SFF build with Ryzen 5900x and focus on real-time audio performance

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware' started by shovelh34d, Mar 22, 2021.

  1. shovelh34d

    shovelh34d Noisemaker

    Mar 22, 2021
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    Hello audiosex community!

    I'm looking forward to an SFF build with the goal of having great real-time audio performance and would love to have your advise on my build.
    I have been working with a laptop until now but am not willing to take risks such as overheating and component replaceability anymore.
    I'm going to use this for live performances utilizing quite a bit of kontakt libs and probably around 20-30 tracks, each of them loaded with a couple of plug-ins.
    I'm aware of the fact that there are many many factors involved when it comes to achieving good real-time audio performance ranging from "simpler things" such as good single-core clock
    to more "complex things" like motherboard chipset, distance and amount of PCI lanes to CPU, RAM speeds, etc.
    I have read quite a lot of threads on the forum here to learn about it and am trying to make my choices accordingly.
    There's is no one answer when it comes "best real-time audio performance" and it needs not just smart hard- and software setup
    (an audio interface with good/great drivers (RME comes to mind), a properly set up and stripped down win10, etc.)
    but a well-minded user (e.g. making sure tasks are distributed to all cores by setting up a session in a proper way such as NOT running all FX on one aux send etc.)
    and I am willing to learn everything needed to make best use of my hard- and software setup and setup sessions properly.
    I'm also aware that all decisions are made depending on the budget available which in my case is around 3500€.
    So far I have purchased Case (~230 €), CPU (~650 €) and Power Supply (~150 €).

    My choice of components so far is as follows:

    OS: Win 10 (debloated, stripped down)

    DAWs: Reaper & Ableton Live
    I come from ProTools but apart from not being a "Live Performance DAW" I believe that Reaper offers best performance even though the learning curve might be very steap.
    I'm also looking forward to try Ableton Live as it was build for Live performinces.
    (I have worked with both DAWs before from time to time but not in a Live Performance context)

    Audio-Interface: Presonus Quantum 2626
    The only thunderbolt (3) interface that fits my current budget but I am looking forward to upgrade to a RME Fireface UFX+ once I have saved up more money.
    I'm quite sure that RME interfaces have the best drivers so I have no doubt that updating in the future will improve stability and latency.
    I believe RME's pre-amps will sound better, too, but my main focus is on "low latency" so the quantum pre-amps will have to do (for now).

    CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 3.7 GHz 12-Core Processor

    - best choice for my budget even though it's possibly a bit overkill but I don't mind having a bit of headroom
    - good single-core performance
    - Precision Boost Overdrive 2

    Motherboard: ASRock X570 PHANTOM GAMING-ITX/TB3 Mini ITX AM4 Motherboard

    The only SFF compatible x570 board that I found that has thunderbolt built-in without having to use an extra card
    (which would mean sacrificing additional PCI lanes I guess and possibly create stability issues?)

    Case: NCASE M1 Mini ITX Tower Case (v6.1)
    Ali from OptimumTech recommends this case because of its great airflow and setup capabilities
    and its dimensions (~12L) are the maximum of what I prefer.

    Storage: Samsung 980 Pro 2 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
    - makes use of PCI Gen 4
    - unbeatable read/write speeds
    - one harddrive will be all I need (mainly because of the SFF and therefore potential heat increase that an additional SSD would bring) hence the (pricey) 2TB version

    Power Supply: Corsair SF 750 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully Modular SFX Power Supply
    To be safe I prefer to go with 750W instead of 600W and be open for possible OC and PBO2 as well as updating the GPU in the future to one that might demand more power

    Screen: Viewsonic TD1655 (16") Portable Touch Monitor
    - Seems to be the best option for portability
    - Doesn't have the greatest colors but I don't mind that
    - Touch is a must because it will be with me on stage

    CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12A ?
    Since the system has to be "travel-proof" going with air-cooling instead of water-cooling seems to be the way even though water-cooling provides better thermals (and thermals are quite a thing because of my build being SFF), according to my research.
    I also believe that Noctua offers the best air-cooling at the moment but I'm completely in the dark as to which model to go with.
    Ali from OptimumTech recommends this one as it fits well in the NCase M1 while having great thermal results but I am open to any suggestions,
    especially concerning temperatures and CPU/RAM clearance (which obivously also depends on the choice of motherboard).

