Upgrading DAW PC

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Upgrading DAW PC

Postby midinut » Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:47 pm

Since you folks managed to solve my Cubase issues for me through osmosis, I thought I'd whiz this one past you and see what sticks to the wall.

While I was able to sort out the issues I was having with Cubase, I came to the realization that my DAW PC just ain't cutting it anymore. It was sooo slow I could barely keep from throwing it out the window. Doubly frustrating when you've got eager musicians wanting to record. So, I am looking at buying a new PC for Cubase to reside upon. I could use some advice.

Current PC: Dell Vostro 200 with Intel Pentium Core Duo @ 1.8GHz with 3GB RAM. Just put a 1TB internal 7200rpm drive in it before I installed WIn 8 Pro. It's about 6 years old I think and the main bottleneck on speed seems to be the RAM which I'm pretty sure the chipset won't take more than 4GB.

PC I'm looking at: Gateway DX4860-UR29 with Intel i5 @ 3.0GHz (I think it's a Quad Core?), 6GB of RAM, & 1TB Internal 7200rpm HD (see link below). I plan on replacing the RAM with 16GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM (also see link below) and also investing in a Steinberg UR22 Audio Interface (ditto) - just to hopefully eliminate the possibilities of any device/driver conflicts or shenanigans.

Link for PC: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6883113265
Link for Memory: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820233540
Link for interface: http://www.steinberg.net/en/products/au ... /ur22.html

If any of you "experts" out there can look at this and make sure I'm not barking up the wrong tree here, I would appreciate it. I could and have built my own PC's before, but I really don't want to tackle that at this time. I'd rather buy a box and modify it rather than DIY. If you have or know of anything with more "bang for the buck" than what I'm looking at, please let me know.

As always, many thanks in advance ... now, let the games begin. Let's see what the collective mind melding around here can come up with. lol

:grin: :clap: :snax:
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby christianrock » Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:58 pm

There's no reason you should buy anything with less than 8-12Gb or RAM these days. Memory is so cheap and is such a big factor in performance. So your plan is good.
Also, if the difference in price between i5 and i7 is not that big, I'd just go i7.

I also prefer to modify rather than DIY. Or, my favorite thing is just to look at something good someone built, that they're letting go for a good deal on Craigslist :)
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby midinut » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:04 am

I'm seeing about a $300 difference between the i5 and i7 processors. I can get the i5, 16GB of RAM AND the Steinberg interface for about $775. I found a couple of i7's with 16GB already installed for about $850. That plus the Steinberg UR22 would be $1000 and that may be stretching it a bit. Can you sell me on the benefits of going i7 instead of i5? I'd be ever so grateful.
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby Plink Floyd » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:40 am

Gosh, I hate to just be Mr. Neggo without adding anything useful, but that Gateway box doesn't have SATA/6* so if you ever add a speedy SSD you won't get the full benefit. And also no USB3. And you already have Win8 but you're buying it again.

But as long as you're not going to edit video I think an i5/16MB DDR3 will be fine.

I know it's just me, but I like to roll my own PC. With a pre packaged machine you don't know what brand innards yer getting, not to mention all the crapware they stick in.

But wait, I do have something positive to say: That PC looks like a good deal for $450. You'll be getting a better size case for sure.

Newegg says the mobo has SATAIII but Gateway says SATA/300, so :idk:
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby selfinflikted » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:00 pm

christianrock wrote:Also, if the difference in price between i5 and i7 is not that big, I'd just go i7.


This. Don't skimp on the processor if you can stand it (nor RAM for that matter). You will be GLAD you spent the extra bucks, if you can afford to do so.

Also, SSDs are WIN now. I wouldn't get a HDD with a spinning disc these days if my life depended on it. Nosiree, not at all. Nope. Uh-uh. Ever since we got our new i7's with SSD's at work, I will NEVER buy another HDD with a disc. I shit you not: From powered-off state, It literally takes less than 30 seconds, again from a completely powered-down state, to full functionality (i.e. windows is up, all startup proggies are loaded). It's amazing. For the first few weeks, my mind was completely blown over the speed. Sometimes, I still get surprised at how fast this mutha is. Programs are running as soon as you click their icons. Load times are basically non-existent now. At least for what we do at work.

