New PC advice

whr wrote on 2/17/2004, 9:47 AM
I am not a hardware expert so bear with me.

I am trying to upgrade my audio video computer and am finding it very hard to get someone to do it. The last suggestion I got was to have Dell do build it. I have always had my PCs custom built locally and have never trusted companys like Dell or Gateway for such specialized products. Especially when I may need immediate support. I'm open to suggestions. Please advise.


andy35 wrote on 2/17/2004, 10:49 AM
hello there
have a look at they will be able to advise you
whr wrote on 2/17/2004, 10:53 AM
Thanks Andy.
rraud wrote on 2/17/2004, 10:57 AM
Stay away from generic upgrades.
There are companies that build and upgrade PCs specifcally for audio/video use. Check out some pro-audio magizines such as, Mix, Pro-Audio Review, Pro-Sound news, EQ, ect. As well as the pro-video mags. TV Techonogy, Millimeter, AV Prod.ect.
Do a search on Google.
clive wrote on 2/17/2004, 12:39 PM
Go to tel:018527 854222 ask for tom
they may be able to helpyou out as they make very good sysytems

whr wrote on 2/17/2004, 12:56 PM
Does anyone of contacts in the US?
farss wrote on 2/17/2004, 9:55 PM
My advice,
have a go at screwing the thing together yourself. 98% of the nasty problems you could well run into will be out of the control of anybody.
Lets say you find some 'expert' supplier, you take the box home and then think, OK I'd really like to put sound card xyz into this thing. Well guess what, something starts to go wrong, take it back to expert supplier, even if you bought the soundcard from him he's as much at the mercy of however made the soundcard as you'll be, except he'll be charging a premium for his trouble.

Give you an example, I build my own OK. System working fine, usuaully runs with ADVC-300, not a problme with it. Bought M-Audio Firewire 410, beautiful little box. Except when I try to run both the firewire devices at the same time occassionally the M-Audio drivers try to talk to the ADVC-300, they think its a soundcard! Needless to say this doesn't do much for capturing video or trying to record audio.

So who am I going to call? Would I be any better off if I'd bought the PC from a specialist suppler, not really, just poorer.
RickZ wrote on 2/18/2004, 4:15 AM
I second the motion to build your own. Two suppliers I've used are and Cyberguys has a high-end case, that is worth the high-end price, imho. Sound deadening foam on interior panels, drive holder for 4 3.5" drives, with 2 fans blowing right onto them. A third supplier is, who sell a 400w ps that has better regulations specs than usual. Microx sells OEM WinXPPro CD's, less than full pkg. I've used their Windows CD's since Win98, no problems. And by doing it yourself, you gain the knowledge. The key is to buy ATX Mo-Bo, PS, case, then all fits together.
Sorry this rambles a bit . .
FWIW, and good luck,
Rick Z
Rednroll wrote on 2/18/2004, 7:51 AM
Building your own is fairly easy. Here's my 12 step program of what you'll need.

1. Case with power supply 400watt (min)
2. Motherboard
3. Processor (see motherboard specs to see what type works with it)
4. Heatsink with cooling fans for processor (can purchase bundled with processor)
5. RAM (see motherboard specs to see what type you need).
6. Video Card
7. (2)Hard drives (EIDE) (min 7200 RPM)
8. CD/DVDrom
9. Floppy drive
10. Mouse and keyboard
11. Sound Card
12 Monitor

Usually what you do is decide what processor you want. Then pick a mother board that supports it. Stick with the "A-team", when buying the motherboard, this is one of the most critical components and your lack of crashing will thank you for it many times down the road. The A-team is "ASUS" or "Abit". You'll usually never go wrong. Next see what type of RAM plugs into your MB, and get as much as you can afford. Then get the video card and make sure your MB supports it. Get your hard drives. Make sure they're at least 7200 RPM. I've had good performance with Seagate, but they're all pretty good and fast now. Get your other peripherals, they're pretty much standard for connecting. Then just plug all the pieces together and install the OS from the CDrom drive.

PipelineAudio wrote on 2/18/2004, 8:05 AM
You wouldnt put AOpen on the A team? Or are they gone now?
whr wrote on 2/18/2004, 12:07 PM
Like I say, I'm no hardware expert. I know enough to get me in trouble. I still may consider trying to build myself though. I apreciate the advice.

