Building a PC for Home Recording

Messages
294
I'm trying to build a fairly decent DAW for home recording use. Any suggesetions on which CPU, Motherboards, RAM, Hard Drive, Video Card, and Power Supply Unit would give me the best performance for recording?

Thanks for any help.
 

MarkL8

Member
Messages
1,466
Last spring upgraded my build to and AMD 6000 X64 Asus MB 2 Gig of OCZ ram, Nvidia 8800 GTS vid card, Enermax 750 watt PS. I run Sonar Producer with various plugs...BFD, EZ drummer and it doesnt break a sweat.

 
Messages
294
Very nice, is it quiet? I don't think I need anything too over the top, just lots of RAM, hard drive space, and a good processor.
 

kludge

The droid you're looking for
Gold Supporting Member
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7,109
Not a Mac?

First, find a copy of Windows XP while you can. Vista is a NIGHTMARE for audio. This is more important than any hardware consideration.

Second, avoid "fast" hardware and look for COOL hardware. Fast CPUs and graphics cards mean heat, which means fans, which means noise. Consider underclocking. What you're looking for is a computer that doesn't add its own noise to the room.

Here's what I'm running... an Antec case (don't remember the model, one step below a Sonata) with the factory quiet power supply. Power supplies can be really noisy! An Athlon XP cpu of some sort, don't remember the speed and don't care, with a Scythe Ninja heatsink. My videocard is a something-or-other reasonably modern PCI-Express type, with heatsink-only cooling rather than a fan. The motherboard is an MSI something-or-other, again with just a heatsink rather than a fan on the northbridge chip.

The important thing is I don't need fans to keep things cool. The only fans in my case are a single 120mm case fan at low speed, and a single 80mm on the power supply - both designed to be quiet and run at low speeds. There are no fans on the CPU, video card, or motherboard. This computer is so quiet I can hear the drives at idle!

And while we're at it, think about what you're going to do about backups. Hard drives fail all the time. Heck, houses burn down occasionally, or lightning strikes and fries computers. How will you protect your irreplacable work? You need both a backup drive and some sort of off-site backups.

See, this is the stuff that everyone forgets in the breathless race to sell you whatever amazing new component is rotting on the shelf this week.
 

A440

Silver Supporting Member
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4,694
for windows, I would also suggest XP Pro type platform. much software not supporting Vista

another way to go? get a Mac, and run windows on it

best of both worlds :D
 

Steve Dallas

Member
Messages
8,297
Like the other guys have said...

XP Pro. Vista is not ready yet. I'm not just saying that. I own both (have an MSDN Universal License) and use XP for music.

Build the PC for quietness above all. Mine has no fans except for a 120mm case fan--Scythe makes the quietest fans--and an Arctic CPU fan. My power supply is some kind of ultra quiet thing with one 120mm fan that faces down. I replaced it with another Scythe fan.

My CPU is an AMD Athlon 64 X2 6200. My MOBO is an ASUS M2N-E, which uses heat pipe cooling instead of fans. My graphics card is an EVGA something or other that does not have a fan.

You can track on pretty much any PC these days, but you need horsepower for mixing if you use a lot of tracks and/or a lot of plug-ins.

Performance considerations for mixing:

1. CPU - buy the fastest you can. Your plugins will burn CPU like crazy--especially reverbs
2. Drives - 2 x 500GB - buy the fastest you can. Use 1 drive as your primary and 1 drive as a backup. There are several ways to configure them for optimal speed. The best way for you depends on your PC, interface, and DAW.
3. Memory - 2GB of the fastest you can afford. The more audio your PC can buffer in memory, the better your performace will be.
 
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294
What makes a fast hard drive, I'm going for a 500 GB to start with and eventually grab another one, I have the same question for RAM.

I'm definately gonna use XP...and what's good MHZ wise for a CPU or is there something else I should be looking at. I don't use plugins much...but I know I will eventually and that was the main thing that slowed down my current PC.
 

djbrough

Member
Messages
431
No offense to the posts above, but you can get alot more performance out of the intel quads rather than the amd. If I were you I would do the following:

ASUS P5W mobo (it uses the TI chipset for firewire)
Intel 2.66 Quad cor chip

4 gigs of Corsair ram (2x2gig sticks, and very cheap at the moment)

Lian Li Quiet Case with 120mm fans (very quiet)

@ least 2 500 drives for samples and recording, and 1 10,000 rpm drive for your OS (buiy seagate because of reliability, warranty, and price).

Dual head graphics card of your choice (no need to be too fancy for audio. sSomething like an XFX 7300GS is good)

2 IDE drives that can burn DVD's and CD's. If you have the scratch, buy a blue ray drive as well. It will become a great tool for backing up your data.

*IMPORTANT* get a 750W power supply (go bigger if you can afford it).

Definitely get a OEM copy of XP


It sounds like a lot, but you can do all of this for around $1K
 

jefesq

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,984
Having done this twice, the advice above is perfect. Don't get overly fancy with the video card. A gaming card is not what you want here. The power supply is also something which as noted above is important. Big watts are important.

Check here too. There's some interesting stuff here regarding keeping the system quiet and cool. I'd avoid the hard drive quiet cases though. A real pain, trying ot balance quiet vs cool.
 

