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Help me spend my Money on a DAW $$$

Discussion in 'Computing' started by razor_usmc, Oct 15, 2004.

  1. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Okay folks, here's the situation.

    I am new to computer recording. Have a long history of Roland and Tascam all-in-ones. I am completely overwhelmed, but ready to take the plunge into the computer DAW realm...please be gentle.

    I currently have an AMD Athalon 2600+ (win XP home) computer I may upgrade or could build a new pc or if the right deal comes along...a used Mac. For sake of argument though, lets assume I have an AMD athalon with ASUS motherboard and at least 1.0 gig RAM. And I will re-format everything and dedicate it solely for my studio.

    I have been to the top of the Protools LE mountain...and it is good. Saw the demo at GC. Like how the software works with their hardware and it plugs into the firewire port in the back of your PC, download the software and voila! What I don't like is the fact that it seems pricey for what you get compared to other programs and from what I have read...I can count on having to pay through the nose to stay upgraded.

    I have also read that a lot of you guys who dont use (HATE) protools, record in one program, mix in another and then master to cd in another...etc. etc. This seems like a ton of steps and a huge pain in the A$$ for someone coming from a all-in-one background. That is why I like the PT idea.

    I will need to spend nominal dough on my current PC to upgrade, or a decent amount to build a new decent PC. I have $1000 in cash and a credit at SamASH for another $2200 for around $3200. I have about a 12'x12' room where I do everything and I record acoustical vocals, guitars, and drums, and would be plugging guitars, bases and a Korg triton studio into whatever interface I end up with as well. I plan on extensive keys/synth/midi work, but certainly not exclusively!

    I want pro quality results with a relative simplicity. (if it exists) I have read a lot of these forums and have a general idea whats out there, but unlike a new car, you just cannot walk into GC or order from SamAsh and take this software for a test drive and return it because it doesn't suit you.

    Help me spend my money. I have read "pro tools rocks"...or "I have cubase and am very happy with it"...but not too many people elaborate as to WHY??!! I am all for experimentation and "earning my stripes" to make whatever I end up with, work for me and sound better. If there is a great sounding, easy to use set up, that suits my needs without becoming a huge "clock speed", or "parity" or "stero buses, vs. i/o, spidf compatibility issue with windows XP upgrade#2 issue, :? I would LOVE to avoid those headaches. Maybe when I have done this for a while I will be happy to brave the deep, cold waters of making all these things work in concert, but for now I want to make a jump up from my Roland 8 track digital (which I can really make sound pretty good btw) to a system that gives me more choices. (headaches excluded)

    Tell me your thoughts, give me your input and WHY it should be a consideration for ME.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and especially to those of you who take the extra time to help out a fellow music lover who sufferes from a deplorable manifestation of ignorance. :D

  2. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    AMD-based PC’s are the way to go right now because they are cheap and they are fast. MACs just cost more that they’re worth, IMO. I think that building your own PC is your best option as you will end up with an inexpensive, fast system that has exactly the features that you choose. If you’re nervous about building one, don’t be. It’s really pretty easy, especially with the help you’re going to get around here. There are some great and very smart guys around here, Opus2000, Mark Jones, BladeSG, Randyman, and Big_D to name a few, that can help you with any problem you might have. There are two versions of the Athlon XP 2600+ CPU. One is the “Barton Core” version that has a 333 MHz Front Side Bus. The other one has a 266 MHz Front Side Bus. The FSB is the path that data takes between the RAM and the CPU, and the bandwidth of this bus is a major factor in DAW performance. A bigger FSB bandwidth means that you can get more data into and out of the the CPU faster and thus get more done in a smaller amount of time. If your CPU is the 266 MHz version, I would consider upgrading your CPU to something like the Barton XP 3200+. This is what I have, and I’m running it on the same motherboard that Big_D recommended to you in a similar thread recently, the ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe. This combo, paired with some fast RAM (Corsair XMS DDR400 in my case) and two Serial ATA hard drives, makes for a pretty damned fast system.

    You said you have a 12’ x 12’ room to work in. I assume you have no acoustic treatment. If this assumption is correct, I would recommend that you budget at least $300 for DIY acoustic treatment (retail solutions can be very good, but expensive. Otherwise, all this equipment will be fairly useless. Don’t take my word for it. Give the geniuses up in the Acoustics and Design forum a visit and ask them.

