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New PC for Music???

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DrFunkMonkey
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New PC for Music??? Jan. 5th, 2013 @ 08:19 PM Reply

Looking to buy a new PC and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations or advice, whats recommended and what should I avoid? Looking to spend around £600 sterling. It will obviously used mainly for Music production and recording, as well as the occasional gaming session and what not. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance :D

MaestroRage
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 5th, 2013 @ 09:37 PM Reply

At 1/5/13 08:19 PM, DrFunkMonkey wrote: Looking to buy a new PC and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations or advice, whats recommended and what should I avoid? Looking to spend around Ã'£600 sterling. It will obviously used mainly for Music production and recording, as well as the occasional gaming session and what not. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance :D

I've recently built 2 slave pc's for my rig and I can tell you what I learned albeit it may not all be the ideal and perfect choice (from what I know it is, but i'm still fairly new to the whole slave/master setup).

First, you should buy 2 drives. 1 for your OS and another for your samples (especially if you're going into orchestral stuff).

Second, don't skimp out on your CPU. A powerful CPU like the i7 3770k or AMD's fx-8350 will take you quite far and you'll get solid mileage out of it.

Second, make sure your power unit is at least 550 watts. A weak PSU will hamper your system and opens you up for some unnecessary risks. Especially if you want to put in a graphics card for your gaming needs.

If you're going to be doing orchestral stuff, aim for at least 8-16gb of RAM. The more the better.

Make sure your cpu, mobo, and ram are running at the same cycles. This one can get a bit tricky but if you don't do this you'll hear constant clipping when playing back sound even if you're not using a DAW. This current computer I have drives me NUTS sometimes when it starts to stutter. Sometimes i'll barely notice, sometimes every stutter is like a jagged spike into my temper.

If you has any questions ask, that should cover the basics.

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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 5th, 2013 @ 09:38 PM Reply

For £610 (Price + VAT Total) you can custom build on pcspecialist.co.uk a system around these specs for your rough price for Composing/Recording and Occasional gaming:

CORSAIR CARBIDE SERIESâ"¢ 200R COMPACT GAMING CASE
Intel Core i5 3570k - Processor
ASUS P8Z77-V LX - Motherboard
8GB Samsung Dual DDR3 RAM
1GB AMD Radeon HD6570 - Graphics Card
500GB WD Caviar Black - HDD
350W Dual Rail PSU
Standard Cooling
Onboard Sound
Win7 Home Premium 64Bit SP1
3 Years Standard Warranty

If you could fork out like £100 more ontop of your current budget then I would suggest to buy a 120GB SSD to use as a primary drive (OS + Applications) and then keep the 500GB WD HDD as your storage HDD for all your recordings and for the very big Plug-in Library's. The Performance boost would be Phenomenal.


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BrokenDeck
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 5th, 2013 @ 09:50 PM Reply

At 1/5/13 08:19 PM, DrFunkMonkey wrote: It will obviously used mainly for Music production and recording, as well as the occasional gaming session and what not.

Stay away from big box retail stores such as Best Buy and Target, and brands such as Acer, and HP. Pick your own parts and build a custom computer.

My first recommendation is to NOT use this computer for anything other than your music production.

Something like a i5 2500K processor would be the most cost efficient processor. It's reasonably priced, and is more than good enough for any music production software that you throw at it.

As far as motherboards go, the brands that I trust are ASUS and Intel. Gigabyte is not bad for reliability either.

For memory, 8 gigs will do you fine for starters. I'm pushing a full orchestral setup on my system, and I'm barely reaching 6 Gigs of memory usage. If you find a good deal for a reliable brand and model, then consider 16. Any more, and it's overkill.

For your video card, since you will be using this computer for music production, you won't need an expensive 3D acceleartor card, like a 7970 for example. The cheapest Radeon card will do you fine. Radeon drivers have multi-monitor spanning enabled for windows Vista and later, something that nVidia Geforce cards no longer support. I personally use a Radeon 6450, which cost me in the neighborhood of 60$.

