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New from Scratch, DAW, Gaming + Video Capture/Editing

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September 14, 2009 5:42:22 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Late October / Early November (A while, for sure)

BUDGET RANGE: $500-1500. Can wait to save more money and do it right.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), Gaming, Misc. Video/Audio capture and editing, misc. word processing / internet / movies, etc.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Mostly New (with possible exception of speakers... can do headphones mostly). Can reuse mouse, keyboard, monitor, but they could use work.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg initially, and may have to branch out for appropriate audio components.

PARTS PREFERENCES: Leaning towards 5870 and i5, but am not set.

OVERCLOCKING: No

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No (A single 5870 will probably overshoot anything I need for many years).

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1440 x 900 currently, but I am looking to get a new and much larger monitor, or another 19" one.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I've almost purchased several builds over the last few years when unemployment has struck. Things are looking up over the next year between grants and new work, and a new system is in order to replace the 1.3 Ghz single core, GeForce 6200, 1 GB Ram, and ~16 GB system I am currently using. I have been waiting for Windows 7 to be released officially (so I don't have to bother with reformatting the system next year from Win7 RC), the HD 5XXX Series to be released, along with the new i5 CPU's. Prices across the board will shake up quite in the Video Card and CPU market by late October / Early November, but I want to plan this as well as I can.

I need something with the appropriate PCI slots for sufficient sound and video capture cards. I figure a 5870 will be more than enough for a long time, but a 4870 may be sufficient. I am going between i5 and one of the faster phenom II X4's, but an i7 may be better for the larger sound and video crunching tasks (but an i5 may be just fine as well and costs much less overall). Case needs to be cool and quiet and large enough to fit everything.

I am looking at either getting one good larger monitor than my 19" one, or running multiple monitors for whatever DAW I settle on, so advice on that as well would be appreciated, as I like the idea of one larger one, but multiple smaller ones may be more practical. In either case, the video card needs to be able to handle it.

For storage, I'm looking at a SSD for programs and OS, with one or more larger drives for storage. Again, power, heat, etc. are issues.

I will be able to run most of my external peripherals, including midi keyboard, mixer, an older roland JV series synthesizer, DVD, VHS, audio cassette, and record player off of a separate power circuit in the house, but will probably have the speakers, monitor, and tower coming off of a circuit shared with another computer. The total load for that circuit is 15amps and the other system uses around 500 watts at peak, so I can't exceed ~1000+/-. The less, though, the better, as the electric bill can add up.

I'm using Sibelius for scoring and am looking for a good sequencer that is not PC phobic (so probably not pro tools). I have had Sonar recommended to me, but am open to suggestions.

I am using a generic two button plus scroll wheel Logitec mouse with works just fine, but am open to suggestions if needed. My keyboard is from the mid-90's and might use an upgrade (or at least a good cleaning) and most of the symbols on the keys have worn off over the years. Speakers are LR + subwoofer, but I will probably be getting that $100 surround sound Logitec headset that Tom's recommended a couple of months ago if I really need surround sound.

I would like to get the whole PC system at once, and can add on audio hardware at a future date to fit within my budget range of around $1500 (but less is good).

Thank you for your feedback and advice. I'd like to be able to build a system that will suit my professional and gaming needs for many years to come within minimal part swapping / upgrading if any at all.

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September 14, 2009 6:02:15 PM

That's a pretty tall order, and some of the finer points you need to decide will probably be best discussed in a specialist forum for A/V and Digital Audio enthusiasts. From a generalist perspective, yeah, you could put together a really nice system build around a core i5 that will be able to handle just about anything you throw at it.

Where I have some reservations though, is if you should be looking at i7's more than i5's or not. The i7's have hyperthreading that could make the extra cost worth it if your DAW and video capture/encoding tasks are the most important to you. Then there's the question of specialist hardware that you'll be looking into. The majority of expansion cards out there (for digitizing and auido I/O) have traditionally been 32-bit standard PCI, those these slots have been slowly phasing out. PCI-e standards are what you need to look for, and the number of lanes each of your cards needs could possibly become an issue. For that reason, you may be better off with an x38 chipset, but I can't say for sure since I don't know what types of PCI-e interfaces your expansion cards will require.
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September 15, 2009 12:10:18 AM

Thanks for the reply wathman. I'm going to start looking around some DAW forums as well for help with the specific hardware and software. That is a good point on i7's hyperthreading. It's looking like most of the accessories I'm looking at just use USB 2.0, but there are some that require PCI slots.

I'm going to read a bit more and then update this post to help narrow the generalist items down. Thank you again : )
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