You are here

Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

For anything relating to music-making on Windows computers, with lots of FAQs. Moderated by Martin Walker.

Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby BasicMIDI » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:05 am

Hi,

I’m in the market for a new PC, and for various reasons I want it to live in my rack.

I run cubase 6.5 with a Moti 828. Currently I run it on a Rain laptop that I purchased new a few years ago, and while it does the job, I’m pretty sure it’s config is... bespoke as the cpu always runs too hot, and so the lifespan of a fan before it starts making an awful loud grinding noise is short. As well as running cubase the other requirements I have are that it’s quiet, possibly silent, and that the case is shockproof allowing it to be moved around frequently.

So my question is, what else should I be looking out for when buying?

I don’t want to build my own, as there’s too much to learn and no warranty. I also want to make sure I avoid a dell type situation where you can only really upgrade with dell parts.

Finally, I used to be a bit of a Windows nerd once, but those times have gone. The PC can’t unfortunately be exclusively for music. Are there any recommended up-to-date articles to read on partitioning/multiple profiles? I’m also interested in learning about best practice for backing up files, music or otherwise.

Thanks in advance for all of your help, you beautiful people.

Ben
BasicMIDI
New here
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:28 am

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:00 am

The last time I looked at a rack-mount PC I was advised that the cooling would be a problem with newer processors. Others here know more than me on this, but be sure to find out if this is going to be a problem for you.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11478
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:56 am

The key thing about back-ups is to institute a regime to make sure you DO them! :)

I'm also a believer in working incrementally - ie always save a new version of files/projects as you adjust things. Don't overwrite what you have with the new stuff... That way if you subsequently decide that something isn't working you can always go back to an earlier version and have another go...

I'm fortunate in that I have a good broadband connection and am not processing vast quantities of data. Thus, I find that a continuous cloud backup is fine for me and I never have to think about backing-up... it just happens. I use Backblaze.

BUT others here, whose opinion I respect, aren't nearly so enthusiastic about cloud backups. As I say, however you do them, the important thing is that you do them...
User avatar
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby ReedySteadyGo » Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:53 pm

The Elf wrote:The last time I looked at a rack-mount PC I was advised that the cooling would be a problem with newer processors.

Generally the newer the processor the lower the power consumption for a given performance. Intel has what it calls its alternating "Tick-Tock" cycle with processor generations. Every tick cycle they shrink the processor and the power consumption reduces. Every Tock cycle they change the architecture.

Choose SSD for performance and being more shockproof.

Bigger fans are generally quieter than small fans. 1U server racks, for example, can be very noisy with their tiny fans.

You could just slot a laptop into a rack, and have an external screen - quiet and flexible.
ReedySteadyGo
Regular
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:15 pm
Location: The Cotswolds, UK

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby job » Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:57 am

BasicMIDI wrote:I don’t want to build my own, as there’s too much to learn and no warranty.

You do get warranty but it's just on a per component basis rather than the entire pc being considered one item. But either way if you're not building it you don't have to think as much as you can just buy a rack mounted pc and then as soon as you get it run stress tests on it, then if it overheats send it back for being an unfit design.

Personally i think i'd look to an i7 8700 or Ryzen 1700. I reckon you might be able to cram these into a small case with a low profile fan and be ok, but the builder should be considering this, not you.
job
Regular
Posts: 303
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2016 3:12 pm
 

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby BasicMIDI » Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:06 pm

Thanks for your help all.

From browsing the forum it looks like Scan and Inta-audio are the recommended places to shop.

Inta-Audio doesn't do rack mount, and so I'm left to pick between these 2 scan models...

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... t-computer
https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... unt-system

Any thoughts on either would be greatly appreciated.

I'm drawn to the more expensive of the 2 as from past experience a more powerful machine means a longer time before needed to upgrade.

Useage will be 90% Cubase, with some light photoshop/illustrator work. I may dabble in HD video at some point.

What do you reckon?

Thanks

Ben
BasicMIDI
New here
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:28 am

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby resistorman » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:33 pm

There are also mini PCs like the Intel NUC. Here’s one that has a 3 year warranty and pretty configurable.

http://www.thebookpc.com/intel-nuc-p/nu ... 2gEALw_wcB
User avatar
resistorman
Frequent Poster
Posts: 582
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:00 am
Location: Asheville NC
future26.com

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby Watchmaker » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:56 pm

the 3XS RX299 - i7 4U Studio Rackmount Computer looks like a solid performer, the other option looks a bit under powered and less future proof.

Consider whether you want thunderbolt capability as a lot of great interfaces are leveraging the additional bandwidth.
User avatar
Watchmaker
Regular
Posts: 166
Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2016 12:00 am
"one feels most reassured hearing an expert's opinions on the matter..."

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby James Perrett » Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:56 pm

BasicMIDI wrote:What do you reckon?

Wait for Pete Kaine to turn up - I guess he's on holiday this week. If anyone can tell you, he can.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 7541
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby jaminem » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:10 pm

Revengineer wrote:the 3XS RX299 - i7 4U Studio Rackmount Computer looks like a solid performer, the other option looks a bit under powered and less future proof..

