New computer for a music studio! Must be good.

Got a shopping cart of parts that you want opinions on? Get advice from members on your planned or existing system (or upgrade).

Moderators: NeilBlanchard, Ralf Hutter, sthayashi, Lawrence Lee

Post Reply
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:57 am

New computer for a music studio! Must be good.

Post by echosystm » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:43 pm

Hi guys,

Funnily enough, despite working in IT for 2 years, I'm pretty out of date with whats going on out there! I need to build a computer for my music studio. Obviously quietness is of utmost importance, as our recording room is the same room as the computers are in.

So far, I have decided that I need the following:

- Core2Duo E6600 CPU
- 1GB of Corsair/Kingston RAM (will extend to 2GB if needed for dual channel mobo)
- Antec P150 case (is this still the best?)

I'm planning on running Vista 64 on there, so that is a consideration as well. Video card is not important as I don't play any games and will be disabling aero. However, I do not want onboard video or any cards that use system RAM.

Question time!

1. With those things in mind, can anyone recommend a good motherboard? Are there any motherboards out there that suport 1066Mhz RAM to match the FSB? Or are they all dual channel 800? I've heard 533Mhz DDR2 goes best with E6600s as they both use a 266mhz real clock and don't have weird timing (1:1).

2. What is a good, reliable, passive video card? All it needs is dual output and it's own RAM, and I'm happy.

3. I need one OS hard drive (small and fast - thinking 32gb Raptor) and one audio hard drive (fastest 250-400gb drive possible). What is good and quiet?

4. DEAD Quiet PSU and CPU cooler. Whats the go?

Sorry for all the questions, I just really don't know where to start!

Posts: 341
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2002 1:20 pm
Location: Vancouver

Post by shunx » Sat Mar 24, 2007 1:02 am

Hi, have you checked out SPCR's official recommendations for hard drives, PSUs and heatsinks?

Passive versions of 7300 GT, 7600 GS, or 6600 should be adequate video cards if not used for gaming.

Are you sure 1gb of memory will be enough for your music apps? 2-4gb is often recommended for the samplers I use. I'd make sure that soundcard driver won't be an issue in 64 bit. People who use things like ASIO often report problem with Vista 64 bit since the 32 bit drivers aren't working.

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:57 am

Post by echosystm » Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:20 am

I'm selling my M-Audio Firewire Audiophile to upgrade to an Edirol UA-101. They have Vista drivers already in 32bit and 64bit. :)

I have 1gb on my laptop at the moment and have no problems whatsoever. However, installing Vista might change that haha! If so, I can just chuck in another gig, its no biggie.

Posts: 1839
Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Northern New Jersey

Post by bonestonne » Sat Mar 24, 2007 4:15 am

i have a computer like that, far from silent, but i think there are a few things that you're somewhat overlooking.

if you have the right software, it doesnt matter how much background noise there is, you'll be able to reduce it easily, whether it be through a 30 channel EQ [1/3 octave] or through a total hiss reduction.

2 gigs is a lot better than one gig.

the OS you choose will play a major factor in the noise of your computer, XP will be your absolute best option. However, older OS's are better and better, as they use so little resources, it wouldn't be significant, or ever come close to using enough to slow down the system.

if you're really aiming for recording audio and such, like producing music for a band, you may want to stretch far enough as to be under the impression that you'd be able to have a fair amount of noise in the room and it wont even matter, guitars and drums should be recorded through an amp, using a line out or something, not a mic, you'll notice the quality will be a lot higher.

the only time you'll need to have a quiet room is while recording vocals, and if you use a small directional mic close to them, all you'll hear is them, and background noise will be minimal, and you'll have the ability to basically make it disappear.

you're main worry should be ambient noise, not nessecarily the noise from the computer.

throwing in a few nexus fans, possibly undervolted would make the computer effectively silent when kept under a desk, using acoustic tiling to create a wall around a desk, but with open space to allow air to come in and out will effectively solve the issue. if its not kept under a desk, you may want to create a sort of tunnel for it out of acoustic tiling. it may not shoot for looks, but it'll help you with your application.

