New desktop for my studio

New desktop for my studio
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Last year I asked you all advice on a new combination of computer and interface. Then I ran into an old but stable i5 computer with an even older RME PCI card using an Allen& Heath Mixwizard analog mixer of the same age as mic pre’s. It worked fine for quite a while but RME stopped support and the interface could not run on Windows 10 (only Windows 7). It was fast (in terms of latency) for its age (RTL of around 10 ms at 64 bit) and competent for an interface from 2003 and a computer from around 2010, but now is the time to prepare for the third decennium. So I followed the direction that at least some of you have taken: I bought a Presonus Quantum 2626 Thunderbolt 3 Interface ( with 7.5% price reduction because of Black Friday). This means I will definitely need a new desktop that can handle Thunderbolt. Now your advice from a year ago is probably still valid as long as I chose a slightly older chipset. The motherboard is still critical, there’s very few (affordable) Windows Thunderbolt capable boards out there.
Anyway, here’s what I plan to buy. Any comments from computer savy fellow Indiens is welcome!

  • thunderbolt cable 40 euro

  • motherboard with thunderbolt onboard GIGABYTE Z390 DESIGNARE LGA 1151 (300 Series) 269 euro

  • CPU Intel i7 9th gen: Intel Core Coffee Lake i7-9700K 279 euro

  • 16 Gig RAM memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V F4-3200C16D-16GVKB 69 euro

  • rack casing: Inter-tech IPC 4U-4088-S - Rack 79 euro

  • power supply: Be quiet system 9 400 W 55 euro

  • 6 gig external hard drive: WD Elements Desktop Storage 4TB 92 euro

  • 500 gig SSD Gigabyte UD Pro 512GB 62 euro

All together 945 euro

Hey Evert, this looks like a very solid build indeed. A few suggestions. First is I would get a significantly beefier power supply. You simply cannot overdesign on the PSU, so I’d go with a 600 or 650W unit for this rig. The cost increase is small per W starting from 400, and it’s very well worth it.

Second, I see you have a be quiet! PSU listed, and that’s a great choice. I would take a good look at their cases, too. I rebuilt my wife’s desktop about six months ago and used one of their cases, the Silent Base 601 Mid Tower, that was far and away the best designed case for home builders I have ever seen. Clearly designed by people who have built lots and lots of systems, just a joy to assemble. Plus it lives up to its name, really super quiet. When I eventually need to rebuild my music rig, I’ll use one for sure, and in fact I’m building a system for my next-door neighbor and using one for that. Check it out!

Third, I’d strongly consider getting at least a 1TB SSD, again not a big price increase from the 512GB but you will be so glad you did. The half-gig puts you in position of having to move stuff off the SSD to make room on a regular basis, a real pain. Spring for a 2TB even, if you can. Can’t have too much, and it’s more cost-effective to do now than to add later.

Good luck!

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I agree wholeheartedly with Dave. Wherever you can, design it for five years from now, since it’s a large pain to migrate everything over to the new rig, and computer manufacturers thrive on the fear of obsolescence. My machine is an I5 with Windows 8, and some plug in software won’t work with anything below Windows 10, but I hate the idea of upgrading for small stuff. Since you’re the builder, pay yourself in advance for the maintenance by getting as far ahead of the game as you can.

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Thanks for the good advice. I should know, I’ve shifted thousands of files from one hard disk to the next twice in the past two years… And even worse is reinstalling all the software and plugins…
I have been trying my best at keeping the whole thing under the magic 1000 euro mark, but I might be able to stretch the SSd to 1 Gig :wink:

That may be a good idea. I chose the rack casing so I could have the whole setup close at hand in a rack on my desk. short cables all out of the way (you should have seen my previous set up…).
The only nagging uncertainties are indeed the noise level and the possible influence on the monitors sitting only centimeters away from the PC?
Maybe I should look into the option of mounting the PC on the back of my mixing desk.

I actually followed your advice on this one Dave… I filled in my exact specs on the site you advised me about last year ( Power Supply Calculator - PSU Calculator | OuterVision , and then added one or two options (extra harddrives): in all cases 400 W was enough. I know, it surprised me too! The effect of lower power use in most components?

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I’d also recommend having at least 2 drives in your computer. I store my home folder on a separate drive from my OS. It makes the idea of a non-starting computer much less stressful. You can pull out an SSD and put it in another computer to access your home folder / projects.

I forgot to mention I still have one or two spare SSd drives that I want to use, specifically for my Windows and Reaper (and maybe Studio 1 now I got the ‘Artist’ version for free - might as well try it). All my plugins and virtual instrument files on the other one. I was wondering if it’s any use storing your active projects on the SSD drive rather than the slow drive. I guess projects would load a lot quicker? But a lot of extra space in use and extra work once the projects finished.

Great thread here.

On proximity between the box and the monitors: You don’t need to worry about any EM interference, if that’s your concern. Back in the day, with CRT monitors, it mattered, but not with LCD and LED monitors, which operate on very different physical principles. If you’ve got a flat-screen, it’s not an issue.

Yes, the PSU calcs are the bare minimum values. I always increase what they report by at least 50% just to have plenty of overhead. It’s not as much an issue in audio processing, but in some graphics and video processes, there can be sudden demands on the video card that get passed along to the PSU, and constitute a very short-lived spike that is nevertheless enough to make the PSU gag. So even if on average the value is OK, you have to have the headroom to absorb those transients. Kinda like mixing!