As for your sound interface, I can't really recommended anything until I know for what style, and general genre you're interested in composing / playing / performing.

Get a computer tower that has plenty of open room and lots of slots for active fans. A properly cooled system will be far more reliable and far less prone to random BSODs and "unexplained" freezes.

Buy a solid state drive for your OS and software, and a conventional drive for your sound plugin library.

A power surge protector / filter / power conditioner with EMI and RFI filtering will help you in keeping out electronic buzz and interference if you plan on doing any live recording.

A battery backup is also essential if you don't want your work destroyed by power brown/blackouts. Also your computer's OS NEVER likes improperly shut-down sessions ;) I recommended the Cyberpower brand over APC because Cyberpower has adaptive sinewave technology, which results in WAY less noticeable interference/noise from the battery.

BrokenDeck
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 5th, 2013 @ 10:01 PM Reply

At 1/5/13 09:37 PM, MaestroRage wrote:
Make sure your cpu, mobo, and ram are running at the same cycles.

This was especially trueof the old Intel chips that are still using a FSB and Northbridge. One is supposed to aim for a front-side-bus to memory speed ratio of 1:1. Older power-user systems, such as those running on the Core 2 dual and quad core chips had to conform to these careful details. Those old Q6600 CPUs being overclocked to 3.0ghz (667mhz) or 3.6 ghz (800mhz) are perfect examples of this.

Newer systems, such as Sandybridge-based chpisets, have done away with the old FSB / Northbridge interface, and now go through QPI. I'm not entirely convinced that you even need to worry about things like the ratio settings anymore.

DrFunkMonkey
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 5th, 2013 @ 10:09 PM Reply

Wow thanks guys, thanks for the advice, i'll take it into consideration.

As for your sound interface, I can't really recommended anything until I know for what style, and general genre you're interested in composing / playing / performing.

I mainly compose for film, mainly orchestral music. I use cubase so the typical VST's associated with that, but i am looking to start writing more experimental stuff, little 8bit and chiptune, but mainly classical orchestral styles. Dunno if that makes things any clearer :/

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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 5th, 2013 @ 10:20 PM Reply

At 1/5/13 10:09 PM, DrFunkMonkey wrote: Wow thanks guys, thanks for the advice, i'll take it into consideration.

As for your sound interface, I can't really recommended anything until I know for what style, and general genre you're interested in composing / playing / performing.
I mainly compose for film, mainly orchestral music. I use cubase so the typical VST's associated with that, but i am looking to start writing more experimental stuff, little 8bit and chiptune, but mainly classical orchestral styles. Dunno if that makes things any clearer :/

Something like a M-Audio Delta 66 or a M-Audio Audiophile 192 would do best for you. These interfaces, being PCI cards, have a higher bandwidth and better ASIO buffers than most Firewire and USB2 based audio interfaces. I use a M-Audio Delta 44 and it's ASIO drivers are the most responsive I have ever worked with (6ms).

The CPU takes the brunt of the .vst processing, but your ASIO device and driver, and the available buffer size account for the delay, or "latency" that you will experience when playing from a MIDI interface live into your .vst plugins.

AFAIK, MaestroRage also uses this card. I would recommend you find a Delta-44, but they are discontinued and aren't available anymore. You could always find one used.

Stay away from consumer level cards such as the ASUS Essence ST, or X-Fi Titanium HD, although both those cards work great for music listening at an audiophile level, they are definitely not designed for music production!

What makes an audio card a professional audio card is the existence of balanced inputs/outputs, either in the card itself, or in the form o fa breakout-box. A couple of examples of balanced interfaces are XLR and TRS cables.

MetalRenard
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 6th, 2013 @ 06:07 AM Reply

I just built a PC for music production (higher budget than you though) and the advice for high quantities of RAM and a powerful processor are KEY. This is where you should put the bulk of your budget if you're building a PC for music since everything is done in real-time and so has to be dealt with by the processor and RAM.

