I want to build my own PC
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Clincher09

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I need a good PC for music production, I had a pretty decent laptop but it came to an untimely death. Instead of buying a more expensive laptop I figured I would just build a PC instead. I have some knowledge regarding computer parts but I will need some assistance. For instance, what parts do I need to buy? How hard is it to put a PC together? What tools do I need?
 
I'll be using this PC stricly for music production (using programs like FL Studio, Ableton, etc.). I won't be playing games on it or anything so I don't need some powerful graphics card or 8 gigs of RAM, but someone did tell me I would need a really good processor and I will need a good sound card as well. I also have an LCD screen from my laptop that still works that I was wondering if I could use for the PC I want to build. 
 
I don't really have a set budget but I would like to get away with spending only as much as I need to. 
 
Any help and tips would be greatly appreciated. 

 
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Converting the laptop screen will be more effort than it's worth. Buy a real monitor.

Regarding everything else:

- 8GB of RAM is probably a good place to start (don't worry, memory is super cheap); DAWs can use a lot.

- Look at whatever OS you want to use, and the software suite you want to use within that OS, and then find compatible hardware. I know M-Audio advertisers/promotes with Ableton quite frequently, but also has had issues with Windows Vista and Windows 7 for quite some time. LOGIC and Apogee are often promoted together, and from what I've heard, work out swimmingly with OS X (just as two examples).

- Figure out your budget. "Cost no object" will usually get you $70,000+ of hardware from well-meaning users; I'm guessing that's probably unrealistic. :xf_eek:

- Find some online guide on PC building, like this: http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/how-to-tech/build-a-computer.htm and go through it.

- Figure out your preferences with using a DAW - I'm talking about control surfaces and studio management. How much "knobs and buttons" do you need, relative to "everything is on-screen." I'm guessing a Euphonix system is probably out of your reach, but there's progressively less complicated and less expensive hardware as you come down from the clouds. Alternately, you can go entirely with keyboard/mouse control, but at least think about monitoring and all of that. :)

Finally, and yes this is sacrilegious to many geeks, if this is a machine that equals a paycheck for you (or otherwise mediates you eating); get an OEM with an OEM support contract and guaranteed turn-around times, unless you're very tech savvy and can support any issue that comes up in a timely manner. I like Dell's Precision workstations - the T7500 (or whatever it's been re-named as this year) should still be the top dog. This isn't meant as a "dig" at building your own machine; it's just pragmatism.
 
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Go here to MMGN PC and speak to these guy's. They know their stuff.
 
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Clincher09

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Quote:
Converting the laptop screen will be more effort than it's worth. Buy a real monitor.
Regarding everything else:
- 8GB of RAM is probably a good place to start (don't worry, memory is super cheap); DAWs can use a lot.
- Look at whatever OS you want to use, and the software suite you want to use within that OS, and then find compatible hardware. I know M-Audio advertisers/promotes with Ableton quite frequently, but also has had issues with Windows Vista and Windows 7 for quite some time. LOGIC and Apogee are often promoted together, and from what I've heard, work out swimmingly with OS X (just as two examples).
- Figure out your budget. "Cost no object" will usually get you $70,000+ of hardware from well-meaning users; I'm guessing that's probably unrealistic.

- Find some online guide on PC building, like this: http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/how-to-tech/build-a-computer.htm and go through it.
- Figure out your preferences with using a DAW - I'm talking about control surfaces and studio management. How much "knobs and buttons" do you need, relative to "everything is on-screen." I'm guessing a Euphonix system is probably out of your reach, but there's progressively less complicated and less expensive hardware as you come down from the clouds. Alternately, you can go entirely with keyboard/mouse control, but at least think about monitoring and all of that.

Finally, and yes this is sacrilegious to many geeks, if this is a machine that equals a paycheck for you (or otherwise mediates you eating); get an OEM with an OEM support contract and guaranteed turn-around times, unless you're very tech savvy and can support any issue that comes up in a timely manner. I like Dell's Precision workstations - the T7500 (or whatever it's been re-named as this year) should still be the top dog. This isn't meant as a "dig" at building your own machine; it's just pragmatism.
 
