#1
I've been slowly but surely building up my home studio (an array of mics, i finally got a good interface, getting monitors, etc) and through all my recordings have been using the same HP laptop i've had for five years now. needless to say, cubase and sony vegas get bogged down pretty easily, no matter how clean i try to keep the hard drive.

I want to get a desktop to have exclusively for audio and video work. just install cubase and vegas and not even bother hooking it up to the internet while using my laptop for all the other nonsense you use a computer for. looking to keep my budget under $500. i was wondering what UGers might recommend for a decent PC that is fairly inexpensive but has enough processing power for what i need.
#2
Have you considered using a Linux distribution? Generally they are less intensive on resources and are also free. The only thing I don't know about is if a DAW you're willing to use is available on a Linux distribution. You could also just upgrade a few components of the laptop too. Just an alternative idea.
#3
Linux is not a great idea if you want pro-grade bedroom recordings. Yes it's possible to set up a recording station using Linux but the amount of hardware/software you'll need to get it all working, not to mention basic knowledge of coding/how Linux works in the first place (using Ubuntu, their 'easiest' distribution, may look simple if your aim is to watch movies and to text editing on your computer) is pretty stellar. Besides that, there are only a handful DAW's available for Linux which will match Cubase's complexity, most of which will cost you about as much as the OP's budget for his computer in the first place.

That being said, if you do set it up properly and are willing to spend both time and money on it you'll get great results.

Let's get back to the problem at hand though. OP states having a $500 budget, which is not a lot. Getting a computer which will give you decent results for both video and audio editing will cost you a LOT more than that. The thing is that you'll need to make a choice between investing money in your CPU or in your GPU. For audio editing, the more cores and the faster they go the better, while this may not necessarily be the case for video-based stuff. Yes it'll use a lot of CPU but the better your GPU, the lower your processor load will be and thus how faster you'll be able to work, render etc.

So basically you're sort of in a split. As far as my knowledge goes, I'd say you can either:
(1) get a budget gaming PC with a decent processor and GPU, but don't expect really good results for both video or audio.
(2) You can build your own PC, put a high-grade 8-core CPU in it, put in 16gb of RAM alongside it, but cheap out on the GPU, and have a seriously potent audio station.
(3) You can go for a budget 4-core CPU but buy a computer with two GPU's in SLI or Crossfire-arrangement and have a pretty serious powerhouse for video editing.

You say that you've been working on your home studio project for a while now. So I guess you have at least some patience. What I'd do is go for option 2, but make sure that the motherboard in your computer will support two high-grade GPU's in SLI/Crossfire arrangements. That way you can always upgrade your computer over time.
Last edited by Eryth at Sep 14, 2014,
#4
Quote by Eryth
Linux is not a great idea if you want pro-grade bedroom recordings.
In short, this.

Actually you wouldn't really wanna use linux for anything about audio editing and recording.

There's little to no software for that, and there are almost no drivers for whatever audio interface and you'd risk not being able to use whatever you own at the moment.
Name's Luca.

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#5
I'd suggest Windows 7 which will eat up about $100-150 of your budget so see what you can get for about $350. Maybe the used market - look up local computer shops, we have Micro Center that lease machines and sell them when they get back, you can get something with OS loaded that is about a year old for about your budget or a lot less.

You could go the Mac route - the Mac Mini is thereabout, maybe just a touch above $500 and I can confirm it runs well, have a buddy running Logic and Cubase on it, no prob.

If you decide to build your own I'd suggest go AMD processor and buy a board that accommodates a graphics interface and more memory slots, also don't skimp on the power supply. I built mine for about $700 originally and it still holds strong. Don't know if you need firewire but also don't skimp on that - buy the firewire card from GuitarCenter or one of the audio suppliers, that way you're sure is the Ti chip (other fw chips have been problematic for audio).

