*Help plz* Imaging/ Audio Workstation build

Discussion in 'Motherboards' started by atomtll, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. atomtll

    atomtll n00bie

    Dec 29, 2016
    Hi All,

    'Been scouring google for info (even just today 'discovered' Kaby Lake lol) on a new workstation build to replace my somewhat still capable 2600k system from 2012. I like the tests and benchmarks provided by Puget Systems as they have some of the only clearcut examples of various CPU configs I've been able to find. I found their blog during a search when I was looking at building a dual Xeon setup ...only to find through their tests that Lightroom and PS CC prefer clock speed to core and cpu count... Same seems to be true for my audio programs ...hence my current affair with the 6700k.
    As of today with my discovery of Kaby Lake, my reqmnts have been expanded just a titch. So here we go...and thanks in advance...hopefully I've done enough homework to NOT be admonished to some "Best of...." site... altho I'm completely open to that if that's the case :D

    Importing to and editing from RAID0 sometimes 2K-5K 35-70MB RAW files using:
    Lightroom CC
    Photoshop CC
    ACDSee Ultimate
    (Adobe Master Suite 5.5 but not really utilized much these days)​
    Audio recording and editing 24bit/ 48K audio files, projects range from 200MB to 7GB using:
    Ableton 9 Beta latest ver. (running VSTs NI Komplete, NI Maschine, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, FabFilter Suite, Izotope Suite, etc..)​
    USB interfaces:
    1 Audio interface
    1 DJ controller
    4 MIDI controllers
    1 hub controls 1 keyboard 1 wireless mouse and some occasional thumbdrives
    1 ext SATA dock USB3
    1 USB3 connection for transferring images out of camera​
    Current components for the new build:
    Define R5, 1070 gpu, USB audio interface, Corsair 850 or 750 psu, PCIe DSP card, 2 5TB HDDs for RAID, 2 SSDs, multiple odds and ends HDDs​

    -So correct me if I'm wrong, but there really shouldn't be any advantage to jump to an X99 setup, right?
    -Seems like higher freq would ultimately be better/ cheaper so OC'g a 6700k or 7700k makes sense. Now I'm no expert but certainly not a noob to adjusting in BIOS..altho it looks a lot easier these days with Windows based apps to make tweaks and observations.
    -I don't see a need for an SLI setup and that 1070 I have now is overkill for my current needs
    -I won't need an audio interface/ sound card but it could interesting to experiment with at some point. (latency mainly)
    -M.2 slot(s): Definitely want to jump into this game and I like that some boards have dual or even triple slots to set up a RAID config. My question tho is will this "disable" some features from the M.2 SSD itself? I made this mistake with my 2600k build and effectively disabled TRIM support on my RAID0 SSDs for OS.
    This alone would increase my efficiency in LR by keeping my current projects' RAW files on the M.2 and moving them over to storage drives when I'm done editing.
    -SATA ports....I currently have the 2 5TB drives in RAID which acts as my "working drive" for both photo and music, and a bunch of "static" hard drives that house various files: MP3's on one, backup images on another, documents, program update files, etc on a third. 6 sata ports (seems like the standard) is nice but more would nicer :)
    -Reliability ...sorta goes without saying. My workstation is on pretty much 24/7 so I can access remotely. Thtats one feature with ASUS I found that could be useful is OC'g profiles via one of their apps...having the ability to 1-touch a profile and throttle it back to a more "idle" state. Maybe all the manufactures out there do this nowadays??
    -Fiscally, I'm not one to put an "upper price tag" on this build. It's not a Mac so I'm already saving money. I'll throw money at something if I know there's a damn good ROI but with everything these days, there is a threshold. At some point, spending another $200 to gain 5% more performance is not worth it to me. That being said, I spent about $1200 on my current rig back in late 2011 and it's lasted me 5 years?!! That's pretty damn good in my book.
    -RAM ..I've used G.Skill pretty much exclusively but I'm not tied up them if something is better/ makes more sense...just as long as it'll work with an OC'd machine
    -Using Win7 64