I have read several articles in this forum on RAID systems and I can't determine from all the articles whether its good or bad. I've been looking at a RAID with 3 HDs striping and mirroring. Any advice?
BE0RN wrote on 2/18/2004, 12:54 PM
Even if you're not a hardware expert, you probably have what it takes to set up a PC. Ask an engineer friend to help, if you have any. I've built a few computers, and I've yet to have something go wrong due to my assembly.

ScottW wrote on 2/18/2004, 3:02 PM
What do you want out of a RAID setup? Striping (RAID 0) will give you better I/O performance and will make the multiple drives look like a single large drive, RAID 1 (mirroring) will provide for fault tolerance. if you want to do 0+1 then you'll need a minimum 4 drives, you can't do it with 3. 2 drives is the minimum for just RAID 0 or just RAID 1.

All of your drives should be the same capacity (when I build a RAID set I usually just purchase all of the same drives I need at the same time).
whr wrote on 2/18/2004, 3:24 PM
At your encouragement I am considering giving this a try myself. I think I need to give all of you more specifics of my use and get more specific advise.

I have a home studio and use a 8in/8out rackmount sound card. I intend to get more heavy into video and will need video capture advice as well. Also I will be networked to two other PCs.

RickZ... I went to PCPower and looked at their cases. I'm impressed. Which case would you recomend and do I need to order the power supply and cooling separate from the case? If so, advise.

Rednroll...Don't I need 10,000rmp drives? I've heard that ASUS moards don't tend to last as long, what is your experience with them?
ScottW wrote on 2/18/2004, 3:43 PM
IMO, 7200rpm drives should be fine. Once you move up to 10,000 rpm drives you're lkely to only find them in SCSI or SATA (mostly SCSI) and very expensive when compared to the same size at 7200rpm. If you've got the money to blow on 10,000 rpm though, by all means, go for it - just be aware that you'll also need to add in the cost of a good PCI SCSI card.

In addition, I'd be a lot more concerned about cooling with 10,000rpm than 7200rpm - even the 7200rpm drives tend to run on the hot side, so if you plan on having a lot of them in the case, you may want to think about additional fans (or do what I did and go with water cooling). A case designed with drive cooling in mind might also be worth looking at. If you're only going to have a couple drives in the case, then just keep them seperated and you'll probably be fine with standard cooling.
Rednroll wrote on 2/18/2004, 4:08 PM
"Rednroll...Don't I need 10,000rmp drives? I've heard that ASUS moards don't tend to last as long, what is your experience with them?"

Of course 10k RPM is always better. I have 10K SCSI drives. I think they even make 15K now. The faster the better, but you'll also need a SCSI card fast enough to deliver the data to them and of course the heating considerations mentioned. I said "at least" 7200 RPM drives and didn't press the point of 10K drives, because with the new EIDE throughput they're actually pretty fast comparible to SCSI. If you're doing Video along with audio, then you might want to consider adding SCSI to your system. I have to be honest though, the only really benefit I see in having SCSI now, is being able to connect more drives on the SCSI bus, rather than being limited to 2 per IDE connection. I don't think the price difference is worth that though.

My current DAW has an ASUS MB. It's been running everyday for the past 4-5 years now, I just need to get another one to get my processor speed up to date, so I can start doing some video work, but that one will still be running for my MIDI machine.
Cold wrote on 2/18/2004, 5:10 PM
before you build, check with your audio interface manufacturer for incompatabilities and recomendations. Some chipsets do not play well together with specific interfaces. Check for video card compatabilities as well.
Steve S.
Hollow4 wrote on 2/18/2004, 11:02 PM
Okay im new to this forum. but heres my opinion on this subject. I build high end servers and gaming rigs. Think of semi versus a sports car. dont be blinded by fast speeds .take your time and research your components. i always buy from great prices and great services, i have blown 8 Hd from over use in the past year, all covered under warrenty and all replaced for free. talk about nice service.