Off the top of my head:
Win 7 Home = $100
Processor + Mobo + ram= $300
Case w/ PSU $50
HD $60
DVD burner $25

Run your choices by us, maybe look up DYI pre-packaged systems, like these:
http://www.newegg.com/DIY-PC-SuperCombo/PromotionStore/ID-33

Try Linux if you want, Tracktion offers free Linux software so it could be a good way to go. Nothing stops you from wiping the system and putting Windows on it afterwards. I guess I am not one of the Linux haters on here. If you read forums and with a little knowledge you can do really well. I had a problem settings the ALSA drivers in my case and a guy from a Linux chat forum spent two hours going over things with me until I got it right. I put in http://www.energy-xt.com/ at the time.

http://www.tracktion.com/?linux
Last edited by diabolical at Sep 14, 2014,
#6
Using linux for audio is tieing a rock to a stick to hit a nail instead of using a hammer.

It works, but it's making things harder than it should be, you do have a bigger potential to shape your own hammer to perfection, but one must wonder if it's worth spending more (Valuable) time away from the music side of things.

Also, there's one thing Mac's and most audio computer have in common, and that's an intel cpu.

Amd is good, but most software/daws seem to be written/tested with Intel chips. I guess what I try to say is that an intel chip is a 'safer' choice stability wise.

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Sep 14, 2014,
#7
There's no stability problems with AMD rigs and editing. However, a lot of DAWs are still poorly threaded and would benefit from a couple of fast cores (like an i3) over many slow ones. Video editing is a different story.
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#8
May be a bit more pricey but you're never gonna go wrong if you get a Mac Mini and download Logic Pro X. Logic is ridiculously well priced these days and the Mac is flexible to easy RAM upgrades if you ever needed to (but in all honesty the basic 4GB is plenty!).
#9
I recommend a "bare bones" kit from Tiger Direct. For $300-500.00 you can get a great computer (if you have some ability to put "slot A into slot B" or better find a friend who knows what he is doing). You can also get a great package or look into their used (refurbished) desktops. As an example I just looked at their refurbished stock and see an HP/Compaq 6500 Desktop with 8g of ram, 1 TB of hard drive and comes with Windows 7 64 bit and a one year warranty for $299.00. I put together a barebones about a year and half ago and couldn't be happier. I run Sonor X, Sony Vegas, Sony Sound Forge and T-Racks Deluxe mastering software with no glitches or problems. I also use it to goof off with the latest Microsoft "Flight Simulator". My crashes are plentiful and a thing of beauty.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Sep 15, 2014,
#10
Windows 7 Ultimate (yes, it has extra tools and goodies and is worth it)
Either an AMD X 4 965 Black Edition CPU or an Intel i7 Core Quad, like a 920 CPU
A compatible motherboard, for the AMD, a Socket AM3, for the Intel, an LGA 1366 socket mobo
6 to 8 Gigs of RAM, DDR3, use Crucial, Corsair, Patriot, OCZ or Geil RAM
Minimum 1 Teribyte Hard disk, I would recommend two of them if you are doing a lot of audio
A good video card, because working with the computer a lot requires a good vid card - ATI HD 5870
#11
Quote by HazelTran
Windows 7 Ultimate (yes, it has extra tools and goodies and is worth it)

It's really not, it's also an outdated OS now (8 has been out for ages, 8.1 has been out for plenty too, and 9 is on it's way

Quote by HazelTran
Either an AMD X 4 965 Black Edition CPU or an Intel i7 Core Quad, like a 920 CPU

The AMD is seriously out of date, I got my 955 in 2012 and it was on it's way out of sale then.

Quote by HazelTran
A compatible motherboard, for the AMD, a Socket AM3, for the Intel, an LGA 1366 socket mobo

AM3 is old, and 1366 is uncommon and a PITA.

Quote by HazelTran
6 to 8 Gigs of RAM, DDR3, use Crucial, Corsair, Patriot, OCZ or Geil RAM
6-8GB is a decent rec, but don't get hung up on brands. Also you've listed just about all the reputable brands out there...
Quote by HazelTran
Minimum 1 Teribyte Hard disk, I would recommend two of them if you are doing a lot of audio
1TB is solid. 500GB is enough if it's a dedicated studio machine.