Thanks for all of this info. Honestly, do you think I could get away with building a decent PC to use for music production for under $800? I say this because I've been looking at a Dell XPS that fits my needs for now, but if I can build a better PC for the same price I would like to go that route. I am going to be looking at hardware further down the line after I buy/build a PC, so my budget now is strictly for the machine itself. 
 
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bowei006

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^Dells have the worst reliability on the entire market. Look inside a computer of theirs and compare it to a self built one.
 
Anyway I have built quite a number of stations. Ask me anything. 
 
But for $800?
 
I would get a Gigabyte motherboard(UD3H) with an Intel Ivy Bridge i5 3550 CPU. There are ASUS but you don't need their premium awesomeness. Gigabyte is an awesome choice for features and reliability without the ASUS price tag(I love ASUS and buy them quite a bit but don't recommend it to people with a budget) the i5 3550 I have bought and had another buy. Good price to performance and feature ratio. You don't need an unlocked 3570K...
 
Next 8GB's of name brand RAM is required. YEs there is RAM binning but you don't want to take risks so just stick with Corsair or Gskill as they are the most cheap and redily availble at a price ratio(yes there is A data that are cheaper and etc).
 
Next a case. What do you need? Portability? Do you need special features? Is your room carpeted? Do you need to move it around ALOT??! Is your house hot a lot? Do you need a side window or lights or don't care?
 
A case is important as it will keep everything orderly and cool and thus reliable. I have bought many budget cases. Rosewill is a good builder of them. There are Antec and CoolerMasters but their feature sets at the $50 range is over hyped. NZXT and Zalman also make awesome $50 cases. If you have more to spend then you can start looking.
I just bought an Zalman Z11 Plus. And I had a Rosewill Challenger before that. Think of what you need first.
 
Next is the important part. SSD and HDD.
 
You will want an SSD. And from what I see either an 128GB SSD or 256GBSSD. OCZ, Crucial, and Plextor are enthusiast liked SSD's at this price(Samsung and Intel are for later non budget people) I went with a Plextor and the guy that recommended me it was right. It was an underhyped drive that was more reliable and faster. 
 
Accompany that SSD with a storage HDD from Seagate or Western Digital with good feedback(user "reviews" are not reviews) why? Many bravado base dEnthusiasts will say that is pointless. But you must still look to see if an item has bad feedback. There may be a chronic problem. sometimes Newegg will replace stock and update it but they don't update the page so you never know what happened. If you see constant chronic feedback for a drive. ...look away. Best waste another $20 for a more reliable drive.
 
Also think of Raiding two same HDD's. I forgot which Raid but one that mirros the contents of one drive EXACTLY onto the other HDD to keep your data safe.
 
I'm very active on this forum(head fi) so ask away!
 
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obobskivich

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Thanks for all of this info. Honestly, do you think I could get away with building a decent PC to use for music production for under $800? I say this because I've been looking at a Dell XPS that fits my needs for now, but if I can build a better PC for the same price I would like to go that route. I am going to be looking at hardware further down the line after I buy/build a PC, so my budget now is strictly for the machine itself. 

It depends on what you mean by "decent" - a high end interface will cost more than $800, but do you need all of those features or that much fidelity? Do you even need a lot of external inputs and outboard components? It's all a matter of what you actually need.

At $800 you can probably do fairly well with a self-build; from an OEM, probably less so.


^Dells have the worst reliability on the entire market.

Have any, actual, proof of this? I know, Dell is big and popular and in order to have your "I'm an overclocker" card you have to hate them. But beyond that, got any substance?

