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$2000-2500 Music recording PC

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June 16, 2010 12:40:20 AM

Hey, I've been reading this site for a little while but I'm new to the forum. I could really use some guidance on a new build.
I'm mainly planning to use this for recording music (with recorded tracks like guitar in addition to MIDI stuff) - but I've already got my music equipment, so that's not included in the budget.

The main processing load on this computer will be stuff like Pro Tools and using big sound-sample sets, so as far as I can tell my priorities are to get a really fast processor and as much fast RAM as I can pack in.
I'm also hoping to dual-boot this PC with Ubuntu (to use for daily tasks) so of course I'd like to avoid any obvious hardware incompatibilities that might come from that.

By the way, I'm really not a gamer with my PCs, so it seems to me like the graphics capabilities of many of the gaming rigs that are outlined on Tom's with half their budget in the graphics cards would be overkill for my purposes.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: next two weeks BUDGET RANGE: $2500 is an absolute max.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Music Recording (/Producing & Mastering), Web Browsing, Photoshop, Movies. Gaming is definitely the least important, since I don't intend to really do any on this build.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: OS, Audio card, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: DirectCanada.com, bestdirect.ca, Tigerdirect.ca, NCIX.com (or any other good recommendations) COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada

PARTS PREFERENCES
I want this to be able to last a long time, so USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 are a must. Gigabyte’s X58A-UD3R is looking pretty good to me...(but it's not a must if someone knows better).
Also, note that I'm not planning on overclocking this, so I don't want this build to be optimized with overclocking specifically in mind.

OVERCLOCKING: No CROSSFIRE: If it fits within the budget, I wouldn't object to it! But it's not a priority.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I don't really have any big preferences for the case except that I don't want to pay a premium for it looking flashy - I'm going for functionality over style in this build.
As well, I'd like the build to include some redundant storage.
And one final point: ideally the cooling wouldn't be very loud, since fan noises can interfere with recording music from a mic. The point is: a quieter build would be preferable (complete silence would be ideal of course, but a bit of noise isn't a big problem).

Thanks a lot, I really appreciate any and all of your help!
June 16, 2010 1:22:23 AM



I threw in a Solid State for you there (Its worth it). And I put in a very expensive motherboard. Go through it, if you don't need that high quality board, you can get the Asus P6X58D. The video card is the cheapest DX11 card on Nvidia's side.
June 16, 2010 4:06:37 AM

Thanks so much for the response!

Perhaps I'm really showing the extent of my ignorance here, but a few questions:

1. Are the two motherboard options you're suggesting here really worth the difference in price from the X58A-UD3R? In other words, would I actually immediately see a very noticeable difference in performance between the UD3R and the UD9, or is it more that the UD9 offers about the best platform possible for upgrading on in the future as other components get better?

2. Can I get more RAM in there than just 6 GB? I was under the impression that even the UD3R could support 24 GB, and as over the top as that might seem, is there a fundamental reason why I wouldn't consider, for example, downgrading from the UD9 to the UD3R and using the price difference towards buying that extra RAM?

3. About the Core i7 980X - doesn't the value seem a bit questionable, considering that I could get a bigger SSD and more RAM (assuming that's possible) for the price difference between the 980X and say the Core i7 930 for example?
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June 16, 2010 1:57:51 PM
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If you're going to be recording with this PC anywhere in the same room as your microphones, you're going to want to pay a lot more attention to the case and cooling, trust me, noise will be a bigger issue than you might think, especially as the track count goes up. Ideally you'll have a control room isolated from your PC, or at least a closet/cabinet to stick it in, but first things first, get it cool and quiet at the source. I'd never use an open air case under any circumstances; the Antec P183 is the standard recommendation for easy out of the box quiet computing, with good airflow, sound-dampened panels, and silicon grommets everywhere. Even then, if you're spending that much, throw out the stock fans and buy two Noctuas and undervolt them. The Coolermaster Hyper 212 with a Noctua should do just fine for a cpu cooler, although you're welcome to spend more on a Noctua heatsink solution (really cannot say enough about their fans!).

You're obviously not going to overclock, wanting to keep the system as stable and cool as possible, so the 980X is absolutely overkill here; I highly doubt you're going to spend much time around 100% capacity - you'd have to run large amounts of some pretty serious plugins and virtual instruments, and if you're going to be using big sample sets you'll see a lot more performance for your dollar going to 12 GB (24 is definitely overkill unless you're scoring film) than you will with a faster processor. You should really freeze tracks if you get anywhere near 100% anyway to keep your fans quiet. You don't need fast ram making your system hotter - with samples and recording it's much more about the raw amount than the speed, so stock 1333 or even 1066 will perform just fine.

