New System for DAW/Audio Composition

Hey all,

I'm looking to build a system to handle large amounts of MIDI tracks running high-quality orchestral samples (for those of you in the know; things like EWQLSO Platinum), and am using this informative, albeit out-dated post, as a guide;

I'm looking at an i7 quad of at least 3ghz (maybe the i7-2600K), multiple SATA3 drives, and 24gb of DDR3 RAM. A gaming card will probably also feature, i.e. an ATI HD5850/5950. It also needs to be able to handle a firewire audio interface.

I'm just wondering how to make this all work re. motherboard, PSU, etc, and any recommendations and advice for dealing with these kinds of numbers, or hardware that would be preferable to the above, would be greatly appreciated.

- HateDread.
22 answers Last reply
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  1. You didn't really specify a budget but judging by your expectations it's pretty high. I'd go with something like this:

    Intel Core i7-2600k - $319.99

    Best CPU around unless you want to spend $1000+ on a minor improvement. A bit overkill for audio editing really but you should make use of the 4 cores and hyperthreading.

    ASRock Z68 EXTREME4 GEN3 - $184.99

    This is a great motherboard which is nice for overclocking, has PCI-E 3.0, SATA 3, USB 3.0 etc. Last but not least, the firewire port assuming you have a firewire audio interface.

    16GB G.Skill Ripjaws 1600Mhz - $64.99

    I know you wanted 24GB but to do that you would need to go with the 1366 or 2011 socket and trust me it's not worth it. It's especially not worth it for audio since I'm sure an i3 and 8GB of RAM would more than suffice. Nothing wrong with wanting an extreme machine but I wouldn't throw your money away with those sockets. Even if you keep like 100 VST's open I don't think you will use 16GB.

    MSI Twin Frozr II HD 6870 1GB - $199.99

    I wouldn't go with anything more powerful than this card because 1: Gaming doesn't seem high up the list of priorities. 2: This card is very good value. 3: The more powerful the card, the more heat it generates. That equals more noise which is bad for this kind of system. This variation of the card should be pretty quiet.

    Crucial M4 128GB - $214.99

    This is a must for audio editing etc. The reason being that it would make things like bouncing audio a lot faster. It is also completely silent which helps if you are using mics but is also nice for any workstation. This particular SSD is also one of the most reliable around while maintaining a respectable transfer rate. I'd stay away from buying a hard drive if possible since they are expensive at the moment but if you need a storage drive too I'd get a Seagate 5400rpm drive for the quietness since transfer speed isn't going to be important on a mass storage drive.

    Fractal Design Define R3 - $99.99

    This is a nice case, I have it myself. It has the nice clean look with none of the annoying LED lights. The main reason for this case is that it is good for quietness and has the nice understated look but also the newer versions have the front USB 3.0 port which should be useful if you have any mobile storage. I would recommend putting all of the case fans through the included fan controller and leaving them on the lowest setting, they are only truly quiet on that setting.

    Seasonic X-560 - $124.99

    This is one of the best PSU's on the market in terms of reliability and efficiency. It also has a very nice feature where the fan won't actually spin unless it gets hot or you are pulling 200W+. Lastly, 560W really is more than enough power. You could probably cope on 450-500W so that extra bit is nice for headroom. Lastly, this unit is modular which is very nice because although cable management is present in the R3, there isn't a lot of space behind the motherboard.

    Noctua NH-C12P SE14 - $74.99

    This is a high end CPU cooler which will cool with the best of them but also is extremely quiet if you use the ultra low noise adapter included.

    Samsung DVD Burner - $15.99

    This is just for your OS really but I suppose you may want to burn CD's too so this is essential really. I don't see much need in spending any more than this on it though.

    Total $1300.91 before shipping and rebates.

    As mentioned previously, you don't really need an extreme machine for audio tasks but if you have the budget why not I guess. This is going to really tear through anything you throw at it and should be extremely quiet too.
  2. Thanks for that, mate.

