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

Kjetil Svalastog Matheussen k.s.matheussen at notam02.no
Thu Dec 21 09:57:01 EST 2006

"Jon H":
>>> 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)
> I disagree.  I've built on Asus boards for linux several times now including
> the SiS chipsets, which worked just fine, and the latest nforce4 chipsets
> which also performed under a modern kernel and distro just dandy "out of the
> box".  Nvidia is linux friend :D

Nvidia is not a linux friend because it doesn't give specifications, at
least as far as I know. If the latest nforce chipsets suddenly have
started to behave nice for linux, thats good though.

>>> 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.
> Actually anything you do visually will require a video card.  The more
> capable the card and the drivers the less resources it will take away from
> the  remaining system that is busy processing your audio.  With a good video

No, you are wrong. This does not matter because the audio programs runs
with something called "Realtime Priority". Which means that as far as the
graphic card drivers itself doesn't cause xruns because its programmed
the wrong way (which is the case for the nvidia driver [1]), the choise
of graphic card does not cause more or less xruns.

[1] I think there is only have observational data for this claim though,
because the source is not available. But it is revealing that when I
change to the VESA driver, all the xruns dissappear. (Yes, I have to use
the nvidia driver, the nv driver doesn't work for mine)

> card that handles the majority of graphical rendering I experience almost NO
> xruns, that's at 5.8ms latency using an onboard (nforce4) chipset, and lower
> than that with a dedicated soundcard like the M-Audio stuff.  Relying on the
> CPU and system ram to render FFT graphics and such will cause xruns, a good
> video card will not.

Thats not correct. Read what I wrote above.

> Further more gaming is pretty much on the forefront of graphics as far as
> linux is concerned.  Gamers under linux means big money to any game company
> that chooses to support linux as well as hardware manufacturers like Nvidia
> or ATI.  I know you aren't talking about wanting to play games here but any
> piece of hardware that is optimized for gaming WILL be optimized for audio
> as well, I guarantee it.

Nope, as long as the audio software is somewhat properly programmed,
your claim is plain wrong.

> Nvidia's proprietary drivers work quite well.  I
> can't really comment on ATI's drivers because I've long been an Nvidia fan.

If you can get the nv driver to work, you should use that one. Then you
might get rid of those last xruns. Do also try the VESA driver.

>> 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.
> When I'm composing music I'd rather not have to touch the keyboard at all.

Really? Well, in that case, having more monitors might make sence.
How do you compose?

> Most modern video cards support multiple monitors these days... why not make
> use of it?  Half the desktop space when you don't have to?  Why?  Throw a
> dozen samples at Ardour (plus it's mixer), envy24control, qjackctl, seq24,
> plus a handful of DSSI or VSTi plugins and you have a very busy desktop.
> Why worry about flipping between virtual desktops when you can see all of it
> at the same time?

I guess it differse between person to person, but personally, I find it
much more convenient to press a key rather than to start looking at a
different 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?
> The original thread asked a  question about rack mounted arrays.  RAID is a
> natural for this discussion.  If I'm recording several takes of several live
> feeds I can easily burn up many gigs of storage in a single session.  Also
> the cost of harddrives is going down rapidly.  Soft RAID now offers an easy
> and relatively inexpensive way to not only increase storage performance but
> redundancy at the same time.  I wouldn't consult on a serious studio setup
> without pushing for redundant storage regardless.  Anything worth recording
> is worth protecting, don't you think?
No, its a waste of time and money. The money part is obvious, the time
part comes from building and configuring, but the most important reason is
that it highers the risk of losing data in case one of your harddisks
break down. Another harddisk also generates more heat -> making more

>> 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
>> silent.
> I run an  Enermax  500w "Liberty" in my personal studio machine.  It is so
> quiet that for a long time I would catch myself holding my hand by the back
> of the case, on occasion,  to make sure it was actually moving air at all!
> It uses a 120mm fan at relatively low RPM to do the cooling.  An excellent
> unit.  Other companies make similar hardware as well.
> As for graphics card?  It is exactly as Kjetil has said, without meaning to,
> I'm sure...  it's *either* "a lot of heat OR a large fan".  Which do you
> prefer?  Modern cards, at least Nvidia's, are almost dead silent in relation
> to ambient noise levels in a recording enviroment.  Especially if you plan
> on running anything that requires OpenGL accelloration or VSTi
> compatibility, as many of them are quite graphically intensive.  If you run
> dual monitors as I have suggested then *definately* pass on anything that
> doesn't have dedicated active cooling!  Anything that relies on passive
> cooling (without getting into water cooling and other exotics) is just
> asking for trouble in this sort of enviroment.

But even if you have a fan on your graphics card, it will still generate
the same amount of heat, which will make the case hotter, and other fans
to go faster. Better _not_ buy a gamer card for audio use, that is my
advice. (wish I had followed that advice myself though. :-) )

Which means that gfx cards that only have passive cooling, probably are 
the ones to generate the least heat, and are therefore probably the best 
ones if you need a silent computer.

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