New Build, Skylake Ready?

Hi - firstly, I apologise for probably making some schoolboy errors below. Just getting back into home recording, and I’m speccing a DAW to run Cubase on. I’ve done a fair bit of research and lurked around here for a long while, but it’s much easier to answer these questions when you’re on the other side having done it. Any help therefore greatly appreciated.

Cubase was my software of choice, since I still have a copy of Pro-24 and an Atari 1040STE in my attic. It might still run, I have no idea. I’m a PC guy. I have nothing against Macs, but I’m used to PCs. Currently looking at the UR824 as an audio interface (simply because of some of the deals on the “Ultimate Recording Pack”, but still considering RME.

My requirements are for a machine to suit a home studio with everything in the same location (sound-proofed and fairly dead room that doubles as a home theatre). I’m guessing I’ll be running a few samples and effects together with drums, bass, guitar, vocals, horns, etc. I’m a keys player, and I’m currently thinking that most of my keys will be going through VST sounds. I therefore want something fairly powerful but quiet. Ideally I don’t want to over-spec, but then anything that saves a year or so off upgrading is ideal. The budget is fairly loose - if it costs a bit more to get a good and lasting job done, I’ll hold out for a month or so. In short, the usual.

I’ve been looking at the Skylake processors over the Haswells and wondering whether they’d be ideal for the job. You can currently get 6-core Haswells, with the Skylake’s topping off at 4. However, the Skylake’s run at a lower TDM and support faster speeds for booting off an M.2 drive. Can’t help thinking that in a year’s time it’d be a no-brainer, but it seems to be a bit of a transition time right now.

Currently looking at…

  • Asus Z170-A motherboard (a bit basic, but seems to tick all the boxes for a DAW, without too much extra)
  • Intel Core i7 6700 CPU (considering the overclock version, but thinking about keeping heat down and reliability up)
  • 32GB (4x8GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 Black 2400Mhz (is 32GB too much? Also looking at 2x16GB to keep 2 slots spare. Opted for 2400Mhz to be more reliable?)
  • Samsung SM951 256GB M.2 OS and App drive (enough to put samples on here too, or have separate SSD drive - or second M.2 for libraries?)
  • Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1TB data drive (I have several TB of storage elsewhere in the house that would be ideal for backing up/archiving, so I’m half thinking about using an SSD for data and not having any spinning discs)

The rest I’m still thinking about. Maybe a Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 case - maybe a 4U rackmount one if I can get it quiet enough. CPU cooler and PSU I’m currently looking at the Nofans, but I’m not tied to them if putting fans in would have a negligible change on noise but a better impact on cooling.

Apologies for the long post - in short…

  • Am I on the right lines?
  • Does anybody use M.2 drives to boot/run Cubase on? And would 256GB be enough for that (and libraries)?
  • Is 32GB enough RAM? Too much?
  • Should I look at conservative overclocking and could I still keep it cool and quiet?
  • Do the Skylake chips offer a good advantage over the Haswells for DAWs? Speed-wise, they’re a little uninspiring (although they might already be plenty good enough), but the other things that come with them (GPU, DDR4 support, much faster M.2) seem to make for a lower power, faster and simpler system (albeit with fewer cores).

Thank you

I can’t comment on all your tradeoffs, but I personally wouldn’t worry about M.2 vs regular SSD boot times. Sure M.2 might be faster, but my DAW runs off regular SSD and it boots in a couple of seconds. I can’t imagine the extra cost of an M.2 drive is really worth it, because you gain no practical advantage.

Thanks, makes sense. Probably best to pull it back a bit - the overall running is more important, and if that’s not likely to change, then a straight SSD is fine. Thank you


I would highly recommend a Noctua NH-D15 for cooling, very quiet (you can hardly hear it even with heavy load) and efficient. Just make sure you have enough room in the case, particularly if you’re going to be using a rackmount.

Mixing dim memory stick with different speed (first 2 x16) and then buy additional DIMMS later on will keep you at the speed of the lowest speed in your machine. SO buying a set later with higher speeds will do nothing to your speed as the orginal dims will be lower in MHz.

Thank you - since the original post, I’ve looked more into case and cooling. I’m currently looking at the Nofan CR-80EH, which is entirely passive (and rated for 80 watt TDM processors), with a Fractal Design Define R5 case (two 140mm fans plus top exhaust and built for silence) and a Seasonic passive PSU. Mainly based on one of Scan Computers’ silent pro-audio models. However, I’m a little bit wary that I might be pushing the temperatures to the limits, and I don’t want a machine that I’m constantly tinkering with - I want to pretty much build it and go.

I’ll therefore look into that, since it might be virtually inaudible (or at least, a sensible trade-off).

Thanks for that - whenever I’ve upgraded RAM in the past, I’ve only ever added like for like, or replaced it completed. Since writing the topic, I’ve realised that the 16GB sticks are quite expensive, and decided on 2x8GB for 16GB in total (hopefully that should be enough for now, and it’s not so expensive). There’s still two slots spare to up it to 32GB in future.

The only reason I’ve gone for this speed, when the motherboard is capable of higher, is that overclocking is required on anything above (as I understand). I’m not against overclocking by any means, but it’s trying to strike a balance between power, reliability and heat/noise output.

All food for thought, thank you :slight_smile:

Ok, keep the following also in mind, the most modern motherboard use 4 channel memory access, when having only 2 dim you’re not utilizing the max speed in regards to memory bandwidth, with 4x4 dims you would benefit from these technologies.

I have the R5 and can highly recommend it. It’s really quiet (I can’t hear whether it’s on or off, it has a powerled for a reason :stuck_out_tongue:)
Other than the 2 140mm intake fans, I have no casefans. I kept the top closed to keep the case clean and silent. I use a Scythe Mugen 4 PCGH edition CPU cooler which has 2 very quiet 120mm fans. They directly face the rear fan position of the case, so I don’t even need an exhaust fan. Add a high quality PSU and you have a practically inaudible system.

Ahh, interesting! Thank you. Long time since I’ve built a powerful machine, lots of catching up to do. I’m off to read the motherboard’s manual…

That’s cool, thank you :slight_smile: I guess it’s a choice between passive CPU cooler and PSU with top vents off, or fan-cooled and exhausting out the rear. Scan’s silent machine is based on one of the cheaper Fractal Design cases, but with the same cooler and PSU, so I’m guessing it should be OK, but as with all of these things it’s hard to tell until you try.

P.S. Yes, 120mm fans, not 140, sorry.

Thanks for all of the advice guys. I eventually went for the Skylake with a passive Nofan CR-80EH cooler and the Antec case. It really is quiet. I haven’t yet set the BIOS up to run the fans in quiet mode - I’ll see how I get on. I also went for the M.2 drive - just for my own curiosity if nothing else. It was £10 more than its SSD equivalent, and installed easily for Windows 10 Home. Went for 32GB of RAM in the end.

I’m running Cubase 8.5 and very slowly getting used to it. The band I’m in has a Behringer XR-18 that can record 16 tracks over USB, so I plan to train myself tidying up a few gigs.
The setup is this so far - the PC is on the floor, Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse and Steinberg controller and Audio Interface. I plan to rack the interface soon, and I’m currently making one good Roland A-90 out of my last three to serve as a master keyboard in the sliding tray.

Still a lot of work to do, but I’m looking forward to learning. It’s a system which I’ve had to save for over a number of months, but I’m happy.

Thank you for your help :smiley: