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Hi everyone! Please advise me on music-production build $900

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January 9, 2007 4:01:53 PM

Hello all, this is a very interesting and helpful forum. I hope you guys can lend me a hand. :D 

This is yet another first-build noob :oops:  posting for advice. I have been reading up on all the forums, looking at and comparing prices for days now, and my head is about ready to explode. I've come up with about 5 potential builds, but everyone's opinion differs, something changes and then the whole build gets restarted. It's pretty hard to make up my mind.

So... If I say exactly what I want, then I was hoping some of you kind and lovely people would recommend me complete builds (i.e. all of the major components as a bundle, excluding, mouse and keyboard which I have). That way I should be able to avoid annoying hardware conflicts.

What follows will be pretty long, detailed, and even boring. However, I feel like it's my job to be as precise as possible - to help you help me. THANKS!!

- Budget $900 (firm)

- I am NOT looking for an amazing, ultra-perfect, top of the line system. I I want something a) economical b) functional (does what I want it to decently), and c) upgradeable, so I can improve this system in the future and save money 2/3 years down the line (my main reason for not buying a prebuilt system which could save me some $$$ e.g. the IBM system on spoofee.com a couple of days ago for <$500).

- USE of computer: the usual internet and word processing stuff (I am a philosophy graduate student), home-studio type music production (I play bass, and other instruments and make jazz/funk/soul tracks for fun), minimal gaming (CS, not CS source at the moment) .

- I am happy to get a no OS system. (leave it to me to add on the price of that).

- My primary concern is to have a syertem that can handle some reasonable level MUSIC PRODUCTION. Not at pro studio level (my studio hardware doesn't merit that), but that can deal with Ableton Live 5, Reason, bunches of VST plugins, and a lot of WAV files at once. I rarely record > I/2 mic's at one time. At the moment I am using a Dell Inspiron 5150, with Pentium 3, and 512 MB Ram, so anything will be a major step up

- I already have a sound-card in the form of an audio interface. The AI is an Edirol FA101, so i want a FIREWIRE (i1394) READY motherboard (or a mobo and PCI card combo that will do firewire for not too much extra cash). I realise that maybe later I will want to upgrade to an Amu sound card or something, but this can wait for now (unless someone can tell me why an onbaord sound card will be better for me than the AI - does it effect track rendering, isn't that all just digital?)

- Because of interest in music production I need a fairly fast, dual core CPU. I was thinking an Athlon 64 x2 4200+ with AM2 slot (so i can later upgrade to Athlon 64 FX / x2 5000 when the price comes down. Is that correct?). Why should I go Intel if I should?

- Clearly I need a decent amount of RAM (2GB). I am not interested in overclocking (I only half understand what it is, I do not game very much, and it seems irrelevant to my most CPU heavy music production tasks). So I want 2GB of 553 DDR2. I sort of want a mobo that can later go up to at least 4GB (I have a feeling that is going to become as standard in 3 yrs as 1GB is now, and 2GB shortly will be....)

- I would like a reasonably QUIET set up (recording...) but it doesn' have to be silent (as in silentpc.com)

- GAMING: I play some Counter-Strike, and may want to upgrade to CS Source, but that is about it. I am happy to wait and get a video card later (i.e. use graphics in mobo for the moment) and just not play source for now. This is a fairly low priority (I am trying to cut down on gaming). So if I will need an expensive video card to play CS source, just leave it out. I can get it later. I would rather spend more of the budget on the processors and memory - the core fo the computer - to make it fast and smooth and lovely to use. :D 

- any old MONITOR that's 17' or so is fine. I like my photos on film, and my girlfriend does the photoshop stuff on her PC. I am budgeting for about $130 for that.


END OF REQUIREMENTS

Extra notes:

I was thinking (please don;t bite my head off for this) of a barebones SFF system: the Shuttle XPC SK22G2 ($209). Just seemed economical, and easy to get a couple of extra bits and have it up and running soon. I am not afraid to build, just a bit intimidated by the huge mass of options (I pick this mobo, then I need this or that CPU, which will only take this RAM etc.). I am not sure how cool (as in chilly, it is definately cool looking IMHO) and quiet the Shuttle will be, nor whether it's really ecomonical. A lot of people seem to recommend the Antec Sonata case and fan, which seems cool and quiet, but then I have to find a Mobo which means a lot of choosing etc.

I have no predjudice against Intel, but none for them. Athlon seem cheaper, with better options for upgrading with the AM2 slot (or however you say it). Feel free to correct me.


Any help would be greatly appreciated, and I hope some other noobs can benefit from advice I recieve.

