Old 11-13-2018, 01:30 AM   #1
ramses
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Default Advice on studio computer build

Hi all,

I'm in the process of planning out hardware for my new mix/mastering home studio. I have decided to go with the RME ADI-2 PRO FS as my primary interface/sound card, and it will mainly be used for monitoring purposes to begin with. I might add a second sound-card at some later stage, in order to be able to integrate more outboard, overdub, etc. The ADI-2 PRO FS is interfacing via USB.

So. I will need a snappy, reliable, silent and well thought out PC to sit at the center of the studio. I haven't been keeping up with developments, so all advice is welcome at this point. I'm planning to run Windows 10 as my OS, and Reaper of course.

Thank you in advance!

Last edited by ramses; 11-13-2018 at 03:28 AM.
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Old 11-13-2018, 04:03 AM   #2
pryere
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I'm assuming that you are in the UK. I can highly recommend OCUK for all your PC needs.

https://www.overclockers.co.uk/

They will build and test a bespoke system for you if needed.

Like you, I am a bit out of loop with the latest chipsets etc.

1. a decent intel processor.
Don't skimp on the motherboard. be aware that PCI slots seem to be outdated.
2. the largest Samsung/ Crucial SSD you can afford. HDD's as required.
3. 16gb of RAM. larger if needed.
4. a branded power supply, leave some headroom.
5. a case to taste.

Hope this helps and good luck with it.
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Old 11-13-2018, 04:23 AM   #3
Dr Bob
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I had a decent machine built for me by CCL in Bradford. Good on price. They have a range of "audio" configured systems, which you can also modify as per your needs - e.g.

https://www.cclonline.com/pc/worksta...o-workstation/

I have an 8700K processor, 32GB Ram, 500GB SSD, 2 * 2 TB WD Black HD's, water cooler, silent case, PASSIVE graphics card (ie no fan!).

Hardly ever hear it - only when pushing a big render. Uses all 12 cores very well with Reaper.

Also got a 27" iiyama Black Hawk monitor to go with it - lovely display. Windows 10 Pro - no issues at all.

Their warranties are also good, e.g. on-site repairs (ie they come to you!).

Suffice to say, the machine flies! Even 40 instances of Kontakt + piano lib only mildly gets it going (about 40% cpu!).

Certainly a company worth looking at.

dB
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Old 11-13-2018, 09:53 AM   #4
JSMastering
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I've been looking into a new computer build. And it looks like 8th or 9th gen intel is the way to go, though there are a few reasons why 8th gen is probably going to be better (mostly that on 9th, the i7s dropped hyperthreading) for no real benefit, and the i9-9900k runs pretty hot, is hard to find, and is overpriced.

If you're not on a tight budget, look at something like this to start.

i7-8700 or 8700K (ScanProAudio has done some CPU testing with commentary that's probably worth reading)

z390 motherboard (will support 9th gen CPUs in case you upgrade). I'm looking at ASUS and AsRock specifically because they're the ones that include DP output for integrated graphics...a lot of the others drop it.

16-32GB of DDR4 3200MHz RAM (lowest CAS latency you can afford; I've had a lot of luck with G.Skill)

Samsung 860 Evo boot drive

Samsung 860 Evo storage drive (unless you actually need > 2TB, but in that case I'd still just buy more SSDs...spinning platters are for network storage for backups and nothing else at this point)

Sedna PCIe SATA III adapter for the boot drive. It actually makes a difference vs motheboard SATA ports as long as you use one of the first 2 x16 slots for it...on my computer it was about a 60-80% improvement across everything but # of random IOPS; it also simplifies cabling...totally worth it for $50...there's a $100 version that adds another 3 SATA connections via cables that could still give a benefit if you need several faster drives. The reason is that the motherboard SATA connectors run through the chipset and essentially share 4 PCIe lanes with onboard USB, network, and some other stuff. Using a PCIe SATA interface actually lets the SSD run at full speed instead of limiting a 6Gbps drive to ~4Gbps under a best case scenario. Going NVMe, OTOH, doesn't seem like it's worth the cost unless you're working with huge files (e.g., video editing).

I would just use integrated graphics at this point. The only reason I have a graphics card is that my current computer is old enough that it won't run my display properly without one. I have had better luck with AMD graphics lately if you need one, though there are others here whose experiences oppose my own. So, YMMV. It's easier to not deal with it if you don't have to.

And the weirder detail things...

A case with a mesh front panel (not sealed). GamersNexus recently did a test comparing one of the loudest cases they've tested (RV07, I think) to a BeQuiet DarkBase 600 silence-focused case. When they changed the RV07 to better fans and adjusted the fan curves to equalize noise performance, the open front case ran noticeably cooler...which means that if you can accept the computer running warmer, you can make it even quieter than the silence-focused case.