    Memory: G.Skill Trident Z Neo 64 GB (2 x 32 GB) DDR4-3600 CL16 Memory
    - Definitely G.Skill because of performance and reliability
    - DDR4-3600 CL16 to have decent low-latency results
    - 64 GB because of kontakt libs, loads of plugins and just general headroom (128GB is out of my budget)
    - Because of SFF I only have two RAM slots available and so getting 32GB now and then updating in the future by adding more is sadly not an option

    GPU: AMD Radeon RX 550/580 8GB ?
    Even though this is a live performance build it would be helpful if I can do some basic video editing with it from time to time (no 4k, no fast rendering time needed).
    I believe NVidia has the uper hand when it comes to video editing and such but I have read a thread here in the forums where someone discusses in-depth
    the problems of the NVidia drivers ("kernel") when it comes to real-time audio performance. So a Radeon it is, but which one I have no idea. :)
    Because of the world-wide situation right now I guess the best I can do is to get a Radeon RX 550/580 8GB or something similar
    until maybe next year the situation calms down a bit and I could go for something faster given that it fits in my case and keeps thermals in a healthy range.

    Fans: ???
    I would love any advice or resources where I can research about which and how many fans make sens with my build. Intake or outtake, number of fans?
    I guess Noctua fans would be my choice here aswell.

    Thermal Paste: ???
    Open for recommendations but I don't think liquid metal is advisable for a "travel-proof" and live-performance build :)

    My concerns are:
    - I have read that ASRock's DPC latency results are worse than ASUS' for example but I just can't seem to find a mini ITX motherboard that comes with onboard thunderbolt headers and supports PCI Gen4. I am open for any suggestions on a different motherboard.
    - I have watched OptimumTech's videos on VRM results of some boards that he tested and ASRock was not the winner but again I cannot find any other mini ITX board with onboard TB.
    - I haven't fully understood the "direct PCI lanes to CPU" thing yet and would be happy if someone could shed the light on that, meaning does that make a noticeable impact in terms of latency. Furthermore is there any conflict with my current choice of components regarding the number of PCI lanes needed/available?

    CPU Cooler:
    - Which CPU Cooler to choose so that RAM/CPU/Motherboard clearance will work out? I could go through the manuals to see if clearance will work out with the components I have chosen so far but am looking forward to hear your opinions/suggestions on good combinations of CPU Cooler / Motherboard / RAM :)

    The following PC Part Picker "Potential Issues / Incompatibilities"-Note concerns me and makes me doubt my choice of RAM slightly:

    Thanks for reading through my extremely long post!
    I am looking forward to your suggestions/opinions/advice/feedback and am very grateful if you take the time to do so.
    Please correct me where ever I'm wrong so I can grow and learn.

    Warm wishes,
    shovelh34d <3
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2021
  3. taskforce

