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Building DAW for Music Creation/Production

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July 8, 2012 11:20:57 PM

First off: thanks for all the info I've gleened so far. Figured its time to throw this out there and get some opinions from the community. Your help is appreciated. Building a DAW solely for music creation/production using Sonar X1 Expanded. I plan to do this myself, or if needed, get one of the IT guys from work to help.

Approximate Purchase Date: NLT Sept/Oct this year

Budget Range: My current list is at $950. I'd like to stay here or lower, otherwise I'll start thinking about getting a pro to build it

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Music creation and production using Sonar X1 Expanded. Also, may be looking at podcasts (synching music as well).

Parts Not Required: Studio Monitors (KRK Rokit 5), Controller (Cakewalk A-300Pro)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com, amazon.com

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: Here's what I have so far. Some will have two parts listed.

Case: (The more quiet the better) COOLER MASTER RC-692A-KKN5 Black Steel body / Plastic + Mesh bezel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

CPU: [edit] o Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000 BX80623I52500K

Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel

Hard Drive: (Going to run two - 1 for projects, other for samples and softsynths
1. Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB SATA III 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache Internal Desktop Hard Drive Bulk/OEM - WD1002FAEX
2. Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB SATA III 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Desktop Hard Drive - WD5000AAKX

DVD/RW (Toss up right now)
LightScribe 22x DVD±RW Burner with Dual/Double Layer Support
Asus 24xDVD-RW Serial ATA Internal OEM Drive DRW-24B1ST

RAM:
Corsair Vengeance 8 GB ( 2 x 4 GB ) DDR3 1600 MHz (PC3 12800) 240-Pin DDR3 Memory Kit for Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and AMD Platforms SDRAM CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9

Wireless Card: (for software updates only)
802.11g Wireless WIFI PCI Adapter Card For Desktop

OS:
Windows 7 64bit

PSU: (Need a quiet one. This one may be overkill on pwr - based on Newegg calculator I need about 365w)
COOLER MASTER Silent Pro M700 RS-700-AMBA-D3 700W ATX12V V2.3 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply

Heatsink
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7

Monitors:
ASUS VS228H-P 21.5-Inch Full-HD LED Monitor (Black)

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: Not sure

Audio Interface: Currently using a Roland UA-25x. Will be looking to get a Firewire or USB 2.0 (since nothing 3.0 is really out.) OR -> May get an M-Audio Delta 1010LT PCI card.

Additional Comments: Mainly looking for compatibility and quality of components. I don't need top of the line because this isn't my main gig, but I want solid stuff. Needs to be quiet but stay under $1K.

Thanks!!!!!
July 8, 2012 11:46:49 PM

DAWs are strictly CPU bound so if i were u, i'd hit a H77, i5 3450 (better IGP) stay simple and cool running stock clocks? I'd bump up to a 23-24" LCD though, possibly a 60 GB SSD and definitely consider a nice 350-450w 80+ gold PSU
July 9, 2012 2:25:28 AM

Ah, third generation. Checked the vids and you're right on. Why would you go 3450 over 3550? Close enough to save $20?

I meant to put "x2" on the monitors, cause I was thinking of running dual - one for tracks and other for vsts and mixer. 60 GB SSD isn't big enough for all the Sonar prgm files.
Related resources
July 9, 2012 2:33:33 AM

Sure if u can swing for the 3550 go for it ^^ SSD a luxury only if u can afford it
July 9, 2012 5:27:17 AM

DAW setups do benefit from hyperthreading, drastically. Look at the HP z400 review here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/hp-z400-workstation... - you can see the difference that hyperthreading made. Additional cores also make a difference. The difference was enough that I haven't bothered to record HT Off results for subsequent tests.
July 9, 2012 5:42:44 PM

batuchka said:
Sure if u can swing for the 3550 go for it ^^ SSD a luxury only if u can afford it


Right on. Going to change the CPU in the list. Preciate that. SSD is a little pricey for me right now, but I'm sure that's changing.

Draven35 said:
DAW setups do benefit from hyperthreading, drastically. Look at the HP z400 review here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/hp-z400-workstation... - you can see the difference that hyperthreading made. Additional cores also make a difference. The difference was enough that I haven't bothered to record HT Off results for subsequent tests.


This goes a little over my head, so I'll take a look. But from what I understand, the i5/7 Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge incorporate hyperthreading.
July 9, 2012 8:32:07 PM

i5's don't have hyperthreading, i7's do though. Most DAW software will make use of it but don't think you have to have it. I would get either the i5-3570k or i7-3770 though since you are running on onboard graphics, they have HD 4000 instead of HD 2000 or 2500.

