Building The Workstation
There are a few basics to keep in mind when assembling the PC. First, consult the list of parts I used below. Of course, you can change components around and experiment.
- Asus M4A79 Deluxe Motherboard
- Crucial Ballistix DDR2-1066 4 GB RAM
- AMD Athlon X2 5050e CPU
- Thermaltake Element S case
- Thermaltake Spin Q cooler
- Thermaltake Q-Fan 650 PSU
- XFX Radeon HD 4650 GPU
- Intel X25 M SSD 64 GB drive
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 750 GB drive
- Lite-On DVD 22x Optical Drive
- Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
- Steinberg Cubase 5
- Roland SonicCell audio interface
- Roland SH-201 Keyboard
- Edirol MA15D
- AKG C414 Microphone
- Great River MP-500NV Pre-amp
- Monster instrument, microphone, and speaker cables
I tend to assemble as many components as I can outside of the case (I don’t like to twist my wrist around inside the innards of a PC). So, place the M4A79 motherboard on a flat surface and snap in the CPU, then put a small amount of thermal grease on the chip and clasp the Thermaltake Spin Q heatsink and fan combo into place. Connect the cooler fan wire to the motherboard connection labeled CPU Fan. Next, insert all four RAM modules into place. On the Element S, you have to remove a couple of screws to remove the power supply bracket (I never re-installed mine) and then insert the PSU and screw it into place.
For the hard disks, you have to remove the HDD tray (there are two screws holding it into place). Use the larger, wide-head screws to secure the HDD into place. For the SSD, you will need a bracket to hold it into place. Place the HDD tray back into the case and secure. Install the Lite-On optical drive as well.
Now, install the Asus motherboard using the screws provided. Install the GPU. Connect the SATA cables and power cables to the storage drives and optical drive. Connect the two main motherboard power cables from the PSU to the motherboard. Make sure you tie down all the cables so that there is ample airflow.
After your audio workstation hardware is all assembled, close up the case and install Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. The package comes with an install disc for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions, so make sure you use the right one. If you are a glutton for punishment, try Ubuntu 64-bit and the Ardour workstation software, but you will have a wonderful time getting drivers to work with just about any audio workstation on the market, especially products by PreSonus, Roland, and M-Audio.
After you install the operating system, you are ready to start turning it into an actual audio workstation. Note that, without any fans running except the Thermaltake Q-Fan cooler, you should not hear anything from the PC. I used a RadioShack sound meter and could not get a reading out of my newly-built PC, so I knew I was in good shape.
A few other notes about the PC: you won’t need to use the on-board audio on the motherboard, because the audio interface will take care of that. In fact, you can disable it entirely in the Device Manager. If your PC does run a bit hot without the extra fans, you can use Thermaltake Silent Cat 120 mm fans.