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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-23-2003, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
 
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Location: Cincinnati, OH USA
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Getting a new recording PC... what hardware to get?

Well, this is probably a question that shouldn't be coming from an IT professional... I'm getting a new system to use for my home studio. My old system has served me well, but mixdown, CD burning, and MP3 ripping on it take an eternity! So I'm considering hardware, OS, and software upgrades all at once to minimize the studio downtime.

For basis of comparison, my current system is:
P3 550Mhz
256Mb RAM
Quantum 9Gb Ultra2 SCSI drive for OS/programs
Quantum 18Gb Ultra2 SCSI drive for recording
Plextor 32x SCSI CD-ROM
Panasonic 4x SCSI CD-R
SoundBlaster Live
Lexicon Core 2
Windows 98
Cakewalk Pro Audio

What current hardware gives a decent price/performance ratio? I was thinking about the following:
P4 1.6-2.4Ghz (no AMD's!)
512Mb RAM (SDRAM vs DDR--significant?)
WD 40Gb 7200RPM ATA100 drive for OS/programs
WD 120Gb 7200RPM ATA100 drive for recording (IDE vs SCSI--does it matter anymore?)
16x IDE DVD drive
48x12x48 IDE CD-RW drive
SoundBlaster Live
some new DA card ?? (recos appreciated)
Windows XP
new recording software ?? (recos appreciated)

Should that do nicely? Is it overkill? I'm all about saving a buck or too whenever possible!

Thanks,
--Brent
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-23-2003, 08:24 PM
 
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Re: Getting a new recording PC... what hardware to get?

I would find it immoral to respond to this and not say "get a mac" so now that I've said it and you've completely ignored it...

I'd say your system looks good but I would add more RAM (1GB to start but make sure you leave room for expansion later) and make sure you get DDR as it is essentially twice as fast as SDRAM.

In my experience IDE vs. SCSI doesn't matter anymore but there many people who will fight endlessly about this too, so maybe you'd rather listen to them. I can record 40+ tracks on my Mac G4 with IDE drives.

Why do you want a SB Live? I'd scrap that idea if I were building the computer. For the interface, it depends on how many inputs you need an what type you'd like. I'd suggest a MOTU 828 or even an 896 if you need lots of XLRS. You should also check out the new MOTU HD192's if you want to be really professional and your budget allows it. Anything around the PCI-424 card is really cool too.

For recording software, well Logic is dead for the PC, so basically you can choose between Cubase and Sonar. Try both, I perfer sonar, and since you're a cakewalk user, you probably will too.

Good luck, and at least check out a pretty new mirrored door dual 1 Ghz G4 and see what you're missing!
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-23-2003, 09:04 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Getting a new recording PC... what hardware to get?

Dave--

Thanks for the feedback & ideas.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Swift
I would find it immoral to respond to this and not say "get a mac" so now that I've said it and you've completely ignored it...
True, but it's always worth a shot. I'm a diehard PC person, but in an effort to be open-minded I did actually look at Macs. Then I got a $250 Dell gift certificate (and since I already get 10% off Dells through work) that pretty much sealed the deal! At least a lot more hardware can be shared between macs & PC's these days, but I've still got too much software around here to make the switch.

Sounds like I can use the money I save by going IDE to bump up to 1GB of DDR memory!

I just need a basic SoundBlaster compatible card to be complete. I'll never use it for recording, just games! Heck, I'll probably just snag the card out of my current system. I'll have to check out the MOTU gear for a serious recording card.

I really like Cakewalk PA9, so I expect I'll upgrade to Sonar since I've heard so much good stuff about it. And because I'm too lazy to import all my .WRK files into a different program!

Have you been using firewire for much? I have fireware cards in all my computers, but have really only used it for video editing and DVD recording.

--B
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-23-2003, 09:36 PM
 
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I have a MOTU 828 which is Firewire and that works great. My fiancee also has an iPod and that thing is awesome. I really want to pick one of those up for myself.

I don't play games on my computer so maybe I'm wrong about this, but I can get the basic windows sounds to come out of my 828 (when I had a PC) so I assume you could have the game sounds play from it as well? Something you may want to consider if you have any sort of Monitor system for your studio stuff. The games might sound awesome through it.

Also, even though you have a huge gift certificate, I'd consider not buying the RAM from them! You can get 512MBs DIMMs for about $80 through pricewatch. The big name dealers like dell, gateway, ect. usually charge
3-4x that!

