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DAW upgrade - need help!

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January 26, 2011 8:14:39 PM

Hi

I need to upgrade my current DAW machine (about 5 years old) to work with my new RME UFX audio interface. Have tried connecting using both USB 2.0 and via a PCI firewire card but performance is sluggish and unreliable with only a few tracks (using Cubase 3 & 5). RME have said the problem is with the age of the computer.

My current system is:

- Windows XP SP2
- *ASUS A7V600 MB
- *AMD Athlon XP 3000+, 2.17GHz
- *2 x Hynix 512 MB PC3200 DDR Ram
- AcBel 450 power supply
- Zalman CPU fan
- Seagate Barracuda 7200 1TB SATA (audio)
- Seagate 100MB IDE (system drive)
- LG Flatron W2252TQ
- Logitech wireless mouse & keyboard (usb mini receiver)
- Generic ATX case
- *Generic video card

* = planning to upgrade. Hoping to get away with keeping the rest for a start.

Overall I've been pretty happy with the ASUS / AMD combo and because it still seems to be a cost effective option, I was planning to head down this route again for a new mb & cpu. BUT, I am over my head when it comes to trying to understand all the different models / options out there so would really appreciate some guidance to make sure I go down the right path...

Key requirements:
- The PC is used only for music production - no gaming, no internet.
- Minimising noise is a big priority
- Not planning any overclocking
- Ability to plug 2 monitors in would be great. And if it's not a major addition, the ability to hook up to my 42" plasma HD tv would be cool.
- External SATA sounds like it could be useful as it would mean I could easily take my audio away.
- Having said that, I was also wondering if I should consider RAID for data protection - get another matching 1TB drive.
- Room for a Universal Audio PCI card at some point in the future.
- Keen to stick with Windows XP, but if there's enough reason I would consider going to windows 7.
- Budget - ideally between US$500 - US$800 for the upgrade... but am prepared to spend a little more if it makes good sense.
- Overall, just keen to get a good reliable machine up and running so I can get on with making music!

So... starting with CPU, should I be looking at AMD Athlon II or AMD Phenom II? X2 or X4? I've read that Cubase 5 supports multicore. Is there any compelling reason to go for Intel instead of AMD?

Motherboard - possibly a M4A88TD-M EVO USB3? To be honest I'm a bit baffled about the options here... would also consider Gigabyte...

Was thinking 4 GB ram should be sufficient for my usage.

BTW, I'm in New Zealand so will be sourcing my components locally.

Would really appreciate any suggestions!








More about : daw upgrade

February 3, 2011 3:10:04 PM

Hello somalade;
A system based around AMD Phenom II X4 & M4A88TD-M EVO USB3 would be a good choice and might be in your budget range.
Is there a NZ based website you can order off? Hate to suggest a part that's not available 'down there'.
It's also better than guessing what the US/NZ price differences might be. What's your budget in NZeds?
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February 3, 2011 3:22:40 PM

Here is a sample shopping list:
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 3.2GHz Socket AM3
MOBO: ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 AM3 w/ Radeon HD 4290 graphics
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB Model F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM

And you definitely need a new boot drive. Time to ditch that Seagate 100MB IDE, maybe for a SSD, even?

Got a model on that AcBel 450 PSU?
PSU: Antec EarthWatts EA380D 380W PSU
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February 3, 2011 10:49:00 PM

Hi WR2,

Thanks heaps for your reply... since making the original post I had pretty much convinced myself that it would be worth going for a Phenom X4, so good to have that confirmed. Here's a list of the other components I am leaning towards. I'd be keen for your opinion as to the benefits of going with what you listed instead, for the motherboard in particular. The motherboard I was looking at seemed to be priced very well - possibly because its out of date now?

The NZ site I am looking at getting things from is http://www.acquire.co.nz

Here's a list of components that I currently have in my basket (prices in NZ$)...

2263307 AMD Phenom II X4 Processor Black Edition 955 3.2GHz AM3 8MB Cache $216.14
2074430 Asus M4A87TD EVO AMD 870 ATX Socket AM3 DDR3-2000 RAID USB3.0 SATA3 1394 $162.50
1415557 2 x Kingston 2GB 1066MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL7 DIMM x 2 = $72.84
2242320 Asus ATI EAH4350 SILENT PCI-E 2.0 512MB 64-bit GDDR2, 600/800 MHz, DVI/ HDMI/ D-Sub, DX10.1, Heatsink, Low Profile $53.98
1703985 BARRACUDA 250GB 7200.12 SATA 3GBS 8MB $52.36


I see I can also get some of what you've suggested:

2052314 Asus M4A89GTD PRO MB, Socket AM3, 890GX+SB850, SATA6GB/S, DVI, HDMI, DDR3, PCIe X16, CrossFire, ATX, $225.00
2060857 Asus M4A89GTD PRO USB3 MB, Socket AM3, 890GX+SB850, SATA6GB/S, DVI, HDMI, DDR3, PCIe X16, USB3.0, CrossFire, ATX, $240.91
1937983 380W &"Antec&" EA-380D Green EarthWatts ATX Power Supply (No power cord included), 80 PLUS Bronze, 80mm fan, Dual 12V outputs, 1x 6pin PCI-E, 5x SATA
$80.59

Can't see the exact model of the G.Skill ram there tho... is that a single 4GB or 2 x 2GB? Any particular reason for that brand or is it OK to go with the cheapest module listed on the compatibility list for the MB? Also, the HD 4290 graphics card doesn't seem to be available - is the one in my basket suitable instead?


Other points
- I currently have on the list a standard drive for the new boot drive. SSD would be cool, but probably a bit too expensive.
- My existing AcBel power supply is product number ATX-450C-A25NN, Model number API4PC02. I remember buying it as an upgrade to the standard 300W psu that came with the case. How important do you think the upgrade to an Antec EathWatts would be?
- I am also considering a new case, mainly to minimise noise - my old one is very basic. I've was looking at either the Antec Solo or Antec Sonata III.. any thoughts on this? I can get an Antec Sonata III with 500 watt Earthwatts psu for NZ$244 from here: http://www.trademe.co.nz/a.asp?id=350776188
- I think I may also need a new DVD drive - the one I have is IDE?

Also since making the post I've had the idea of using my Sony Vaio VGN-SZ55GN laptop (about 3yo - 2GB RAM, Intel Core2 Duo 1.8GHZ), but without much luck so far. I bought a cheap eSATA ExpressCard/34 and a SATA HD dock to try, but am only getting about 60GB/s write speed out of that... not sure what the bottle neck is... anyway that's something for another post....

Budget wise, I'd prefer not to spend more than NZ$1,000... and preferably a few hundred less than this unless i'm getting a decent case as well.

Cheers
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February 4, 2011 1:14:03 AM

Asus M4A87TD EVO AMD 870 $162.50 & Asus EAH4350 graphics card $53.98 = $216.48
Asus M4A89GTD PRO USB3 w/ Radeon HD 4290 graphics built into the motherboard = $240.91
The combo you picked is less expensive even with a stronger graphics card.
M4A87TD EVO is a good modern board with SATA 6GB/s, USB 3.0 and 1394 Firewire support. Go with your MB/video card choice.
4GB (2x2) Kingston 1066MHz DDR3 RAM is acceptable. We usually see 1333 CL8 or 1600 CL9 but 1066 CL7 is roughly equivalent in performance.

The M4A87TD EVO does have 1 x IDE connector and 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable so you'll be able to use your IDE DVD drive.

I could not find enough info on the AcBel 450 PSU to figure out if that model is one of the good ones or one of the ehh so-so models.
The Antec Earthwatts was just a suggestion of the type of PSU that is known to be a good quality, reliable and solid performing PSU.
We get a nervous twitch when we're not sure of the quality of a PSU being discussed. It's a more important item than most people realize.

A new case might, or might not lower the noise of your system. Can you figure out where the noise comes from? PSU fan/components buzzing? Case fans? That old video card? If you can quiet the parts the case you have might be OK to carry over.
Antec Solo 9 ($171.59+GST) / Antec Sonata are known for being a quieter case - but only if you put quiet components in them.
That EA 500W PSU is more than is required.

The prices are quite different so it's good to use the NZ prices.
We see the M4A87TD EVO AMD 870 @ US$110 or NZD $142 at the current exchange rates.


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February 4, 2011 1:18:25 AM

DAWs are strictly CPU/RAM bound machines and i wouldn't even consider 890GX either - no point paying premium for 8/8 CF for a DAW so

a. 880G/SB 850 if USB/SATA 3.0 is a want
b. 785G or 880G/SB710 if irrelevant
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February 4, 2011 12:04:31 PM

The 880G/785G boards batuchka mentions have integrated graphics in the Radeon HD 42xx family so a seperate video card isn't required
.
What kind of front end / back end equipment, if any, are you using? Want to make sure the new MB has the right I/O ports. Firewire? S/PDIF (optical or coax)?
Your shopper search engine only returned 2 results for 785Gs and the 1 MB that look promising didn't have Firewire or S/PDIF ports.
The 880G search returned one option which I know is a good board the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3
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February 6, 2011 12:32:46 AM

The audio interface I'm using is an RME Fireface UFX... http://www.rme-audio.de/en_products_fireface_ufx.php

This can be connected with either USB 2.0 or firewire 400... supposedly both with equivalent performance as long as the system is up for it (Texas Instrument chipset for the fw option is recommended)... and I think i'd be keen to have the flexibility of hooking up either way.

That's the main device for now, though I am interested in a Universal Audio UAD-2 effects processor card, something like this: http://www.uaudio.com/uad-plug-ins/uad-2-solo/uad-2-sol...

I also have a legacy audio interface (digi design 001) which requires a PCI slot... not intending to install that initially, but thinking I may want to at some stage so would like to have the ability to.

Am I right in understanding that the 880G and 785G are uATX boards, and that this means they are smaller & with less room for plugging in the likes of PCIe cards? I had looked at the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 initially I think but then I began convincing myself that I would be better going with a full ATX board (the M4A87TD EVO) as it would give me more flexibility in the future... and there wasn't much difference in price, even with the addition of a graphics card for the M4A87TD (maybe $60 total)...

The idea of downsizing the case to a mini-ATX is appealing, but I suspect I would have trouble doing that without compromising on the noise - I'm assuming small cases have less airflow & therefore require faster fan speeds?

Also, I wasn't sure if the two video outs on the M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 could be used simultaneously to run 2 monitors?

And apart from what I've mentioned above, I'm keen to have an eSATA, HDMI and at least say 4 USB connectors... which I think makes both boards suitable.

The noise in my present set up comes from pretty much everything - case vibration, psu fan, cpu fan, video card fan, HDD.... I have a very basic case with no sound deadening / isolation detailing. Actually I think other than the fans on the video card, the CPU and in the psu, there aren't any case fans, which probably means things get a bit hot in there and the fans all have to work overtime.... To be honest, when I put it together I didn't really know what I was doing :) ... (wish I had found this site back then!!!)... but this time around I'm keen to do it right / not cut any corners...

I have in the past put the case in a wooden box the size of a 2 drawer filing cabinet (one side open), padded that with acoustic foam and left the side off the ATX case... doing this I was able to make things silent enough to be used in the same room as I record in, but I was always a bit concerned about heat build up.... where I am at the moment I have a cupboard that I can put the PC in which is handy, but ideally, I would be able to just place the box under the desk if it was quiet enough... is there anything else i can consider as far as components go to minimise noise creation? I was keen on the Asus ATI EAH4350 video card because it didn't have a fan.. and was also looking at the low voltage(?) AMD CPUs which I assumed wouldn't generate as much heat... but didn't look like I could get hold of those easily here....

OK... think that's covered everything... would be keen to hear any additional thoughts.... as it stands I think I could go either way on the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 and M4A87TD, but other than price I can't see much advantage for going for the 88 so would probably go with the 87 for future flexibility...

And as for the case / psu I might just stick with what I've got and upgrade in the future if I need to. When it comes to a so-so psu, are problems likely to manifest themselves as an unstable system or more as damage to other components? If its the latter, it might be worth the investment to upgrade that at this stage. If I do stick with the existing case, I'll make sure I get a couple of case fans and hook them up!

Thanks again... starting to feel the anticipation of getting my studio up and running again!



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February 6, 2011 1:06:53 AM

Just found this review on the AcBel psu... product number and colour are different, but the model number and all the specs on the side of the psu are the same, so I think it is probably the same beast...

http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/720/acbel_450_watt_int...

Sounds respectable anyway... any thoughts?
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February 6, 2011 5:28:11 AM

I do my own home recording. Have for many many years now. Here is what I built and use currently:

Motherboard: M4N72-E
CPU: AMD PhenomII 940 Blk Edition 3.0Ghz
Mem: 8GB OCZ Gold DDR2-1066 (running at 800 due to CPU limitation)
Graphics: EVGA 9800 GTX+
Sound: EMU 1212m Professional Audio PCI-E 1x
PSU: Thermaltake TR2-850
Monitors: M-Audio EX-66 Professional Studio Monitors

Also a few other small odds and ends for I/o purposes, but this machine runs without a single hiccup. I can run my multitrack (Adobe Audition 3.0.1) with several Rewire Tracks (Reason 5.0) and the most audio track so far is 38 simultaneously for a total of approx 64 tracks at a latency of 7ms.