Posts: 289
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 9:46 pm
Location: Bloomington, MN

Post by christopher3393 » Sat Mar 24, 2007 5:54 am

You might want to take a look at the PaQ case:

and browse this article: ... n_0207.htm

Not sure if full article will post. If not, here are some recommended components:

"The total cost of any music PC is dependent on the processor, motherboard, amount of RAM, number of drives, and so on you want. My goals when building this PC were good processing performance, very low acoustic noise and bargain price. Here's what I paid (prices include VAT):
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4GHz CPU £209
Intel DP965LT motherboard £82
2GB Corsair Twin 2X2048-6400 RAM £187
Gigabyte 7300LE 128MB graphics card £37
Two Samsung SP2504C 250GB drives £102
Pioneer DVR111 DVD burner £23
1.44MB floppy drive £4
PaQ 4U 550 Powerful and Quiet Case £140
Seasonic S12 430W PSU £40
Thermal Right XP120 Cooler/120mm fan £41

The Asus P5B-E has worked well for several DAW builders I am in contact with.[/url]

Posts: 1066
Joined: Sun Jan 16, 2005 2:59 am
Location: Santa Cruz

Post by ronrem » Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:49 am

Brownstone's comments about the noise of the room getting onto a recording would tend to apply somewhat,though acoustic instruments would be an exception. You do want a quiet ambient background for post-recording detailing,editing,reprocessing etc.

I'd think a 4300 core 2 or the AMD X2 Brisbane would be good chips. A lot of audio is not that CPU intensive. If you are doing mostly sampling/effects/midi type synthetic stuff,perhaps more CPU and 64 bit could matter.

Try a multi-boot setup with your 64 bit Vista,if you want,but also a stripped down XP or Win 2k 32 bit. You will find likely that there's a lot more 32 bit software,drivers,and all the bells and whistles and hidden processes in Vista do more harm than good.

While the Raptor is a tad noisy,if you employ all the SPCR tricks it should be okay. I think going with the extra HD speed probably benefits more than the extra CPU speed. I mostly worked on remastering old analog recordings made 20-30 years ago,and I noticed a bigger jump upgrading the HDD than when I doubled the CPU speed. Since details,analog hiss,pich correction,EQ were what I mostly dealt with,a quiet machine and real true Near-field monitors were major.

Posts: 1839
Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Northern New Jersey

Post by bonestonne » Sat Mar 24, 2007 3:06 pm

ronrem wrote:A lot of audio is not that CPU intensive
that depends on the program you use, and how its set up, as in preferences.

i use adobe audition, and its not CPU intensive when you disable the waveform display while recording, or when you have absolutely nothing else running, however, there are programs for windows based operating systems [and i can only assume thats the choice for this] that would cripple the system while recording. Adobe Audition 2.0 is one of those programs, if you use 1.5, you don't see any of those issues.

i'll write more after i send an email to a friend of mine, but what i'm trying to get to is that audio recording is dependant on the program, and normally its intense unless you really know what to do. also, vista is a BAD OS choice for the build.
ok, basically, even with acoustic recordings, post editing will remove any stray background noise, unless its like something falling, someone screaming, that sort of thing. audio recording is more intensive than perceived.

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:57 am

Post by echosystm » Sat Mar 24, 2007 5:05 pm

Guys, lets get back on track here! :D

I know what I need to achieve in this upgrade, so CPU etc. is decided. Also, my friend at a large computer shop here has run an e6600 passive with a Scythe Ninja before with load temps of 55 degrees (this is good for Australia - hot weather). I'm not going to do that, but I will put an S-Flex low speed on there.

Vista IS good for audio, there are some benchmarks on the net showing the improvements.

I do need lots of CPU power. I make electronic music so it relies heavily on being able to run large soft synths (think NI Reaktor/Massive).

I pretty much only record vocals, so ambient noise needs to be kept down - computer noise is by far the biggest factor here. Hard drive speed is obviously not THAT much of an issue, as I will usually only have 1 or 2 full stereo tracks and maybe 20 or so samples through Battery.

From my research, this seems to be pretty decent rig:

Antec SOLO
Intel E6600
2x1GB Corsair DDR667 CL4
WD Raptor 36GB/16MB
WD Caviar 160GB/16MB
Zen 400w PSU (when released)
Pioneer DVR-111DSV
Scythe Ninja
Scythe S-FLEX 120mm Fan SFF21D

Still considering replacing the Raptor with another 160GB so I can have system partition, windows page file partition, and a scratch disk partition for Audition/Photoshop (I'm a designer too :)).

