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First time build! Please help(DAW)

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March 2, 2007 3:40:22 AM

Hey everyone,

I've been reading/researching for a while now and this is what I've come up with so far. I'm building a DAW, so pretty much for recording/editing audio.

CPU - AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor 3800+ Socket AM2 (65W) Retail ($109)

MOBO - Asus M2N4-SLI nForce4 SLI Sempron/Athlon 64(FX)(X2) SktAM2 DDR2 ATX Motherboard w/Audio, Gigabit LAN, RAID/Serial ATA ($95) (specs can be found here -> http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=101&l3=323&model=1266&modelmenu=1)

Memory - 2 x Corsair VS1GB533D2 1GB DDR2-533 PC2-4200 ($140)

DVD Drive - Toshiba SD-R5372 16X DVD±RW Drive (not really important) ( $28 )

HD - 1 x 250GB Hitachi SATA 7200RPM, 1 x 400GB Hitachi SATA 7200RPM($180)

Case/Power - Logisys CS51WBK Area 51 Mid Tower Case w/Window (with 450W ATX power supply) ($52)

Video - MSI G4MX4000-T64 GeForce MX 4000 AGP 8X 64MB DDR Video Card w/TV-Out (basic, no gaming/imaging needed) (Specs: http://www.msicomputer.com/product/p_spec.asp?model=G4M...) ($30)

Audio Interface - M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 ($99, already have it)

Cooling Device - I'm CLUELESS!

So around $650?

What do you guys think about this?

Thanks!

More about : time build daw

March 2, 2007 6:00:31 AM

Not bad but why agp? I'd get a pci-e based system

A cheap videocard would be
MSI NX6200LE-TD64E GeForce 6200 LE

and the motherboard
ECS NFORCE4M-A (V3.0) Socket AM2

This would future proof the system a bit more at about the same price. Once day you might want a raid setup and the added pci-e 1x slots will come in handy.

As for cooling unless you overclock stock amd coolers are just fine.
March 2, 2007 6:01:53 AM

looks like a good setup.

This might be a cooler to consider:
ZALMAN CNPS7000B
$29 and 5 egg rating, Zalman has good rep.
Related resources
March 2, 2007 7:08:38 AM

If you are building an audio recording station then do some research on the Mobo.

http://www.pcmus.com/ is full of info for recording studio pc's.

I built one last year for a customer which uses the same audiofile card. And an Asus M2N-SLI board.

You don't need a special cooler with a 3800+ just get something that will allow you to reduce the fan speed to the absolute minimum. anything below 50c is good. If you get the EE version you may even be able to go fanless :p  (check your temps at load)

You could steal the config from here also, these boards must be click free or they would not use them.

http://www.endpcnoise.com/cgi-bin/e/std/sku=recording_pc
March 2, 2007 7:43:25 AM

Quote:
looks like a good setup.

This might be a cooler to consider:
ZALMAN CNPS7000B
$29 and 5 egg rating, Zalman has good rep.


Look at the price of the components in his system!!!
Do you really think he wants to spend $30 on a fan??!
March 2, 2007 12:12:36 PM

Thanks for the reply everyone!

Quote:
Not bad but why agp? I'd get a pci-e based system


What's the difference between AGP and PCI-E?

Quote:
I built one last year for a customer which uses the same audiofile card. And an Asus M2N-SLI board.


Thanks a lot for the website. Would this work as a motherboard? And would the fan that comes with the case work? Since you said I don't need any complex cooling with this system.

http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?ProductCode=247130

Thanks yall!
March 2, 2007 1:15:44 PM

AGP = Obsolete
March 2, 2007 1:33:28 PM

The mobo looks OK and is passively cooled which is great.

The only fan you will need in your system will be on the CPU.

You want to reduce system noise, including electrical interference from fans etc to a minimum.

Make sure the HD's are not sandwiched on top of each other either.
March 5, 2007 2:34:40 AM

agp is old but it's not as simple as that. If pci-e was simply a replacement for agp I would say get the board you posted. But pci-e is much more, I't a total bus replacement. One day not long from now all boards will be pci-e only (ie. no pci slots). Seeing that both pci-e and agp based boards are around the same price it only make sense to get the one thats a bit more future proof.