If you're not going to game at all, you really don't need an NVIDIA DX11 card - stick with a passively cooled ATI 5470 for Eyefinity and add an extra monitor or two with the savings (that's what I did, and I absolutely LOVE having extra screens to keep my plugin and VI interfaces open with the DAW on the main screen - the workflow improvement is tremendous).

For the motherboard, I'd stick with a Gigabyte if you're going to be using firewire interfaces at all - their Texas Instruments fw chip is widely considered the best and most compatible. Definitely get an SSD for the OS and DAW and as many supplemental hard drives as you feel you need, although I'd recommend at least two; one for your recorded tracks, and a second drive for your samples.

The power supply is another big source of noise that you'll want to pay attention to. Seasonic is probably the quietest brand, along with Nexus, and they make passively cooled power supplies. Not overclocking or running a power-hungry graphics card, you should be fine with a 500-600W model, which should keep it running efficiently around 50%.
June 16, 2010 4:27:52 PM

jwach said:
Thanks so much for the response!

Perhaps I'm really showing the extent of my ignorance here, but a few questions:

1. Are the two motherboard options you're suggesting here really worth the difference in price from the X58A-UD3R? In other words, would I actually immediately see a very noticeable difference in performance between the UD3R and the UD9, or is it more that the UD9 offers about the best platform possible for upgrading on in the future as other components get better?

2. Can I get more RAM in there than just 6 GB? I was under the impression that even the UD3R could support 24 GB, and as over the top as that might seem, is there a fundamental reason why I wouldn't consider, for example, downgrading from the UD9 to the UD3R and using the price difference towards buying that extra RAM?

3. About the Core i7 980X - doesn't the value seem a bit questionable, considering that I could get a bigger SSD and more RAM (assuming that's possible) for the price difference between the 980X and say the Core i7 930 for example?


1. I think you can safely downgrade to another motherboard. The reason I suggested it was that it has all the bells and whistles. For one, its self-water cooled. The chips on it and main areas are water cooled meaning they are silent. It has excellent reviews. It will last. It has overall really well designed heat conductivity. And the list goes on. Moreover it has 7 PCI x16 2.0 slots meaning it has plenty of expansion options for videocards, soundcards...etc. You can ofcourse downgrade to lets say the UD7 instead of the UD9. The cheapest motherboard I would recommend for you or the minumum motherboard would be the Asus P6X58D.

2. You can get 12GB of ram :) ! We can down your motherboard a little bit and fit 12GB no problem. Would you like to get a 3x4GB kit or a 2x(2x3) <or in otherward two sets of 6GB. It will be the same thing.

3. The 6 Cored i7 is something I wouldn't give up on. Its the future. 6 Cores. Moreover its 32nm meaning it runs much cooler and more efficient so you need less cooling for it and less noise as a result. Definitively keep it.

Tell me what you want and we can tweak to suite you perfectly :) 
June 17, 2010 12:33:00 AM

I gotta disagree with the 980 here. Music production doesn't really need that much horsepower, especially for small project studios. It's mostly using a bunch of smaller plugins at once in real time. The most CPU consuming plugs I can think of, Amplitube 3 and Wave Arts' Tube Saturator, take up about 8% of my 860 each - but most plugins don't even hit 1%, and I seriously doubt you're going to be using many instances of either of those, and even then, you can spend the 30 seconds it'll take to render them to get a drink of water. 32nm might be slightly cooler, but you'll still have to spend just as much on quiet fans and soundproofing anyway - especially at stock speeds, noise is much more of a concern than temperature in your situation and you won't be able to get away with the stock cooler in either case (http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1050-page7.html).

The extra $500 isn't going to be much of a future-proofing; you'll probably want a new computer in a few years anyway, and more than likely you'll be able to drop in a 6 core a year from now for a third of the price. There's no musical application currently on the market that really demands six cores over four, and you don't sound like a professional photographer that would see serious time savings in Photoshop running filters on 100MB tiffs. Save the money and buy a new $500 mic or instrument or some Auralex room soundproofing with it, you'll get much more substantial gains for your music that way.

Or, if you still want to spend it on your computer, you could always buy two graphics cards; a $50 5470 for when you're recording, and a good DX11 card to swap in if you ever feel like gaming.
June 17, 2010 4:28:54 AM

Thanks for all the info, guys!

