Helpful ReplyWorth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own?

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AdamGrossmanLG
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2017/09/06 08:13:33 (permalink)

Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own?

Hello Everyone,
 
First off, I must say - I am really bad with my hands.  I remember trying to put a desktop together in the 90s, and it was the LAST time I would ever try such a feat.
 
I am wondering though if I should spend the money on a DAW PC (such ask ADK or VisionDAW for example).
 
Is it basically the same thing I can build, but they charge more money because they sell it as a DAW desktop?
 
Looking to get people's opinions here.

Also any advice into buying my new setup would be much appreciated.
 
Thank You!
 
 
#1
fireberd
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 10:39:06 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Starise 2017/09/06 14:15:04
Depends.  Building a PC today is much different from what it used to be.  Follow a couple of basic rules and it will go together painlessly.  It the "old" days everything had to be matched, fighting compatibility issues, Hardware interrupts, etc.  Not today. 
 
On the other hand if you have the $$ go with a custom built. Our forum guru, Jim Roseberry can build one exactly for your applications.

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#2
DeeringAmps
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 11:00:59 (permalink)
Yep, I concur, call Jim!
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#3
Starise
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 14:35:08 (permalink)
Jim's name comes up usually within the first few posts here on this subject. I've never used him but many have happily had him build their computers. He offers a pretty good deal.
 
I would like to see some competition though. Either that or make him the officially recognized Cakewalk computer builder. I know there are others who do it as well. We just don't hear about them as much.
 
I think most of the big name daw builders are over priced for the tech they offer. JMO YMMV. They usually drop back a generation or two to assure there are no issues or offer a minimum build for your needs at a higher price. Chips and builds having been on the market awhile are proven and less of a liability for them.
 
At one time there were more fixes that could be done in software that would streamline a machine for daw work. With  more recent OS and better hardware performance many of these basic issues are now moot. At one time I think you needed to lean more on a pro computer builder who knew what needed to be done. Much of this was more software related than hardware related. I don't believe we need that as much anymore.
 
Many report great results with high spec'd mass factory built computers. Even the basic ones can record smaller projects with no problems. The hardware in mass made machines is reported to be of less quality in many cases. How this actually plays out in terms of years of reliable use is anyone's guess. Especially if you have a good replacement repair warranty in place.
 
While I would recommend you either have a better machine built or build it yourself, this isn't always mandatory all depending on your needs. Of course buying the bottom tier machines for audio work is always asking for trouble.
 
I built my own after some brief research and I saved a lot of money in doing it. For me it's just assembling parts and loading the OS. It can potentially get complicated, but much less so if you use good hardware. 
 
I don't want to be the one to tell you to build your own, because all of those who bought from Jim or another similar will say, " I told you so" if something doesn't go right. I was willing to take that chance and it payed off for me. For those not technically or mechanically mediocre a builder is probably best with a higher spec'd factory computer being a second option.

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#4
Cactus Music
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 14:38:02 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Starise 2017/09/06 15:34:40
I priced out buying from the 2 folks who build and visit the forum and I found the price was not acctually much more at all. When you consider they include support it might be a bargain. I bult my own in the end because I am a nerd and enjoy the process.

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#5
Starise
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 15:05:53 (permalink)
Yes I would surely check them before you look at one of the world renowned daw builders. 
In my case I think I got a slightly better machine for a little less money. A day of my time building and loading. YMMV.
I have some background in working with this. If this isn't your cuppa, spend slightly more and sleep better for it.\
 
It isn't rocket science either. If you assembled small items from Ikea, you can probably do it. 
 
It feels good to do it if you can.

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#6
dwardzala
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 15:17:09 (permalink)
The trick isn't the assembly process, its knowing what hardware works best and allows the appropriate controls in the bios.  I built my own 10 years ago and upgraded it (MB, CPU, RAM) about 5 years ago and its worked ok.  If (when) I decide I need extremely low latency, I will have a new one purpose built.