And I know I said it in my last post but if your cpu came with a fan use it. amd has great stock coolers that will work just fine for normal use (ie. not overclocking). I'd also get a few low rpm fans for the case (to keep the system cool) and make sure your case has a place for fans near the hard drives (they get hot otherwise).
March 5, 2007 3:23:35 AM

Thanks a lot for the replies guys, I have a few questions:

1. How many fans exactly do I need? The one that comes with the power supply/case, what is that one meant to cool?

2. The computer I have right now only has 1 fan, how does that work?

3. Do I really need to cool the hard drives?

And finally, are the above components compatible?

Please keep in mind this is not a hardcore gaming computer, it's just a simple DAW

Thanks!
March 5, 2007 4:20:40 AM

For a DAW, MacPro.

I've used both Windows based PC's and OS X based PC's, the MacPro is light years ahead in terms of audio, ease of use, and pure performance.

I was a long time Sonar user (version 1 to version 6) -- cakewalk make great DAW software, but the Windows OS is the big limit. Even the 64bit variants are still poorly threaded.

If you wanna see how truely inefficient a Windows OS is, run a program called ProcMon and monitor registry calls, files access, etc. etc. -- you'll be amazed at how inefficient Windows OS really is.

But back to DAW, for high quality samples you need LOTS of RAM, the run of the mill garbage RAM you see on Tom's is just that, if you go more than 4GB (which I highly recommend for a DAW if you plan to work at 96Khz sample rate or higher) then you'll need ECC FB-DIMM so that your work doesn't suffer from a stray bit or two. Yes, ECC FB-DIMMs are expensive, but for true high quality 64bit computing, it's the only real option.

On the MacPro I use Logic Pro 7.2 (UB) with a Motu Ultralite, on the Windows XP 64bit side I use Cakewalk Sonar 6 with a EMU 1820m. I do most surround work for Final Cut Pro -- I get a lot more done on the MacPro vs. the PC.

Rob.
March 5, 2007 5:12:06 AM

Quote:
For a DAW, MacPro.

I've used both Windows based PC's and OS X based PC's, the MacPro is light years ahead in terms of audio, ease of use, and pure performance.

I was a long time Sonar user (version 1 to version 6) -- cakewalk make great DAW software, but the Windows OS is the big limit. Even the 64bit variants are still poorly threaded.

If you wanna see how truely inefficient a Windows OS is, run a program called ProcMon and monitor registry calls, files access, etc. etc. -- you'll be amazed at how inefficient Windows OS really is.

But back to DAW, for high quality samples you need LOTS of RAM, the run of the mill garbage RAM you see on Tom's is just that, if you go more than 4GB (which I highly recommend for a DAW if you plan to work at 96Khz sample rate or higher) then you'll need ECC FB-DIMM so that your work doesn't suffer from a stray bit or two. Yes, ECC FB-DIMMs are expensive, but for true high quality 64bit computing, it's the only real option.

On the MacPro I use Logic Pro 7.2 (UB) with a Motu Ultralite, on the Windows XP 64bit side I use Cakewalk Sonar 6 with a EMU 1820m. I do most surround work for Final Cut Pro -- I get a lot more done on the MacPro vs. the PC.

Rob.



I would highly recommend not getting a macpro for a DAW. This setup looks way better, and CHEAPER. My friend has a mac pro and its nice, but your not getting bang for the buck. I've used it. Thing is a lot of the programs i like are not available for mac (Maybe not in your case) and it seems like that is a limiting factor, although Universal Binaries are starting to emerge a lot so that could change. For video editing too. Final cut is not as efficient imo as Sony Vegas. I can put out a project in 2/3 the time that it takes me in Final Cut. Plus Vegas is hella cheaper. Mac you are paying for the name and the shinny box it comes in. I am running 24bit 192khz on my Custom Built "old Fashioned" XP rig. Guess what? It screams compared to my friends mac pro. My e4300 oc'd wastes his mac in any rendering. Plus my system is just as quiet or not quieter thanks to my friend scythe ninja. I have a total of 3 fans in my sys. psu video caed (which is silent when im not gaming), and an extra thick 120mm fan. in an Antec P180. 3 300gb hard drives. plus mac your upgrade path is extremely limited, especially if you're worried about warranties. Don't fall for the mac adds. That old PC man will out bump Justin Long (which is the worlds best actor in "Herbie Fully Loaded" which as won so many awards! What a great man to have representing you mac, sorry i digress)

oh yeah if you like video games too (when you're not strictly business), you will not want to game on a Mac pro.

Oh yeah i had been working fine with East West Symphonic Orchestra Gold XP(Which is a 30gb+ plugin) with only 2GB of ram. It ran fine, with multiple instances at 24/192, but i do agree 4gb is a lot better.
March 5, 2007 10:48:59 AM

Quote:
1. How many fans exactly do I need? The one that comes with the power supply/case, what is that one meant to cool?


You need only as many as it takes to keep your system cool. In the case of a 3800+ system you will probably only need the fan that comes with the CPU. The PSU fan draws air through the PSU to cool it.

Quote:
2. The computer I have right now only has 1 fan, how does that work?


Excluding the Power Supply, your system could only have one fan, this is generally on the CPU which requires cooling.

Quote:

3. Do I really need to cool the hard drives?


Google just released the results of a massive study which included data on Heat related Hard Drive failure. They found that there was no significant increase in failure rate due to heat.

Finally,

The M2N-E mobo looks fine but is OOS. Any M2N mobo should be OK.

As I said previously you could steal the configuration from www.endpcnoise.com and simply use the same components.

My friend has a recording studio set up using an old Athlon XP 2400+ and 512MB ram. So anything you buy today should provide more than enough perfromance for seamless recording.

So in summary:

M2N AM2 mobo
3600+ X2 will do.
2GB Corsair DDR Ram
2 X SATA HD
Case any cheapo will do.
Get a seperate PSU, Expect to pay $50-80 for a goodun
M-AudioFile is great.
Video 6200LE would do.

Get XP(no driver problems) not Vista for your OS.

It may get up to $700 total price but thay is very very good value for a DAW.
March 5, 2007 2:19:37 PM

bobloadmire,

Just want to clarify, you reference YOUR FRIEND's MacPro, so you don't actually have real world experience with both do you?

Like I said, run ProcMon, you'll see just how inefficient Windows OS really is -- all this OS activity takes away processing that could be put to better use for Audio.

Oh yeah, Intel MacPro with X1900XTX do games just fine.

This debate has gone over and over and over, but everytime the PC is "cheaper" argument fails. If you're just doing entry level type DAW work with no plans to get serious, then yes a Windows platform will work for you and you can probably toss one together for <$1000.

But if you want to move into doing "real time" layered FX processing with many Virtual instruments (VST or DXi) then you will need a MacPro with lots of high quality RAM. 64bit processing is really the only option here -- 32bit processing and a 4GB limit on XP Pro just doesn't hack it.

You can make WinXP 32bit work, but if your work starts getting complicated you'll find yourself bouncing individual tracks and doing staged outputs to get to your final output. If you have to make any changes along the way, you'll have to restart the process over again. Being able to avoid this and doing all the work in real time is a huge benefit.

But if you plan to do any high resolution surround work, I wouldn't even consider and Windows 32bit platform as viable.

An alternative to FCP and Logic Pro is Digital Performer 5.11, not as easy to use, but very powerful and cheap $350 or so.

The MacPro is the most silent computer I've used to date considering it's performance potential. The the most noise comes from either my BlueRay drive or the standard DVD DL drive when it spools up.

Rob.
March 5, 2007 6:07:54 PM

Thanks for the replies everyone.

As for the Mac, I've used Macs in a studio before and they didn't impress me much. Yes, they are superior in stability, but other than that, I'd much rather have a PC (I see more bang for my buck in a PC).

monkeymanuk, I agree to not needing high specs. Back in 2004 I ran Cool Edit (multi-track recording software, now called Adobe Audition) and FL Studio on a P4 with 256mb of ram lol and it worked fine.