    Re. the RAM issue; the 'specifications' page of this sample pack at lists 'optimal' specs as being:

    Intel Core i7 2.66GHz or higher
    16GB RAM or more
    64-bit Windows/Host Sequencer
    SSD (Solid State Drive) for sample streaming

    And also says

    IMPORTANT: Some of the largest patches (in the "Powerful System" folders) can take up to 1GB of RAM to load per mic position, and are intended for systems that meet the optimal specs.

    I will most likely be using these plus the rest of the orchestra underneath. The 24gb of RAM looks to be necessary.

    How's this board look (minus firewire I presume);

    It seems to fit the bill re. the DIMM slots?


    Anyway, I'm thinking of dropping the video card for now (already got a HD 4850 Gold), but will add it later. I need to make sure the PSU can handle all of this plus a possible future 6970/6950 or something (I want an upgrade path after all).


    Okay, so I've got more details re. HDDs. I'm aiming to use this computer for multiple things (music AND gaming at a later date), but to keep my music side clean, I'm thinking of dual-booting. In terms of drives:

    1x ___gb for Music-boot's OS. (Not sure if SSD worth it - wanna cut costs).
    1 x 750gb for samples from EWQL
    1 x 750gb for Cubase, Projects, Kontakt/Komplete Samples and others
    1 x 1000gb for games/other boot.

    I know you said to avoid HDDs, but I really do need them - this isn't so much for live recording as yet (will be in future), but for MIDI orchestration, therefore all audio is digital and pre-recorded. Sound is still an issue due to mixing/mastering back the tracks (don't want fan interference).


    I know that's a lot, but does it help give a better idea of what I'm after? Budgets not excessively high; hence the removal of the video card. I'm hoping to keep as close to $1000 as I can. Do you think this sort of build will last a while? I don't want to buy it just before a new architecture (i.e. like buying before Sandybridge). Am I safe for a while on x58?


    - HateDread.
  3. I really don't think X58 is worth it since X79 is already here and that would cost like $800 for the CPU and motherboard alone. After adding those hard drives you would be way over $1000 already.

    I know you think you need 24GB but honestly I got through a music degree doing a lot of recording on a core 2 duo and 3GB RAM. The studio at uni that spent 200k just on the mixing desk didn't have much higher specs than that and it was fine, never noticed any slowdowns.

    With the HDD's, I would get the minimum required at the moment otherwise 1/3 of your budget is going to go on them. They have inflated in price to roughly 3 times what they were a few months ago.

    Let me see if I can do a bit better now that I have a budget to work with.
  4. Ahh I think I got my chipsets mixed up then - what I mean is; is it worth this sort of upgrade, at a time like this? I know tech. is constantly outdated, but are we right on the verge of a major architecture change? I'd hate to be stuck behind and therefore needing to get a whole new motherboard to upgrade again. However, I guess it would be quite a few years before I did so, so moot point I think?

    I get what you're saying, but if I understand your use of 'a lot of recording' correctly, you're talking audio tracks, much like the uni probably did? If they did do MIDI sequencing, again it depends on the samples being used. I'm talking about -massive- 24-bit string patches that can choke up a 16gb-RAM machine when used with other things. I need to be able to handle -anything- I throw at it, i.e. these big samples, but for an orchestra. I genuinely think the 24gb would be best (it's not an infatuation with the idea/with 'big numbers' like some).

    I see your point re. the HDDs, just as long as the PSU can support the upgrade path I was talking about (including the above drive idea, as I guess for now I'll cut them back as per your advice).

    I know it's a lot to ask, and a big balancing act, but your opinions and advice are greatly appreciated! :)
  5. Maybe you are right about the RAM but even so, X58 is a bit expensive for what you get in terms of CPU and the replacement is already here so it's outdated before you have even built it. X79 on the other hand is going to push it to at least $2000.

    With the 1155 socket, it's still going. The new 1155 CPUs are due in around 4 months.
  6. Heres my point about how expensive X79 would be:

    Intel Core i7-3930K - $599.99 (Cheapest CPU on the socket)
    ASUS P9X79 - $299.99 (Cheapest 8 DIMM board)
    32GB G.Skill Ripjaws Z - $169.98 (8 DIMM's because it's quad channel)

    Total is already $1069.96 before you even think about PSU/SSD/HDD's/Case/Cooling/GPU

    It does sound like the perfect socket for you because you want a high end i7 with as much RAM as possible but it's just not going to fit in the budget.
  7. Ahh, I see what you mean with prices. I'm trying to come across more funds, we will see.