Thanks everyone :p 
January 9, 2007 10:04:02 PM

only replying to bump this up the list so someone will read it and help a poor, ignorant, trembling noob...
January 9, 2007 10:08:44 PM

Based on the 4200 CPU I'd suggest the following:

Case http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
Mobo http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
CPU http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
RAM http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682...
Floppy http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682...
HDD http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682...
DVD http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682...
Video Card http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
(forgot the video card on first post)
Total $812.93

That leaves a little less than $80 for the monitor Then I'd find a used monitor until I could afford something decent, although majoring in Philosophy this may be a while. If there was anyway I could swing it, I'd get an 80GB Seagate 7200 RPM for the OS and programs and just use the 320GB for storage. Less likely anything would happen to you music files if the OS had to be reinstalled. :)  I'd also check the CPU comparison chart on tomshardware specifically for programs like I was going to use, e.g., audio file conversion. I'd definitely get a mobo with onbaord firewire and 3 PCI slots given one is already taken with your sound card.
Related resources
January 9, 2007 10:24:37 PM

I would recommend an intel core2duo system, probably the e6300 which you could overclock fairly easily. See Wusy's guide in the forum. Dont be afraid of overclocking, it simply gets the most from your hardware and its become fairly simple with the excellent C2D chips.

You will need some fairly decent ram, probably 667MHz with 4-4-4-12 timings of 800MHz with 5-5-5-15 or better timings. 533MHz would be the minimum if u dont want to overclock though.

Seeing as you dont play many games you wont need a high end graphics card. A midrange card such as the 7600GT(nvidia) or 1600 series(ATI). They may be better than what you require, if so just get a cheaper card.

Not that many motherboards have firewire support, so you can either spend slightly more on a firewire mobo, or the cheaper option which would be to buy a suitable mobo (intel 965 chipset for C2D eg. gigabyte DS-3) and a firewire card.

overclocking guide:
http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/Core2Duo-Overcl...

An example build (not to be taken as 100% correct tho):
http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/GUIDE-GHz-Core-...
January 9, 2007 10:33:49 PM

Thanks qpaw and Flewis. It's kind of you both to get back to me so quickly.

I looked at what you said, and had the following thoughts:

qpaw, that looks pretty close to what i was thinking, and it's really helpful to have all the elements pulled together like that. Why that Mobo (given the not outstanding reviews)? i thought maybe the GIGABYTE GA-M55SLI-S4:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

And why that RAM? How much will I notice the difference to 533 RAM? DId you recommend that one mainly because Kingston is a reputable comany?

Flewis

I am suprised how cheap that system you gave me a link to is! However, I wonder about the following things...

1) Why Intel and not Athlon? I'm not being argumentative, but I feel like I can get a fast processor for cheaper with them. Is my idea about upgrading to AMD FX later when it's cheaper (with the AM2 pin config / socket or whatever its called) not a good one? Overclocking may be easier with Core Duo but

2) Re: Overclocking - my thoughts about this
a) I don't think I need it (as I say I am getting by with a Pentium III at the moment, and that pretty much handles all of the music tasks I am asking of it, although it isn't bny any means fast...). It is just good because you can get more bang for your buck?
and b) I think it will make the system a lot more noisy (there are 5 additional fans in the example system you showed me).

UPDATE ON CPU's Having checked the comparison charts, I see that the Core 2 Duo 6400 performs a lot better on almost everything than the nearest priced Athlon X2 4600. So far as I can see, the Intel CPU is lot faster, and much better at handling multi-tasking.

However, I can save $50 and get the (probably for my purposes only occasionally noticeably slower) AM2 x2 4200 model, and then upgrade later.

It seems like the E6400 and the 64 x2 4200 are in the sweet spot for price / power at the moment, so it's a $50 toss up.

Can anyone say anything to Anything to make the deal? Is Intel going to keep releasing chips with the same socket type? Is Athlon going to stick to the AM2? That would give the mobo a better shelf-life.
January 9, 2007 10:34:06 PM

You want a core2duo.

Runs reason a treat.
Runs cubase amazingly since it has multi processor support.
Not sure about ableton. With cubase i can load up more vst's than i could ever use. Never chugs at all and i have latency settings of 256 samples(256 is my conservative setting ;)  ). Also have external synths etc.

You should be able to build one easy for your money.
Don't worry too much about top end components. It's the raw CPU speed that will be most important to you. If you're doing a lot of recording and saving youll want plenty of hard disk space too.

The E4300 is looking pretty tasty.
January 9, 2007 10:38:05 PM

thanks mate. i had a feeling it was the raw power that would make the difference.

