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PC ($700 - $1600) 4 music production, etc (see inside)

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December 4, 2006 12:02:08 AM

Hi all. I'd like to build/purchase a computer for several tasks, including music production, games (not a priority), multiple-tab web browsing, photo editing, etc.

One of the major uses will be music production. I have purchased a Casio PX-575R USB keyboard. (I would have liked a better one, but I was limited on my keyboard budget. I hope to upgrade sometime in the future to something at least 2.5x the price.) I also plan (in the near future) to purchase Sonar Home Studio and Synthogy Ivory (with the Italian Grand expansion pack) in the near future. (system requirements basically are 1.3GHz, 1GB RAM, 40+GB (fast) HD space, but they recommend somewhat better, like 2GHz, 2GB, 7200+RPM/RAID, etc.

Also, I want to do some photo editing, video capture and multi-simultaneous-stream audio capture (willing to sacrifice especially if I go with minimum spec'd system on minimum budget)

My budget is somewhat unknown right now. I'm guessing I'll want to try to budget at least $650-750 (but if I can, I'd like to go higher, like $1200 - 1600). It depends on how much $ I earn at my job (I tune pianos for a piano store, and earn a set price per piano. I've been able to do a piano in 45 minutes if I'm lucky, but usually it takes much longer due to difficulties with some pianos (the 45-minute one or two that I've done were a good quality brand; also with no distractions (customers trying pianos, for example)), and customers sometimes coming in (it's not nice to tune while people are trying out pianos.))
I'd like to have this computer, if at all possible, by the afternoon / evening of December 21 (probably including using pay up through that day to purchase the computer), or early enough on December 22 that I can take my computer with me from El Cajon, CA, to Tulare, CA, by car, and preferably (although it depends on my parents (I most likely will be making the trip with them)) arrive by about 3 to 4 pm (I'll be there through the following Monday afternoon). (Because of how close I think I'll be cutting the timing of getting a paycheck, getting the computer, setting it up (getting things installed / working), and making the aforementioned trip (possibly in under 24 hours), I'd prefer to buy locally in San Diego, CA.)

I am looking for a desktop computer (those occasions where I take it places like described above I am thinking will be rare - maybe a few times a year), because I know I can get better specs for the price in a desktop, and there are some things I need that a laptop probably won't support (also I'm worried, based on how rough I treat small electronic objects, about the longevity of a laptop hard drive).

I'm open to suggestions - in fact, where I don't specify anything, feel free to blow my eardrums to shreds. Here, though, are what I'm thinking for minimum specs [with preferred / if I have the $ in brackets like this - depending on budget I may go for the minimum, preferred, or something in between]:

Case: don't need anything fancy, but would like plenty of space for adding hard drives & optical drives in the future. Also, front USB and sound ports would be really nice. (I prefer not to have a door covering the external drive bays, unless it slides / is removable)
Board: open to suggestions.
(note that I would like at least 4 or more maximum speed USB ports (6-8+ would be great)
CPU speed: 1.8GHz [2.6+GHz]
CPU platform: flexible (except not Celeron/equivalent)
RAM: 1GB [2+GB]
HD: 160GB 7200rpm [120GB OS HD + 2x250GB Raid0 SATA]
please note (in case the mobo's on-board controller isn't sufficient for what I want to do) that I already have a 80GB and 250GB HD that are somewhat full. The HDs I get with this system will be in addition to those, and I plan to plug them in to the new system. (I'd be willing to consider a good removable hard drive solution that's compatible with internal drives)
Backup: suggestions welcome -- but I'd like to be able to do periodic mirrors of all hard drives, and frequent incremental backups, including program & system folders & files.
Video Card: something with at least 64MB of RAM on-board [video capture (from VCR, etc) would be nice, as well as 256+MB on-board RAM and decent support for many recent games like Half-Life 2, for example]
Display: 17" LCD with at least 1000 lines, with good image quality, and good for playing video & games, and relatively wide viewing angle. (am thinking if I go for the low end, $150-180 would be the budget for the display) [19-20", 2048x1536, etc] (a CRT is too deep, although it'd be nice to be able to change resolutions (1280x960, 1400x1050, 1600x1200, 2048x1536, etc) without any loss in image quality)
Sound: a friend of mine has said on-board sound may be sufficient [but a decent card with at least 4 to 8 or more channels of inputs would be nice]
Optical Drive: DVD+/-R/RW DL [+RAM, Lightscribe / next-gen (Blu-Ray+HD / Holographic) ; multiple (2-4+ drives, supporting buring different data to each drive at the same time]
OS: Windows XP Professional (someone I know has a cracked installer CD that I could use, but I'd prefer to get the legit/genuine version, and am willing 2 pay 4 it) [Vista Ultimate when it becomes available ; would like to be able to dual-boot.]
Keyboard+Mouse: Optical scroll mouse, standard keyboard [multi-button multi-scroll optical mouse, multimedia+internet keyboard]

