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Pro Audio Content Management System
Profile picture for user Cucco my first on location computer was a cool little micro ATX in an Antec Aria. It worked great (still does - I use it in my studio as the main machine). However, it's pretty far from quiet and it is a pain to haul around. Plus, adding extra cards - nah...there are 3 slots available and if I fill more than 2, the thing MAJORLY overheats...

My next one (current one) is a laptop but I've had some minor issues.

I decided to go with a home-built rackmount system. The biggest challenge I had was finding a rackmount system that will fit in a SKB transit case.

Here's what I put together:

Proc - Intel Core2 Quad (L775) 2.4 GHz -

Mobo - ASUS P5Q with P45 NB

RAM - 4 GB (2x2GB) Corsair

Case - 4U server chassis - Rosewill

Video - Asus el cheapo (I know people are going to ding me here - I don't care. I don't want or need good video - I just need video - single monitor...that's it.)

Hard Drives -
System Drive - 160GB SATA Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM
Audio Drive - same only 250 GB

CD/DVD Burner - Plextor

OS - MS Win XP Pro 64 Bit

CPU Cooler - Nexus
I need the lighter weight fan since I'll be taking this on the road a LOT. Heavier fans don't do so well with shock on top of the processor.

Case fans:
Nexus 80mm -
Noctua 120mm -

I also ordered the silicone gaskets for both sizes.

Power Supply:
Nexus 500W. I know I could have gotten bigger, but based on what's going in here, I'm pretty sure 500W is more than I need.

I also added a SIIG Firewire card, a SIIG USB 2.0 front bay-mounted USB hub.

The whole thing, with the SKG 8 space rack, a slide out drawer (which I'll velcro the monitor to and slide it out and pop it up when needed) set me back about $1300.

Once it's up and running (probably next weekend) I'll post back.

In the mean time, please feel free to comment and critique.


PS -
Bear in mind - I'm not into the "You could have gotten this processor for $80 more" or "Dood-that video card won't play Duke Nukem very well." I just care about how it does for audio only. The processor was chosen for a few reasons - its mean core temperature and operating voltage which will help keep temps down and because it is a quad core. Yes, I could have gone octo-core I7, but then I'd have to alter the MOBO choice and RAM choice. Both of which started adding up quickly and neither assured me compatibility with my older version of Sequoia.


iamfrobs Thu, 03/12/2009 - 14:37

I myself use 2 250 Barracudas. I have heard that they have some reliability issues once you get to the larger two platter disks.

Other than that, the P5 is a quick MB and that Q6600 is a beast, my friend gets the clock to 3.0 ROCK SOLID stable, like the most stable I have ever seen, on air alone.

And, did you check on drivers for your DAW for XP64?

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Cucco Thu, 03/12/2009 - 14:48

I didn't check for 64 compatibility. I figure if it doesn't work, I'll load that on another machine and move to XP 32 bit. Of course I'll pull out one of the sticks of RAM if I do.

pr0gr4m Thu, 03/12/2009 - 18:09

It should be a solid system. I would have gone for one of the 45nm processors as they use less voltage and generate less heat, but they are just a bit more expensive too.

500 watts should be plenty. I went with 850 under the (possibly incorrect) assumption that if I have a super powerful power supply it won't have to work very hard to keep everything working properly and thus generate less heat/noise. So far so good.

I'm still scared to put a computer into a mobil rack. They get jostled around, bumped dropped etc and I just would be worried about having my computer in one. But if you are the guy doing all the lugging around, you can keep an eye on it and take care of it.

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BDM Thu, 03/12/2009 - 22:55

some of those road cases come with a 'floating' shock absorbing mount. not sure if that is better for a computer, however...


it has more ventilation, which would be another bonus...

RemyRAD Thu, 03/12/2009 - 23:25

I just want to know why you don't want to be a little bit more practical? Like say, a decent laptop? I know you're a perfectionist but, it is the 21st-century we're into. They're so much more reliable than everything that can shake loose with all that stuff, before your job. We're not talking about a Mac book Pro, at $1000 more. We're talking about the average crap we all use. Oh? Right. The crap I use.

Crappie broadcast style engineer
Ms. Remy Ann David

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Cucco Fri, 03/13/2009 - 07:37

I'm not terribly worried about shock and impact. I'm always the one who handles my case. Also, I've seen how computers are handled in shipping - the little bit of bumping around that I'll subject it to won't be a problem.