    It’s difficult to argue against the various PT LE solutions. With the M-box for example, you get two pres, a headphone amp, and software all for under $500. This is indeed a decent solution for the person that wants a very simple, small format audio interface setup. The cons are that it uses USB which is not the best choice for audio due to it’s high CPU utilization, and the fact that it’s not upgradeable. Then, there’s the Digi 002. If you were to buy a different company’s PCI audio interface with as many inputs, 4 decent pres, Cubase SX3, and a control surface, you would spend more that the price of a Digi 002. If you are not needing a control surface, you may be able to save a little money going with a PCI-based solution similar to the one outlined above. For me, the choice was simple. I despise the Pro Tools interface and the company itself for that matter. This does not mean PT LE is not right for you – it’s just a matter of preference. In fact, this whole issue is more or less a matter of preference. All the DAWs today, Cubase, DP, Logic, PT, even Sonar now are capable of doing pretty much the same things. I personally like the feel of Cubase SX the best (and I’ve used them all), but there is no technical reason that it or any of the other programs has any kind of true advantage.

    OK, I think that’s all I have to say for now. I’ll be here to answer any more questions you have to the best of my ability. I hope this helped.
  3. kalealcrooks

    kalealcrooks Guest

    i would recommend the spike due to the internal chip that doesnt kill your pc and the fact that it has the midi......i would also say as an amd user,thats the way to go............ but seeing that i haven't got the spike in tip top working condition yet, i wont put 100% behind it.

    prior to this, i did fine with cool edit, a few plug ins, a 750 athlon 320ram on xp home with a soundcard worth less than 15 dollars......and the only reason i have 320 sdram is because i bought windows xp..... i was doing fine on 64...... and i was happy with this. the biggest downside was the visual aspect,people come over and they are recording into a headset and think that automatically means it sucks. If you learn your equipment you dont have to spend thousand to get good quality. It all depends on what you are looking for
  4. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Hey David,
    Thanks for your help. I am piecing my my PC together online as we speak. heres what I have so far...hows this?

    K450-3042 :: Kingwin Silver Mutant X Gaming ATX Mid-Tower Case with Clear Side, Front USB/Audio Ports and 420-Watt Power Supply

    A455-2032 E :: Asus A7N8X Deluxe nVidia Socket A ATX Motherboard / AGP / Audio / Gigabit LAN / USB 2.0 / Serial ATA

    CP2-XP30004BC :: AMD Athlon XP3000+ / 512KB Cache / 400MHz FSB / Socket A / Barton Core / Processor
    In Stock $149.99 $149.99

    T925-1064 :: Thermaltake Extreme Volcano 12 / Socket A / AMD Athlon XP up to 3400+ / Ball Bearing / Copper Core / CPU Cooling Fan
    (Two) C13-4904 :: Corsair XMS Extreme Memory 512MB PC3200 DDR 400MHz

    THD-40AA3 LINDOWS :: Seagate / 40GB / 7200 / 2MB / ATA-100 / EIDE Hard Drive with Linspire
    (for software and my OS)

    THD-1600A2 P :: Seagate / 160GB / 7200 / 8MB / ATA-100 / EIDE Hard Drive
    (for the music)

    What is your take on 1 gig of ram. Enough for pt LE on the 002?

    Next...at a loss for a video card. Any recommendations?

    With the 2 firewire ports on the MOBO do I need a soundcard if I use PT with the 002?

    Lastly, I will take your advice and acoustically dampen my excess "ambience" :) but what about the PC? Do you use a baffle or do you spend a ton on ultra quiet fans and power supplies at places like .. http://www.quietpcusa.com ??

    I want to burn quality CDs from my PC as well as keep my options open for video editing and work in the future. what about CD player/burners for my PC? (this same ? applies to the video card thing too?) I noticed some people reviewed that the hard drive they bought was good, or bad...but didn't come with any screws. What is the likelihood of that for me and what brands do I avoid to have to constantly make runs to the local PC store??

    What else am I missing?

    Thanks all,

  5. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    First, that is one funky case. Are you going to have the computer in the same room as the one you record in? If so, that power supply is going to be noisy and that Thermaltake CPU cooler is definitely going to be noisy. If noise is a concern to you, I can give you some nice recommendations for quiet cooling products. If noise is not a concern, I suppose that case and power supply will be ok. If you are dead set on that case, you can find it much cheaper someplace other than TigerDirect. I used to buy from Tiger until newegg.com came along. They consistently have good prices, excellent service, and fast, cheap shipping. Another good store is zipzoomfly.com.

    The motherboard is perfect.

    The processor is great. Again, you can get it for less. Buy OEM if you arent’ already planning on it. The factory CPU cooler is a piece of crap.