Posts: 1839
Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Northern New Jersey

Post by bonestonne » Sat Mar 24, 2007 7:08 pm

i could seriously go nuts on you right now.
Vista IS good for audio, there are some benchmarks on the net showing the improvements.

I do need lots of CPU power.
look at the system usage that Vista has compared to that of XP. that should be an automatic realization that Vista will cripple the system. On laptops that i've seen run Vista, they've had from 47-53 processes running at any given time, XP uses about 30, as low as 27 i've seen with a full install.

Vista is not worth the $450 if you have XP lying around...not only that, but in austrailia, and this is true, when you use a currency converter, Vista comes out to be around $600 down under. Still worth it?

XP is more stable for the job, i cannot stress that enough for this...if you want to use Vista, use a beta version, don't use the full thing, it'll take a fast system, and make it crap. use XP, and you'll max it out. nothing wrong with that is there.
you may want to have a very large hard drive, 300+ gigs in the mix somewhere. heres why, adobe audition, and many other audio recording programs require a Temp folder. the larger your folder, the more you can record. raw audio is insanely large. I have a 5 hour clip of audio that i recorded to test my computer, and raw it was 3.05GB, mixed down it was 278MB. you'll need to have a large folder that can just take a beating. i use my 400GB external hard drive, which has proven very useful, because you don't want the temp folder on your main HDD, as it will cause major slow downs.

as for everything else in the mix, i think that all of the hardware is perfect for the setup, but what mobo?

I use the same mix, Audition and Photoshop, as i do graphic titles for my schools radio station, we do TV as well. you'll find that a faster HDD will be better, as the second [sometimes 3rd HDD or external] will cover a lot more than you realize.

it is your money, but i just don't want to see a very good computer go downhill fast with such a bad OS.

Posts: 64
Joined: Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:48 pm

Post by butters » Sat Mar 24, 2007 10:14 pm

Looks pretty good. I believe the SOLO is the same as the P150 minus the PSU, so you should be able to suspend up to 3 HDDs. Some comments:

A quiet active PSU will be cooler and not necessarily any louder than a fanless. Consider the Seasonic S12 series or the Corsair HX520.

For audio work, disk throughput is often more important than latency. Consider running 3x 7200RPM disks in a RAID 5 (Intel Matrix soft-RAID is fine). More capacity, higher throughput, and redundancy for less money than going with the Raptor.

I have to agree with the other posters that Vista is not ready for pro audio. If you're dead stuck on it, then I would encourage you to seek out the experiences of other audio engineers who have tried Vista. It's ok to be an early adopter, but not if you're trying to get the job done.

For that matter, have you considered getting an iMac instead? Mac OSX supports great pro audio software (Logic, Pro Tools, etc.), it can run Windows if you want, and SPCR's own editor, Mike Chin, has said that the iMac is the quietest mainstream computer that he's ever heard. Just something to think about...

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:57 am

Post by echosystm » Sun Mar 25, 2007 3:33 am

bonestonne wrote:i could seriously go nuts on you right now.
Please don't! :lol:

I believe Vista will be better once all the crap is nLited out of it. If not, I will just run XP again. I have both OSes at my disposal for testing as I work at a computer shop. Vista (home basic) is also cheaper for me than XP.

I've already tested my Audition temp usage. 30gb is a ridiculous ammount. There is a formula you can use to work out how many hours you can record at 24/88, and it turned out to be a godzillion times more than I would ever need. Remember, temp is temporary, once you're finished you can clear it!

I have been considering raid5 butters, but it does have it's downfalls. When you look at overall disk speed, raid is obviously going to be around 70% faster. However, when you're reading multiple files and caching stuff all over the place, you can get better performance off seperate drives. Heres an example.

Lets say I'm playing a bunch of samples, and recording at the same time. In raid, the hard drives will be skittering all over the place between recording and playing back. Conversely, if you have the setup I said above, it will be recording and playing back off two individual drives - the heads wont have to move as much and will be pretty much reading/writing in a constant stream. I could be wrong on this. That is just my understanding of it. Most pro audio DAWs go for the mutiple disks instead of raid option for this reason I presume.

