[linux-audio-user] New member wants to build a reliable DAW

Kjetil S. Matheussen k.s.matheussen at notam02.no
Tue Dec 19 04:06:52 EST 2006

> Hello Mark!
> Coincidently a similar question was asked on a list many of us are 
> members on the very same day you submitted your questions!  It might 
> serve you well to follow that thread too:
> http://lists.agnula.org/pipermail/users/2006-December/011707.html
> Basically I build pretty much the same machine I would build for 
> serious "gaming", perhaps dropped back a few notches on the video card. 
> The motherboard and PSU being the true heart of the system, it's 
> certainly no place to skimp!  Asus has long been my favorite brand of 
> motherboard... out of the last dozen or so machines I've built around 
> their boards I've only had one with problems and their 3 year warranty 
> is genuine.

I second that. Asus is a safe one. But even more important is the chipset 
in use, because not everyone works very well with linux. Personally, I 
have always had good experience with via or intel, but I have heard SiS 
is working fine too. Stay away from nvidia, at least the newest models.
(the older the chipset, the less problems you will have)

> Power Supply needs to be rated at least 500w, higher if you are going 
> to run a RAID or something in the case.  Enermax is my pick for best 
> value, PC Power & Cooling if you have a bunch of extra money to spend, 
> Antec and Thermaltake seem to also be popular brands.  Don't try to save 
> money on a bargain brand power supply!  It will come back to haunt you, 
> for sure!
> As much RAM as you can afford to put in the system is good...  my 
> current machine has 2x1024 DDR and I'll probably double that to 4 gigs in 
> the future.  Processor should be fast but doesn't need to be bleeding 
> edge either and multiple cores are not well supported (yet) so while you 
> can buy  top end CPU(s) for future-proofing just don't expect to get the 
> full worth out of them immediately.  Same can be said with running a 
> 64bit.  There are 64bit distros out there that are "usable" but at the 
> moment are probably better recommended for developers and bug-hunters 
> than for serious audio production.  I currently run a 32bit debian based 
> linux on a 64bit AMD single core but Intel should serve you well also... 
> more of a matter of personal preference here as far as brand goes.
> I mentioned video cards...  I really prefer nvidia under linux, due to 
> the quality of the proprietary drivers and ease of installation, and

This is a bad advice. The proprietary drivers from nvidia cause xruns, and 
should be avoided. But older (ie. at least 2-3 year old) nvidia cards can
be used with the open nv driver instead, which I will recommend, because I 
have had experience with numerous nvidia gfx cards, and have had very 
little problem.

> dual monitor (dvi) is something I couldn't live without in my studio. 
> Currently I run 2 x 21" Dell CRT for a combined desktop of 3200x1200 
> which makes tending to several music apps at the same time much easier 
> than crowding everything together on a single screen.  Any mid-range 
> gaming card should do this well.  Plan on spending at least US$100 here 
> (monitors extra!)

Well, not everyone thinks so. Using a descent windows manager, where you 
can change virtual screen quickly, makes multiple monitors unnecessary.
What is faster, moving your head or eyes (where you have to refocus) to 
look at a different screen. Or, pressing a button on your keyboard? In 
windows, with its horrible unconfigurable interface, I guess it can make 
sence, but in X, you don't need more than one monitor.

> I run a pair of Western Digital IDE drives but if I could afford the 
> upgrade I really want it would be at least four (maybe with a few spares 
> for backup) 200 GB or larger SATA drives set up in a software RAID 0+1 
> or maybe RAID5.  Firewire or SCSI would be nice as well as would an 
> outboard rack if you are going with many more drives than that.

Do you really need RAID for audio work? How many tracks do you use?
Are you sure you couldn't get a way with a single IDE drive?

> I run a Delta44 which works great under linux but do most of my actual 
> mixing and line-in in a seperate mixer.  A Delta1010 should be 
> fantastic!

Good advice. The ice1712 driver works really well on linux.

I also want to add another important thing to concider, which is noise.
It can be better to degrade the performance a bit to also reduce the 
noise. Power hungry processors cause more heat inside the case, which
cause the fans to go faster. Same with lots of harddisks, don't do 
that, only use one. Same with gfx card, don't buy a fancy fast one that 
either makes a lot of heat or have a large fan. You don't need a fast gfx 
card for audio use. You should also use most of your money on the power
supply. Not because of stability problems, but because of noise problems.
The power supply is usually the noisiest part in a computer, and buying
an expensive silent one is well worth the money. It doesn't matter if it
can support 500W, 300W or even 200W is usually enough, but it must be 

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