    taskforce Audiosexual

    Jan 27, 2016
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    Studio 54
    Hello and welcome to the forum.
    Lemme just say, tinkering with computer parts was my hobby in the far past, the past 20+ years though, building custom comps has become a second job for me. So without any further delay:
    Err yes but shouldn't really. The deciding factor should be the use case. The type of workload which implies the correct hardware for the job that fits your budget rather than the budget alone. That is managing your budget correctly, rather than spending it all just because you can. So far you 've already spent money in a beast cpu which wasn't necessary and a 750W 80+ Platinum psu which is also overkill for the job it's aimed to do. A 600W 80+Gold would be great. Even a 550W one since you are not going for any high end GPU. Unless you plan to expand this system in the future with more ssds and use it as your main comp, it is overkill.
    Why oh why. The workload you described could be handled easily by a Ryzen 7 5800X and there would still be enough horsepower left. The 5800X is around 400-440 euros so you could save some money here which could be spent elsewhere. Also there's the issue of cooling, but more on that when i get to the cooler part. Btw, even a 3700X would be adequate. In one of my tests i ran 64 audio ch. @ 24bit/44.1khz, 128 Waves plugs and 32 Kontakt instruments on a 3700X sitting nicely at ~70-75%. Mobo was a Gigabyte Aorus x570 Master with 64gb ram (2x32 @ 3000mhz).
    Tbh, if i was you, i 'd go for the Ryzen Pro 4750G for this job. It is the equivalent of a 3700X with on board graphics minus the pci-e 4 support which for your use case is more "show" than "tell", you will never see 7gb/sec with just a single 980 Pro, unless you run some benchmark. A slightly redeeming factor in your choice of the 980 Pro is the 22k IOPS in Random 4k Read/QD1, which is hard to top (and Kontakt mainly favors QD1). But any pci-e gen.3 top tier ssd will do the job just fine too. 20-30 audio ch. @ 24bit, 40-60 fx plugs and -let's say- 16(?) Kontakt instruments should force a workload of about 3-4k to ~6k IOPS maximum including background Windows running services. A typical 970 EVO Plus 2tb has 19k iops at 4K QD1 random read vs 22k of the 980 Pro. Your workload (as described) won't max either ssd and the 970 Evo Plus costs 100 euros less with the same 5 year warranty and runs cooler than the 980 Pro, you could even use it without a heatsink (although not advised).
    Since i'm quoting the cpu though, the inclusion of graphics in the 4750G would make all the difference here. More space in your case and you could also use the pci-e slot for NVME ssd (with an inexpensive pci-e adapter and proper heatsink) and skipping on the mobo's backplate m.2 slot (look at next quote) altogether.
    Nice little mobo with a couple of quirks. I 've made a build with it but it was with a mini tower case and Ryzen 7 3700 cpu. Client already had a UAD Twin.
    One of two particular things to know about this m/b is, it doesn't use the typical AMD brackets for cooler mounting. Instead it uses socket 1155 compatible coolers like it was an Intel mobo lol. This should pose no compatibility problem for aftermarket coolers but it won't allow the use of a stock AMD cooler.
    The second more important thing, is that the mobo's only m.2 slot is placed on the back of the mobo. This prohibits the use of a normal m.2 heatsink (and pci-e gen.4 ssds do run hot). Instead you will have to use a low profile M.2 heatsink like this : http://microconnectors.com/m-2-2280-ssd-low-profile-heat-sink-kit-black/ .
    A nice little feature of this mobo's BIOS, it includes a semi-passive setting for the chipset fan.
    Errr nope. The U12 doesn't fit the case, it's too tall. The NH-U9S fits the case and your "mate" Ali builds on the M1 with this particular cooler. But you 'll be much better with a 240 AIO CLC and shouldn't worry 'bout travelling with it. Actually travelling with a large cooler hanging from the cpu slot (the U9S is considered large here) is more prone to damage than having an AIO which radiator will be firmly tight on the side window of the M1 case. Leak danger with a CLC is 99.999% out of the question, CLCs are factory sealed, you 'll actually have to damage it on purpose with extreme force in order for this type of seal to come loose. Or just take the scissors and cut the tubes lol.
    The difference between a good AIO CLC and the NH-U9S should be around 10-15 degrees Celcius which alone should be the deciding factor.
    The best buy and also top performer atm is the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240. Arctic have outdone themselves with this one, it's goddam excellent in every possible way. It's around 70-75 euros in Europe. Don't just take my word for it:

    You can always go for G.Skill Ripjaws V 3600mhz CL16 2x32gb kit, which is fully compatible and should be lower in price than the Trident Z Neo. @TaxiDriver did build with this ram kit and 5900X on an Asus X570 Crosshair Hero VIII with no problems whatsoever.
    Btw, when you say "low latency", memory cas latency has nothing to do with DPC latency and certainly has nothing to do with your audio interface's Round Trip Latency or RTL. I highly doubt you will ever understand the difference between CL 16 and CL 18 as it is only 0.38 nanoseconds. You are excused though as all tests, including my own too, show that Ryzen cpus favor lower CL ram. :)
    There is no X570 or B550 mini-ITX with Thunderbolt 3 apart from the one you chose, afaik. It's a one way street really for this type of build.
    In the ATX m/b range there's a lot of choices, many of these are implemented with TB3 add-on cards. One thing to know just fyi is, Thunderbolt3 will use 4 pci-e lanes whether it's on a card or a backplate connector. So using a TB3 addon card doesn't sacrifice additional pci-e lanes other than the ones needed for operation, it just needs & occupies a pci-e x4 slot.
    RX550 for sure. The 580 isn't worth it right now with the inflation still standing strong and doesn't come in single slot version either. Whereas with the RX550 you have this little thingie here: https://www.xfxforce.com/gpus/amd-radeon-tm-rx-550-4gb-slim-single-slot-design , it should cost around 160 euros atm (yeah crazy), and will let your case breathe better. If you can find one that is. If not your other best bet would be a single slot Nvidia GT 1030. Although in general the Radeon drivers exhibit better results in DPC latency, the Nvidia 10xx series and forth don't show signs of unusually high DPC latencies.
    Btw, when you talk DPC latency about motherboards it's kinda weird hehe. DPC latency is an issue caused by badly written or malfunctioning drivers and it's not a hardware issue per se.
    Thermal Grizzly's Conductonaut. But if you go with the Arctic CLC it comes with pretty decent paste out of the box (MX4 if i am not mistaken). And so does the Noctua too.
    So i guess you ' ll be satisfied i made an equally long post hahaha.
    Cheers :)
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
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  4. quadcore64

    quadcore64 Audiosexual

    Jun 13, 2011
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    Hello and welcome! Gave you a like because you really seem to have done research for this project.
    The overall build is nice. I would have recommended going with a top tier Ryzen APU if they ere actually available. The other choice would have been the new i5-11600K on Z590. That would eliminate the need for a graphics card while reducing thermal load.

    A platinum PSU is the what I would choose also. Guaranteed clean consistent power with excellent protection. Not much choice if any currently below 750W.

    SSD is a personal choice. Samsung Pro are good, just over priced for what they offer. They also fail more easily when overheated for too long (similar to CPU breakdown from overheating). A better choice for me would be the WD Black SN750.
    A high speed PCIe 3.0 NVMe will work great with your build while being more thermally stable.

    4 to 8 channels of buffered memory on a well designed workstation/server board would take advantage of PCIe 4.0 speeds.

    Coolers should something like the Noctua D9L or U9S (Optimum tech reference vid).

    These are my quick thoughts. If you are still in a hold pattern, hopefully this will help.

    For memory see this article from Eber at Hardware Canucks which also has a video version.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
  5. shovelh34d

    shovelh34d Noisemaker

    Mar 22, 2021
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    Hey guys!

    I am very sorry that I never got back to you but my life had some changes prepared and it's only now that I'm finally back in the driver's seat.
    I wanted to thank you two for your (very detailed! <3) expertise and honesty in helping me with my build. It turned out so so good and I cannot thank you enough! Just in case you are curious or if anybody else stumbles upon this thread, this is what I finally went for:

    OS: Win 10 (debloated, stripped down)
    Using Ghost Spectres version as a starting point and then worked from there.

    DAW: Reaper
    I decided to ditch Ableton Live and only work with Reaper and I'm very happy so far with stability, performance and customizability.

    Audio-Interface: RME Fireface UFX+ (connected via Thunderbolt)
    I decided to treat myself with (at least for me) one of the best audio interfaces money can buy instead of middle-class. More than happy with it!

    CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 3.7 GHz 12-Core Processor
    As you guys said, a bit overkill for my use case but still happy that I went with it since I've got some headroom now and turns out I'm working with a lot more kontakt instances and tracks than I expected. I could've saved some money here though but yeah... can't have everything :D

    Motherboard: ASRock X570 PHANTOM GAMING-ITX/TB3 Mini ITX AM4 Motherboard

    No problems with it so far except for the fact that RAM clearance is so tight so that fitting the Kraken X53 is resulting in one Ram having to lean over/be bent very slightly. Everything works like a charm but definitely not ideal. I should've gotten a different AIO I believe (I tried but couldn't find a well rated one that would've fit the motherboard).
    So far the NVMe (comes with its own passive low profile heatsink) that is mounted to the backplate is happy and not getting too hot but haven't tested this in a 35°C or higher environment yet.

    Case: NCASE M1 Mini ITX Tower Case (v6.1)

    An absolute breeze to build in this little monster.

