys. I'm off to do more research. If anyone else has any other thoughts I'd be most appreciative.

    I've posted in the LogicProHelp Forum as well  (http://www.logicprohelp.com/viewtopic.php?p=407819#407819) so hopefully people will chime in there as well. One thing I have noticed over there is that people, while excited about SSD, are much more heistant to embrace the new technology. We shall see...

    thx!

    ds


  • So after researching this even further, my head is spinning even more.[:^)]

    As Steve pointed out, a lot of people are advocating getting a MMS and VEP5 (if not now, then down the road when need demands it). They point to the stability of such a master/slave setup, the power, the ability to handle 32BIt plugs and to the unknown "long term" reliability of SSDs at this time (apparently many have reported drops in performance over time due to the "free block" issue, even with TRIM).

    THE MMS is a tempting solution, but at $1100 or so (and that's not inluding VEP5) it's hard to know if it makes the most sense.

    I can upgrade the RAM on my MacPro to 32 GB for $260 at OWC which may be the logical place to start (especially if I ever get MIR).

    • But is this the best place to spend my money?
    • Will the 32 GB really boost performance enough to make the system work now?  If not, I should be ear marking that money to an MMS and VEP5.

    So many questions/ options, never enough money  and VSL still hasn't announced a holiday sale[:)]. 


  • The SSD thing isn't as much a problem as you'd think. It's mainly with frequent writes, like MANY frequent writes (even many for standard computer uses). Libraries are a one time thing mostly, maybe a few times. So if I remember right this won't be an issue. Another thing to consider, is that you only get the 10x ram boost with an SSD. If you buy several dvd collections, they most certainly will NOT fit on a 120GB drive. The full library takes up 750GB or so (again, if my memory serves me).

    The 10x point isn't a on/off switch with SSD's. It's simply a preload setting for your storage. 16k is the default without SSD's. You can choose from that, 32, 8, 4, 3, 2, and 1. I'm sure that 1 is the 10x SSD option they speak of. BUT, I still got good results with 8 with a fast physical disk. The point is, that if you go with the 32GB of ram now... you would be able to load MIR fine, samples fine, and so on. This would give you what you essentially need. Then the faster the drive you get or the more ram you get... over time... would then increase your capacity to load more library at once. All these problems would go away if that lousy 1TB SSD would just come down in price!!! lol But SSD is not a requirement to load your library. I know you know this, but I just don't want to sound like I push that mentality. The 32GB would work just fine now. It could even be a better option for you. It just depends on what your long term picture is with hardware, and so on. If they come out with a new Mac with DDR4 ram, a 64 core intel, and who knows what... maybe the SSD route is better. Yes, I may have made your decision seem more complicated. BUT ultimately you'll know better than anyone what out of these would appeal to you and your typical computer purchasing decisions the most.

    This is me ducking for cover and running away after possibly making your decision worse. lol

    -Sean


  • Thnaks Sean!

    I think I'll just go ahead and buy the 32GB of RAma nd see how everything works.

    Long term, I imagine I'll get a MMS and hopefully fill it up with SSD.

    Really appreciate all of your help and advice.

    Now if you could just tell me when there is going to be a sale at VSL![:D]

    ds


  • I don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, but... interesting that the discussion focussed on Ram and SSD drives, but not on getting a newer mac. The implication is kinda good for me, second hand mac pros from a couple of years ago are pretty good prices now and I have been thinking about getting one. So is it the correct takeout of the discussion that it would be good value buying (for VSL usage) to get a slightly older machine with lots of ram and possibly an SSD rather than trying to get the latest processors etc of the current machines? Cheers, Rangi.

  • As from today, we are all experimenting VEP 5 and MIR PRO, it is hard to do recomendation, you better wait a few more days /weeks to find out what system you need to run MIR 

    With my Macpro 12 core(see after)  if I put some on my orchestra on "event input' and the rest on IAC it is playing OK, If I put the whole orchestra using "event input" I have hanging and missing notes on big tuttis or/and very fast parts

    VSL is working on that

    Best

    Cyril


    MacBook Pro M3 MAX 128 GB 8TB - 2 x 48" - 1 x 27" screen --- Logic Pro --- Mir Pro 3D Dolby Atmos --- Most of the VI libs, a few Synch... libs --- Quite a few Kontakt libs --- CS80 fanatic
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    @Rangi said:

    I don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, but... interesting that the discussion focussed on Ram and SSD drives, but not on getting a newer mac. The implication is kinda good for me, second hand mac pros from a couple of years ago are pretty good prices now and I have been thinking about getting one. So is it the correct takeout of the discussion that it would be good value buying (for VSL usage) to get a slightly older machine with lots of ram and possibly an SSD rather than trying to get the latest processors etc of the current machines? Cheers, Rangi.

    I'd take a look at the forums at logicprohelp.com. There are a lot of  people slaving macs with very impressive results. Someone there might be able to answer your question.


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    @dsilvercoin said:

    I'd take a look at the forums at logicprohelp.com. There are a lot of  people slaving macs with very impressive results. Someone there might be able to answer your question.

    Is it possible to have MIR Pro in a configuration with a MAC and slave(s) MAC or PC ? I thought it was not possible 

    As I explain in my previous mail, there are problems to be solved and VSL is working on them. Those problems occurs with my MAC loaded at only 45/50 %


    MacBook Pro M3 MAX 128 GB 8TB - 2 x 48" - 1 x 27" screen --- Logic Pro --- Mir Pro 3D Dolby Atmos --- Most of the VI libs, a few Synch... libs --- Quite a few Kontakt libs --- CS80 fanatic