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Digital audio workstation performance

After an extended hiatus, the duo of DAWBench project files—DSP 2017 and VI 2017—return to make our CPUs sweat. The DSP benchmark tests the raw number of VST plugins a system can handle, while the complex VI project simulates a virtual instrument and sampling workload.

A very special thanks is in order here for Native Instruments, who kindly provided us with the Kontakt licenses necessary to run the DAWBench VI project file. We greatly appreciate NI's support—this benchmark would not have been possible without the help of the folks there. Be sure to check out their many fine digital audio products.

A very special thanks also to RME Audio, who cut us a deal on one of its Babyface Pro audio interfaces to assist us with our testing. RME's hardware and software is legendary for its low latency and high quality, and the Babyface Pro has exemplified those virtues over the course of our time with it.

We used the latest version of the Reaper DAW for Windows as the platform for our tests. To simulate a demanding workload, we tested each CPU with a 24-bit depth and 96-KHz sampling rate, and at two ASIO buffer depths: 96, the lowest our interface will allow at a 96 KHz sampling rate, and 128. In response to popular demand, we're also testing two buffer depths at a sampling rate of 48 KHz: 64 and 128. We added VSTs or notes of polyphony to each session until we started hearing popping or other audio artifacts.

Apologies for the lack of results at 96 KHz and a buffer depth of 96 here. Thanks to something in the chain of Reaper, Windows 10, and our ASIO driver, our many-core CPUs couldn't run the 96-96 test at all—we got popping and crackling from the get-go.