Audio Production PC

Hello guys,. I'm new to building computers but have a general knowledge of how they operate and function. My question is where do I start in building a audio production PC? I've heard random things from musicians but I hardly think that they are a reliable source for this type of information being that I am a musician we're not the smartest people on earth. lol. that being said, I've heard that you need a good amount of RAM in order to run the programs and apps associated with working in digital audio workstations. Is it a good idea to start of a build with choosing RAM? I woul;d think 32 GB would be sufficient for my use, but I am not sure. Or should I choose a motherboard thats compatible with the amount of RAM i plan of using?

Any help you guys can give me would be graet. I am looking to spend around 1200 dollars US on this build and do not need a monitor, or keyboard or mouse. but i would need an os, and the capability to use a firewire 400 audio interface. thanks

I think when it comes to audio production. Essentially any computer can do it.

The only thing you need computer wise would be a high quality sound card with lots of shielding to block interference.

Most of what is needed that is expensive is outside the machine , mixers , audio monitors , mics , headphones , receivers , ect...

Universal answer for the "I need an XYZ PC!" question: Depends on the programs you are going to use and how large your projects are going to be.

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or a mobo with decent sound like an ASUS Deluxe board
EDIT: or a DAC

Going to be a devils advocate and recommend a 5820k with the Asus WS... and a low latency Linux kernel. I can nearly garuntee it will make a huge difference then something like an i5 with just any Z97 board...

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That'd work... but more threads do actually help a ton with audio production as does RAM. It depends on the project.

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Maybe this for a novice?

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/HzZ9D3

And this for a pro:

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/9Jt9D3

Im looking to record mostly audio with a few VSTi plugins. I know that they are loaded into ram as I was looking into getting an external DSP unit to do the processing for me rather than the computer, however decided to go this route instead. I will be using Cubase 8 Pro and my DAW occasionally using Ableton Live 9.

Are you sure I don't need a good processor? isn't redering audio a high threaded task? I am alsmost sure that "almost any computer can do it' is false becuase not to start a war here, Apple is the standard in music production facilities, and they are sought after becuase they are low noise, low latency machines capable to processing audio with out latency. I know that widows has to use the ASIO drivers insteaed of the stock windows drivers because of the latency issues.

A DAC would not really serve me anygood as i need more than just a few inputs. Currently UI have a saffire pro 40 interface with a ADAT presonus digimax d8 to add 8 morechannels and a ART preamp capable of adding two more over SPDIF.

Basically, what processor and mobo would you guys recomend for audio? and how much RAM is overkill?

I'm not much of an audio person or hardly at all but here is my build of it. So for building a PC make for Audio production you want your pc to be as silent as possible as you said before people go for Macs cause they are silent so here is my build on it. @Zippy_Parmesian why are you spending so much freaking money if he is hardly ever going to use the graphics card that money could have spend on other parts of the build.

here is my build. http://pcpartpicker.com/p/6WP8t6

ps. you might have to get a pcie card to use firewire since firewire is practically dead

I figured if you were spending 2k on a build, $250 isn't much.

You do need a good processor. You need 16GB of ram or more. You will be pleased with having 2 SSD's. One for OS and programs the other for nothing but files. It makes everything faster especially when you work with and edit bounced tracks. and at least to me, with all DAW's I have worked with I experience fewer freeze ups.

VST's are more CPU than ram dependant unless you are using one of the large sample tank synths out there (think, sample based synths that takes up 32GB+ space for just the basic preset). Some of their samples can be huge and drive a system into the ground if you use several instances at once.

In most studios I have been in Apple has not been the standard. Most studio guys are nerds, they want to get under the hood of all their stuff and mod it backwards out.

What do you need inputs for if you are going to rely mostly on VST's? Just bounce the tracks.

edit: Unless you are going to game on the machine, save everything you can on the GPU and spend on the CPU. If once in the future (As we were promised many times) VST's will make use of GPU's for computing, then invest in a fast one. All you need is something that gives you a crisp image and that doesn't have to come at a premium with 3d capabilities.

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that $250 is actually quite a lot of money in terms of PC building. In this case of building an Audio production PC you want to spend money mostly on the CPU, RAM and Storage there is little GPU requirement needed as you only needed as a way to make your pc work if the cpu or motherboard does not have an iGPU.

Okay. Hi. I have done this. What I learned is:

Firstly, know your needs. It's ok to exceed them if you think you'll need the extra horsepower at some point before your next build or purchase.

Second, keep in mind that most audio processes don't require much. Some do, and it depends on how you like to work. If you require 3+ displays with heavy plugins (some metering plugs, believe it or not, are quite greedy; convolution is pretty heavy, 4x oversampling multiband comps at high sample rates, etc) running at all times, you'll need more than if you're just laying tracks, programming synths, and bouncing out. Again, know your needs.

Now for the good stuff...
More CPU cores are paramount to high performance audio workstations. You may not need 12 cores, but more is definitely better. It is far more important than clock speed, but having more GHz certainly has a significant impact as well.

You don't have to get a xeon, but my recommendation lies with any of the X99 consumer chips. Your budget may dictate this one. Do yourself a favor- if you're on the fence about a fast 4 core vs a slower 6 core, get the 6 core CPU.

Another thing to note is having a CPU that has more power than you need will run much quieter than a cheaper one you're pushing hard. Since you didn't mention having a server room for your computer, I'll assume it's in a tower near your desk.

RAM does not need to be ECC, but it doesn't hurt either.
Memory speed matters, but not as much as capacity.
If you're running several VI's, get yourself 32GB and you'll be good to go. On X99, 4x8GB sticks are more likely to work than 8x4GB sticks, so I've heard. It seems also to be the case with my rig (5960X and Asus X99-E WS).

