Building my own $1200 i7 DAW …HELP!

Hi, I’m building a DAW computer (never built any computer before) I priced out commercial DAW’s around 2k for a core 2 quad 8200 setup (with XP tweaked for audio) Then I found a Dell xps 420 deal for a quad 9400 setup for around 1,200 shipped.

I think I can build an i7/x58 DAW system for a little more than the Dell’s price (hopefully)

Couple of things…

- This computer will ONLY be used as a DAW (no gaming, etc) I might edit video down the road (but I can always upgrade my vid card setup then)

- I want the max audio tracks I can get (24+ at 24/96 & effects)

- I’m trying to keep the cost as low as possible (I need to put my main $’s into the 24/96 converters & card, mic pre, etc.)

- Not planning on overclocking (don’t know how & not sure I will need to)

- I already have the OS (XP pro 32 bit) can’t do 64bit till all the drivers are good with my Nuendo software version (haven’t heard great things about vista 32bit stability yet with this software as well) Once it’s solid, I’ll switch to 64bit.

- I need a dual monitor setup (nothing special, the cheapest costing vid card with 2 digital outputs to connect my 2 lcd monitors) also, enough onboard card memory so it never uses my system ram. Something like this? $44.99 (After rebate)

- As far as a computer case, I don’t care how it looks. I just want it big enough to fit everything easily & good airflow (& as quite as possible)

- Lastly, I found out from my tax person I need to buy all this before the end of this year (08) so I can use it as a deduction! (I’ve been living on these forums & the net for a week now…lol)

Here are the parts I am leaning towards so far (not sure if they are all 100% compatible)

Processor: core i7 920 $299.99

Mobo: Asus P6T deluxe X58 $299.99

Memory: CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory – Retail $229.99


OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory – Retail $184.99

(I know I will only be able to use up to 4gb (with the 3/g switch) with XP pro. But I’ll have 6gb for when I eventually bump up to 64bit vista)

CPU: Corsair 750 W crossfire ready $99.99 (After rebate)


PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W EPS12V SLI NVIDIA SLI Certified (Dual 8800 GTX and below) CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply – Retail $69.99 (After rebate)

Hard Drives (1 boot & 1 data) - 2 X Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM $64.99 each = $129.98

Optical Drive - 1 X SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD+R DL 22X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 22X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe - OEM $28.99

Case? (big enough & cool enough & not too pricey)

Fans? (CPU fan, Case fans… already good/quite enough? Or do I need to get other ones?)

Thanks in advance for any help. This forum is wayyyyyyyyyy more helpful than any of the others I’ve been on.

11 answers Last reply
More about building 1200 help
  1. Well one thing I would recommend would be to save money on a smaller boot drive...I'm pretty sure it doesnt take 500GB for an OS and all your programs...
  2. yep, was thinkin that too. The ones I saw were smaller but around the same cost. I figured maybe I'd partition the 500 boot as two 250's & use the 2nd partition as a backup?


  3. if you want that will be good, partitioning the hard drive.
  4. JvM said:
    The ones I saw were smaller but around the same cost. I figured maybe I'd partition the 500 boot as two 250's & use the 2nd partition as a backup?
    Right idea - wrong execution. You'd want the backup partition on a separate drive in case your boot HDD bites the dust.

    For a case I'd suggest Cooler Master RC-690. Included case fans are all you need for a cool, quiet system.
    The video card you linked is fine for what you want.

    All of the parts you listed are high quality and would be compatible so you can go with the least expensive parts.
    You could also easily go with 3GB of DDR3 RAM for XP.
  5. Thanks.

    I just found out since I'm going with an RME Fireface 400 converter setup, my motherboard needs to use the Texas instruments firewire chipset. (preferably at firewire 800 speed)

    The Asus p6t doesn't. So I need to figure out what the best moboard is the does use Texas instruments firewire.

    I saw this one: Intel BOXDX58SO LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

    Intel BOXDX58SO

    & This one: GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD5 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail


    Can't figure out if they're firewire 800 or 400 speed.

    Not sure which mobo is THE best or what. & if the ram I originally chose will work.

    Thanks for your help!

  6. no love for the antec 300?

    just got one from microcenter for only $39.99

    add three 120mm fans and it's almost as good as an antec 900!
  7. WR2 said:
    Right idea - wrong execution. You'd want the backup partition on a separate drive in case your boot HDD bites the dust.

