Mini PC for processing live audio?

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware' started by ezequielb, Mar 3, 2022.

  1. ezequielb

    ezequielb Newbie

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    Okay, so I had a dumb idea, I think, but I want to know if it would work. I was wondering if I could buy or build a mini PC to use as a sort of live VST host and digital mixer, accepting inputs from multiple USB audio devices and probably outputting audio the same way.

    The question is, of course, how bad would the latency be, in general with something like a modern low-to-mid budget NUC or similar? How would I minimize that latency on a Windows host, for example? Would it be better to mount a couple of PCIE sound cards?

    I'd use it more for streaming and recording videos, since I'm no musician/singer. Thus, I could probably correct some latency-related-desync issues on my streaming PC in OBS. Still, I'd like to prevent as much latency as possible, while offloading audio processing from my actual streaming PC, if this is even a good idea at all.

    Any thoughts?
     
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  3. Paul Pi

    Paul Pi Audiosexual

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    For low latency:

    1. A fast, multicore CPU (of course).
    2. A quality USB or Thunderbird audio interface.
    3. An optimised operating system, especially if using windows.
    4. Solid state storage throughout.
    5. Plenty of RAM, depending on how many/large your sample libs are.

    If building a mini PC, then managing internal heat issues will be your other principal concern/headache!
     
  4. lxfsn

    lxfsn Producer

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  5. clone

    clone Audiosexual

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    a Mini setup with an external monitor, kb, and mouse is actually a larger footprint than a Macbook.
    in a more common configuration, the hardware are doing most of the heavy lifting anyway.

    with a Motu AVB interface in front of it, you get all the required connectivity, DSP based effects and live digital mixer, and HTTP web control panel you can access via cabled ethernet or WIFI. And then they just stack them up. You can add wifi via any linksys, netgear router, without doing openWRT or anything additional. The computers are controlling the hardware, reducing the share of the audio cpu work the mini/laptop will be burdened by in such a configuration. They might figure it out at the Apple store when you bring them 3 or 4 burned up Minis in a month the other way, but you are welcome to try it :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2022
  6. ezequielb

    ezequielb Newbie

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    Thanks for all the suggestions! Keep in mind that the audio processing I have in mind is like... RNNoise, an EQ, and maybe a limiter. Maybe another couple of plugins ffrom my work/gaming rig. I record videos about website builders and VPNs and stuff, occasionally do a little streaming before rmember that I suck at it. Nothing over-the-top.

    I do have an (older model) Lenovo Legion 5 laptop I use for a variety of things. Maybe when it's just sitting on my desk with my other machines, though, I could use it for the very light audio processing that I have in mind. Since I use Synergy to share my mouse and keyboard between machines anyway, maybe I could finally get that wall-mounted laptop stand and turn it into my fourth monitor/on-demand audio processor.

    I have been collecting random hardware for a decade... I probably have something I can use.

    The Motu AVB interface is pretty. Expensive for my current budget, but pretty.
     
  7. tzzsmk

    tzzsmk Audiosexual

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    that's a very complex matter you want to achieve, in a way that you can waste lots of money without reaching desired result,

    if you want it primarily for streaming and recording videos, that's the most demanding thing, so I'd base my choice upon that,
    you can get base model M1 MacMini which has powerful dedicated hardware encoder (compatible with OBS) but it has its own hard limits, so as soon as you get into cpu-based rendering/streaming, M1 performance is fairly terrible - same goes with any decent PC where you'd use nVidia graphics dedicated NVENC encoder for video processing - if you'd need better image quality and switch to Intel/AMD cpu-based processing, demands would completely shift,

    speaking of audio, latency will always add up down the chain, AVB, Dante and other solutions are flexible (in a way you can do various multi-device multi-stream multi-direction setups), but network overhead is inevitable, so if you want minimize latency when connecting 2 computers directly together, pure digital-only PCIe-based interface like RME HDSPe AES (without any AD/DA conversion by design) will clearly win in terms of latency (assuming total channel count would suffice),

