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Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

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Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Chris of Arabia » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:46 pm

Well my venerable old Asus P5W DH Deluxe has decided to curl up its toes and go belly up (again), so I think I'm going to need to start again. It's seen life as first XP, Win 7 64-bit, and for the last 12 months Win 8 64-bit. My main recording s/w is SONAR X2 Producer, with NI-Complete 8 supplying soft synths etc. For some reason it doesn't like the power being fully off it anymore; I can reboot, power down via the O/S and restart it OK, but if I turn the power off at the wall, it flatly refuses to boot up properly and heads into a never ending 'Repairing Errors' cycle that I can't get it out of, short of a rebuild. If I'm going to be doing that, I may as well do it on new hardware

I'm planning on sticking it all in my existing Antec Sonata case as that still has all its sound proofing fitted and at some point along the line had a bigger PSU fitted, so I need a new ATX motherboard to put into it.

The main needs I've identified for a replacement are:

  • SATA3 connectors - at least 4, preferably more
  • 10/100/100 NIC - I have a QNAP NAS I want to be able to back up to
  • i7 CPU - don't know which one, but I'm not going to be overclocking or doing anything on it other than DAW activities
  • RAID capability - primarily for local sample storage, as I have a 240Gb SSD in the cupboard which I'll use for the O/S & applications
  • USB inputs - as many as possible

I'm not really running huge track counts (20-30 at most), but I do like running things like Kontakt, Reaktor, Battery and Maschine. My Audio interface is a USB Focusrite Scarlett 18i6

From what I've looked at so far, it would seem that something like the Asus Z87-PRO would happily meet my needs, but I'm curious about what else out there might be worth considering.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby johnny h » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:17 pm

There is no need for RAID. SSD for samples / OS / Programs. HDD for storage.

20-30 tracks is pretty trivial for a modern computer. A low spec laptop wouldn't even struggle with that these days!
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby semajjames » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:37 pm

"SSD for samples / OS / Programs"
Does this need to be one physical SSD or can it be two or three ?
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby johnny h » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:40 pm

semajjames wrote: "SSD for samples / OS / Programs"
Does this need to be one physical SSD or can it be two or three ?
One is fine as access times aren't an issue. The OS / programs require very little access when the DAW is running anyway.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby robinv » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:53 pm

Chris of Arabia wrote:

From what I've looked at so far, it would seem that something like the Asus Z87-PRO would happily meet my needs, but I'm curious about what else out there might be worth considering.

Sounds good to me. Track count isn't really the issue, it's what you're doing with those tracks that dictates what you need. Having separate OS and samples drives makes a lot of sense in terms of logistics and backup/recovery so although you can run everything off one drive it's wise (imho) to use more. RAID is easy to do in either the BIOS or with the Intel disk management thingy in Windows and if you want to use large SATA drives for tonnes of library then it can be a really good thing for performance - or - if you're more worried about data loss then mirrored drives can also work really well and you really dont suffer that much less performance.

So yeah, slap in the fastest processor you can afford and you're good to go. You sound like you're doing everything right :)
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Chris of Arabia » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:05 pm

OK, cheers guys. Sounds like I'm good to go - now to beat a door to the Riyadh computer souks (again).

The RAID is just about protecting data/samples & images of the SSD. I'll most likely set it up as RAID1.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby semajjames » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:06 pm

Thanks Johnny
what i ment about the separate SSD was will it hurt to use more than one for say O/S and programs
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby johnny h » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:44 pm

semajjames wrote:Thanks Johnny
what i ment about the separate SSD was will it hurt to use more than one for say O/S and programs
Shouldn't make a difference really if that's how you want to do it. The new ones are plenty fast enough for any kind of audio work.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Jan 11, 2014 1:02 pm

semajjames wrote:Thanks Johnny
what i ment about the separate SSD was will it hurt to use more than one for say O/S and programs

When installing a program the default location will probably be C:/Program Files, but you're at liberty to change this. My computer has Program Files folders on several drives. C: is a SSD, it gets the OS plus programs and data that I want to respond as quickly as possible. But there's limited space on C:, so less important programs go in D:/Program Files, a mechanical drive. It could just as well be another SSD.

