My new DAW PC components
I built a new DAW PC last Sepember and I intended to post some details about it at the time but never got round to it. So, now a bit late, here are some comments on the components used.
Board: MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon
This mb was sold as "ex-demo", with $100 off the price. When I first booted up, the CPU (i7-6950k) clock was set at 4.1GHz rather than the expected 3.6GHz. Presumably it had been left with those settings after the shop demo. I would have expected it to automatically reset after fitting a new CPU, but maybe the same type of CPU had been used in the demo. I don't know. Anyway, I intended to adjust it back to the normal speed, but the computer never seems to get hot, so I decided to keep this setting in the end.
This is the first time that I have seen a BIOS UI that is accessed using a mouse. Setting the fans' speeds involves adjusting the nodes on a graph that plots (percentage) speed against temperature.
The mb has an m.2 slot and at a later stage I installed an m.2 SDD. Although it worked perfectly (and is very fast), it wasn't showing up in the BIOS. I contacted support and reported this. They said that it doesn't matter about the BIOS display as long as it works correctly. I disagree. If I understand correctly, the m.2 slot uses the combined bandwidth of one of the PCIe slots (#6) plus a pair of SATA ports (5 & 6), but the BIOS display gives no indication that these particular slots are occupied, so it could be confusing.
I checked the MSI site for BIOS updates, but it turned out that the one already installed was the latest. In fact, all of the software available for download was identical to the files on the accompanying disc, all dated Sep 2016. I suspect that this model has been discontinued as it does not seem to be widely available. MSI seems to produce a variety of different but apparently similar mb models but nowhere could I find a comparison chart.
After registering and posting on their forum, I noticed that I had been automatically assigned a username based on my email address. As this username gave away my full name which I do not wish to be displayed on public sites, I decided to re-register using a different email address.
Cooler: BeQuiet Silent Loop 280mm
I had some trouble installing this device at first. Our house was a hive of activity on that day, so I was keeping out of the way. I ended up working on the floor in a badly lit room and I made a few errors in putting the parts together. The next day I had the house to myself, so I moved everything into the kitchen. In the daylight, it was glaringly obvious that I had assembled the bracket wrongly and used the wrong screws, so I re-assembled it correctly. Lesson learned.
I fitted the radiator to the (inside) top of the case. There are two 140mm fans to attach to it, but one of them (the one next to the back of the case) would not quite fit because of insufficient space within the case. I reckon that it would fit if I file about 2mm off part of the plastic. Maybe I'll do that later. Or maybe it won't even be necessary, as the radiator rarely seems to get very warm anyway. It did begin to get hot during a day when I had a marathon session of copying files onto drives. But for editing audio it tends to stay cool. In the BIOS, I've adjusted the fans to run at minimum speed (and therefore quietly) unless the CPU starts to heat up.
I wasn't too happy with the manual for this product. The diagrams were ok, but the descriptions were brief and stated the obvious without explaining anything in detail or warning against potential pitfalls.
PSU: BeQuiet Straight Power 10 700W
There were no issues with this power supply. Nothing much to say about it really, except that it's very quiet. Most of the cables are detachable, so unused ones can be left off and they won't get in the way.
GPU: Matrox M9148
I transferred this card from my previous DAW PC. They are normally expensive, but I managed to find a used one quite cheap, boxed with all the accessories. It has 4 DisplayPort ports and I use all of them, as I have 4 monitors. Unfortunately one of the ports suddenly stopped working. Luckily I found another cheap used one again. It had low-profile bracket, but I managed to get a new bracket for $15, so no problem there. I now use both cards together. Now with 512MB per screen, I'm seeing improved performance when doing video editing. On the other hand, Sonar graphics are still sluggish.
CPU: Intel i7-6850k
Because of Sonar taking advantage of multi-core CPUs, I chose a 6-core CPU rather than a slightly faster 4-core 7700k at the same price. I now also have Digital Performer and, according to the DP manual, it makes full use of multi-cores too.
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum CMD16GX4M4A2666C15 16GB (4x4GB) DDR4
I kept receiving advice to get 2x8GB, but from what I have read 4 sticks will work better than 2 for DDR4 RAM, so I went with 4x4GB.
Case: Fractal Design Define R5
This case is marketed as a "quiet case", but that's really an exaggeration. There is only minimal damping and it has large vents areas that are a lot wider than the fans that can be attached to them, so internal noise can definitely escape. But with all the quiet components inside there is very little noise anyway, so it's not really a problem after all. On the other hand it's well ventilated. All the fans are very quiet. The sound from the fans is only the sound of air flow, i.e. no rattles or squeaks.
System drive: Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD
Installation was straighforward. No issues.
O/S: Windows 7 Ultimate
I hate Windows 10 and see no reason not to stick with Windows 7. If I ever need a more up-to-date o/s I will add it as dual boot.
Samples drive: Samsung 960 EVO 250GB m.2 SSD
Unbelievably fast, but uses a big chunk of the mb's total available bandwidth and rules out using some of the PCIe and SATA slots for other things.
Other drives: Various
I transferred two 120GB Kingston SSDs from my old DAW PC and added a couple of new larger-capacity mechanical drives for video, archives, backups and more. Now it's all complete. No more upgrades for a while.