You need the RAM because the beginning of every sample you use loads into the RAM directly as a kind of buffer, with the rest streaming from your storage device. This also means a decent storage hard drive could save you a lot of hassle so consider looking at specs - I recommend a Seagate Barracuda 1TB drive, they're not over-priced and pretty fast.


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DrFunkMonkey
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 22nd, 2013 @ 08:18 PM Reply

Okay, getting paid on friday so i'm trying to settle on my final decision, been looking at pcspecialist.co.uk and i can make a relatively good music PC for about £620. However I have found a Hp with similar specs (same processor and RAM, and with an added bonus of a 2TB HD) for £550. Is the pcspecialist PC worth the extra £70? as i also have to get a monitor and funds aren't massive. What do you guys think?

wandschrank
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 22nd, 2013 @ 08:52 PM Reply

At 1/22/13 08:18 PM, DrFunkMonkey wrote: Okay, getting paid on friday so i'm trying to settle on my final decision, been looking at pcspecialist.co.uk and i can make a relatively good music PC for about Ã'£620. However I have found a Hp with similar specs (same processor and RAM, and with an added bonus of a 2TB HD) for Ã'£550. Is the pcspecialist PC worth the extra Ã'£70? as i also have to get a monitor and funds aren't massive. What do you guys think?

Apart from the tips already mentioned (for your budget: i5, 16 gb RAM), I would not buy a PC from HP etc. directly. They often have very cheap mainboards which make it impossible to upgrade anything. I never saw a retail pc from a big manufacturer I'd recommend. They tend to show you the great numbers (RAM, HDD, CPU), but use low quality mainboards and PSUs.

You should, by the way, really get a good PSU. Not only the watts, but also the efficiency counts. http://www.computerbase.de/forum/showthread.php?t=926679 Here is a very good list. It's German - just look out for the green ones. Or at least try to avoid the red ones. If you can't even find out the name of the PSU manufacturer - don't buy the PC. I had a cheap china psu for (450 watts for 30 euros, over 5 years ago). It imploded after a while and ruined some of my hardware. PSUs are often the first part where people try to save money, and this is a very bad idea. You will get a good PSU for 50$ upwards. Apart from the reliability, a cheap PSU with low efficiency will draw a lot more energy, so after a few months it's actually more expensive than buying a good one.

Concerning mainboards, there are many opinions on different manufacturers, and everyone had different experiences. I had very bad experiences with MSI, but my Gigabyte mainboards were great; I also bought a kinda cheap Asrock Mainboard lately which was way better for overclocking than my expensive Gigabyte mainboard. As long as you leave some room for expansion (therefore, don't buy the tiny mATX boards), you don't need anything too fancy if you don't want to overclock like crazy.

Also consider a rather silent PC if you use monitors at lower volume. Noisy fans can go on your nerves.

So, all in all:
1. Buy an Intel. The i5 will be enough; the i7 is too expensive for your budget and doesn't give you a huge advantage ( a few % more in benchmarks for a lot more money. I have an i7 myself, and the difference to the i5 of a friend is tiny.)
2. Good PSU, look at the list I posted. Very important.
3. 8-16 GB RAM
4. Mainboard with enough possibilities for expansion, but nothing fancy for more than 100$.
5. Silent fans.
6. SSD if you have money left. Samsung 840 with 120 GB costs ~100 $, and your PC will boot in less than 20 seconds. Install the DAW and the VSTs of your choice on the SSD for pure joy. The bigger samples can be put on a normal HDD as SSDs with more than 256 GB are still very expensive. SSDs are truly awesome, I even have them in my old laptops now, and they suddenly seem 500% faster. No more startup loading times, no more loading times at all. They do not increase your FPS in games or reduce CPU load when producing music, but every program opens in less than a second and everything runs very smooth.

