DAW construction - advice needed re motherboard!

Discussion in 'Computing' started by alimoniack, Aug 20, 2005.

  1. alimoniack

    alimoniack Guest

    Greetings all, my first post here. I've read lots of useful info here and now I'm after some specific info.

    I need to build a fairly professional DAW on a tight budget (sigh) for my little cottage studio. I'm hoping the Intel P4 550 3.4Ghz processor will be powerful enough to build around, for a system which will be recording and mixing a lot of tracks at once. Almost no MIDI - mainly alternative rock/indie stuff. Is it fast enough?

    We can't afford a dual core system right now, maybe Christmas...please Santa.

    I don't know whether to get an Asus P5GD1 or an MSI Neo2-Platinum: I've seen the asus boards ship with custom built DAW's but I've heard and read good things about MSI too - anyone know which is better for this type of system?

    We're hoping to use this machine with a MOTU 2408 Mk III & a MOTU 24 I/O. The reason for both is that we'll be using the smpte features on the 2408 to sync to analog tape, & we have a 32-channel console which everything will run through. We need to record full bands simultaneously sometimes. It may seem like overkill but it's necessary for the kind of wierdo's we record...plus we are using digital and analog simultaneously.
    And no, sadly we can't afford RME gear for this type of job.

    Anyone here got any experience with the MOTU stuff and PC? I read some posts somewhere about it being easier to run on mac.

    A couple of gigs of RAM, a couple of Seagate SATA HDD's and the usual bits and bobs, shoved inside a rackmount case with rails which is itself shoved inside a sealed cupboard to eliminate noise.

    Backup will be via a cheap IDE internal front-loading HDD caddy.

    I've built one reasonable PC already, but could do with some advice as this time it's intended for more professional use.

    Almost forgot to mention, we'll be mainly using Nuendo 2 at first.

    Basically, people, will it work? I appreciate any help you can offer.
  2. roguescout

    roguescout Guest

    That's plenty of chip. As far as real recording power, just get as much RAM as possible. That or buy an outboard processor for your plug-ins. In a DAW, native plug-in processing is what really slows you down.

    I run an MSI 845 Max2 board under my P4 2.8 with 1.5G of Crucial P3200 DDR and have never had a problem with it.

    Some people love Motu, others hate it only after trying higher quality gear (obviously).

    But if you are going to buy Motu now just to get by until you can get some RME... Why not just save up or burn some plastic to get the RME stuff so you won't have any down-time while re-installing and re-learning the new gear that you wanted in the first place?

    I guess evaluate the difference in cost between saving now, and having to re-tool later.

    Plus, you probably won't make back what you spent in reselling the used Motu gear.
  3. alimoniack

    alimoniack Guest

    thanks...what about smpte?

    Thanks for the info, rogue.

    As far as I'm aware, RME is superior to MOTU, however the fact that we're using tape does limit our options. The MOTU 2408 Mk III can generate and read smpte directly, which was what attracted me to it initially.

    I'd consider trying to chain together a couple of RME Multifaces, but the problem is how to get the smpte signal from tape converted to the word clock signal which the RME accepts.

    I'm sure there's an obvious answer, but I just can't seem to find a way of syncing tape to the RME without buying a very expensive dedicated unit which comes with lots of bells and whistles we don't need.

    I've got a cheap synchro unit which converts smpte to MTC, but smpte-word clock seems rarer/more difficult - any ideas?

    There's probably an obvious answer but I haven't found it yet...


    SONICA-X Guest

    You know, the Pentium D 820 is cheaper than the 550 and if you are using a dual CPU capable application like Nuendo, Cubase or Sonar that would be the best way to go.

    The 830 is only $50.00 more than the 550.

    My best,

    Guy Cefalu
    Sonica Audio Labs
  5. Spy

    Spy Guest


    Greetings alimoniack,

    I know very little about the inner workings of a computer :oops: , but I can testify that MOTU and PCs (in my case PCI-424/2408 mk3 and a Carillon purpose-built PC) can work well together.

