Which PC for a warm and punchy sound?

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KVRer
25 posts since 29 Sep, 2021

Post Thu Oct 07, 2021 3:50 pm

(Thread title is of course an homage to Steve Albini's epic expose of the music industry. Anyway...)

TL;DR: Consumerism time! Hit me with some ideas for a new desktop Windows PC.

I may be coming into some money, and I'm thinking of upgrading my old desktop Windows PC (the one I have is ~7 years old). My plan is to remain within the Windows ecosystem for now.

The PC I have at the moment is not *that* bad, but I would like to get something more powerful -- and to get rid of all the accumulated cruft in my current system.

I don't think I will be recording more than 2-3 musicians at a time, and I don't plan on running any giga-instruments. But, I may be doing some C++ or Java programming, and perhaps running a VMware virtual machine now and then.

Which means, what, 16 GB of RAM? And what type of processors are currently out there? I stopped paying attention around the time the Pentium came out.

Any other gadgets or gizmos that you would recommend? SSD? Is fanless a thing already?

Thanks in advance for spending my $$$$$ :ud:

KVRAF
3001 posts since 5 Nov, 2014

Post Thu Oct 07, 2021 3:54 pm


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KVRian
1232 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:15 pm

For your C:\ and audio harddrives, I'd recommend M.2
And SATA based SSD for storage. You can even get a hotswap bay and use SSDs like zip drives.

For the CPU, personally I would go for an AMD Threadripper if I was building a Windows PC right now (though I would rather wait for an Apple Silicon Mac Pro.)

It's not a question of how many musicians you're recording at a time so much as a question of how many tracks * FX you will be running in realtime, and how much latency is acceptable.

Ideally, your equation should be 1 CPU core (or greater) for every 2 audio channels, because serial processing is a single thread, and each core can handle 2 threads per cycle. But you also need sufficient power per core to handle your most demanding processing chain in real-time, because if even one audio channel chokes, your entire project chokes. The REALLY high core count CPUs, like the 64-core, might not give enough raw power per core (only 2.7 Ghz.) ...So 32-core, 4.2 Ghz Threadripper = :tu:

16 GB RAM is probably fine, though I'd go with 32 to be safe. RAM is cheap.

I've gone the route of "silent" PC cases, BeQuiet coolers, expensive German 120mm fans, fanless GPUs, etc, but they still always make more noise than I'd like. That's half the reason for going with a Mac Pro. They are actually very quiet, and that should be particularly true of Apple's RISC-based M1 chips.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

KVRer

Topic Starter

25 posts since 29 Sep, 2021

Post Fri Oct 08, 2021 4:13 pm

That's some great info, thanks!

KVRAF
5556 posts since 24 May, 2002 from Tutukaka, New Zealand

Post Fri Oct 08, 2021 9:30 pm

I definitely agree with the advice for M.2 SSD memory. I got a new laptop early this year after a long hiatus in music and my old desktop being pretty long in the tooth - TBH the speed of the memory blew me away. I was used to the usual long-winded grind of loading up, but now it takes around 3 seconds for it to load up fully. Mine is fairly middle of the road - 16GB RAM an i7 CPU and only 250GB memory but I find it fairly hard to even stretch it. It doesn't sound like mega specs but it works easily for any kind of music-making I can throw at it - no problems with shitloads of FX and quite a few VSTi (though I do use a fair amount of h/w synths). And latency at a reasonable lick - it admittedly doesn't like super low latency though, but I can get it low enough so that I certainly can't hear it.

I think if I was going for a desktop, I'd seriously consider one of those smaller jobbies you can get nowadays. For our home PC I bought a newer model second hand business PC - HP Elitedesk - and actually they can squeeze quite a bit of power in them for very small space, and I used to hate how huge the old towers were/are. They also seem to be very quiet. For example you can get NUC PCs and buy them ready made or custom build. I guess if you custom build then you can squeeze higher end CPUs etc into them, but even as standard you can get i7 and I've seen a gaming i9 one advertised. 2 slots for RAM, so you can get up to 64GB if you wanted. I can't really see you need that amount for music though - 32 should be future-proof enough IMO, and I'm more than happy with 16. Connectivity - they seem to have shitloads of various USB/thunderbolt/HDMI and all kinds of other ports as standard. As for the drives - 250GB sounds low but it does give you plenty - even though I render a lot of my stuff as I go - I can't actually use up the drive. It wouldn't be expensive to get 500GB instead, and then get a big separate old-style drive for simple storage of songs/data etc. That's how I went - A huge Seagate plugin drive doesn't cost much nowadays and you can get TBs with the added bonus of security (as it's not part of your PC). SSD is still more expensive but you just don't need it for simple storage - and the old spinning drives are apparently longer-lived anyway.

You can still get big towers but I just don't see the point nowadays. The PCI memory is now standard and any size of PC seems to have it, even laptops. Yeah, I'm sure you might be able to get 128GB of RAM in a tower - but you ain't gonna need it or use it. I very nearly bought a NUC, but a laptop made more sense for me as I also need it for household use upstairs for playing TV etc (portability and VPNs don't like being cast to the telly). I would also say, don't automatically rule out a laptop either. I used to pooh-pooh them, but have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how much better they are now. I don't feel I compromised by not getting a desktop. Yeah, laptops do tend to have less ports, but even a midrange one has enough to get by with for music. I have 4 USBs - One for dongle, one for soundcard, one for direct midi transfer stuff for synths and one spare so I could happily run a mixer with it. HDMI for playing through a decent sized monitor and bingo! It works. (easy to forget that with a desktop you need at least 2 more USB ports for your keyboard and mouse/ball/whatever, so 6 ports on a desktop is equivalent to having 4 on a laptop). And, the keyboard on my laptop is way better than on this desktop one I'm typing on. Once I got used to it I found the pad thing on the laptop pretty good to work with too - if you get RSI then using a mouse is not good. It helped mine no end.

