I am an Audio/Video/Graphics designer looking for the proper machine for multi-media production. Please help me find the right components I need. ANYTHING BUT DELL!
May 21, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

I am an Audio/Video/Graphics designer looking for the proper machine for multi-media production. Please help me find the right components I need. ANYTHING BUT DELL please!

My second Dell machine recently crapped out on me (XPS 600) so needless to say I'd like to battle Michael Dell till death but I'll spare you with my hatred for anything Dell related.

These are my primary tools I use on daily basis for various productions:

Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Audition
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Lightroom
Propellerheads Reason 4.0

As you can see, I spend a lot of time rendering various footage material from my clients along with Premiere and After Effects along with audio creation which requires a high-quality audio card intended for musicians.

I don't know much about customizing machines and which brand to trust but I do know that I need at least 4 gigs of memory, a fast processor and a high quality audio card for music production. (I also know that I have to get Vista whether I want to or not, and since most programs I use only support 32-bit, I can't really go for a 64 bit Vista)

Given the programs I listed and my desire for fast rendering and high quality audio production, which audio cards/processors would you recommend?

I am leaning toward HP m9200t series

Much thanks in advance to all!
posted by bostonhill to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are one of the few people who will really benefit from a quad core processor, which is an option on that HP. A fast hard drive will also be very helpful --- look for "RAID 0" or 10,000-15,000 RPM. [Note: RAID 0 is more likely to fail... but I assume you already have a good data backup scheme]
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:53 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you very much for your reply, its been noted.
posted by bostonhill at 8:54 AM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: I'd like to get Vista Ultimate 64-bit but I am unsure if the programs I listed above will be supported. I've done some research and heard that certain users had issues while running the mentioned apps on Vista 64-bit and that is the only reason why I said I'd go with a 32-bit.

If all those programs ran smoothly on Vista 64-bit, I'd gladly go with 6 gigs of RAM.
posted by bostonhill at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2008

We just configured a graphics pc on 64 bit Vista Enterprise to do exactly what you ask. We went dual core Athalon64. Vista is a RAM glutton, so we went with 4GB. It was a no-name box from an outfit called AVADirect and cost us about $575.

We haven't had a 64 bit issue except with an old crappy webcam that I dragged out of the junk box.
posted by mrbugsentry at 8:57 AM on May 21, 2008

We use Alienware notebooks for this kind of stuff and they are great. I think they may be owned by Dell though. I have never been a fan of Dell notebooks, but these Alienware machines have been pretty trouble free, and powerful in graphics.
posted by caddis at 9:00 AM on May 21, 2008

Have you considered investigating the specialty system builders for applications like yours, such as Boxx? Or the VFX-specialized HP offerings?

(Full disclosure: I've done stuff on Boxx machines before, but I don't work for them, nor do I really have an opinion on the overall reliability. I'm just thinking that if you have very specialized needs, it might behoove you to speak to guys who build for those needs.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:00 AM on May 21, 2008

any reason you haven't looked at a Mac Pro yet? Adobe will migrate your licenses over to OS X versions (and I would assume you should be able to do the same with Reason). Even if you want to stay with Windows for some reason, a Mac Pro running XP (or Vista) is a solid machine and has one of the best price/performance ratios.
posted by hummercash at 9:05 AM on May 21, 2008

Do you do any recording at all? Reason doesn't record at all, so it sounds like you're just talking about production and playback, two software-based things that don't largely benefit from having a proper low latency soundcard. You could get something like a TC Powercore, which lets you offload some high quality effects onto external hardware. It's not cheap, but that's the only sort of audio thing that I can see helping you. If I'm mistaken, please feel free to clarify, as there are plenty of great audio cards out there.

Processor-wise, simply go for the beefiest thing you can, as video encoding just needs brute force number crunching. That HP can be upgraded to the Q9450, which seems like a good place to put $100.

Getting a dual DVI-output card might be a good idea, as I'm sure you'd find an additional monitor very handy.

A RAID 0 configuration would provide an additional boost of speed at the expense of a bit of reliability. RAID 1 wouldn't give you any additional speed but would provide a good quality backup.

Finally, I know very little about HP machines. I've built plenty myself, but I'd maybe see if any American user can recommend a better computer company for you.
posted by Magnakai at 9:08 AM on May 21, 2008

Adobe photoshop isn't a 64-bit application, meaning you won't get the added benefit of using a 64-bit OS (aside from being able to use >3.5 gigs ram). Note that you can get Vista64 right now, and CS3 will work. It allows forward upgradability for when adobe does release 64-bit apps so you'll be ready.

But, yea, get the 4 gigs of ram and a quad core (make sure it's not an old AMD quad core, if they even sell them anymore).

Raid0 might indeed be a reasonable choice for your usage. Just make sure you backup with a 2x failure rate.

