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Old 04-25-2013, 10:19 PM   #1
flexiblemile
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Why don't they put RAM in audio interfaces?

The other day I was explaining to someone why they put RAM in video cards and it struck me that they could use pretty much the same approach in higher end audio interfaces (or even in lower ones)

We don't always have the money to get a super high end PC but more often than not, people will put a decent chunk of change in a relatively decent audio interface.

I know that RAM is less important for audio than video but there are still some people out there with bargain bin computers and they would really benefit from this

Maybe there's something I'm not understanding but it seems that putting even 1G of ram in a sound card would be super helpful to people with low end PCs or laptops.

So yeah, what am I misunderstanding here?
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Old 04-25-2013, 10:33 PM   #2
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What you're missing is the transfer rate of a USB port (or Firewire port). USB2.0 (which is just starting to become common in interfaces) has a maximum transfer rate of 480MB/s and if you've ever used a flash drive, you'll know that realistically you'll get about 30MB/s. A decent hard drive should get about 100MB/s, which means that it is faster to use the hard drive as virtual memory than it is to use some form of USB memory.
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Old 04-25-2013, 10:36 PM   #3
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Easy. The connection between the interface and the CPU is hella slower than the CPU and the on-board system RAM. The CPU has a whole instruction set just for using system RAM directly. To use external USB devices like an interface, on the other hand, it has to rely on slower software, namely the BIOS and USB drivers. There are more layers between the CPU and interface anyway; the USB driver has its own chip (or even card) on the motherboard, and yeah it would just generally be a pain in the ass and wouldn't be worth it performance-wise. Plus, like chatterbox272 said, there's a bottleneck in the connection itself.

Now, in most cases, interfaces do have their own processor, which can handle basic audio-related tasks instead of the CPU. It has its own RAM that's separate from the system RAM (this is also how graphics cards work). But it can't handle things like virtual instruments, since they run in the system, and need access to the operating system (which is in the system RAM) and hard disk (which needs drivers, which are in the system RAM). And those are what takes up the most memory in digital audio.

Last edited by Cavalcade : 04-25-2013 at 10:39 PM.
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Old 04-25-2013, 10:47 PM   #4
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Hum, all of this makes sense. Could this become more feasible when USB3 becomes more generalized?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavalcade
Now, in most cases, interfaces do have their own processor, which can handle basic audio-related tasks instead of the CPU. It has its own RAM that's separate from the system RAM


Could you show me an example of this? I never saw processor speed or ram mentionned in interface descriptions
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Old 04-25-2013, 10:49 PM   #5
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They do, its called DSP and Pro Tools HD, Metric Halo and UAD systems utilize it to run plugins.
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Old 04-25-2013, 10:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MatrixClaw
They do, its called DSP and Pro Tools HD, Metric Halo and UAD systems utilize it to run plugins.



copied from wikipedia:

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Digital signal processing (DSP) is the mathematical manipulation of an information signal to modify or improve it in some way. It is characterized by the representation of discrete time, discrete frequency, or other discrete domain signals by a sequence of numbers or symbols and the processing of these signals. Digital signal processing and analog signal processing are subfields of signal processing. DSP includes subfields like: audio and speech signal processing, sonar and radar signal processing, sensor array processing, spectral estimation, statistical signal processing, digital image processing, signal processing for communications, control of systems, biomedical signal processing, seismic data processing, etc.


I hope I don't sound sarcastic, but how is this anything like RAM?
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Old 04-25-2013, 10:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flexiblemile
copied from wikipedia:



I hope I don't sound sarcastic, but how is this anything like RAM?

Well, what do you use RAM for in digital audio?
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Old 04-25-2013, 11:02 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flexiblemile
copied from wikipedia:



I hope I don't sound sarcastic, but how is this anything like RAM?

You're misunderstanding him.

DSP itself refers to the act of carrying out 'processing' on 'digital signals', but Matrix is talking about DSP chips which act as a form of external processing power (or RAM) to take some of the heat off the computer.

The problem with what you're suggesting is that it would increase the cost of audio interfaces and there isn't really a need for it for most people - Pro Tools HD has had to adapt and include native versions now, because computer technology is evolving far faster than Avid would be able to convince users to keep upgrading to new versions of their hardware to continue running Pro Tools HD.

Basically, it is far easier to put the onus on the consumer to upgrade their PC/get a new one to keep up with technology and have a machine of a high enough spec. to carry out audio production at the desired level. This works well because most off-the-shelf PC's of today are more than capable of hobby/bedroom-level audio production, and most people have a fairly recent (last few years) computer at home, or can get one for relatively cheap.

Audio technology is driven as much by innovation and necessity as it is by marketability.
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Old 04-25-2013, 11:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavalcade
Well, what do you use RAM for in digital audio?



well I figured it was to load VSTs, plugins, the audio files themselves etc... I would have figured that the manipulation and processing of the sound would have gone to the processor instead?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DisarmGoliath
You're misunderstanding him.

DSP itself refers to the act of carrying out 'processing' on 'digital signals', but Matrix is talking about DSP chips which act as a form of external processing power (or RAM) to take some of the heat off the computer.



gotcha!


I understand what you're saying and it makes sense to keep it that way. I suppose if you're going to start packaging things into your audio interface, you'd just be transforming it into a multitrack recorder

Last edited by flexiblemile : 04-25-2013 at 11:08 PM.
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Old 04-26-2013, 02:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flexiblemile
well I figured it was to load VSTs, plugins, the audio files themselves etc... I would have figured that the manipulation and processing of the sound would have gone to the processor instead?



gotcha!


I understand what you're saying and it makes sense to keep it that way. I suppose if you're going to start packaging things into your audio interface, you'd just be transforming it into a multitrack recorder


You need a lot of ram to do that. In the tracks I write I use up to 6GB of RAM for just the VSTi, and I haven't even attempted to write really big scores.
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Old 04-26-2013, 03:03 AM   #11
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Also another thing to point out is that the added cost wouldn't really be worth it. Even if they did put lets say 1GB of ram in an interface, that would probably push the price up lets say $50 (I actually think it would be more, but $50 will serve my explanation). If I went to my local computer store with $50 I could easily get 4GB of desktop DDR3 RAM.

Also in response to your USB3.0 comment, remember I was talking about using a Hard Drive as RAM, like when your system runs out of memory. RAM is way faster than Hard Drives ever will be. So even if it was somehow cost effective, it would only be beneficial when you run out of RAM anyway, so maybe it'll let you render at 0.6x realtime instead of 0.5x realtime.
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:20 AM   #12
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Now, I may be off on this but wouldn't it be better to have a faster CPU versus more RAM? Outside of Sample Libraries, aren't most plugins more CPU intensive than RAM intensive?
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:26 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockwolf
Now, I may be off on this but wouldn't it be better to have a faster CPU versus more RAM? Outside of Sample Libraries, aren't most plugins more CPU intensive than RAM intensive?


They're both, really.

Getting a faster CPU is a much more complicated task than getting more RAM though.
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:45 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Aralingh
They're both, really.

Getting a faster CPU is a much more complicated task than getting more RAM though.


If you're talking desktop, yeah its way easier. If you're talking Laptop, its a pain in the ass either way (Yes, you can buy Mobile CPUs).

Even looking at my sessions, I'd opt for a more powerful CPU than RAM. With Steven Slate Drums bypassed, on one of my 40 track sessions (Comp + EQ on most plus a few delay & reverb channels) I'm only running 1gb of my 14gb of RAM (Pro Tools 9 which usually takes 1/2 a gig with nothing open) but I'm using about 25% of my CPU (Core i5 3570k) on it. If I had a choice, I'd probably want a faster CPU than RAM.
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:59 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by lockwolf
If you're talking desktop, yeah its way easier. If you're talking Laptop, its a pain in the ass either way (Yes, you can buy Mobile CPUs).

Even looking at my sessions, I'd opt for a more powerful CPU than RAM. With Steven Slate Drums bypassed, on one of my 40 track sessions (Comp + EQ on most plus a few delay & reverb channels) I'm only running 1gb of my 14gb of RAM (Pro Tools 9 which usually takes 1/2 a gig with nothing open) but I'm using about 25% of my CPU (Core i5 3570k) on it. If I had a choice, I'd probably want a faster CPU than RAM.


Depends on what you use.

In writing scores as I do, a single track, if it's a high-end library with a lot of variation and control, can take up to a GB of ram, and that's just one instrument. I do consider CPU to be more important, but you need both really.
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Old 04-26-2013, 11:35 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aralingh
Depends on what you use.

In writing scores as I do, a single track, if it's a high-end library with a lot of variation and control, can take up to a GB of ram, and that's just one instrument. I do consider CPU to be more important, but you need both really.


Oh definitely. If I had Steven Slate Drums active, I'd be running close to 3gb of RAM in my session. I've just found for typical rock/metal sessions that don't have a ton on virtual instruments, my sessions need my CPU more than my RAM.
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Old 04-26-2013, 11:42 AM   #17
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Don't worry, I'm sure the future will bring forth some awesome gear for home recorders.
It's pretty good now, but it can only get better.
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Old 04-26-2013, 04:12 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chatterbox272
Also another thing to point out is that the added cost wouldn't really be worth it. Even if they did put lets say 1GB of ram in an interface, that would probably push the price up lets say $50 (I actually think it would be more, but $50 will serve my explanation). If I went to my local computer store with $50 I could easily get 8GB of desktop DDR3 RAM.

Fixed

Seriously though, Pro Tools HD was the first to really do something like this effectively, but as computers have become more powerful, they've had to adapt and release HD Native. Taking the load off the computer doesn't hold as much merit anymore with as cheap, and powerful, as computers have become. I built my current PC for a little over $800 and it's got the top of the line Z77 Intel Core i7 with 32 GB of RAM, an nVidia GTX 660 Ti, a 120 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD. Complete overkill for most audio applications, and more than enough to mix 100+ tracks, with plenty of plugins. The cost of a basic Pro Tools HDX system? $11,000.
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Old 04-26-2013, 09:26 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by MatrixClaw
Fixed

Not down here I'm afraid. Even at MSY (the closest we get to fair international pricing, but at the cost of they never honor warranty) I can't get 8GB below $60
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Old 04-26-2013, 09:41 PM   #20
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Not down here I'm afraid. Even at MSY (the closest we get to fair international pricing, but at the cost of they never honor warranty) I can't get 8GB below $60

Lame

I bought 8 GB of Corsair Vengeance for like $52 the other day. Put it in my old computer and then sold it for like $150 more than I paid for all the parts and software, like a boss.
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