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Building 1st system focus on audio recording

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March 9, 2008 9:41:28 PM

Hi,
This is my first system build. I want it to be good at recording and playing back audio.
I have a Tascam 122L usb interface that plugs into mics and guitars.
Budget is around 1100. (prices from Newegg)

GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATx mobo 90
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache 255
Thermaltake CL-P0114 120mm CPU Cooler 45
RAIDMAX Smilodon Extreme Black ATX-612WEB SECC STEEL 80
LITE-ON Black 20X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+ 30
Western Digital Caviar SE WD5000AAJS 500GB 7200 RPM 100
XFX PVT84JUAL3 GeForce 8600GT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 90
Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 B2L-00047 keyboard and mouse 22
Microsoft Win Vista 32-Bit Home Prem or
System Builders Single Pack DVD - OEM 110
G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2
SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel 45
ViewSonic X Series VX1940w Black&Silver 19" 220
Thermaltake Purepower W0100RU ATX 12V 2.0 500W Power Suppl 60
Total 1,147

Tom"s HW test results indicate that audio performance is mainly a function of CPU so I focused a lot of resources here. Also, I assume a good video card relieves system resources especially if the recording software has lots of graphics.

Eventually I want to have 2 HD's. One for OS and apps and one for recording. First I need to learn how to accomplish that feat. I think it may relate to RAID or SCSI. I know the guitar chords better than the computer for now. :) 
Thanks for any help
March 9, 2008 10:25:45 PM

If you plan on doing any recording with a microphone in the same room as your PC, then you will hear all those fans.

I would suggest replacing all case fans with Zalman fans or getting a fan controller.

I would also go with a video card that has a heat sink instead of a fan.
March 10, 2008 6:48:48 AM

I strongly advice a dedicated soundcard, like echo audiofire. I don't know about the Tascam 122L

Then on the Q6600, this week the new penryn cores will be available, so you might wait just a littel bit and get more performance

Also: get a littel more ram, or if you want to spend some more money: an mtron harddisk for your os and audio software.
Related resources
March 10, 2008 3:46:15 PM

Thanks Anonissimus,
Regarding a sound card I am very confused about this issue. I'm working under the assumption that if the music goes into the computer already in digital format then I am better off not using money on a sound card.
I am mainly concerned with reducing latency.
March 11, 2008 3:14:02 PM

On-board sound increases latency because it utilizes more CPU resources to accomplish task. imagine your switching/mixing software competing with your audio capture. I would Recommend a bluegears, Yamaha pro, or X-Fi card, especially ones with break-out boxes or I/O plates for the computer. Quad-Core should be fantastic for this Task. I would recommend 2 inexpensive widescreens though to better organize your production software. My friend does this for his band's music production and it really helps out alot.
March 11, 2008 4:48:06 PM

Hi,

I do lots of audio production using similar spec computers to the one you're thinking about. I have 3: a e6750 with a Gigabyte GA-p35-DSR3, a Q6600 with a GA-p35-DS3R, and a Q6600 with a Asus p35k.

Here's my comments:

The gigabyte mobo is good, the asus is better for audio production because gigabyte has a little bug that affects real time data streams when using ultra low latencies. It can be mitigated by down reving the BIOS to F4, but that's kind of lame... (check out this thread: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/247210-30-audio-laten... )

The Q6600 is a great choice - most good audio apps use multiple cores beautifully. I use Ableton, and it distributes the load amongst the 4 cores perfectly.

As for the case - I'm not familiar with the RAIDMAX, but you want quietest case you can get. You want to be listening and recording your music, not your fans. I use a Antec P180, which is designed with quietness being the #1 priority, and I like it.

The Western Digital Drives are fine - I've got them and seagate drives and the western digital seem the quietest.

