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 Post subject: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 12:22 pm 
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Hi guys.

I'm hoping you can help me. I'm new to the forums, but I've been a reader for a while and the site has already helped me out no end - this place is awesome :D ! But now I need a bit of direct advice please.

I’ve been specing up a new PC which is intended for music production. The specific aims of this build are to make a machine which is as fast/powerful as possible (with moderate OC’ing), whilst focusing on keeping it as close to virtual silence as I can. This post has already given me plenty to go on, but I've got a few questions of my own that I now need to ask.

Below are all of the parts I've got in mind, so I’d like your opinion. I know given the ton of reviews I’ve ploughed through that most of these parts are held in high esteem. So I guess what would really be useful is for anyone to suggest any reasons they know of NOT to use anything here. Basically I want to know about any concerns I should have which I might have overlooked.

Case: Nanoxia Deep Silence 1
Mobo: Either an Asus Z87-A or an MSI Z87-G45
CPU: Intel i7 4770K
Cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE
RAM: Corsair XMS3 DDR3 Dual Channel 8GB or 16gb (likely 16gb)
SSD: Samsung Evo 840 120GB (for Windows 7 OS only, dual boot - one music, one everyday use)
PSU: Seasonic Fanless 520W Platinum SS-520FL2

I won’t be adding a soundcard since I’ve got an M-Audio USB audio interface, and I’ll be using the onboard graphics rather than adding an unnecessary heat-generating GPU at present. The audio interface can be powered externally, but I’ll simply power it via USB, along with a USB synth/midi controller keyboard – hence the 520w PSU.

I’m assuming that even though I have a dual-fan cooler in there, it’ll still be worth buying the fanless PSU since in the end it’s better to have as few items contributing to noise as possible?

Finally, one other particular concern is the mobo – Asus vs MSI. Basically, this is where I’m really undecided. Like many, Asus have been my go-to brand in the past, so it’s a matter of trust and familiarity. But the reviews of each board linked in the list above seem to say the MSI board is a winner while the Asus is a let down (although this might be more from a gaming perspective). My concern is that I’ve read less than flattering things about MSI, to the tune that their kit is great when it works, but often doesn’t and then their support is abysmal. If you were building this PC and just had to pick a board, which for these 2 would you go for? Or would you go for something else entirely?

Thanks :)
Mike

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Last edited by mikeyten4 on Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 1:47 pm 
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Welcome to SPCR. The component selection looks fine. You can certainly go with a lower power PSU as you don't have any significant add-on cards. The big red flag is Haswell and DPC latency (discussion in Deathray's thread). You might want to step back and go with Ivy Bridge.

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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 30, 2013 10:50 am 
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Fantastic :) Thanks Steve :)

The DPC latency issues discussed in Deathray's thread had been on my mind, so I've done a bit of reading up myself and posted on a dedicated music production forum. The results actually seem to suggest that Haswell on a pro-audio pc should be fine, and any problems are likely fixable...

This might be useful to anyone concerned about Haswell DPC latency issues, especially music producers. Hopefully that thread will grow with more info over time.

The brunt of it seems to be that any DPC issues experienced are usually caused by features offered between the mobo/CPU, and which can be turned off or otherwise changed in bios. Also, there's been mention of NVidia GPU cards not getting on with Haswell chips. Both of these points seem to be backed up by the fact that Scan offer pro-audio builds that use Asus Z87 boards and Haswell CPUs, and additionally they specifically state they don't offer NVidia cards in these builds due to 'problems' with pro audio kit. No one has yet come forward on that thread I linked to above to say "My Haswell machine is unusable as a music production machine". What they have said is either they haven't had issues, or they did but they worked them out without much real trouble.

Hopefully this will help others as much as it has me :)

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i7 4770K @ 42/43GHz - Asus Z87-Plus - Phanteks PH-TC14PE Black - 16gb 1600MHz DDR3 - Seasonic Platinum Series 520W Fanless PSU - Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 case - M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB audio/midi interface - Benq GL2450HM 24" LED monitor


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Last edited by mikeyten4 on Sun Dec 01, 2013 1:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:43 am 
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Asus is a fine choice so is MSI, they are different in some things though.

I would chose Asus for a setup where you will use PWM fans on CPU, and 3pin standard fans on all other slots, where you dont want to mess much with it, FanXpert2 should take care for you of dropping fans to their lowest, just chose good fans (although test nanoxia included first they should be decent) and you should be set. You will have to accept the bloatware of AI Suite III and their weird way they measure temps, for some is an issue, others don't care, up to you.

