Author Topic: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?  (Read 3799 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Cue Zephyr

  • All Time Legend
  • *******
  • Posts: 6972
  • Good Vibes 90
  • Who's picking the banjo here?
    • Ezyo Music
Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« on: June 23, 2014, 11:55:35 pm »
Howdy folks,

I just read on the Cockos forum about buying up old and dated towers to run a DAW on. I'm not really at home with these things and started searching for a name that cropped up in the topic: 'Optiplex'. The prices are a lot lower there (<€100) than I can find locally (€100-200).

I'd need at least an x64 OS, expandable RAM (to something like 4 GB if it isn't already that), enough space to put multiple hard drives in and some card slots for a FW400 (my interface uses that) and USB.

Perhaps some of you geeks here have some other options I could try.

The topic is here, by the way. http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=141820

I'm just toying with the idea, not definitive yet.

CZ
Guitar, banjo, mandolin and piano, bass and percussion only when needed
Production and mixing

Offline Scooter Trash

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 3035
  • Good Vibes 80
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2014, 05:15:01 am »
Build your own.. It's not too difficult..

You can run Reaper on an old dual-core, but when you start using good plugins and mixing a lot of tracks you're likely to regret it - especially when tracking because of the buffer delay. You can work on one track at a time and export stems with all the effects to save on resources, but it's a pain to do it that way.

The best advice I can give is to make sure it's quiet.
Use a quiet case, quiet power supply, and liquid-cooled cpu.
Get SSD drives  - faster and quieter.
This is the case I just got:





These are some specs from the DAW I'm using:

•   AMD 990FX Sabertooth Motherboard.
•    8-core CPU       
•    Samsung SSD 840 PRO 256GB, two additional 128 GIG Samsung SSD drives.
•   16GB GSKILL RIPJAWS DDR3 1866 RAM
•   Corsair silent Power supply
•    Corsair Liquid CPU Cooler
•   Fractal R4 Define Case
•    Windows 7 64 Professional (lesser versions may only support 16GB of RAM, from what I have read)
•   Asus Wireless Card CD, - not needed, but nice to have.
•    NVidia card which supports a couple of monitors at full resolution, HDCP compatible - nice to have 2 monitors - especially on big projects with lots of channels and plug-ins. Also, some plugins are video intensive
•    DVD Drive
•    FireWire card for audio interface.

The reason I upgraded was that I was tired of the issues that I was having with the old system that was similar to the ones in the article that you referenced.

Dan and others likely have additional suggestions. Whatever hardware you decide on, make sure it's quiet and acoustically isolated.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2014, 07:04:26 am by Scooter Trash »
I dream of a better tomorrow where chickens can cross roads without their motives being questioned.

Offline marcusmarkmus

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 1919
  • Good Vibes 68
  • \,,/ SandmarX \,,/
    • my guitar playing videos! =) check them out!
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2014, 01:23:49 pm »
+1 to putting together your own, it's easier than alot of people think.

@scooter: what cpu is that?
And what audiointerface are you using?

I've been thinking for a while about maybe building a pc solely for recording myself
My band on Facebook: Sandmarx
on youtube: SandmarxTube

Offline Cue Zephyr

  • All Time Legend
  • *******
  • Posts: 6972
  • Good Vibes 90
  • Who's picking the banjo here?
    • Ezyo Music
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2014, 02:53:23 pm »
It's more the cost that is an issue than actually putting together the darn thing. Last time I checked I'd need at least €400 for a system with decent specs.

About quietness, apparently those Dell Optiplex things are very quiet.

Right now I'm running REAPER on a 3.5 year old laptop running Win7 x64 on 4GB of RAM and an i5 M520 @ 2.4 GHz - I can make that work too, so I'm assuming that one of those old office machines should run it no problem when there's no internet and browsers and what have you.
Guitar, banjo, mandolin and piano, bass and percussion only when needed
Production and mixing

Offline TB-AV

  • Honorable Ex-Mod
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 14966
  • Good Vibes 329
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2014, 02:55:46 pm »
Cue, Optiplex is a Dell brand name.

So you are looking for just a case?

Certainly you won't find a PC for $150-$300. Did you leave a zero off?

---------

ETA: ok, just saw your message..... I doubt you will get much better results than what you already have.




Gone

Offline Scooter Trash

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 3035
  • Good Vibes 80
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2014, 03:33:13 pm »
+1 to putting together your own, it's easier than alot of people think.

@scooter: what cpu is that?
And what audiointerface are you using?

I've been thinking for a while about maybe building a pc solely for recording myself

Marcus; This is the CPU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103960

I'm just using a Presonus FireStudio at the moment. It works OK but I intend to upgrade..
I dream of a better tomorrow where chickens can cross roads without their motives being questioned.

Offline TB-AV

  • Honorable Ex-Mod
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 14966
  • Good Vibes 329
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2014, 05:26:44 pm »
Which Mobo did you get?
Gone

Offline Cue Zephyr

  • All Time Legend
  • *******
  • Posts: 6972
  • Good Vibes 90
  • Who's picking the banjo here?
    • Ezyo Music
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2014, 05:42:22 pm »
Cue, Optiplex is a Dell brand name.
I know, that's the only actual brand name tip I lifted off that topic so I could start looking.