    However, I don't quite understand the chipset chronology. I'm on a P35 with an E6550 C2D. I understand that Wolfdale/Yorkfield came after, on the same chipset, but I'm not sure where x58 and x79 fit in, as well as the name 'Sandybridge', and now 'Ivy'. Does this mean that the above listing for the x79 setup will go -down- in price because it's a new chipset, and therefore so expensive, or is it just that way due to the high DIMM count, etc.

    I know it's a hard beast to predict, but re. prices, what do you see happening (as you are more aware of these trends than I) over the next few months? I would still very much like to shoot for 24/32gb of RAM, even if I have to wait a month or two extra, i.e. start of 2012.
  8. This might help with CPU sockets.

    LGA 775

    This is everything from Pentium 4's up to core 2 quads pretty much. This includes the older pentium and celeron dual cores as well as core 2 duo and core 2 extreme. This is what you are on at the moment.

    Socket 1156

    This started as a server socket but saw consumer use when the first generation core i processors were introduced. This included the i3-xxx, i5-xxx and i7-8xx chips.

    Socket 1366

    This is the high end i7 socket based on the same architecture as the 1156 socket chips. These had things like higher cache and other features. These were the i7-9xx. The motherboards were also high end and well featured with things like triple channel memory.

    Socket 1155 (Sandy Bridge)

    This is the second generation core i socket which included a graphics controller on the CPU (also back to dual channel RAM). The naming convention this time is i3-2xxx, i5-2xxx and i7-2xxx. These chips were released earlier on this year and seem ahead of their time because it's just so hard to find a reason to go with AMD at the moment. Also notably, none of these chips can overclock at all unless they have a K after the name.

    Socket 2011 (Sandy Bridge E)

    This is the high end i7 socket based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. They are the i7-3xxx chips. These have higher cache, 6 cores and well featured, high end motherboards. Also the memory is quad channel and so many X79 boards will have 8 DIMM slots with a maximum of 64GB. This is a brand new, truly cutting edge socket.

    Ivy Bridge (Socket 1155)

    Ivy Bridge will simply be a continuation of socket 1155 with slightly improved CPU's at competitive consumer price points unlike the 1366 and 2011 sockets.
  9. Thanks for that, buddy; I think I get it a little more now.

    So lets say I'm still after an s2011 style build... what would it all be looking like in a few months? I know you have some experience with the price patterns :P Is the s2011 so much simply because it's new, or will it -always- be a large cut above the rest? I'm happy to wait a few months if that's what it takes (and may have to, subject to fund availability). It seems like the perfect socket...

    And if I get a gaming card later on, this machine will easily hold its own for many many years, no? Seems like a worthy investment to me! Both for professional needs and entertainment (and when I get around to a bachelor of music ;) ).

    What's your take on this, my helpful associate?
  10. Well for gaming the 2011 socket isn't very good value since you're getting maybe a 50% performance boost over an i5-2500k for like 5x the cost. If you think you need that kind of power for your uses and you have the cash though it should last a hell of a long time, especially if you overclock it.

    In terms of price, I'm sure it will drop but not by much at all. It's a high end socket which is always going to cost more than the mainstream consumer sockets.

    In games, if you are still going to be playing on a single monitor at 1080P I'm sure the CPU will last 5 years or more, it will just be a matter of how good your GPU is. Something like the HD 6870 I mentioned should play virtually anything on max settings at the moment. Maybe for something like Metro 2033 or BF3 you will have to tone down the AA a bit. If you want something more powerful than that I would consider waiting 2 months for the HD 7000 and GTX 600 series.
  11. Intel Core i7-3930K - $599.99
    ASUS P9X79 - $299.99
    G.SKILL Ripjaws Z Series 32GB (8 x 4GB) - $184.99
    MSI R6870 Twin Frozr II Radeon HD 6870 1GB - $199.99
    Crucial M4 128GB - $214.99
    Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB - $199.99
    Seasonic X-560 - $134.99
    Fractal Design Define R3 - $109.99
    Noctua NH-D14 - $84.99
    Samsung DVD Burner - $15.99

    Total - $2045.90

    I suppose something along the lines of that would be your dream build then. The idea behind getting 1 big drive is that it would be a similar cost but less noise, you could just partition it into 3 x 640GB or something. The reason behind most of the other choices is quietness.