You make some good points about the UD9, blackhawk1928, but ultimately I don't think they're appropriate for what I'm going for with this build - I definitely don't need that many PCI x16 2.0 slots, since I'm not actually planning to expand the build much in the coming years. Maybe one more extra graphics card or a sound card, but that's it. Anything else in terms of upgrades would just be replacing parts with newer stuff. The liquid cooling looks sweet, but I don't think it's worth the money in terms of noise-reduction value. And you're certainly right that it's well reviewed, but so is the UD3R.
Given all that, would you still pushing for the Asus P6X58D over the UD3R? At this point I don't think I would, but perhaps I just don't understand your reasoning.

I'm still pretty skeptical about the 980, for reasons that computer blue addressed as well as others - I have no doubt that you're right, blackhawk1928, about it being the way of the future, but I'm thinking I may have overemphasized my processing needs in the initial post. This seems like overkill when I consider the price premium.
Probably in the future when the stuff I'm working on could really use the benefits of a six-core processor I'll be fine to get one for way less money.

As for the ram, if I'm looking to have 12 GB is there a reason to go with 3X4GB over 2x(2x3), aside from the obvious extra growing room it gives for future upgrades? I'm not very familiar with the best options for ram these days, so it's not clear to me whether one of those two configurations offers a significantly better value, or some other superior set of qualities I'm not thinking of.

The Antec P183 looks good - what Noctua fan would I be using to replace the stock fans? NF-S12B ULN 120mm?

As for the video card, I'm not even sure I can find an ATI 5470 outside of a pre-built laptop these days...is that the only good quiet option for sound cards? And if you're not taxing a DX11 card much at all on the graphics front, will its fan still be putting out tons of noise?

I really appreciate the thorough replies!
June 17, 2010 5:35:52 AM

Oops, I meant the 5450, you're right, the 5470 is mobile only. Even while not running a DX11 card for games, the fan will still be spinning and it'll still be consuming more power than necessary. It won't necessarily be the end of the world to have another fan spinning, but graphics card fans tend to be small and have a higher-pitched whine, so it might just end up being the most noticeable fan in the whole case. You could certainly do worse than to have the 5450 on hand for sessions and swap it out for a more powerful one; you could even get a better card first and see if the fan has a noticeable impact on your recording at the lowest speed. Hell, you could go even cheaper with one of the passively cooled 4350s for a few bucks less, but I'd really recommend running the 5450 with 3 monitors in eyefinity if you can spare the money for the monitors (even just a cheap used lcd, graphics quality doesn't matter) or you have an extra old one lying around. There's no reason to go more expensive with a passively cooled card (unless you feel like spending an extra $50 and voiding your warranty on an aftermarket heatsink) because none of them are capable of modern gaming anyway.

Yeah, the NF-S12B ULN is what you want. Getting 2x2x3 ram is a little cheaper, and I can't imagine you ever needing to upgrade once you've got them, so I don't see any reason for getting 3x4. BTW, water cooling isn't actually quieter than a good set of fans in a cool case with a stock processor.

I doubt you'll ever use the extra PCI slots in the ASUS, stick with the Gigabyte. Graphics card, sound card, maaaaaybe a usb 3.0 or sata expansion card, but you're not going to crossfire and you don't need extra features for overclockers, save yourself the bucks. You don't NEED to hit the top of your budget, after all!
June 17, 2010 10:48:39 AM

But cheap atis as already mentioned is far better for a build like this
June 17, 2010 10:52:28 AM

Dual cpu on an sr2 motherboard should put you in the same price range but will give you 2 additional cores. and the 465gtx is a bad buy the 470 is worth investing in.
June 17, 2010 4:47:11 PM

Thanks for the continuing feedback! I think I'm getting close to a final build configuration here.

I've listed the configuration I'm thinking of below - it's from newegg.ca with Canadian prices.
I have a couple of specific questions about it:
1. Does the power source seem appropriate? I was kind of guessing on that one - don't know if it's overkill or too little...
2. I got three Noctua NF-S12B ULN 120mm fans - two to replace the stock fans on the Antec case, and one to replace the fan on the Cooler Master CPU Cooler. Does that make sense?

There definitely may be other things I'm missing here...If anyone can see any incompatibilities, I'd obviously appreciate it a lot to hear about them.


