GPU Audio: DSP on the GPU

It has been discussed for many years: processing digital signals via the GPU. It is now a reality.

The Swish company BRAINGINES SA is working on something super interesting that has been discussed for many years: processing digital signals via the GPU, the dedicated graphics card of your computer. They simply call it GPU Audio.

The GPU on your computer hardly gets used. Watching full screen video’s in the browser via Netflix or YouTube? That runs on the Integrated card of my MacBook Pro. Using Ableton Live? Integrated, although the Dedicated card (GPU) will be chosen for some plugins.

More power

So using a GPU for audio progressing makes much sense. According to GPU Audio they claim:

Graphics cards have unrivaled computing power that has, until now, been impossible to unlock for audio processing. However, we have carried on with the dream of being able to make GPU Audio a reality, to provide democratized hardware acceleration for audio producers whether from a small bedroom studio to powering full studios and venues, eliminating the need for expensive DSP accelerating hardware, and more.

Another very cool feature is the claimed 1 ms buffer length for audio processing.

The CPU of your computer handles a lot of tasks, input/output devices, communication with the OS, running software, audio processing, graphics processing etc. So moving digital signal processing to the dedicated graphics card should offer a higher performance overall. How much boost that creates is yet to been seen.

GPU versus M1

On the website of GPU Audio I read:

– Expand computing power by adding more GPUs in a desktop or a blade server

– Upgrade GPU to the next-gen graphics card

– Use computer networks to expand the DSP power

– Use eGPU cases to boost your system with additional power on-the-fly

Using an external GPU or additional GPU’s feels a bit weird when I think of the power the Apple M1 processor range has to offer. In combination with the compactness and mobility a MacBook Pro has to offer. I would love to see performance tests with a MacBook Pro M1 Pro/M1 Max. Maybe these machines are already so powerful that for audio work they will never run out of power.

On the other hand, people like myself, who are still running on an Intel Mac would welcome some extra power. There’s no need to buy a new Mac every few years, which s better for the environment as well. GPU Audio might give these older machines a boost.

The bummer is that a VST3 plugin cannot run on the GPU by default. So these are special VST3 plugins using the GPU Audio API. They have already established a partnership with Abbey road studios and a few more.

Check it out::

UPDATE: Sonicstate did a video with GPU Audio at Namm 2022:

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