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starting from scratch

Discussion in 'Recording' started by mboud, May 9, 2001.

  1. mboud

    mboud Guest

    i'm just getting into the world of home digital recording. i've talked some to some local music store employees, a few people who have dealt at least a little with home setups, a rep from Cakewalk, and a few sales reps from different online companies who sell ready-made DAW PC systems. the prices for these DAWs is more than i want to pay for something that will at first be only a hobby. after all my research, it seems i can buy a pc from a local store with all the same components and specs that the DAWs have, add the same audio specific hardware and software, and still come out cheaper than some of the DAWs on offer before they add the audio specific software and hardware. could i be missing something?

    i am concentrating on electronic music, special attention to trance, techno, house and ambient with no vocals yet. everything done with midi and digital recording, little to no audio tracks whatsoever. my budget is $3000.
    here's what i've come up with so far:
    -pIII 750mhz (or higher, possibly dual processors) (i've heard arguments against AMD, but some DAWs on offer use them now)
    -at least 256 megs RAM (non-ECC)
    -at least 40 gigs HDD space on one or two drives (7200rpm)
    -preferably a NIC although i've heard they can cause problems (but that's my internet connection, i can't dedicate machine to just music yet)
    -dvd rom, cdrw, printer, scanner, monitor, video card
    ALL of the above for around $1500-1700. i've found some systems like this.
    MAudio delta 44 audio interface about $230.
    either alesis M1 or yamaha MSP5 powered monitors at $450 for a pair or alesis MKII passive for $250 and alesis ra 100 amp for $180.
    roland spc 300 keyboard controller for $200.
    a midisport usb 2x2 for $80.
    and finally Sonar xl for $400 (upgrade from acid pro).
    by my calculations that puts me at $2840 to $3060 before adding any necessary cables that don't come with the appropriate hardware.
    does anyone see any compatibility problems here? will i run into any other problems? am i missing any equipment (hardware or software)? if i can put together this system at these prices, will my dreams actually become reality? (i know you can't answer this, but that's what seems like is possible.)

    any input would be greatly appreciated. i am looking forward to getting info from someone who is not trying to sell me something and has hands on experience. thank you so much in advance.

    mboud
     
  2. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    getting into DAW based systems can definately be an adventure especially when everyone is trying to seel you the most expensive equipment that you may not need!!
    Yes there are companies making PC DAW based systems and they're pricy for a reason..they configure it for you so you don't have to..it's a nice thing but at that point you really dont know what's going on with it since you didnt install or configure it to "your" liking. Building your own system is always a fun and educational experience too. Buying a PC from Staples or CompUSA usually means lots o garbage installed on the machine you dont need. For a DAW based system it is best to start from scratch on the install..
    Since you are really not doing audio and pretty much MIDI the PC doesnt have to be the biggest and the badest!! I would definately stick with an all Intel machine as you have heard AMD based systems can cause problems especially with audio hardware..it all stems down to the controller chipset and how it works the code.
    Having a NIC card isnt going to cause you grief and dismay..what will cause you grief is IRQ conflicts..being careful not to have too many cards sharing an IRQ is the key to a good PC based DAW machine.
    As far as software goes..whatever you feel comfortable with is what you should go with..Cakewalk is definately a MIDI based sequencer and has a lot of good features for that..I've not played with Sonar that much but have heard nothing but bugs and glitches with it so far but they are working on fixing it and making right for the people who do use it. Acid is a great looping based program with the ability to record tracks in as well! Another program you might want to consider is Reason..what a cool fun program to mess around with!! Any Trance/House/Happy Hardcore DJ is usually smiling when using it!
    My personal favorite machine to build is this:
    Asus CUSL2 w/815E chipset
    PIII 933+ Processor
    256MB RAM SDRAM
    Two 7200RPM ATA100 drives(what size is truly up to you!)
    Video of course is up to you..I enjoy having dual monitors as this spreads the screens out giving you a whole different perspective on how much you can see and tweak!
    Cards like Appian Gemini..Matrox G400 or G450..
    Or just stick with the ATI cards..always a winner there!!
    As far as Audio interface goes...again, preference..I'm not to keen on the Maudio stuff to be honest..they're built rather cheap and slapped together with drivers that are constantly being updated to fix bugs! Try looking into the Echo product line CakeWalk downloads
    amazing flexability and great sounding converters! MIDI interfaces..well, it's MIDI..it goes in as data..it comes out as data!! :D
    I'm completely skipping around so bear with me!!
    As far as dual processors go you can only run Win2k for dual support..WinME or Win98SE doesnt offer that and never will!! Win2k is pretty stable but will probably need some tweaking here and there. Also ask to see if Cakewalk supports dual processors as well since I cant recall if they do or not!

