I read an anandtech review of AMD's 8 core Vishera CPUs (sorry could not find the exact review) a little while ago which benchmarked them against intel's CPUs of similar power\cost. According to Anandtech Intel beat the pants off AMD in just about everything accept HEAVILY multi-threaded applications. The one they tested in the review was a video editing program (handbrake maybe?).

My question is this, if I'm building a CPU for a home studio and plan to use a program like pro tools or cubase would AMD's 8 core CPUs have an advantage over intel? Do these programs also benefit more from multiple cores more than just raw speed? To give you a specific CPU model: AMD FX-8350 Black Edition, but really any one of there 8 core CPUs that aren't 220W (cause a 220W desktop CPU is... stupid).

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Each channel in your DAW is limited to a single thread for all signal processing that occurs on that channel. This is because splitting the channels threads would introduce latency in playback. More than one channel can share a thread. So multi-threading is a bit of a lark. If your running a lot of channels, threads can be beneficial because your pool of available space is greater. The caveat here though is that if your CPU processing ability can't keep up with a channels needs it can't shift those needs to two threads.

So while a particular CPU may have better multi-threading capabilities, from a practical stand point it doesn't expand your capabilities unless the CPU is able to keep up with the demands of each channel. Having 8 threads isn't beneficial if your maxing out its capabilities with one or two plugins.

If you run a lot of VST, DSP, etc on a channel more CPU power is essential.

If you run a lot of channels with audio playback but not a lot of processing more threads might be beneficial.

  • Ah thanks for clearing that up. I would likely be leaning more toward less channels with more VST kinda stuff so I guess I have my answer. Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 16:17
  • To clarify: VST and similar protocols have effects work by processing buffers, that is chunks of e.g. 128 samples. Which means, before a subsequent plugin can access such a part of the signal, all previous ones need to finish with their buffer. But as you say, it is still possible to run plugins on the same track concurrently – you just need to add one buffer of extra latency to compensate for each thread, so basically the first plugin operates on "future data". I'm not sure to which degree common DAWs implement this, but it's certainly possible. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 19:57
  • Also, many plugins are now multithreaded by themselves, so even with one track and one plugin you gain performance from multicore CPU. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 20:01

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