Budget DAW pc build

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harve
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Budget DAW pc build

Post by harve » Mon May 31, 2010 2:47 pm

Hi guys, building a daw on a budget of $1500 AUS, and I need some advice. My needs are: a near silent daw (using pro tools8), firewire, capable of running sc2, potential to upgrade to 2 monitors. I don't expect to be overclocking. Following some research this is what I have worked out.

The list doesn't include a fan controller, an optical drive, a monitor, or a network card.

Antec Solo
Phenom II X4 965 BE
Noctua NH-U12P
Gigabyte GA-MA785GT-UD3H
Seasonic X-Series 650W
HIS ATI Radeon HD5450 Silence 1GB
8g Ram (2x Kingston 4gb kit ddr3 1333)
Samsung F3 1TB HD103SJ 7200RPM
Samsung F3 500GB HD502HJ 7200RPM
Nexus Real Silent 120mm x 2
64bit Win 7 Home

I need general advice on any weaknesses in this system, and also advice on what components to compromise on considering that including a 24" monitor and other items I'm currently over budget by around $100.

ascl
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Post by ascl » Mon May 31, 2010 4:08 pm

Why 2 HDD's? Should be cheaper to buy one larger one (or is it specifically to have OS seperated from audio data?)?

harve
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Post by harve » Mon May 31, 2010 5:04 pm

Yes that is the idea. If i had the $$$ I'd make the OS drive a SSD but I don't. And I may end up cutting the second drive and just starting out with the single 1TB HDD.

ascl
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Post by ascl » Mon May 31, 2010 5:13 pm

Fair enough, is 500 GB the cheapest you can get? /looks at msy, hmm yeah its not much saving there!

SSD for OS was the first thing I thought of until you mentioned your budget constraints! Maybe you are better off going with a single drive now and saving for an SSD later? Unless you are recording a serious number of tracks, your HDD should be able to keep up just fine even with the OS on it.

Aside from storage (and ignoring the AMD side of things, of which I know nothing), it looks like a good selection of parts.

harve
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Post by harve » Mon May 31, 2010 5:38 pm

Yeah thats a good idea.

I went AMD because its cheaper, but the other option might be an i5-750 setup which would probably be around $100 extra. Is that worth working towards? I figure there really isn't much difference either way.

ascl
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Post by ascl » Mon May 31, 2010 6:37 pm

Nah, I seriously doubt its worth the extra money for an intel set up, I just don't know much about the current AMD stuff.

adikt
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Post by adikt » Mon May 31, 2010 7:11 pm

In my opinion I think AMDs are very underpowered for DAWs. I could be wrong about this, but my last experience from moving between a dual core 3 Ghz Athlon 64 X2 to a 2.66 Ghz C2D Intel was actually an upgrade. I use Ableton with lots of CPU heavy plug-ins. I have no idea how the Phenom II competes against the i5 750.

Network card should be integrated into the motherboard, unless of course you need more ports. Last time I checked, Pro Tools drivers for W7 were a bit buggy too.

harve
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Post by harve » Mon May 31, 2010 7:38 pm

The MB as far as I can tell doesn't include wireless, which is what I meant by network card.

The research I've done indicates that the phenom II 965 is roughly equivalent to the i5 750, with the intel chip edging out the amd in some areas. Pricewise however the amd wins so without any strong advice to the contrary thats what I'm inclined to go with.

ascl
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Post by ascl » Mon May 31, 2010 7:51 pm

Some numbers are here:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/phe ... 389-2.html

although its not very detailed, it should give some idea. There doesn't seem to be a huge difference.


I am more of the belief these days that the majority of people don't need the power that is available. What little DAW stuff I do, my Q6600 laughs at (although I do very much bedroom recording stuff only, nothing serious). Of course, you will know CPU requirements better than me :)

adikt: Its a bit rough saying AMDs wont cut it cause of an experience several (2?) generations ago! I do agree that the intel chip is faster, just not sure its needed or worth the extra money in this situation.