Now, to save money (is this a joke?) and get a new 'puter at home with all the bells and whistles my pc at work has.
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby midinut » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:23 pm

I'm gonna look into piecing it out and rolling my own. You guys make some great points. I haven't ever used a SSD yet so I can only imagine how much faster it would be. How much space would I need? Would a 256GB be enough or would 512 be better? I'm pretty sure I'd still want an internal 7200 HD inside for installing sample libraries and such, wouldn't I? It's been awhile since I've rolled one up, but I seem to remember getting twice the PC for the same $$. Anything about processors, RAM, SSD's, cases, power supplies, HD's, etc. you guys think I need to be warned about? I haven't kept up with anything for a few years. Can I still get an OEM of Win 7? (I hate Win 8 - and I used to teach Windows and Office classes).

See what kind of can-o-worms you opened up? lol
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby midinut » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:44 pm

Man, I'm getting a headache just looking at all these options. The times I have built my own I always started with a barebones kit (which included a case, mobo, and pwere supply). Seems things have changed since then. Of course I worked at CompUSA at the time so I was there every day and could ask the techs if I needed help. Anyway, what do you guys think about buying refurbs? I see some at newegg with i7's, 16GB, 2TB HDD's for around $600-700. I could always add a SSD and a copy of Windows 7 and set it to boot off the SSD couldn't I? And still come in around my original price point.

Again, see what you started ... and the OCD kicks in full goose bozo!
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby selfinflikted » Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:13 pm

Dude, I know this pain of yours all too well! It's definitely a headache. I like to build my own PCs, but honestly, it's SO much easier to call Dell (or whoever you prefer to do business with, Dell is just a preference of mine), tell them EXACTLY what hardware components you want, which addon software you DO NOT want (in my case, I got the OS and hardware component drivers ONLY - none of that toolbar/addware shite), and call it a day. My DAW is a Dell, probably 5 years old by now, if not more (dual core 3.2 gHz, 4 GB RAM). It was, at the time, a top of the line system. I ordered it completely off my own specs, told them exactly what to put in it, and they did. AND it only cost slightly more than doing it myself, which would've required much aspirin, or possibly something even stronger. I just don't have the patience nowadays for ordering parts and assembling myself.

SSDs aren't a requirement for sure, but man I'm just saying, once you go the SSD route, you will never go back. If you don't already know they joys of living life in that kind of fast lane, you won't know what you're missing, so it's not that big of a deal. I was just tossing my two cents around. If you can splurge though, I say do it! You wouldn't be sorry :) But, like you said, a standard HDD (7200 or w/e) should be fine for just storing your samples and such on.

I don't particularly feel the need to upgrade my DAW just yet, though. I don't record live bands, so I don't have to process tons of incoming audio at once. I only record one track of incoming audio at a time, since I am literally a one-man band, and I have yet to run into an issue where I've run out of tracks in Cubase due to system overload. The ONLY thing I run into at times, especially if I've been working on several different projects in Cubase without a cold reboot, is midi note timing issues. But a simple reboot fixes that every time. I'm not even sure that's anything to do with my DAW OR Cubase for that matter, and more likely to do with my outboard midi setup (my stupid midi patch bay doesn't have a panic button. WTF?! So I think stuck notes are actually the culprit).

At any rate, Midi, keep us posted on what you decide! I have to live my consumer life through other people now, since I am in a perpetual state of poverty. :facepalm:
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby midinut » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:23 pm

I appreciate your two cents worth. It got me to thinking though about just installing Win 7 and Cubase 7 on an SSD and use the 7200 HDD for storing not just sample libraries from Omnisphere or NI but also for storing projects. I already have a USB 2TB HDD that I could put into service for backing it all up. My recording process is similar to yours, one track at a time. Even when I have other musicians over, we still track like that. Of course I could come out cheaper with just the stock specs and not go SSD at this time. The longer I wait the cheaper they get. I still need to get one for my Kronos at some point. Not doing any sampling with it yet. Or even loading samples for that matter. I fear I will never truly master that box. DEEP!