Do you have any input about soundcard vs. audio interface? For the moment I am happy with the Fa101, but just wondering in general what the advantages would be (with a sound card there are no preamps, I'd need to buy a mixing deck just for the audio inputs...
January 9, 2007 10:49:20 PM

One more thing..

Re: HD's

I am thinking of getting a 40GB for apps and such, and then about 250 GB of storage. I can get the latter for under $100 I think. What do all the different numbers after SATA mean e.g. SATA 150 (is that 1.5 Gb/sec ?). I would be happy with less total storage though, my attitude is that having a massive amount of total storage a) makes backing up the data (recorded sound data in particular) virtually impossible and b) encourages me to store crap I don;t need (as I currently do on my external HD). I can always upgrade to better/ bigger HD's later
January 9, 2007 10:52:40 PM

Not really sure tbh.
I just have the M-Audio 24/96 but i don't really need it since i don't use a lot of external audio.

The interface looks like a sound box that just uses firewire to send the audio to the pc.

It all depends on your needs really and how much money you have to spend.
January 9, 2007 10:55:30 PM

Well hard drives are very cheap these days. I wouldn't bother buying a 40gb. Just go for something around 250gig or whatever works out the best value per gig.

150 is 150mb/s but the hard drives themselves cant transfer that fast so don't really worry too much about it. It's preferable to get SATA-300 since its newer but you won't see a lot of difference.
January 9, 2007 11:17:08 PM

yeah, I love my FA-101. It is quiet, has decent preamps, and built like a brick . So no fancy sound card until someone persuades me otherwise. :) 
January 10, 2007 10:56:51 AM

Quote:
Thanks qpaw and Flewis. It's kind of you both to get back to me so quickly.

I looked at what you said, and had the following thoughts:

qpaw, that looks pretty close to what i was thinking, and it's really helpful to have all the elements pulled together like that. Why that Mobo (given the not outstanding reviews)? i thought maybe the GIGABYTE GA-M55SLI-S4:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

And why that RAM? How much will I notice the difference to 533 RAM? DId you recommend that one mainly because Kingston is a reputable comany?

Flewis



I am suprised how cheap that system you gave me a link to is! However, I wonder about the following things...

1) Why Intel and not Athlon? I'm not being argumentative, but I feel like I can get a fast processor for cheaper with them. Is my idea about upgrading to AMD FX later when it's cheaper (with the AM2 pin config / socket or whatever its called) not a good one? Overclocking may be easier with Core Duo but

2) Re: Overclocking - my thoughts about this
a) I don't think I need it (as I say I am getting by with a Pentium III at the moment, and that pretty much handles all of the music tasks I am asking of it, although it isn't bny any means fast...). It is just good because you can get more bang for your buck?
and b) I think it will make the system a lot more noisy (there are 5 additional fans in the example system you showed me).

UPDATE ON CPU's Having checked the comparison charts, I see that the Core 2 Duo 6400 performs a lot better on almost everything than the nearest priced Athlon X2 4600. So far as I can see, the Intel CPU is lot faster, and much better at handling multi-tasking.

However, I can save $50 and get the (probably for my purposes only occasionally noticeably slower) AM2 x2 4200 model, and then upgrade later.

It seems like the E6400 and the 64 x2 4200 are in the sweet spot for price / power at the moment, so it's a $50 toss up.

Can anyone say anything to Anything to make the deal? Is Intel going to keep releasing chips with the same socket type? Is Athlon going to stick to the AM2? That would give the mobo a better shelf-life.


I suggested that mobo because it has 3 PCI slots, which I think is important given you'll be using a separate sound card and it keeps the price down. For $50 I'd go for the faster CPU. The CPU and mobo are like the engine and suspension system of a car i.e., the foundaiton of the system. If I were planning on upgrading the CPU, I'd get the least expensive that would meet my needs and then upgrade later. I just don't think it makes sense to do a one step upgrade. As for SATA 1.5 vs 3.0, I will always take the faster if there is little or no difference in price, whiich is the case with hdd. Again, I would recommend 2 HDD even if the storage is 250 rather than 320. As I said, it is a better way to protect data and as soon as I could afford it I would put together an external drive. I am assuming you will spend a lot of time on your music projects and do not want to have redo them should anything happen. Finally, I'd pay the extra for the onboard firewire again because of the fact you'll only have 2 or at most 3 PCI slots. I know PCI is an old technology but until mfg start making PCI hardware, it's the reality we have to deal with.
January 11, 2007 2:04:44 AM

Thanks for all the advice everybody - I have used the various recommendations and more brain-busting hours of trawling through forums and reviews to come up with two potential systems, which I posted in a new thread. Let me know what you think if you have time.

:D  :D  :D  :D  thanks again :D  :D  :D  :D 
!