MikeC
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Post by MikeC » Mon May 31, 2010 8:17 pm

The other thing you can say about AMD is that it represents way better value, esp. when you consider # of cores at any given price: AMD always seems to give you more. With most recording / audio software multithreaded, given the modest price of AM3 boards, AMD has got to be the value choice.

ilovejedd
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Post by ilovejedd » Mon May 31, 2010 9:03 pm

From what I can gather, Tom's review only shows simulated performance of the Core i5-750 based on i7-920 data. Here are some actual benchmarks comparing the two:
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/109?vs=102

I don't think the difference choosing between AMD (965 BE) or Intel (i5-750) will amount to $100, at least based on US pricing. However, neither do I think the Intel system is worth the additional price premium when performance for both systems is going to be around the same.

ascl
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Post by ascl » Mon May 31, 2010 9:05 pm

Oh nice, sorry my google-fu was weak. Your link is much better.

ame
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Post by ame » Tue Jun 01, 2010 5:21 am

adikt wrote:In my opinion I think AMDs are very underpowered for DAWs. I could be wrong about this, but my last experience from moving between a dual core 3 Ghz Athlon 64 X2 to a 2.66 Ghz C2D Intel was actually an upgrade. I use Ableton with lots of CPU heavy plug-ins. I have no idea how the Phenom II competes against the i5 750.

Network card should be integrated into the motherboard, unless of course you need more ports. Last time I checked, Pro Tools drivers for W7 were a bit buggy too.
I'm gonna have to agree with this estimate. On all DAW forums (as wel as in studios i've worked in) Intel is preffered. Plug-in count is higher per clock regardless of generation C2D vs AM2 or i5/i7 vs AM3.
Any i7 (860 or 920) will kill any AMD any day.
Bang for the buck or not, Intel is simply BANG when it comes to audio work.

Other than that I agree with your HW choices. Video card can be even lower on specs - 4350 512MB should do.
PSU is slightly overkill too, but its very quiet so you might as well keep it.

bonestonne
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Post by bonestonne » Tue Jun 01, 2010 3:56 pm

Going beyond the AMD vs Intel battles, Pro Tools is also very buggy for AMD users, and has been since people first started installing Pro Tools on AMD processors. It's been suspected to be a million different things, but that extra $100 for an Intel system might be worth every cent, mainly because you wont be ripping your hair out in frustration over something just *not* working right.

PT8 is very good though, granted I run M-Powered and have problems left and right because the multi-card M-Audio setup I run is not supported. Even in Windows 7 Home Premium x64, I have it running flawlessly. Lots of people still complain about something not working here or there, but I guess I'm lucky enough to not have that.

But that's all the software end of it. When you get into the hardware end (such as what audio cards you run), that's where it turns into a nightmare. Some hardware works flawlessly, some requires some tweaking, and there are times when hardware simply does not run suitably. As always, if you plan on getting something with Firewire, make sure it's a TI chipset. I don't care if it's just for your external hard drive, if you ever get a firewire audio unit, and you don't have TI chipsets, you will have headaches.

Even on a Mac you will see Firewire issues, especially now that all the ports were cut down and there's more USB than Firewire.

As for the specific hardware you plan on getting, aside from switching to an Intel based setup, I would actually shoot for only a 250-320GB OS drive, because realistically, how much data do you need to keep on hand? Run frequent backups, and remember that a 1TB scratch disk will be WEEKS of raw audio. Not just days. Most important data should be kept away from the drive you boot off of, audio or not.

Most importantly, make sure you always have a backup of your backup. Your worst nightmare will be losing a clients data.

harve
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Post by harve » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:04 pm

I'm happy to explore the Intel option a bit more but its going to make it a lot harder to keep the build under $1500AUS.

The i5-750 is $249 on www.pccasegear.com.au, and the i7 860 $369. Surprisingly this is even cheaper than on www.msy.com.au, the other site I've been checking for prices.

Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H ($129) is the only intel board with a TI firewire chip that suits my purposes, but its micro atx, does this make a difference? anyone have an alternate solution?

For my AMD setup I had $209 and $105 for cpu and mb (from msy)making the i5 only $60 more. I'd also switch cpu cooler to the megahalem, which might even save me a few dollars.

Other changes to the original plan so far would be just a single HDD, or much smaller second HDD if I can afford it. I'm open to advice on a different psu as the seasonic is quite expensive, not sure if theres something comparable but cheaper out there, I'll be having a look myself. I feel like i've already compromised quite a bit on the GPU but I'll check out that card you suggested. I also need to work out the fans for the SOLO and a fan controller.