Tired, ignore any strange sentences. ;D

DavidOrr
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 23rd, 2013 @ 12:12 AM Reply

At 1/22/13 08:52 PM, wandschrank wrote: 6. SSD if you have money left. Samsung 840 with 120 GB costs ~100 $, and your PC will boot in less than 20 seconds. Install the DAW and the VSTs of your choice on the SSD for pure joy. The bigger samples can be put on a normal HDD as SSDs with more than 256 GB are still very expensive. SSDs are truly awesome, I even have them in my old laptops now, and they suddenly seem 500% faster. No more startup loading times, no more loading times at all. They do not increase your FPS in games or reduce CPU load when producing music, but every program opens in less than a second and everything runs very smooth.

Tired, ignore any strange sentences. ;D

Can't emphasize this point enough. I'm slowing moving my 500 GB+ of samples over to SSDs (about halfway through now), and it makes a HUGE difference in loading times and playback abilities. When I encounter playback issues, it's never due to the samples on the SSDs -- it's always the slow HDDs that are causing a bottleneck in performance.

A "budget" solution benefiting from extreme SSD performance would be something along the lines of:
64 GB SSD Boot drive for OS plus vital programs (like your sequencer)
250 GB HDD for other programs, files
250 GB HDD for infrequently used samples
128 GB SSD for frequently used samples

(~$200-300 total, based on what deals you can find)

Of course, you know better than anyone what your various needs are, so you'd want to alter those sizes according to your budget/use.


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DrFunkMonkey
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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 23rd, 2013 @ 02:09 AM Reply

Thanks guys this is a big help :D

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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 24th, 2013 @ 07:43 AM Reply

Great read guys! I'm considering doing a build myself and it's very helpful and reassuring to hear what you guys would feed into your systems to get the best performance.


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Response to New PC for Music??? Jan. 27th, 2013 @ 09:49 AM Reply

you also need one of those geforce GTX 690 bad boys. How else are you going to play battlefield 3 using 5760x1080 resolution


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Response to New PC for Music??? Jul. 24th, 2013 @ 01:24 AM Reply

This resolution is so high.

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Response to New PC for Music??? Jul. 24th, 2013 @ 01:44 AM Reply

Some great info in here, and I have to agree when it comes to processing power in general. You NEED to make sure you have enough processing power so your computer handle all your plugins and libraries. If you're looking at a custom PC build this is where you want to spend your money. Also, don't overlook CPU cooling, you want to make sure that you're PC is stable and won't overheat which can result in hours of lost work!

Air cooling is still a great method and one of the most cool, quiet and efficient fans would be the Noctua NH-D14. It has proven to work better than some low to mid (even sometimes high) grade WATER coolers. It's also the quietest you'll find on the market, which is pretty important when it comes to recording and audio production.

Water cooling can be costly and also risky. A custom water cooling system can take a very long time to get working and can be very tedious to setup, not to mention risky as you could mess something up and water can get everywhere... BUT! Corsair's Hydro Series are very reliable and super easy to setup! I did use the Noctua NH-D14 and it was awesome, but then I recently changed my cooling to a Corsair H100i which lowered my temps by at least 5-10C. My 100% load temps sit around 35-37C and my idle temps are at 15-20C. Running at 4.7Ghz on my CPU, this thing is great! Good cooling will also increase the lifespan of your CPU :D

Also, if you have the money I can definitely say that you should at least look into getting a Mac Pro or even a MacBook Pro if you want to mess around with Pro Tools, Logic or Digital Performer.

Pro Tools and Digital Performer run 100x better in my opinion on my machines that run on an Apple OS, even on my small 15" MacBook Pro. (Yes, DP8 just came out for Windows, and it's MEH at best on a Windows machine...)

When I built my PC, it was geared mostly towards gaming while keeping in mind that I wanted to use it for music production as well.

Slaving was also mentioned, but this can be very costly as you'll have to invest in multiple machines including your main one.

Investing in AT LEAST a second (or even third) HDD for your libraries and recorded tracks is very important as well!

Intel Core i7-3930K, nVidia GTX Titan, x4 2TB HDD's, 64GB RAM will do the trick, it works well for me!


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