I've got a Fractal Design Meshify C right now, and it's quieter than the amplifier noise from my monitors (which is about as loud as my NAS from the next room when it's running at full tilt). The reason is that silence-focused cases don't actually do anything to reduce noise except close the case off...which means you must run fans faster and accept higher temperatures. They do have some padding, but just like the crummy "acoustic foam"; it doesn't do anything but reduce extreme treble...and not very well. There's not enough mass to actually isolate the noise. It's not worth it.

All PWM fans...be ready to throw out the ones that come with your case because they're probably crap. Noctua, BeQuiet, and Thermaltake are within a couple percent of each other in terms of noise normalized performance, as long as they're PWM and you set them to their "silent" fan curve either in your motherboard or software. I'd choose between them based on aesthetics.

Noctua, BeQuiet, Cryorig, etc. higher-end air cooler. You generally don't have to go all out. The cooler is not the limit of thermal performance. Without delidding, in my experience, there's no difference between a Noctua U9S and D15S except the fan speed...and that difference isn't audible in my setup. A U9S also guarantees the cooler won't interfere with RAM or the first PCIe slot.

Water cooling seems like it's not worth it. Among other things, it's more expensive and generally only gives short-term benefits...people think it makes a bigger difference than it does because they don't realize that it takes half an hour or so for the liquid to heat up and actually measure performance, as opposed to a few seconds for an air cooler...which also means the CPU stays warm for longer after you're done hammering it. They also tend to make it harder to get airflow over the VRM unless you have basically perfect case airflow. Depending on the case, it can also make people lazier to the point that the chipset heatsink doens't get airflow either. If you're going to go with an AIO liquid cooler, it seems like the Cryorig ones might be the best option right not just because they have a fan on top of the block to throw some air at the VRM.

Liquid coolers are smaller and generally look better. But, I haven't seen any evidence of a real performance benefit. Plus, if the pump fails, the computer overheats very quickly, potentially without a warning. If the fan in an air cooler fails, the tower will still work with case airflow at least long enough for you to shut the computer down properly. And, obviously, there's no risk of an air cooler leaking. The dual-tower designs from Noctua and BeQuiet are almost good enough to run without a fan, depending on the CPU (though I don't recommend it).

The limiting factor of cooling a modern intel CPU is the thermal material they use between the die and the heat spreader, not the cooler you attach. Over-spending on the cooler only makes sense if you're going to delid the CPU. Delidding does make a big difference, even on the soldered 9th gen processors. It's actually kind of disappointing.

I got bored and delided the i5 in one of my extra toy computers, and it took about 12 degrees C off the CPU temps using the stock cooler, and that was with noctua thermal paste replacing the crappy intel paste (plus removing the adhesive and relying on the socket latch to hold the IHS on), not anything extreme like liquid metal (which requires periodic maintenance).

But, you don't need to delid. A decent air cooler is plenty for a very quiet system without thermal throttling.

I haven't tested the z390 motherboards yet. It slightly concerns me that they included wifi in the chipset. It's cool if you intend to use wifi, but I could see it negatively affecting DPC latency if you don't, at least potentially. If you decide you'll never want a 9th gen CPU, a z370 might be a better choice, though it only saves $10-20 or so.
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Old 11-13-2018, 11:32 PM   #5
Philbo King
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If, as mentioned in the OP, you want to run more than one audio interface, you'll probably want a Mac, since Windows (and ASIO itself) won't support using more than one interface at a time. Maybe a Linux system will; I'm not sure. At that point, you must also run all the interfaces from a single clock source to avoid various issues that arise from free-running clocks in each interface.

Workarounds to this in Windows include MADI and other network based interfaces (expensive!). But the simplest way is to make sure your first interface has 1 or 2 optical ADAT ports. That allows you to add 8 channels of in/out per port quite inexpensively. (Actually, there are 2 physical optical ports per ADAT port. One fiber for 8 channels out, another for 8 channels in. I'm referring to this pair as a single adat port for purposes of discussion.)

By 'inexpensively' I mean an added 8 channels of in/out for about $210 (for a Behringer ADA8200 unit plus 2 fiber cables). Once connected, the original interface acts as a single unit with more channels, as far as Windows and ASIO are concerned. Or roughly $25 per added channel.
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Old 11-14-2018, 01:30 AM   #6
ramses
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Thank you all for taking the time to help out! It's highly appreciated! A lot to digest here, I'll make sure to look into it all.

Philbo King wrote:

" If, as mentioned in the OP, you want to run more than one audio interface, you'll probably want a Mac, since Windows (and ASIO itself) won't support using more than one interface at a time. "

I don't think this is correct, not for RME cards. My understanding is that you can potentially use more than one RME card under the same driver. Even if this isn't the case, I will just use the RME ADI-2 PRO FS as a dedicated d/a for monitoring, together with some other card. The ADI-2 seems very flexible connectivity-wise, it will not be an issue.
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Old 11-14-2018, 01:41 AM   #7
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I'm not familiar with the RME models you mention. I'm sure it could be made to work if the interfaces are aggregated at the driver level before either Windows or ASIO sees it. Hope it works out for you.
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