I really appreciate the advice so far, thanks guys.

ame
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Post by ame » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:37 pm

The motherboard you selected is H55, I don't know if it fits with i5 750. I'd imagine it will work but I never tested it myself.

The link is to GA-P55 UD2. its P55 and I know its good, though I couldnt find it with the supplier you mentioned. It has the TI FW that works and e-SATA as well. don't mind the M-ATX unless you need the slots.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... -_-Product

You will need 2 phisically seperate HDDs. Your inicial choice of 1TB F3 with 32Mb is an excelent one for an audio drive, and its also near silent. If you must - cut the size of your system drive, buy I don't imagine you will save much $ on this.

harve
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Post by harve » Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:13 pm

Yeah I couldn't find that board on either of the two sites which I understood to be the best in range and prices so I just linked the h55 one.

I did a quick search and the p55 board is definitely available here, so I'll put that down instead.

Regarding fans for the SOLO, I'd be looking at something like one or two 92mm nexus fans for the front intakes (maybe don't need these, but I might get one anyway) and a 120mm nexus for the cpu and rear exhaust??? Now these need to be controlled and this is the part I don't really understand...whats the best way to go about doing this?

adikt
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Post by adikt » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:03 am

If you're moving to mATX, you could consider the NSK3480 - it could save you some cash if you used the included 430w PSU too, which I hear is very quiet.

I think the cheapest option for controlling fans would be to use a Zalman Fanmate and/or use the fan undervolt adapters included with the Noctua heatsink.

I use Samsung F3's for audio/sample libraries and I couldn't be happier with them.

joetekubi
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more options, i guess

Post by joetekubi » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:50 am

Having run AMD for many years (lots of audio processing) I now own an Intel i7 setup. IMHO, sooner or later you will want the ability to run lots of threads, UNLESS you know you will only be doing stereo audio processing.

If you ever find yourself with a lot of tracks running, an i7 will do better than a straight (no HT) 4 core cpu.

You haven't mentioned an audio card yet. I'm real happy with my MAudio board (24 bit / 96Khz), but I have looked at that high-end Asus sound card - wow!. If you need multichannel input or output, it's gonna cast a bit more than stereo....

HTH,
-joe

RoGuE
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Post by RoGuE » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:17 am

was the hard drive issue resolved yet? ( i didnt feel like reading this whole thread)

If not, I would seriously advise against your current choice of 2 drives. I saw that you can't afford an SSD for your OS, and thats fine! As an alternative to your current setup, pick up a 2tb drive, and just partition the outer ring to your OS. This way, essential os files dont get spread out across the platters and slow down over time. I would recommend anywhere from 100-200gb for your OS drive, then partition the rest accordingly. This is the most cost effective way to achieve OS seperation and still maintain a lot of storage space without having to buy 2 drives.

(not to mention...its quieter!)

croddie
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Re: Budget DAW pc build

Post by croddie » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:33 am

harve wrote:HMy needs are: a near silent daw (using pro tools8), firewire, capable of running sc2, potential to upgrade to 2 monitors.
DAW is easy. You want and have specced out a gaming rig, assuming SC2 is the game Starcraft 2. Inaccurate title.

bonestonne
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Post by bonestonne » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:37 am

I would suggest not worrying about having Firewire onboard, and try locating a PCI-e based Firewire card. x1 would be a fine interface for this, and it would be much better than onboard, which may have hardware conflicts, or sharing resources. You'll notice problems, but may not see any conflicts show up in software.

Before really saying you should go for one motherboard over another, what audio hardware are you going to be running? Being a Moderator on the M-Audio User Forums, I can offer a lot of insight as to what hardware works best with Firewire and PCI solutions from M-Audio, and I also have a little experience with E-Mu hardware, but not a lot.

ame
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Post by ame » Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:27 pm

RoGuE wrote:was the hard drive issue resolved yet? ( i didnt feel like reading this whole thread)

If not, I would seriously advise against your current choice of 2 drives. I saw that you can't afford an SSD for your OS, and thats fine! As an alternative to your current setup, pick up a 2tb drive, and just partition the outer ring to your OS. This way, essential os files dont get spread out across the platters and slow down over time. I would recommend anywhere from 100-200gb for your OS drive, then partition the rest accordingly. This is the most cost effective way to achieve OS seperation and still maintain a lot of storage space without having to buy 2 drives.