Anyways, I'd be interested in knowing how you folks feel about buying refurbs. I could get more bang for the buck that way, but is it worth the risk?
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby selfinflikted » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:33 pm

In the Real World™ there probably isn't a thing wrong with it. Anyone who knows my gear buying habits knows that I hate buying used or refurb. But, that's just me. My brain is probably wired far differently from you guys' and as such it really just won't allow it. In any case, do they warrant refurbs the same as they would new?
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby midinut » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:44 pm

In some cases yes they do, in others, you just get the manufacturers warranty. I know what you're saying though. That's what is causing me to hesitate. I've got until the end of September before the fundage becomes available, so I've got some time for the right options to present themselves.
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby selfinflikted » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:52 pm

How long's manufacturer's warranty nowadays? 90 days or so? That's not terribad, since you'd be getting discount pricing.

It's like with the car I bought last year. I have this one friend who is a veritable car nut. He's pro-Chevy and hates Ford. I could care less, but just to spite him, I bought a new Mustang (actually, not *just* to spite him really. I wanted the car, the spite was just a bonus). Anyway, I fully expected to be chided for buying a Ford when I pulled it into his driveway to show it off, which he did. I did not, however, expect to be lambasted for buying a new car. He says it's dumb to buy brand new and that I should've gotten a really low-mileage used Mustang. Enter Mike's Brain:

Brain: You don't want new, Mike. There's no telling what the previous owners did in, or to, that car. They may have really driven it harshly and cruelly. Or worse, they may have delivered a baby in the back seat.

Me: Brain, don't be silly. There isn't enough room in that backseat to deliver a sneeze, much less a baby. That's not even a real back seat, it's just a mere suggestion of one.

Brain: But you get the point?

Me: Yes, brain. I guess I do.

That refurb RAM you're going to put in your new PC, Midi? Yea. The previous owners had it duct taped to a small branch and used it as a back scratcher. Possibly butt scratcher too.

My only point is, with used/refurb stuff, you're taking a chance. Well, a greater chance than if you bought new, anyway. You just never know how an item was treated. I don't want a car with a sticky placenta in the backseat. But, I'm weird like that. If placenta is your thang, knock yourself out! ;)
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby midinut » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:04 pm

I guess I may have not written that the right way. The PC is refurbished, not the RAM. When I did work at CompUSA (I can't speak for the way NewEgg or BestBuy handle this), if a customer brought a PC back - for whatever reason - our tech department diagnosed the problem, replaced any defective components as per guidelines from the manufacturer, and the unit was then sold as a reburbished unit WITH the same warranty a new one would have. If the customer had any problems after the sale, we also bumped them to the front of the line to get it taken care of. So the PC I was talking about (with 16GB RAM already installed) is a refurished unit. Here's the link: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+Desk ... 1307433591

As far as a car goes, I've always bought used. I'm no mechanic by any shape of the imagination, but I have always tried to get a mechanic (or my brother) to look over something I'm considering. And there are lemon laws that protect us from total POS's.

My original plan could still work. Specs aren't too bad. Not sure if anything I have supports USB 3.0 anyway. Like I said, I got some time yet to weigh the options. Didn't CR finally get his new PC? I'll have to dig around the DAW thread and see if he ever finished it up.
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby selfinflikted » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:26 pm

Sounds like it's on the up and up then. Mull it over, like you said. Just be sure to keep us updated so we can drool over your new acquisitions! :D
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby gregwar » Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:47 pm

I'm not an expert in pcs or cubase

your needs seem modest but life expectancy shud be 3-5 years. think of u-he diva as a baseline for modest plug-ins in 3-5 years and decide on how much power you need.

