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Benchmarking Audio System Performance

These files benchmark the audio processing capacity of a particular set up. The benchmark runs a test to find the maximum number of test voices it can play simulateously without getting buffer underruns ("xruns"). The test is repeated at multiple buffer sizes (-p in jackd).

The aim is to find out the relative impact of making various changes to the system configuration:

* Does setting the CPU governor help?
* Does disabling X made a difference?
* What about the TICK frequency or other kernal build flags?


Run it like so:

gunzip Bench.gzip
cd Bench
sclang benchrun.scd

This will take over 15 min.

Then changing something about your system, and run it again.


The final output of the test look like like:

64 ==> 79 voices, [ 78, 78, 80 ]
128 ==> 86 voices, [ 83, 88, 87 ]
256 ==> 94 voices, [ 95, 92, 96 ]
512 ==> 103 voices, [ 103, 103, 103 ]
1024 ==> 107 voices, [ 107, 106, 108 ]

This shows, for various period sizes, the average number of voices that can be run without Xruns. The numbers in brackets are the individual results from three runs.



The voice measured doesn't really matter all that much, but it is a simple 8 UGen voice modeled after PolyPerc from the norns universe. Your voices or patch may be more or less complicated, and use different UGens... but you can expect your results to scale as the benchmark voice does.

Disk Recorder

During the test, a disk recorder is started so that scsynth will have that load in the mix. It was added as I/O activity is distinctly different than straight audio computation... and it is also a likely common part of many setups.

Num. Periods

I original explored the results for various valus of -n, the number of periods used in jackd. It turned out that values of 3 or 4 were no different than 2. So, I stuck with 2, and just varied the period size (-p).

Period Size

As expected, period size has an effect on the number of voices that can be computed, but effect isn't linear in size, it is linear in log2(size). This is as expected: Each doubling of the period size effectively removes only a constant amount of overhead from the previous size.

Of course, doubling the period double the latency... so at some point the trade-off of latency vs. number of voices gets pretty bad if you are worried about real-time responsiveness! Hence, the test only tries sizes from 64 to 1024 - corresponding to 2.7ms to 42.7ms latency at 48kHz.


This script launchs jackd at various period sizes. It uses a rather convoluted method to launch it so that it can find out of jackd reports an XRuns. This is because, alas, reading from SuperCollider's Pipe object is synchronous and can't be used within a Routine wihtout blocking all of sclang.

XRun Seeking

The test tries first 50 voices, then 100, and keeps doubling until it gets XRuns. Then it seeks back, doing binary search, to find point at which it can run without XRuns, but no further. You can see this in the output:

going to play 50 BenchTones...good.
going to play 100 BenchTones...xrun!
going to play 75 BenchTones...good.
going to play 87 BenchTones...xrun!
going to play 81 BenchTones...good.
going to play 84 BenchTones...good.
going to play 85 BenchTones...xrun!
Max voices without xruns: 84


The script, alas, has several spots whree it must wait for a short period of time. This is due mostly to way jackd must be started, and the method of looking for XRuns.

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