The M-Audio cards mentioned in the other thread are a good choice too! Try to get something mainstream and popular as well as something that pleases your ear. Obviously, the popularity will help your card get the updates in a timely manner... and in a few years you *might* not have the same problem as you do now with the lexicon.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 06:22 AM
 
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Re: Getting a new recording PC... what hardware to get?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bduersch
Well, this is probably a question that shouldn't be coming from an IT professional... I'm getting a new system to use for my home studio. My old system has served me well, but mixdown, CD burning, and MP3 ripping on it take an eternity! So I'm considering hardware, OS, and software upgrades all at once to minimize the studio downtime.

For basis of comparison, my current system is:
P3 550Mhz
256Mb RAM
Quantum 9Gb Ultra2 SCSI drive for OS/programs
Quantum 18Gb Ultra2 SCSI drive for recording
Plextor 32x SCSI CD-ROM
Panasonic 4x SCSI CD-R
SoundBlaster Live
Lexicon Core 2
Windows 98
Cakewalk Pro Audio

What current hardware gives a decent price/performance ratio? I was thinking about the following:
P4 1.6-2.4Ghz (no AMD's!)
512Mb RAM (SDRAM vs DDR--significant?)
WD 40Gb 7200RPM ATA100 drive for OS/programs
WD 120Gb 7200RPM ATA100 drive for recording (IDE vs SCSI--does it matter anymore?)
16x IDE DVD drive
48x12x48 IDE CD-RW drive
SoundBlaster Live
some new DA card ?? (recos appreciated)
Windows XP
new recording software ?? (recos appreciated)

Should that do nicely? Is it overkill? I'm all about saving a buck or too whenever possible!

Thanks,
--Brent
If this is an audio recording computer, I would recommend not getting a Dell for that, as much as you probably don't want to hear that. Dells are just not optimal for pro audio useage.

Building a PC with non-proprietary parts is the best way to go.

No AMD? Chicken! Just kidding. 2Ghz is plenty fast for about 26-32 tracks depending on plugins.

DDR is worth it, but isn't quite twice as fast as Dave mentioned. But it's still significantly faster.

SCSI is pointless by today's standards, unless you're doing 50 tracks with 5 plugins on each track. Then I'd worry.

Lite On makes great CDRW's for the money, and I usually use either WD or Maxtor hard drives when I build. IBM hard drives are overpriced and definitely not worth it.

I'd recommend getting a HD with an 8MB cache, it will help with recording as well.

M Audio puts out a great card, as does Aardvark and Echo. I use Echo, but a lot of that is subjective.

If you want to take a step up, RME stuff has even better converters.

I get all my computer components from Newegg.com. They have great prices and great service.

That's all I can think of right now, it's 5:30am and I'm half awake.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 08:11 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Getting a new recording PC... what hardware to get?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polaris20
If this is an audio recording computer, I would recommend not getting a Dell for that, as much as you probably don't want to hear that. Dells are just not optimal for pro audio useage.

Building a PC with non-proprietary parts is the best way to go.
Dells, at least in my experience, haven't been too proprietary--I've had half a dozen of 'em at work. I'm checking to see which components Dell uses. For example, I know I can get the WD 7200 drives with 8MB cache through Dell. I don't know what type of CDR drives they use. So most likely I'll end up buying the base barebones system from Dell then ordering the components separately.

I know I'll be avoiding IBM drives... we had a web sever at work that was full of their "deathstar" drives, and they were unbelievablely unreliable. I think 2 of 'em failed in just 6 months.

I actually considered building from scratch, but haven't been able to find the components cheap enough to justify it. I'll have to check out that Newegg site!