1. Ram - More RAM is better then less. I would drop proc speed before i would shave off RAM. Im running an athlon xp 1800 with 2 gigs of ram and it destroys all new computers in multitasking. IF your M/B needs registered get registered RAM if not then get nonecc. just match everything up, and buy from a good ram dealer like crucial. key thing is as much as possible. more is always better.
2. Procs - Think about the cost of your system when considering what you need to buy. If you are on a budget then lower proc speeds are a must, as is a single proc system. if cost is not an issue then definetly look into multiproc systems. I like athlons over pentiums, but thats cuz they are cheaper and you can O/C the heck out of them. i would not recomend water cooling, while it is silent(except for the pump), for a novice its a harry task and a scary one as well especially with thousands of dollars of equipment. buy a good heatsink and fan, i recomend alpha.
3. Motherboards - i would stay with an Asus, Iwill, Tyan, Gigabit mother board. look for something that will allow you to use your soud card, look at the pci bus on your card and match it witha bord, either 32 or 64 bit slots. look for a high capacity of RAM. Also look for things like on board LAN 10/100/1000(while a 1000 base isnt necessary its a nice upgrade path that you have), usb 2.0 and firewire. look for a board that offers sata and edie on board too. again nice expansion options.
VIdeo Cards - think about this, multi monitor or single. flashy or stable. depending on what you want and how much you can spend will put you in a category for a card. search around if you cant get top end cards. I would recomend a Matrox card. you can have three screens running off of it, super nice to have, i myself run dual nineteens and 27 sony trinitron. super fun.
Harddrives - well this is the harddest topic. Size matters. the difference bewteen scsi and everythign is slowly diminishing. i would say unless you hav a ton of money to blow, and im talking 6-7000 to stay away from a serious scsi raid array. you could do like an 80 gig scsi out your OS on it and copy files to it and use eide harddrives for storage. in an idle world you build a fully scsi system. this is expensive though. scsi can be trickky to configure so you may want o stay away from it. i would say a couple of 80 or 120 gig WD, Maxtor, or segate Harddrive, at 7200 rpm. look for a low seek time too, this will help performance. also try to get a pci ide card. this will amek things faster. when building try to give everythign its own channel, the slowest transfer come from two harddrives on the same channel trying to transfer information to one another. but back to HD advice. put an os on one of those HD and dont partition it. slows stuff down. these are suitable for doing all of your work on. if you get into a space crunch on your harddrives you can always buy 300 gig drives and use them solely for storage. look at Sata if possible. its a little bit faster then eide, but a little bit more expensive.
Soundcards - i would say research this one. go all ove rthe web to find out what to use, im not going to say i know anything abotu this, i still use my crappy on board sound, but im to lazy to buy a new card.
Extra drives. DVD burner is almost a must now days. is possible get one of these. and pick up a regular dvd drive too, having two will really be nice, especially when istalling software and such.
PSU - the power supply is the other really important thing in your system. buy good quality supplies, if you get a crappy one then your equipment will burn out before its time too. i would say nothing less then 400 and if you plan on haveing more then two harddrives nothing less then 460. if you plan on haveing two procs then i would say 460 bare minimum. more watts are better.
Cases - personal preferance. think tower, think bigger is better, more air flow, easier to work in.
other random stuff - zip stripes are a builders best friend clump wire togerther and out of the way. anitstatic wrist guard. buy one, they are cheap and you wont fry your stuff accidently. rounded cables if your into a lot of money, good airflow, vantec silent fans, good air flow through case and stuff is always wanted.
software - windows xp. im not sure if this stuff works in linux, so i recomend microsoft to my dismay. get longhorn though when it comes out, gonna be tight. good virus software. and whatever else you need.

Basically when building a computer think about your system. is it better to have a sports car, or a semi that can drive over that sports car. i would take the semi, build it to be abused. go for high quality lower speeds then crappy high ends. if you want recommendations on specific hardware email me id be happy to help you price out a system if you give me a budget. this goes really for anyone.

anyways just my two cents.

RickZ wrote on 2/19/2004, 5:32 AM
Here is link to Cyberguys case I have . .
I installed pcpowerandcooling Silencer 400 PS into this case.
Rednroll wrote on 2/19/2004, 8:29 AM
Thanks for taking the time to type all that. I picked up a couple of tips as well. One question I had was with this statement.
"also try to get a pci ide card. this will amek things faster"
Is a PCI card really faster for the IDE bus? It would seem to me that the onboard IDE would be faster? Could you further explain?
Hollow4 wrote on 2/19/2004, 9:32 AM
well getting an pci ide card helps free up your main ide channels so you can put those notriously slow cd, and dvd drives. thats how it will improve your performance. really its just about the same speed. but by getting your harddrives and cd rom drives on different channels everything moves faster. if you want to copy a dvd then you should have a dvd burner on one channel and a dvd drive on another. speed will be increased because the sata it wont get caught up in the transfer from the drive to the m/b back to the drive on the same channel. when you try to do this the transfer speeds drop below 33 levels and if you are running a 133 drive thats a significant loss in speed. really its all about trying to give the drives their own channel so this infomation bottle neck casn be avoided.