Remy -
Practicallity is exactly what I'm aiming for. I haven't been very pleased with the laptops that I've been working with. First, I don't know the hardware that is going into this stuff - even on the high-end audio only laptops. Second, I can't really add too much - I can't add UAD cards, e-SATA cards, and other daughter cards.

In the near future, I plan on upgrading to either a Pyramix system or a Sonoma system - both require full form-factor PCs.

Also, I really don't like having a single point of failure being a cable that sticks rather flimsily 2.5" outside of the chassis (firewire plus Express Bus card).

My new setup will be a fully redundant rig -
Preamp with dual outputs per channel.
1 set of outputs going to the AD Converter and into the computer
1 set of outputs going to an analog summing bus and into an A/D converter and into a dedicated 2-track recorder.

Ideally, I'd think the 2 track, if mixed well, would be the ideal mix. However, the computer still needs to be powerful. I do a lot of recording at 192kHz. Sometimes as many as 24+ tracks. I've not had great luck with my laptops running that hard without hiccups.

Besides, the weight is going up from my current setup, but the amount of crates won't.

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Cucco Fri, 03/13/2009 - 10:10

Right now I use Firefaces but can't get past 10 tracks of 192. I'd like to get to the full 24 - I used to use the Lynx Aurora setup to accomplish this and may go back.

Otherwise, I'm considering MADI.

I realize I worded that poorly - I currently don't do 24 at 192. I usually stay at or below 8 tracks - occassionally up to 12 and frequently enough much higher.

When I cross 10 tracks, I go down to 88.2kHz. Beyond 18 tracks, I go down to 44.1. Of course, there are many (most) projects that I'll roll 44.1 no matter what. Only for the stuff destined for higher-end (DVD-A, SACD, DTS-M, etc) gets put in at higher rates.


Reggie Fri, 03/13/2009 - 22:30

Hey, that's my motherboard! 8-)
Q6600 is mentioned, one of the 45nm CPUs would be sweet though...Curious choice of harddrives; pretty small by todays standards. I would go with one of the 320GB single-platter drives for your system drive, and a 640-750GB for your main audio drive. That Plextor may be overpriced...I don't think they are the same *cough*rebranded*cough* as their ol' Plextools-capable drives ...
And yeah, XP64, I don't know about that one. I don't really see much point to it. I'm curious what kind of issues you have had with 2x2GB sticks in the past. I have heard of needing to pull one stick during installation, but I don't see why they could give you problems past that...
Speaking of RAM, I don't expect you will need faster than DDR2 800 even if you decide to get crazy with the overclocking. Running that DDR2 1066 at full speed you will probably need to feed it the full 2.1V, whereas you could leave it at its default voltage (probably 1.9V) if you don't touch the RAM speed (DDR2 533 with that old processor). Save a little heat/power. No biggie. After all, DDR2 1066 is just "overclocked" DDR2 800.

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Cucco Sat, 03/14/2009 - 08:14

Hey Reggie -
Glad to hear the MOBO is working for at least someone - makes me feel better for purchasing it!

I went with the CPU mainly for its track record. The 45nm would have been nice, but I haven't heard of too many people using them for audio apps. To me, the biggest advantage would have been heat. However, I don't know how much cooler they run, just that they do run cooler.

The hard drive thing - this is one area I was willing to cut a little costs but still stay with a reputable drive. I immediately back up all data to an external RAID array when I arrive back at the studio - I only need enough while on location to capture the job at hand. While I've done some HUGE recordings, none have ever come close to breaking the 200GB zone. Besides, I also replace HDs about 1x per year.

The Plextor drive wasn't that much more than the Pioneer I was scoping out. I know they're rebranded and don't work with PlexTools pro now, but they're still pretty reliable.

The issues I had in the past - I had 2x2GB sticks in the slot and the computer consistently got BSOD - sometimes on startup, usually while loading the OS after login. However, this was Win XP pre SP 1. Once bitten twice shy.

Do you guys foresee a problem with Win XP 64?

Reggie Sat, 03/14/2009 - 10:31

Well, I mean, I just don't really see the benefit of XP64, but I haven't used it either. It just seems it will limit its compatibility a little bit, but if you will only ever be using the computer with a few specific, compatible programs, then have at it if it is your thing. But as a more general-purpose kind of machine, you never know when you will encounter something that just doesn't jive with XP64. For instance, I have heard that EAC doesn't work in XP64. And there are probably a bunch of other old utility programs like that which don't behave.

