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Modern specs for PC DAWs

Discussion in 'Recording' started by JohnTodd, Aug 8, 2014.

  1. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    H! I'm thinking of upgrading some hardware. Those of you who have monster DAW PCs, tell us what the specs are.

    Mine is currently:
    Win7 Ult 64-bit
    Gigabyte GA-MA series mobo,
    8gig RAM
    AMD Opteron quad oc'd @ 3.8GHZ
    1.5 TB storage spread across 3 drives
    Onboard video
    Firewire interface for audio.

    That's about it for me. I've been getting skips and crackling (with errors) since my productions have gotten more involved and complicated (I'm looking at you, MIDI!), so I wonder if a refresh is in order.

    Oh yes, it's optimized. Optimized up the wahzoo!
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Sounds like your CP should rock. Your interface however may be compromising, but its all subjective to what you are feeding it. I use and internal PCIe midi interface which seems to be much better. Clocking and midi works better with an internal PCIe card . MADI, is amazing.

    I use 8 gig of ram but could use at least 16. Especially when I start using libraries and BFD. BFD is a serious hog. MPC Ren works great for drums.
    I also use outboard keyboards more and more. VSTi are processing hogs.
    Example, I can loop a midi bar for an hour, play around experimenting with sounds and creative, then, hit record and it doesn't miss a beat recording both the sound or the midi track in Samplitude.

    As I increase my sound quality needs, I find part of this comes at the expense of removing less processing in the daw. In other words, I am constantly seeing what I don't need running in the background so the daw can focus on the data better.
  3. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    audiokid; can you throw some links in here for the gear you are talking about? A PCIe MIDI card would be nice. I plan on getting another 8 Gig now that I dont have to upgrade to a new CPU.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    In case you aren't clear on this,

    Based on your requirements, it wouldn't hurt to ask what other EM producers are using , seek those doing more audio, not just MIDI. Keep in mind, mass aren't into real music today so the DAW and interface choice for most people aren't what I would use. Thus, why we keep hearing, the converter and interface isn't a big deal from the mid level user.
    Vocals are about the extent of real for the EM crowd so a lot of people choose a DAW like Cubase, Sonar, Ableton, FL . They don't have the same editing and audio engine like example, Sam or PT, which both require a better interface and which is why stock PT suffers the most because you are stuck with PT IO.

    Thus, why Samplitude and Pro Tools suffer a bit for the MIDI users.
    However, Sam gets it all done for me but at a price.

    How are you controlling the MIDI and what is the interface you need?
    Some use USB, others may have a FW interface with a MIDI port on it.
    More serious users would have a PCIe card with a midi breakout cable in the interface. Others get by on much less.

    Today I use the RME PCIe MADI card. Its expensive! $1800 but I got mine for $850 used. What a deal.
    It has a 2 in/out MIDI ports. Its the best I've found to date.

    Based on your current converter/interface, None of what I use would serve you well because my converter is also a MADI . So, as I keep saying like a broken record, the conversion and interface is really important as you move towards HD audio and MIDI. The 5 most important components to this game is: Mic, Pre , OS, IO, DAW.

    Here is a list. Some in this list have a MIDI port. PCIe is the best.

    RME PCIe
  5. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    OK, I'm thinking my MIDI interface is not a big deal. I just need the ability to plunk in drums and then a bass line, and maybe some synth(s), all of which I do one part at a time. I'm using an E-MU Xboard49, and my MIDI interface is through the Firepod. I suppose a dedicated MIDI card would help, but I get good results tracking my MIDI into the DAW; just sputtering on playback. Playback for me is always softsynth (VSTi). I have no hardware tone modules and no plans to get any.

    So I guess for me it's going to be new converters and preamps, plus acoustic treatment and real monitors.

    I'm thinking I'm going to switch to tracking only and let experts (hint hint) do the mixing for me.

  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    Most people in this business don't cover such a wide array and talents and execute them all so well. Most recordist will never experience all the setbacks or demands we need. Musicians that use MIDI and love real music may need better audio/midi technology.That's it in a nut shell.

    You will notice mass here mostly record and do a small amount, if any, VSTi work. Their requirements and testimonials are way off from what you and I might need. Those whom have never experienced great programming and great audio together, are imho at a loss. But, mass can also can get by on a lot less and don't get what all the fuss is about.

    EM users never come here for the obvious, they mostly use VSTi and require very little real audio in a session so most we discuss is way over their heads. Their general requirements and knowledge base is very limited ADDA track count. But, they definitely require a more snappy USB interface and simple DAW that moves MIDI around well.
    The new keyboards and controllers work great with USB interfaces. But when you are trying to cram Audio/Midi through a single FW or USB, it bottlenecks faster , starts crackling the sooner real audio is in the equation.

    So, when you are looking for others for help in this specific area, you are not going to find as many answers that gel with your workflow.
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    You posted just as I saved.

    Yes, that sounds like a really smart plan.
  8. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Cool. I'll just have to optimize more. There are things I can try.
  9. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    That 1.5TB drive will have 5400 RPM, which is TURTLE-SPEED! If you want your Computer to boot up fast, load all your applications in a split moment, render files (images, audio, video) FAST, I guarantee you you will need an SSD.
    Google and/or YouTube the huge difference in performance with an SSD whether you have a Windows or Mac.

