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building computer

I am building a computer that will be mainly used for recordning. Only home recording, at the most 4 tracks at one time, nothing proffesional.
My budget is 1100 USD (excluding monitor, keybord etc).
Of course I can't get all that I want for these money. My question is what's most important.

Some things can be upgraded later, for example I think I'll start with 1gb RAM and buy more when I have more money.
But then comes the harddrive problems. I know it is best with a seperate audio disk, but how important is it? Is it worth to pay 100 USD to get a seperate audio disk if that meens I have less money to spend on the CPU and motherboard?

How of this budget should be spent on the soundcard?

It might take 6 months before I have money to upgrade it. I must be able to record stuffs before that.

thank you for your help.


Pro Audio Guest Tue, 11/07/2006 - 17:36
$1100 will get a more than capable computer if you truly just want to use it as a digital 4-track. Teddy's advice is on the money, so there's no point my parrotting each of his points.

Definitely at least 2 hard drives, though. Partitioning won't cut the mustard.

Computers will come and go. If you get "into" it, you'll inevitably upgrade again anyhow. Get a good audio interface.


Pro Audio Guest Wed, 11/01/2006 - 17:20
But then comes the harddrive problems. I know it is best with a seperate audio disk, but how important is it? Is it worth to pay 100 USD to get a seperate audio disk if that meens I have less money to spend on the CPU and motherboard?[/quote

It isn't necessary but preferable. You can buy one drive and partition it OS first partition and second partition for recorded audio. This way if the OS part of the drive goes bad you may have a chance to save the audio part of the drive. Of course if the problem is the whole drive your screwed. Thats why some prefer the second drive. Make sure to get a 7200rpm drive to ensure you wont have any latency issues. You could always start with one drive and add the other latter.

Get the best CPU and MB you can afford. The 1gb memory is fine. Processor wise Intel or AMD is good. just make sure you get a compatible chipset that works well with the rest of the system hardware and software.

You might checkout this
There are some soundcard reviews there. The Presonus 1394 Inspire looks like a good interface. The Firebox model adds midi interface. With recording 4 simultaneous tracks, I would recomend to go with firewire as it has better bandwidth to handle that task.

To get going you really only need a descent PC, Audio interface, and a mic. Many interfaces include some kind of recording software so youd be set with that.

I am sure others will add more suggestions to get you going.

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 11/01/2006 - 19:30
>>You can buy one drive and partition it OS first partition and second partition for recorded audio. This way if the OS part of the drive goes bad you may have a chance to save the audio part of the drive
That's not good!

The issue with AUDIO is that it streams off the drive. The OS drive, even if partitioned, it's still ONE phisycal drive.

The system uses the drive for its own paging and other necessary work.

You do need a separate drive for any serious AUDIO work. And, you also need to have a backup system in place (another drive and/or a DVD burner).

You don't want to lose your work! And, if you plan on charging people for your services you definitely do NOT want to have to tell a client "sorry, I lost all your sessions...".

YOu could get an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ CPU, not as 'good' as the 4800 but, much cheaper.

You can find a sub 100 dollar MOBO that will work great with it. With a decent case and some silent power supply and fans you should be able to get the machine within your budget. However, by the time you add a couple of drives a DVD burner and RAM you might need to add something for a good soundcard.

TeddyG Wed, 11/01/2006 - 22:45
Pick the software you want to use. Pick the soundcard/interface you want to use(Don't buy them yet!). Download all the manuals of anything you consider and read, read, read! For instance, your software, to some degree your soundcard(?), certainly "what you actually want to do", recording-wise, will tell you(Or a computer pro you talk to) just how much Mother Board/RAM and how many hardrives of what type, you need. No need to guess! Lots of published "specifications and requirements/recommendations" for everything. Knowing the facts, YOU can likely modify your "needs/desires" to suit, at least for now...