    EDIT: I suppose for now if you just wanted to upgrade your way to your new system you could go easy on the HDD and SSD, lose the GPU for now and get a single quad channel kit of 16GB RAM and live on stock cooling for a bit. (Check that the CPU comes with a cooler, I don't think the 2011 socket does but I'm not 100%.) This could maybe bring it down to a more manageable $1500 until you can upgrade.
  12. Alrighty, I'm back! Thanks a lot for your help so far. I've since realised that there probably isn't a point in going so all-out, especially considering the rapid changes in technology.

    What do you think of something like this, for RAM;

    Coupled with the i7-2700k on the Asus P8Z68-V Pro? If I omit the SSD, and use my current video card, I can get it down close-ish to $1000.
  13. HateDread said:
    Alrighty, I'm back! Thanks a lot for your help so far. I've since realised that there probably isn't a point in going so all-out, especially considering the rapid changes in technology.

    What do you think of something like this, for RAM;

    Coupled with the i7-2700k on the Asus P8Z68-V Pro? If I omit the SSD, and use my current video card, I can get it down close-ish to $1000.

    I'm also interested to know this as I want to build a PC for full orchestra VSTs. What kind of PSU will be needed if you have i7 2600/2700, ASUS Maximus IV Extreme motheboard, 32GB RAM, and a GeForce GTX 560?
  14. You would be looking at a good 500-600W unit.

    Also, that RAM is quad channel, you would want 2 dual channel kits.
  15. jmsellars1 said:
    You would be looking at a good 500-600W unit.

    Also, that RAM is quad channel, you would want 2 dual channel kits.

    Thanks for the PSU info.

    Also, the RAM that Hatedread mentioned says that it is compatible with both maximus IV extreme and P8Z68-V Pro under the "qualified motherboard list". Shouldn't that mean it will work fine with these motherboards or is there still some technical info they're not saying?
  16. Oh wait sorry I thought it was quad channel Ripjaws Z. It's dual channel Ripjaws X, that's fine!
  17. Alright, cheers! Is there reason to be concerned over the RAM clock speed? I noticed that your original suggestion in the 2nd post was at 1600mhz, whereas this 32gb set is at 1333mhz. Problem?

    And calevera, what samples/vsts are you intending to run?
  18. HateDread said:
    Alright, cheers! Is there reason to be concerned over the RAM clock speed? I noticed that your original suggestion in the 2nd post was at 1600mhz, whereas this 32gb set is at 1333mhz. Problem?

    And calevera, what samples/vsts are you intending to run?

    Same as you probably, Hollywood strings, Hollywood Brass, EWQLSO Platinum, etc. etc.

    Also, what type of PC case will be suitable for the specs i mentioned earlier? I've seen categories like mid tower cases and desktop cases. Don't know what the difference is. Can anybody help me on this?
  19. In terms of compatibility 1600Mhz shouldn't be a problem, it will just run at 1333Mhz.
  20. Haha, I meant it the other way around - the RAM I listed is at 1333Mhz, and I'm wondering if that's a significant disadvantage compared to the 1600Mhz RAM you listed at the start.
  21. Oh right OK, the 1600Mhz RAM would have ran at 1333Mhz anyway. I just put it there because it was cheaper I think.
  22. I run separate instances of symphonic choirs AND orchestra with all 8 midi channels running simultaneously (16 instruments total) on a core2duo with 4gb of DDR2 800 and never heard a single pop.

    24 and even moreso 32 gb of RAM is way overkill.....but the time romplers catch up to that size of a cache your build will more than likely be totally outdated... Go with 16 and that's even pushing it.
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