[LAU] Hardware synths

David Olofson david at olofson.net
Wed Dec 5 03:04:54 EST 2007

On Wednesday 05 December 2007, Rob wrote:
> On Tuesday 04 December 2007 21:39, David Olofson wrote:
> > Be warned though; those VIA Cx and AMD Geode CPUs found on most
> > fan-less boards aren't anything like workstation CPUs. Incredible
> > power *per Watt* - but you'd need to run one at several GHz to get
> > anywhere near the slowest Socket 775 Celeron you can find.
> I was running the Vaz analog synth simulator and some Yamaha or
> Roland software GM synth on a Pentium 100 almost a decade ago.

Sure, but those things were probably designed and tuned for such CPUs, 
whereas modern softsynths in general, are designed and tuned for 
P-III and better.

It's possible to get pretty decent sound out of "simple" integer DSP 
code, but it's hard work and doesn't scale well. You often have to 
decide whether you want to resolution or speed - and that's before 
even considering algorithm variants, such as different interpolation 
methods, oversampling etc. In short, more work for much less - so if 
you can get away with floating point (which you can on anything like 
a P-II or better), integer doesn't make sense.

> The Via and Geode chips are pretty weak, and I'm sure Jack and
> various Linux background tasks add some overhead, but is Fluidsynth
> really that much more CPU-intensive?

It shouldn't have to be, theoretically, but if it relies on the FPU, 
it could still be a lot slower than an integer based synth on such 

> And for what it's worth, you can get micro-ATX boards that take 
> Celerons and Athlons.  I'd stay away from that Via stuff myself if I 
> were doing anything other than a web surfing terminal.

Yeah, and Mini-ITX boards for multicore CPUs are showing up now.

We're using Mini-ITX boards with 2+ GHz "P4" Celeron CPUs in lab 
instruments. Compared to the usual industrial SBCs, they're lower 
cost, many times faster and include more "might come in handy" 
integrated hardware. More power than we really need, theoretically - 
but it's easier to code in EEL (real time scripting language) than C 
or C++, so you won't hear me complaining! ;-)

//David Olofson - Programmer, Composer, Open Source Advocate

.-------  http://olofson.net - Games, SDL examples  -------.
|        http://zeespace.net - 2.5D rendering engine       |
|       http://audiality.org - Music/audio engine          |
|     http://eel.olofson.net - Real time scripting         |
'--  http://www.reologica.se - Rheology instrumentation  --'

More information about the Linux-audio-user mailing list