The on board ide bus runs at about the same speed as a pci bus. you must understand that a cxomputer runs off of irq channels. these channels are also built into your pci card slots. just beacuse something is on baord doesnt mean it doesnt take up an irq channel. my on board audio causes an irq conflict with my wireless pci card. these conflicts should be after thoughts of building a computer though.the only way i can help explain this is with scsi. most scsi is pci based, and its -pretty hard to find on board scsi.
hope this helps


RichMacDonald wrote on 2/20/2004, 8:12 AM
>well getting an pci ide card helps free up your main ide channels so you can put those notriously slow cd, and dvd drives. ...

Just to expand (or repeat :-) if you put your hard drives and CD/DVD drives on the same IDE, they run at the slowest speed (i.e., when your DVD is operating, the corresponding hard drive slows to the same speed). So you don't want to do this. One option is to separate them by using the two IDEs, or by getting a ide card. Another option is to use sata hard drives instead of ide hard drives: use the IDE for your CD and DVD; use sata for your hard drives. Sata is a little more expensive, but I recently got two 160gb sata drives for $100 each, which isn't bad. And sata+raid is a good, affordable option now, because you can get great performance from raid 0 and don't need to buy a raid card or go scsi. IMHO, scsi's days are numbered. FWIW, the extra performance I get from my raid 0 makes such a huge difference in overall speed of my system (startup, loading, operating is SO much faster now) that I'm never going back.

Note: There have been some concerns that sata overtaxes your CPU, which is a negative. This is true, but I have a 3.0GHzP4 and am only seeing a max 15% CPU usage from sata when copying. This is fine for me, but has caused some audio problems for others. See a recent thread at OT: Any RAID 0 users out there?.
cosmo wrote on 2/20/2004, 11:57 PM
...and for those of us who live in a different world where time is short, money is short, and patience can be terribly short with non-functioning computers. While I've built a few machines before I have not the desire or the time for such endeavors. Last year I needed a quick machine for some audio and video work and I needed it fast and I needed it to work solid, guaranteed. So, after researching all of the usual PriceWatch type sites and getting all of my pricing reseach done, I went to everone's favorite place, Dell, and dropped I think $900 for P4 2.4;500MBRAM, 30GB,ATI Radeon 9700 dual monitor card and standard audio. I dropped an M-audio Delta-410 in it, another hard disk and for $1100(free shipping) I had a tight little system and a nice flat panel monitor to go with it. PLUS - the comfort of knowing that if anything went wrong with any of the native hardware - display, drive, board, even the mouse - it would be fixed or replace on-site, the very next day, at my convenience. You just can't beat that. This system I haven't had a single problem with but I bought a laptop from them before and made great use of that service policy. I had next day repairs like 12 times with that laptop. Worry free.

So there's my two cents if you're lazy like me. I didn't spend squat on this box and I can make large videos, large multitrack audio productions, etc etc etc. Unless you're trying to have 419 track sessions for 36 hours straight - there are other options!
Hollow4 wrote on 2/22/2004, 7:06 PM
well thats nice, but if you have read all the post you would have seen he was considering a build it yourself to gain knowledge on computers. you stick with your one stop confomity shopping while i, and others, build quality machines that use less power and are cheaper on the pocket book, and use good parts, not crap. if you were to send me the specs on your machine i bet its not worth $700 or better yet $600. why pay more then what its worth.......but thats my 2 cents.

cosmo wrote on 2/22/2004, 9:08 PM
Peace of mind, that's why. Let's not start making people conform to categories Ryan. I've built and serviced my fair share of machines...why do it myself and pay for all of the parts, shipping/handling and hassle when I can get it all for free with no hassle? And that's assuming I have a pc riddled with poor quality parts. Oops, this one is a-OK. But never fear should something go wrong - I won't have to research, debug, reorder and wait for parts, work all night instead playing...none of that.

I'm sure you're very good at building a great pc man, don't take offense. Some people would just rather make music than computers -) I'm just letting them know there are many options.