You need to be careful though. Windows doesn't install all a program's resources neatly into one place. You may find that all you're putting in D:/Program Files is the (relatively small) main program code.

How long before 1TB SSD drives become affordable?
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Vyv » Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:24 pm

Hi, I'm also considering upgrading the innards of my PC soonish.

Are the differences between the numerous Z-87 versions relevant to musicians? The Z87K for example is a lot cheaper (under £100) but has much the same connectivity. Also I notice they mostly have max 32G RAM, not 64 as I expected.

I'm using Cubase with mainly VSL sample libraries and would like to be able to manage multiple Altiverb instances without the whole thing grinding to a halt.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Chris of Arabia » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:13 pm

The main differences seen to be on the internal and external i/o, with some variances in the expansion slots, plus the Pro model has a WiFi module. I guess it depend on how many of each feature you need or want.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Vyv » Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:48 am

Thanks, that's what I thought. So there shouldn't be any difference in terms of the basic speed of shunting data around. I'll need to check it's got the right PCI slot for my aged Delta 1010 card, but hopefully that's about it.

Cheers,
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Goddard » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:17 am

The good news: Z87 boards should all offer 6x SATA3 ports.

The bad news: You won't find "native" PCI support on Z87 (or on any Haswell mobo afaik), so don't count on your Delta 1010 working very well if at all in a bridged PCI slot.

I actually prefer mobo's without any of the "extras" - less stuff to cause IRQ and bus sharing problems, always a good thing in a DAW, plus you can save some dosh. In fact, since the bridged PCI slots on current Intel chipset boards are useless for most PCI audio interface cards, the fewer PCI slots on a new mobo the better I sez.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby robinv » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:20 am

Vyv wrote:

Are the differences between the numerous Z-87 versions relevant to musicians? The Z87K for example is a lot cheaper (under £100) but has much the same connectivity. Also I notice they mostly have max 32G RAM, not 64 as I expected.

Mostly the feature set and quality of components. 32GB is the max for the Z87 chipset, if you want 64GB you need to be looking at X79 2011 boards. Z87 boards only have 4 RAM slots and 8GB is the largest RAM stick generally available - X79 boards have 8 slots, hence 64GB.

32GB is a vast amount of RAM though - i think you'll hit the CPU ceiling first.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby robinv » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:23 am

Goddard wrote:

The bad news: You won't find "native" PCI support on Z87 (or on any Haswell mobo afaik), so don't count on your Delta 1010 working very well if at all in a bridged PCI slot.

I've not really encountered this problem - not with UAD cards or my Delta 44 in the bridged slot of my Z77 system. Is this from personal experience or an assumed issue due to the change in tech? I'm not saying you're wrong and i do a lot less PCI card stuff these days, just interested in your experience.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Goddard » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:03 pm

robinv wrote:
Goddard wrote:

The bad news: You won't find "native" PCI support on Z87 (or on any Haswell mobo afaik), so don't count on your Delta 1010 working very well if at all in a bridged PCI slot.

I've not really encountered this problem - not with UAD cards or my Delta 44 in the bridged slot of my Z77 system. Is this from personal experience or an assumed issue due to the change in tech? I'm not saying you're wrong and i do a lot less PCI card stuff these days, just interested in your experience.

Yes, from some personal experiences with PCI audio as well as other PCI cards, and also from others' reports. It seems to depend upon the particular PCI card, and also upon the particular PCIe-to-PCI bridge chip employed on a mobo (ITE bridges were notorious in Sandy Bridge P67 boards while ASM bridges seem to be less problematic).

One problem is when PCI cards won't configure properly (if at all) when behind a bridge, and another problem is that even when a card will configure properly and the drivers can see it, it can suffer reduced performance (high latency, lower throughput) when operated in a bridged PCI slot. These problems can occur even with higher end cards like Lynx and RME unless fixed by revised drivers/firmware.

That said, there are a number of PCIe audio interface cards which employ PCI guts and use an onboard PCIe-to-PCI bridge chip to interface with a PCIe slot, and work just fine with low latency, such as for example my own MOTU 424 PCIe host card, or the ESI Juli@ XTe.