--B

--B
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 11:23 AM
 
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Posts: 1,418
Buying a cheap Dell and building it up would be a good way to go, if you have the gift certificates and discount. That's what I did with my Gateway notebook; I bought the base version, then bought more RAM and am about to buy a much bigger hard drive.
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 07:52 PM
ns9
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Portland, Or
Posts: 223
Hi! Ahhh- fun time
Since you are comfy on a PC already, stick there vs Mac.
I would recommend staying away from older chipsets (not too hard), and SiS chipsets. 845e or higher, or 850 work great. 845's use DDR ram, while 850's use RDRAM. RDRAM has a slight benefit over DDR, even the new dual-pipe DDR boards. I would also suggest going with a board that supports the new Intel hyper-threading, allowing upgrading later. I would also recommend going with a 2.53G CPU or higher; they are using a higher FSB naively. ASUS is my preferred for a board, but there are other good choices- stay major name here IMO. Onboard USB (make sure it has USB2 as well). I prefer onboard LAN 10/100 as well, save s a PCI slot. Some even have onboard Firewire, saving yet another slot. With RAM, try to use the best quality, 512 is great, unless you intend to run virtual instruments or other that cache to ram- if so, add more ram.
For video, I prefer an LCD for music- no interference ala CRT's, especially if self-tracking guitar or bass For a card, there are many good choices. Matrox makes good ones, although I prefer Nvidia (Geforce4 Ti series almost all allow dual monitors). Avoid onboard video!
OS. Win XP Pro- since you will be buying a hard drive (or two), $140-150 will get you an OEM Win XP Pro. Then hit tweakxp.com or whatever and a few other sites for music specific tweaks, and it should be rock stable.
Sound card. Fun. Onboard audio is all over the place. Some use a codec that caches to ram for the "synth" part, whether you use it or not. SB Live OEM are cheap, and great as a second out if needed. For primary I/O for recording, RME would be my first choice, although there are other great ones out there. Keeping the convertors and such outside the computer is suggested.
Hard drives. WD is great, IMO. The drive you chose for primary drive is great, but I would grab a WD 120G 7200 8M cache special edition drive for the secondary (dedicated to audio tracks); only a bit more, and worth it, IMO.
CD-DVD. There are more combo drives emerging. If you can afford it, I would grab a Pioneer A05 DVD writer. Recording at 44.1/24bit, files pile up quickly. Avoid the DVD+R/RW drives though. The Pioneer does CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW, and discs burned in it will play back (or restore) on most DVD-ROM drives, and DVD video/audio burned will play on most consumer DVD stand-alone units; not so with DVD+R/RW. There are DVD-ROM/CD-R/RW (plays DVD's, records/plays CD-R/RW) units out there now for about $150+ (newegg.com- shop a bit).
Case and power supply. I prefer a full tower, more breathing room, easier to work in when needed. Love the side-windowed cases- can see whats going on (fans and such). Aluminum/plastic cases are lighter, but I feel the metal cases are a little quieter. I put some Akasha Mat sound proofing in as well. For a power supply, I would suggest a 400watt+ Antec or Enermax with quiet fans. I LOVE the Antec True Blue- quiet, accurate power rating, dependable. At newegg, I like the Chieftec side-window cases; the access side comes off with a simple push of a latch- much like the new Mac G4's. Easiest access yet.
Sonar would be my first suggestion since you are already familiar with Cakewalk. Sonar has come a long way, and support of the DXi format is booming as well.
Any other questions, pls ask- happy to help if I can. I have built 2 music computers, and one gaming computer in the past 6 months for myself, and did alot of research before spending any money. I use an MBox on my gaming computer for scratch ideas, Pro Tools HD3 on one music computer, and Cubase SX and Reason (and a few other virtual instruments) on the other. Hope some of this helps. nikki
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-25-2003, 01:15 PM
 
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Something to think about.

Tomshardware.com is a great component/benchmarking site. They go into a lot of detail and stay very current. You can really learn alot in a few hours there...its where us geeks go....you may even decide to research each component individually to exactly meet your needs and expectations (recommended). If you can afford it, take advantage of as many new features as possible, your PC will not be obsolete as fast, for example:

With the P4 you can take advantage of the 533 MHz Front side bus and the 1066 RDRAM. If that is too expensive, try DDR333 or DDR400, benchmarks show it being very competitive to RDRAM. Stay away from SDRAM, it has no use in this type of PC.

With AMD you can take advantege of lower cost....again, check the benchmarks, for the best bang for the buck.

Look into a Motherboard with built in RAID, and ATA 133 support. A RAID 0 config using multiple ATA133 7200 RPM drives can really speed up your average write times. (Burst speed specs are as worthless as t!ts on a boar hog) Faster writes will come in handy for video editing too. 8MB cache HD's also work great in RAID 0 config. If you dont need the RAID, still get the feature, the extra IDE slots can be used for more HD's, burners and DVD drives. This way all drives can be used as a master, instead of the slower slave config.

Get built in Firewire (IEEE 1394) and USB 2.0...there are a lot of external devices that use these standards.

Dont skimp on cooling (CPU and case), Overheated components will most likely fail quicker. Get a good power supply, believe it or not, it is important.

You mentioned you like games, get a MOBO with 8X AGP port. The next couple rounds of video cards will probably take advantage of the increased bandwidth. They will also have 128-256 MB DDR ram built in.

