I like to build a computer for cubase pro 8.5, I’m going to upgrade to later version in the future. I just want to know the best computer components to buy to run cubase and be able to process as many inputs as possible without losing performance and speed. Basically I want to build a super computer so I run cubase, Wavelab, absolute collections, and other software that isn’t Steinberg. Should I use intel CPU, what motherboard to use, should i use HDD or SDD, what PSU to use, sound cards, and etc? THank you for all your feedback.
I wouldn’t stress too much on the exact components as long as you follow some basics:
Intel has great CPUs, but the newest generation of AMD chips is starting to win out in terms of performance, so maybe look at a Ryzen 3700x or 3900x, if you want to go intel you can get some great performance from the i9 9900k
More memory is still important, so 32gb will work great, with Ryzen you want some faster memory (3200+) since it very much helps you get even more performance from it, intel doesn’t matter as much
SSDs are a must, you can have a large HDD for storage but running your OS, software, projects and samples off of SSDs is an insane performance boost, not to mention they’re extremely affordable these days
larger power supplies (600-1000 watt) can be useful if you want them to run very quietly and efficiently (get one that’s fanless or that has a quiet operation mode when not under load). most reputable manufacturers make good 80+ rated PSUs these days, you can check out BeQuiet or Seasonic for some good ones, but you can run a non-gaming system with a 400watt fanless PSU just fine (you can use PSU calculators to approximate your requirements)
invest in a good air cooler for your CPU (noctua is what I prefer) and run the fans at a slower speed, assuming you want a quiet system if it’s in the same room with you
video cards are where you start getting conflicting opinions and a lot of options since NVidia drivers have been known to cause some issues in the past with Cubase, but I use Nvidia in my DAWs just fine. If you’re not planning on doing any gaming then something like a small passive card (like a GT1030 or something aimed at basic video output/playback) will work great as it’s noiseless and can power a couple high res displays (or ultrawide etc), in general AMD cards will work just fine but they run hotter and louder than Nvidia
I think these days it’s hard to build a bad system, since there’s a ton of great performing stuff out there at any price point. To me it’s been more important to get system cooling/noise done well, configuring the OS to run well for DAW use, and honestly getting a decent keyboard+mouse. On top of it all I find that in my systems what varies a lot is the quality/stability of the audio interface drivers and plugins.
I’ve always gotten my PCs from folks who specialize in building machines specifically for music. Places doing that have generally put some effort into evaluating components with an eye on how nice they play with audio (or don’t). You can leverage this research by basically picking the same components they use - which are typically specified on their website.
Definitely a viable option too. I’ve never used a prebuilt audio PC but I’ve worked with people who have, and they generally get decent results (honestly no better or worse than any properly built system), but what surprised me was how relatively little overhead there was. I can’t speak for the current market of prebuilts but at least a few years ago it wasn’t a bad deal for the hardware.
I think the motherboard choice is one of the most important things. Are there one or two high end ones that are running well with an intel 9900K chip and certain graphics card config at the moment?
If you plan on using UAD, be careful with Ryzen at the moment.
Very good advice…at least to get started.
I have used PC Audio Labs with good results, but that was long ago. Fred at PC Audio Labs actually used to work with Steinberg, but I think he is gone now. This time around I took information from a few different audio websites, then had my nephew build it after additional research. Today I find PC Audio Labs too expensive, but I’ll assume part of that expense is after the sale support. They know DAWs and they know computers.
As said, I would not focus so much on exact components.
Kotsamanidis stated the basics, and I would agree. However get 64 RAM if you have large libraries or compose for film/game etc. Get everything SSD if possible. Windows Professional add some update options.
you mean i7 9700K… (or perhaps you meant i9 9900K) ?
I built my system like Kotsamanidis explained above. With an i9 9900K. This cpu has built in video. I have chosen a mainboard that supports 3 video outs. I run Cubase with 3 full HD Screens just fine with the built in gpu.
Oops! You’re right I meant the i9.
And yeah intel integrated graphics always worked great for me, and also like mart said the motherboard is not something to overlook or go cheap on, that DPC latency was a complete system killer for me on my old i7 6700k build that I ended up just using as a gaming PC in my living room…
As a general rule its the drivers and some built in hardware (wifi being the primary culprit) that impact audio performance.