    CPU Cooler – That thing will keep your CPU nice and cool, but it will be loud. If you care about this, ask me and I’ll tell you about quiet cooling solutions.

    The Corsair XMS is great RAM and is on ASUS’s compatibility list. Yet again, much cheaper elsewhere, such as here Get two of these. Make sure you put them in the right slots to ensure dual channel operation.

    I am not up on my hard drives. Ask the guys in the DAW Products and Computing forum what they think. I can tell you that you definitely want to find drives with 8MB buffers. The first one you mentioned has a 2MB buffer.

    1GB of RAM should keep you happy.

    Video card? Matron G450. This is the most compatible and stable card out there. It also hs two heads in case you want to go dual monitor in the future. You can get the 32 MB version for $60 if you hunt. I have the 16 MB version, which is more than enough for two screens of 1280 x 1024 at 16 bit. I found mine for $29. Granted, this card won’t do well with 3D, but this is a DAW, not a gaming machine.

    If you go with the Digi 002, you won’t need another soundcard.

    ARGH!! I just now read the part about the acoustics and the PC noise! Oh well, I’m not changing it. You don’t have to spend all that much to get a quiet PC. You can do it very cheap indeed if you can put the machine in another room and use KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) extension cables and a long firewire cable (not over 4.5 meters unless you use a very high quality cable or a repeater). Next best is buying a quiet power supply, CPU cooler, and case fan. Those three together can be had for around $130. The Nexus NX3500 power supply is great – dead silent and $70. Nexus also makes a case called the Breeze that included a NX-3500 and a 12cm case fan for $180. I have one of these and I love it. Check out endpcnoise.com for products and info.

    Plextor CD burners are highly regarded, but this also isn’t a subject I’m well up on. Ask the computer guys.

    I don’t think you’re missing anything now. Good luck, and if you have any more questions, i’ll be here.
  6. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Thanks Dave. I'll be in touch. I would be interested in your case advice though.

  7. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    The Antec Sonata is a nice, quiet case - comes with a conservatively rated 380W power supply. By putting some Fanmate speed controls on the 120mm fans you can keep the noise level down pretty darn low. All HDs are grommet mounted and the fans are also mounted on rubber thingies. I have a Zalman heatsink - keeps the CPU nice and cool - has a 120mm fan blowing on it - nice and quiet too.

    I might go for the Matrox P650 video card. The G450 has been around quite a while (it's what I use) - the P650 is a fair amount faster, costs about $160 and there is a fan-free version (maybe all the P650s are fanless)
  8. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Hey Guys.

    check this out.


    what is the diff. between oem and retail? I thought oem mean original equipment manufacturer. So if corsair made 'em both whats the price diff? Oh and whats the diff between PC 3200 and PC 3200C2PT ???

    If in fact buying several OEM parts means "bare minimum" how can I anticipate what parts I will be lacking for assembly when all my crap comes to the house? Will I need screws, mounting hardware or internal power or ribbon cables? Oh and do you guys really use a static bracelet when building your PC at home?

    BTW, can anyone recommend an adequate but quiet CPU heatsink for my amd processor?


  9. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    I've heard good things about the Sonata that Zemlin mentioned, but I have no personal experience with it. Endpcnoise.com sells a modified Antec Sonata that has the dead silent Nexus NX-3500 power supply and a Nexus 12 cm fan pre installed. Either that, the Nexus Breeze, or a Lian-Li aluminum case with a Nexus Power supply would be my recommendation. Be caureful with The Zalman coolers... they are indeed quiet but are big an are not compatible with all motherboards and cases.

    About the RAM, the 3200 is the base model. The 3200C2 is the same thing tested for more aggressive CAS latency values for RAM overclocking (don't worry about this - trust me). The 3200C2PT is the C2 with the platinum-colored heat spreader. The only reason I went with the 3200C2PT is becuase that exact model was tested my ASUS with my motherboard, The A7N8X-E Deluxe. They are really all the same thing and they cost the same anyway. The difference between OEM and retail is the retail packaging and the little Corsair case sticker. You could pay $30+ for a sticker, but I woudn't recommend it ;)

    If you buy an OEM hard drive, you will need mounting screws if you case requires them. Most good cases give you a bag of these. You will also need IDE cables for IDE drives or serial ATA cables for SATA drives. That's about all you'll need.

    I have never used a static bracelet and have never had a problem. Building a PC really is pretty easy, especially with a site like RO to turn to :)

    By the way, in my first post on this thread, everytime I said "333 MHz FSB", I meant 400MHz. I dont know why I said 333. Oh well :?
  10. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Here's where we are...so far!