If you get a DVD burner, get one that supports all the different formats. (DVD-RW, DVD+RW, sony makes one that does this. The industry can't seem to make up their mind on the different formats.) Stay away from DVD-RAM, it is only useful for data backup, the DVD's will not play in set top boxes.

unitedmicro.com has a great configurator that allows you to choose from many different name brands and seems to be close to computer show prices. Why pay for a bunch of components you won't use from an OEM? (Dell, Gateway etc)

Pro tools is becoming an industry statndard for recording. Digi design has the 001,002 and M-box (it now has support for XP, and comes with focusrite mic pre's), all come with a version of pro tools software that uses the same file types, and formats as the high end pro tools equipment. There are also bundles with plug ins. However, I think if you have friends and or support for some other software, you would be advised to follow suit. It helps to have a friend to call with the same software. The support issue goes for platform too.....if all your friends use mac, get a mac, and vise-versa. Collaboration and support mean a lot.

These are just some suggestions, I know it sucks to buy something expensive, only to find out you could have gotten a lot more for your money, or much better performance if you had known the different options that are out there. Don't limit yourself to the OEM's...do some research and make educated decisions...you will be happier....and smarter....which never hurts....happy hunting.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-25-2003, 01:22 PM
 
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I also agree with ns9 on the DVD burner...the pioneer is an excellent choice...now the prices need to drop and there needs to be one standard. I am hoping the new blue laser technology will help this problem, only time will tell.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-19-2003, 09:36 PM Thread Starter
 
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Well, I ended up putting off the purchase of a new studio set up for several months, for several reasons:
1) Needed the money for school
2) Needed the time for school
3) Was about to begin another major home recording project, and didn't want any studio "downtime" while I got the new gear set up

So, recently I got the urge once again to upgrade the studio computer... The band pretty much never got around to working on the recording. Not that I don't have a severe shortage of time and money because of school, but I've at least gotten used to the situation; plus, thanks to the ever-decreasing prices of PC's and other electronic gear, my dream system will probably cost about $500 less than I planned on 4 months ago!

I spent a lot of time pricing all the parts out on newegg.com, and here's what I ended up getting:
*Intel Pentium 4 processor, 3.0 Ghz HT, 800 Mhz FSB
*ASUS P4P800 Deluxe motherboard (800 Mhz FSB, DDR400, ATA133, USB2, 1394, 8xAGP, 10/100/1000 Ethernet)
*2x Kingston 512Mb 400Mhz/PC3200 DDR RAM (1Gb total)
*WD 120Gb 7200RPM ATA100 8Mb cache (for recording)
*WD 60Gb 7200RPM ATA100 8Mb cache (for OS, software, other data files)
*Sony 52x24x52 CDRW (black)
*Sony 16x DVD-ROM (black)
*ATI Radeon 9500 Pro 128Mb DDR DVI 8x AGP video
*Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2
*M-Audio Delta 1010-LT
*Black tower case w/ 380w power supply
*Other various accessories (fans, floppy drive, cables, etc)

I can get ALL of that stuff shipped to my house for under $1900. Seems like a pretty good deal for generally top-of-the-line hardware, based on my recent research. All I need to do is add Windows XP Pro and Cakewalk Sonar 2.2!

Next week is going to be a busy week!

--B
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-19-2003, 10:38 PM
 
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Some great advice here. My only disagreement is on the DVD burner. I agree to get one, but think the dual format is the best bet. They're all going that way anyway - even Pioneer just announced its new 06 - a dual format model. And +r is no less compatible than -r overall - the comparison tests have all been small, biased, flawed, or some combination of those. They are slightly cheaper, though.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-23-2003, 11:24 PM Thread Starter
 
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Sweet!!

After what seemed like the longest 3 days of my life, all of the parts for my new studio computer have arrived! I managed to get everything assembled tonight (which was the first time I've ever put a computer together from scratch where everything worked right the first time), and now I'm going through the process of installing drivers and software on it.

Out of my sheer excitement, I took a few pictures. (yep, I'm a geek at heart...)


Here's the new computer in it's "piano black" case. Actually, it's kind of hard to see, since it blends in with the desk. See Windows XP formatting away in the background... 94% complete.


I didn't realize the case came with any bright blue LED's until plugged it in. They're just about bright enough to light up a room.


Too many cables! Too many fans! Too many cables just to provide power to the fans!


What have we got here... a Pentium IV up top, 1 Gb RAM to the right, an ATI Radeon 9500 Pro video card, a M-Audio Delta 1010-LT card, and a SoundBlaster Audigy 2 card.

Anyway, this has been quite the fun project, and I'm sure it will be a lot more fun once I actually get all the software installed and get the computer set up in the studio.

99% complete with the formatting... I gotta go!

Thanks to everybody for their advice in the purchasing process!

--B
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-24-2003, 03:45 AM
 
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Now buy an LCD monitor. Both of my guitars pick up monitor noise even better than 60Hz cycle.
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 05-24-2003, 09:01 AM
 
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Oh, yeah. I can actually play next to my PC rig now that I have one!
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