I would go with MSI for avoiding AI Suite III, for its temp reading and for such a bad control on certain PWM fans on fake 4pin PWM headers (Asus only has 1 true PWM header, CPU_FAN the rest are 3pin headers). But in here you will need to get a PWM splitter for you to control all the fans with 2 headers, CPU_FAN1 and CPU_FAN2. This would also need from you to get good 4pin PWM fans and avoid 3pin fans (else use a external fan controller).

The only bad comment i have on the MSI Z87 GD45 is that in some cases, the drivers for the killer nic E2205 are not that great, specially for windows 8.1, probably they will be fixed as times goes by, i have a laptop MSI GT70 One and has a Killer nic E2200, and was a little unstable under windows 7, until july 2013 drivers, i can say i have no problems to report, but this is to show that initially the support is not there, but they do work at it, so thats my only warning on MSI, while the ASUS in most cases uses Intel nics and in their lower end realtek, but in both cases you are avoiding Killer nics. I cant say much on mine as i have it turn off from bios, and i have a Intel ct gigabit PCIe card running, i had so many issues with my Asus Maximus GENE VI, that when i moved to the MSI i didn't want to deal with any issues so this is the reason i never even tried, on the bright side, i haven't had a single issue with MSI, really solid board.

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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 1:16 pm 
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Hi Abula, thanks for the input :) I don't know... I've got nothing against MSI, and I'm sure lots of people have great experiences with them. But you know how it is - it only takes a few bad mentions to swing the vote, so the reliability and service issues I've heard about cause me some concern.

I'm familiar with Asus' AI suite and FanXpert, since my current aging machine has a P5B board in it. I tried them out, but I've got to admit, they did seem a bit sketchy. FanXpert especially, it reported wildly fluctuating fan stats every 5 seconds or so. They never caused me any real trouble, but I removed them anyway when I did an OS rebuild a few years back, and the machine has been fine. Maybe I'll try them again if I get the Asus board (likely), but I guess I can just ditch them again if they seem like unnecessary bloat.

Thanks again for the advice :)

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Ravedigga Studio:
i7 4770K @ 42/43GHz - Asus Z87-Plus - Phanteks PH-TC14PE Black - 16gb 1600MHz DDR3 - Seasonic Platinum Series 520W Fanless PSU - Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 case - M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB audio/midi interface - Benq GL2450HM 24" LED monitor


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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 2:51 pm 
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Seems like you'd want a mobo without all it's s/w installed just to prevent latency issues, anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:57 pm 
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Location: Northern New Jersey
I have never bothered to install any motherboard software outside of drivers because it's problematic, especially for DAWs.

If the hardware is set up right, you shouldn't need extra software. Hardware PWM control has come a long way. Not perfect, and some motherboards have poor control, but those typically aren't the boards used in DAWs..

I'm partial to MSI and used their boards for a long time in my personal builds until recently. I moved to Asus because MSI no longer provided quite what I was looking for, and that's fine.

I don't particularly see the point in dual booting the same OS and isolating one install just for music...if you keep regular backups and exercise even a marginal amount of caution on the internet, it doesn't really make much difference. If you were dual booting with a linux distro I would understand better, but that's just me. I have a single 8.1 install for audio and video work, as well as my general use. I keep installed programs to a minimum, and specifically trusted ones at that to reduce problems. Since I updated to a SSD, I make full backups on a regular basis (incremental, on a spare drive).

Phanteks actually makes pretty nice stuff, I took a gamble on a fan when I saw them starting to come out, and I'm glad I did.

The case looks okay, not really my cup of tea with the door on the front, but cases are all preference anyway.

+1 with Steve about the PSU.

My only question is why every defaults to the K model CPUs...

I used to do tech support with M-Audio for their interfaces before InMusic bought them from Avid. Bus powered interfaces really don't affect the draw of the machine so drastically, plenty of laptops still have reasonable life on battery while using an interface. In most cases, you'd want to pick bus power or 12V for the interface. Depending on the interface, sometimes you'd NEVER use both, and with others at times using both is no problem. Totally depends on the interface. I have several M-Audio interfaces, and use a C400 with my laptop, and my 2626 with my desktop primarily, but with the laptop as well for bigger jobs on the go.