(not to mention...its quieter!)
Sorry RoGue, but NO!

while quieter, more energy efficient etc, DAW will need to access multiple large audio files while working at very low latency. Using the same physical HDD partitioned is a bad idea and is a typical source of problems with many uninformed DAW builders.

Depending on what software this could mean either clicks and pops in playback or recording (Cubase, AbeltonLive) or buffer errors in other cases (ProTools)

This is also true for professional video editing systems.

harve
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Post by harve » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:18 pm

Hard drive: currently thinking 1-1.5 TB drive for audio, and a smaller system drive

Audio gear: I was initially looking at an mbox 2 pro firewire interface, or alternatively a fast track ultra. At that point I was also considering a laptop so I havn't really looked at pci audio cards. Happy for some advice on this.

PCI-e firewire card makes sense, tbh i didn't know if they were available cause i couldn't see them on any of those sites. Did I mention this was my first time at this?

Re gaming rig: yes I included a graphics card, I can't afford a second build. Fortunately my gaming requirementrs are extremely modest. I'm sorry if you feel the title is deceiving but I honestly don't understand why you would think that. DAWs can be extremely cpu intensive once you get a project going with 60+ tracks, effects and vst's.

RoGuE
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Post by RoGuE » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:09 pm

ame wrote:Using the same physical HDD partitioned is a bad idea and is a typical source of problems with many uninformed DAW builders.

Depending on what software this could mean either clicks and pops in playback or recording (Cubase, AbeltonLive) or buffer errors in other cases (ProTools)
Really?? I've never heard of a problem like this...yes, the HDD will be forced to bounce back and forth a little more due to the partition, but whats the big deal? I have my OS partitioned with many of my programs on the "inner ring". Never has my system become unstable, or had problems with corrupt files etc.

I realize a DAW is writing large files, but the memory serves as a buffer when the HDD heads need to be somewhere else...no?

ame
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Post by ame » Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:23 am

RoGuE wrote:
I realize a DAW is writing large files, but the memory serves as a buffer when the HDD heads need to be somewhere else...no?

Yeah, thats the point. Most DAWs have a buffer size settings that allow you to set low buffer size to reduce latency, which is waht you want/need when recording.
The small buffer has its downside of having to access the files from the HD faster/more frequent, plus there is typically a moderate CPU hit as well when lowering the buffer size.
A higher buffer size can be used in mixing, when latency is less of an issue, and you need more CPU for plugins and mix routing.

I'm not saying its impossible to work with a partition, or your system drive, but an error is inevitable, at some point.
How critical this is, really depends on what DAW you use, but all major DAWs list this as a requirement.

Sorry if I was being slightly rude on my previous post, I was just trying to make a point that should not be overlooked by any DAW builder. :wink:
OP seems to have already known this, as his original post mentioned it.

RoGuE
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Post by RoGuE » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:37 am

ahhh i see!

I was just tryin to figure out why it was an issue. I come to this site to learn, so thanks for pointing that out. Question tho...why do you need low latency? Why is it an issue to have a normal sized buffer in RAM?

ame
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Post by ame » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:42 am

Lower than usual buffer size (64 samples or less) reduces latency and is needed in recording since you are playing musical instruments or vocals in time with a musical beat, often along with other instruments or pre recorded material.
The time it takes from when you play that note until you acctually hear it is the latency. If the latency is too high you will be off the beat, or might hear yourself delayed.

There are various audio interfaces/DAW software that compensates or offer features to help you overcome some of these issues, but some latency is always part of a DAW. This was never the case in analog recording days, and is one of the many reasons major facilities still carry analog desks for monitoring their recording sessions.

The other latency aspect has to do with realtime processing done in the DAW and the fact that all files have to be played back locked to an internal (or external) sample clock. This will not be possible in systems that have unusually high DPC latencey spikes. You can use DPC latency checker http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml to see how your system will behave in that respect.

I learned alot from this site too. It made a huge diffrence for me, and my career. (maybe I need to donate?)
I keep comming back for more. MikeC is the only one I know of that is doing proper audio testing for computer components, and his subjective comments always seal the deal.
There are a few other guys that hang out here that know alot and I enjoy reading what they have to say.

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