Help me pick out my new computer

Hello folks,

I'm asking for your input on a new PC to buy so I can use it with VDL2.

Just some quick background info...
I do have a degree in computers, so I'm very knowledgeable; but figured I would ask input from this community seeing you use VDL2 on your setup and know it well.  I have VDL2, Finale 2006, and kompakt.  I've used these all in the past with my work and let Finale 2006 deal with the mapping of sounds of VDL2 for percussion and kompakt with the other band instrumentation.  I like to have the full score playback when I'm composing.

The computer that I have been using was a 2.4 Ghz P4, 2.5 Gigs of RAM, and a 533Mhz Front Side Bus. (I know ouch on the FSB).  The computer I want to purchase will have a Dual Core 2 processor (any one of the 4 or 5 types) and have Windows Vista Ultimate. (I plan on doing the upgrade from home premium)

I'd like to spend $1000 to $1800.  Cheaper the better.

So folks, what would you get???

I'm hoping this topic will help future users plan for a new PC when they use VDL2.

Thanks for any info,
Dave

(And no, I don't want a mac)  :-)
If you're going for a music-specific machine, check out some of the custom PC websites like sonicalabs, rainrecording, sweetwater, ADK, and pcaudiolabs.  They don't offer much hope for your budget, but they are specially designed for music production.  I think they might have some for around 1500, though.
I bought a machine from SonicaLabs last year, and have been very happy with it. They change their systems frequently, so the one I bought isn't on their site anymore, but I think it was in the ballpark of $2000.

In addition to your computer specs, another important thing to consider is what kind of audio interface to get since these do vary quite a bit among different PC manufacturers. For what you're wanting to do, it would be ideal to have a soundcard that performs well with pro audio. There are many good choices available, so it's hard to recommend one. You may be able to get by just fine with an M-Audio Audiophile 2496, which is probably about the lowest pricewise you'd want to go for this sort of work. I've been using RME Hammerfall cards in my PC's with good results, and a MOTU 2408mk3 on my Mac, though those may be overkill for what you're looking for. Still, to me, it's worth it to spend a little more to avoid having to fuss with bad performance while I'm trying to be productive.
Thanks for all the advice so far!

I'm getting into the computer networking field so I'm not devoting this computer just to music; hence why I want a PC vs a Mac.  Let me ask this, how important is bus speed to vdl2?  Is 1066Mhz overkill?  Would the Intel Dual core 2 with 2Mb cache or 4Mb cache really make a difference in the performance of vdl2?

Oh, Jim, I was thinking of just trading out the sound card in my old computer possibly.  I have a soundblaster audigy 2 platnum pro that I got about a year ago.  It came with a secondary card for connecting a midi keyboard and I use that.

Thanks for all the input so far.  I'll keep watching.

dave
Hi, this is a rant :)

I [i]really[/i] don't buy the ";designed for musicians"; hype when it comes to computers.  There's no magical ingredient between a Dell, Apple, or anything else besides the soundcard and maybe some pre-loaded software.  Some of the more expensive ones might have some sound-reduction features like a quiet(er) power supply or cpu fan.  Overall, I think they are ripping people off.

For example- Sweetwater has the $1800 Creation Station.  They don't even list which model cpu it is, just that it's 2.66 GHz Dual-Core- that means it is probably a Pentium D 805 which is bottom line cpu from intel.  It has only 1 GB of RAM, and absolute bottom-line graphics card, and poor hard drive storage- just an 80 and a 200.  They don't even list the soundcard, so I assume it's the integrated mainboard card.

So to add it up

cpu: $70
mainboard: $80
RAM: $80
case: $100
quest power supply: $100 (or less)
dvd burner: $40
ATi x300 video: $40 (probably integrated on mainboard for much less)
80 GB Hard drive: $40
200 GB Hard drive: $60
Windows XP: $100
Floppy, mem card reader, keyboard, mouse, misc: $70
Sound dampening foam: $20

Total: $800- and I rounded up for all prices and included shipping.  (pricewatch.com)

Price for Sweetwater to slap ";Creation Station"; sticker on it- $1,000.

Now keep in mind this computer still needs more RAM, a good sound card, and a better graphics card if you want to play games.  You'll need another $200-300, and still end up with something at the low end of modern computers. 

So not everyone knows how to build a PC even though it's very easy these days.  Everything has a unique plug so you can't put a part in the wrong place if you tried.  Each part has a warranty too.  But let's say you want to buy from a reputable company.  I would highly recommend Dell if you want to save $ and still have a solid system.

For example:  Dell XPS 410 configured at $1150 w/ free shipping

cpu: Core 2 Duo E6400 (will run circles around the Sweetwater)
ram: 2 GB
hard drive: 500 GB
video: 256mb Geforce 7300 (ok for most games)
Dell QuietCase

That's a savings of $650 for a computer with double the performance/capacity.  You can then afford a better soundcard, nothing else needs to be upgraded, and you can buy lots of other goodies like good speakers/monitors/software etc.

Ok that's my rant.  And don't worry about bus speed- it means nothing in this era of computing.  It's a holdover from the Pentium 2 vs. Apple G3 days.
I think I agree with both of you.  Music machines aren't special; they just do the same things as any other workstation.  Of course, there are your celeron processors that are horrid on CPU for multimedia, but assuming you want average or above average hardware, the real difference is case, fans, and noise.  For example, do you have a rack, and do you want to mount your PC in a rack?  If not, the case shape shouldn't matter much.

For your environment, do you do any live recording?  Obviously that might matter.

But otherwise, if you're just rendering out audio, it doesn't matter.  Of course, I work at home, I'm on my machine 50+ hours a week, so I hate hate hate how loud the fans are.  It sounds like an airplane taxiing in the summer.  So for me, it's rather important.  When I replace my desktop soon, it will be important.  But what Jedi says is very correct.  Know what you're buying, and don't just buy a sticker for hundreds of dollars.  The parts should be on par with what you're getting from any manufacturer if they're the same.  You may pay a premium if you get hushed hardware, but understand the differences.  Then, you'll get the right stuff.
Jedi:

Do you have a Dell with the QuietCase?  How quiet is it?  I was thinking of getting one of the pro audio machines, mainly for the components and silencing features.  If the Dell you mentioned is reasonably quiet, though, I might go with your suggestion.  If anyone else has experience with Dell, positive or negative, I'd be interested.
I have experience with Dell.  I've purchased about a dozen machines from them over the years.  They're as solid as any off-the-shelf, but a bit cheaper usually.  You just have to wait two weeks, and you have to use coupon codes.  I have no experience with any machine they claim is hushed.
Another thing to consider is the number and quality of hard drive(s). I don't personally do this, but I heard that if you get 2-3 drives set up as a split raid, it will make data read/write much faster. Does anyone have experience with this?
I have some experience with it.  I used to use a RAID0 at work, and I can tell you that the throughput is excellent.  I'm switching to a RAID5 when I build my new box next month -- some boards have them supported, though RAID5 is more of a Windows controller.  The throughput on this gets just wide-open once you get 3+ drives going.  My plan is to get 4 or 5 320g drives, and they get controlled on the board via software.  Tom's Hardware did a great study on it, and you just get linear improvement as you get past 3 drives.  I plan to do that instead of the massive drives.  I may go with 250's just so I can afford more.

Either way, RAID gets a big thumbs-up from me.  It whomps.  RAID5 is very cool, since you can lose a drive, and you're ok.
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