I use the following general rules for hardware purchases:
- Avoid built in stuff on the motherboard that I don’t require (wifi being the one I avoid the most, though issues with it are mostly historical unless you buy some cheap rubbish adapter that does its primary processing in software e.g. avoid USB wifi adapter).
- Intel processors have in the past tended to have better driver support - that said there is a lot of evidence the current crop of AMD are doing well, unfortunately I don’t have experience with current AMD. Bang for buck wise at the high end there are some good reasons to consider a change but they came out after my recent purchase.
- The onboard Graphics for the Intel chips is fine for Cubase. If for other reasons you require a discrete graphics card then general both AMD and Nvidia cards work fine (though there is a general tendency for Nvidia drivers to give more occasional interference to a DAW than AMD ones, you will see this on forums but it is a minority issue for the most part).
- Check what the Audio PC selling companies use for parts - This will always point you in the right direction.
Point 4 is in fact what I did for my recently purchased system an i9 9900k with ASUS Maximus XI Hero (no-wifi) motherboard, and Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics. I’m also a software engineer for work and an avid gamer, hence the RTX 2080 and the i9 rather than i7.
To keep the PC quiet consider using a PC Case that is designed to be quiet. Also use quality quiet case fans. Mine is also water cooled (the i9 is overclocked). Water or air cooled CPU can be quiet, again just so some research on cooler noise levels (and pump noise for water cooled). I have 7 fans on my PC and the three hard disks make more noise than the rest of the system when running Cubase (when gaming though the RTX2080 makes more noise than everything!). The fans are running at relatively low RPM (<1000 RPM at peak load). More fans moves enough air to keep things cool enough.
Additional note - with Water Coolers, bigger isn’t always better. My 280mm does better than many 360mm. Some reviewers on youtube will do a Noise Normalised comparison of coolers. For a DAW this is actually the more interesting figure as Cubase won’t be taxing the power levels on the CPU as much so you want efficient cooling with low noise. You want the lowest temp with the same noise level in a noise normalised comparison to guide you.
That’s probably to much information but that’s roughly the PC part considerations I had in mind for my overpowered, over spec’d Nerd PC that also happens to be quiet enough and smooth enough to make an excellent DAW.
Already mentioned, my take below.
You can actually have a look at Scan for examples, like https://www.scan.co.uk/shop/computer-hardware/workstations/scan-pro-audio-workstations
You can then build your own, and choose few different components if you like from https://pcpartpicker.com/ where you can find the parts at the lowest prices where you live. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save, putting a computer together isn’t so hard but it doesn’t mean that it’s always completely trouble free.
Couple of examples from two months ago:
Both systems are around £1300 with a graphics card.
- Intel - minimum i5 I would say, pref i7/i9) or AMD (3700X or higher)
- decent air cooler, Noctua NH-D15 (have it on two machines) are highly recommended, I wouldn’t bother with water coolers, more difficult to install and don’t make much of a difference. If you are rendering video a lot, then perhaps but not worth it for music production, the Noctua is very silent.
- Motherboards for Intel, look at spending around £130-£160. For AMD, the decent ones are £220+. You need to think what you’re going to plug in, so I would suggest ones with USB C 3.2 to future proof, instead of buying cards etc. Look at the ports on the back and think what ports you need for your current setup, I would also recommend a motherboard with two M.2 slots for storage.
- Disk drives, would recommend you get an m.2 PCIe drive, Samsung 970 Evo Plus or similar for the OS, if you get a larger capacity one, you can put some of your fav sample/Kontakt libraries on it for quicker loading times.
- memory, 2x16GB sticks, most motherboards have 4 slots, so in case you need more RAM later on, easier to add additional two sticks of RAM and max the possible RAM.
- PSU, 550W should be sufficient, but look at getting a 650W or 750W just in case, cost difference isn’t massive. Modular ones are better if only for cable management.
- you may find that the built in video chip is sufficient, but if you have multiple monitors and/or higher resolution (like 4K), then a dedicated graphics card comes recommended. Anything around £100 would be fine, if you plan to play games occasionally, then double the spend.