Good deal to re-purpose your earlier SSDs. By all means keep your OS, DAW, and projects on SSD to take advantage of their way faster speeds. They don’t need to be on the same physical drive, just on SSD vs. HDD. Everything responds instantly, there’s no going back…

An update to all the contributers to this thread: I finally made the plunge. I decided to go for an i5 10th gen after all, because apparently this generation has better integration with Thunderbolt and there are at least a few more options when it comes to Motherboards.

Intel® Core i5-10600K, 4,1 GHz (4.8 GHz Turbo Boost) socket 1200 processor
MSI MEG Z490I UNIFY, socket 1200 motherboard
Be quiet! System Power 9, 700W
Fractal Design Define Nano S Window tower
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 cable
Enermax ETS-F40-FS cpu-fan
Mushkin 32 GB DDR4-2666 RAM
Samsung 860 EVO, 1 TB SSD
Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6 TB external hard drive

  • an older 120 Gb SSD + 1 GB Hard drive

And I had already bought the Presonus 2626.
I got the whole thing started up and it’s running like a dream! Great to be able to play guitar into an amp sim with no latency at all (well, about 1 ms, but there’s no way you can hear that). It makes a huge difference. Can’t wait till I’ll be able to hook up my e-drums… I’m now runnning my setup in the small office space I have in our new house. There’s no room for e-drums there. That will have to wait till I get the rest of the studio built (in the attic).

My only nagging feeling is now: should I have made the bigger step and gone for the Apple M1 instead, for just a little bit more (pricewise)? The reports on internet (and from Boz) are extremely positive. But then I might have had to choose Logic? Or would Reaper work as well? Anyway, can’t go back now, I’ve committed myself to at least another 10 years of Windows probably.

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Looks like a very solid rig indeed, Evert! Glad it is working smoothly for you. How’s the noise level when it’s running?

And happy new year. :slight_smile:

Ah well, this CPU gets prety hot, so you need a lof of fans and that comes at a bit of a price. Lets say its a little less quiet then my last rig (which I just never even noticed). But I have the PC very close to my listening position right now, so that might be the reason that I notice it more than my old rig. IN any case it should be far enough from the mic’s to avoid any noticeble noise during recording, but I don’t know if the background noise will interfere with my judgements. I’ll just have to get used to it in that case…

Are you using the stock fan that came with the CPU, or did you go after-market? There are some really good CPU coolers out there that run very quietly. (This is why I was recommending the be quiet! case, they’ve really licked these things.) I gather you are just using the onboard graphics and not a GPU? That’s another good way to keep the noise down on a dedicated audio machine, you really don’t need a graphics card.

If you’re talking about Mac OS, yes Reaper works well on both platforms. I haven’t used Mac in awhile, but haven’t heard of any problems since then. They have a separate Mac version for Catalina/Big Sur, and even a Linux Beta version.

If you’re using Reaper, you can use the ReaFir stock plugin with its “Subtract” mode for noise reduction. Works really well for constant background noise like A/C or computer fans. You just need to have maybe 5-10 seconds of your track that is silent, except for the constant background noise, that you can highlight for it to analyze. It’s a fairly intuitive process from there, but also detailed in the Reaper manual.

Been a Mac guy for almost 20 years now - and I can say without any doubt that the M1, and all the M’s that follow this processor are going to completely change CPU’s and how they are regarded. The M1 seems by all accounts to be the most power efficient and powerful CPU ever made for a laptop. My iPad Pro is faster than most desktops and laptops. I’ve basically given myself a couple of years to save some money so that I can purchase a M3 or M4 MacBook Pro. I know that if I need a desktop in the future, I would not hesitate to pick a Mac Mini.

Apple have updated and optimised their own apps for the M1 - there’s a great video where a audio guy stacks up 1000 vsts in Logic

and the results are actually quite amazing to watch. But if you’re using Reaper, Cubase or Pro Tools, and if you’re relying on 3rd party synths and plugins, now would not be the time to switch to and M1 Mac. Us Mac users are very much used to now updating our music production Macs when the updates are released. Just to give you an indication, my music Mac runs on an OS that is two cycles behind the current one. One plugin that I was use was updated to run on Mac OS Catalina (the previous OS), a full 2 weeks after Mac OS Big Sur (the latest OS) was released.

I have a mini ITX Motherboard. Not because I particularly want a small PC, but because it was the least expensive if all I want is a decent thunderbolt connection. But I did combine it with a smaller case and this put a limit on the size of the CPU cooller fan (it’s in my list):

I’m no expert of course but its certainly supposed to be a low noise fan. IIt could be the case fans as well. Don’t know how quiet they are. The noise i’m hearing is in te low mids, a faint hum. Not even sure if it’s fan noise…
Oh and I have no need for an extra graphics card (I’m not a gamer :innocent:).

That’s always been my gripe with macs: there seems to be a lot less choice of (reasonably inexpensive) plugins for Mac than for Windows. But then that may be outdated information. In any case, I’m using less plugins these days than I used to, and I’m more prepared to pay for quality (at Black Friday price points :wink: ). I heard that some of my favorites don’t yet run on Mac mini (like the Isothope plugs), so that is a practical reason why the Mac mini is not yet a good option. In any case, I’m happy for now with the choice I made. However, once DAW and plugin developers unleash the full potential of these new CPU’s then I might have an outdated rig within 3 or 4 years…