This article provides general advice and practical methods to estimate the performance of hardware components of a computer system (CPU, RAM, etc.) before purchasing it for its use with Native Instruments products. Additionally you can consult our hardware components guide for detailed information on each hardware system component. If you have already purchased a system and are experiencing audio performance problems (audio cracklings, distorsions, etc.) please read our corresponding system tuning guides for Windows or OS X for practical advice.
This article is divided into the following chapters:
- System Requirements: Outlines the general concepts behind hardware requirements and how they affect the audio performance on a computer system.
- Benchmark Tool: Introduces and explains the use of the Passmark Software tool in order to estimate the performance of a given hardware component.
1. System Requirements
Native Instruments conducts systematic tests in order to determine the minimum system specifications that support the use of our products. You will find our official minimum system requirements under System Requirements in the SPECIFICATIONS subpage of the corresponding Native Instruments product. These specifications may differ from product to product. Moreover, the specifications of a given system component as stated in the corresponding product page may increase depending on the manner in which you operate a NI product.
Example: The system requirements for MASCHINE used in standalone mode with only one Group with three samples (e.g. kick, hat and snare) are much lower than the requirements demanded by MASCHINE with a large number of Groups and many different instruments. For this reason, please consider increasing the requirements of the system components (e.g. higher CPU speed / larger amount of cores, more RAM memory, etc.) to meet your own usecase.
Important Note: If at least one of the components of your system does not meet the minimum requirements, we cannot offer support for this product.
The overall performance of a system depends on several factors conditioned by both hardware components and system settings. Below we have listed some examples of hardware-related issues which affect the real-time audio performance of the system:
- Peripheral components of a system such as graphic cards, network adapters or USB controllers demanding processor resources.
- Operating several USB devices (soundcards / hard drives / controllers) via a single port simultaneously.
- Unstable AC power supply or battery power supply.
- Overheating of the computer's hardware components.
In addition, the performance of the core system components (CPU / RAM) cannot be taken in isolation if the performance of other peripheral components is significantly lower. When a single system component performs significantly lower than the rest of the system, the efficient processing of real-time audio data is compromised - Put in another words, the overall performance of a system is determined (and hindered) by its lowest-performing component.
Example: If the bus speed of a computer's motherboard is significantly lower than the speed demanded for an effective communication with the RAM modules or CPU, the RAM memory or CPU will not be able to attain the speed and performance indicated by their own specifications - this is also referred to as a 'system bottleneck'.
For this reason we recommend to take every system component into account, not just the core components that make up the minimum requirements. This article provides a description of suitable specifications for every relevant hardware component.
2. Benchmark Tool
The Passmark Software website is a reliable source of reference to estimate the expected performance of specific hardware components. Here you can research several aspects of individual components. The Benchmark system ranks individual components and furthermore lets you compare specific models in their absolute ranking or compare two models against one another. Below we provide an example for the hardware component CPU (Central Processing Unit).
Note: We recommend to compare your Benchmark findings against the individual components listed under System Requirements in the SPECIFICATIONS subpage of the Native Instruments product in question as well as against the recommendations provided in our hardware components guide to ensure that your system components are officially supported and in compliance with the performance demanded by your own usecase.
- Go to the Passmark Software website. The default tab is CPU Benchmarks.
- Scroll the page down and click on Search for your CPU Model.
- In the Find CPU field, type the name of the model in question. In our example, it is Intel Core i5 520@ 2.4 GHz. Note that the autocomplete function will assist you in finding the correct entry. Select the entry and click on Find CPU to confirm.
- Now the page will lead you to the entry for the corresponding model. Click on the model name Intel Core i5 520 @ 2.40 GHz to jump to the comparison chart.
Note: You may click on Compare if you wish to compare this model against another one.
- You will now see the CPU model highlighted in its ranking position. The higher the 'Passmark CPU' value (2,244 for our example), the better the performance of the processor model in question.
We strongly recommend to choose only models that are listed in either the High End or the High to Mid Range CPU chart, as lower performant CPUs may not be sufficient to operate your NI products in their full potential. You can review every model that falls into these categories by consulting both charts from the start page http://www.cpubenchmark.net/.
As you can see in the top of the Passmark Software website, the search is not limited to CPU. You may also conduct a similar search for the components Video Card, Hard Drive and RAM.
Please note that the information provided in the Passmark Software website is not an absolute measurement. We recommend to compare the information provided in this article with your findings on the Passmark website and additionally seek professional advice from your system provider.