If native PCI support is vital, than a Sandy/Ivy Intel "business/industrial" chipset mobo (Q67, B75) or an X79 mobo or an AMD mobo could be used instead of the latest Haswell mobo.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby robinv » Tue Jan 21, 2014 4:36 pm

Goddard wrote:

If native PCI support is vital, than a Sandy/Ivy Intel "business/industrial" chipset mobo (Q67, B75) or an X79 mobo or an AMD mobo could be used instead of the latest Haswell mobo.

I guess you won't know until you try - which is why these things are tricky :headbang: or get an audio PC builder to take on the responsibility :)
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Offramper » Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:53 pm

I am at the same stage as the OP and currently thinking of an H87 mobo carrying an Intel i7 4771 cpu. Asus have two ATX boards, the Pro and the Plus though it may be that the Pro is being discontinued in favour of an mATX version as I can't now find it on their product page. The ATK Pro has PCI support. If you are not overclocking then you don't need the added cost of the Z87 chipset nor unlocked K processors - saves a bit of cash!

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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Chris of Arabia » Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:47 am

Goddard wrote:The bad news: You won't find "native" PCI support on Z87 (or on any Haswell mobo afaik), so don't count on your Delta 1010 working very well if at all in a bridged PCI slot.

Looks like I'll have to think through that one a little further, as I forgot to mention my geriatric M-Audio 2496 that has served me well for so long. Whilst I may have the 18i6 these days, the 2496 has dug me out of more than one hole in the past.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Goddard » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:18 am

Offramper wrote:The ATK Pro has PCI support.

If it does, then it will be "bridged", not "native" PCI support, as afaik none of the current Haswell (Intel 8-series PCH) chipsets offer native PCI. So be aware.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Goddard » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:40 am

Chris of Arabia wrote:
Goddard wrote:The bad news: You won't find "native" PCI support on Z87 (or on any Haswell mobo afaik), so don't count on your Delta 1010 working very well if at all in a bridged PCI slot.

Looks like I'll have to think through that one a little further, as I forgot to mention my geriatric M-Audio 2496 that has served me well for so long. Whilst I may have the 18i6 these days, the 2496 has dug me out of more than one hole in the past.

Then it would certainly be prudent to confirm PCI compatibility for your M-Audio card if possible (their forum might yield some info).

Depending upon your i/o channel requirements, you might want to check out the ESI PCIe cards, which afaik employ the same audio controller (an ICE/VIA Envy PCI chip) as on your M-Audio card but with an onboard PCIe-to-PCIe bridge for use in a PCIe slot.

Unfortunately, with the shift to USB relatively few PCIe audio interface options became available compared to the former abundance of PCI offerings, and some of the once-available PCIe offerings (e.g. the E-MU PCIe interfaces and ESI's Maxio PCIe range) have since gone out of production leaving even fewer options in the "more affordable" range.

Still hard to beat a good PCI interface for low latency.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Vyv » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:06 am

At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest, there's the arrival of new, super, faster DDR4 RAM to consider, which will presumably make all this kit obsolete anyway. RAM is very expensive at the moment, if you're contemplating a new system (my current mobo is DDR2). I might just hang on for another year and sidestep the PCI issue by upgrading the Delta 1010 at the same time.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Scramble » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:47 am

Vyv wrote:At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest, there's the arrival of new, super, faster DDR4 RAM to consider, which will presumably make all this kit obsolete anyway.

DDR4 won't make the rest iof your kit obselete.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Vyv » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:04 pm

Sure? It's meant to be a lot faster. It might even make the present mobo's with DDR3 cheaper. I just know how the old DDR2 I use is a lot pricier per Gb than DDR3.
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Re: Time for a rebuild - Mobo Options?

Postby Chris of Arabia » Sat Jan 25, 2014 5:42 pm

As a temporary measure, I've taken the errant HDD out and have slotted the SSD I have in there. I can still access all the data on the HDD, but it's unreliable to boot from and I can't get it to defrag down below 18%. Anyhow, Win8 has been reinstalled and even though the SSD isn't running at its full SATAIII capability, the performance difference is remarkable. Time to get a few apps installed and I'll be up and running again.

I'll sort the new mobo out when Mrs of Arabia is in the UK at the end of March. It looks like I'll be sticking with my original choice and will pick up one of the ESI cards to provide the cover the 2496 gave me.
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