The Ivy bridge CPU's also keeps power consumption down which helps low noise/heat.
July 9, 2012 8:47:56 PM

I would try to go for something like this:

CPU - Intel i7-3770
RAM - 8GB (2x4GB) G.Skill Ares 1600Mhz 1.5v
MOBO - ASRock H77M
HDD - Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM (Partition it as required, single drive helps to reduce vibrations)
GPU - Onboard Intel HD 4000
PSU - SeaSonic S12II 380B 380W (even that 360W estimate was a bit overkill. Seasonic are top notch too.)
CASE - Fractal Design Define Mini (This is really geared towards quietness.)
Cooling - Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo (Evo version is quieter than the Plus)

That would be extremely quiet, if you can't afford it right away you could always get a smaller hard drive and add another later. Also you could run on stock cooling for a while and add a better cooler later. You could also drop to the i5-3570K
July 10, 2012 1:25:31 AM

Yes. my point was he may want to consider a CPU with hyperthreading...
July 10, 2012 2:45:54 AM

You two were right on the hyperthreading, and after more researching, it makes sense. Thanks for throwing that it there.

@jmsellars1: Thanks for the list. Digging it. I checked prices on the specs and the savings on the mobo, cooler, and PSU makes it a wash; so I should be good to swing the i7 3770. (I think you were all suggesting the 3rd gen cpu.) Not too far from a Micro Center, so some items there and most of the rest from Newegg.

I hear what you're saying about partitioning the HDD. I've also heard/read that it makes sense to have a separate HDD for samples/vsts/audio recordings (partitioned) and another for the OS/daw software/etc (partitioned). That's what I was thinking with the two HDDs. I'll need to grind on this some more with you guys.

I like that case for the silence and the space. Tight in here.

I'm guessing the wireless card is adequate for software downloads and updates (being disabled the rest of the time). Any suggestions are welcomed. And I'll probably ditch the DVD/RW drive (can save via usb and burn using laptop if ever needed).

With monitors (as listed) and Windows 7 x64, still under $1k.


Bottom line, I like jmsellars1 list but have two questions on it:

1. HDD - may still go with two I spec'd earlier or comparable Seagate
2. Mobo - doesn't have Firewire, but that shouldn't be an issue. But wondering if I should go with a PCI soundcard, upgrade my USB 1.1 with a 2.0 until we finally see a USB 3.0 external interface, or both?
July 10, 2012 3:12:06 AM

As for the Mobo/USB/Firewire question:

My primary DAW is a laptop. It doesn't have firewire. I got an inexpensive USB2 interface when the model was being blown out because it was being replaced, and will wait and see on USB3 interfaces.

With a desktop machine you can buy a $40 (or less) firewire card (make SURE it has a TI firewire chipset!!!) and solve the problem of not having firewire.

What kind of inputs/outputs do you need?
July 10, 2012 3:22:51 AM

I don't necessarily need firewire. I was thinking of picking up a used firewire interface, but just thinking. I have a Edirol/Roland USB 1.1 with two combo XLR/Instrument inputs which is good for now. Would like a few more (maybe 4 total combos) in the future.
July 10, 2012 3:41:50 AM

I'd say to just pick up a moderately priced USB 2 interface and wait for USB 3 interfaces. I think now that Macs have USB3, they will start to appear.

As for the multiple drives? Its a good idea. Do you stream a lot of samples? which VSTs do you use a lot?
July 10, 2012 4:09:21 PM

Draven35 said:
I'd say to just pick up a moderately priced USB 2 interface and wait for USB 3 interfaces. I think now that Macs have USB3, they will start to appear.

As for the multiple drives? Its a good idea. Do you stream a lot of samples? which VSTs do you use a lot?


Yeah, I may just keep my current since its compatible with 2.0 or do what you're saying until the 3.0 is out.

Leaning towards multiple drives based on other advice from Sonar users. I'd say a fair amount of samples - some streamed and some dumped on a track. Using Dimension Pro, Session Drummer 3 on multiple tracks (messing with layers), and Step Sequencer. Also recording my own audio (obviously) and putting that on multiple tracks. So I'm still thinking of going with the orginal 1TB/500GB setup.
July 11, 2012 8:24:45 PM

I think most people prefer FireWire interfaces for use with Macs, if you are using a PC there's nothing wrong with a USB one. Also you could always add a FireWire card as previously mentioned.
July 13, 2012 2:58:34 AM

That's what I'm thinking too. I think my current external will be fine for a whiile.

I made some changes (thanks for the feedback) to the list and have a local guy checking it ou for me too. I may pick up a CPU this weekend locally. (And gawk at other stuff.) Most everything else will likely be online.