    My current likes:
    Gigabyte Gaming 7 with Thunderbolt
    +Thunderbolt could be nice to have at some point as quite a few audio interface companies are moving in that direction
    +OP-AMP feature...being able to swap out some other Burr Brown or Sabre opamp is pretty cool but not that big of a concern
    +I like the LEDs on the back panel as it would make it easier for me to connect and disconnect (I keep my pc under and towards the back of my desk)
    +2 M.2 slots and 8 sata connections (am I reading that correctly?)
    -It's performance numbers seem to lag behind ASUS but would that be felt in the realworld?
    ASUS ROG VIII Extreme/ Assembly/ Formula/ Hero...let's just say the entire line of these.
    -None of these guys have dual M.2​

    GIGABYTE GA-Z170X-Designare
    ASUS Z170-WS ATX
    +dual M.2
    So I guess the only other question is which one of these boards would fit my needs best with a 7700k?
    Seems like the only advantage for a Z270 board is the Intel storage thingy that might be delayed anyways..plus, the drives will probably be expensive as hell.

    Thanks for the read..I know it's a long one, but this will really help me out with my creative pursuits :D

    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  2. sinisterDei

    sinisterDei Gawd

    Dec 1, 2004
    X99 would obviously get you the higher core counts and more memory. According to your research now, the core count isn't the primary driver for performance, hence your preference for the 6700k. With that said though, I don't know how long you plan for this system to last, because the balance of performance between core counts and processor frequency can move over time - and is moving towards systems supporting higher CPU core counts because they're becoming more accessible. So something based on X99 might have a longer shelf life, but it's just supposition. The memory advantage is there today, though again I don't know if your applications would appreciate memory counts > 64 GB.
    The other thing the X99 chipset gets you is *significantly* more PCI-Express lanes. This is the reason that very few Z170 boards have multiple M2 slots, and when they do often they include caveats like "If you use the second M2 slot, the third PCI Express slot is disabled"

    Pretty simple in the BIOS, you find the spot for the multiplier and you put in 45 instead of the default of 40 (on a 6700k) and voila, your system is 4.5 GHz. This is assuming you don't end up having to futz with voltage, which is where things get hairier.


    Well, whatever motherboard you buy will come with one anyways, so I suppose you'll have the opportunity to play with it.

    Not on an Intel board. They added TRIM in RAID support with their RST driver a while back. And even then, most good SSDs include pretty competent background garbage collection and as long as your drive isn't in 24x7 use like in a loaded server environment they can handle things fairly well even without TRIM.
    Now then, RAID support for NVME SSDs is in its infancy, but my question would be more along the lines if "why?". The data rates you're talking about dealing with won't stress even a single NVME SSD - or really even a SATA SSD. And the SATA SSDs get you more capacity, which would likely be the larger issue when dealing with 70Mbit RAW files.

    For what you're doing, which sounds like your livelihood, I would consider investing in an *actual* RAID controller, rather than the onboard bullshit software RAID. You could get some actual redundancy in there by going with a RAID6 setup and have spare room for more drives if you needed it. I'm a huge fan of Areca branded controllers - something like the ARC-1226-8i for 8 drive support.

    Just don't disable the built-in power management capabilities of the CPU and the thing will still throttle down to 800 MHz or whatever when it's not loaded.

    G.Skill doesn't manufacture RAM, they just package up someone else's chips (Samsung, Crucial (Micron), Hynix, etc...) and slap a typically superficial heatsink on them. Just get something on the compatibility list for your motherboard and don't worry about the frequency too much above 2666 MHz, since it violates your 5% rule.

    *warning* Personal opinion alert *warning*
    Good god. Other than the Gaming 7, it's like you went to Intel motherboards on Newegg, sorted by price Highest to Lowest, and then picked all the highest ones.
    I *hate* overpriced motherboards. Keep in mind, they're all based on an identical Z170 chipset. Their functionality is fixed, at a certain point. Add-on features like USB 3.1, Thunderbolt, audio, and the way they divvy up their fixed number of PCI Express lanes, these are the ways the boards can differentiate between themselves. They'll all *perform* around the same - unless there's something horrifically wrong with the BIOS or something - because their heart, the Z170 - is the same.
    Now, I'm not saying buy the cheapest board they have, because there is still such a thing as manufacturing quality and such. And longterm support for things like BIOS updates (Kaby Lake support) can be important. But that bar is fairly low, and $400+ for a motherboard is like masturbating with your own wallet.