RAID 1 wouldn't give you any additional speed but would provide a good quality backup.
NOnononono. Raid1 is NOT, I repeat, NOT backup. It is redundancy against single harddrive failure. That is it, period, end of discussion. It will not protect you whatsoever in the case of viruses, you MB frying and shorting all your components, you knocking over your desktop and both drives dying, software and OS corruption, etc.
I use Raid1 at home and Raid5 at work and has saved by butt a few times for a harddrive failure. However, it meant nothing when my XP kernel corrupts or a virus.
posted by jmd82 at 9:14 AM on May 21, 2008

Should've previewed.

Unless you don't want to use an Apple machine, a Mac Pro is worth looking at. My video editor friend has one that simply storms through rendering.
posted by Magnakai at 9:14 AM on May 21, 2008

jmd82: Very true! Well pointed out and a very good point. I should choose my words more carefully next time.
posted by Magnakai at 9:16 AM on May 21, 2008

Thanks all,

I am not looking for a MAC mainly because I use it at my school and I feel more comfortable on a PC.

From what I gathered, I would benefit from a dual-core processor and a SATA drive since Raid is known to fail (happened to me twice on my Dell machines).

To answer the question about audio with Reason, I do not use a MIDI controller but I create everything within Reason and use Reason as my sequencer and not a plugin.

I realize Photoshop is not meant for Vista 64-but but CS4 version should be supporting it according to Adobe whenever they chose to release.

I'd just like to use the benefits of more RAM hence why I am leaning towards Vista. I've been on 2 gigs RAM or the past 4 years and would love a boost to 4 or 6 gigs since XP is capped at 3.
posted by cheero at 9:40 AM on May 21, 2008

@bostonhill @cheero holy multiple accounts, batman!

even if you feel more comfortable on a windows machine, the Mac Pro HARDWARE is still amazingly fast and reliable for the price... and you can easily run windows on it instead of OS X.
posted by hummercash at 9:51 AM on May 21, 2008

@cheero is my brother! same household. :)
posted by cheero at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2008

I had these people custom build me a box for high volume high resolution photo editing, archiving, etc. I realize that you're needs are different than mine, but I was extremely impressed with every aspect of my purchase. It has the most elegantly assembled internals of any computer I've ever opened up, with the possible exception of Mac towers.

I am just a very satisfied customer and if I don't go Mac next time around I'll be buying my next computer from the same company.
posted by imjustsaying at 10:04 AM on May 21, 2008

It may be worth looking into building your own box- I was able to build an 8-core, 8GB machine (i'm a developer) for around 2 grand. Building PC's is pretty easy these days.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's nothing magical about "Mac Pro HARDWARE". They're using the same processor, the same RAM, the same GPU, the same hard drives, and similarly capable motherboards as a PC in the same price range.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2008

@qxntpqbbbqxl yes, but getting support for them tends to be way less headache inducing than say a Dell or HP machine... that is assuming you live within driving distance of an apple store.
posted by hummercash at 10:44 AM on May 21, 2008

bostonhill - I'm assuming you're in the Boston area. I've had fantastic experiences with machines built at PCs for Everyone in Cambridge. They'll work with you to build the perfect machine for you. I'm currently on my 5th year of using the last machine I bought from them and it's been able to handle my recent upgrade to CS3 just fine. They may cost a little more, but with the amount of use I put on my PC, I think it's worth it.
posted by FreezBoy at 11:56 AM on May 21, 2008

Hmm, it looks like they may have moved to Norwood, MA since I used them last.
posted by FreezBoy at 12:00 PM on May 21, 2008

Don't be a 2@
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:33 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Notes on Vista32 with 4G - you may not actually get to use all 4G depending on the hardware you choose. This issue is from a while back, and my Vista running native on an MBP says I have 4.0G of RAM, but YMMV especially when you're planning on using it for production.

Vista64 has only had a few problems for me with obscure video compression drivers, but they were enough to scare me back to Vista32 at the time. Now, more than a year later, I may try it again next time I rebuild.

The MacBook Pro hardware is, as noted, similar to many others with one major exception: the built-in audio hardware is historically a few steps better than the normal crap that comes with even "high end" notebooks. (Some disagree) If you're not willing to go for an external D/A unit, the MBP is a great audio processing system. (I run Vista on it almost exclusively).

It looks like you're searching for a workstation, not a laptop, which makes perfect sense.
If you're looking for a laptop, the MBP hardware baseline is still pretty good, but others are advancing on its price/performance position (and if I could find a few missing crucial features I would go back to a Voodoo in a heartbeat, despite their now being owned by devil-spawn HP -- they tune drivers and make some excellent decisions the way a computer manufacturer really should).
posted by abulafa at 1:30 PM on May 21, 2008

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