Computer Parts- Good Enough?

After coming to the conclusion that my macbook pro was not built to be able to handle Cubase 6, I have decided to build a customized PC. So far I’ve selected several parts with some help from my friend. Now I need everyone’s advice so I can confirm that my new PC will be more than capable of running Cubase 6.

HUGE EDIT: Please take note of this quote, because the discussion has shifted toward it.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition 3.3GHz, 3.7GHz Turbo Socket AM3 125W Six-Core Desktop Processor

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E16819103913

Soundcard: Creative 70SB088000004 PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E16829102024

The Motherboard I chose supports USB 2.0, USB 3.0, esata, and firewire.

To be honest, the CPU will hopefully be good enough since it’s the best that AMD currently offers. As for the sound card, I’m not reading the best reviews but it seems okay. I need everyone’s opinion however. the card advertises sound dedicated to gamers and cinematic enthusiasts when I’m interested in pure raw and uncorrupted sound.

I’m looking forward to responses. If more parts need to be listed, please ask.

Have you looked at Core i7? It seems to be the leading processor at the moment. I am not stating that as a fact, just as my perception.
As far as the sound card, are you planning on recording external audio? If so, I wouldn’t spend the money on the Soundblaster. You need an “audio interface” card. If you just want to record MIDI, a “MIDI interface”. There are plenty of combined “audio/MIDI interfaces” available in external (USB/firewire) or internal.
HTH
J.L.

The Xfi is indeed not what you’re after, that is a consumer grade audiocard meant for playing games and movies with. You’ll need an audio interface with proper inputs and maybe some midi IO like Jaslan mentioned. I don’t think newegg sell these at all. In your pricerange, look for M-audio, E-MU, Presonus, Tascam, Focusrite, Lexicon etc. These audio interfaces can be USB, PCI or Firewire. If you choose for firewire, check that your selected motherboard has a firewire chip from Texas Instruments.

That CPU is fine. Intel is currently faster, but for that price the AMD CPU gives great performance that should last you a while.

I’ll try looking for a replacement for the soundblaster card then. I just want to lighten the load off of the CPU. The built in audio is probably not good enough. As for the texas instruments, I’m not sure how exactly I’m supposed to figure out if my motherboard has a texas instruments firewire port. My friend is also telling me that the i7 isn’t worth it, but clearly it is faster. I don’t want to have to build ANOTHER computer. This will have to last me quite a while. How is the performance with the AMD chip? I really do not want to encounter audio clicking, popping, or crackling.

Okay, so right now I will search for a component replacement for the soundcard, but I would appreciate it if someone would recommend something specific. Thank you for the responses thus far. To make things easier, I will update this post with a FULL list of parts. (First I have to switch to my other computer)

Motherboard: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131655


RAM: Team Elite 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory


Case: GIGABYTE gz-ph1a3 Black SGCC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Graphics Card:

PowerColor AX6850 1GBD5-DH Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity

COOLER MASTER GX Series RS750-ACAAE3-US 750W Power Supply (Also pretty important- not 100% sure how much power my computer will need)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E16817171053

All right. Now I’ll go look for sound equipment. Looking forward to more responses.

I found a couple internal ones here…
http://www.ramelectronics.net/music-sound/computer-music/audio-interfaces-sound-cards/pci-audio-interfaces/c30000-c35000-c35100-c35102.html?sorter=productname-en-asc

I see people who use these on the forum quite often. Personally, I use a USB interface.
The Texas Instruments chipset for the firewire is only important if you want to use a firewire interface. Personally, I think firewire is dying. I notice alot of newer computers (laptops) don’t come with firewire anymore.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-10141810-76.html
USB 2.0 is very fast and USB 3.0 is supposedly crazy fast. Steinberg makes their own USB interface along with the ones mentioned by Strophoid.
My personal opinion is, for a home user, USB is the way to go. In a professional studio, the requirement for a lot of input channels may force the internal option.
Sincerely,
J.L.
http://www.sweetwater.com/c695--USB_Audio_Interfaces

Ah I see. Right now I’m simply using a generic midi-to-usb connector to hook up my midi keyboard. Still, and internal card would reduce the latency. The previous card was $99…but these are much more expensive. Maybe there are more?

Also, I’m starting to get the feeling that we are a bit confused about the purpose of the midi/sound card. On my previous computer, I am forced to use the internal sound card to listen to my tracks. It’s probably not a good on-board sound device either, because I hear hisses and crackles. (Even through my headphones). My primary objective is to improve sound quality for listening, mixing and composing. This is not necessarily related to ANY external MIDI equipment I have. Still, an internal audio/midi interface would be great considering that the external ones seem to be a lot more expensive. Do these cards have headphone jacks and everything I need? Again, this is not simply for MIDI device to computer routing. I want to have better sound output in general. (Please forgive me if I’m misunderstanding something.)

-I think I will go with the $99 pci card for now, that is, if it does what I require. I can’t tell really if it does. I want to not rely on the on-board sound for listening through headphones.

ALSO: I forgot to mention that the board I’d be getting has eSATA and USB 3.0.

The important thing to realize is that almost all of the audio interfaces are capable of low latency (5ms or less) IF your processor and hard drive can keep up without having to increase the buffer size much. I think you are overemphasizing the latency of the audio device. Choose the one that has the features that you need like, MIDI inputs, XLR inputs, 1/4" inputs, headphone jack, balanced line out, SPDIF line out, etc.
The fastest sound card in the world will still crackle and pop if the processor is not giving it a steady stream of sound data. So make sure the processor is fast, and get a 7200 RPM drive (solid state is ideal but costly).
Are you going to record any external audio like a guitar, vocals, drums, etc?
If so, how many inputs would you need at a time? Are you micing an entire drum set or just playing your guitar?
J.L.