Dave
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#7
AdamGrossmanLG
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 16:22:10 (permalink)
hmmm... who is Jim? 
#8
bitflipper
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 16:32:39 (permalink)
I've had this idea for a DAW desk for years but have been too lazy to pursue it.
 
It came to me when I wanted to upsize my video monitors but realized larger screens would impinge on the speakers' line-of-sight. I had a choice: position them vertically or limit their size to 22". I chose the latter, feeling that having to crane my neck to see the upper display would become uncomfortable. Plus, dragging things up is just weird.
 
Then I looked closely at the desks used by TV news anchors. They feature video monitors set below the desk top, easily visible to the talking heads but not blocking their perfect faces. It occurred to me that if the camera was a pair of speakers, such a configuration would also provide a clear path to their ears.
 
Looking down at a monitor is much more natural and less-fatiguing than looking up. You could then have as large a display as you wanted, as big as the whole desk even.
 
Anyhow, that's my idea for a DAW desk. If I ever decide to replace my ugly gray metal Boeing-surplus desk, that's how I'd do it.


All else is in doubt, so this is the truth I cling to. 

My Stuff
#9
Jim Roseberry
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 18:22:46 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Mesh 2017/09/06 19:38:42
AdamGrossmanLG
hmmm... who is Jim? 



Jim is me...
I am Jim  

Best Regards,

Jim Roseberry
jim@studiocat.com
www.studiocat.com
#10
Jim Roseberry
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/06 20:06:16 (permalink)
Starise
Jim's name comes up usually within the first few posts here on this subject. I've never used him but many have happily had him build their computers. He offers a pretty good deal.
 
I would like to see some competition though. Either that or make him the officially recognized Cakewalk computer builder. I know there are others who do it as well. We just don't hear about them as much.
 
I think most of the big name daw builders are over priced for the tech they offer. JMO YMMV. They usually drop back a generation or two to assure there are no issues or offer a minimum build for your needs at a higher price. Chips and builds having been on the market awhile are proven and less of a liability for them.
 
At one time there were more fixes that could be done in software that would streamline a machine for daw work. With  more recent OS and better hardware performance many of these basic issues are now moot. At one time I think you needed to lean more on a pro computer builder who knew what needed to be done. Much of this was more software related than hardware related. I don't believe we need that as much anymore.
 
Many report great results with high spec'd mass factory built computers. Even the basic ones can record smaller projects with no problems. The hardware in mass made machines is reported to be of less quality in many cases. How this actually plays out in terms of years of reliable use is anyone's guess. Especially if you have a good replacement repair warranty in place.
 
While I would recommend you either have a better machine built or build it yourself, this isn't always mandatory all depending on your needs. Of course buying the bottom tier machines for audio work is always asking for trouble.
 
I built my own after some brief research and I saved a lot of money in doing it. For me it's just assembling parts and loading the OS. It can potentially get complicated, but much less so if you use good hardware. 
 
I don't want to be the one to tell you to build your own, because all of those who bought from Jim or another similar will say, " I told you so" if something doesn't go right. I was willing to take that chance and it payed off for me. For those not technically or mechanically mediocre a builder is probably best with a higher spec'd factory computer being a second option.




The reason my name comes up a fair amount... is because I've been part of the Cakewalk community since the CompuServe days.
 
Speaking for my company:
We offer the latest generation i9 (Skylake Extreme) architecture.  
Caveat being only the top-tier 7900x offers 44 PCIe lanes.  The mid-tier 7820x (and below) are limited to 28.
For simple builds, 28 PCIe lanes is fine.  For more complex builds, 28 PCIe lanes can be limiting.
ie: X299 motherboards offer three M.2 Ultra slots.  Each of these requires 4 PCIe lanes.
For more complex builds, the 6850k (Broadwell) is a better mid-tier choice... and still a quite formidable CPU.
 
We do NOT offer Ryzen/Threadripper... because the first generation motherboards are super flaky
(I've covered this in numerous threads).
 
