Products Discussions Computer Configuration DIY Studio Computer Build

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    Chris Taylor

    Hello Folks i’m just going to drop a bit if information about what needs to be considered when you are planning on building or even buying a PC Intended to be used as a Studio DAW.

    First of just some quick basic knowledge to be aware of
    Your hard drive is not memory…. its also not the box your computer is in. Memory is an Active component being utilized often where your hard drive is storage and is used for long term and that is a little device inside the box every one likes to call a hard drive. When you shut down your computer the memory or RAM erases, the Hard drive will store data when the PC is shut off. Having hundreds of programs installed on a PC doesn’t necessarily slow it down, but running 10 or 15 programs at once will choke your system.

    Ok so when building or even buying a computer we need to be aware of several different things in order of importance. CPU, Ram, Motherboard, Hard drive, and Video.

    CPU – CPU have a couple features every one needs to look at the Speed of the CPU and Cache size. Every computer has several types of memory. On the CPU there is a super fast memory called CACHE. Most CPUs have several layers of cache, these layers store the most common and often used instructions in a program. When considering a CPU for a DAW cache is king. Cache allows for repetitive task to be preformed in a quick manner where clock cycles are used most efficiently. The more cache you have the less your CPU needs to call the the RAM to load an instruction set. loading of instruction code from the RAM takes valuable clock cycles. And the more you have to call the ram the more clock cycles are lost in a bottle neck. A Large amount of cache on a CPU will reduce the clock cycles dedicated to taking to the ram. VST as well as the DAW it self uses a lot of repetitive instructions, having a lot of cache on you CPU will reduce latency.

    RAM – Ram has Size and Speed, Ram speed is important because it can reduce latency, but for over all DAW performance its less important then Cache Size and CPU speed. Ram size is important, as it facilitate the size of your project. To little ram and the CPU will have to load instructions from the hard drive, this will then have to be loaded into Ram, and from ram it will then get loaded and processed in the cache. AS you can see this is a very lengthy process and will ultimately ruin you computer performance. Depending on your Project load 16 to 32GB of ram is recommended for any DAW. Your system needs space to run as well. 8 gig is just enough for windows or Mac to run by it self.

    Your motherboard is the next most important object in your Computer. It’s necessary to ensure that motherboard you choose has proper Socket that your fits your CPU, and supports ram you have chosen. When you pick a CPU for its features your mother board is the next stop in planning your system. Features on the motherboard can enhance your system performance and can be necessary for the connection to your audio interface. When picking a CPU PCIe lanes are important to few and your Hard drive, Video card and Audio and any other input out put devices will all step on each other forming bottlenecks that can really rev up CPU cycles. Your Motherboards Memory type is also important, newer motherboards have DDR4 type memory, and of those some have 4 channels to communicate with the ram the reducing clock cycles necessary to put and pull instructions from it. DDR4 runs natively at 2400mhz, but overclockable sets can be purchased that run up to 3200mhz, even with a huge amount of cache your PC is still going to talk to the ram and even the hard drive through out the usage of your DAW, and having OC Ram can improve performance, mostly by margins but these margins can be significant. It’s important to note that your motherboard must support overclocking if you choose OC ram as it must have Ratio Gears to sync with the difference between the clock cycle of the Ram and the CPU. Other Important Features to look out for on a motherboard are SATA ports and NVME(M.2) ports. PCIe slots for any peripheral cards you might choose, thunderbolt suport for TB interface, Overclocking if you’re needing an edge. When you choose a CPU PCIe lanes are something you should look for as they provide space for expansion cards that will be plugged into the motherboard. Different chips sets have different supported motherboards. Common DAW systems were mostly built with Intell chips, but AMD Threadrippers have squashed Intell like a bug recently. The down side to AMD is no thunderbolt support, Dante interfaces make up for that by leaps and bounds but are more costly. Intell is great for budget system, AMD threadrippers are great if you’re serious about high resolution sample rates, and have bundles of cash.

    Hard drive – You have two types are HDs, NVME and SATA. Of the SATA format you have HDD and SSD. HDD is Hard disk drive, these are slow as hell but make great long term and mass storage devices. SSDs Solid state drives are much faster but are costly and do not handle repetitive write erase well long term, these make great System drives, and will add tuns of performance and speed to the over all system. NVME is another form of solid state but where SATA based SSD run at 600 megabytes a second NVME run at 1.2 to 2 gigabytes per second. They are even more expensive than SSDs but the performance is incredible. My suggestion is an NVME for system drive. SATA SSD for project files, Temp files, and possibly a page file. And HDDs for sample library, and data storage, unless you got loads of Cash for terabytes of SSDs. terabyte NVME are cost prohibitive, and in most cases a system drive larger than a couple hundred gigs is wasted space. I always relocate downloads, documents, and pictures files to the storage drive.

    Video cards – this is how you see whats going on in a computer. usually you don’t need anything special for a DAW, unless you are working with video. Multiple video cards are needed for rendering video, but for a simple DAW a 4 gigabyte card should be more than enough.

    After this you want a to look at computer cases. I would suggest a large case So you can work easily inside, have room for upgrades and expansion drives, and preform maintenance. And if your savvy like me A water cooling radiator for Overclocking your CPU. My current system i Overclocked my CPU from 3ghz to 4.5ghz giving my DAW a ridiculous boost in speed.

    Power supply – If you pushing expensive hardware, you need clean stable power, especially if you are overclocking. I would not recommend any power supply rated under GOLD standard, Platinum being rated the highest. Bronze or copper is an absolute NO NO, These are best suited for your grandmas online Bingo computer. 1000 watt PSU with one video card should suffice a normal Intell system. A Ryzen with multiple video cards and all the bells and whistles can tax a 1600 watt PSU.

    SO last word of advice if you plan to buy a computer, don’t just get something that says I7 or MAC on it. There are generations of processors Each with different specs. Ask what model the CPU is, ask about the speed of the ram and how much. Ask about solid state drives and NVME cards. Research all of this stuff and your needs for your DAW before making a purchase. and walk away from any salesman that can’t answer your questions.

    IF you have plans to build your own system Feel free to Ask me any questions you might have. I would be happy to answer them.

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