Take the NAME/MODEL of your chosen software/soundcard to a local computer-building(Not the Best Buy!) shop. They can look up on the internet, too, to confirm what everything "needs" to run it.(Do yourself a favor and use the "Recommended" stuff, not the "requirements" list.). If THIS local place doesn't seem to have a clue(Or want to!), go elsewhere. My builder has a guy on-staff who actually went to school for the recording arts(Imagine that!). He was at least interested...... I know lots more than he does, but, it's nice to talk to him and he is interested...... A good thing. Some other guy actually BUILDS the machines, but... it's just a computer...

Take what will be left of your money after purchase of the software(My, 2 channel, software cost $500 and that was BEFORE the upgrade - now $600+.) and soundcard/interface -- You'll want a soundcard/interface better than comes on the motherboard on most machines. Mine cost, coincidently, $500. The new one will cost, coincidently, $1,100 - Strange how money flies! We're already to $1,700 and we have yet to buy a computer or any audio gear, itself(Mics, etc.)! You may decide on a "USB All-in-one" device? Like something in a Lexicon(Which includes software! Everything but mics and speakers!) and, with what's left of your budget, see what your local builder can do(Do you really want to spend days on an 800# trying to get what you want from some mail order place???).

Tough stuff.

Frankly, any "TV special" Dell, these days, can DO very "fun-audio", just fine. Audio recording is not "hard" for a computer. If you already have a "nice" computer, it can do it! Nice! With a Lexicon(Or other) type USB/Firewire gadget, that you can spend alot less than $1,100($300?) on and just add a second HD(Which you'll appreciate - even a third!) to what you have.

Otherwise, with a new machine, you do want some software that will meet your needs(Some "device" that comes with your new computer may offer "Limited", yet quite useable, audio recording software at no charge, at all! A CD/DVD burner, for instance?). You do want a "special" soundcard/interface, certainly for 4 inputs(If you can get away with 2? Most do!). If you don't go at least this far you won't have a "special" computer, ey? These can be from $99 and up. All you need to be sure of is that it works with your software, works with your computer and works with your other audio gear - mainly that it has the same connectors(1/4", XLR, whatever.) that your other stuff has and will input and output the number of channels you require.

You DO want 2 hard drives. You just do - 3 would be better - really!

Basically, here's the "real deal".

Drive 1(C: drive): Operating system(XP Pro) and all software.

Drive #2: "Temp files" for your software, particularly your audio software.

Drive #3: Your "saved" audio files.

Go the limit? The "real-real deal"?

Put all your HD's on "Mobile rack Mounts"(Search this). That way, you put your audio drives, with all the audio stuff on them(Software, devices installed, etc.) in the machine to ao audio(NOTHING ELSE! No "Word", no printer, no email, etc.). When you want to do something else, just exchange the audio drives with "other" drives. OS drive, "data" drive - if desired, whatever, all "devices" installed(Printer, photo scanner, USB drivers for your digital camera - your other stuff!). Now, depending on which drives are in the machine, you have COMPLETELY different machines! Very cool. 2 HD's? 3" I have 10 or more floating around! They're cheap and you probably don't need GIANT HD's! 6 80 gig's, in total is, what, 480 gigs? Enough! And, you buy most of them "as needed" not all at once. Don't forget the "backup system" you'll need to keep all this stuff safe! I use HD's that normally sit on a shelf to save "images"("Complete", bootable where needed, copies) of all the other drives.

Oh, OK, you probably don't need to, not even 2, not for now, no partitioning, nothing... Just put the software on the machine(Try, desperately, to put as little "other" software on your "special" machine! At least turn everything possible OFF while you do your audio! A simple piece of free software like "Mike Linn's Startup" can tell you "what's running" and allow you to turn it on/off as needed, no prob.), put the soundcard in the machine(Or attach the "all-in-one"), go c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y through the set-up procedure for software and soundcard and have at it... When you wanna' "pick up the pace" get a second HD.

Primarily, YOU need to read-up on this stuff(Your "2nd. HD question", while perfectly proper - you DO need to know - shows a lack of simple "boning-up" on your part.), figuring out what you REALLY need and saving your money all the time you're planning. If you do enough "pre-work"(Keep asking on the forum, too, we all have questions that are "simple" to everyone but US, until we too find the answers!) this stuff will all fall, neatly, into place and "on budget" - guaranteed.