Killer deals on both but $70 difference:
Core i7 3770 3.4GHz LGA 1155 Processor OR Core i5 3570K 3.4GHz LGA 1155 Processor

LightScribe 22x DVD±RW Burner with Dual/Double Layer Support OEM

Good price on Window 7 x64 Home Premium, but out of stock and will have to wait.


UPDATED LIST: (Thanks for the help!!)


CPUCore i7 3770 3.4GHz LGA 1155 Processor
OR
Core i5 3570K 3.4GHz LGA 1155 Processor

RAM G.SKILL Ares Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-1600C10D-16GAO
OR
CORSAIR XMS3 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMX16GX3M2A1600C11

MOBO
Supports 32GB with 4 slots (8GB x 2 to start)
GIGABYTE GA-H77M-D3H LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

HDD x2 (from what I’ve been reading, I may go with the Blue for both - lower noise)
Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB SATA III 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache Internal Desktop Hard Drive Bulk/OEM - WD1002FAEX

Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB SATA III 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Desktop Hard Drive - WD5000AAKX

GPU - Onboard Intel HD 4000

PSU SeaSonic S12II 380B 380W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply ($54+ $6 = $61) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CASEFractal Design Define Mini

Cooling
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 EVO RR-212E-20PK-R2 Continuous Direct Contact 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooler Compatible with latest Intel 2011/1366/1155 and AMD FM1/AM3+

DVD/RWSamsung LightScribe 22x DVD±RW Burner with Dual/Double Layer Support

OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

July 13, 2012 3:31:04 AM

jmsellars1 said:
I think most people prefer FireWire interfaces for use with Macs, if you are using a PC there's nothing wrong with a USB one. Also you could always add a FireWire card as previously mentioned.



Other than firewire interfaces usually having more I/O and lower latency settings...
July 13, 2012 3:32:32 AM

Jmain, I think that setup looks good...
July 13, 2012 11:17:50 AM

I do some semi-serious recording myself with a relatively budget USB 2.0 interface and I've never noticed any latency issues. I'm sure you're probably right about firewire but I think you would have to be pretty anal to care too much about it.

My point was that USB should do the job fine.
July 13, 2012 2:03:22 PM

Thanks for the info and feedback. I think I'll stick with my current external interface and know that I can retrofit.

I've been doing a lot of reading/researching, and it seems the WD Caviar Black is slightly more powerful but a little more noisy than the Caviar Blue. Any thoughts?
July 13, 2012 2:46:59 PM

I don't know how much you'd need the smidge of extra drive speed....
July 13, 2012 2:49:23 PM

Draven35 said:
I don't know how much you'd need the smidge of extra drive speed....


You mean for the Black? Yeah, I think I'd trade a smidge of drive speed for a smidge of more quiet. :) 
July 13, 2012 3:07:04 PM

Found a good deal ($46 savings) on the i7 3770 locally, so I have it reserved for pickup tomorrow. Cakewalk Forum, Youtube, Gearslutz, and others confirmed what you guys were saying about Sonar X1 and hyperthreading. So I'm going with the i7.
July 13, 2012 3:25:36 PM

The i7 should give you a lot of CPU to play with. Even on my laptop (1.8 GHz i7) I can get a lot of work out of various software that would have run down my old desktop (core2duo) and a slight performance edge over my present core2Quad. This is in REAPER, running many notoriously CPU-heavy softsynths simultaneously ( a particular project has three instances of Prophet V and an instance of Moog Modular V, plus Battery drums... it was nice to be able to take the latency down a notch on that one)
July 13, 2012 3:30:27 PM

That's good to know. As much as I like to save money, the i7 makes more sense. This will be a dedicated DAW. My extended warranty is coming up on the laptop, so I will getting a little upgrade there too.
July 15, 2012 4:01:37 PM

I wouldn't worry about the speed of the drive, not going to be much of a difference. Will make a big difference in quietness though because regardless of which drive you go for, it's going to be the loudest thing in the case. WD Blue sounds good.
July 16, 2012 3:25:44 AM

jmsellars1 said:
I wouldn't worry about the speed of the drive, not going to be much of a difference. Will make a big difference in quietness though because regardless of which drive you go for, it's going to be the loudest thing in the case. WD Blue sounds good.


Thanks for that man. Was pulling my hair out b/t the black and blue. Well, I got a good deal on two 1TB and one 500GB Seagate Barracuda and went that route and will do three drives. Probably could have done the blues. Pretty much getting to the point where I'm overthinking. I'm enjoying checking all this out and in the long run I will understand my DAW better. But I'm ready to get this sucker built and get to using it. :) 
July 16, 2012 6:54:07 AM

Good stuff, be sure to let us know how quiet it is.
July 16, 2012 2:09:18 PM

I definitely will. You all are helping me a lot.