Any and all suggestions are welcome. I know I can find the minimum specs in my price range (I may need to up the minimum budget a bit - if that's the case, I'll wait to buy the computer until I can afford it, especially if I'm not able to earn sufficient $ before the 22nd.) but I'm looking for suggestions on if it's probably enough for what I'll be doing, and if I was to upgrade, what should I get. Suggestions for specific brands/models of components would be especially welcomed (I can look up their specs online if needed.)
December 4, 2006 12:11:09 AM

might be possible to do for about $750, but you'll get a much better build if your willing to put $1600 in. an E6600 is in order here, are you going to oc at all? you wont want to get onboard video, none of it is anygood for games. as far as HDD's go, if you want to back up your stuff then you should go with RAID-5.

i know i skimmed over alot of stuff, but thats a long post and i havent read it all yet, those where just the first couple things i saw.
December 4, 2006 12:32:15 AM

GIGABYTE GA-965P-S3 Socket T (LGA 775) $6.13 $115.99
Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Conroe 1.86GHz $180.00
pqi TURBO 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 $4.99 $94.99
RAIDMAX xB ATX-528B Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $19.99 $19.99
RAIDMAX AURORA RX-580F ATX 580Watts Power Supply $44.99
HITACHI Deskstar T7K250 HDT722525DLA380 (0A31636) 250GB $5.94 $74.99
eVGA 256-P2-N550 -T2 GeForce 7600GT 256MB $5.64 $119.99 - $20 = $99.99
NEC 3550A Dual 16x DVD+RW/-RW/CD-RW (48x/32x/48x),16x DVD $29.99
___________________________________
$722.63 total with s/h
$702.63 w/ rebates

I am about to build this soon, make the necessary adjustments.
Related resources
December 4, 2006 1:34:42 AM

One thing I forgot to mention:
If I go for the minimum system (or in any case), I will want to allow for expandability / upgradeability as I can afford various components (for example, more / bigger hard drives, more RAM, faster CPU, better video/sound card, better/more optical drives, etc).
December 4, 2006 3:51:03 AM

Another quick question that I'll append to this topic. My dad has 256MB of DDR266 RAM on his K6T266(?) board, a 1.4G AMD CPU, and Windows 2000. I'd like to suggest adding more ram (like an extra 512MB at least) to his computer (although he would rather wait till he buys a new computer, and I have no idea when that will be). What happens when you install different speed DDR RAM? (for example you put 400 on a 266 board or vice versa?)
December 4, 2006 5:52:47 AM

If you're doing music production, I would assume you would need a fast CPU and good RAM. If I may be so bold, I would go for an E6300 cpu [E6600 if you want] and 2Gb of DDR2-667 RAM [DDR2-800 if your budget will allow]. A 7200rpm hard drive is a must, and RAID5 would be ideal.

Memory
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820231098
Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813135022
CPU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16819115005
Case + PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811129155
HDD x 3
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822144414
GPU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814130073
Monitor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16824009088
Optical x 2-4
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16827106042
Windows
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16832116175

Actual retail price: $1210 give or take $10. Shipping for all that is about $65

I left out a few things. One being a sound card. Since you are doing music production, I don't know what you require as far as an audio input device, so I'll leave it up to the experts for that. Also, a keyboard and mouse are easy to find cheap, and you should just pick what you think looks and feels good. All in all, I'd say $1300 aint bad for a system like that, especially including a monitor and having 3 HDD's. However, you can definately cut costs here and there, like downgrading the RAM to just 1 GB or other such things. Good luck in your hunt, and happy music making!
December 4, 2006 11:34:49 AM