minimum: i7 cpu, 16g ram & USB 3

it's critical your mobo, components, bios settings, etc are compatible with cubase. search for cubase builds, component lists and performance and compare them, cost/benefit, etc

i recommend a 3 year warrantee but that's up to you. the level of support necessary depends on your needs.

the most pain free way is getting a pc from a shop that specializes in daw computers. it may be more expensive but I'd be more confident in a refurb from them especially if they will still cover your purchase for 3 years

the other options between a dell/best buy vs build your own is your discretion. I would prolly choose to build my own but I'd research builds, component lists and compatibility with cubase until I felt confident it would be bullet proof
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby MetroSonus » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:14 pm

I'd like to pitch in for Dell too. We have a contractor with them at the college I work for. I spent years building my own PCs too, but that was back in the day when it was the only cheaper alternative against buying a $1.5K prebuilt system from Dell, HP.

Even after computers and then later, laptops, became affordable, I still built my own. But then for a period of 4 years or so, everyone I built blew a controller or something on the mother board and it seemed like I couldn't keep one going for more than a year. Funny story there actually, I bought all of my parts from tiger direct that shipped from the Miami warehouse. I found another guy online that did too during that time period and he had the same issues that I did. He said he switched to new egg and that took care of it. Funny..

Anyway, I sat and looked at our computer labs that are left on 24/7 and are beat to heck and back by our students. And unless there's some factory defect that affects a series or something (like the blown on MB caps that happened about 5 years or so ago) I've never had to open one to make a repair. And at the time, we kept them until they blew up and that was 5 yeas minimum.

Long story short, unless you're a HC nerd about building your own PC, it's cheaper and more reliable just to custom build one through Dell or someone else. As selfinflikted was saying, you pick out the parts, they build the system and ship it right to your door.

I wouldn't do it any other way.
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby soundwave106 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:45 pm

In contrast, I always build my own PCs from Newegg parts, because I'm an HC nerd or something. :lol:

As far as the SSD option goes, they are HUGE WIN. The last PC I built in fact was all SSDs (including the sample library drive) save for one giant spinning disc HD for backups and archives. However, you will see the most improvements by the first SSD you get: which would be replacing a spinning disc OS / program drive with an SSD one. Replacing the other drives will only yield more modest improvements. Running the OS on an SSD on the other hand just rocks.

I don't think RAM is critical for DAWs, unless you are like me and have a lot of sample libraries. In this case, yes it becomes critical, as loading samples into memory is fastest. (It is funny to look at your processes and see Reaper occupy 12 gigs of memory or so :eek:, I have 16GB.)

I would plunge for the USB3 because external hard drives are great for backups and that probably will be helpful for future interfaces.
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby selfinflikted » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:01 pm

I just did a test again, to see how fast this mutha at work boots up. 28.1 seconds from full power off to everything loaded 100% and ready to rock. That was also with me mistyping my windows login password once (but I'm a fast typist).

Man, I gotta get an SSD for home.
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby MetroSonus » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:29 pm

soundwave106 wrote:In contrast, I always build my own PCs from Newegg parts, because I'm an HC nerd or something. :lol:


And there's nothing wrong with that..! It really depends on a lot of factors. Your comfort level building a PC, your ability to source parts, your level of use of the PC, the type of work you're doing ect...

I mean, me for instance, I won't turn on the PC except once or twice a week and a base model usually more than suits my needs. A duo / quad core 2-3 gig, 4 gigs ram, I'm good to go. I use mostly VSTs and do loop type recording into Live from external synths. My needs are really simple...

Now if I can just get my darn kids to stop using it for face book :mad:
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Re: Upgrading DAW PC

Postby christianrock » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:33 pm

Not to hijack the thread, but I just got an Asus i7 notebook for my wife. Pretty good for the price! 8Gb of memory, and even Windows 8 isn't as bad as I thought it was.
I think nothing beats getting a good basic setup and just putting a better hard drive and more memory if needed.
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