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conroy May 12, 2014 10:00 AM

Ultra quiet audio recording workstation
Hello everyone,

I'm a music producer and I'm replacing my 10 year old C3 Music XPC computer. It's served me well over the years but I would like to build something more up to date. I have never bolted together a computer system from scratch. Any advice would be most welcome.

1. The main purpose for this computer will be audio recording and production. It needs to be super silent. It needs to be quiet enough to run a sensitive condenser microphone in the room without picking up any noise. This system will also be used for some photo and video editing. I'm hoping to start with 4 or 8GB of ram and to be able to upgrade.

2. I'm hoping to put this system together for around $1000.

3. I live in Toronto Canada.

4. I'm hoping to go the Windows 7 64 bit route. I imagine I would like to use a Core i5 processor with four true cores. I don't need hyper threading.

5. I'm intending to use these current parts; HP ZR24w monitor, 2 SATA hard drives, Delta 1010 PCI card. I will probably use my GeForce 6200 video card unless a significantly superior fanless video card is suggested. I would like to use my Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-116D burner.

6. I would like to build this system in an acoustically quiet case. I like the idea of being able to adjust the fanspeeds for optimal silence/cooling performance.

7. I'm not planning to overclock this system

8. I'm planning to put it together this month.

9. This system will probably not be used for gaming. My monitor is 1920 x 1200.

10. A super quiet tower case will be essential. I'm looking for ultra quiet cooling fans. There must be one 32-bit PCI expansion slot for my DELTA 1010 soundcard. An AGP 4X/BX slot for my current GeForce 6200 video card would be useful. I would like to have at least one SSD drive. There are 2 SATA HDD drives I would like to install. There should be at least two USB ports in the front. I have enjoyed the technical support from Music XPC over the years but would prefer not to spend $1800 on a new ready built Music XPC.

Any guidance would be appreciated!


dma0991 May 12, 2014 11:05 AM

Case with sound dampening material will help in noise reduction but you'll have to take into account other parts that may contribute to more noise. The real goal here is to make a passively cooled PC or at least keep the number of fans to a minimum, no more than two and preferably one. Since you're not overclocking nor do you intend to play games with it, get the latest Core i5 4690. You don't need your old GPU for this build as the Core i5 4690 is better than the GeForce 6200 and sufficient for your intended use.

To make it passively cooled, you will need the Thermalright HR-02 Macho. It does come with a fan but you can opt to go fully passive with it. Then get the Seasonic X-400, which is a fanless PSU. Lastly, do not use any HDDs. It can vibrate enough to create an audible hum in a very silent room. Its best to just use a 256GB SSD as its only drive and if extra space is necessary, external USB 3.0 HDDs that you can detach when not needed.

Finally, for the case, Fractal Design Define R4 without window. The stock fans are sufficient to cool these passive components and you don't need more. The fans are rated at a maximum of 1kRPM, which isn't loud. But if its still audible, get a low speed adapter or replace the fans with ones that spin at 700RPM or less.

MARSTG May 12, 2014 11:22 AM

Very nice suggestions by dma0991, I completely agree. Worst case scenario you could disconnect the fans of the case if they make any sound at all. Use one large SSD while you do your audio capture and transfer the result onto an external drive only after you finish it. You could preserve your existing HDDs into an external dock or closed USB 3.0 enclosures.

conroy May 12, 2014 02:26 PM

Great ideas dma0991 and MARSTG.

Would there be any point in having a second SSD? One for the programs and one for the audio files? Would it make things any faster or more efficient?

I like the look of the Thermalright HR-02 Macho. It's similar to the heat pipe cooling system my old Music XPC Shuttle came with. The Music XPC is somewhat quiet but it does have three fans working away.

Thank you also for recommending the Core i5 4690. It seems to fall in line with what I'm looking for. Nice to know that I can do without my old GeForce 6200 video card.

Thanks for suggesting the Seasonic X-400. I was originally considering an Smart SP-650M which is fan cooled. I probably don't need that much wattage anyway.

Glad you recommended the Fractal Design Define R4 case. That was one of the cases I was originally considering.

Thanks for the help! I'll let you know how it goes.

ZZLEE May 12, 2014 02:47 PM

A second SSD would be usefull it would save your OS drive from cycles of write and delete.

I would say at least a 120 GB fore OS and and a large 260 GB fore files if its in the budget.

You can maybe use a NAS over the LAN port to store files fore longer term storage and to house your old drives.
This can be set up outside the sound sensitive area of the studio but still abscessed from the studio PC or other PC's in the office.

This is not as secure as USB enclosures in that if this is connected to the internet it can be hacked more reddely.

3.0charlie May 12, 2014 04:12 PM

I second all those proposals, especially the NAS. A simple Qnap 2-drive unit in raid 1 will give you some peace of mind (data redundancy) while still have enough capacity to save your work. Twin WD Reds, in the 1-2-3 or 4 Tb flavor would be my choice. Simply connect to your network, and drop the unit outside of the recording room.

I've used the Seasonic PSU in a dead-silent HTPC rig I built once, works fine. As for the case, any would do actually - but I'd replace ANY fan with Noctuas, and use their low-speed adapters. They make any case dead-silent. You could even use one on the HR-02 for some minimal airflow.

That's what I call a fun build. :thumb:


enaberif May 12, 2014 04:34 PM

How swap bay would be ideal for transferring data to a mechanical drive. You could have a 4 bay setup that would only be powered on when needed and be faster than any usb dock.

dma0991 May 12, 2014 04:45 PM


Originally Posted by conroy (Post 765613)
Would there be any point in having a second SSD? One for the programs and one for the audio files? Would it make things any faster or more efficient?

That depends on how large the files you're working on will be. I don't know how large your audio files will be but I'm sure that a 256GB would suffice as a temporary storage while processing. Typical HDDs are better suited and cheaper for permanent storage of files that you're no longer processing. An alternative to external HDD is this single hotswap bay that slots in HDDs like a cassette.

Johnny Buntu May 12, 2014 07:22 PM

If you are really serious about music production , ditch the M Audio Delta 1010.
Recommend RME or Lynx.. and yes they are expensive.


inbalance99 May 13, 2014 07:17 AM

I use reaper as a daw and built a system last year, I7 4770k, ssd, 8 gigs. This is way too much for a dedicated audio DAW. I plan to add a video card for gaming.

You don't need a video card for an audio DAW.
You don't need even a single ssd for a dedicated audio DAW either but it is nice to have for quick start ups.

An entire music CD is about 700 megs, so if you have even a 4 gig system an entire CD worth of music can be in memory with lots remaining. In terms of tracks, a stereo CD, with say 12 songs, is 24 tracks at 16 / 44. So even raising that to 24 / 96, 24 tracks, means 4 gigs is probably good, 8 gigs is plenty.

Audio processing is simply not compute intensive at all given modern technology.

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