If you think we're over-priced for what we offer, consider that we have to warrant the machine (top to bottom) for two years... and offer lifetime technical support.
If you want to see more competition, I invite you to try and do the same... do it for less... and manage to stay in business for 20+ years (to be around to support your clients).  
 
Whenever this subject comes up, it's a little ironic...
If you threw out any career... I'm guessing someone could make statements that those services are over-priced.
Mechanics, Doctors, Lawyers, Contractors, Financial Advisers, CEOs, etc...
 
Speaking in general terms about performance:
In any high-performance application (doesn't matter what type of machine; cars, computers, etc), you're always best off with a machine custom built for that exact scenario.
It's exactly what you need.  Nothing more... nothing less
If your company's business is racing automobiles, you probably won't do well with a stock Toyota Prius.  

Best Regards,

Jim Roseberry
jim@studiocat.com
www.studiocat.com
#11
abacab
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/07 00:24:30 (permalink)
If you are technically and mechanically inclined, and don't mind troubleshooting, then building your own can be a very rewarding hobby. 
 
This website can assist you with picking out compatible parts, and assembling a parts and price list for your dream machine.  https://pcpartpicker.com/list/
 
After you do that, take a look at Jim's site and ask yourself if you build your own, can you live without the warranty and support, and making it all work together?  His prices don't look all that bad, considering the support included.
 
I have an IT background, and training in service and support, so I have been building my own for almost 20 years.  So definitely, your mileage may vary.  If you do this as a hobby, you may have the latitude to DIY, but if you're a music pro, you may want the extra assurance of dealing with a computer pro!

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#12
AT
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/07 04:46:53 (permalink)
Do you want to troubleshoot, or make music?
 
I admit I just upgrade store bought computers, for the most part.  But if I expected to make real money I'd get Jim to make me one and get on with the fun part.
 
@

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#13
Starise
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/07 14:02:58 (permalink)
Jim I wasn't referring to you personally. I was actually excluding you from that group since I don't see you as one one the " big name daw builders " , see my comment here- 
 
I think most of the big name daw builders are over priced for the tech they offer
 
In comparison you're a small builder. I look at your service much like I see auto repair dealerships. The big name dealerships are more expensive. I have a mechanic locally who does great work and is MUCH less expensive. I put you in that same category. I know you're not the only good builder around. From that perspective I think some comparison shopping is in order. If I lived in the UK I might look for a similar builder there, unless I could justify the expense and seen better quality. I know you've sold to people over there, so I guess this is all subjective.
 
I've looked at what you offer and I think you're very fair. You would certainly be in the running if I were looking to buy a daw. 
 
I'm still a little stubborn I guess, I think the line between building your own and having it built is thinner than some imagine it to be. With recent advances in tech and ease in connectivity of parts, it isn't rocket science. Neither in hookup or in software configuration. There's an answer for any problem you could possibly run across online. An average computer now would have had NASA drooling even 5 years ago.
 
I am also well aware that much of sales is based on fear. "what if" this or that happens? What will I do then?? If that kind of thing scares you, then maybe go for a pre built. I don't have tight time frames and I suspect that many if not most who come here don't need to get something done immediately. If there's a failure it still needs trouble shooting online or the computer needs to be mailed to your location. It all starts to look like an apples .vs oranges comparison to other options IMO. The percentage of Sonar users who use a Jim built computer is probably very small compared to the total. What are the others using? Is this a liability? 
 
Groups tend to have favorites and you're clearly a favorite here and for good reason. Even so, if someone is asking the question- " Should I build my own computer ?" This means they have some faith in themselves to try it. If they had no faith, they wouldn't ask the question  The answer to that question shouldn't always be- Forget that> Go see Jim  
 
TBH when you get older you tend to be more apt to pay someone to do things you once did. I see that in my own life right now in some areas. And although I'm reluctant to say this, we have some real antiques here, myself included. The younger chaps might not be so easily discouraged.

