Hardware upgrade choices

I currently have an AMD socket A3 motherboard with 2 core 3.3GHz Athlon. There’s an entry-level Nvidia graphics card (8 or 16 cores, I forget which) The performance is satisfactory for Ardour, but I’d like to increase the CPU availability for numbers of plugins and channels running in a mix.

How significant is graphics processing in Ardour’s overall CPU time budget? I’m trying to get a feel for whether I should simply go for the biggest CPU cores x speed product I can afford, or whether getting a higher performance graphics card would be useful.

I see recent threads discussing slow graphics performance in some Ardour setups.

The AMD A series chips with built in graphics look like good value for what I need. Has anyone had good or bad experiences with them on Ardour?

i would be fairly certain that you won’t be able to get any useful information about this. what works well depends upon the entire system - there are many chipsets on the motherboard that could impact realtime, low latency audio use. manufacturers change these at will, and without warning. even the same product name can feature different chipsets over a relatively short period of time.

in general, the graphics card will make very little difference because ardour is entirely 2D and GPU “performance” these days is all about 3D. that said, it seems likely that some graphics card work better than others, but we do not know why or precisely which ones.

ardour is entirely 2D and GPU "performance" these days is all about 3D
Thank you - that's a very useful data point, and confirms my suspicion that high end graphics are mostly for playing games.

As far as new motherboards and CPUs are concerned, then, it looks like a complete lottery :-/
Further online research suggests that the AMD FX 6300 is good CPU speed value for money and not too power-greedy or expensive so maybe I’ll try that first.

When purchasing CPUs, I always check out cpubenchmark.net which is a massive database of CPU performance benchmarks. This gives you a good overall idea of how a CPU performs in relation to another, and even gives some price comparisons if available. I always use this to determine the best price per value for a CPU or graphics chip.

I always caution people to be very careful about buying the latest motherboards available for use with Linux, remember that hardware support is in the kernel and quite often there is a lag in the availability of source code for chipset drivers and of course even the possibility that some drivers may have to be reverse engineered. Even in the best case scenario new technologies (ie USB-3) may take a year or more to get fully functional and reliable drivers due to Kernel devs having to rely on user bug reporting and bug reports cannot possibly be available and accurate for every new motherboard. While it’s true that CPU support itself is rarely an issue there are hundreds of other chipsets on motherboards requiring drivers that can put a fly in the ointment very quickly.

Every distribution will radically differ as well, some will build and provide kernels with cutting edge ‘staging drivers’ which may indeed support some newfangled cutting edge chipset and yet create an unstable kernel for general use, other distros will be more conservative and may not have new drivers at all. I’ve seen many people on my forum that have had a perfectly functioning workstation environment, then go out and but a brand new mobo with all the bells and whistles and suddenly have borked USB, Audio Card or Video Card support. My advice save frustration and money and buy last years technology for use with Linux…

Just my $.02

@Gmaq: Good point. This is going to be a Gigabyte GA-970A-DS3 whose earliest BIOS code revision is January 2012 so the board design is at least that old - in fact it may need an update to latest BIOS version to support the CPU I am intending to use. So I am in with half a chance. The hardware arrives in 2-3 hours time so we’ll soon know…

But yes, anything could change…

Perhaps the AV “Fully supported hardware” list of sound interfaces should be complemented by a list of known motherboard/CPU/Kernel version/(whatever) combinations.

All installed and working now, including replacing the boot drive with an SSD, half of it for Windows and the other for my Linux root partition.

AV Linux wasn’t too happy to start with (e.g. cpufreq control didn’t work), so I went back to the old motherboard, downloaded the latest AV Linux kernel build 3.6.6-rt17-avl-10-pae, then created an install DVD using remastersys, switched m/board and connected the SSD, installed from the DVD, edited /etc/fstab to put my /home partition back (it’s on a separate HD) rebooted and everything worked perfectly. It’s the first time I’ve used the Remastersys software for transferring an installation effectively to a new machine and it’s absolutely wonderful.

Reinstalling the Windows system got off to bad start because almost nothing worked, until I took out the M-Audio Delta 1010 PCI card, then it was fine except that with Windows everything had to be installed and reconfigured - just time consuming. And yes, I’ve put the Delta 1010 card back after installing the Windows driver (like TFM says you must) and that’s OK now.

So now I can look forward to Ardour 3 making good use of 6 CPU cores :slight_smile:

PS Gmaq was right about new H/W - but a kernel upgrade was enough to put that straight.

Just a quick comment anahata, about cpufreq, make sure you disable it when working with Ardour.

Set to performance mode, which (I think) disables all speed switching.