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Tweaking Your Music Computer

Page 2

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by Rich the TweakMeister   

Note:  This page is dated; info is old.

So How much is all this going to Cost? 
Tweak's EZ Guide figuring out what you need
Most important of course is which processor (CPU) are you going to buy.  AMD and Intel are the two major options.    

Don't think that an Athlon XP 2100 means it is 2.1 ghz.  Here's how AMD interprets the clock frequency spec:

3700+ operates at a frequency of 2.4Ghz
3400+ operates at a frequency of 2.2Ghz
3000+ operates at a frequency of 2.0Ghz
2100+ operates at a frequency of 1.73GHz.
2000+ operates at a frequency of 1.67GHz.
1900+ operates at a frequency of 1.6GHz.
1800+ operates at a frequency of 1.533GHz.
1600+ operates at a frequency of 1.40GHz.

But this does not mean that an Athlon 3400+ is equivalent to a Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz.  We have been conditioned to think that way by the years of Intel's domination over the CPU.  Clock speed does not tell the whole story.  It's more a matter of how much work the CPU can do in an interval of time.

1. What type of RAM do you want?    Always a great idea to buy RAM matched for the motherboard.  I suggest you not try to deviate from the specs on the motherboard.

2. How many slots for PCi cards do you need?  One cool thing is that many MOBOs now come with onboard Firewire, USB2, Ethernet.  This may replace some of your old PCI cards, so you may not need as many slots. If you have an older ISA card you need to use, note that today's motherboards no longer support them.  I recommend you dig a little hole in the yard and say a prayer for any ISA cards you have. They have no business being in a fast computer.  Just by sitting there they might slow the machine down.

3. What Chipset do you prefer?    Always best to go to Google and type the following once you have a configuration in mind.

Problems AND [name of soundcard] AND [name of chipset]

4. Do you want to Overclock? Should you Overclock?  Note that you will have to take extra precautions to cool the CPU if you decide to overclock, and you may trade off stability for speed. In the balance, for now, considering today's prices, I'd say don't overclock.  Just get a fast CPU and fast RAM. 

5. Other things that vary from board to board are the type of hard drives you can install.  Some go with the ATA (IDE) style drives and others with the newer Serial ATA with its smaller connector.  If you are going to be bringing over your old drives make sure it has the right drive slots.

If you have gone through all of these items, there should be only 1 or 2 motherboard/memory combinations to choose from.  Congratulations.  You should now know what you want.


Generally, the cost of upgrading CPU and RAM and Motherboard can be anywhere between $400 and $800 depending on the components you choose.  The latest CPUs are always going to be expensive but the one's that came out last year are usually very reasonable.  

Where does on find out more information on motherboards, CPUs and memory?

Of course, you should check out The BUZZ on this site so you can tailor your newsgroup searches like I did for the above results. On the Web, a place I go for info on stuff is Tom's hardware guide is also a good place on the net to educate yourself on these issues. You can get VIA drivers and great MOBO info from   In addition to having great information, there is a message board where thousands of users post their experiences with varied hardware configurations.  There are plenty of pics of building computers from scratch. 

Which OS? 

Windows 98SE or Windows 2000 or Win XP, or Vista 32 or 64?  Wait till Windows 7?

updated April 2, 2005

98SE?  Is this a joke?  It wasn't when I first wrote the question when Microsoft released XP, on October 25th, 2001.  W2k and XP have proved to be a much more stable and robust platform for running sequencers, software samplers, and audio editing programs than 98 ever was. If you ask me whether you should go with Win2k or XP, I say XP. Win98SE is dead. Cubase SX and Sonar 4 all work great on XP now.  New drivers have been written, tested, and released. Win 2k remains a viable platform, though I think it's best for corporate environments. 

I'd stick with XP, then re-evaluate when Win 7 has been out a year.

  And you can read more about this in my article on upgrading to Win XP A

64 Bit OS are not far away but don't bleed on the edge.

Tweak's Spin: Soon a 64 bit version of Windows will be released.  You might want to get a CPU that can handle 64 bit operation.  The main advantage, once the new Windows version is released will be greater memory.  The old barriers will be shattered and it will soon be conceivable to run softsamplers with a terrabyte of memory (that's 1,000 gigabytes).  This will mean even larger virtual studios will be possible at extremely high audio resolutions.  Let's hope the soundcard makers can keep up!   While there may be plenty of compatibility issues at first, once they are ironed out we will find a much more powerful and stable platform for our work. 



  Go to Page 3 to see an upgrade in progress

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The Audio Interface
Signal Flow Computer-based Studio
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Signal Flow of a MultiTrack Studio
Assembling Your Studio Rig
Studio setup in a Nutshell
5 Hot Tips
Building a Quiet Room
Understanding MIDI Interfaces
The War on Hum
Multiple Video Displays
Latency and how to Deal
Word Clock
Everything About Cables
Digital Audio Converters
Bit Depth and Sample Rate
Studio Monitors
Impedance for Musicicans
How to setup a Patchbay
Room Acoustics Basics
Studio Monitors Price List
Acoustic Products
Catalog of MIDI Interfaces


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