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New PC, or should this work better?

Okay...I'm running a Dell Pc in my home studio. Its a 2.8 gig Pentium 4, 1 gig of RAM, and 80 gig HD. Sound card(s) are a pair of Delta 44's. I use Kristal and Reaper. Windows XP. I started on Kristal, but have moved to Reaper...its nice.

So I have a project I started in Kristal (because it was only supposed to be a quick demo). Its turning into more of a complete song. At this point, I've got some guitar tracks, a drum loop, and some vocals. The vocals include a lot of pieces of backing vocals, very spacey, with various reverb and delay, parts run through a guitar amp sim...its sounding cool, but I get a little random popping. Also, when I zoom in or out on the track, TONS of "static". The PC is optimized for audio, all un-needed software has been removed, no modem, never touch the internet.

My question is this...Is there something I can do (such as double the RAM, add a hard drive soley for the audio files, etc..) to improve the performance, or should I just save up and bite the bullet on a purpose-built audio PC? As it is, my performance meter in Windows is only showing 25%-35% processor usage at the busiest parts of the song. I only seem to have trouble when I get into a lot of reverb and delay on any given song.

Its really no big deal, but its beginning to be annoying...enough so that I want to shell out $2000 on a PC. Any thoughts on where to go from here? Is there something I'm missing? Thanks! Andy


Kapt.Krunch Thu, 05/17/2007 - 03:24
Definitely to a second hard drive.

More RAM can't hurt, just make sure it matches, and DON'T buy cheap "Value RAM". You may even want to run a MemTest on the RAM you already have to see if something causes errors with it in. If so, replace ALL the RAM.
(When using MemTest, use it first with all RAM installed. If it generates errors, remove all RAM but one. If it passes, swap it for another IN THE SAME SLOT. If all pass in that slot, move one to another slot, and start over. Might be the motherboard slot and not the RAM. All MemTest does is tell you that SOMETHING is causing problems using RAM.
If one or more fail in the first slot tested, but others pass, it's probably not the slot. Move them all one by one to another slot and test again. If it follows the RAM, the RAM is probably bad).

And then, there's this:


Guest Thu, 05/17/2007 - 05:50

a dedicated hard drive for audio is a must, 99% thats where you noise is coming from when zooming... zoom requires a responsive drive.

if your CPU is only hitting 25-35% then thats not the issue.

however there could be a chipset (motherboard) issue if its an older 915/925 board.


drumist69 Thu, 05/17/2007 - 20:09
Thanks for the responses people! Yeah, I was thinking it was the lack of a dedicated drive for audio. I've finally got the room treated a bit, enough decent mics and pres, and enough stands and cables, so I suppose the HD is next on the hit list!

When I install a second drive, do I set it as slave? I'll have to look into this a bit! Andy

Kapt.Krunch Fri, 05/18/2007 - 02:59
drumist69 wrote: When I install a second drive, do I set it as slave? I'll have to look into this a bit! Andy

Does the motherboard use regular IDE drives as opposed to SATA? Does it have an IDE1 and an IDE2 connection?
If you have one hard drive and one CD/DVD in there already, and you want to add a hard drive, I'd make the second hard drive master on the second IDE channel. If the CD/DVD was in IDE2 as master, I'd move that to IDE1 and set it to slave, with the OS drive as master.
If it's already set up with the OS drive and CD/DVD on the same IDE channel, then simply set the new drive as master (or "only drive" in some cases) and plug it into IDE2.

If you have SATA drives, let us know and that can be discussed.

Also, you may want to search the forum for ideas on whether you should partition that audio drive, and how to format it. It's been discussed a lot, and there are various opinions on what to do. It's too long a subject to hash out here, again. One thing you should do is experiment with different
configurations until you get it working best for YOUR computer and YOUR recording needs. Different methods require different configurations. Long, limear multi-track recordings may benefit from adjusting cluster sizing a bit larger, while mainly short segments or extensive use of short loops may not need to be larger than default.

And look at the ideas and reasons to consider partitioning a huge drive for the working recording portion to be smaller. Keep in mind that when you tweak things in the computer itself, you may also have to tweak settings in the recording program. Better to take the time to experiment before you try to get serious and have it running smoothly, then to be in the middle of something important and have to do it all anyway. It won't matter if you lose, or purposely wipe out, experimental recordings to set things may tee you off if you lose something else.