Quote by HazelTran
A good video card, because working with the computer a lot requires a good vid card - ATI HD 5870

Can you please, pretty please, get up to date if you're going to make recommendations. That AMD card (yeah ATi got swallowed up by AMD years ago) is about 4 generations out of date.
#12
For a budget I'd recommend staying away from Intel for the processor. I too, am planning on building a PC at the same price point. My specs are:

CPU: AMD FX-6300(6 core, 3.5 GHz). I believe this is on sale now. Don't know when it will end though.

GPU: Radeon R9 270. You could go with the cheaper HD 7770. It's cheaper but I'm pretty sure it'll be dated in a year.

Mobo: Gigabyte GA-970-DS3P(AM3+ socket)

Get a case with a bundled PSU to go with it.

If you're a student, Windows offers a Student discount. It should cost you ~$70 for Windows 8.1

Get any RAM by the "reputable" brands(Corsair, Kingston, Crucial, OCZ etc.) You probably won't need any of the "high-performance" RAMs or hard drives.
#13
The traditional answer for serious video editing is still a dedicated workstation system. These are engineered for performance, often with Xeon processors offering high-performance speed and cores, video acceleration from a professional-grade GPU, integrated high-performance hard drives, and more attention to system integration issues like heat dissipation.

Windows Movie Maker is supremely easy to use. Just drag and drop a few clips onto the program (most formats are supported) and immediately they're assembled into order; transitions and special effects are just a click away.
#14
WIn 7 is now the TO GO OS for audio editing. I don't think you need to go to Ultimate as it is overkill and none of the features really matter in the audio recording world. Win 7 Pro is good enough although I can't think of any reason not to just use Home Edition.

Win9 might be the way to go in the future, but unless you want major annoyances and plain old M$ stupidity, avoid Win8 like the plague.

As far as HD the idea currently running in the audio community is to buy a SS drive for your recording app and the OS, this way things are running as fast as possible on that disc and then adding a second HD that has your recording files. Docked eSATA or USB2 or USB3 is suggested although I haven't had issues with second attached internally. The cool thing about the docking station is that you can use more than one HD and swap them as needed. Also some people tested how to format the drives for performance and was discovered that if you format the drive in several spaces, the first partition created is closest to the circle in the middle, thus the spinning access rate is faster than the second and 3rd one. Think of a physical circular plate that spins and you'd understand that the radius closer to the circle is faster...unless you're on a SSD.
For the recording drive you can get 7200rpm drive, honestly the smaller the better they are at speed, but recently I can't say I am running into huge problems even with 1tb, but probably optimal would be 500gb. I guess you could also split one drive into 3 partitions, with OS and audio apps on the first partition, recorded audio on the 2nd and the 3rd for samples and midi libraries, storage of master files and such...

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/may05/articles/pcmusician.htm

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/Apr02/articles/pcmusician0402.asp

bit older data but pretty much still applies, disregard the FAT32, I'd use that only if I have to access on Mac PC as it doesn't support read/write on NTFS system. I get around that by using a Linux DVD standalone disc but it is inconvenient...amd I work less on Pro Tools on Mac in a studio than I did a few years back.
#15
Quote by diabolical
WIn 7 is now the TO GO OS for audio editing.
I mostly agree with your post, but how many serious recording studios have you been at since they introduced DAW's?
Name's Luca.

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I don't know anything about this topic, but I just clicked on this thread because of your username :O
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Clue: amplifiers amplify so don't turn it on if you need quiet.
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#16
3, all running PT on Macs, I still do projects in one as engineer. Locally you basically can't do business without Pro Tools, if a client sees anything else they walk out. On Windows most upgraded to 7 with XP becoming obsolete. Win8 is a joke, and a cluttered mess, especially the screen operations.
#17
Quote by diabolical
3, all running PT on Macs, I still do projects in one as engineer. Locally you basically can't do business without Pro Tools, if a client sees anything else they walk out.
I raise you Logic.