    When people think of building a Computer it's mainly:
    CPU, RAMMMMMMMMMMMMMM, and Video Card, but people never realize the importance of hard drive speed.

    Look up the LITTLE performance increase in a Computer when you go from 8GB of RAM up to 32GB. Or from 16GB up to even 128GB. You will be shocked to see that the difference is barely visible.
    An SSD on the other hand will skyrocket your Computer performance, and only those who own an SSD will understand.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I heard some people talking, when these SSD's first came out, that they had a limited life, even moreso than a standard HDD. Is this a myth ? Or is there any truth to it?

    I'm not being a smart ass. I'm sincere in my question.
  11. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member


    In your efforts to promote SSDs you completely ignored what JohnTodd had said about his disk capacity: 1.5 TB storage spread across 3 drives. This means he does not have a physical 1.5TB drive.

    In addition, when you state "that 1.5TB drive will have 5400 RPM", most 1.5TB single drives (e.g. Seagate Barracuda) in fact spin at 7200rpm or, in the case of the WD Intellipower series, between 5400 and 7200 rpm depending on workload.

    Get your facts straight and keep your emotions in check or your posts will be removed without further warning.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    My server support recommended we get SSD for RO. They said it will improve the performance far greater than adding more RAM here. If I recall, 20% improvements. We have 32 Gig now. I'm debating this, its not a cheap upgrade for us.
    I'm going to invest in one SSD for my DAW OS this year, and will report back on that for certain. I'm a sceptic about it but after support told me this, it may have some benefits.
    This most recent claim seems a bit far fetched but who knows.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's a statement that is contextually relative.

    First of all, when I decided to increase my RAM form 8 gig to 16, I didn't do so with the motivation, or the expectation, that my computer would run faster.

    What I expected, and what I got, was that my computer became far more stable, particularly when working within my DAW platform. I noticed an immediate and obvious increased stability, particularly when using VSTi's and VST's.

    With 8gig - depending on project density of course - I could hear little crackles and hiccups that I knew were indicators of heavily taxed memory. I opened a project file that was pretty dense, one that I had noticed RAM issues with, previous to adding the additional memory. After I put another 8 gig in, and opened the exact same project, those gremlins were gone. No ore clicks, pops, static or freeze ups.

    It's not like the computer ran faster... it just ran a lot more smoothly.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm only using 8 gig on my DAW. I bet that's why Melodyne gives me trouble when I use it with Sequoia. I'm going to go with 16 now.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    @JohnTodd You need a second drive, one for OS and one for audio/library!
  16. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Got 3 drives. One for OS, one for library, and one for the main audio stuff.
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Right, I miss read your OP 1.5 TB storage spread across 3 "drives" (y)
    JohnTodd likes this.
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I wondered how you could do all that VSTi on one drive lol! I was just going to suggest you to be the next DAW optimizing consultant here!! :D
  19. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Rats. I screwed up in reverse again!
  20. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    I got ya!
    There was one more thing I didn't share. The motherboard that I use has quad-channels for my Ram, which in case some of you don't know will perform better if you have 4 sticks of Ram instead of 2 let's say. Not only do I have 16GB less of Ram, I had even taken out some Ram sticks so I'd be left with 4GB of Ram (not satisfying quad-channels).
    My 4GB of Ram vs. his 32GB of Ram, and my Computer still performed better. We have the same exact CPU, none of us overclocking them, and the reason why my Computer still lagged less and performed faster was because of me having an SSD and he having a 5400 RPM and a 7600 RPM system.

    People might think that I am just forcefully trying to convince others to get an SSD, but I am out of the kindness of my heart wanting others to have a much, much faster Computer. We all have struggled with slow Computer speeds, and when we edit, whatever it is, we lose a lot of time while the Computer is loading.

    I would recommend purchasing an SSD from a store that will give you a return policy on the SSD. Then they can clone their hard drive (I personally used a Paragon Software), and there are many free programs to help you clone your hard drive onto the SSD or any other drive. And following that, simply take out your regular hard drive and see how the SSD will perform :)

    When you are working in a DAW, the following things will be much, much faster without lag:
    - Loading your DAW up
    - Loading your project
    - All the Audio files, .MIDI, .WAV, whatever it might be, will load much faster into your DAW, resulting in no potential lags
    - When you call up a Plugin, some being relatively small-sized and some larger (with loops etc.), your SSD will do a heck of a job loading that

    I remember on my Laptop, I would get a short lag and Pro Tools would seem to have frozen when I opened certain plugins. After I put in an SSD in my Laptop as well, I would not get any lags anymore.

    Once again, I might seem a bit over the top, showing my obsession with SSD's, but only the one's who have an SSD will understand.

    Happy recording!

    I absolutely 100% did not ignore that he spread across 3 drives. But hold on a second! The fact that he does spread his 1.5TB has zero meaning (physical drives or virtual drives), because whether it has 5400RPM or 7600RPM, it will still be significantly slower than an SSD.
    I'm not "promoting" SSD's, because I will benefit from it, I am simply sharing a knowledge, first-hand experienced, that changed the way I look at Computer systems. I've made a living for 6 years, building Computers, troubleshooting Computers, and programming, and in the recent years I've learned first-hand that SSD's are an incredible game-changer for everyone!

    Happy recording!

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