I have no external instruments at the time besides my midi controller. Primarily my projects are entirely midi-based.
So…I simply need high quality audio a headphone jack, and standard midi cables. The $99 M-AUDIO card doesn’t seem to have headphone jacks. I see what you mean when it comes to the latency, but I can’t spend that much more… Hopefully there’s something there.

As for the CPU, it’s the top of the line AMD processor, but it’s not as fast as the top-of-the-line intel core i7. The drive will be a standard non Solid-state 7200 rpm drive- specifically:

Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E16822136513

Wait… that drive is 5400 rpm…and slow. Can anyone recommend a really good drive then? (Around the same price, but actually good?)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136533

This one is good. 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 6 GB/s, $89

For the sound card, since you don’t need ANY external audio recording cabability (and your keyboard can go USB into the computer), you could get by with the integrated sound (if the MOBO has it). Otherwise, the Soundblaster is fine for that too. When you were getting crackles and pops before, I don’t believe that was the sound cards fault. It was just the computer not able to keep up and provide a constant stream of audio data to the sound card.
Not sure what all the feature of the Soundblaster Xfi are but it probably costs more because of its ability to “shape” the sound and do surround or “bass boost”. Not sure if you want to do surround but you can “shape” the sound in Cubase (EQ, delay, reverb, etc.)

I use a laptop. When I am at home, I use a USB audio interface to record my guitar (electric and acoustic). When I am away from home, I use the built in sound card with no problems since I am not recording any external audio. I do have a small 25 key USB MIDI controller which uses its own driver to get into the computer.

HTH
J.L.

Yes i think the Xfi would be fine for my purposes, but now that you mention the bass-boosting and surround features, I’m a little worried. Features like that tend to get in the way of audio production…I hope those can be turned off. It’s too bad there’s nothing that’s the best of both worlds for an affordable price. (MIDI, AUDIO, AND Headphone jacks). The sound-card is really the last thing I need to finalize on my list.

Also, thank you for all of your responses. I realize that this is basically a two person conversation.

I would just like to point out that the i7 900 series has triple channel memory, so this may be useful if you plan to use sampled instruments. Also, the i7 950 has dropped to the ~$200+ price line when it is on sale. I remember seeing it at microcenter for 200, in California so it may vary by areas. From reviews I have read it is better than the amd processor. I have the 930 and I have not even come close to maxing it out yet (although I dont do projects with track counts above 20-30 most of the time, so I guess it just depends).

Also, one last thing I highly recommend getting a good mobo, such as those made from gigabyte or asus. Make sure they use good quality capacitors. My last (budget) mobo crapped out after 4-5 years, so I guess it just depends on how long you plan to use the computer.

How about for instance this?
€99,- @ Thomann.de

The Soundblaster card will be money wasted. Don’t even bother with it.

Are you sure that the onboard-sound will be enough? I DO need headphone jacks, but I can’t afford an external interface at the moment. Basically I shouldn’t even bother with the card at all? I’d like to at least make performance and quality better…

OH! I did actually notice that for some reason my external keyboard is quiet compared to sound generated from my current computer. It uses a generic usb/midi converter from Amazon to connect…I wonder if that has something to do with it? In which case I WOULD need a direct audio/midi interface card. Maybe there’s simply a setting in Cubase that amplifies MIDI input more?

As long as you don’t need to record any external sources or need multiple outputs your onboard card should suffice. with asio4all drivers I expect it to work fine. The xfi really isn’t made for DAW use and a wasted investment because you’ll not be using any of it’s extra features.

Another inexpensive option for audio/midi interface.
http://www.google.com/products/catalog?q=Alesis+IO2&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=11352464512296711463&sa=X&ei=2adGTrrRNunFsQKYz93-BQ&ved=0CEoQ8wIwAg

This is turning out to be a good discussion. Great tips from everyone. Based on everything so far, I recommend skipping a sound card for now. Spend the money saved on fast processor and hard drives. Later on, if you want to record audio or drive large monitors instead of headphones or computer speakers then you can always add a USB or PCI audio interface. If you are worried about installing a PCI card later by yourself, don’t. It really is very simple.
J.L.

Thanks everyone for all of the advice. Indeed I think it’s best to forget about the sound-card for now, as it’s really an unnecessary component. For right now everything seems set, although computer case and motherboard opinions/suggestions would be great. At the moment it isn’t clear to me if the selected motherboard has the proper display options. (DVI, etc.) The computer case I previously selected actually has somewhat poor reviews that claim that the case is too cramp and poorly made. This is all subjective though. Otherwise all of my computer parts are finalized. I will still update this thread with questions should they arise. Thanks again.

EDIT: I’m also planning on getting this monitor:

http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&sku=U2211H4

Unfortunately I’ve never owned one so this adds to the price a little bit.

For a case it’s not too big a problem if it’s too cramped. You won’t be using big videocards anyway and after building the PC you don’t ever open it again apart from maybe cleaning some of the fans every now and then. What’s more important is how much noise the fans make. Making an accurate judgement on your mix is difficult with a tornado on your desk :wink:
Also, be very careful if the case has a powersupply built in. A good powersupply is a very important investment. Although provided power is usually quite allright with cheap Powersupplies, you’ll find that they may not be very reliable. I’ve had my share of cheap powersupplies that work great when they work, but many broke withing 2 years which can be a risk for your other hardware as well. A good powersupply may add a bit to the cost if you didn’t count on that yet, but it’ll prove to be cheaper in the long run.

I’ve added in a non-built in power supply to the list already, but I didn’t know it was THAT important. Thanks. As for the case size, I will be using an extra graphics card. On this computer I don’t have the specific case bookmarked, but I will update this post as soon as possible.