As for the RAM speed, it has quite a large impact on performance, but prioritize capacity and CPU if your budget constrains you. I ran the Dverb test several times in PT11 with some different configurations; here are some of the results (I believe that at the time, the CPU was at 4.2GHz on 8 cores):
32GB 3000 MHz - 1340 Dverbs
32GB 2250 MHz - 1100 Dverbs
32GB 1333 MHz - 945 Dverbs
CL timings were the same for all of them.
Obviously, running over a thousand reverb plugins at once is completely ridiculous, but it shows that while memory bandwidth has little use in gaming, it is important for a DAW. VI's and other plugs can utilize that bandwidth just as much as Dverb can.

One more thing on memory- I used G.Skill memory for a year before switching to the Kingston stuff (HyperX Predator), and the Kingston kicks its ass all over the place. Before, I had 8x4GB sticks at 15-15-15-35 @2T. It worked sometimes, but was unstable. I mostly ran it at 2666 without problems (but I paid for 3000MHz...). The Kingston sticks are 8x8GB sticks at 15-15-15-35 @1T at 3000MHz; no problems.

Get a fast boot drive. You don't have to do this, but it won't slow down those other fast parts you have like an HDD will. M.2 is great.

You can use an HDD for data. Pro Tools can cache the timeline into RAM (disk cache may still be HD only, don't remember), so the session being on an HDD isn't a big deal. I don't know about other DAW's like Reaper or Logic. My guess is that they don't. You can still use an HDD, though. Get a fast one (7200 RPM+) and dedicate it to production, or at least partition it and use the first partition on the disk for production.

Motherboard: Go for stability, unless you need otherwise. I went with the Asus X99-E WS because it's badass and has everything I wanted; however, overclocking and hackintoshing are both difficult on this board, for some reason. Get what's right for you. Don't worry about the inbuilt audio stuff. Ignore it, unless you have a particular appellation. One reason i bought the board I did is because it has DTS live on the optical output, which I use for gaming when I'm not working.

OS: I recommend OS X Mavericks or Yosemite. That's just me. I think working with a DAW on OS X is much more enjoyable than on Windows, though you are basically your own tech support, should anything go wrong. There are other benefits, as well, but since this is highly subjective, I'll stop and let you decide.

Obviously you'll need a FW card for your interface. Do you have an interface currently? Don't get caught up in all the mobo audio triple shielded usb dec nonsense. You're a musician. Get the gear that suits your needs. Balanced cables to the monitors.

Video card is insignificant, but the Haswell-E chips do not have Integrated graphics, so you'll need something that's compatible. Easy find. Your choice. TBH, if you're not gaming, get a cheap GPU. I have a couple of HD 7750's I swap out from time to time through various machines. No PCIe power connector required, and the Sapphire one is quiet as can be. Great card, and cheap, at this point.

PSU and case are also up to you. Get what you need. @jonnyguru's excellent reviews can help with that, if you're unsure.

So, parts on your budget? I'd say Intel 5820k, Noctua NH-D15, Kingston HyperX Predator 32GB 2800 MHz (same price as the 2666 on newegg...?), maybe an Asus X99 Deluxe, if it suits you, and a Fractal Def R5. That should end up landing around your budget, give or take a few dollars and cents. IMO, If it's too much, get a cheaper mobo or case.

Hope it helps,
kyle

cant argue there

TLDR on my part...

I love me some protools and have been working with it for several years... IMO, 6-8+ Cores minimum, You will want plenty of hyperthreading... Dont shy away from quaility ram, 16-24 gigs minimum... Preferably, 32+ gigs... DONT settle for your current monitor setup. From a workflow stand point, dual 1440p or triple 1080p should be standard. If its protools get a late model nvidia gpu... 760/770 wouldnt be bad, they are well supported. SSD for your applications, plugins, and boot... HDD for terrabyte storage. Also make sure to cool it properly, only thing you should be hearing is the music, not a overheating pc.

I built myself a passive pc for audio work. It is completly silent. I also bought a pcie firewire card on ebay, or maybe it was pci, don't remember, but it works. My motherboard also has a thunderbolt connection, and firewire works with an apple thunderbolt-to-firewire800 adaptor, and a firewire800-to-400 cable.

Runs Pro Tools 9, Ableton 8 and Reason 7 without a sweat. It will certainly run the newer versions too, I just quit upgrading (too expensive) If I am going to buy something it will be Bitwig since it runs on Linux. I got this nice Nektar Panorama P6 laying around unused, because I recently switched to Linux fulltime. I just got some Linux scripts from the Nektar guys for the Panorama and soon I'll be trying that.

Key to this build is the CPU cooler and the case. Here is my build:
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/fW9bP6

How are the temps cause I'm quite interested.

40-45C idle and 79C stress-tested for 4 hours with OCCT, on the CPU. Can't remember the GPU. And inside the case it is around 50C when pushed. Undervolted and underclocked the 3770k to get the max 79C value. 1.11 V and Hyperboost down from 3,9Ghz to 3,8Ghz.. The Ram is 1600 Mhz and volt is 1,4. Never crashed on me for 1,5 years, but there was this heatwave last year with temps up to 36C, I was a bit worried about temps then and avoided pushing it those days.

Since Witcher 3 it is rebuilt for gaming with a GTX 980ti, Noctua NH-D14, Seasonic p860 PSU inside a Fractal DefineXL R2 CPU overclocked to 4,2 and RAM overclocked to 2133. But I will be rebuilding the silent very soon.