So here are the final specs:

-- AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor 3800+ Socket AM2 (65W)
-- Asus M2N4-SLI nForce4 SLI Sempron/Athlon 64(FX)(X2) SktAM2 DDR2 ATX Motherboard
-- 2 x Corsair VS1GB533D2 1GB DDR2-533 PC2-4200
-- Toshiba SD-R5372 16X DVD±RW Drive
-- 1 x 250GB Hitachi SATA 7200RPM, 1 x 400GB Hitachi SATA 7200RPM
-- MSI NX6200LE-TD64E GeForce 6200 LE 256MB(64MB on Board)
-- Logisys CS51WBK Area 51 Mid Tower Case w/Window (with 450W ATX power supply)


Assurance that everything is compatible would be nice.

Thanks a lot guys, great help!.
March 5, 2007 11:21:49 PM

Quote:
bobloadmire,

Just want to clarify, you reference YOUR FRIEND's MacPro, so you don't actually have real world experience with both do you?

Like I said, run ProcMon, you'll see just how inefficient Windows OS really is -- all this OS activity takes away processing that could be put to better use for Audio.

Oh yeah, Intel MacPro with X1900XTX do games just fine.

This debate has gone over and over and over, but everytime the PC is "cheaper" argument fails. If you're just doing entry level type DAW work with no plans to get serious, then yes a Windows platform will work for you and you can probably toss one together for <$1000.

But if you want to move into doing "real time" layered FX processing with many Virtual instruments (VST or DXi) then you will need a MacPro with lots of high quality RAM. 64bit processing is really the only option here -- 32bit processing and a 4GB limit on XP Pro just doesn't hack it.

You can make WinXP 32bit work, but if your work starts getting complicated you'll find yourself bouncing individual tracks and doing staged outputs to get to your final output. If you have to make any changes along the way, you'll have to restart the process over again. Being able to avoid this and doing all the work in real time is a huge benefit.

But if you plan to do any high resolution surround work, I wouldn't even consider and Windows 32bit platform as viable.

An alternative to FCP and Logic Pro is Digital Performer 5.11, not as easy to use, but very powerful and cheap $350 or so.

The MacPro is the most silent computer I've used to date considering it's performance potential. The the most noise comes from either my BlueRay drive or the standard DVD DL drive when it spools up.

Rob.


Alright before i start my counter arguement, lets not get carried away and start a flame war. Lets keep it civil.

about games. i wasent refeering to the video card (Although i don't know if you can just slap an 8800 in a mac and it will just "Work" and powersupply issues to. can you just replace a mac power supply?) anyway i have used Xp x64 and for audio i don't find much difference unless you are using more than 4gb of ram, which is a very few, 4gb seems to be the sweet spot right about now, for the money. I ran Sonar X64 and it ran, wait for it, just like sonar 32bit. I maybe used a little less cpu, but in audio, the only time i have seen my cpu maxed out is when im rendering. With dual core and up, i can have as many VSTi's and Audio tracks and effects as i could ever need, and still not tax my cpu. As long as i have my ASIO, im good to go. I have never had to bounce a track for any issue on my computer. I have bounced tracks for workflow reasons, but not because my computer couldn't handle it. When you go for high end, the PC is usualy quite a bit cheaper. I have used my friends mac pro more than i would have liked. We were doing song together, and due to Mac/PC incompatability its just easier to use one machine, and i wanted the Mac experience. My friend loves his mac pro, but he has told me next time he upgrades hes getting a pc, and not letting someone talk him into a mac. Im not a mac hater, im just a realist. The mac pro is rediculously quiet, Mac got that down. I have a hard time matching the silentness of a mac pro, but i also over clock the crap out of all of my stuff, so can't compare really.

On a side note i'd love to hear your stuff. Ill send you a pm.

on a side note. I run usually 0%-1% proc usage at idle. thats pretty effiecient i'd say. It depends if the pc you used is bogged down with crapola.

Oh yeah another thing about OSX, you have to pay to upgrade at every .1 interval. Im glad MS at least doen't make you pay for service packs and that type of stuff. Although thats about all i like about M$
March 6, 2007 4:02:18 AM

No flames needed -- I agree, yes you can build a WinXP box to be a DAW for less than a MacPro and it can probably do a reasonably good job for the average hobbiest.