Generally their hardware is quite reliable, when run in-spec, and the majority of "user complaints" are the result of poor choices made by uninformed people. Furthermore, the Precision workstations are known for their reliability and performance - they really sit at the top of the heap. Yes, building it yourself is usually a better idea (until you get to the super duper high end and companies stop certifying their solutions unless you go OEM), assuming you have the competency to support any issue that will arise. That's part of what you're paying for with the Precision; if anything goes amiss, they fix it. I think the current stock warranty is 3 or 4 years, and you can add onto that up to something like 6 or 7 if you need to (this is a waste of money imho). It all comes down to how technically inclined you are, and how important the machine is - if your paycheck rides on being able to complete projects, telling your customers that you're "working on it" while spending your nights scouring online forums for help from your iPhone with mixed results is not likely to get you repeat business. If you have the skillset to truly DIY, then by all means, DIY. If this is just a hobby machine/studio, I'd totally suggest building the machine yourself. Just more learning experience!

But for $800?

I would get a Gigabyte motherboard(UD3H) with an Intel Ivy Bridge i5 3550 CPU. There are ASUS but you don't need their premium awesomeness. Gigabyte is an awesome choice for features and reliability without the ASUS price tag(I love ASUS and buy them quite a bit but don't recommend it to people with a budget) the i5 3550 I have bought and had another buy. Good price to performance and feature ratio. You don't need an unlocked 3570K...

Next 8GB's of name brand RAM is required. YEs there is RAM binning but you don't want to take risks so just stick with Corsair or Gskill as they are the most cheap and redily availble at a price ratio(yes there is A data that are cheaper and etc).

Next a case. What do you need? Portability? Do you need special features? Is your room carpeted? Do you need to move it around ALOT??! Is your house hot a lot? Do you need a side window or lights or don't care?

A case is important as it will keep everything orderly and cool and thus reliable. I have bought many budget cases. Rosewill is a good builder of them. There are Antec and CoolerMasters but their feature sets at the $50 range is over hyped. NZXT and Zalman also make awesome $50 cases. If you have more to spend then you can start looking.
I just bought an Zalman Z11 Plus. And I had a Rosewill Challenger before that. Think of what you need first.

Next is the important part. SSD and HDD.

You will want an SSD. And from what I see either an 128GB SSD or 256GBSSD. OCZ, Crucial, and Plextor are enthusiast liked SSD's at this price(Samsung and Intel are for later non budget people) I went with a Plextor and the guy that recommended me it was right. It was an underhyped drive that was more reliable and faster. 

Accompany that SSD with a storage HDD from Seagate or Western Digital with good feedback(user "reviews" are not reviews) why? Many bravado base dEnthusiasts will say that is pointless. But you must still look to see if an item has bad feedback. There may be a chronic problem. sometimes Newegg will replace stock and update it but they don't update the page so you never know what happened. If you see constant chronic feedback for a drive. ...look away. Best waste another $20 for a more reliable drive.

Also think of Raiding two same HDD's. I forgot which Raid but one that mirros the contents of one drive EXACTLY onto the other HDD to keep your data safe.

I'm very active on this forum(head fi) so ask away!

Rest of this:

- The "cache" or "OS" SSD is a waste of money - either go all the way or don't bother.
- RAID1 is what you're looking at, and it is not a proper way to conduct backups; it's designed to increase redundancy in the event of hardware failure (at the expensive of latency and everything else) - RAID5 is what you'd ideally want, in addition to a good archival plan and data recovery model (this means multiple copies of the same data stored on multiple formats located at multiple sites; your main system still gets to use RAID5).
- If you go RAID, you want to look at the Caviar RE or the Seagate drives marked "Enterprise" - it will improve performance and stability. It also increases cost.
- I would downplay the importance of brand names and enclosures at this point - you should worry about the quality of the mainboard, buy decent and reliable hardware to stock it, and feed it with a very high quality power supply. I would not also marry oneself to Intel on such a limited budget.

I agree with everything else you've said, including the assessment of enclosures (Cooler Master has gone downhill since Silverstone split out). For the high end, I like Silverstone and Lian-Li, as well as the nicer Zalman cases. All of those are probably an absurdity for an $800 budget though, so I'd look for something inexpensive from (as you suggested) Rosewell or Antec; Thermaltake may still have something worth looking at, but I haven't looked at cheap cases in a while.
 