This setup has proven bulletproof for what I do. The total cost for just the machine when I built it was around $700. The monitors were $650.
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February 6, 2011 11:07:40 AM

880G/785G MBs are mostly uATX but there are some full size versions as well. In fact the M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 is one of them. 3x PCI, 1x PCIe x1, 1x PCIe x16 (x4) and 1x PCI-e x16 expansion slots. And the onboard Radeon HD 4250 graphics will support two monitors.

Cooling is more about the volume of air moved than fan speed. You can find microATX cases with adequate cooling - larger fans, lower speed, for a quiet system. Even with a ATX mid-tower case look for the 120mm or larger quiet fans. Budget cases often have budget fans which aren't as quite as they could be.
PSU problems can lead to instability and even component damage. ACBel/Poly is not the worst MFGR but they sure have sold some bad units in the past. Even a good 'budget PSU can lose it's ability to output the full rated power over time and aging can also start a trend toward instability or failure. More than 4 years old? I think its time to let it take honorable retirement.
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February 9, 2011 10:32:39 PM

Chinsane said:
I do my own home recording. Have for many many years now. Here is what I built and use currently:

Motherboard: M4N72-E
CPU: AMD PhenomII 940 Blk Edition 3.0Ghz
Mem: 8GB OCZ Gold DDR2-1066 (running at 800 due to CPU limitation)
Graphics: EVGA 9800 GTX+
Sound: EMU 1212m Professional Audio PCI-E 1x
PSU: Thermaltake TR2-850
Monitors: M-Audio EX-66 Professional Studio Monitors

Also a few other small odds and ends for I/o purposes, but this machine runs without a single hiccup. I can run my multitrack (Adobe Audition 3.0.1) with several Rewire Tracks (Reason 5.0) and the most audio track so far is 38 simultaneously for a total of approx 64 tracks at a latency of 7ms.

This setup has proven bulletproof for what I do. The total cost for just the machine when I built it was around $700. The monitors were $650.


Thanks for that Chinsane... sounds like you're getting great performance out of your setup. helps give confidence in the build I'm looking at... 8GB ram would be nice but I'll hopefully get away with 4GB... only have 1GB in my current machine and that has been OK for most of what I've what I've done to date. Although, I am planning to start using more software synths / DSPs than outboard gear moving forward. Does the EMU have onboard effects or do you use mainly plug-ins? I'm keen on a Universal Audio PCIe card at some point - supposed to be very good quality effects without loading the system to heavily.
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February 9, 2011 10:40:35 PM

WR2 said:
880G/785G MBs are mostly uATX but there are some full size versions as well. In fact the M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 is one of them. 3x PCI, 1x PCIe x1, 1x PCIe x16 (x4) and 1x PCI-e x16 expansion slots. And the onboard Radeon HD 4250 graphics will support two monitors.

Cooling is more about the volume of air moved than fan speed. You can find microATX cases with adequate cooling - larger fans, lower speed, for a quiet system. Even with a ATX mid-tower case look for the 120mm or larger quiet fans. Budget cases often have budget fans which aren't as quite as they could be.
PSU problems can lead to instability and even component damage. ACBel/Poly is not the worst MFGR but they sure have sold some bad units in the past. Even a good 'budget PSU can lose it's ability to output the full rated power over time and aging can also start a trend toward instability or failure. More than 4 years old? I think its time to let it take honorable retirement.


Thanks again WR2 for more great advice... sounds like the 880 would probably do the trick, and save a bit of cash at the same time.

You have me convinced about upgrading the PSU... come to think of it I did have the odd problem with the existing machine that may have been caused by the psu... hardware monitor errors that I couldn't get to the bottom of, etc.

Will probably leave the new case for a start as from further reading I'm not convinced that 'silent' is actually going to be silent enough for my purposes.. would be disappointing to invest in a new case and find I still need to lock it away in a cupboard!


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February 9, 2011 10:45:32 PM

A good PSU is good insurance for a lot of issues...including saving all your new hardware from damages a flaky PSU can dish out.

Just monitor the system temps in the cupboard a while till you know how the system is doing in there.
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February 13, 2011 1:18:08 AM

Best answer selected by somalade.
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