    Is it better to have a smaller seagate 250 or 320 gig boot drive that has a 16mb cache, or one of the seagate 500gig with a 32mb cache???

    Because the 250 & 320 drives are only 5 or 10 bucks cheaper than the 500 & have half the cache.


  8. Thanks all.

    I'm hearing bad things about the Seagate barrucada's. Seems like people on here like the Western Digital Caviar Black series drives (but they are mostly into raid setups, I won't be)

    I just want...

    1 reliable (most important) fast & smaller OS/boot drive
    1 data drive (for the 24/96 audio files)
    1 backup drive (I already have a eSATA 1tb Cavalry (brand) consumer drive I've been backing up data to)

    Gotta buy em in the next day or two, so any help is greatly appriciated!

  9. Try Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB as your boot drive--don't be put off by the size as it is fast and doesn't cost that much more than the smaller drives.

    Try 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F1s as your data and backup drives.
  10. I'm gonna go out on a limb here to help you save in the long run by my suggesting that you spend for four drives.

    1.) As stated earlier by someone else, the backup drive should be different from your Primary. A Boot drive that is just large enough to run windows and to store your pluggins is all you need.

    2.) Your second drive should be larger and if not purchasing an ESATA external drive as a backup, it should be partitioned. One partition for your backups, the other for running Nuendo. That gives Nuendo it's own drive when recording.

    Now there are 3 rules to keep in mind for drives.

    A) The Quietest drive you can offered since project studio systems generally reside where your Mic is.
    B) Speed - the lowest access time and no less than 7200rpms
    C) Get as much Cache on you primary and secondary drives as you can afford.

    Remember, your not storing anything on these drives! Your primary is for Windows Xp and your pluggin folder, which you'll need to tell Nuendo you're relocating. Your secondary drive is just for Nuendo and it's updates.

    3.) For your recording drives, Invest in two Western Digital Raptor drives. These SATA drive are 10,000 RPM. The older and smaller one are 75 gigs apiece. You're going to set them up using RAID 0 (zero), meaning the two drives will appear to Xp as one 150gig drive, plenty of room for several large projects.. trust me! 2 drives swiped as one means your recording drive will be writing at a virtual speed of 20,000 RPMs. Thats nearly as fast as your current day SCSI drives. You should be able to find 75 gig Raptors at a reasonalbe price since they are older.

    Because I swipe my two recording drives to make them one, I wanted a board that was rock solid under RAID 0... and like you never, never overclock because the Audio is first in every sense of the word. We don't need to mess with our clock source. So I went with Intel. Yes ASUS is a great board and they get great reviews but I wanted a real Workstation board that runs a real workstation chip and chipset. The chip is Xenon, the company is Intel. Thats just personal.

    Now I know what your thinking "but i7 is the lateast and the greatest", right? Well that may be for the desktop market but you're buidling a digital audio work station. If you purchase a two year old Xenon, it would still outperform the i7 for your needs. Thats why big servers use Xenon. Yes, yes, "servers are all disk access" Well Sequal and Oracle queries are processed on the server chip and something has to run all those blade arrays. I can assure you there's a Xenon under those hoods. Do the research.

    My experience... for what its worth.

    I've been running Cubase Sx thru Cubase 5 under the setup I just described to you. I never have a problem. I don't anticipate any when I move to Cubase 6 and Windwos 7 later this week. So this setup is more than 4 years old.

    In my home studio right now I just recorded live to twelve stereo track twelve differnt synth parts from external equip(Roland 5080, Yamaha Motif, Roland U220). I then dubbed another 18 backing vocals, two guitars, a full array of drums, each separtae track, bass, a lead keyboard... all in all 96 audio tracks that is then sent to 24 outputs connections back to my DM 24. Like you I record at virtual 32 bits @ 88.2 Mhz (so that our apogee dithering pluggin does a simple divid by 2). The quality is awsome.

    I don't believe Nuendo is more taxing on a system than Cubase 5. If I'm wrong this should still give you an idea of what you can achieve with a few more dollars.

    ...and load no network, no IP client, no dns, no Internet, no browser on your recording unit. Use a flash drive and sneakernet. You don't want to run a firewall and you don't want to run antivirus software. This will kill your audio.

    Good luck
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