I'm kinda getting stuff here and there when I can save a buck or two. So not sure what's next at this point. But also not going to wait forever to save $1. Now if its $2..... :p 
July 21, 2012 1:38:14 AM

Here's where I'm at. Everything but the case is on order or has arrived. I'm a hair over my limit but within reason. (About $1,050 w/out monitors.) I sold some bass guitar equipment to help fund the build, so I'm waiting for that to arrive safely to the buyer before using those paypal funds. Unless something drastic changes, I'm eying the Fractal Design Mini that jmsellars suggested. Nice size to fit under the desk and love the details.

I'm sure I'll be here asking questions about cobbling this jewel together. Its been fun so far, but I'm ready to get this thing cooking.

CPU
Core i7 3770 3.4GHz

RAM
CORSAIR Vengeance LP 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CML16GX3M2A1600C10

MOBO
GIGABYTE GA-H77M-D3H LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

HDD
One Seagate Barracuda 7200 500 GB SATA 6.0 Gb-s 16 MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive ST500DM002
Two Seagate Barracuda 7200 1 TB 7200RPM SATA 6 Gb/s NCQ 64MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive ST1000DM003

GPU
Integrated Intel HD 4000

PSU
SeaSonic M12II 520 Bronze 520W ATX12V v2.3 / EPS 12V v2.91 SLI Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular

Cooling
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 EVO RR-212E-20PK-R2 Continuous Direct Contact 120mm Sleeve

DVD/RW
Lite-On LightScribe 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive IHAS424-98

OS
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM

Monitors
Two Refurb Samsung S23A350H 23" LED Backlit LCD Monitor - 1,000,000:1 (DC), 2ms, 1920 x 1080, HDMI

Wireless Network Adapter
ASUS(PCE-N15) maximum performance Wireless-N Network Adapter ( 300Mbps Transmit / 300Mbps Receive) with PCI-E interface (I use Sonar X1 Producer Expanded and its all downloads, plus I want to do a clean install w/updates from the website.)

ORDERING SOON!
CASE - Fractal Design Define Mini (This is really geared towards quietness.)
Fractal Design Define Mini Black Micro ATX Silent PC Computer Case w/ USB 3.0 support and 2 x 120mm Fractal Design Silent Fans
July 21, 2012 3:17:59 AM

I use a wired LAN on my DAW and keep the wi-fi turned off... YMMV.
July 21, 2012 10:35:23 AM

Looks great man, should be really quiet so long as you mount the hard drives correctly too.
July 21, 2012 12:55:38 PM

Draven35 said:
I use a wired LAN on my DAW and keep the wi-fi turned off... YMMV.

I would have preferred to do that too, but our house is old and only a few rooms wired up. So I gotta hit the router in the next room. Was thinking wireless USB but this was just a few bucks more and probably faster. Lots of initial files to download and then every once in a while for software and driver updates, or samples. I'll just keep it turned off as well.


jmsellars1 said:
Looks great man, should be really quiet so long as you mount the hard drives correctly too.

Thanks man. I really like the case you suggested just for that. If you guys don't mind, I may post some pics so you can see if I'm doing it right.

I was talking to one of our IT guys to get some feedback. He's repsonsive at work setting stuff up, but not sure that building is his cup of tea. I didn't get any feedback from him on my list. I may try another dude. But will keep coming back here.
July 22, 2012 3:24:40 PM

I'm a little concerned with the cooler fitting in the Fractal Design Define Mini. The cooler is about 6.25" (I'm in the US, so thinking in inches) and the case is 8.27". So that leaves me about 2" for the mobo/cpu/offsets underneath. I think I read somewhere that this cooler would be touching the the other side.

I already have the cooler.
July 22, 2012 5:46:29 PM

It should fit fine, it's going to be tight but it should fit. Even if it does touch the side, that's not a problem.
July 22, 2012 6:08:14 PM

Cool!! Hoping to order the case tomorrow or Tuesday. Everything should be here be next weekend. Hope I can block out 4+ hours either next weekend coming up or the one after to get to building, OS, drivers and downloading files to the right locations. Looking at IntelBurn for the burn in.
July 23, 2012 8:27:59 PM

I tend to use prime 95, I'm sure the Intel one is good as well though
July 24, 2012 1:21:12 PM