And FYI, ADK Pro Audio is apparently using the 45nm quads in their "Core 2 Pro" machines, at least as an option; as well as Sweetwater's "Creation Stations." Not that there is anything wrong with the old Q6600 really.

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Codemonkey Sat, 03/14/2009 - 10:39

If you're worried about heat, drop some cash on a CPU cooler.
Anything that costs more than $20 would solve all your problems, and there's a few benchmarks been done with CPUs that show cooling and noise levels.

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Cucco Sat, 03/14/2009 - 11:31

Hey CM -
I put that in the specs - I'm getting a pretty nice low-profile cooler that runs nice and quiet. I'm not terribly worried about heat with this thing. My current audio PC - 3.0GHz Hyperthreading Extreme Edition runs hot as hell in a tiny little MicroATX case and I've had to modify the heck out of the case to get it to run cool enough for use. With this larger case and a nice, quiet 120mm fan on the front and a quiet 80mm fan on the rear, I'm cerain ventilation won't be a problem.

As for the "advantage" of XP 64 bit - I'm not really expecting one. The *only* reason I wanted to use all of my RAM is that occassionally, this machine gets used as a VSTi host for live performances and some of the larger samples (pipe organ and harpsichord) need as much RAM as possible.

That being said, I could care less as long as I can load Sequoia and the RME (eventually other systems) and make them work. My laptop is rocking 1GB of RAM and I do just fine with it on location work - even hard core stuff - 16 tracks, etc.

The biggest issue(s) I've had with the laptop are the USB and 1394 buses. Granted I use a SIIG Firewire card through the express slot (uses the TI chipset), but adding a second firewire hard drive has been a no go (too many glitches - mainly because the card bus slot is controlled by a Ricoh controller that hiccups with too much going on at the same time) and the USB port refuses to operate external hard drives in any way other than write caching.

This adds up to a dropped buffer every time I record - it always happens within the first 10 minutes or so and then never again, but it's still an annoying pain in the arse. It's also nerve racking for those events where there's only 1 possible take and you know the possibility of a failure is looming. With my laptop, the mean time between failures is way too high. My desktop on the other hand has never failed during a live recording situation.

Keep the comments coming guys - I appreciate all stories and info that you have to share.

I'll let you guys know if I have any grief with the 64 bit OS after it's installed. I just got word from NewEgg that I should have everything by Wednesday. That means, by the end of next weekend, I should be rocking!


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Codemonkey Sat, 03/14/2009 - 14:09

Oh, missed that part. I saw the later discussion about cooling though and figured I should chip in.

Well, I need to get my cooling sorted. Currently the PC I use to record is an old PC with Pentium D.
Booting to the BIOS reports the CPU at 73C.
I'm all but certain that's 10C off (BIOS glitch, I recall reading that a few chipsets had these) but still.
I've taken the CPU cooler off one too many times, but I now have thermal paste to slap on and I'll be able to actually do stuff with it - previously it would auto-shutdown when mixing down 20 mins of a single track with a couple of plugs! Man, that sucked.

If it was always within the first 10 mins, would you just start recording 10 mins early and hope that sod's law didn't kick in?

Terrapin Tue, 03/17/2009 - 09:32

Looks like it will be a nice machine. Nice find with the case, I just built a similar rackmount PC and couldn't find a case that I liked that wasn't 19" deep, didn't see the one you found though at the time I looked. Even though my cPU case sticks out the back of the gator case a couple inches, the lid the the gator still fits on as it its good 2.5" deep.

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Cucco Wed, 03/18/2009 - 07:12

So I got most of the parts in - only the quiet case fans, power supply and CPU cooler are not in yet (nothing important...;-))

The case is NICE. It's sturdy and spacious. The MOBO fits in very nicely. It's a tad longer than the specs state, however, it fits fine in my Gator case. As Terrapin mentions, it sticks out of the back, but when the lid is on, I have just under 1mm clearance. WooHoo!

The motherboard itself is VERY nice. It's well laid out and makes everything easy to work with. There are nice touches such as modular plugs for the various lights, indicators, etc. instead of having to hard patch everything to the board. (In other words, there's this little adapter in the box that is clearly labelled "HDD Light" "USB" "Reset" etc. You plug all of the little case leads to this adapter and then you mount this single adapater to the MOBO - so much easier than pluggin each of those little tiny plugs into the board directly.

The SiiG stuff is as nice as I'm used to and the video card, for less than $30 rocks! I'm really hoping this thing rocks as much as think it will!

I'll update when everything is installed. Hopefully this weekend.