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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 5:54 am 
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Hey Bonestonne :) Cheers for the input.

bonestonne wrote:
I have never bothered to install any motherboard software outside of drivers because it's problematic, especially for DAWs.


This is basically how I feel... I see it as untidy and not really necessary. Like I said, the older FanXpert software for my current Asus board didn't even do it's job properly. But... call me curious :) I might stick the up to date software on my new machine just to see what it's like. I'll probably build it to a basic degree first, get the OS updated, then image it and play with additional bits afterwards. Then I can always just 'go back in time' to that image if I'm not happy with any changes.

bonestonne wrote:
If the hardware is set up right, you shouldn't need extra software. Hardware PWM control has come a long way. Not perfect, and some motherboards have poor control, but those typically aren't the boards used in DAWs..


By this do you mean you wouldn't generally use a board with PWM fan control, or that poor PWM control co-relates to a cheap board, and you wouldn't use a cheap board? Just wondering. I've gone for an Asus mid-range board which I'm happy is of decent quality, but in any case... I wouldn't have expected the more budget Asus Z87 boards to have worse PWM control? Maybe I'm wrong though. What current boards would you choose for a DAW build?

bonestonne wrote:
I'm partial to MSI and used their boards for a long time in my personal builds until recently. I moved to Asus because MSI no longer provided quite what I was looking for, and that's fine.


Yeah, honestly, I'm sure MSI are likely fine. I just got a bit scared off by a few things I read. Happier sticking with what I know I guess this time :) What was it Asus offered that MSI no longer did?

bonestonne wrote:
I don't particularly see the point in dual booting the same OS and isolating one install just for music...if you keep regular backups and exercise even a marginal amount of caution on the internet, it doesn't really make much difference. If you were dual booting with a linux distro I would understand better, but that's just me. I have a single 8.1 install for audio and video work, as well as my general use. I keep installed programs to a minimum, and specifically trusted ones at that to reduce problems. Since I updated to a SSD, I make full backups on a regular basis (incremental, on a spare drive).


It's just me I guess... I'm a control freak :D I tend to have my production OS streamlined, with any windows services, hardware, etc disabled unless they're absolutely necessary. This might have been more beneficial with older machines, like my current 7 year old core 2 duo PC running XP with standard HDDs... just to get that extra bit of juice/speed out of it, but I'll stil work this way until I'm satisfied otherwise. Plus, I always tend to think there's less chance of anything like driver conflicts if the only things running are the things that need to be. It might be engrained in me from my days at uni... I studied music and at that time I had ideas drummed into me such as how you shouldn't have your studio machine connected to the net if it didn't absolutely need to be. But this is going back over 10 years. Basically I feel more content knowing I've effectively got one dedicated studio machine and one 'youtube funny cat videos and everything else' PC.

As for backing up, I'm obsessed with it :lol: When I build a machine I take an image of it at the point where I've got the OS installed and up to date, AV maybe, and my basic applications that's I know I'll always need (adobe reader, office, etc). I use that as my 'ground level backup'. Then I make another when the rest of my software is installed. THEN I make continuing back ups each time I add more. It makes me feel all warm and safe ;)

Aside from the OS drive, I also have all of my audio and other media stored on a 3TB RAID 1 NAS box, so that's all protected from a hardware failure. I don't back that up, but to be honest, I'm more worried about losing the lot to a dead drive than I am losing something because I accidentally delete it, and the RAID mirror covers that.

bonestonne wrote:
Phanteks actually makes pretty nice stuff, I took a gamble on a fan when I saw them starting to come out, and I'm glad I did.


Good to know, cheers. Reviews are pretty good, glad I found them. Out of interest, did you use the bundled thermal paste, or an aftermarket paste when fitting yours? I've used aftermarket in the past, but have seen suggestions recently that it's better to use whatever comes with the cooler since this is what the manufacturer will have tested their product with. Which makes sense. One place I saw that said was on an Asus video regarding overclocking Z87 boards.

bonestonne wrote:
]The case looks okay, not really my cup of tea with the door on the front, but cases are all preference anyway.


Yeah, I guess so. I'm not really into 'gamer cases', and like the more sleek, minimalist look much more. The thing that really sold this case though is that it's reviewed as having great cable management and it's oh so quiet. :)

bonestonne wrote:
My only question is why every defaults to the K model CPUs...