Win 8.1 also works pretty fine for me actually.
Stuff's a mess but it's not like you gotta work with the messed up stuff when editing audio.
Name's Luca.

Quote by OliOsbourne
I don't know anything about this topic, but I just clicked on this thread because of your username :O
Quote by Cajundaddy
Clue: amplifiers amplify so don't turn it on if you need quiet.
Quote by chrismendiola
I guess spambots are now capable of reading minds.
#18
I had DP on the Mac in the studio, and loved it. No client will touch anything but Pro Tools, although they didn't even know I did a blind test on a comped session by putting the project in DP and recording there, the dude couldn't even tell, he asked for PT at the door, I showed him the desktop shortcut for PT, opened DP and did the whole thing in there, he couldn't even tell. The moral of the story is that the hype is so big, and PT was untouchable because only studios could afford it.

I'm mainly on S1 now and am pretty happy. Win8 - I was one of the early testers and setup a few PCs for friends for recording, even after all the tweaks the stupid tablet screen with store and other crap wouldn't quit showing up at the most inopportune moment. It was annoying as hell and no bump in performance.
#19
Well yeah, that's how beta test work... Honestly if you stop crying about the start screen for a week or two and just use 8.1, you'll get over it pretty quick. The performance increase isn't huge, but it's there. Also the biggest reason to go with 8 is IIRC windows 7 isn't supposed to be sold anymore.

Also random start screen was either 1. you hit the windows key, or 2. beta test glitch.
#20
Well the erratic behavior continues even in the later versions... The "store" idea is also ridiculous. If you follow up the IT community you'll notice the consensus that it is the new ME and people will forget about it as soon as 9 is out.
I personally hate the dual screen schizophrenia and absolutely have no use of the toylike feel of the store screen and tablet-like behavior on PC. Actually the closest to real OS atm is OS X but you have be ready to drink Apple's cool aid.
#21
Quote by diabolical
WIn 7 is now the TO GO OS for audio editing. I don't think you need to go to Ultimate as it is overkill and none of the features really matter in the audio recording world. Win 7 Pro is good enough although I can't think of any reason not to just use Home Edition.

Win9 might be the way to go in the future, but unless you want major annoyances and plain old M$ stupidity, avoid Win8 like the plague.

Why?

I've been using Windows 8 for years and it's far superior to Windows 7 in performance and my productivity has increased significantly, once I took the time to learn how to use it. Windows 7 is okay, but I wouldn't invest in an old OS at this point, especially considering 9 is coming out soon. Windows 8 can operate almost exactly the same as 7, the only major difference is, instead of having a giant list of apps when you click the start button, you just have a giant list of apps when you enter the start screen. Search functions for apps and files are much improved, stability is better and the resources it requires to run smoothly are much lower, meaning your previously slow Windows 7 computer will likely have a new breath of life with Windows 8 on it.

I hear a lot of Windows 8 bashing and it honestly kept me from buying into it for quite some time, but once I finally did, I really don't understand why everyone is complaining. It takes about a half hour to get a hang of the OS and learn all the relevant shortcuts, then you'll be flying around the OS and doing things quicker than ever imaginable in Windows 7. I've yet to experience any program that would run on 7 and won't run well on 8, and any problems that may have caused stability issues in the past are nearly nonexistent on 8. I've yet to have Pro Tools crash on me in 8, and that program is notoriously unstable on Windows. I've never had a crash or BSOD and I've enjoyed Windows 8 so much that I actually upgraded every single one of the computers in my house to it from 7 (6 computers).

I find the OS to be highly intuitive, especially if you've ever used a smartphone, and overall a breeze to use. Yes, it's different from the classic Windows 7 layout (and it IS easier to get a hang of it at first on a touch screen, but you don't need one to be efficient... Microsoft was smart enough to build in tons of key commands that will make you just as quick without one), but the matter of the fact is - since 8.1 came out, you don't even have to ever enter into the Metro theme to do anything again. The OS will function nearly exactly the same as Windows 7 will, if you want it to.