Make sure whatever graphics card you get can drive 2 monitors - as Serj said, 2 monitors is the way to go, and make sure the fan is not loud (or better yet, get one without a fan)

Vista vs. XP? Unfortunately, XP is still better at audio apps than Vista. It's leaner, and therefore faster. Once the audio applications and the drivers are ready for 64bit, then people will make the move to Vista to take advantage of 64bit memory access, but until then, XP is better. Maybe build a dual boot machine (32bit XP and 64bit Vista)

2 harddrives is an excellent idea - although you don't need to use RAID or SCSI. One of the harddrives can be for the OS and system, and the other you can use for recording and streaming audio.

Power supply - just make sure it's quiet. I can't say that enough - audio computers need to be quiet - especially for recording. Condenser microphones pick up everything... you'd be surprised.

hope that helps!
March 11, 2008 7:50:32 PM

Oh yeah...

when you're all finished, run the program "DPC latency checker" (google it). It's a good measure of how suited your computer is for low latency. It should be ~30us. Wireless devices (wifi) are notorius for causing spikes in the computer's ability to deal with low latency, so you may need to disable wireless during recording sessions.

As long as your Tascam interface uses ASIO drivers, it should work well. When you plug it in, the audio application should default to use your tascam instead of the on-board sound.
March 11, 2008 10:49:30 PM

Thanks for the good info. I think I'm going to switch the motherboard.
I am unclear why two monitors is better. Can two monitors be plugged into one video card?
March 11, 2008 11:43:36 PM

^Yes. You can plug 2 monitors in to 1 card.

@OP: You would probably need quieter fans. I recommend Yate Loon or Scyth S-Flex for quiet fans. Also get a x64 OS, you probably WILL upgrade to 4GB soon esp. with such low RAM prices. No need for SCSI drives or RAID. Make sure you get 7200.11 HDDs (7200.11's are almost as fast as the Raptors).
March 12, 2008 12:16:30 AM

with 2 monitors, you can have your recording application on one, and pluggins or a virtual mixer open on the other. It's not critical, but if you plan on doing this for a while eventually you're going to want it so you might as well get a graphics card that can handle it. Most decent cards do dual monitors these days.

Beware of the 64bit OS - it's a great idea until you realize that lots of hardware doesn't support it yet. If you look at Tascam's website you'll see that your 122L doesn't support Vista 64 bit. So you can either get a different audio interface or get an 32 bit OS. I'm guessing in a year the decision will but much clearer as to go with Vista x64, but now it's still debatable.

I agree that seagate 7200.11's are good. They're pretty quiet and very fast. Just don't get the 7200.10's - I've got some of those and they are way too loud.
March 12, 2008 8:04:50 AM

you could do with a passive cooled psu for such a box
March 15, 2008 9:19:42 PM

I have revised my original list. Thanks for the input. MSI P35 Neo2-FR – Motherboard (amazon.com ) 117
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache 209
SAMSUNG Black 20X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 20X 30
HITACHI Deskstar P7K500 HDP725032GLA360 (0A35411) 320GB 75
MSI NX8600GT-TD512EZ GeForce 8600GT 512MB 90
Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 B2L-00047 keyboard and mouse 22
Microsoft Win Vista 32-Bit Home Prem or
System Builders Single Pack DVD - OEM 110
Patriot 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 40
SAMSUNG 906BW Black-Silver 19" 2 ms (GTG) Widescreen LCD 230
Antec Solo Black/Silver Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case &
Antec True Power Trio TP3-550 ATX12V 550W 140
Total 1063

Thermaltake CL-P0114 120mm CPU Cooler 45

I already got the q6600 for $199 plus tax at Microcenter in Cambridge. Must be a loss leader. The cpu cooler may have to wait. I'll use the stock fan for a while.
The MSI graphics card is fanless.
I was going to go with a Seagate Barracude HD but I read a lot of reports that said they are now quite noisy doing a search so I went with Hitachi.
Any critiques are appreciated.
March 16, 2008 3:58:48 AM

I would go with the Gigabyte mobo. Your case has 1394, might want a mobo with 1394.

I just built a DAW a few months ago using GA-P35-DS4.

I use a Tascam FW1884 & a Line 6 TonePort 2UX.
The audio goes through the interface not the onboard audio of the mobo.

I would recomend the Line 6 TonePort 2UX especially if you play guitar.
!