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#14
soens
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/09 22:09:19 (permalink)
It also depends on whether your sound creation is a hobby or business. I clean toilets. Do I need an $80,000 custom shop 600 hp Mustang Special Edition GT to get to work every day?! No. Can I afford one?! No. Would I like having one?! Sure.
 
For a hobby, buying a ready made unit has served me OK, 'cepting the occasional crashes, glitches, driver issues, etc. If a custom build can guarantee those things won't happen then it might be worth it... for a hobby. If your livelihood depends on it then a custom build should be 1st choice.
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/09 22:41:10 (permalink)
Jim Roseberry
AdamGrossmanLG
hmmm... who is Jim? 



Jim is me...
I am Jim  


Too funny. After reading the OP, if you are not comfortable building your own or tweaking things (which can be painful unto itself), touch base with Jim. He is very diligent and will take care of all of the things you don't want to deal with, plus he is always around so he will look after you down the road.

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#16
JohanSebatianGremlin
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/10 17:05:15 (permalink)
AdamGrossmanLG
Hello Everyone,
 
First off, I must say - I am really bad with my hands.  I remember trying to put a desktop together in the 90s, and it was the LAST time I would ever try such a feat.

If your only experience building and/or modifying PC hardware is from the 90's, without question buy something ready built. 


It is very true that the systems of today are in many ways simpler than they were back then (no IRQ's to worry about etc). However just about every hardware spec that exists in common use today did not exist back then. And while they can be simpler to put together, many of them still have certain caveats or requirements that you MUST know about and plan for. Heck just getting the thermal paste applied incorrectly, or forgetting it completely, can turn a $400 processor chip into a worthless lump in a matter of minutes.
 
Its one thing if you've got no experience and you want to build a $350 bookshelf machine to be home media server. Spend some quality time with youtube and a forum or two and have at it. But if your goal is reasonably powerful DAW machine, leave it to those who build them for a living. The parts are too expensive and there is still too much that can go wrong IMO.

 
If gear was the determining factor, we would all have a shelf full of Grammies and a pocket full of change.  -microapp
 
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#17
tlw
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/10 17:56:26 (permalink)
I've built PCs for myself, and a few for others, since the early/mid 90s.

One thing I've always done is extensive, and in depth, component reseach. Identify potential motherboards, see what "the internet" thinks of them. Download the manual and see how configurable it is, what the BIOS can do etc. And, of course, check it has the right socket for a cpu that's in the performance and price range I'm working to, the ports I want etc. I stay away from "bleeding edge" hardware because I'd rather wait for the price to fall and let other people find out the problems with it, if any.

Then repeat that process for all other components.

And always bearing in mind I want a DAW to be as nearly silent as possible. Which means checking Nokia or similar quality heatsinks and fans are available, that they will fit the case etc.

Then put the PC compnents together, which is usually a pretty quick job because everything nowadays can only fit the socket intended for it.

Then configure the BIOS to suit my needs which may not be what the motherboard manufacturer ships as the "average user standard settings". Stuff like processor sleep state settings can have a significant effect on the performance of a DAW. Then, finally, install Windows and configure that then the necessary software and configure that.

I can do this stuff and I seem to be fairly capable of doing it. The downside is if a component is malfunctioning it's me who has to find out which component and replace it - which might mean replacing different things until the fault goes away.

If unhappy with taking responsibility for all that there are three options.

Buy an off-the-shelf mass market PC recommended by others who've used then as DAWs. Hopefully that will be fine for your needs, though mass market PCs tend to be rather noisy.

Or go to a specialist DAW builder and pay a possibly higher price but get a package that has support, a warranty on the PC as a whole and is put together by someone who knows what makes a PC a good DAW.

Or buy a MacBook or iMac, ideally an i7 one with as much RAM as you can afford. Which means paying more - maybe quite a lot more - and getting maybe less power per buck and no internal expansion possible, but it almost certainly will work very well as a DAW and will have one of the best displays around. It won't run Sonar under OS X, but using Apple's free "boot camp" and Windows drivers you can install Windows and boot into that.