Case: ($149.99)
Antec P183 Black Aluminum / Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Item #: N82E16811129061

Mobo: ($229.99)
GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Item #: N82E16813128423

CPU: ($298.99)
Intel Core i7-930 Bloomfield 2.8GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Model BX80601930
Item #: N82E16819115225

Cooling: ($59.99 + 3*$20.99 = $122.96)
1x - COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7 compatible RR-B10-212P-G1 120mm "heatpipe direct contact" Long life sleeve CPU Cooler
Item #: N82E16835103065

3x - Noctua NF-S12B ULN 120mm, 2 Speed Setting, Beveled Blade Tips Design, SSO Bearing Fan - Retail
Item #: N82E16835608010

Memory: (2*$182.49 = $364.98)
2x - Crucial Ballistix 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model BL3KIT25664BN1608 - OEM
Item #: N82E16820148254

Graphics Card: ($73.49)
HIS H545H1G Radeon HD 5450 (Cedar) 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready Low Profile Ready Video Card
Item #: N82E16814161322

Power Supply: ($83.99)
SeaSonic S12II 520 Bronze 520W ATX12V V2.3 / EPS 12V V2.91 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply
Item #: N82E16817151094

Storage: ($239.99 + 2*$104.99 = $449.97)
1x - Intel X25-M Mainstream SSDSA2MH080G2R5 2.5" 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Item #: N82E16820167023

2x - Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal HD -Bare Drive
Item #: N82E16822136533

Optical Drive: ($26.99)
LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model iHAS124-04 - OEM
Item #: N82E16827106289

Monitors (2*$169.99 = $339.98)
2x - ASUS VW224U Black 22" 2ms(GTG) Widescreen LCD Monitor
Item #: N82E16824236050


Grand Total (with shipping & taxes included): $2,472.11


Even with the cost of the dual monitors (I've got a third lying around to use at home) and everything included it would still come in just under budget! I'm getting pretty psyched about this.
June 17, 2010 4:57:39 PM

I would think the Intel Core i7 980X is also overkill but since your budget is pretty significant I had to try. I think you can do well with the Intel Core i7 930.

About the motherboard. The Asus P6X58D has had amazing reviews when coming from knowledgeable people. I don't know about he Gigabyte UD3R. However there another motherboard called the Asus P6X58D-E which is much cheaper, in the end its $20 more expensive than the Gigabyte UD3R. Consider it. It looks good and has better reviews. In my personal opinion, you can't go wrong with Gigabyte or Asus. When I buy, i always shuffle between the two and pick the one that is the better in its time and range. I am using an Asus P6T right now and it has no problems, has been working solid since December of last year so six months now.

For a Video Card, if you really don't care much for graphics, i'd definitely go with and ATI 5xxx series graphics adapter. Reason being is that they run much cooler than Nvidia's Geforce GTX 4xx series cards do and therefore you can lower your fan speed, because the Graphics Card fan will be the loudest of a computer in 9/10 times. Reason being is that its very small and spins at high RPM's making it whine. So for a quieter computer you want larger fans as they can move the same amount of air as a smaller fan can while spinning at a lower RPM and therefore making less noise.

For RAM, i'd probably suggest going with the 12GB (3x4GB), because this would allow you to later add another set for 24GB of ram. However the issue is that on online retailers there isn't a very good selection of 12GB kits. I found some but they usually have low frequencies and high latencies. The 6GB (3x2GB) kits have much higher selections online which is why I recommend getting two high quality sets of these. However it's your choice though, just pointing it out.

Oh and if you want a quiet case then get a the Cooler Master ATS 840 or HAF 932. They have very large fans. The HAF 932 has 3 230mm fans which move massive amounts of air while barely spinning and they give great cooling. They practically silent at full speed, but if you want quieter, then get a nice 5.25'' drive bay fan controller with knobs and you can crank the fans down. However remember no matter which case you decide on, the Graphics Adapter will be your loudest fan in almost all cases.
June 17, 2010 5:05:57 PM

I would change your PSU to this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This Antec PSU is specifically designed for only 3 of the Antec cases, one of them being the P183. It has a different form factor, CTX, that is bigger than a traditional ATX PSU, and is designed to run cooler and quieter. Combined with the Antec P183, it will give you a silent core to work from.
June 17, 2010 8:57:02 PM

Still have to disagree with the Coolermaster cases, even with larger fans they're open ventilation and will let out more noise than the P183.

The Antec PSU is nice indeed. The Seasonic is pretty quiet but you'd definitely see an improvement with it. Up to you.

Also, be aware that not all 5450s are 3-monitor capable. You have to get one with at least one display port rather than say vga/dvi/hdmi. I don't think the one you had listed has a display port, but these ones do: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

You will need a Display Port to DVI adapter for one of your monitors as well: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

Newegg is charging too much for that Hyper 212. I've seen it other places for $30. For that much you could get this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... - and save $10 because it comes with Noctua fans already. You could even order one less fan because this one comes with two but works pretty well with only one if you're not overclocking (can always order another fan later if it becomes an issue)
June 17, 2010 9:51:26 PM

^Yes, didn't realize about the P183. I suppose I was just giving and example of what to look for when you want something quiet.
June 19, 2010 3:23:07 AM

Thanks for the tips!

