I can't even begin to understand why you would move back in time to hardware when software synths have been the most liberating invention since man started tapping rythms on a tree.
Everything uses CPU... it's up to you to configure your system so that it runs what you want. That is the beauty of it. Need more juice? Upgrade, multiply, network. There are hardly any limits, as opposed to a hardware card.
I have to disagree with Marty. I see huge potential value in this, and have done for a long time. A number of apps in the NI product line stand out as some of the few applications I use that actually push the limits of what is currently available in computing CPU terms, both in the Mac and PC camps. If one runs a software-heavy music production environment that makes heavy use of NI products, it is inevitable that the limits of the system are reached before the limits of one's imagination. I experience this on a near-constant level.
Simple networking of machines is at best a clumsy fix, and at worst impossible, depending on the host platform you use. It's also much less cost effective to buy a second compter purely to act as a "CPU extender" for these apps. Exactly what do you mean when you say "network" as an alternative to a plugin DSP card? I'm not sure how you're working or on what system, but I can only think you are referring to such things as Logic Node and FXTeleport. How is that more elegant than having a dedicated PCI-E card in 1 machine that is custom built to run the plugins you use on a daily basis? It's hardly a return to hardware based solutions like you are saying, certainly no more so than daisy chaining up computers in order to accomplish the same task.
I work with NI instruments on both a dualcore Mac and a dualcore, overclocked AMD 4800+, and I regularly run out of computing headroom during projects.
Speaking personally, I would happily invest in a PCI-E based DSP card that would allow me to offload the processing overhead of NI plugins onto it, freeing up my machine to deal with the rest of my sequencing software and the other plugins I use.
It could even be designed so that DSP-based processing is optional rather than required.
Really, I would welcome this product with open arms were it to ever be released.
I totally appreciate you reaching the limits of your hardware. No I have not reached any limits myself but then I am not a professional. However imagination has no limits - I hope - so there is always going to be a barrier whether you use dedicated hardware or not. Dualcores these days are not so exotic anymore, however it has to be said that anything bigger still is, and is unreasonably priced. I hope the focus will instead be on the currently "inelegant" networking solutions because that's where things really become scalable.
Anyway, I posted here before I spotted this thread where the issue has been discussed in more length.
I did the same thing Marty. I didn't realise it was a double post until some further trawling through the site showed that to be the case.
I personally would treat an NI DSP card as an extender for a one computer environment, with bespoke DSP and code maximised to run on those DSPs - I suppose thinking along the lines of the Powercore/UAD processors.
The other important advantage a DSP card would bring to me is silence. I really want to work in a single computer environment - more computers invariably mean more noise (and I've gone to lengths to keep computer noise to a minimum, short of housing them outside of my working environment). So, as much as I like the idea of scalable architectures and distributed processing, I think that in some cases a nice,, silent, passively cooled card with DSP custom tailored to the job it is designed to do would be preferable to running boxes of fans containing multipurpose processors. Having said that, I see some potential down the line for distributed processing, and other newer techs such as cell processing.
I guess a lot of this lies in the hands of the programmers, and until we see software and operating systems that truly address multiprocessing beyond current dual and quad configurations (heck, even Logic isn't addressing the 4 cores of a quad Powermac or MacPro from what I can gather), a lot of this stuff will remain fairly academic.
(heck, even Logic isn't addressing the 4 cores of a quad Powermac or MacPro from what I can gather), a lot of this stuff will remain fairly academic.
sorry, but then you have heard something wrong. Of course you will never have 4 times the power on a quad computer, but logic uses all quad cores on Mac Pro and on the Quad PPC. Cubase, Digital Performer and Live also use all cores.
The PowerCore and the UAD do not need any active cooling because they are pretty underpowered. For the first PowerCore TC stated that one DSP has about the power of a G4 500 MHz - so the second generation of a G4 750MHz (as is has 50% more power). All these DSP solutions loose when it comes to memory intensive stuff.
Every current Mac is ways faster than a PowerCore card.
SO if you use a DSP (which means a specialized processor) NI would need to recode/redevelop everything - would take years. As you cannot play the stuff in real time anymore (remember, all these DSP solution introduce quite heavy latency), as it is not code compatible with the native CPU you could not share, etc. Samplers would be out of reach anyways - or you would need lots amount of RAM, a traditional CPU to handle those amounts of RAM and a hard disk interface on the card.
If you use all purpose CPUs - well, then you have the cooling problem - it would add nothing in general to current multi-core solutions.
"sorry, but then you have heard something wrong. Of course you will never have 4 times the power on a quad computer, but logic uses all quad cores on Mac Pro and on the Quad PPC. Cubase, Digital Performer and Live also use all cores."
That was an error on my part originally. I had meant to say "up to version 7.2", before which I believe quad support was still shaky at best. My mistake. I'm also aware that, as one starts to add cores to a system, the law of diminishing returns comes into effect. So I wouldn't expect a quad machine to be twice as powerful as its dualcore counterpart.
As for the rest of your post, you make some excellent points regarding to the comparative power of DSP cards.
However, I think something needs to be done to address the heavy demands some of this software places on a machine in a prodcution environment. For me, part of the attraction of software is that I can save absolutely everything inside a project - all the sounds, synth settings, automation etc. Some of the current workarounds to the bottlenecks in processing power strip all of this convenience away. for example, if I were to run a standalone machine for hosting NI synths outside of my sequencing box, my current choices are to either MIDI the two together, whereby I lose all the advantages of having host based automation govern the behaviour of the plugins, or I go down the Logic Node route (or a similar technology). Having not tried Node yet (I don't have 2 Macs), I'm only speculating here, but on paper this really doesn't appear to be efficient. On the latest motherboards, the CPU is talking to the RAM across a bus that has a bandwidth of at least 6gb/sec. On the newest MacPro's and on machines using similar memory bus technologies, we're looking at much more than that. Under Node, the satellite machine is talking to the host along a Gigabit ethernet connection, which is going to be (in theory) at least 6 times slower than communitcating with an onbaord processing module. If this is the case, I'm struggling to see how much of a benefit is being gained by adding a secondary machine here.
Maybe you have some information that I don't, or you have some points for me to consider that have not occurred to me, but if distributed processing really is the way to go here, I think there's still an awful lot that needs to be ironed out.
I think the best way is that one that Logic 7 points out (but does not really deliver) - nodes - at least for raw processing power.
For sampling VIs (VSL, etc.) and things like locked sample libraries this will still not work.
On the other hand, I must say, that for my last projects I always used different programs because they all have their strength and weaknesses - this was all on one system though. I gave up the hope that I will do a project in one program and everything is in one file. Maybe it even better not to have that - files could corrupt, program could stop working and so on .
For me it would be much more important that I can manage it all from one desktop.
I think a Native-specific DSP card - or firewire box, like a Focusrite Liquid Mix - would be AMAZING. Imagine your computer's capacity for running Reaktor and Absynth just trebling, with no other change to the machine whatsoever.
I'm gasping for someone to work out how to make a general-purpose audio DSP box - something which just does generic DSP, regardless of whose plug-in it is - but perhaps there's a computer or OS architecture problem with this, because otherwise... wouldn't someone have done it already?
Imagine your computer just getting three times more audio capacity, with no workflow change at all. Wow...
I give the Native Instruments PCI-Express Card a big vote here. Heck, one creatively configured Kore multisound can max out the fastest CPU. WAY better than daisy chaining my MacPro to my MacBook Pro to my G5.....