What computer (not laptop) for music performance and recording?
August 7, 2007 8:08 AM   Subscribe

What new PC computer CPU (not laptop) would you recommend to record/playback audio from disk while running several heavy VSTs? It will be used for recording and live performance. I want capacity and low latency with no hiccups. I am looking at bang for the buck, but don't want to spend almost enough. AMD or Intel dual core? Intel quad core worth the extra money? 2 gig RAM enough?

Dell has a q6600 quad core cheaper ($649) than I can build one, which led me to this question. I want something to last a couple years and don't mind building if that is the best option. Software will be Ableton Live and maybe Reaper with several VSTs on XP.
posted by Enron Hubbard to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What heavy VSTs are you running (soft synths, effects)?

Most off-shelf CPUs will handle a bunch of the heavier plugs without sweating too badly, though a faster CPU will obviously handle more plugs than a slower chip.

Note that not all plugs are written to work with multicore chips. Buying more cores may not necessarily translate into performance, if the software is not written to take advantage of them.

You'll get less latency and fewer hiccups with a fast bus between CPU, memory and hard drives, so look at your motherboard and memory type and consider putting money into a faster interconnect.

Consider striping (RAID 0) two drives for fast disk access, important for multitrack recording. Speed gains and increased storage capacity come at the cost of reliability: if one drive fails, you lose data on both.

Be sure to look into a good, quiet enclosure. Skimping here will give you a really fast, but really noisy box that can affect studio work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:27 AM on August 7, 2007

Response by poster: Note that not all plugs are written to work with multicore chips.

Can a core be dedicated to specific software like old multichip motherboards? I'm thinking multiple hosts and Rewire.

You'll get less latency and fewer hiccups with a fast bus between CPU, memory and hard drives...

RAID is a given on SATA due to cost considerations. What improves bus between CPU and memory? Low CAS timings? Faster FSB speeds? Overclocking?
posted by Enron Hubbard at 12:05 PM on August 7, 2007

I have to disagree with Dell being able to provide you with a cheaper comp than you can build yourself. I am in the habit of building, and you can get pieces and parts without paying Dell's taxes and shipping. Were are you located? Got a Fry's nearby?

I built a similar machine for the same purposes (recording/mastering) for about $500. This did not include a monitor, but you can get a cheap monitor on craigslist or ebay. Hell, you can even get a free case on craigslist, saving you upwards of 60 to 100 bucks.

Another thing to consider is the card; I had an Echo Layla for years - also had a Delta 1010 - both rackmount units, 8 ins/outs simultaneously, and significantly decreases the load on your CPU.

Seriously though, you can build cheaper than Dell can make for you. Keep in mind you're adding shipping and taxes to that total too. Need help? Email me.
posted by jimmyhutch at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2007

I just specced a machine last night w/ components from newegg and zipzoomfly at just over $800 shipped, will be ordering in the next couple days:

the 2.66Ghz Core 2 Duo w/ 1333MHz FSB
2 gigs of corsair 1033 MHZ ram (cuz the 1333 crap is nuts)
2, 250 Gb SATA's striped
the gigabyte mobo that everyone says rox w/ the dual cores
400 watt green-certified PSU w/ dual 12v rails
7xxx nvidia 16x PCIe card

I've alreayd got a case, the board has sound, I've got the optical drives too, but adding a Lite-On 20x SATA Dvd burner was $32. You're going to add a sound card I guess, but those aren't generally a whole lot more.

Price that at dell...it's closer to $1500-$2000.
posted by TomMelee at 2:25 PM on August 7, 2007

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