    Here is what I have after some major tweaking. I dont know why my Newegg shopping cart put my items in this order, but here they are. Please feel free to jump in and let me know if Im missing anything. Youll notice I changed HD's for a buffer of 8. Thanks for the heads up. I noticed there wasn't an A7N8X "E-deluxe" that supported the barton CPU. The one I currently picked is not the e-deluxe but does support the barton 400 Mhz fsb. Hope that works.
    Also, don't know what MOBO zemlin is using. I used some of his recommendations on things I was sure of. So if not a zalmon, what pcu cooler would you recommend?

    ANTEC Life Style Series Black Case With 380W Power Supply, Model "SONATA"

    Pioneer Black DVD+RW/-RW Drive, Model DVR-108, OEM
    Item# N82E16827129157

    Western Digital 200GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive, Model WD2000JD, OEM Drive Only

    WD Caviar Series 40GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive, Model WD400JD, OEM

    Aspire KO-COMBO-SV Silver Keyboard and Optical Scroll Mouse Combo Set PS/2 105keys -RETAIL

    (TWO) Corsair XMS Extreme Memory Speed Series 184 Pin 512MB DDR PC-3200 - OEM

    NU QL-711V 17" LCD Monitor with Speakers -RETAIL

    ASUS "A7N8X" nForce2 Ultra 400 Chipset Motherboard for AMD Socket A CPU -RETAIL(New Version, now support AMD Barton 400MHz)

    CyberPower 7-Outlet Surge Protector, Model "750" -RETAIL

    AMD Athlon XP 3000+ "Barton", 400 FSB, 512K Cache Processor - OEM

    MATROX P650 Video Card, 64MB DDR, 128-bit, Dual DVI, 8X AGP, Model "P650" -OEM

    My cd/dvd drive is oem too, will I need anything special for it?? I saw some cables for ATA serial hard drives but I wasn't sure which ones to get. They are 6 pin plugs to get power from the MOBO right and the ribbon cable from the MOBO is for the data? Also I notice that there are ribbon cables that come with my MOBO, but I cannot tell if I need to buy a second for the other HD? I have also read stuff about round cables versus ribbon to allow more air flow. What do you think?

    Lastly, to cut down on noise, if I place the pc in an empty closet with 8'x3'x10, of room and slide the doors closed, that should minimize a lot of noise. You think that would be too hot? I don't plan on keeping the doors closed all the time but with sensitive vocals and the like. To do this means getting extender cables for the keybrd, mouse and monitor. Saw some on newegg (that is where I will buy now... MUCH cheaper than direct tiger..thanks for the tip David!! :cool: ) but what about a 16' firewirecable. Will that affect the performance of the PT LE digi 002 console? If memory serves, the firewire is the ONLY cable going from the 002 to the back of the pc.

    Hey thanks David, and to all of you for responding. I actually feel like this build-it-yourself thing is do-able. But I want you to know your acumen is very appreciated. :D (just dont get sick of helping me quite yet) Gimme your address, I'll send you a power bar or something to keep you going!

  11. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    This is the style of zalman heatsink I have. Mine is for a P4.
    I replaced the fan with a 120mm Antec fan.
    The location of the CPU on your motherboard looks VERY close to the same location as mine (Asus P4B266).

    I don't see anything on the MBD that would get in the way of the coolor, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say I think it would fit in your setup.

    You will also want to get an additional 120mm fan for the hard drive location inside your case.

    If you setup like I did, that's two additional 120mm fans. I think the case came with the rubber mounts necessary for the second fan. I bought 2 Antec Smartfans (temperature controlled) and plugged them into a fanmate to control the speed. Even with the temp sensor they were a little loud with the stock setup. The stock 120mm fan that comes with the case is what I pointed at my CPU (speed controlled by the Fanmate that comes with the heatsink).
  12. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    thanks for the input, zemlin. :cool:


  13. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    First, the E-Deluxe does support 400MHz FSB. I have one and i’ve verified 400MHz FSB operation. The only difference between the E-Deluxe and the plain Deluxe is the gigabit Ethernet and WiFi ports - things you won’t need.