And don't forget the other suggestions. Having all your hardware set up properly won't stop bad RAM or program/Windows/task interruptions from messing things up. You have to tweak each against the other, and there is no one right way for every computer, because every computer is different once someone adds or changes ANYthing.


drumist69 Fri, 05/18/2007 - 16:09
Thanks KK! My PC has an IDE drive. I'd have to open it up to check the configuration of the HD and CD/DVD drive. I'm not too worried about partitioning. I do mostly straight live audio recording, occasionally adding drum loops here and there. Also, I'm not looking into a huge amount of drive space. I prefer smaller 120-180 gig drives. Once a project is done, I back it up to an external USB drive and remove the files from the main drive. Again, thanks to all for the input! Andy

Kapt.Krunch Sat, 05/19/2007 - 09:25
drumist69 wrote: I'm not too worried about partitioning. I prefer smaller 120-180 gig drives. Once a project is done, I back it up to an external USB drive and remove the files from the main drive.

You may want to go to "Search" and type in "partition" to see the pros and cons of partitioning, and even "cluster sizing" which I won't get into here.

To put it simply, even a 120GB drive is huge for one tune. First, you're wasting drive space for nothing. You could partition the second part of that drive for an easy, quick backup for works in progress, but still backup to an external. So, you'll have your initial idea for backup, which is good, plus an extra...which is better. One drive dies, it's on the other. Even with just one tune, a lot of people like to keep backups of all previous versions in case they need to step back a ways, and try a new tack. Depending on if audio tracks themselves have been altered and saved, or if only things pointing to those tracks have been changed without actually changing the track file itself, it could add up if you need to have a lot of alternate versions of WAV files. Might as well just be on the other side of the wall, there for quick access until you're finished and decide to back up everything and clean that working backup partition.

Secondly, why give a relatively small project that much room to scatter stuff about? At 16/44.1, consider 20 tracks. 20x5MB/minute=100MB for one minute. Let's consider a 5 minute tune. 100MBx5=500MB....1/2 a GB. Given 2 to 3 times for breathing're still at only 1.5GB for 5 minutes of 20 tracks of 16/44.1 audio. Why do you need 120GB? It just keeps the work area confined to that smaller portion of the drive, not allowing the heads to even THINK about swinging out further than they need, and then back to scatter data all over the drive. The farther they need to travel, the more time it takes. A drive picks up the data, reads it, and writes it usually to another place on the drive...hopefully the nearest place that has room. That's why they get fragmented. Ideally, a drive SHOULDN'T want to fling a file way out yonder...but you never know. You might as well control the boundary so you KNOW it can't end up way out there.

It's up to you to do a bit of math about what you'll need as far as how many tracks you'll anticipate, at what rates, etc. You may find 20GB...whatever.... more than adequate. You DO want to give yourself some room.

Your thoughts about having only one project on a drive at a time are good. Why have things possibly tripping over each other if you don't have to? And, since that's what you plan...why waste that extra drive space?

Just tossing out some ideas. Always open to corrections, as usual :wink:


Randyman... Sat, 05/19/2007 - 17:23
If you are mixing and don't need ultra-low-latency, raising your ASIO latency up will also help reduce pops/clicks. Some ASIO drivers will start poping/crackling at 30% CPU useage with very low latency settings (low buffer settings), but will run pop/click free to 75% and higher with a higher ASIO latency... But you hopefully already know this :)

I go without partitions on my Data drives (minus my 960GB Hardware RAID-5 that is split into 2 partitions), but I always partition my system drive to allow multiple OS Installs for quick recovery if all hell breaks loose.

I agree with everything else said here, too. Memtest + Orthos + "TAT" are the kings of benchmarking/stability/thermal envelope tools IMO. I use these apps all the time, and they have allowed me to build 3 rock solid C2D rigs that all run above 3GHz (one is a 1.8GHz e4300 running at 3.15GHz :eek: That's a 1.35GHz 75% overclock from a $100 CPU on quiet air cooling! ).