    Now, as to comparing the 7700K and 6700K - everything I've read seems to indicate they'll be pretty damned identical when it comes to performance. So maybe it's not worth the worry, since a lot of the Z170 boards will likely ship with a BIOS revision that will require an update to get the 7700K to work, and you'll need a 6-series CPU to do the BIOS update.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
  3. atomtll

    atomtll n00bie

    Dec 29, 2016
    First off, thank you for replying..I realize in hindsight this was a rather long (perhaps drawn-out topic)

    70MB ...per image..so it's not unlikely to take 2-5K images for an event ...so moving thru 100-300GB can be taxing.. on Lightroom especially. It usually takes about 2-5 seconds for that image to load itself fullsize off my currernt RAID. I'd like to move my current project(s) workflow onto an M.2 drive or RAID to cut down on that time...But maybe I'm missing a bottleneck in there somewhere. And it could just be LR and Photoshop as ACDSee is MUCH quicker with loading fullsized viewing.
    But still, maybe you're right: maybe a single NVME is fine

    That's a great idea..had not even crossed my mind. The closest I got to something like that was an external RAID enclosure (hence the interest in THunderbolt 3)
    I'll definitely need to look into that.

    HAHAHA...thanks for your honesty!
    Between ASUS and GB, thats EXACTLY what I did lol
    I tend to start with the "overpriced," studying their feature set and then moving down the list. In my experience, with photography or music or cars or whatever, I've discovered at some point that I hampered my own personal and technical development by purchasing what "can get me by" or what looks like "a good deal." Now I start at the pinnacle of the manufacturers portfolio and whittle my way into a pricing threshold that gives me features/ performance and a sense of "good value." But where that threshold (for each of us contingent upon our requirements) is the question, right?
    Currently I have a GB UD3 board or something in that category for my 2600k...so I thought I'd look at what a tier upgrade would look like/ cost.

    So something like an ASUS Z170-A is really not that different from one of the ROG series boards? And then what about the WS line from ASUS?

  4. sinisterDei

    sinisterDei Gawd

    Dec 1, 2004
    Not at the chipset level.

    Now then, they can include better power regulation, or a more advanced cooling system for the onboard components or something. Or fancy features like onboard diagnostics LED panels and physical power and reset switches and things. Typically lots of these features are aimed at some pretty hardcore overclockers. And they can be effective - typically the expensive boards are the best overclockers. But, we're definitely violating your 5% rule (which I agree with) - in that, where a 'regular' Z170 board might get a CPU to be stable at 4.5 GHz but be unstable at 4.6, you *might* make it to 4.6 or 4.65 by spending an extra $200+ on the motherboard. Or you might not- it might just be the CPU, since overclocking is always a gamble.

    I'm not a fan of living on *any* bleeding edge, and I don't feel comfortable running my equipment on the knife's edge between stable and unstable. If my system is unstable at 4.6, but stable seeming at 4.5, I'm likely to run it at 4.4 just to make me feel better. This pretty much excludes me from the whole *idea* behind the super overclocky motherboards.

    Beyond that, it's all just a matter of add-on features. How many SATA ports, how many channels on the onboard audio, does it have redundant NICs, did they put USB 3.1 on there, what about USB-C, extra M.2 slots? And on and on and on. It's just a matter of deciding which features appeal and are important and buying a board that covers them.

    In the current crop of 100-series boards, the only features I tend to focus on is getting at least one M.2 slot and USB 3.1 with a Type-C connector. When I buy for a HTPC, I make sure the onboard audio includes S/PDIF digital output. I also have a preference for Intel NICs. I can't always get everything I want - my current board has a Killer NIC (ugh) but it was at my pricepoint and had everything else.

    Back to talking about RAID, if you do decide to go RAID, there is a lot of intricacy there.

    • RAID 0 (minimum 2 disks), also called striping, gets you NO redundancy, but splits the performance load across multiple disks. It's super fast.
    • RAID 1 (minimum 2 disks), also called mirroring, gets you no PERFORMANCE, but duplicates the data across multiple disks. It's barely faster than a single drive, but you have a fully redundant copy of your data without all the messiness of parity calculations like with higher RAID levels.
    • RAID 5 (minimum 3 disks) will get you one drive's worth of redundancy (you can lose any single disk), pretty decent read performance, and on any competent controller a relatively minor write speed penalty. The cost is you lose 1 disk's worth of capacity.
    • RAID 6 (minimum 4 disks) is *way* harder on the controller than R5 when it comes to the write speed penalty, but in return you get any *two* disks of redundancy, at the cost of *two* disk's worth of capacity.
    • RAID 10 (minimum 4 disks, have to have an even number) is like two RAID 0 mirrors striped together; they are *all* about speed because there's no complex parity math to perform like in R5 or R6, but you lose *half* your disk's worth of capacity.
    • RAID 50 (minimum 6 disks) is two RAID 5 arrays striped together. You can lose *up to* 2 disks, but only if they're members of separate RAID 5 sub-arrays. You lose 2 disks of capacity.
    • RAID 60 (minimum 8 disks) is two RAID 6 arrays striped together. You could theoretically lose up to 4 disks, as long as no more than 2 were on either RAID 6 sub-array. You lose 4 disks of capacity.

    The difference between the $50 RAID cards and the $400 RAID cards (like the Areca I mentioned) is whether they include cache memory and whether they have a real CPU onboard to handle the RAID parity calculations. I currently use a 3ware 9690SA-8i in my server box, which runs RAID 6 with 8x 3TB drives. That controller is decent, but tops out at 650 MB/s as a controller limit. However, I value the capacity and redundancy more than the performance, since I'm just holding a bunch of media files. The 9690SA is also older, and super cheap on eBay (like $50) because 3ware doesn't exist anymore (the drivers work with W10). It's also only SATA/SAS 3 GB (SATA2). Prior to the 9690SA, I ran a HighPoint 2720SGL, which is a cheaper ($140-ish) type of hardware-assist controller. It doesn't have the cache memory or the full CPU. Again, this worked for me, but only because I have no throughput requirements. The Areca I mentioned is near the $450 mark, but has 1GB cache and a real CPU onboard. It also has (my favorite feature) a dedicated network card ON the RAID controller. This lets you configure the thing by way of a handy and easy to use website, as well as let the RAID card directly send emails and alerts independent of the host OS in case of disk failures. Though, in your case, if you're in the room with the thing there's also a physical buzzer on the card that's so loud it'll give you a headache if a drive fails. I do *not* know how fast the controller is, but it's likely significantly faster than the 9690SA, given that it's many years newer and supports up to SAS 12 GB drives. It's also expensive, but sometimes you get what you pay for.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
  5. sinisterDei

    sinisterDei Gawd

    Dec 1, 2004
    Speaking specifically to the ASUS WS line, most of them are workstation chipsets or higher. The X99 is the consumer version of the server C612 chipset, which is why you can use Xeons on the X99, in addition to the Socket R (2011) i7 CPUs. The C2xx are the workstation versions of the 100 series chipsets, intended to for use with the baby Xeons (E3).
  6. atomtll

    atomtll n00bie

    Dec 29, 2016
    And do you think the Z170 WS board would really have any advantages for me over say, just a basic Z170-A or PRO?

    Also, when looking at PCI numbers (including scalability)...maybe I need to go to X99 anyways??
    1070 16 lane
    UAD pci card 1 lane
    Areca ARC-1226-8i 8 lane
    That alone is 25 but then to your point of M.2 slots (and TB 3 / USB 3.1 perhaps also...or maybe they dont need the PCi lane bc theyre controlled by the Alpine Ridge controller?? Am I understanding that correctly?)

    ...adding 1 or 2 M.2 drives...
    My googling tells me each pcie ssd will take up 4 lanes right?..so a RAID is 8 which means I'm getting close to the X99 40 lanes...Am I getting this right?

    Seriously, thanks for your help on this...PCI "math" is a bit new to me as I just never figured it in the equation.
  7. sinisterDei

    sinisterDei Gawd

    Dec 1, 2004
    There's lanes that come from the CPU, and then lanes that come from the chipset. I'm not 100% certain on it, but I think they get combined for the system or something.

    I don't think you'll run into any lane limitations. Even if you did, the system handles it- if you install something in the second PCI Express slot it divides the X16 lanes from the first slot into dual X2 slots. This is how all the SLI setups work, since giving each card X16 full lanes would use up 32. And most things aren't really bandwidth limited - GPUs work just fine all the way down to PCIe 4x.
  8. sinisterDei

    sinisterDei Gawd

    Dec 1, 2004
    In fact, I think on older generation boards - Z77,Z87,Z97 - *all* of the PCIe 3.0 lanes came from the CPU, where the lanes generated by the chipset were only 2.0.

    I just found a quote from someone who seems to know what they're talking about and jives with my memory: