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Buying a DAW computer

Discussion in 'Recording' started by mandrum, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. mandrum

    mandrum Active Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    After trawling the net to find a suitable daw computer I have come across a number of so called specialist daw computers at 3 times the price of a normal computer.

    I have studied some aspects i.e. silent factors and what I need for proccessing speed and power etc.

    I believe if you build yourself or can find someone to do it for you on the cheap you can save bags of money and that these so called daw computers are a rip off.

    Here are specs of one I intend to build please let me know if any of these items are not for a daw system?

    Antoc Sonata III with earthwatts quiet 500watt psu.
    MSI P6NGM-FD Motherboard - 775 chipset with 1333mhz and firewire ports.
    Intel Quad core 9550 (2.83mhz) or intel duo E8400 3Mhz x2(could I use two of these instead of one quad core, what would the advantages/disadvantages be for a daw if I could?)
    Artic cooling freezer.
    Asus 256mb nvidea eforce GS Silent(passive i thinks)
    Windows xp home sp3
    Kingston Hyper 4g (2x2) Gig ddr2 800mhz dual channel ram
    Western digital caviar 160Gb - 8mb cache(very quiet) hard drive internal(should I get one with 16mb cache for a daw?)
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Preassembled computers specifically designed for audio have been put together by system integrators. These are not just randomly chosen parts based upon manufacturers blah blah specifications.

    It doesn't matter what you've picked out. It only matters if you're audio interface & software approves of your choice of componentry. Companies like Digidesign have very specific, authorized hardware, to work with their software and/or hardware. Don't choose their stuff and you get no support. They wouldn't give a rats ass what your selections were if it doesn't match what they recommend. And I can assure you, THIS IS A BIG FACTOR. So builders of a nice computer and you'll find out what works & what doesn't. There is no guarantee what you've assembled will work with just anything.

    It might be more interesting to note, that many software's cannot necessarily take advantage of multicore processors yet. And drivers for hardware may also not take advantage of multicore processors. And XP Home, is not necessarily 100% compatible with all software's. Some require XP Pro. Most don't work well with VISTA, which already appears to be a dead & failed operating system like WINDOWS MILLENNIA EDITION, WINDOWS XP MEDIA EDITION. All dogs. We are now looking forward to "Windows 7". And there is some software already that can take advantage of a 64-bit operating system. Most don't. If you're designing your computer so you can play high-speed action games? It really may not be appropriate for doing audio on? So make a decision. Games? Or digital audio workstation.

    If you're wondering what is possible, some years ago, I was using a Pentium III, at 700MHz & external 7200 rpm hard drive and was tracking 24 simultaneous tracks! That was utilizing a MOTU 2408-II & Cool Edit Pro 1.1 & 1.2. So stick that in your high-speed computer. No, I couldn't run 24 or more simultaneous plug-ins during mix down, all in real time, all at the same time. No, I had to preview & render out the mix. That never caused me any problems nor limitations.

    So if you got a Ferrari, just how fast would you be driving it through your neighborhood? That is without getting arrested? So you're asking the same question here. There are limitations were ever you look. You have to really know what you want to do and what you want the computer to do and with what.

    Forward thinking in a reverse direction
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. fmw

    fmw Guest

    It is possible to put a computer together that won't host some interfaces, I suppose, but it is actually harder to do than some would make you want to believe. Personally, I haven't encountered anything in the recording world that I couldn't make run. Firewire, as an example, is a standard. Well known mainboards with Intel chipsets and processors are quite standard whether you build a clone or buy a name brand computer. Chipsets change from time to time so the possibility of incompatibilities does exist. As an example, the venerable P35 chipset is now discontinued.

    You may or may not know that very few computer manufacturers make their own main boards. They are more standard that you might imagine.

    Really fast computers aren't usually necessary for tracking - at least at the level that amateurs do. They matter more for things like virtual synths and large mixing jobs that involve a lot of tracks and a lot of plug-ins. Most amateurs can get by with virtually any modern computer.

    If you like screaming computers My personal favorite processor is the Xeon E3310 from Intel. It has a 3 ghz clock speed and a dual core. You'd be into some pretty serious mixing to get in its way. Add enough memory to stay away from the hard drive as much as possible and fast SATA drive and you're in business for almost anything. 7200 rpm is a standard hard drive speed for recording computers but there are even 10,000 rpm drives now for the true speed freaks.

    It isn't as complicated as you think. Stay with standard chipsets and processors and it's easy to stay compatible with the world.

  4. 357mag

    357mag Active Member

    Oct 4, 2007
    Congratulations on building your own. I did and it works great. And you will save bucks.
  5. Space

    Space Distinguished Member

    Jun 26, 2007
    "...these so called daw computers are a rip off. "

    Why is it that when someone cannot see the value in a purchased item it is a rip off?

    Gas prices...that's a rip off.

    Developing a system specific to a certain task requires technical prowess. Not the "Internet expert" kind, the real certified kind:)
  6. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    Just throwing in my .02 - I am not against PCs, I've got several machines that are quite reliable. but...

    I'm typing this on a new MacBook Pro that I just purchased a few weeks ago. In the last 2 days I installed Windows XP and VMware Fusion on a BootCamp partition and installed all the MicroSoft Office necessities for day in/day out operating in a PC based environment at the school in which I teach. (Office - word, excel, powerpoint, etc...)

    Right now I have Windows and OS X running side by side at the same time without a glitch or even a hiccup. I've got Safari and Garageband open in mac, and IE on the Windows side. I can run mac or PC apps simultaneously. Our school website requires Internet Explorer to maneuver in, and I was able to make changes without a problem.

    I haven't installed PT LE and connected the external firewire I just purchased, and don't intend to run Windows when I'm tracking, but the system is solid and this is the cleanest I've ever dealt with Microsoft or any PC software installation. WOW!
  7. Greener

    Greener Guest

    So your Mac is really good because it can run Windows?
    If only there was some way of getting all that goodness of Windows without having to pay 500% over the tote...
  8. StephenMC

    StephenMC Guest

    I have a Macbook as well and pride myself on using no Microsoft products at all. Very few Apple products, as well. Primarily open source goodness.

    But I have to agree that Macs are amazingly stable.
  9. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    I ddn't post to start a flame ware. I think I prefaced the statement quite clearly. You like Linux, great...use it. The OP was discussing a DIY machine, which (by the time you find quality components and research the incompatibilities will set you back far more than the off the shelf deal at Best Buy or ???
    I know, I have 2 PC rackmounts that I had assembled to specs and it took many hours of research and many more hours of trial and error to make the unit operational in the firewalled environmet I work in.
    The Mac was plug and play - happy holidays

  10. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    My dad was speaking to a guy from the US recently. Gas prices came up in conversation, and my dad did some calculations.
    He concluded that in the UK, we pay the equivalent of almost $9 a gallon.

    That motivator is awesome :D
  11. Sethiroth

    Sethiroth Guest

    You can build a Mac for 1/3 the cost.

    Shhhh! Don't tell Steve Jobs
  12. 357mag

    357mag Active Member

    Oct 4, 2007
    Some people have bought OSX and put it on their PC. They claim it works as long as you stick to compatible hardware. However you probably won't get any support from Apple if you do this.
  13. Sethiroth

    Sethiroth Guest

    Mine works fine, and as far as support goes, yea you won't get any, but you don't get any from Windows either. Well, you can, but it cost you $265 an incident.
  14. iamfrobs

    iamfrobs Guest

    What hardware did you use, out of curiosity. I tried getting some help with osx86 a few months ago. Everyone said I was crazier than Dr. Emmet Brown.
  15. Sethiroth

    Sethiroth Guest

    Everything you need to know.


    And don't forget, Dr. Emmet Brown was right!
  16. SeniorFedup

    SeniorFedup Guest

    i bought my pc on ebay buy a gaming pc maker
    quad core 3.25 gig ram
    high quality vid card(which i traded out for a smaller vid card)
    300 gig drive.
    added one teo more drives for about 160$
    paid 1200 in total.
    not connected to internet. and its fast as sin on the road to hell
  17. iamfrobs

    iamfrobs Guest

    Any luck with dual monitor support with that nvidia driver? i read that 9XXX cards werent supported yet, but i was thinking of an 8600GT. Do you happen to have any recommendations on a disk, i.e. iAtkos or Kalyway, for our intents and purposes? I had a pretty decent working boot with kalyway 5.2, but that was on a dell laptop. A bit of finagling with the sound kexts, but got it up in a few hours. Would you see a desktop build being less trouble just because I can pick the components?

    Sorry for the long post, I am excited someone else knows what I am talking about.
  18. Sethiroth

    Sethiroth Guest

    I used Kalyway also I don't remember the version, since its been almost a year since I built it.

    I used an old 6600 video card because I knew this PC was going to be for DAW and web surfing only. I built it with the sole intention of using it for Logic Pro 8.
    I haven't tried dual monitor yet, but I would like to get one. I might borrow one from work to test it.

    Anyways I built the desktop with the following.

    Core2 E6750
    Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L mother board
    Seagate 7,200 500gig HD
    4 x 1ghz Kingston HyperX RAM 1066
    SIIG IEEE1394 3-port PCI Card Model NN-440012

    And I just used spare parts for the rest. The link I posted has a compatibility list on video cards. You can try anything, but I wouldn't buy unless its listed as working.
    Also, if you are using FireWire (I have a FireStudio) you need to get a high end card like the SIIG I put in. If you don't, you'll get lag and pops in your audio.
    Also, all drives (HDD and DVD) need to be SATA!!! Leopard on supports SATA!
    I had to patch the audio too, didn't take long. There is directions on how to do it on that page also.
    I installed an old wireless card (not sure of make) and it works perfect!

    Seriously, if anyone is making a computer for DAW only purposes, just build this.
  19. cfaalm

    cfaalm Active Member

    Feb 21, 2005
    Home Page:
    To buy or to build?

    Since my PC broke down I am again into checking out hardware on the web and contemplating what to buy. It's a hell of a job to find the right parts to get the best DAW PC you can buy. If DAW builders charge you more than what you spend building your own, it is because they have done the research for you, methodically and scientifically. If you could do that also, you wouldn't be posting here :wink: .

    As a starting point, I guess you will have to determine what software you will be running on what OS and estimate your desired track and plug-in count both FX and instruments. Those numbers will form your hardware requirements when comparing numbers on the web. You will have to look into compatiblity extensively. Compatibility is king. Chipsets can make or break a DAW. If you intend to use FireWire, look into compatibility there also.

    About the only thing that would run well straight out of the box would be a Mac. You would have to add a second HDD, but these aren't too expensive. Apple charges you not only for the parts and a healthy profit but also for compatibility research and design. If you appreciate their work, you might look if you can buy a used Mac. Someone might just kiss their Core2Quad Mac goodbye and order a Core i7 based Mac. That Core2Quad will still hold ample horse power for the avarage home studio owner and above.
  20. iamfrobs

    iamfrobs Guest

    The FW chipset should always be Texas Instruments for the most compatibility correct? I had heard problems with used macs, and not knowing which chipset they had used, so I have stayed away from that option thus far. Anyone have any knowledge of that?

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