I've decided I'm going to go with the Antec PSU, and I found a $34 Hyper 212 Plus on canadacomputers.com, so I'm going to go with that and use the Noctua fan. I've changed the graphics card to the HIS version that has a Display Port output, so that should be good with 3 monitors.
(Oh, and I also changed the optical drive, but I figure that's one component where the specific make probably doesn't make a huge deal)

So my final configuration is as follows (by buying some things at bestdirect.ca instead of newegg.ca I've managed to bring the final total down to $2286! Sweet!):

Case:
Antec P183 Black Aluminum / Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Item #: N82E16811129061

Mobo:
GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Item #: N82E16813128423

CPU:
Intel Core i7-930 Bloomfield 2.8GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Model BX80601930
Item #: N82E16819115225

Cooling:
1x - COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7 compatible RR-B10-212P-G1 120mm "heatpipe direct contact" Long life sleeve CPU Cooler
Item #: N82E16835103065

3x - Noctua NF-S12B ULN 120mm, 2 Speed Setting, Beveled Blade Tips Design, SSO Bearing Fan - Retail
Item #: N82E16835608010

Memory:
2x - Crucial Ballistix 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model BL3KIT25664BN1608 - OEM
Item #: N82E16820148254

Graphics Card:
HIS H545H1GDL Radeon HD 5450 (Cedar) 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready Low Profile Video Card
Item #: N82E16814161323

Power Supply:
Antec CP-850 850W Cpx Dual PCB Power Supply Modular ATX12V V2.3 80PLUS Active PFC SLI 120MM Fan
Item #: N82E16817371024

Storage:
1x - Intel X25-M Mainstream SSDSA2MH080G2R5 2.5" 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Item #: N82E16820167023

2x - Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal HD -Bare Drive
Item #: N82E16822136533

Optical Drive:
Samsung SH-S243D/BEBE 24X Black DVD Writer SATA OEM

Monitors
2x - ASUS VW224U Black 22" 2ms(GTG) Widescreen LCD Monitor
Item #: N82E16824236050


Anyone see any incompatibility issues or anything like that? (specifically if anything stands out that isn't supported by Ubuntu, that'd be great to know, since I'm planning to dual-boot)

If it looks okay by you guys, I'm going to go ahead and place my order and mark this thread as solved!

Thanks again for everything.
June 20, 2010 2:42:28 PM

Just one more question on something I noticed:

Will the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R motherboard support the memory I'm suggesting using here? (Crucial Ballistix 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model BL3KIT25664BN1608 - OEM, Item #: N82E16820148254)

On the specification page for it on the Gigabyte website it says:
- 6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 24 GB of system memory(Note 1)
- Support for DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules

And the ram I was going to use here DDR3 1600 and is 1.65V. Is this going to cause me problems?
June 30, 2010 10:36:17 PM

Best answer selected by jwach.
August 15, 2010 9:39:26 PM

Not sure if you mentioned what DAW you're going to be working on. But keep in mind DAW's like Protools are nice but they are behind the times in terms of compatibility. Before you spend any coin, make sure your software's gonna run on your hardware. I would definitly go with a Gigabyte motherboard because of their solidness and they feature a Texas Instruments FW Chipset. TI chipsets are the best choice over brands. Typically (again for compatibility) stick with a FW400 and pick up a FW800 card if you need FW800.

If you're still looking to save on costs, you can get away with a single WD 1tb drive.

I'm running a Cubase SX3 DAW on Windows 7 64bit. i7 920, Gigabyte EX58-UD5, 6gb ram, WD Black 640 & 1tb, XFX 5670, Silverstone Lascala 20b case (with rackmount option). Audio IO is RME Digiface with PCI card and Powercore PCI MKII along with Focusrite LiquidMix. Got the PC components from NCIX with lots of price matching. Final price came up to about $1700 I believe. This was in January of this year. I'm also from Canada.

I've also got Protools 8 running with a digi 003rack. Both Cubase SX3 and Protools 8 don't officially support windows 7 64bit. They both run OK but not 100% 100% stable. Powercore doesn't have full support either and there are a few little quirks with beta drivers and whatnot.

Cubase 5 DOES take full advantage of all 4 cores and 64bit. I still have to make the jump.

The machine performs amazingly. I just finished a Jazz quintet record with lots of plugins and DSP. I'm also working on a hip hop record with a mix of MIDI, lots of sampled instruments (Kontakt and Reason - EP, Piano, Drums, etc) and the machine simply man handles it.

Just thought I'd like to add some more insight. Good luck on your build! :) 
!