    Storage: Western Digital WD Black SN750 2TB NVMe SSD
    Chose this one thanks to @quadcore64 ' s recommendation regarding its good resistance to overheating.

    Power Supply: Corsair SF 750 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully Modular SFX Power Supply
    also possibly overkill as you guys mentioned but if I go for a GPU power hungry monster in the future I'm already prepared. But less would've worked I'm sure.

    Screen: Viewsonic TD1655 (16") Portable Touch Monitor
    love it!

    CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken X53 240mm All-In-One (RL-KRX53-01)

    listened to your advice @taskforce and chose an AIO over an air cooler.
    works like a charm but doesn't fully "like" the motherboard as explained above.

    Memory: Crucial Ballistix 64GB Kit (2x32GB) DDR4-3600 CL16
    you guys recommended it over the G.Skill. thanks for that, love it! ;-)

    GPU: Sapphire Radeon RX 550 Pulse 4 GB
    perfectly fine for my needs at the moment, especially when looking at the GPU market and its prices.
    if I go into video editing I might upgrade at some point as the case supports at least 2 slot GPU's.

    Thermal Paste: ARCTIC MX-4
    very happy with it!

    Fans: (1x) Noctua NF-A9x14 PWM 92x92x14mm 300-2200 U/mini 14-20 dB(A) | (2x) Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM, 120mm
    Noctua fans are the best I've ever experienced. Absolutely happy with it even though they are higher priced.

    I haven't attempted any overclocking, undervolting, general BIOS performance optimization whatsoever and I'm already happy with how everything is running. If I hadn't bought the CPU before opening this thread I would've gone with @taskforce ' s recommendation of a good APU as he explains in his post.

    Thanks again guys! I was so happy when you replied and I'm so grateful for your advice.

    Much love,
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  6. quadcore64

    quadcore64 Audiosexual

    Jun 13, 2011
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    Great...You are very Welcome!

    Keep in mind that RyzenCPUs should be under-volted not overclocked. Memory can be under-volted & overclocked. Graphics can be under-volted while pushing frequency. The latter two have sweet spots/stability points for maximum performance.

    All three are dependent on mainboard & BIOS features. The type of memory installed can also influence maximum stabilty.

    I am glad that you chose a platinum PS. errant voltage spikes can ruin your day very quickly.
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  7. nctechno

    nctechno Kapellmeister

    Jan 9, 2021
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    You could also get RME HDSPe AIO Pro, it's not that much more and PCIe is equivalent to Thunderbolt 3.

    I would consider Intel for low latency performance, there were some problems with Ryzen in the past.

    G.Skill just puts the RAM on a PCB and a cooler on it you know that right? You should rather look for the installed chips e.g. Samsung B-Die or Micron E-Die

    Liquid metal will do almost nothing for your until you delid your cpu, just get Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut.

    Noctua are great but you can save big time with Arctic P12. You can get 5-Packs of them on their Website for the Price of 1-2 Noctua fans. They are as good as equal in performance and noise.

    EDIT: lol missed the system you got, good choice to instantly buy the RME
  8. Xupito

    Xupito Audiosexual

    Jan 21, 2012
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    You had a good config from the start and with @taskforce 's and others changes I bet your build is rockin'
    With an SFF and AIO cooling is always tricky. But yeah, with that monster CPU in a small motherboard is highly advisable.
    And 64GB are worth for that CPU so you'll have PC for a long time.

    Now enjoy :)
  9. shovelh34d

    shovelh34d Noisemaker

    Mar 22, 2021
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    Hey @quadcore64 , @nctechno and @Xupito !

    Sorry for my late reply.
    Thanks a lot for your extra input! <3
    I feel happy with my built so far and it has survived my travels very well.

    Thank you for these details. I might hit you up again - if that's ok - when I feel I need that constant high CPU frequency on all cores and therefore have to under-volt the CPU.

    No problems so far but I had to set up the GPU drivers and Windows properly (de-bloat, deactivate services, etc.) like crazy.
    I would have gone for intel if it wasn't for their enormous high power consumption and higher temperatures resulting therefrom which I would like to keep as low as possible in my little case.

    I am enjoying it so much!! Thanks for your encouraging words Xupito :D
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