Considering a mini-itx DAW (Intel B85 chipset)

I’m considering moving to a mini-itx based DAW. Main reason is that I want something a bit more compact/lower power usage, and I just think mini itx systems ware way cute! :smiley: :laughing:
Plus, my hands are itching for a new build project :mrgreen:

The (most relevant) specs of my current rig:

  • Gigabyte EX58-UD5 (Intel X58)
  • Intel Core i7 920 @ 2.67GHz (Bloomfield)
  • 3 x 2GB Kingston ValueRAM DDR3-1133
  • Presonus Firebox

The system I’m looking at contains the followoing:

  • ASRock B85M-ITX
  • Intel Core i5 4570S
  • 2 x 4GB Crucial Ballistix Tactical DDR-1600
  • Dawicontrol DC-1394 PCIe FireWire Controller (TI chip)
  • Presonus Firebox
  • Silverstone Fortress FT03-MINI (drool)

Looking at the specs at a basic level and some (non-DAW-related) benchmarks, I’m thinking that at the very least I should approach (or even surpass) the performance I’m getting with my current i7 rig (which handles anything I throw at it with ease).

My question is: Is that a correct assumption? I know the preferred chipset would be the higher end (and expensive) Intel Z87, but as far as I can tell, the main benefits from that chipset over the -lower end- B85 chipset are mostly related to overclocking, RAID, Crossfire/SLI configurations and available I/O (I.E.: only one PCIe slot on a mini-itx board, fewer USB/SATA ports etc).

I basicly only need 1 PCIe slot for the TI firewire controller, I only need 2 SATA ports (1 SSD and 1 regular HDD) have 3 Steinberg CMC’s, keyboard, mouse and the Cubase dongle, so in terms of I/O…I should be set.

I might bump the ram up to 16GB, but other than that I don’t really see any problematic area’s for my needs. The only thing I’m a little ‘worried’ about is compatibility with the B85 chipset (and perhaps with the FW controller). I remember back in the day there were certain chipsets you’d want to avoid for a DAW…So am I safe with the B85 chipset? Anyone out there running a Cubase DAW based on a B85 mini-itx system?

A little update:

I already have a Core i3 min-itx system (Core i3 3220), but I couldn’t do any testing on that as it doesn’t have a FireWire interface for my Firebox and obviously the motherboard doesn’t have a PCI interface for my RME HDSP card (which I also still have, but am going to get rid off, as I’m getting pretty similar performance of the Firebox). But then I realised I also have Traktor Pro which comes with a decent USB audio interface.

So I took the SSD from my i7 rig and put it in my i3 mini-itx system and after Windows did its installation of systemdrivers, I was able to put it to the test and the outcome is sort of in line with my expectations (having looked at some synthetic benchmarks of my i7 vs i3 CPU’s). The i7 gives a bit better performance than the i3 (I used the Audio 6 USB interface on both systems for good measure).

With the Core i5 4570S being substantially faster than the Core i3 3220 and quite a bit faster than the i7 as well (on paper that is), I think I’m convinced that I’ll be ok. It Doesn’t really settle any possible chipset compatibility issues I might encounter, but I’ll chance it.

So I’m just going to go ahead with it and order/build the system. Will post an update with my findings. :slight_smile:


You are correct, the z series chipsets are more suited to overclocking, which is not really something you need to worry too much about. Therefore, you probably don’t need to do it.

Sounds like you have a processor and such picked out; I don’t think you’ll have chipset compatibility issues. If you use an ASrock motherboard, they are pretty good in my experience.

Make sure you unlock and unpark your processor :slight_smile:

Got my system up-and-running. have had some time to do some testing, and I’m pleased with the results. Performance has boosted a bit compared to my previous build.

It’s not a massive boost by any means, but still a solid improvement of around 5-10%. Only thing is that at the lower latencies (8ms or less) the RME HDSP 96/32 does seem it was just a tad more stable than the Presonus Firebox.
Ironically though, the Firebox seems more stable on 6ms buffer, than when I put it on say…12ms. The average CPU load increases, but there are no troubling peaks causing dropouts…very strange.

This is the system I ended up with:

  • ASRock B85M-ITX
  • Intel Core i5 4570S
  • 2 x 8GB Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3-1600
  • Xigmatek Nebula (amazing looking mini-itx case!)
  • be quiet! Pure Power L8 430W CM PSU
  • Dawicontrol DC-FW800 PCIe
  • Presonus Firebox

Yeah, my i3 system has an ASRock mobo as well and so far I’ve have no issues with it. Don’t know about durability, but the UEFI/BIOS is highly customizable…great bang for buck mobo’s in my (though admittedly limited) experience so far.

Have never bothered with CPU unparking. Might give it a go, but CPU load isn’t an issue for me at the moment as I’ve still loads of headroom left even in my heavy projects. Only thing is the occasional DPC hiccup, which is more related to optimization of compononets/drivers (which I’ve yet to do) than CPU resources I’d think…although I suppose having a delay incurred due to a CPU core that needs re-activating, could also affect DPC latency.

That’s great! Sounds like a good system. I like the ASrock boards, durability seems pretty solid so far.

Good luck to you!