In fact, I use an iMac at work (I'm typing this message right now on it!) and my Windows 8 PCs have had far less issues in the two years I've been using them, than in the year we've had this Mac
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#22
Well, the consensus in the audio community is that 8 is shite, your views notwithstanding.
Personally I don't care, like I said I setup few PCs with it and had enough time to play with it and be disgusted at how the OS works against you. Honestly I love the OS X but had to go back to Windows due to cost issues and I've been fighting by the OS clunkiness ever since, so don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge Windows 7 fan either. The search function is actually degraded in 7, 8 instead leaks it online. I did not miss the Start menu like some, it was a lot of toy crap in 8 that kept me from moving to it.

If I could afford it, I'd be on Mac, although the way they toyed up their Pro line is making me skeptical.
#23
Quote by diabolical
Well the erratic behavior continues even in the later versions... The "store" idea is also ridiculous. If you follow up the IT community you'll notice the consensus that it is the new ME and people will forget about it as soon as 9 is out.
I personally hate the dual screen schizophrenia and absolutely have no use of the toylike feel of the store screen and tablet-like behavior on PC. Actually the closest to real OS atm is OS X but you have be ready to drink Apple's cool aid.

I'm a software engineering student, I live, eat and breathe the IT community. The actual consensus is that if everyone sucked it up and used it for more than 5 seconds they'd get used to it, and with 8.1 bringing back things like the start icon (even if it's still a screen not a menu) they'll probably even like it.

The only people the screen vs the menu really inconveniences is those who actually went to all programs and scrolled through looking for their crap rather than just hitting meta (the win key) and typing the name of the program until they found it. That still works in win8, and it's basically the same except it covers the whole screen.
Actually win8 is pretty awesome for pure keyboard use, but it does work way better with a mouse than people give it credit for.
#24
All serious businesses are still running 7 on the desktop side... and guess what? I'm in IT, not an IT student.
Apparently you don't read tech articles, Tech republic pretty much maligned 8. I don't care though, the OP can make his own mind, but when you're recording you want the least interference by the OS and win8 is not that OS. Wait for 9 if you need to.
#25
Quote by diabolical
Well, the consensus in the audio community is that 8 is shite, your views notwithstanding.
Personally I don't care, like I said I setup few PCs with it and had enough time to play with it and be disgusted at how the OS works against you. Honestly I love the OS X but had to go back to Windows due to cost issues and I've been fighting by the OS clunkiness ever since, so don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge Windows 7 fan either. The search function is actually degraded in 7, 8 instead leaks it online. I did not miss the Start menu like some, it was a lot of toy crap in 8 that kept me from moving to it.

If I could afford it, I'd be on Mac, although the way they toyed up their Pro line is making me skeptical.

Yes, and a lot of the audio community is a bunch of whiny snobs who think you have to have a maxed out Mac to do anything useful. They generally know nothing about the actual hardware and software in their computers and their opinions on the matter are usually fueled by extreme amounts of hype and BS that they heard on the internet.

How exactly does the OS "work against you?" I hear people say this all the time and it honestly baffles me. The only thing that's working against you is your perception of what the OS should look like, based on previous versions of Windows.

The fact of the matter is - people don't like Windows 8 because they're scared of change and are too busy complaining about the changes to be able to give it an unbiased shot. End of story.

Quote by diabolical
All serious businesses are still running 7 on the desktop side... and guess what? I'm in IT, not an IT student.

I work for the largest school district in Arizona (63k students with 9500 employees), which has the most visited website of any school district in the world and our IT department is switching everyone to Windows 8 in the coming year, after having not officially supported any OS other than Windows XP for the past 10 years.

The reason those businesses are still running 7 is because it's stupid to spend money upgrading the OS to 8, when they're using an OS that works perfectly fine for them already. Most "serious businesses" also don't want to have to potentially retrain their staff how to use a new OS. Windows 7 is familiar to every computer user and the amount of money they'd have to put into the switch doesn't make sense financially to 99% of businesses, until the system is more widely adopted in the consumer market.