Looks like I'll just keep running REAPER on my laptop. :P

Thanks for the replies guys, much appreciated.
Guitar, banjo, mandolin and piano, bass and percussion only when needed
Production and mixing

Offline Scooter Trash

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 3035
  • Good Vibes 80
I dream of a better tomorrow where chickens can cross roads without their motives being questioned.

Offline Scooter Trash

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 3035
  • Good Vibes 80
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2014, 06:15:05 pm »
Cue, Optiplex is a Dell brand name.

Looks like I'll just keep running REAPER on my laptop. :P


I think that's probably a good idea.. Set a bit of money aside every month and upgrade later..
You might consider adding more RAM to your laptop.
I dream of a better tomorrow where chickens can cross roads without their motives being questioned.

Offline mouser9169

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 1169
  • Good Vibes 32
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2014, 02:58:00 am »
Cue, Optiplex is a Dell brand name.

So you are looking for just a case?

Certainly you won't find a PC for $150-$300. Did you leave a zero off?

---------

ETA: ok, just saw your message..... I doubt you will get much better results than what you already have.

Used? You'd be amazed at what people are parting with, and older computers are basically looked at as doorstops - at least here in the US. The specs the OP listed are not difficult to meet (it'd be hard to find a machine that couldn't meet them). Keep your eyes open, and send out all the feelers you can.

Get something working, then you can look at saving up to get the 'next step', probably something you build yourself as everyone is suggesting. If nothing else you may be able to cannibalize the case and power supply from your 'starter' machine: if you're not running game quality video cards, power really won't be much of an issue.
Mouser's Rules of Music:

1) Always Trust your Muse.
2) See Rule 1)

Offline Cue Zephyr

  • All Time Legend
  • *******
  • Posts: 6972
  • Good Vibes 90
  • Who's picking the banjo here?
    • Ezyo Music
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2014, 01:33:29 pm »
Mouser, the Optiplex 745 that seems to be readily available here does not meet those specs. ;D

Go one or two steps up in the line though, and you're there.

Are there other brand names and models like this that are worth looking at?
Guitar, banjo, mandolin and piano, bass and percussion only when needed
Production and mixing

Offline TB-AV

  • Honorable Ex-Mod
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 14966
  • Good Vibes 329
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2014, 02:07:41 pm »
The problem is your specs are too low.

There is a big difference between "can you run a DAW" and "this DAW runs great"

Some of those guys use a lot of midi and they run lots of macros to automate tasks so they develop a workflow to keep reorganizing.

All you need is one or two hog FX or VST and you need to rethink the whole ordeal. Even the fastest PC if you try to load it up with something like Nebula you have to break things down into chunks and render files. Not unlike planning an old 4 track session.

Or... they have those older PCs and plug in a UAD setup that offloads the FX processing. AND/OR they also network PCs for processing like in Vegas you can have a render farm.

So if you hear someone say they have this old PC running XP and they have this elaborate mix, they are doing something to compensate.

What I meant by the not getting a PC for $150-$300 is pretty much what Scooter has shown... the CPU and MoBo are going to run you $400.

So that puts you back in the category of...'is a little more, really going to make a difference?' I personally don't think it will. I agree with Scooter, just save your money.

Gone

Offline mouser9169

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 1169
  • Good Vibes 32
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2014, 06:26:21 pm »
Mouser, the Optiplex 745 that seems to be readily available here does not meet those specs. ;D

Go one or two steps up in the line though, and you're there.

Are there other brand names and models like this that are worth looking at?

The specs the OP required are:

1) multiple hard drives. Every non-laptop PC made in the past 15 years (at least) supports this, going back to IDE master/slave.

2) can run a 64 bit OS - this the hardest requirement to meet, and I'm not sure it's as much of a requirement as the OP thinks: especially since he said 'at least' a 64-bit OS. Not too many 128 bit OS' for the home desktop market yet. 32 bit OS can handle multi-cores and access (nearly) 4 Gig of RAM. 

Even so, at this point there are plenty of old 64 bit PC's laying around gathering dust.

Meet this and you automatically have the 4 GB of RAM supported (maybe there's some weird motherboard out there that supports a x64 cpu but not enough RAM to run it).

3) a free PCI slot to stick a FW400 card into.

4) a USB port. Any motherboard with a 64 bit architecture will at the least support a USB PCI card.

Scrounge around and yeah, you'll be able to find something that meets those four requirements pretty cheaply (maybe not $150, but a lot less than $500).
Mouser's Rules of Music:

1) Always Trust your Muse.
2) See Rule 1)

Offline Scooter Trash

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 3035
  • Good Vibes 80
Re: Cheap tower PC to run DAW(s) on?
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2014, 08:49:56 pm »
Scrounge around and yeah, you'll be able to find something that meets those four requirements pretty cheaply (maybe not $150, but a lot less than $500).

Absolutely! But;

Is it going to outperform the existing laptop?
Is it going to be quiet enough to allow you to record acoustic instruments in the same room?
Will it allow you to upgrade in the future without trashing the investment?
Will it frustrate you every time you do a recording project?
I dream of a better tomorrow where chickens can cross roads without their motives being questioned.

 

Get The Forum As A Mobile App