    offloading audio, using something like AudioGridder or ViennaEnsemblePro server hosts are interesting option, which handles audio transmit over network on its own, but again has its limitations of low latency performance - unless you would need multiple servers to offload very heavy live venue stuff one computer couldn't handle no matter what, I'd say it's better to use powerful reliable computer as direct DAW host,

    in terms of hardware PC spec, live anything is very demanding on performance consistency, so you definitely want:
    a fast CPU which can keep steady frequency in sustained loads (many workstations have BIOS options to enforce I/O workload power scheme, which basically locks CPU frequencies across all cores at max stable clock),
    PCIe NVME SSD(s) for uncompromised IOPS, (to minimize CPU stress present on SATA I/O),
    enough RAM capacity to keep possible everything at disposal without frequent flushes,
    PCIe audio interface to minimize overhead of communication between audio device and CPU processing buffer, eventually Thunderbolt 3/4 interface or PCIe interface in Thunderbolt 3/4 chassis,
    streamlined Windows/MacOS host system without any bloatware or non-mandatory tasks running in the background, without any internet access, no threat of updates, anti-virus/malware checks etc...

    last but not least, I wouldn't underestimate the importance of power delivery to your rig, usually people use laptops not only because they are portable "all-in-one" solution (with keyboard, touchpad, screen..), but also because the internal battery, which can handle sudden electricity shortages and other issues, which may prove tremendously useful - carrying UPS to sustain desktop PC functionality is an option, but heavy to carry around

    :chilling:
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2022
  8. tzzsmk

    tzzsmk Audiosexual

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    interesting concept is use of headless MacMini + iPad:



    technically you don't need to control anything during Live performance if complete session is fully prepared in advance
     
  9. 5teezo

    5teezo Audiosexual

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    Nuc or MacMini is a good choice.

    CPU should be at least Intel Core (no mobile Celeron) and at least Skylake (6th Gen) or newer
     
  10. Hans242

    Hans242 Producer

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    Get the new Mac Mini with M2 coming next week and you’re good to go.
     
  11. recycle

    recycle Guest

    Aside from theoretical discussions, where anything is possible, you should take the reality into consideration: when on tour, all gear has to be assembled and disassembled every night: the possibility that something is wrong is real. when this happens, it is not easy to tell the public "I'm downloading the new drivers, please standby". Furthermore, in a software based performance, where your computer is under stress, there may be a blue screen in the middle of the show: that would be a disaster
    My personal opinion is that you should be very careful when using computers on stage, if you really have to use them then use redundancy: whatever setup you have in mind, have a backup ready. What I mean is to have a main workstation and a similar one ready to go: you will therefore need 2 audio interfaces 2 midi interfaces 2 computers etc. In doing so, you will always have a second option in the event of a catastrophic failure
     
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  12. Lois Lane

    Lois Lane Audiosexual

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    Absofuckinlutely, what can go wrong eventually does from my live experience, everything from bad cables, loss of power, fuses futzing out to shit you never even thought of. Prepare for the worst and be happy you did.

    A full body condom is also an option. Be prepared and be spared.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. recycle

    recycle Guest

    I WANT this suit: where's the "Buy now" button?
     
  14. angie

    angie Producer

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    All the fun disappears though!! :dunno:
     
  15. Lois Lane

    Lois Lane Audiosexual

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    The best that I could do is this stylish number. The face hood is optional. I only hope that it fits in all the right places.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. clone

    clone Audiosexual

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    that is only if you are doing sound reinforcement at one of those new churches they have now. :guru:

    conversely, I have seen people use Panasonic toughbooks in an office environment, and someone wants to take an Mac mini to a live gig because it may fit in a purse better. :bow:
     
  17. Moonlight

    Moonlight Audiosexual

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    why not just get an macbook air instead of a macmini + screen ?
     
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