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^
http://zapp5.staticworld.net/news/graphics/211081-desktopchart_800_original.jpg


Raid 5 is what I meant :)
His budget is quite small so getting those drives may be an issue.

I still say an 128GB OS and program and important projects drive is needed.

There are some decent $60 cooler masters but meh and antec.........

Everything else you said is fine as well.
 
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obobskivich

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^
http://zapp5.staticworld.net/news/graphics/211081-desktopchart_800_original.jpg
Raid 5 is what I meant :)
His budget is quite small so getting those drives may be an issue.
I still say an 128GB OS and program and important projects drive is needed.
There are some decent $60 cooler masters but meh and antec.........
Everything else you said is fine as well.

Look at "Dell for Business" - I would never *touch* one of their consumer machines. Enterprise/Pro support runs through a separate channel, should still be NA call centers (it was a few years back, should still be, unless they've done some major housecleaning), very quick guaranteed turn-arounds, etc. And the Precision hardware is usually Intel ODM'd/reference design. Apple does "lead the pack" - but they cost a fortune and support next to nothing. :p (in all seriousness Apple is a fine company to deal with, and Mac Pro is great hardware).

Onto the SSD:

My gripe, and the gripe echoed by at least a few people, is that okay you get an SSD (with still debatable reliability; I'm not interested in hashing this debate out, so let's assume it's perfect (and just keep in the back of your head, there is no perfect)), and it has better latency than a mechanical disk, and it's quieter, and it might be faster. And you throw Windows on there. So now Windows will start up faster, and if you put your paging file on there, that's going to be something of a helper too. But what's this? You're running out of space. So you throw in a mechanical disk, and load all your applications onto it, and now you're knee-capping the system because any disk request that goes through that drive (and there will be tons of them) is higher latency and lower bandwidth due to it being mechanical.

If you can afford to go all SSD, then go all SSD. But simply buying a small one just to say you have it, isn't worth the money. Unless your application requirements are very compact, and you can throw it all on one drive (e.g. embedded systems).

By contrast, if you put all of that money into a few Caviar REs (or whatever the Seagate equiv is), threw them in RAID5, you'd have assured parity, more capacity, slight performance bump, and things would go along swimmingly. You also have *everything* protected against hardware failure, instead of having your OS on drive A that can break, and everything else on B that can break, and they're disjoint.

On to Cooler Master - they've gone from this:


To this:


It's like taking away my Viper and giving me a Civic and saying "no it's the same thing, it has four wheels and a seat!" :p :angry_face:

Really I don't think you can go wrong with building the machine yourself, if you have the know-how, or going with Apple or Dell SMB if you have the cash.
 
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You make very good points and i believe in all of them but at a budget of $800. For a music machine i still think an SsD at this price wouldnt hurt. But then again putting two 1TB enterprise drives in raid 5 for the same amount like you said might be well worth it instead.
 
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You make very good points and i believe in all of them but at a budget of $800. For a music machine i still think an SsD at this price wouldnt hurt. But then again putting two 1TB enterprise drives in raid 5 for the same amount like you said might be well worth it instead.

RAID5 - 3 disks minimum.

http://www.acnc.com/raidedu/5
 
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*insert look of dissaproval*(targeted at myself for being a lazy donkey)

as you may know by now. I only know what some different types of raid does..... I couldnt care less what the numbers were...... Just do the one that mirrors it. We arent talking a major enterprise machine here. Just a music creation one. No need for such serious backup.

Raid 1 is what i meant.

At the price of $800 after you throw in an i5 and good reliable mobo. You wont have too much leff. For such a low price and for a consumer. I would still go traditional and do ssd and two hdd in raid 1 for the best and cheapeast speed boost an reliability per basis of price. These three drives will cost $300 total.


One more question. Op. are you buying windows.

And sorry. I am on my phone which is why I am typing like this and didnt look up all the raids.
 