    Second, find out if the power supply in the Sonata has SATA power connectors (Does it Zem?) If not, you can use the adapter that comes with the motherboard (the Deluxe or E-Deluxe only)

    Ask the computer guys about those hard drives. I use Seagate Barracuda SATA drives, but there might be better noisewise. The Barracudas are dead silent in idle but have relatively loud access noise. The WDs in my experience are the other way around. The shock absorbers in the Sonata should help a great deal with the access noise – I have mine in shockmounts similar to what you would use with a microphone and this put an end to the noise. If I had to make a recommendation, I would say Seagate, but you really should ask the computer guys.

    That motherboard, the A7N8X, does not have firewire or SATA. You will need to find a A7N8X Deluxe or go with the E Deluxe.

    If you buy that NU monitor, tell me how it works out. I’ve been thinking about that one myself for my internet machine.

    I really don’t think the P650 video card is worth it if you don’t use DVI. Like I said, I’m running a 16 MB version of the G450 and it has been perfect to me.

    You should not need to buy any extras at all. The motherboard (the Deluxe or E-Deluxe) comes with two SATA data cables (takes the place of IDE ribbon cable) , a SATA power adapter, and IDE ribbon cables. I think it also comes with screws, but I can’t remember. If not, I’m sure the case does. I wouldn’t worry about round cables. It sound like you’re going to have plenty of fans. You’re not overclocking or anything, so I’d save money and use the ones that come with the board.

    I think you would be fine with the computer in the closet. This would knock the noise down by about 10 dB or so, so it’s definitely worth it. The maximum cable length for the 1394a (firewire) spec is 4.5 meter, or 14’ 9”. If you need to go 16’, it probably would be a good idea to get a premium cable like the ones at unibrain.com. These prevent data corruption by using additional shielding.

    Hey thanks for the powerbar offer, but don’t worry, i’ve got plenty of granola :D
  14. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Thanks for everything David.

    I think my big question with the MOBO is whether or not the E deluxe, or deluxe supports the "barton" cpu. Is "barton" really the issue, or is it just the fact that the fsb supports 400Mhz??

    I'll be in touch. Hey if you don't mind, set your preferences to get a memo in your email when this forum gets a hit. You have been a wonderful resource that I greatly appreciate. I would also like to be able to check in with you later when I get my gear if I have any question...and to let you know how it goes with that monitor. Again, thanks for being selfless with your time and knowledge.

  15. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    I keep a close eye on all of RO so i'll definitely see it when you post again. You can always email me too, but i'd prefer to keep the conversations here so that others can benefit from reading it. Good luck with your new computer!
  16. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't know an SATA connector if it was stuck up my *$$ :shock:. I'll have to research that one a bit so I know what I'm looking for.

    [edit] My PSUs (I have two Sonata cases) don't have the SATA connectors, but I've had them for a while. The current version of the Antec 380 power supplies do, so I would expect a case that hasn't been stuck in a warehouse for a long time to provide the proper power connector - Just speculation on my part ... [/edit]
  17. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    ROTFL! :lol:

    Thanks Zem, I needed that :)
  18. thbears

    thbears Guest

    I would try to get a bigger PSU if you can with a high 12v rail level like 22A or above. Your 380w might be just sufficient to run everything but you might max out your wattage if you add more cards or equipment later. Also I would highly recommend you get Arctic Silver 5 for your thermal paste when installing your heatsink fan setup to your cpu. Ditch the crap paste that comes stock in most HSF setups. They are subpar. Also rounded IDE cables is best to keep airflow unrestricted in your case. Yes all A7N8X deluxe or E's are barton compatible. Just make sure you don't get a board that is rev. 1.0 but at least version 2.0. The barton your looking at is 333mhz but can be overclocked to 400mhz easily. I have a 2500 xp barton that is overclocked to 3200xp levels in 2 machines using a A7N8X Deluxe and a Abit NF7-S boards @ 200x11=2200mhz. Also what monitors are you planning on using. IE Viewsonic, Samsung etc..
  19. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    NU QL-711V 17" LCD Monitor with Speakers -RETAIL

    Just got great reviews, and decently priced for a LCD 17".

    I really need advice on Audio Monitors! :D Unfortunately I am really poor! (less than 600 bucks)


  20. thbears

    thbears Guest

    I like KRK V2-Serie's 4 for about 500 for the pair. Little but is extreme flat sounding. If you need a sub they make one. If too much money a lot of people find the KRK RP-5's very good or they go to the RP8's. Rp5's are about 300 for the pair and the Rp8's are about 500. I auditioned them at Guitar Center here in Hollywood. If you could afford more money then listen to the Mackies 624's and if you have even more money the the Mackie 824's is the way to go. These are all powered speakers so no amp is necessary. You could run them from your mixer.

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