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John Simmons

What's the current computer philosophy?

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Posted (edited)

I built my current music and photo editing computer in 2009.  I think I probably need to plan an upgrade.  At the time, the philosophy was to put several hard drives in the machine - one for OS and programs, one for recording, and one for samples, cakewalk content, native instruments content, etc.  I also added another drive for my photos.

Looking at new computer components, it's very difficult to find information on how many drives one can use.  Lots of searching will eventually turn up the number of SATA connectors and it seems 4 is about the most.  It also seems USB connectors have changed so much I won't be able to use my current case if I want to have front USB ports. Looking at assembled computers, most are very small form factor and won't allow anywhere near 4 drives inside.  Gamer computers don't seem to include drive information, and looking at manufacturer's sites, the number of drive spaces is just not given.

So what are people doing for new music computers?  Do you get a small desktop and add other drives via USB as one would do with a laptop?  Is a USB hard drive fast enough to record on?  I really prefer desktops as I can use my large monitors and connect easier to all my old hardware synths.

Thanks

Edited by John Simmons

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I couple of years ago I upgraded to an off-the-shelf Dell XPS tower with an high- but not top-end i7-8700 series processor. 6 cores. 32 GB Ram.

Plenty of room inside for an upgraded power supply (a MUST for a DAW) and up to four drives (not including the C : drive that is an SSD mounted to the motherboard(!) and room for a PCIe->PCI bridge card, and my I/O card plugged into that.
I'm using internal SSD drives exclusively, but back files up to alternate USB 1.5 TB drives (spinning disks).
Never had any issues. More cores would be nice but to be honest I'm not pushing this thing to the limit, even with my largest and most complicated projects.

I'm not a fan of "gamer" configs.

Personally I would not try to record audio directly to a USB drive but I've heard that folks do this without problems. Internal SSD all the way for me.

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Hi, I always build my own DAW systems, keeping in mind that I also want to be able to work on them and do photo/video editing. Always a large quality desktop case with good airflow and place for everything I might want to build in.
Checking a few websites with the most recent info helps a lot. If you search for custom DAW or build your own pc you'll find plenty of information. Hardware site forums also usually have dedicated threats.  Here are some sites:

https://www.logicalincrements.com/articles/build-pc-music-production-audio-daw

https://www.tomshardware.com/topics/pc-builds

https://www.scanproaudio.info/2020/02/27/2020-q1-cpus-in-the-studio-overview/

Having had Intel for years, AMD is currently my favorite for several reasons. With most configurations you'll get more for your money and they have PCIe 4.0 on board, which gives you a much higher data transfer rate with SSDs (and your video card). Yes, Intel has in some cases higher single core speed, but with my 1950X Threadripper (which is already a few generations old) I've never experienced any problems in that respect with large demanding audio projects in CbB. The benefit of having many cores at relatively high speed is not neglectable. Windows 10 keeps also improving multi-core support under the hood, so that will probably only become better. 

If you go for such a system make sure you've got high speed quality RAM (minimum 3200 MHz, the best for AMD seems to be somewhere around 3600 MHz, but that could change with newer systems) and if the price is not too much try to get at least 32 or 64 GB of it.  These systems are also relatively easy to overclock, but I would not start with that. Basic configurations are fast enough these days.

Try to have a fast PCIe SSD as startup disk (0,5 to 2 TB) on which you also have your CbB projects. Next to that a large PCIe SSD with your audio libraries and if needed a normal 8 or 10 TB HD for backups etc. Of course everything depends on your budget and storage needs. Since larger SSDs are finally slowly entering the market that might be the ultimate way to go. 

You can scale down on all these components and still have a nice working DAW PC. There are people around that have 8 or 10 your old configurations and are still productive with it. 
For the rest I fully agree with Colin Nicholls.

You can do it yourself, or go to dedicated PC builders and ask them to put your favorite components together.  Don't forget to optimise the BIOS and Windows settings for DAW use (like switching off power management in USB ports , set Windows to high performance etc.). There are many sites including this one where you'll find how to do that. If needed, I could compile a full list with all the information that I've gathered over time about DAW optimisation.

Good luck!

 

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Gamer computers often do not come with much storage. Most games run from memory and the buyers usually prefer the money be put into a fast processor, memory and outrageous video capability. I have seen gaming laptops with only 256 GB as a solid state drive with no real upgrade options. 

Audio, and even more so video editing machines, are going to come with much more storage generally. For audio  7200 rpm SATA 3 drives are still adequate especially if divided up as your OP says. Getting the amount of storage you need with SSD may be an unjustifiable expense, although likely the transfer speed is so fast that everything can run from a single drive. If you are up to assembling your own dedicated DAW machine, you can generally save enough money by using a reasonable graphics system to pay for all the storage you need, and you can get a case that has plenty of expansion options.

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Thanks.  It looks like it’s much the same.  Good processor and power, decent video card, several fast hard drives, and lots of memory.

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Posted (edited)

I didn't see anyone talk about noise. Unless it's in a different room, noise matters. 

Smaller power supply means less heat means less fans means quieter. It has to be sufficient though.

I recently found a new graphics card and there were two versions... Loud and quiet. Different fans on the card.

Hard drives require power and push your power supply. If you don't need it, leave it out.

Same with my old FireWire card. That's gone.

If you can keep things cool enough to unplug an extra case fan, unplug it.

Configuration of os and virus scanner are as essential as the right hardware.

Less of somethings more of others.

Clock speed matters.

Edited by Gswitz

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I just built a new DAW a few weeks back, here are my parts:

Asus PRIME Z490-A (apparently it will support 10th and 11th gen processors)
10th gen i7 10700
64 GB of memory (128GB Max for the board)
2 XPG SX8200 Pro 512GB m.2 drives 

I recycled my power supply and case from my previous build.

Wasn't too bad price wise (around $850 USD), and it smokes!

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