    Last but not least..it's all about having fun..you have a little bit of a learning curve to get over when dealing with DAW based systems..especially when you are new to it!! It can get pretty frustrating if you dont have things set up correctly or configured just right..if you have any questions at all please feel free to ask!!
    Peace
    Opus
     
  3. mboud

    mboud Guest

    thank you for responding so quickly. i'm very anxious to get started so all this waiting around and figuring out is killing me.
    so basically, these companies that sell DAWs are charging us more money to put together machines with less on them to save us from ourselves. if that's the case, i can get a machine from a local place with nothing pre-installed on it and do all the installations of only the stuff i need on my own. if i could order or put together a machine with the system that you suggested, would there be any hardware configurations i would have to deal with when putting it together myself or ordering it from somewhere? i guess i'm just wondering why it costs so much to get a DAW without any audio specific stuff on it, when i could go out and order the exact same machine with all the same components and pay oodles less for it. then add the special hardware and software myself, again for less. it doesn't seem that these guys are putting together any special machine, and any half intelligent person could follow a few instructions and put a great quality DAW together. there must be something else...
    also, i've never put a whole machine together from scratch, although i think i can after reading a little about it. so what is an IRQ and how do i avoid having too many cards sharing one?
    i'm sure i'll have more questions later, but this much is really bugging me. thanks again for all of your help.

    mike
     
  4. Does anybody know of a good motherboard for dual Pentium 3's?
     
  5. mboud

    mboud Guest

    ... oh, and what is spdif?
     
  6. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Yes..anyone with half a brain can put a system together..the idea of buying a prebuilt system with nothing on it is a good idea..this way you dont have to connect the Power LED..Hard drive light..Reset Switch onto the jumpers of the main board..can get confusing especially if you dont have the manual for the mainboard to tell you which jumper is which..
    Hardware configurations are simple really...put it in the PCI slot..boot up and install driver..pretty simple!! It's not quite plug and play(Plug and pray more like it) yet but it's close enough. I've built several systems myself and usually the only problem I come across is IRQ conlficts
    IRQ's in a nutshell:
    Every card or component of a PC needs a "time" to talk to the processor. IRQ=Interrupt Request..the component has to interrupt the processor from what it is doing to talk to it and get it's full attention.
    There are 15 IRQ's..about 4 allocated to PCI slots..if more than one device is trying to get the attention of the processor there "could" be issues..Think of it this way..you have a 15 lane highway with a car in each lane headed toward a tollbooth for each lane..two cars trying to get at the tollbooth at one time..you get into an "accident"
    You can gain more IRQ's by disabling your Serial ports in the BIOS(basic input output system) as well as USB if you are not using it(but you stated you are.)
    If you really wanted to go to http://www.pricewatch.com
    tons of great deals on each component of a system..right down to the floppy drive!! check it out..it's good you are doing your homework on this..you are very savvy grasshopper!!
    Opus
     
  7. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    SPDIF=Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format..it's a digital transfer protocol that sends clock information, bit information all in One's and Zero's..it tags it to the audio so that when you transfer from one device to another the two can talk in the same language..now there are certain manufacturers who change the code to suit them which leads to certain incompatabilities between other gear..it's silly I know but it's the nature of the beast.
    Hope that helps
    Opus ;)
     
  8. mboud

    mboud Guest

    ahhh, i see about the IRQ issue...
    as far as the spdif, will i be needing any spdif connections for the system i've talked about?
     