Just because I feel like having a go at OCing. I know it's not a necessity.. is it ever for anyone? But I figured I'd like to have a go and see what difference it makes for myself. If the answer is not much, then I'll likely not leave it that way eventually. Like I said though... I'm just curious natured!

bonestonne wrote:
+1 with Steve about the PSU...

I used to do tech support with M-Audio for their interfaces before InMusic bought them from Avid. Bus powered interfaces really don't affect the draw of the machine so drastically, plenty of laptops still have reasonable life on battery while using an interface. In most cases, you'd want to pick bus power or 12V for the interface. Depending on the interface, sometimes you'd NEVER use both, and with others at times using both is no problem. Totally depends on the interface. I have several M-Audio interfaces, and use a C400 with my laptop, and my 2626 with my desktop primarily, but with the laptop as well for bigger jobs on the go.


Now this is interesting, since it's one of the things I just really didn't know and had wondered about. The fact I'm using a USB bus powered interface was a factor in going for a slightly more meaty PSU. But if the draw isn't much, great. I've placed the order now, but it's still good to know. As it happens I'm using an M-Audio Fast Track Ultra, which I believe is covered by Avid now in terms of support, drivers, etc. It can be hooked up to the mains, but if I can run it without yet another plug trailing under my desk, then all the better as far as I'm concerned.

Thanks again :)

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Ravedigga Studio:
i7 4770K @ 42/43GHz - Asus Z87-Plus - Phanteks PH-TC14PE Black - 16gb 1600MHz DDR3 - Seasonic Platinum Series 520W Fanless PSU - Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 case - M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB audio/midi interface - Benq GL2450HM 24" LED monitor


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 Post subject: Re: New music production PC spec - what do you think?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 1:21 pm 
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Location: Northern New Jersey
I have a busy afternoon, so I'll post a few things now, and a few more later...

I use Innovation Cooling Diamond 7 thermal paste. They did a test run here on SPCR some time back (probably 2 years ago now) and the stuff was actually remarkably good. I don't use anything else on my personal stuff anymore. I can't find my tube, but I was ready to put it in my PS3 when I did that teardown last weekend.

I only got a lone fan from Phanteks, no thermal paste. Can't comment on that.

MSI didn't have a dual socket LGA2011 motherboard in the ATX form factor, while Asus did (just barely at 10x12").

I find most cheap motherboards have poor PWM controls. My current Asus has very good PWM control, but not perfect. It isn't able to sense the Scythe 800RPM slip stream I have as an exhaust fan, it reports ~300RPM, but the fan definitely is spinning more than that. Most of the "higher end" consumer motherboards have very good PWM controllers, so I would say unless you're having a bad experience with a specific fan (or all of them), might be worth just leaving the PWM control and BIOS/EFI management alone.

Which FTU did you order? Not the 8R, just the smaller unit? The 8R is a 1U rackmount. The newer FTU isn't even for sale. I'd be on the cautious side and say that you're going to want to make sure you have the capability to run power to the unit, especially when using multiple input channels at once. If you need phantom power, I would say definitely use the extra power. It's one of those strange units, but could definitely not pull off being bus powered under heavy use. I would only use it bus powered for playback and 1/2 channel recording with no phantom power. Those are my thoughts on an interface like that. You don't want it to try and draw extra power if you make an attempt to push it one day.

The FTU should ship with one ASC (Avid Support Code) as far as I remember (don't quote me on it). Avid support is hands down some of the best. I stay in touch with a lot of the people over at Avid, and they're a huge help, and some absolutely great people. Comparatively, Avid is a great company to it's workers, and many of them will stretch very far to help customers out. When the ASCs started, a lot of people were pissed about having to pay for the help, but in the end, those people were probably putting so much time into it, that it was time to put a price on it. It is worth it in my opinion.

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|Dual Intel Xeon E5-2620-Xigmatek SD1283 DK-II|Asus Z9PA-D8-HR-05 IFX|WD 250gb Velociraptor SATA3|16gb DDR3-1600 ECC RDIMM|WD Blue 640GB SATA2 x2|Logitech K750|Logitech Wireless Mouse|nVidia GTX660ti 2GB|Antec HCG-750|NZXT Source 210 Elite|M-Audio ProFire 2626|Art TubeOpto8 with Smooth Plate Tube Swap|Avid Artist Mix x2|
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