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Assorted real synths, guitars, mandolins, diatonic accordions, percussion, fx and other stuff.
#18
filtersweep
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/11 01:17:27 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby abacab 2017/09/11 02:46:09
I built my own last year. Fun and rewarding with some frustrations. If you dont think you would ENJOY the process, then I wouldn't recommend undertaking the project. You gotta be at least something of a nerd to like doing this. That said, if you are into recording you are, almost by definition, a little bit of a nerd! One thing to be aware of, if you think you would enjoy the process, is that it requires some manual dexterity. A lot of the parts and connectors are quite small. Also, your vision needs to be up to the task or you need a decent mag glass. If you are not familiar with the parts you will need to study them in some detail, especially the connectors, and read tiny print on the mobo and elsewhere. 
 
Brian

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#19
Starise
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/13 18:45:43 (permalink)
For anyone interested in building their own.
 
I tend to write way too much, but I wrote an article awhile back with pictures when I built my last computer. You could skip right to the assembly and pictures and probably be ok. Block out all my rambling riff raff :-) or it might be helpful.
 
I have run 50 plus tracks on this build loaded with vst effects and software synths with no problems whatsoever.
If you plan to use something like Thunderbolt or high resolution video cards I would opt for a cpu with 40 lanes.
 
This spec didn't have on board video and I liked that for my purposes. There are plenty of mobos with onboard video.
 
I loose track of time but It's probably been over two years or there abouts since I built it. I run it clocked higher which is easy peasy in the bios. It never overheats and runs quiet.
 
If you use different hardware, this will still give you an idea if what's involved. There was another guy here who documented a higher end build in pictures. I don't remember who he is. Maybe someone else could post info.
 
The internal hardware I used is probably very inexpensive now two years later. I love the Noctura cooler. I also can't say enough good about the case I used. A very quiet system.
 
Might as well do someone some good if possible - [link=http://www.recordinghound.com/how-to-build-an-audio-computer-the-hardware/]http://www.recordinghound...computer-the-hardware/[/link]

Intel 5820K O.C. 4.4ghz, ASRock Extreme 4 LGA 2011-v3, 16 gig DDR4, ,
3 x Samsung SATA III 500gb SSD, 2X 1 Samsung 1tb 7200rpm outboard, Win 10 64bit, Presonus Firetube Studio
 
John Wayne- "Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid."
 
 
 www.soundcloud.com/starise
 
www.recordinghound.com
 
 
Twitter @Rodein
 
#20
RobWS
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/13 20:04:09 (permalink)
In February of 2013 I built my current PC for Cakewalk Sonar and Sony Vegas Home Studio.  I spent 8 months doing research on parts and educating myself on technology.  Then I spent 2 months buying all of the parts.  Since I was in no hurry, I would daily watch a multitude of online stores as well as a local Micro Center for sales on the parts I decided to use.
 
Once it was complete, the first boot up was a success.  Relief…I did it.  The biggest trade-off is I have to be my own tech support which I am not confident in.  Fortunately, I’ve only had two problems which I don’t understand but have not been critical.
 
As much as I’d love to build one again someday, I know I would have one custom built.  When I did my research back in 2012, I also looked into ADK Computer.  I liked what they offered but decided to build my own simply for the sake of saving some money.  I have since learned about Studiocat and sure enough, there are some great looking options there too.
 
If I understood computer science to a greater degree, I would build my own again.  But, having expert tech support can be like having insurance…just in case.
#21
abacab
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/13 20:20:29 (permalink)
There is some middle ground with DIY, where you can order a bare bones PC built and tested from a shop, that avoids RMA's for non-working components, and parts and connector incompatibilities.  Some even offer tech support after the sale.
 
Then you can install and configure the software the way that you want.
 