One thing real quick... shipping would be an option if I am able to earn the $ to buy this computer fairly quickly, but there is the possibility (unless I decide at the last minute to wait or just don't have the $ for even the basic system by 12-22) that there may be less than 18 hours between when I receive a paycheck that will put me over the top for being able to afford the system to when I actually take posession of said system. I want to pay for the system in full at the time of purchase.
So, I prefer to buy locally if I can. I appreciate (so far) the suggestions on what parts to get in this PC.
December 4, 2006 1:29:17 PM

Well then, take my list as an approximation of what you could be looking for. Full systems like this are usually not possible to build with sub $1000 budgets, especially when considering a monitor and multiple hard drives. My final price is what you could expect from shopping around at local stores, but like I said there is room to downgrade some parts.
December 4, 2006 2:35:16 PM

I would go with the highest speed Core 2 Duo you can afford such as the E6400 or E6600 and as much RAM as you can cram into the box. Music production is extremely heavy on multitasking. As you add virtual instruments, effects, etc., the dual cores and extra speed will really pay off. I would NOT OC. Gamers can live with a certain amount of system instability but music production software generally can't...stevenpchurch
December 7, 2006 9:35:25 AM

It looks like if I try to get a system by my original target date of Dec 21 (or 22 if it's early in the day), I may only be able to afford the "basic" system. I also have a few other unrelated expenses (purchases - things I need) that may be coming up (unless I can put them off).

So... should I: A - get basic system now, then wait as long as possible (for example push it to sometime in '08) to replace / upgrade, B - get basic now, then around June '07 upgrade, C - wait a few months (April-June '07), save my $, and get a much nicer system that hopefully can last me till '09 or '10?
Personally, I like the idea of option B, but I'm open to suggestions.

Basic system (approximate) specs:
1.8GHz CPU (not Celeron / equivalent)
1GB RAM (maybe 1.5GB)
160GB 7200rpm HD
basic video card with its own RAM
17" LCD display
16X DVD+/-R/RW
XP Pro
standard keyboard, optical scroll mouse

"upgraded" / better system:
wildly estimated budget: $2500 - $5500 (this would be for something purchased between April and June 2007 - also, I'm flexible on the specs - I could be willing to downgrade / juggle some things to fit my budget (which I pretty much have only guessed, based on what I make and my mandatory expenses, and docking some extra to be on the safe side). The lower end is for if I decide to buy sooner (rather than later in the window specified) and if I don't make as much as I hope (I'm paid by the work I do, not per hour or salary), and the higher end is if I earn a little more (this doesn't take into account any pay raises that may come my way) and wait till the later end of the window to get the system. Also, in most cases, I don't want to splurge just to get a little upgrade (for example, if a 3.4Ghz CPU = $200, a 3.6GHz CPU = $240, and a 3.8GHz CPU = $440, I'd probably get the 3.6.))
(also, I maybe could have taken a chance at upping the high end considerably (maybe even nearly double if I got lucky) but a computer isn't the only thing I want to save up for over the next several months.
dual / quad core 2.8GHz - 3.2GHz or better
4GB (maybe 8GB?) RAM - fastest available
2+TB hard drive storage (obviously not all one physical drive, and not all dedicated to 1 RAID. Note, though, that I arbitrarily put a number here - I still need to figure this out.)
a way to back up the data (for example, I think I'd like to do periodic complete mirrors and frequent incremental backups)
a good video card capable of at least 2048x1536 @ 85 Hz, also is decent with games (although I don't need the top of the line in this department - this isn't primarily going to be a gaming computer. I would like to be able to run Half-Life 2 at 1280x960 or so at 60fps most of the time, at least, if possible, for example, though)
video capture (maybe can be on video card. I'd like something that's good quality. 2 simultaneous capture streams would be nice)
20+" LCD display with at least 1000 to 1500 lines of resolution, fast response times (I will often be watching video and sometimes playing games with this), good color (also will do some photo editing), etc (examples of resolutions that appeal to me include 1600x1200, 1680x1050, 2048x1536, 2560x1600)
a good high-quality sound card - also multiple input channels (at least 8 - 16 or more would be nice)
at least 2 lightscribe good quality (but should I splurge for the Plextor name?) 18x(+) +/- R/RW DVD (maybe 4) (what's the chance that Blu-Ray or HD-DVD will have come down some in price by April - June 2007? Also what about drives that support both formats?
OS: Windows XP Professional & Windows Vista Ultimate (I will want to dual-boot)
a good multimedia internet office keyboard, multi-directional optical scroll mouse with several buttons