Posts: 1839
Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Northern New Jersey

Post by bonestonne » Sun Mar 25, 2007 6:41 am

well, if you vLite the crap out of vista, its possible you will have trouble with it. I'm running an nLited XP right now, i can't upgrade to WMP10, and i can't upgrade to DX9. Why? because it says that they haven't passed logo testing, however, both are M$ products. problem? yes, big.

also, why would you want a small temp folder? yes bigger seems to be complete and utter overkill, but raw audio is big, why get cought in a bad spot? multiple tracks adds up.

i use Macs in school for the job, but i know Audition better than GarageBand or ProTools. not to mention their cost, which is a few hundred outside my price range. also, i would use mac more for Video editing than Audio editing. Although the Mac OSX build is very stable, all the computers i quiet, i'd have a problem adapting to it at home, which is why i have a copy of Darwin. when i manage to install Darwin, that will allow me to get to know Mac well enough to say i'd go out and buy one.

Posts: 254
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2005 3:17 am
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden.

Post by Poodle » Sun Mar 25, 2007 10:50 am

Intel 975XBX2 "bad axe 2" is the most stable board out there. The Vcores are rock solid. It's not cheap though.

I love my board. With low MCM/NB voltage I'm running it @ 333FSB with EIST enabled as it is to ctrl the Vcore and I'm getting: idle= 2GHZ @ 1,1V load: 3GHZ 1,32V. DDR1000 on the 2*1GB memory dimms with wither 5-5-5-12 @ 1,9V or 4-4-4-12 @ 2.18V.

It's both fast an quiet. :)

The new E6600s might not be good though as Intel seem to keep the good chips for their quad cores (which are MCMs meaning two conroes on one module). Maybe you should get a Xeon 3060 if it's not that more expensive?

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:57 am

Post by echosystm » Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:34 am

Im content with an E6600. :)
I considered the 3060 route, but its only 2 degrees cooler and theyre hard to find where I live.

Important question time!
I have a fanless Zen 300w here. I was planning on getting the 400w Zen but no one sells them in Australia yet. Would the 300W Zen suffice? For now I will be running:

Asus P5B-E
SATA 18x DVD Burner
250GB 7200rpm Western Digital w/16mb cache
2GB CAS4 DDR667 (2x1GB)
Asus 7100GS passive
Two Scythe S-Flex 120mm fans
E-mu 1616M PCI audio card - this has 6 analogue outs, preamps etc. and probably uses the full ammount of power PCI can give.
USB keyboard
USB mouse
External 3.5 HDD (not bus powered)
...I think that's it!


Patron of SPCR
Posts: 1069
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Munich, Bavaria, Europe

Post by klankymen » Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:44 am

it's really easy to quiet that type of system... but one thing you should bear in mind is that your external hard drive will be a lot louder than the rest of the system. Don't bother with Passive PSUs if you have 3.5" hard-drives. from my experience it is impossible to find a 3.5" hard-drive that won't completely drown out the noise (if any is even audible in the first place) from a Seasonic S12 PSU.

Your internal will be suspended, so that'll be an improvement, but the external will be hardmounted in a steel or plastic case and should be pretty noisy (by SPCR standards that is)

Posts: 341
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2002 1:20 pm
Location: Vancouver

Post by shunx » Wed Mar 28, 2007 2:10 am

echosystm wrote:Asus 7100GS passive
7100GS uses turbocache, it can use up your system RAM.

Posts: 1066
Joined: Sun Jan 16, 2005 2:59 am
Location: Santa Cruz

Post by ronrem » Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:12 am

The beauty of an external HD is you can stick it in a "quiet" location...and furthur-can turn it off. For the actual recording-I'd want to be set up to have it off.

The Zen is great-IF you mount it external. Othewise some other fan is still moving it's heat from the box. It's heat dissipation,short range,is fine,but there's still heat and enclosed-it accumulates.

V-Lite MIGHT work to slim the Vistabloat, but the combo of a new OS,Vlite,64 bit MIGHT be a pain for compatibility,drivers,etc. For rather low frills recording,I've used an old P3,512 mb RAM,M-Audio card,Soundforge 8,XP-pro (manually killong excess processes in taskman,and had no hassle.
You've got about 10x the cpu punch,with more boost from better RAM,HDD,so there's likely a whole lot of power to spare....I'd tend to say a little overkill,but that can be a matter of how much the synth stuff loads the hardware.

Unless you go overboard on a power sucking vid card,a 300 w,high efficiency PSU is fine.

Gigabyte's S series mobos use solid capacitors. This helps in audio as they are a bit less prone to any hum. I do think Asus and Intel use solid caps on some boards too.

Post Reply