- Case, MID tower case should be fine, many decent ones from £50-160, Fractal Design Define R6 ATX Mid Tower Case or similar is good, but it’s also down to preference. Some have windows on the side, you don’t need that. You also have sound proofed cases.
Remember, prices go up and down, so always best to do it during the sales, January sales coming, so you may get yourself some good deals.
If you can’t be bothered doing it yourself, you can always go for a pre-built system. You may find that building it yourself, you may stress yourself out as one part could be faulty, so you could end up wasting hours troubleshooting, returning the faulty part, waiting for the new part etc.
Also, if you do buy the parts, check the stores you’re buying from, some are an absolute pain to deal with when it comes to returns! They’re all your best friend when it comes to taking your money, but some don’t want to know you when there’s a problem.
Reviews haven’t really trickled in yet, but I’m betting that the AMD 3970x will be the best performing CPU for the upcoming few months.
You weren’t particularly specific about how you run things but that would be my bet.
I would then just look at the x399 motherboards and pick one with the i/o you need. You should be able to put your OS, samples and projects all on their own M.2 nvme SSDs going straight into the CPU, with several of the motherboards offering an additional 4 M.2 nvme drives on an add-in card, plus of course 6-8 SATA SSDs.
Like I said, reviews for audio aren’t in yet, but I’d be surprised if anything could beat that CPU.
There are a lot of good suggestions here. I have a large Fractal case that is super quiet, 7 ball bearing fans, no water cooling here, I would recommend this, as someone else suggested.
One thing I will add that might be of interest? I run all SSD drives and it has been made clear to me that the OS on a M.2 drive should not be partitioned. I would suggest the M.2 Samsung 970 Pro 500G for just the OS and programs, and yep, I only have about 62G usage here but I’ve been schooled. I used to run a Samsung 250G M.2 SSD and I partitioned it, two equal partitions of 125G. Here I was thinking I would have quicker access to my OS and Programs and the partition would overwrite itself without a problem. Nope, after 5 months and all the updates of Win10 or whatever, the drive became ‘Overwrite Protected’ and Win 10 would not boot. Samsung honored the warranty (5 years) and ‘fixed’ it for me the only way they know how - erase the drive - and sent it back (it works fine AFTER a formatting). They had no explanation why this happened but they did tell me that it does happen. Microsoft had no explanation either, except to point a finger at Samsung. Too, I learned that Win10, once it’s locked into/onto the MB, it does not want to load up on another SSD, either a fresh one or an old one - unless it’s the ONLY hard drive it can find. (So be careful here if this happens to you.) And btw, MS was somewhat helpful in that they actually sent me to a MS Service Center in my town, trying to get this problem sorted. They were as curious as I was, and they called me every day until I had a resolve. Strange experience…
So, while all of this was going on and prior to sorting my broken DAW, I was talking to some ‘computer folks’, and they were the ppl who suggested that I use a much larger SSD for my OS and Programs - and to NOT partition the drive. That’s what I’m adding to this conversation. My understanding here is that SSDs do not defrag in a way typical of spinning drives. Instead they just keep on writing in a forward direction until they exhaust the space. At that point they will/should rewrite. I can only hope…….
Z390 Designare + the Sapphire 570/580 cards works amazing + you can optimize your performance with G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-4133 CL17 ram that give a huge performance increase in over sampled plugins.
For all VSL networking users, oh my goodness do not use your cheap internet provider modem router switch, they are just garbage for this kind of work. Buy an server rack mount switch, i bought the TP-Link TL-SG1000 16x RJ-45 it’s night and days the VSL network is so stable now, one of my best buy’s in 2019 I’ll never look back…
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I have Ryzen 3700x with 32gb DDR4 3000mhz of ram and Cubase is running very smoothly. My Windows is installed in “Basic” ssd and Cubase and vst’s on m.2 ssd. Loading times are short and projects open fast. I might get another m.2 ssd for Windows also.
On my older build I got Ryzen 2600 with same DDR4. But back then Cubase froze and had many issues while recording and using vst instruments.