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KVRAF
2185 posts since 4 May, 2012

Post Sat Oct 09, 2021 2:01 am

If I were building a new PC today then I would be looking at a Ryzen system.

Not sure it's the best time to build a PC - whether there is still a chip shortage - haven't checked for a few months but I suspect there is.

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KVRAF
4309 posts since 7 Jun, 2012 from Warsaw

Post Sat Oct 09, 2021 2:46 am

I don't think I will be recording more than 2-3 musicians at a time, and I don't plan on running any giga-instruments. But, I may be doing some C++ or Java programming, and perhaps running a VMware virtual machine now and then.
I'm a C++ developer myself. Multiple cores and fast SSD are helpful, but not crucial. Nowdays any laptop will do.

However, for virtual machines, especially in Java, you might need a lot of memory. 32 GB+ recommended.
Also, if you plan to run machines or other services NEXT to your DAW, many cores come in handy.
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Tricky-Loops wrote: (...)someone like Armin van Buuren who claims to make a track in half an hour and all his songs sound somewhat boring(...)

KVRist
125 posts since 25 Apr, 2009

Post Tue Oct 12, 2021 5:43 am

Think that for this purpose a build with an i3-10100 / 10105 might even be sufficient. Alternatively if you want some more oomph, the Ryzen 5 APUs are really good bang for the buck.

Prebuilts are OK the way things are now IMO, actually better than self-built if you want a GPU for as little money as possible.

I got one of the HP Pavilion Ryzen 5600G builds for work a short while ago. Performs fine, no complaints. However, their Erica6 boards only support up to 32 gigs of RAM and it has a 180W proprietary-design PSU.

What I'm trying to say is...Read the specs on the manufacturers website. It might save you some trouble further down the road.

KVRAF
3463 posts since 20 Feb, 2004

Post Tue Oct 12, 2021 5:50 am

An old 486 with FastTracker 2 for that vintage sound.
A well-behaved signature.

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KVRAF
11387 posts since 26 Jun, 2006 from San Francisco Bay Area

Post Wed Oct 13, 2021 9:20 pm

I dropped $2500 on an Intel based box (I’ve got a UAD interface that doesn’t support AMD) and it was the best money I’ve ever spent. It runs like an expensive luxury car. Don’t listen to people who say don’t get an SSD. It makes everything so immediate. I used to start up my computer and then go do a chore, now I think it boots faster than my Modal 002. Plugins that I used to worry about using too many voices, now barely hit 20%. Does it sound warmer… yeah. Because I can run something like Knifonium and not even really have to think about buffer overruns.
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KVRAF
34920 posts since 11 Aug, 2008 from another dimension

Post Wed Oct 13, 2021 9:28 pm

Anything with Windows 95
Hi-de-Hi!

KVRer

Topic Starter

25 posts since 29 Sep, 2021

Post Fri Oct 15, 2021 8:39 pm

JerGoertz wrote:
Tue Oct 12, 2021 5:50 am
An old 486 with FastTracker 2 for that vintage sound.
But will it sound punchy?

KVRer

Topic Starter

25 posts since 29 Sep, 2021

Post Fri Oct 15, 2021 8:43 pm

Thanks for the replies everybody, lots of info to ponder. I may not be going for a top of the line machine like some of you, but an SSD and a good amount of RAM (or at least room to grow) is 100% something I will be looking into.

On the other hand, I'm a bit disappointed that fanless is not yet a thing for us mere mortals. Oh well, maybe 7 years from now, when I buy my *next* PC :borg:

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KVRAF
4309 posts since 7 Jun, 2012 from Warsaw

Post Fri Oct 15, 2021 10:12 pm

On the other hand, I'm a bit disappointed that fanless is not yet a thing for us mere mortals
Not if you want to have any power in your gear. For fanless, get a tablet :P

However, there are viable passive PSUs to begin with. Also you might want to get a dampened case, works for me.
Blog ------------- YouTube channel
Tricky-Loops wrote: (...)someone like Armin van Buuren who claims to make a track in half an hour and all his songs sound somewhat boring(...)

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KVRian
1232 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Fri Oct 15, 2021 10:45 pm

Right, you need airflow.
However, many slow moving large fans in the right areas will get you the requisite airflow with the least amount of noise.

Get a platinum-rated hybrid PSU that only turns the fan on if the PSU becomes overheated, and your PSU will be as good as fanless. (You can get an actual fanless PSU, but its better to have a fan that just never comes on but is there as a fail-safe.)

In 5+ years my Seasonic's PSU hasn't come on once.

A good case to look at is the SilverStone Fortress series (FT04 or FT05). Large slow fans, exceptional airflow, and padded with acoustic foam internally.

https://www.silverstonetek.com/product_ ... 19&area=en

And I would definitely recommend getting the most powerful video card you can find that is passively cooled (which means a moderately powered video card, at best.) Video card fans are obnoxious, and cutting them out will be about the best single thing you can do to lower your noisefloor.

The CPU cooler is going to be a bitch, though, and even the quietest coolers are way too loud. :shrug:
Last edited by jamcat on Fri Oct 15, 2021 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

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