So I've personally built and tested about 5 of my own 'DAW' PCs throughout my lifetime, and I feel the need to make this post in order to help other musicians here make an objective decision about whether they should upgrade their CPU or not.
FWIW, I have never
found DAWBench to be a practical indication of how much performance you will gain with a CPU upgrade, mainly for the reason that they don't even test what is arguably the most important metric by far, which is single-core performance.
They get their polyphony and DSP results by spreading the entire load of the various plugins and VI across every core; but this is a highly
impractical metric for many reasons:
If you want to gain a more realistic expectation of performance gains from a new chip, literally just go to this page: https://www.cpubenchmark.net/singleThread.html
- Our biggest concern is audio dropouts (clicks and pops) while working.
- DAWs (much like video games), are still riddled with serial-processing tasks that are either difficult or impossible to parallelize with multi-core, such as dedicated monitoring signal-chains (or virtually any kind of monitoring chain), channel inserts, and busses; thus single-core performance is still the most critical metric for DAW performance, particularly during the monitoring/experimenting/tracking phases of a project.
- You don't ever get to max out all of your cores in a real-world DSP/VI scenario, as in some theoretical throughput-heaven before you run into dropouts (the testing method); sadly all you need is one core, or most often perhaps a small handful of cores which are handling the most intensive work, to overload, thus causing dropouts.
- You will hit that channel/buss/parallel-monitoring-chain single-core bottleneck far, far more often than you will ever have to worry about maxing out all of your cores in a playback/mixing situation at max buffer settings, to the extent that the vast majority of your DAW woes will be CPU-intensive plugins (or sample DISK overloads for us VIC folk) that you are unable to monitor properly within a given signal-chain (which forces you to strip off certain FX, kill off voices or layers of synths, etc., to cull the overloads)
Purported performance gains from i9-11900k / i7 11700k to i9 12900k for DSP and VI loads = ~45% and ~55%, respectively
Actual non-OC benchmark results between i9-11900k / i7 11700k, vs. the i9 12900k for SC performance = approx. 16%
^I have found this to be an incredibly
accurate predictor of CPU overhead gains for every new board/chip I've installed.
RAM makes virtually no difference with CPU intensive plugins (assuming DDR4).
I can't speak to the full implications of DDR5
since I haven't used it yet, but be advised that DDR5 typically does not
improve latency for single-core/serial tasks, and thus should not be boosting SC speeds, as described in this reddit thread a few posts down:
Honestly I've always halfway suspected DAWBench was somehow being pushed as promotional material for the big chipmakers...
either that, or the developer just has 0 interest in performing actual relevant (in terms of bottlenecks) SC performance tests for serial processes / monitoring scenarios.
DawBench is a largely synthetic
benchmark, and you might
not need that CPU/RAM upgrade as much as you think; it's a massive, time-consuming PITA to go through and you will not
get the performance overhead boost teased by DawBench... unless you need to somehow go from 300 active tracks in your DAW to 500?
If you've upgraded within the last 2-3 years or so, it really probably isn't that big of a deal at this time... just go spend all that money on BF sample library sales instead!
Hopefully this helps add some perspective to the frenzied marketing.