building new machine around 1010LT

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pleasebeus
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Looking for thoughts & pointers for my new system.

I'm researching the build of a new pc around my existing M-Audio 1010LT. Aside from that, I intend to spend around GBP 500 not including the monitor. I'll want dual monitors. I'll be using it for heavyweight image processing in Gimp as well as Ardour stuff.

I don't mind which distro runs on it although I'm more familiar with Debian distros than any other.

Any thoughts on a good mobo/processor/case combo? Any existing preconfigured systems from Dell, Lenovo etc out there? I quite fancy a Shuttle just cos they seem small, quiet and cute but fear whether the 1010LT will fit.

Benjamin Scherrer
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Hi,

I think your 500 pounds will be quite enough :)
I can't really recommend any specific mainboard, but I would go with one with 4 PCI slots. Most mobos only have 1 or 2, but maybe you want to add some delta 1010LTs at some time. I use 2 for 16 channel recording and they work very well together (besides with jack2... ah well). Yoo can even hook up 4 or more Delta1010(LT)s.

There are some mobos with onboard graphics, but I'm not sure if it's possible to use those with dual monitors. If you get the chance, go for intel graphic chips, they are fully supported in linux.
I use a ATI radeon HD 3450 which is pretty cheap and works well for dual monitor. The support is getting better, I just recently had some success with free 3D support but it's still not usable in conjunction with realtime audio, so I have to turn the 3D support off.

Regarding the CPU I would go with the best :)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/AMD-Phenom-Cache-Quad-core-Processor/dp/B002KV6MLS
It's an 4x 3,4 GHz CPU, man, I got the 4x2,5GHz and it rocks ;) It's a pretty good price for around 150 pounds, and it might get lower at some other shop. If you are concerned about power consumption, you might want to consider the 4x3,2 GHz version.

Distro: Use a 64bit version to use all the RAM. I use 4GB and it feels soo good :)

Best Benjamin

pleasebeus
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Thanks for the reco Benjamin. My only worry with power consumption on a powerful CPU is fan noise - I'd really like a quiet machine if possible. Are my fears justified?

thorgal
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about noise, you can definitely have a "powerful" CPU and a silent PC. I have a Core 2 Duo 2 x 2,4 GHz which is plenty for my use, and I have a kinda huge zalman cooler+fan on top of it, which I keep at the minimal speed. see for example this link: http://www.google.co.uk/products/catalog?q=zalman+9700&oe=utf-8&rls=org.... When the cores are 100% active, I get about 45-47 deg. In summer, I may get 50 deg. but never above. I have an Intel mobo (DG965SS or something like that) which has an onboard graphics. It can be extended for dual monitors thanks to an addon card (intel SVDO on PCI express which will provide an extra DVI port). I worked with this setup for a long time but I finally gave up on the intel IGP and replaced by a passively cooled GeForce 9500 GT on the PCI express slot. This was almost night and day in terms of performance :) And it was not at all conflicting with the audio performance. I believe the MOBO has 2 PCI slots, so you can definitely have 2 Delta's. I have stuffed all this in a Antec Sonata III case which is very nice for silent operations. And its PSU is very efficient. http://www.google.co.uk/products/catalog?q=antec+sonata+iii&cid=12839609... My hard disks are SATA 2, 2.5' laptop sized HDs. The HD I use for data is really fast on its own (non RAID configuration). An 'hdparm -tT' shows very good results (~ 77MB/s). I chose 2.5' HDs for their quiet operations and lower power needs. The PC sits below my desk, on a cushioned board for extra vibration absorption. I don't hear it at all, even at night when the whole house is silent. When I turn the PC on, I hear nothing. I have been very happy about the result from the start :)
Benjamin Scherrer
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Hi,

I use the arctic cooling freezer 64 pro for my Amd Phenom 4x 2,5 GHz and it's pretty quiet. It becomes audible under full load, but it's still very decent, and there are better coolers than mine. I think the Phenom 955 with 4x3,2 GHz matches the TDP of mine, but I can't say if it gets hotter or not.

The main sources of loudness are my harddrives, so thorgal's option sounds very good. I have 2 SATA II 3,5" Western Digital in a Raid 1 (mirror). They are not too loud, but most of the time louder than the CPU fan.

Thorgal: The free radeon and radeonhd drivers just introduced 3D acceleration support for the ATI HD series and are therefore still unstable and cause problems with realtime audio, at least on my board. To my knowledge, there is no free 3D support for nvidia cards at all (http://xorg.freedesktop.org/wiki/nv), or am I wrong here?
But then again, 3D pretty much doesn't matter for audio and image processing :)

Benjamin

vtech
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1. Noise: I use watercooled system for over 6 years now. (MoBos/CPUs change, cooling stays). That's what I call silent! :) Consider it.

2. 32/64: I recommend using 32bit OS. With PAE you can use up to 64GB of RAM. I have 8GB on mine. From my experience 32bit apps tend to be more stable (it's getting better every day, but it's still valid, most of the apps were 32bit only originally). Especially, if you need Wine for VST.

3. NVidia - I use a "dual boot": nv-no3d-driver+RT-kernel & nvidia-3d+normal-kernel (root partition is common), lately I've tested RT+3D and it works, if the JACK latency is >5.33ms. But it's still better with the nv driver - 2.66ms stable at 48kHz (1010LT)

pleasebeus
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Vtech, I did consider water cooling briefly but I don't think I can be bothered with it. I, too, have concerns about 64 bit. I'm asking myself whether it's really worth the trouble.

Benjamin, I'm sure you're right about 3d not being too important but I do want to do the odd video edit (nothing too tough, though). It's a shame there's no simple solution yet for RT+3d. I do need a dual head so I can run 2 monitors, tho.

I thought about using SSD's to keep the noise down but they remain too pricey at the moment. Looking at my 'parts bin' I have an unused Hitachi Deskstar 500GB drive which I couldn't get working on my old mobo (iirc it was to do with jumpers not available on the drive to make it back compatible with SATA 1). Presumably any contemporary mobo like the ones you guys are describing will be ok.

Thorgar, the Antec Sonata III case seems perfect. It's on the shopping list.

thorgal
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@Benjamin:

I use the proprietary driver, especially since it can use the VDPAU (h/w pure-video for linux or so). I sometimes watch some HD videos from this PC (rare since I use it only for audio but it happens). It's really great to see the CPU load remaining at 1% while enjoying HD-MPEG4 videos :)

The NV driver (open-source) has reasonable performance (2D) but no 3D. I think the "Nouveau" project aims at providing the 3D capability to users who wish to stick to open-source. Check it out, it may actually be already there.

I am very happy with the closed-source driver, so I didn't dig it further. Note that I don't use an RT patched kernel. The vanilla performance is already outstanding on my system, but I suspect it's because I use an RME HDSP card (I disabled on the onboard sound). The only app that craps xruns on my system is lmms (which I never use anyway :D) but it's because they do some "illegal" stuff (according to the jackd doc) in the main process callback.

pleasebeus
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Thorgal, if you can watch HD vid full screen on your set up then I'm pretty sure it's going to be good enough for me.

Anyone have any keyboard and monitor recos? I guess I should ask on a graphics forum about the monitors, but for the keyboard it'd be interesting to know if anyone has found nirvana. At the moment, I'm tempted by a full sized wired Apple keyboard - I've never come across anything better.

thorgal
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Keyboard: I have no preference here, I just use a Logitech EX110 (which I will switch to a fully wired one because of the use of 1.5V batteries). I just need a US layout kbd but I live in DK, so it is quite annoying even though the US layout is in "my fingers".

Monitors ? I don't know, if you do serious graphic work ... I have two Samsung SyncMaster 226BW. Very decent for my needs. They only go up to 1680x1050@60Hz (vert. refresh). They provide DVI-D (so digital only) and VGA (no HDMI). From my nVidia card, I use both digital ports (I have a little converter HDMI to DVI-D) so I have nothing plugged to the VGA port (neither the nVIDIA, nor the onboard Intel). I could actually use a third screen via VGA, which I have around but I see no use for it.

Note that these screen monitors are not fancy (no extra connectivity - USB - S-Video - etc) but they do the job right. I use the nVIDIA in twin-view mode so I have a virtual screen of 3360x1050. I disabled Composite (you know these funny desktop effects ... useless), which improves the HD playback performance (no image tearing).

Anyway, this PC can be ON for weeks, with jack2, ardour, rosegarden, some VSTis, no crash, no problems. Very stable. I use kernel 2.6.32 provided by sidux (not debian sid since I want the high freq timer). I used to build my own kernels but since I am no longer using the RT patch, the sidux kernel is good enough :)

vtech
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Keyboard: Silicon Graphics - Light gray (originally shipped with Octane2). The best keyboard ever for me. I have a bunch of them from Ebay and use them everywhere. (but I know, my preference is weird :-D )

Mouse: Logitech MX

Note about disks: I use RAID-0 on the workstation for maximum speed (2x SATA on one machine, 3x 15krpm SCSI320 on the other) and RAID-5 on the fileserver for safety (2x 4 drives, zillion fans (ok 12) ). Network is gigabit.

pleasebeus
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Silicon Graphics: no, you're not weird. The first time I toyed with unix was Irix on an Indigo about 15 years ago. I got two of them repo from a burnt out biotech company. It remains the prettiest box I've ever owned. And yes, the keyboard was world class (wish I'd kept it when I junked the box). Means I'd need a mobo with a ps2 socket, I guess.

I'm now searching mobos and am somewhat bewildered by the choice :(

thorgal
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here is mine (a little bit "old" by nowadays standards but for my use, it's great) :

http://www.intel.com/cd/channel/reseller/asmo-na/eng/products/desktop/bdb/dg965ss/feature/index.htm

pleasebeus
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Thanks thorgal. I can pick that up for £75; I can think of no reason to choose sthg more 'contemporary' but I'm sure there are.

booniesboy
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Hi pleasebeus,

Just a few comments based on my somewhat limited experience:

Re: ShuttleX -- very nice units but, with their small enclosure, cooling could be an issue. I had repaired one recently with massive hard drive failure (I believe due to heat-failure). Further, they have very limited pci expansion.

Re: Monitors -- I use a beautiful 22" Sun dual input CRT - X7149A which I picked up used for a song four years ago. Excellent graphics capability with resolutions to 2048x1536, dp 0.24. I can't believe what they're going for now used -- in the $700 range!

Hth,

allank
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Hey there

A couple of points.. I also use the propietary nividia drivers (mostly for the convenience of twinview, and I have used RT Kernel and gentoo-patched kernel without noticeable latency difference... (round trip I leave it around 4ms at whatever freq I am using, I can push it further but don't really feel the need).. I'm using a Saffire Pro 1010 on ffado, but on my older Delta 1010 had approximately the same performance.

One thing I would highly recommend is looking into any of the current Phenom II processors.. (I have a triple core 720 BE) The performance is fanstastic for ardour even at clock speeds and the temps stay very low... so fan speeds can be kept very low...

I use an older Scythe Ninja rev B (about 4 years old) in a push pull configuration with one fan on the case and one on the cooler.. both at low speeds and my system is OC'd to 3.5 GHz under I haven't seen it go over 45 degrees C at about 25 degrees ambience (gives more headroom on the DSP/audio thread but it rarely goes beyond 60% so I could probably lower back to stock speeds)... I get more noise from my 2 * Raid 0 arrays creating vibrations through th, which I plan to replace with single SSD's when the prices drop some more... (in fact the 2 arrays is probably overkill anyway for a DAW system)

I also don't recommend the Shuttle boxes for the reasons above, both PCI slot limitation but mainly heat..... for price/performance I recommend Antec cases especially the Sonata range... (but don't use the slot cooler... it performs better without it)...

As for monitors .. last year I won a Compaq 1600*900 20" monitor.. this was never going to be my choice until I used it.. (I bought a second)... 16:9 ratio goes very well for ardour as you get room for everything... getting a second down the track is something to consider as you can have your mixer on one screen and main edit screen on the other without need for switching between virtual desktops.. (will post pictures to the other conversation in the next couple of days)...

pleasebeus
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Thanks for your comments allank & booniesboy. It looks like I'm moving towards a Phenom II with an nvidia card (a quadro?) in an Antec Sonata case. As far as the monitor goes, I'm a keen photographer, so I'm going to splash out on a good monitor (probably a Dell 2410WFP) ; to sit next to my existing cheapy 4:3 V7 for dual screen.

Am still bewildered by the number of processors / mother boards out there.

Which Phenom II should I buy? Does a quad core make any sense?

And married to which mobo? I'd be pleased to see firewire and a ps/2 socket (for the vintage silicon graphics keyboard I'm going to pick up). And obviously it needs a couple of standard PCI slots to accommodate my 1010LT.

pleasebeus
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ok, this is how my A/V system is shaping up. I'm not a PC builder by nature and only do this kind of thing every few years. Each time it's a real headache catching up with technology changes. I'd appreciate any comments; especially any howlers I may have committed in navigating all of this!

  • Dell UltraSharp U2410 24" Widescreen LCD Monitor
  • AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 955 Black Edition 3.20GHz (Socket AM3)
  • Antec Sonata III Piano Black Quiet Case - Black (EarthWatts 500W PSU)
  • Corsair XMS2 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 PC2-8500C5 TwinX Dual Channel (TWIN2X4096-8500C5C)
  • Asus M4A785TD-M Evo AMD 785G (Socket AM3) PCI-Express DDR3 Motherboard
  • Hitachi Deskstar HDP7250 500GB HD
  • M-Audio 1010LT

I've got some budget left over for a graphics card, keyboard & mouse

I read that the Phenom doesn't benefit massively from DDR3 RAM so I'm sticking to cheaper DDR2. I'll run my old graphics card before deciding on a new card as I don't have any brain cells left to work out what else to do. I'll also cannibalise the DVD reader from my old box.

thorgal
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so you're going for a 3.5" HD ? I hope it is not too noisy ;)

ah no, it is 2.5" but is it SATA2 ?

pleasebeus
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The HD is a 3.5 SATA 3 Gb/s 7200 rpm I have lying around in a parts box doing nothing. If it ends up being too noisy I'll look at buying something else, maybe SSD

peder
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FWIW, Ardour won't benefit that much from multicore, but then again I guess you wouldn't be able to find a singlecore nowadays..

Benjamin Scherrer
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Hi pleasebeus,

looks pretty nice to me :)

Two thoughts:

1. Does DDR2 work on this board? I only read DDR3 support, not sure if this will work.
2. The board has an onboard ATI Radeon HD 4200 with one VGA and ond DVI output, so you could also try this option out, depending on how good your old card is.

Ah, and you should add a CPU cooler, even if there's ome shipped with the CPU it won't be a real quiet one ;)

Best,
Benjamin

allank
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It's definitely DDR3.. so you need to revise the RAM. you don't need to go for the highest spec though... I doubt the CPU can use much more than 1200 MHz RAM anyway.. I use DDR2 at 1066 MHZ and the thing flies..definitely no RAM bottleneck...

on multicore... read this http://ardour.org/node/2863

I bought my Phenom II 720 partially based on advice here from Paul..

.. and went 3 cores... due to ardour using 3 threads... I noticed a definite improvement in the UI response while recording at low latency and can even switch virtual desktops without generating an xrun (even when at stock speeds using PowerNow)... 4 cores won't hurtl... ..but I like 3.... it's kind of a nice balance between clock speed and the ability to run multiple threads.. and was dirt cheap... unfortunately AMD has stopped producing them except for the low power model which isn't really suited to overclocking so you won't get anywhere near the processing power as the 720 BE...

my rent to own is up again (tax benefits outweigh increased overall cost ).. .. I have had my CPU mobo combo for 8 months and bought it on a 1 year rental instead of my normal 2 year.. with a plan to upgrade again this year expecting
a) me to outgrow this CPU quickly as I keep increasing the number of plugins I use and
b) in the hope that Paul would have had time to get into his plan to get more "parallellism" into Ardour.

In the end it turns out I still have so much headroom on this CPU I'm going to keep it for another year at least and use the renewal.. on a pair of SSD's instead of doing a CPU/Mobo/RAM upgrade.. (fingers crossed the supposed removal of HDD bottleneck will be noticeable as I don't believe more cores will be noticeable for audio... only compiling)

pleasebeus
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Thanks for the heads up on the cooler Benjamin. I'd chosen DDR2 because although the CPU takes DDR3 it remains backwards compatible to DDR2. Somewhere I read that the increased benefit isn't that great. Of course, now I can't find that link... I get very confused with RAM. Is it better to get 6 GB of DDR2 than 4GB of DDR3 with this set up? Who knows? My supplier gives me a choice of

  • DDR3 Tri-Channel - PC3-16000+
  • DDR3 Tri-Channel - PC3-14400+
  • DDR3 Tri-Channel - PC3-12800
  • DDR3 Tri-Channel - PC3-10600
  • DDR3 Dual-Channel - PC3-14400+
  • DDR3 Dual-Channel - PC3-12800
  • DDR3 Dual-Channel - PC3-10666
  • DDR2 - PC2-8500+
  • DDR2 - PC2-6400
  • DDR2 - PC2-5300

And that's even before choosing the brand. So little of the advice and recos out there relate to our linux a/v needs. Most people building boxes are doing it for gaming and the ram & gpu decisions all revolve around fps etc :-/ Appreciate your comments on 1200MHz, Allan. I can't work out whether dual channel, tri channel etc will benefit me.

Benjamin Scherrer
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Hi,

I don't want to annoy you with the DDR2/3 thing, but I'm still not sure if DDR2 will work. The CPU definitely can work with both, but the question is if the board can handle both or DDR3 only.

Best Benjamin

pleasebeus
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Hey, I'm certainly not annoyed Benjamin! I really appreciate your input and everyone else; it's been invaluable so far. The DDR2 reference was here: http://cli.gs/rUY2r2 There's a whole lot of info on Phenom II performance on Linux in that.

Even with DDR3, I'm still stumped by the dual channel tri channel thing. It seems optimised for Intel Core 7 and I can't navigate my head around it.

I hope I can get this thing properly specced and ordered this week; build next week and then forget about it! I hope this thread will be useful to others thinking of building a Linux AV system around a 1010LT. I'm probably not the only one.

pleasebeus
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Here's the latest spec. DDR 3 it is, but dual channel since the tri channel seems designed for Intel Core i7 processors. I've also added a Corsair water cooler (thanks for the nudge, vtech). It's the 120mm fan that got me sold on that.

  • Dell UltraSharp U2410 24" Widescreen LCD Monitor
  • AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 955 Black Edition 3.20GHz (Socket AM3)
  • Corsair XMS3 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 10666C9 1333MHz TwinX Dual Channel (TW3X4G1333C9)
  • Antec Sonata III Piano Black Quiet Case - Black (EarthWatts 500W PSU)
  • Asus M4A785TD-M Evo AMD 785G (Socket AM3) PCI-Express DDR3 Motherboard
  • Corsair H50-1 High-Performance CPU Watercooler (Socket LGA775/1156/1366/AM2/AM3)

Thanks to everyone for your help. Without the monitor, all this comes in at well under £500, leaving me a bit of room to get a nice keyboard.

I'll use my existing

  • M-Audio 1010LT
  • dual head Geforce video card
  • 500GB 3.5" Hitachi Deskstar SATA 3 GB/s
  • cheapy V7 LCD monitor (to get twin monitors for tracks & edit screens)

Is there any point in building a 64 bit system with this or should I stick to 32 bit?

allank
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you got it .. PhenomII's are backward compatible to DDR2 but only in an am2+ board (this is my setup).. but DDR3 has reached the point where it is at price parity or even cheaper than DDR2 ....
I keep flicking between 32 and 64 bit ever since the first amd64 chips.... there is a theoretical performance boost on 64 bit or a boost too small to notice for me anyway with audio... with video compression the difference can be noticed..

However, there is still slightly more compatibility with apps in 32 bit but the main question will be do you plan to use VST's .. in which case 32 bit is much friendlier..

pleasebeus
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An update on my new setup. Most components bar the monitor arrived Friday and within a couple of hours of unwrapping the courier packages and plugging leads into their respective sockets I'd installed a zippy vanilla Ubuntu Karmic on the HD.

In the end I got the following:

  • Dell UltraSharp U2410 24" Widescreen LCD Monitor
  • AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 955 Black Edition 3.20GHz (Socket AM3)
  • Corsair XMS3 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 10666C9 1333MHz TwinX Dual Channel (TW3X4G1333C9)
  • Antec Designer 500 Case (EarthWatts 500W PSU)
  • Asus M4A785TD-M Evo AMD 785G (Socket AM3) PCI-Express DDR3 Motherboard
  • Used Silicon Graphics PS/2 keyboard
  • Hitachi Deskstar SATA 3GB/s 500GB HD

I decided to leave the water cooling idea and the graphics card until later. So far, the mobo's onboard graphics seem plenty enough for my old single TFT monitor. We'll see how it deals with the load of the new Dell Utrasharp on top. The case is super quiet compared to my old box and its fridge-white wrap makes for a brilliant whiteboard :)

I have the 1010LT hooked up to a old Quad 33/303 amp and a pair of Rogers LS4s for general listening and monitoring.

Everything worked out of the box bar the 1010LT which needed an easy tweak for Pulse to run it (described here: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/libao-pulse/+bug/447092)

I loaded Ubuntu Studio on top of the Karmic vanilla install to save the bother of going through all the individual items. It's described here and went faultlessly: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Ubuntu%20Studio%20Upgrade%20from%20Ubuntu Ubuntu Studio seems to have got back on the rails following a trough six months or so ago.