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DAW Power Supply

I don't know if you have covered this or not, but how important is the power supply to building a daw?
What is the difference between a pentium power supply and an AMD power supply?


Member for
20 years 2 months

Opus2000 Tue, 02/12/2002 - 08:57

The difference being how the processor is given power..
As long as the motherboard is a good one then it shouldnt matter. A PSU should be at least 300Watts.
I'm sure Steve will be able to give us more indepth detail of the real specs..
So, get yourself a 300watter and enjoy!!

Member for
19 years 5 months

knightfly Tue, 02/12/2002 - 10:41

Hey tundrkys - is that a contraction of "tune der keys", or are you twisted in yet another direction than some of us ?

No matter - If getting help hinged on not being "UN-hinged," I'd be totally screwed (and NOT in a GOOD way)

Here's the deal on power supplies - IF you plan to have that noisy pile of tin and plastic in the room with you, you need to consider getting the QUIETEST p.s. you can find. If the 'puter will be outside the room, then your requirements pretty much shrink by one (noise)

I haven't personally put together a machine with AMD MoBo, but they all seem to be ATX type boards - if so, there is a spec for ATX-type power connectors. This should work whether the proc is an Intel or AMD.

If you're planning a Pentium 4 machine, then you would need either an adapter plug for an ATX Power Supply's 12 volt connector to make it work with a Pentium 4 MoBo, or a p.s. that is expressly stated to be "P4 compatible" -

In any case (puns abound here, some because I'm stupid and some because I'm also twisted) for a semi-serious DAW, you will actually be demanding 300 to 340 watts of power. The AMD Athlon in higher speeds will draw about 65-70 watts by itself, ram takes about 8 watts per 128 meg, fast drives take more power than slower ones, SCSI drives take a little more than IDE (at the same RPM) So, a DAW with 2 drives, 2 CD-roms (one reader) a dualhead video card, couple of PCI cards, floppy, and 1 GB of ram, takes about 340 watts of power to run. If you figure on only asking the power supply to give you 80% (a very good idea) then you need a 425 watt supply. This will also ease the situation of different current requirements of each of the voltage buses on the supply, meaning this: just because you have 325 watts of power required counting all the components of your DAW, does NOT mean that a 325 watt P.S. will not puke when you "pop the clutch"... there are 5 different voltages on 7 different "buses" in an ATX type power supply - so "wattage" usage on a component may be all one voltage, or some of several voltages. There are limitations of current on each voltage bus, so one bus of the P.S. could be maxed out before the TOTAL power consumption reached the WATTAGE rating of the P.S. -

Another reason to be picky on the P.S. in a DAW - Better quality (read "more expensive") P.S.'s have much tighter regulation of the voltages. You will have mucho bucks (and time) into picking out just the right sound card(s), cabling, grounding, etc - All in the name of cleaner, quieter, more bits, etc. - Remember, anything that plugs into the PCI bus of your 'puter uses some of the power that's available from the PCI bus - Guess where that power comes from ? Would you like your $600 Hammerfall cards with their 108 dB signal/noise ratio to get their power from a 1% regulated supply, or a 7% regulated supply ? (just in case you fell asleep on me, and I get that a lot, 7% is seven times as bad as 1% when it comes to power regulation.)

REALLY long story just a little longer - If you're going AMD for a DAW, get AT LEAST a 400 watt P.S. - If the machine has to live inside the studio, get a "quiet" supply - PC Power & Cooling makes an excellent 400W "Silencer" supply that has 1% regulation on the high current buses, 3% on the (not so critical) lower current ones. Be prepared for "sticker shock" if you've priced "generic supplies" - but it's money well-spent. Here's the link to their 400W "silencer" supply -

If you're planning to "banish the box" to away from your tender ears (my choice) I would get their 425 W. "turboCool", and if you have another $45, get the "PFC" version - better Power Factor Compensation, runs cooler, lasts longer - You're looking at $169 for either the "silencer 400" or the standard "turbocool 425, up to $215 for the "PFC" version of the 425. Here is the link for the 425 turbocool -

My own new DAW will have the 600 W. supply, but what can I say ? I'm an animal (6 80 GB drives not counting the external firewire "burners" and customer/archive drives)

Bottom line - quality pays if you want to get everything your other components can deliver - The power supply is the "roots" - no roots, tree falls over, lotsa firewood but no music, very warm but 'way too quiet... Steve

Member for
20 years 9 months

SonOfSmawg Tue, 02/12/2002 - 17:23

AMD processors are very picky about their power supplies. If you go onto the AMD site, you can find their list of approved power supplies for each individual processor they make. For a DAW, definately don't go below 400 watts. A killer case/PS combo that a lot of system builders use is the Antec SX1040. It has a 400 watt AMD and P4 approved power supply, and the full tower, 10 bay case comes in beige or black. You can get these on Pricewatch, with shipping, for around $125-130.

Member for
19 years 5 months

Tommy P. Sat, 02/16/2002 - 04:32

A word on power supplies. Some reports on testing has shown that for our purposes(ultra quiet, low electrical noise floor) the computer power supply will be a critical component.

Even amoung similarly rated/approved units, the effect on noise introduced into the system can be dramatic.

So if you want to realize that 100Db+ of dynamic range in the specs of your sound card/digital converters, you need to design every component in the chain to meet or exceed that spec.

I can't make a specific suggestion for a good p/s, because I don't know of a good compilation of conclusive data.

So far I've home built a balanced AC isolation transformer for my rig, as well as put a noise/line filter in front of it. The results were better, but my p/s or other internal components is "dirtying" the ground in the system.

I know Carillon has done this type of testing, but they don't say who makes thier stuff or if they modify anything. It would be nice if they would sell the case and power supplies separately, because thier otherwise excellent line-up has some flaws, and is overpriced and outdated(compared to what the do it yourselfer can build).

Tommy P.

Member for
20 years 9 months

SonOfSmawg Sat, 02/16/2002 - 04:54

Hey Tommy,
Have you ever checked-out anandtech? They do lots of test comparisons on puter components, including power supplies.
To my knowledge, the best power supplies out there are made by PC Power And Cooling. They're VERY expensive, but sometimes you get what you pay for. On a more reasonable note, the Antec and Enermax Power supplies are in the "normal" price range, but are supposed to be the best bang for the buck, spec-wise and in terms of reliability.
Enermax has a case and power supply identical to the Antec SX1040, but I'm not sure of the relationship there. Either they're related companies, or one buys product from the other, or perhaps they both buy some of the same stuff from a third (unknown) party.
In any case (no pun intended), the Antec 400 watt power supply is on the AMD "approved" list, I've seen rave reviews about it, and the case is also a killer. Alienware uses the very same case.