Here is one example.  I have not bought anything from them, but they seem to offer a few good deals, and lifetime technical support.
 
About AVADirect Custom Barebone Desktops
http://www.avadirect.com/custom-barebones-desktops
"Custom pre-configured barebones PC kits are perfect for more knowledgeable computer builders or anybody interested in a Do-It-Yourself custom computer system. Custom barebones PCs offer the ability to start a dream build from a little bit more than scratch. These systems are normally provided as just the framework and basic components, including the PSU and motherboard of your choice. We artfully craft your base configuration, and we give you the opportunity to use your own technical skills to finish your computer. At this point, you need to select compatible components and install the other hardware devices to assemble a fully operational desktop PC. When buying a barebones PC make sure you know exactly what other hardware you'll need to purchase to build a functional system. You should also find out how many input/output devices the motherboard can accommodate, including the number of memory and PCI card slots that are available. Choose your barebones computer from top manufacturers like NVIDIA®, CoolerMaster®, and Intel®. Get the best starter system in place, set up your custom computer configuration, and design the ultimate PC with all the essential components from the elite PC integrators at AVADirect."

Cakewalk: Sonar Platinum x64 2017-08; X3e; Dimension Pro; Rapture, Z3TA+2  Other: Akai VIP; AIR AIEP 3; BIAB; Ignite; Iris 2; SampleTank 3; SynthMaster; Syntronik; SONiVOX; VocalizerPro;  Tracktion Waveform OS: Win10 Pro x64 1607 System: Homebuilt Asus; i3 3.4Ghz; 8GB DDR3; Intel HD Graphics; Dual Monitors; Samsung EVO 850 SSD, 250GB; WD 1.0TB 7200rpm; FireWire  Audio: M-Audio FW-410;  Controllers: A-300PRO;  Alesis VX49; CME Xkey  Hardware: Roland JV880; JV1080; XP-30; Alesis QS-6; Casio CZ-1000; Mackie 1202
#22
Cactus Music
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/14 02:15:27 (permalink)
The place I order parts from to build my own has a very good user forum,,, almost better than this one :)  
So you kind of make your wish list, post it and the nerd squad will look it over and make better recommendations that often not only  give you better performance but save you money. 
So if your a Western Canadian check out NCIX and the user forum 
 
http://forums.ncix.com/
 
http://www.ncix.com/promo/OktoberfestTech2017.htm
 
 
 

Johnny V  
Sonar Platinum Lifetime and Home Studio 
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 / Tascam us1641
My Build i5 quad core 16 Gigs RAM  W10 
Roland A49 - Yamaha DTX 400- Yamaha NMS 10's
Musician since 1964, Studio since 1984, Cakewalk since 2004.  
http://www.cactusmusic.ca/
https://soundcloud.com/john-vere/tracks
 
#23
dahjah
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Re: Worth It To Buy A DAW Desktop PC or Build Your Own? 2017/09/14 17:16:33 (permalink)
Coming from the VS machines like the 2480 and tape before that, I came into the computer world kicking and screaming. The 2480 was awesome and could do everything I wanted back then, until people started sending me projects with more  40 tracks to work on. I wanted a computer that would work out of the box without the trial and error troubleshooting.
 
I went with a turnkey pc from Rain and I'm very happy I did. I do mixing for a living and will probably never buy a pc or laptop off the shelf again. I got a laptop from ADK and it is stronger than my studio pc. I checked out Jim's prices and find them quite reasonable (I may check him out when I need a next pc)
 
Basically for me I just want to get to work and have my machine work smooth like 2480 used to, which always did as soon as you turned on the power. I also have an awesome desk custom built, comfort and ergonomics is a big thing because you don't want to be straining anything while doing what you love or it will become stressful for you.

Windows 8 Pro X64 Sonar Platinum x64
Processor - AMD FX 8350 Eight Core Processor 4GB
16GB Memory
VS 700 System 
Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56
(Focusrite is only on when recording)
#24
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