  9. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Well..I only trust Asus or Abit personally as the best motherboards out there..quality components that rarely fail on you..all I see form them are Via or the new Server chipsets(which I have not heard any real world reviews on yet!)
    Via still scares me very much with all the incompatability issues that are out there and still arising! I believ if you look in the DAWworld forum on my other Computing section(busy man you see!!) there is a discussion on the Asus Am7 board I believe it is..check it out!
    Opus
     
  10. mboud

    mboud Guest

    opus,

    i am also interested in the discussion on dual pentiums and motherboards. i have looked in the dawworld forum on computing but can't find any discussion like that. could you be more specific, please on the location of this discussion?

    thanks
     
  11. mboud

    mboud Guest

    sorry for so many posts, but things keep avoiding me, then popping up in my head at random. i have looked at and read sop much lately that i start to forget all the questions i have about everything...
    so, what is RAID? how is it used? would it be beneficial for me to look into it, or should i just forget about it altogether?

    again, thank you, this input is invaluable!
     
  12. mboud

    mboud Guest

    okay, i have another question...
    has anyone heard any compatability problems with a tyan tiger 230 motherboard (4 DIMM slots, 5 PCI and 1 AGP) or an Abit Vp6 (?DIMM, 5 PCI, 1 AGP)? also, i've found a definition for RAID, but still don't know if i need it or shoud stay away from it.

    thanks in advance. this stuff is time-consuming, but is starting to get fun as i figure things out.
     
  13. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    (Dead Link Removed)

    They are discussing the A7M266 which is an AMD Duron/Athalon with and AMD chip..

    As far as Tiger motherboards...I'm not to keen as I've heard they break down faster..Abit boards are great! No problems..plenty of people use those religously..I tend to go towards Asus since I know they work!

    As far as your SPDIF question..that depends on the gear you have and if it impliments it!!
    Opus
     
  14. mboud

    mboud Guest

    sorry to be buggy, but what about this RAID stuff?
     
  15. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    oh yeah...sorry about that..my mind is not where it should be right now..(buddy of mine just back home last night..he was on tour with Matchbox20 as their keyboard tech dude!! So we had a little party!!)
    Anyways..if you're mostly doing MIDI I wouldnt worry about it..if you were doing huge amounts of audio tracks at once I would definately then reccomend it...It's not neccessary for the home "hobbyist"..get's way too expensive anyways! Stay with the normal ATA drives or if you really want to expand later on get a SCSI card with a nice 7200RPM SCSI drive!!!
    Opus
     
  16. mboud

    mboud Guest

    thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and a 1000x thank you. your help has been invaluable!!!!!
    i'm looking at a few systems right now, i'll probably send you the detailed specs, if you don't mind, so i can feel confident in making my final decision. thanks again, you rock! or you jazz, or you classical! whatever the case may be.

    mike
     
  17. mboud

    mboud Guest

    ah crap, wouldn't ya know! i get all excited cuz i think i'm close and another trouble spot rears its ugly head! grrrrr!

    i know what DDR is, but will DDR motherboards/ram or whatever have any negative effect on my plans? if not, they seem like a better alternative.

    thanks even more,

    mike
     
  18. mboud

    mboud Guest

    ok, here we go again...
    in addition to the DDR question above, i also saw something about ASIO drivers, but can't tell if i should look for products with asio drivers or even if they're available for pc's, sonar (which i plan to use) or whatever sound card i intend to use. any advice?
     
  19. mboud

    mboud Guest

    what about dual PIII motherboards that don't use via chipsets? seeing as i heard that i should stay away from via chipsets altogether, or is that not true?
     
  20. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    OK...sorry about not responding for ahwile..I just recently moved from Indiana to good ol LA!!! Drove my way out so I've been a tad bit busy as you can tell!!!
    Anyways...
    DDR RAM..very expensive yet very very fast..a lot of people are definately headed that way since it's performance is definately showing signs of high performance..especially with plugins. PC133 SDRAM is still comprable tho and very affordable..I would reccomend staying with that since it is affordable and easily accessible at any store for a reasonable price.
    AMD is pushing DDR pretty hard but Rambus(makers of the DRAM) are suing a lot of people for infringement which is going to push the price even higher....
    ASIO..Steinberg propietery audio streaming protocol..the drivers are up to each audio interface manufacturer as to whether they will impliment it into their product...most companies are doing this since Cubase/Nuendo are very very popular softwares. If you go with Cubase you will need WDM drivers(Windows Driver Model) Look into the card of choice to see if they support it or not
    Dual Processors...only Win2k supports Dual processors and with Sonar I dont know how well it takes advantage of it.
    Opus
     

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