I am a little confused why you got X64 Sonar but only used 4GB of RAM? X64 bit address space is slower than 32 bit address space, just like 32 bit is slower than 16 bit. As has been shown by Tom's and other test results, 64 bit OS and 64 bit apps are slower to the equivalent 32 bit apps (not by much). Since WinXP 32 supports 4GB (actually you get 3.6GB and a max of 2GB per application thread unless you use the /3GB boot.ini switch), I wouldn't expect you to see any difference between the x64 version of Sonar vs. the x32 version with only 4GB RAM.

But as ones projects use more high resolution audio samples one rapidly use up RAM, toss in FX layers, toss in many more VST/DXi instruments and one will soon hit wall and that 8GB of RAM or more will be beneficial. But again, it really depends on users project complexity. If you want room to grow, the Intel based MacPro's have all that and more and you don't have to buy Apple ONLY components. The days of the old G4/G5 are long gone with the introduction of Intel CPU line to MacPro.

The idle numbers don't say much, it's when you start actually running apps in Windows -- this is when you'll see inefficiency in app, in the OS -- you can get process monitor from here: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/utilities... -- it combines regmon, filemon, and more into a single package. You'll be amazed at how many times the same registry item is queried by the OS. I'm a software engineer, this is what we call "over normalized" code. It is where methods have been so removed that tasks need to constantly query environment configuration information even though the same threadID may have already just done so a millisecond or two earlier. This tool is a good eye opener for anyone from power user to IT pro to software engineer -- I use it all the time to figure what an App or OS is really doing.

Apple provide free updates also, True that Leopard will be a $79 upgrade but at least it wasn't 5 years to develop and it does actually provide some real content -- can't say that about Vista other than DX10 which is purely a marketing decision. What I don't like about Apple is that they are overly secretive about what exactly will be in the next OS, they've given some hints, but just teasers.

Still, I love seeing my MacPro go thru render of H.264 with all 4 CPUs cranking away and seeing my 8GB RAM put to good use. And Adobe CS3 Beta for OSX just burns thru tasks considerably faster than CS3 beta on a dual core WinXP box.

Besides, you folks should encourage competition because it ultimately benefits the consumer and I'm sure we'd see DX10 available for WinXP if there were more serious contenders rather than a Vista ONLY option -- that certainly hits people in the bang for buck balls when they pop $260 for a Vista Ultimate upgrade just so they can have DX10. That is Microsoft saying "BEND OVER and take it up tha A.. -- oh you don't like that, too bad go find something else to play on".

You might say I'm Pro Choice :) 

Rob.
March 6, 2007 1:54:33 PM

yeah i agree with alot of your points. But basically im too cheap to get 2gb sticks. In not rich. lol

Yeah new intel cpus are nicei in in the macs. no more slowness.
I would not cal vista and DX10 marketing choices though. I dont know if you used vista? but i got Vista Buissness free from M$. It nice. The ready boost really does help with application loads and other things. DX10 sounds amazing technically. just the amount of reduced overhead and other things, but that a discussion for another time. I guess that the MAc/PC choice is really determined on 2 things. How much money you have, and what software you like to use.
i know a lot of my VSTs are not mac compatable and that would suck for me.

Now off to school!
March 6, 2007 2:37:00 PM

At least you're in school. Many moons ago (ok decades ago) when I was working and paying my own way thru university, my PC was a TRS80 color computer (massive 32K RAM) and my car was a 1972 Toyota Corona deluxe. I could not afford an IBM PC nor a nice car (bought it used for $350).

But, my hard work and dedication did eventually pay off and hardware/software costs are a non-issue for me now. Just remember, less than 5% of the population are university educated -- it is an accomplishment to graduate university (and believe it or not, it does look good on a resume).

There are many people on this forum that harp on at "rich" people without even knowing how that person got from A to B. Nothing wrong with being cheap, with getting bang for the buck, nor buying the best their is to buy every few months.

Rob.
!