So what would you guys suggest?
December 7, 2006 2:29:15 PM

You can save some on your dream system by scaling back on the HDDs. You'll be able to do a lot with a 500 gig drive and then add on as your storage needs expand. Being "in the business", you'll probably get an employee's discount on the controller and software but you could still save by choosing an M-Audio keyboard over a CME, etc. If you wait, you'll be able to get a less expensive Quad by June but the Core 2 Duo is an excellent alternative right now. Forget about VISTA for about a year. The hardware to run it is expensive, there's no software written specifically for it and it's just eye-candy anyway....stevenpchurch
December 7, 2006 2:54:43 PM

Something like this....

E6600
2x250 Gb hdd
2x1 Gb ram (if using InDesign making big albums i advise you to 4 Gb)
GFX 7600GS
ConroeXfire-eSataII (two FireWire ports and e-sataII for $85) (works for me, but won´t past 300fsb)
DVD RW

Be careful with the monitor, since you are going to edit photos. Keep an eye on the apple ones if you go TFT. Little pricey though...
December 12, 2006 6:45:46 AM

k I've decided for sure I'm not getting anything before x-mas.
I have a few approximate dates I'd like to target, though -- early 2nd week of March '07, or around the 3rd weekend of May '07. As far as the budget goes, I won't know for sure until closer to the time I want to try to buy one. I think early estimates may range anywhere from $1.8k to $5.5k, but I really have no way of knowing just yet. I also am considering buying other things, for example, a car (not a new one ; but now that I'm working and have at least some income, I'm thinking (am still doing research, though) that I can now afford to buy a car (not a new one) and insurance (my parents won't pay for it, and it's required where I live, so that's why I haven't been licensed yet, even though I'm 25, although I've had a permit off and on for several years (I think it may be expired right now)) in that time period.
Seeing how fast threads get bumped off the front page on these forumz, I'm thinking I'll keep an eye on this thread for the next few days, but I may decide to let it lapse a while. What's the chance that, when it comes close to time (March or May 2007) that I will be able to search for this thread (most likely by my username) and find it? (I'll probably post a new thread then, rather than resurrect this one, though.)
Also, in the meantime, what are some good online configurators to try to price a computer with? I know about ibuypower.com, cyberpowerpc.com, technologydepot.com (a local retailer in San Diego, CA), and a couple others, but what are some you guyz (and cute galz) recommend? (I may be willing to buy from an online retailer and have it shipped, but would really prefer to buy locally & pick it up in person.)
December 12, 2006 2:48:22 PM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this.. but recording quality is far more important than the fastest processor here. I was using onboard sound on my eVGA 680i / E6300 (oc'd to 2.67GHz) for recording single tracks, and the sound options and quality improved immensely when I added the SB X-Fi Elite sound card/module. I borrowed a friend's X-Fi XtremeMusic version and wasn't too impressed over the onboard. The Elite version uses two sound processors instead of the one on the other X-Fi models, and it has a higher SNR. Read the reviews on newegg - your audio recording source is very important. It's much easier to record multiple audio tracks at a time.. no regrets purchasing it - recording guitar/vocals or keyboard/vocals (and two tracks of rhythm & lead guitar) has been a breeze and sounds fantastic.

The software that comes with the Elite are the Lite versions, so it's better if you already have your own recording software..
December 12, 2006 5:16:41 PM

ok, since you're not on a budget anymore, I could advise you to buy a G5 or a mac pro. But I don´t know what software you want to use and what kind of quality.
Keep in mind that you may need a pair of monitor speakers and a good hi-fi one, a good mic, maybe any kind of compressor/gate, an mbox etc...

If you are the producer, you´ll need these above, and you'll pass your money range if you go with a G5.

For money, hardware/software matters:

non producer- G5 (digidesign has most hard/soft for mac and digital performer only mac)

producer- good budget pc and the expensive production hardware
!