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obobskivich

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Because I'm bored:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103961
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813138345
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231314
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817194038
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136697 (3 - RAID5)

Total: $666.93

Add audio interface (they've got an A192 on sale for like $83; not a bad deal), case, HID, and anything else that you desire or need.

With less redundant disks, drop the RE4s entirely, and buy Caviar Green or Blue, single or double, should cut a few hundred more off. Drop down to a six or four core chip if you want to save more than that.

Alternately, because I'm *very* lazy and CBA to put something together unless it's really special:
http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=T7400-XQC30X2-NOOS-R&cat=SVR
http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=PREC390-C2D233-MAR-R&cat=SVR

Le uber cheap:
http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=OPTI-745-PD34-MAR-5R&cat=SYS
 
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How are the benchmarks for the amd cpu in encoding?

I will admit i have a gaming enthusiast mentality. But that looks very good. More cores in this case should make a difference unless sandy bridges architecture makes the 8 real cores redundant. As in their more advanced pipeline and arch may just be better at encoding audio but ill check out benchmarks tonight
 
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why are people recommending solid state drives here, curious pcnoob question, more reliable? I used to have a simple multitask computer used for recording. I remember you need a few seperate hardrives for the recording software for temp files. I used a simple M-Audio audiophile 2496 sound card and had no problems using software like ableton and cool edit pro. I personally wouldn't be too fussed (worried) about the computer, the recording gear and how many channels you need are important questions..How far are you gonna go? 8 mics for drums, condenser mics etc etc...
 
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obobskivich

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How are the benchmarks for the amd cpu in encoding?
I will admit i have a gaming enthusiast mentality. But that looks very good. More cores in this case should make a difference unless sandy bridges architecture makes the 8 real cores redundant. As in their more advanced pipeline and arch may just be better at encoding audio but ill check out benchmarks tonight

Here:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fx-8150-zambezi-bulldozer-990fx,3043-15.html
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fx-8150-zambezi-bulldozer-990fx,3043-17.html

And if you don't have cash riding on it, time is less of a factor. But as always, AMD is the bang-for-the-buck option. Better price/performance on the motherboards, and cheaper chips.


why are people recommending solid state drives here, curious pcnoob question, more reliable? I used to have a simple multitask computer used for recording. I remember you need a few seperate hardrives for the recording software for temp files. I used a simple M-Audio audiophile 2496 sound card and had no problems using software like ableton and cool edit pro. I personally wouldn't be too fussed (worried) about the computer, the recording gear and how many channels you need are important questions..How far are you gonna go? 8 mics for drums, condenser mics etc etc...

SSDs are not vetted as more reliable, at least in a commercial setting. If anything they're worse (don't get me started on cheap flash). Everyday use with quality drives, you're probably about average though (all else held equal). The A2496 is about as old as time itself, so I'm guessing this was ages ago. Multiple disks for cache presents a number of problems, and reminds me of those "get multiple small drives for speed" theories that were floating around a few years back; it's all a bad idea. Big is cheap, big is fast, big is easy.

SSDs are, however, very popular in the "enthusiast" segment - because they have lower latency, and lower latency means faster load times in games. If you jump on YouTube you can find a Samsung demonstration from a few years back, with something like a dozen SSDs in RAID0 (which is about the stupidest thing you could ever do), and it loads something like a dozen instances of Photoshop in under 1s. It's impressive, and it lets your benchmark scores go higher, and it might mean that if you're running a game like Half-Life 2 that lets you disable loading screens, you get more fluid performance, but beyond that it's a fad (imho). Yes it will probably be the future, in ten or twenty years. Price/GB is still hilarious.

For audio tracking, unless you're dumping hundreds of tracks, you shouldn't need disgusting amounts of bandwidth to keep up. A single disk should really be able to hack it. If you're doing hundreds of tracks at once (e.g. a top-tier ProTools setup), I would honestly suggest Revo (for two reasons: 1) you have the money and 2) much like Adrien Brody in Predators, it's fast). In that situation you'd also have scheduled back-ups and multiple tiers of redundancy (see the first postulate).
 
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