I'll check that one out too.
July 24, 2012 10:54:42 PM

Fractal Design Mini case is being shipped from Newegg!! Made a last minute change. The Gigabyte H77 board is on its way back as a return (just showed up a couple hours ago). I ordered an Asus P877-M Pro when I ordered the case. I like the extra features. Seriously contemplating exchanging the i7 3770 and paying the extra bucks ($34) for the 3770k.
July 26, 2012 1:09:55 AM

Exchanging the cpu on Saturday.
July 26, 2012 9:50:18 AM

fair enough, gives you some flexibility in future
July 27, 2012 10:49:59 PM

jmsellars1 said:
fair enough, gives you some flexibility in future


Yeah, and just a few more bucks. Pretty much everything but the 4-port USB 2.0 has arrived that is shipping. Reading through the mobo manual last night. I'd like to get started this weekend, but also want to get a good ways through the manual. Will have to break up the build over a number of days, probably later at night. Hard to get a large chunk of time in the early evening or weekends with a toddler around.
August 15, 2012 8:34:55 PM

Update:

Got it all put together last Wednesday but would not boot. Was out of town a couple days. Went through the stickied troubleshooting pages here and narrowed it down to Mobo or CPU and couldn't go farther on my own. Got some help (I guess sometimes you have to) and found out a chip on the mobo is shot. So going to RMA the mobo and try again. (w/in 30 days of purchase) If still having issues, the shop will diagnose free of charge.

Guess I could have just RMA'd either or both the components and been out a little ahead, but didn't go that route. So I'm out a chunk of dough and will send the mobo back tomorrow. (I gotta call Customer Service, b/c it seems beat to charge shipping for something RMA'd.)

Stay tuned.
August 15, 2012 9:26:37 PM

Ahh, that's unlucky dude. Hope the next one works well. How do you like the case?
August 16, 2012 2:02:57 AM

jmsellars1 said:
Ahh, that's unlucky dude. Hope the next one works well. How do you like the case?


Yeah, its a bit of a costly bummer. But champagne problems I guess if you change perspective - at least thats the tact I'm taking. It'll ship out tomorrow and hope its a quick turnaround. I've enjoyed learning but I'm really itching to get it set up so I can work on unfinished tunes and write some new ones.

The case is cool! Its tight but totally manageable and should fit under the desk no problem. Reallly solid and should be nice and quiet. I'll post some pics during build #2. :pt1cable: 
August 20, 2012 5:23:49 PM

Waiting for the replacement motherboard. My home studio room is torn up right now as I wait to make sure its all going to work. Have boxes laying around (can't recycle them just yet) and other equipment waiting to set it all up. Getting a little antsy.
November 4, 2012 1:53:12 PM

jmain said:
Waiting for the replacement motherboard. My home studio room is torn up right now as I wait to make sure its all going to work. Have boxes laying around (can't recycle them just yet) and other equipment waiting to set it all up. Getting a little antsy.




So did you get it to boot? Does it totally rock? :)  I am thinking of building a dedicated DAW and would like to use your parts list as a template. Thanks, BTW, for doing the homework for the guys like me who aren't as talented in building machines!
November 5, 2012 7:10:56 PM

Uncle Loodis said:
So did you get it to boot? Does it totally rock? :)  I am thinking of building a dedicated DAW and would like to use your parts list as a template. Thanks, BTW, for doing the homework for the guys like me who aren't as talented in building machines!



Hey, sorry to not update the adventure!!

I got the RMA'd mobo, installed everything and got it to boot. (Had a bad stick of RAM, but I think that was my fault.) It's been working great. And it does totally rock!

I crashed it twice trying to do something that's not supposed to happen. I was working on a song with 18 or 19 tracks, multiple instances of man VSTs running. Othewise its been working great.

No worries about using the list. You see how people helped me out here and from me sifting through other threads (and on some other forums too). The parts list is pretty much the same except for RAM and the Wireless Card.

As mentioned, I think I may have damaged one stick of the Corsair. It was running fine with 8GB, but found a deal on 2x8GB G. Skill Ripjaws X (1600, 10-10-30). I also went with a universal wifi internet adapter. I couldn't go straight to the modem since it's in the other room and no outlets work in my home studio (old house). After getting advice here and reading an old entry on the Cakewalk Blog (I use Sonar X2), I pretty much keep it off the internet by unplugging the power to the wifi. I used it originally for all my downloads, since Cakewalk keeps all your purchased links and you can do it all from there. For 3rd party VSTs and Samples/Loops, I transferred them with a flash drive or portable external HDD.

So yeah, everything is working great and I'm fully stoked. SOOO much better to have a dedicated DAW for what I want to do.

If you start a thread, please post a link here. Or feel free to message me. I figure its karma that I help best I can since I've received lots of help here from direct posts or reading through old posts.
!