Lexridge

Member
Messages
109
Stay away from 'ANY' VIA chipset motherboard. VIAs are really bad with their faulty interrupt handling. I'm using a AMD X2 4200 with a Gigabyte MB, Nvidia chipset, and it's plenty of speed for me, even with a ton of plugins! However, I am running Linux DAWs and not Windows DAWs (Ardour, Qtractor). I switched from Windows and Samplitude last summer, and have not look back since. :)

Also, good advice to stay away from the "gamers" video cards. The Windows drivers tend to give them higher priority than the audio. However, there are tools to correct for this somewhat.
 

Steve Dallas

Member
Messages
8,297
Yeah, the Intel chips are faster than the AMDs now, but I built mine before the quads were out and AMD had the best price/performance ratio at the time.

Good advice about staying away from VIA chipsets. They are fine for general computing, but not for audio. Several interface manufacturers claim their products are not even compatible with VIA. Nvidia or Intel is the way to go.
 

Bussman

Member
Messages
2,741
...However, I am running Linux DAWs and not Windows DAWs (Ardour, Qtractor). I switched from Windows and Samplitude last summer, and have not look back since...
Just popped in to say hi and welcome to a fellow Linux/Ardour recordist!
 

dju

Member
Messages
416
just expanding on the original question as I am thinking about recording on my computer also and the original poster might also want to know this:
what about sound cards/USB or firewire I/O's? is there any benefits to any of the different options? I was thinking about getting a firewire type of I/O but was wondering if USB or some other option would have better results or benefits?
thanks, dj
 

kludge

The droid you're looking for
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
7,109
Firewire will absolutely give better results than USB, for icky technical reasons I don't even want to explain (if you can't define "isosynchronous" it'll make no sense). Even the newer USB 2.0-based interfaces are a data-loss danger compared to Firewire.

Then again, I use PCI like some caveman.
 

Lexridge

Member
Messages
109
Firewire will absolutely give better results than USB........Then again, I use PCI like some caveman.
Me too! I use the Delta 1010LT with a home built breakout rack. I would like to update to a PCI Xpress MB, but MAudio does not yet offer any of the Delta cards in a PCI-X package. :(

Firewire is certainly the best of both worlds, and the most reliable when compared to USB2.

Lexridge
 

Lexridge

Member
Messages
109
Just popped in to say hi and welcome to a fellow Linux/Ardour recordist!
Ah, thanks very much! It's nice to know there is another Linux/Ardour user on this forum.

I've been using Qtractor lately. It's fairly new, but it supports native Linux VSTs and DSSI, whereas Ardour does not yet support them. Qtractor is written by Rui Nuno Capela, who also authors QJackCtl and QSampler.

Lexridge
 
Messages
294
Stay away from 'ANY' VIA chipset motherboard. VIAs are really bad with their faulty interrupt handling. I'm using a AMD X2 4200 with a Gigabyte MB, Nvidia chipset, and it's plenty of speed for me, even with a ton of plugins! However, I am running Linux DAWs and not Windows DAWs (Ardour, Qtractor). I switched from Windows and Samplitude last summer, and have not look back since. :)

Also, good advice to stay away from the "gamers" video cards. The Windows drivers tend to give them higher priority than the audio. However, there are tools to correct for this somewhat.
I'm planning on using a firewire based mixer, but can you tell me a little bit more about the VIA, Nvidia, Intel...chipsets. I'm not too familiar with what these mean, although I trust what you're saying, I wanna know what I'm talking about just in case I tell someone else to do the same.
 

LittleC

Member
Messages
249
This'll do you just fine! Blue-Ray optional.



No offense to the posts above, but you can get alot more performance out of the intel quads rather than the amd. If I were you I would do the following:

ASUS P5W mobo (it uses the TI chipset for firewire)
Intel 2.66 Quad cor chip

4 gigs of Corsair ram (2x2gig sticks, and very cheap at the moment)

Lian Li Quiet Case with 120mm fans (very quiet)

@ least 2 500 drives for samples and recording, and 1 10,000 rpm drive for your OS (buiy seagate because of reliability, warranty, and price).

Dual head graphics card of your choice (no need to be too fancy for audio. sSomething like an XFX 7300GS is good)

2 IDE drives that can burn DVD's and CD's. If you have the scratch, buy a blue ray drive as well. It will become a great tool for backing up your data.

*IMPORTANT* get a 750W power supply (go bigger if you can afford it).

Definitely get a OEM copy of XP


It sounds like a lot, but you can do all of this for around $1K
 

GerryJ

Member
Messages
4,993
Maybe I missed it, but did you specify which A/D interface (analog to digital convertor) you plan on getting or have? That's at least as important to the final sound of the product as the PC hardware -maybe more so.
Also, regarding that, if you're mostly home recording, ie 1 to 4 tracks at a time, it's better to spend more money on a say an 8 channel interface like the RME Fireface 400 http://www.rmeaudio.de/en_products_fireface_400.php

than a cheaper unit with more channels.
Then again, if you're unsure/on a budget, there's lots of ~ 4 channel interfaces which are much cheaper.
Other people here know much more than me about this.
 




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