Enterprise adoption of new technology is notoriously slow, because of financial investment and what it will gain the company over the current system. While we probably won't see any "serious companies" upgrading their systems to new OSs outside of Win7 for years, that doesn't mean that consumers should be buying old software. The consumer technology market often drives the enterprise market; once their is a big enough demand to switch, the company will take notice, whether it benefits them greatly or not.

Quote by diabolical
I don't care though, the OP can make his own mind, but when you're recording you want the least interference by the OS and win8 is not that OS. Wait for 9 if you need to.

Again, what "interference" are you referencing here? As far as I'm concerned, all you've done is read articles and not actually used the OS, because this is complete and utter BS
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#26
Interference - all the hot corners or whatever crap they call it. Junk always pops up on the tablet screen, the one with the big messy boxes, whatever they're called. I have to spend about 3hrs tweaking 8 enough just so I don't puke.

BTW read Sound on sound magazine, all their arguments are quite scientific if you bother to take further look.
I've actually have never met anyone in the IT community that professes such love for the abortion that is Win 8, yoiu seem to appear as M$ employee 😀
#27
Quote by diabolical
Interference - all the hot corners or whatever crap they call it. Junk always pops up on the tablet screen, the one with the big messy boxes, whatever they're called. I have to spend about 3hrs tweaking 8 enough just so I don't puke.

BTW read Sound on sound magazine, all their arguments are quite scientific if you bother to take further look.
I've actually have never met anyone in the IT community that professes such love for the abortion that is Win 8, yoiu seem to appear as M$ employee 😀

And how much of the IT community do you frequent that isn't whiny internet forums? because I repeat I'm an SEng student and the only people I've ever come across from industry or academia who dislike windows 8 are the ones who dislike the windows environment as a whole and want to work purely with unix-like systems, and even they acknowledge that 8.1 > 8 > 7.

Also I just opened up REAPER, the only clickable widget that risks triggering any of the 'hot corners' is the close button in the top right can trigger the charms bar if you miss the button. But if you miss the button it's not gonna close anyway so what's the charms bar going to do?
#28
How about Exxon software engineer and another internet security manager? Both of these guys ditched their 8 as soon as they loaded it. Either way, Win9 is coming up soon and saw Win7 Home on newegg.com for $80, if you read one of the leading industry forums (Sound on Sound) you'll discover that 7 is still the way to go, but whatever...I am running 7 and I don't even wish to toy with Win8, no matter how good you tell me it is. I am waiting for 9, but honestly re-loading all the registered and validated software on new OS build is such a PITA that the longer I can stay on my current setup, the better. If you've ever had to jump therough the hoops of the likes of NI and IK, you'll know what I mean.
#29
Quote by diabolical
How about Exxon software engineer and another internet security manager? Both of these guys ditched their 8 as soon as they loaded it. Either way, Win9 is coming up soon and saw Win7 Home on newegg.com for $80, if you read one of the leading industry forums (Sound on Sound) you'll discover that 7 is still the way to go, but whatever...I am running 7 and I don't even wish to toy with Win8, no matter how good you tell me it is. I am waiting for 9, but honestly re-loading all the registered and validated software on new OS build is such a PITA that the longer I can stay on my current setup, the better. If you've ever had to jump therough the hoops of the likes of NI and IK, you'll know what I mean.

Reloading software is a PITA (less so on 8, great new feature but I won't go into it) which is why no-ones telling YOU to upgrade. We're saying don't recommend an outdated OS to TS who's going to have to load their stuff anyway.

Also I'd bet that your Exxon guy and the ISM were using it very early (possibly even beta)? Have they used it since, especially since (and I'll say it for the 10000th time even though you refuse to acknowledge it) the 8.1 update? 8.1 fixes 90% of the issues I've heard with windows 8 (i.e. everything other than "I DONT WANT TO USE THE START SCREEN")