    Maybe I've just been lucky, but I've yet to have any problems with my system that weren't self-inflicted (usually due to the fact that I know very little about the inner workings of a computer...)
  6. alimoniack

    alimoniack Guest

    My brain hertz

    Thanks Guy & Spy, this is all useful info for me.

    Guy -
    I knew Nuendo supported dual processing, I thought this only meant using two individual processors - but if Nuendo uses a dual-core CPU the same way, then I'd be very interested in the possibilities of the Pentium D...unfortunately over here in the UK even the 2.8Ghz 820 is a little more expensive than a 3.4Ghz 550.

    Is it really worth it?

    I'd probably rather get the 830, which is about £240 over here (I think thats $430 US.) It's more than I was hoping to spend but if it really will make a substantial difference in performance it's probably worth it. It looks like I could get the Asus P5LD2 to go with it, which is not too expensive. I can get the 550 3.4Ghz for only £185 gbp ($330), it seemed like more bang per buck at first...now I'm not so sure. What do you reckon?

    Spy -
    Thanks for providing some reassurance about MOTU/PC compatibility. Good to know it works for someone out there. So, can you tell me what's inside your DAW? If it works for you, it might work for me - 'cos I don't know a great deal about computers myself! Actually, this type of thing is a total headache compared with actually recording but it saves money...

    Still none the wiser as to the smpte to word-clock problem as far as using RME goes, but I see it like this - the actual recorded tracks on analog tape (usually the drums in our case) will always sound better than any card at any sample-rate anyway, and the large number of i/o and sync options offered by the MOTU units would enable us to work with tape and digital in a cheap, flexible and straightforward manner. Besides, we'd be able to tell clients that theoretically we could record 32 tracks simultaneously, using every channel on the desk! (might need a few more microphones for this!) However, if I knew there was a cheap way of syncing tape via smpte to RME...hmm

    Ah, back to the drawing board again.....options, options...

    Thanks again guys,
  7. gnarr

    gnarr Guest

    go with the 820. you won't feel much diffrence at all if you take the 830. the 820 is way better than any SC you can find for your DAW.
  8. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2001
    Just remember that syncing from an analog tape SPMTE source may not alwyas be a good thing. Wow and flutter have a way of making your life extremely miserable!

    Having worked at Apogee as technical support we used to get those issues all the time.

    Opus :D
  9. alimoniack

    alimoniack Guest

    which system

    Thanks to Gnarr and Opus for the input.

    Ok, so from what you guys are saying it would seem that a dual-core processor is the right choice regardless of clock speed. I think I'm sold on the idea, and I'll probably go for an 820 (or 830 at a pinch, even if it makes a small difference - people like the number "3", and every little helps, no?).

    Opus, as far as smpte is concerned, I have actually had success with slaving a cheap stand-alone digital workstation to multi-track tape using smpte-mtc. That worked solidly for me first time, and I have read in the Nuendo documentation that it is possible to slave the DAW in a similar fashion - in this case we would be using the direct smpte send/return on the MOTU 2408 Mk III. I see no reason why it wouldn't work (famous last words...). It would only be synced on full-band initial tracking, transfer or final mixdown, not during the bulk of tracking and mixing, and hopefully we won't be losing sync too often. If it works the sonic results would be worth any teething troubles. Is this madness?

    In the case of wow and flutter, these fluctuations are caused by varying degrees of mechanical malfunction of the tape machine - usually the pinch roller or the motor I think. I'm sure the condition and maintenance of the tape machine itself has as plenty to do with analog/digital sync issues, fortunately ours is in good shape and we look after it. I'm less certain about the DAW/interface end and how well that will work.

    I don't suppose anyone reading this has tried or heard of successful slaving of a DAW to tape using the 2408 mk III via direct smpte (or a similar setup)? Or is it simply a doomed experiment? If it doesn't work then modern science has failed us all miserably...

    Cheers, all suggestions and info much appreciated!

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