A hex core coffee lake under powered? Sorry, but that’s incorrect: check the benchmarks they are very close...

Back to reality, having owned several (and stil own) rackmount pc’s the considerations are thus:

Size: most rack mount cases are either based on server cases or media centre pc cases. This means that the server based ones (rx299) are usually really deep, which is great for internal space but they end up protruding along way out of the back of your rack, which can often compromise where you place it in your studio. THe media centre based ones (coffee lake) compromise internal space meaning that you can’t have a lot of mechanical drives in them - fine if you can afford a load of nvme ssd’s Not so good if not. You may want to consider an external drive if you go this route. Also if the pc is based on an mATX Mobo that’s going to restrict internal expransion if you are rocking a pcie sound card and some uad2 cards for example.

Finally for either case option, if noise is a huge issue consider the 8700 (non k) this runs at 65w tdp so you can use a passive cooler. Combine that with a fan free psu and ssd’s and you will have a really capable totally silent device.
jaminem
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1008
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 1:00 am

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby jaminem » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:17 pm

Server based 299 case here, you can spec with guts of your choice:

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... tudio-rack
jaminem
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1008
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 1:00 am

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby RoadieChauffeur » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:02 pm

To be honest, I think we need a bit more information about what you are trying to achieve. There are two halves to your question - one about form factor, and the other about a PC specification. There are plenty of more knowledgeable people here who can help with the latter - although I'm pretty sure that these days any half decent PC spec can cope with any amount of music production, so if you are spending a fortune on esoteric components that is probably more for your own reasons than anything that is strictly necessary. But looking at the rack case question:
BasicMIDI wrote:I’m in the market for a new PC, and for various reasons I want it to live in my rack.
...the other requirements I have are that... ...the case is shockproof allowing it to be moved around frequently.
There are many reasons for putting computers in a rack, but generally there is an element of permanence about it, unless you are using a rack form factor to put the PC in a rack of items being moved around. But in that scenario, you wouldn't be asking for a robust case for the PC...
So the first question is what are the actually requirements for the positioning and movement of the PC? Probably simplest to let us know what sort of rack you have (is it a case, part of the desk, free standing unit with a acres of space around it?). And are you looking to move the rack, or take the PC in and out of it?
Second concern with my engineering hat on is about airflow. In my normal world (which is not musical) rack setups are designed so air moves in the front and exits out the back. But music studio kit is often/usually designed and installed differently - in particular, with very little rear airflow. I'd recommend you think about your setup (again, describe your rack) and how air will move around, then select a case with inlet and outlet vents that match what you need. As mentioned, a lot of cases are actually re-purposed desktop cases, and the fans often point the wrong way.

Also worth bearing in mind that most PCs these days can be built in a much smaller format (music doesn't require the energy sucking graphics cards of big gaming rigs, and you're unlikely to be looking at a water cooled overclocked system...). Smaller PCs can still be fitted onto a rack - there are a huge range of shelves, boxes, plates and other mounting solutions.

Hope that helps you think things through...
RoadieChauffeur
Regular
Posts: 88
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:00 am
Location: UK
Also electrician, tea boy, secretary...

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby BasicMIDI » Sat Dec 30, 2017 2:26 pm

...

Why do I want it in a rack case?

I am currently limited for space, and this will remain the case until the 2nd half of 2018 when if all goes to plan, I will finish a project to soundproof my garage, and set up a studio permanently in there.

My PC is currently set up in my kitchen, and preamps and other outboard is living in a Gator GRC-10X8. The Gator case has plenty of room. When the PC is in use, the top, front and back panels will all be off the case, and so I can't see that airflow will be an issue.

The laptop is currently on a desk next to the Gator case. As space is limited, I could put something else there while utilising some of the space in the rack to home it's replacement.

Most of the time, the Gator case will not move, however once a month for the next 6 months, I will do some recording in my living room, and the case will be moved. I asked specifically about shock mounting as I thought it would also be beneficial to be able to put the case in the van and become an occasional mobile recording studio. Having pondered this for a few days, in reality it's unlikely that this will happen, and so I can scratch that as a requirement as the furthest the case will go is about 12ft, and it will be a softer journey than the one that the PC will have when being couriered to me.

Once in the gator case, the PC will stay in there for the foreseeable future. The only change would be it moving to a more permanent location, like mounted in a desk in the garage.

I appreciate that there are PCs with small footprints, but I want to make use of the space in my rack.

I understand that there are other options, like buying a laptop and mounting that in a rack, or building my own, but these all involve researching and co-coordinating the purchase and installation of more than 1 thing. I'm a single parent with a demanding young (2 and 5) children. I win/survive at life by getting to a solution in as few moves as possible before I fall asleep,

Scan PCs

I've done a bit of research on this forum, and the 2 recommended suppliers are Inta-Audio and Scan. Inta-Audio don't sell a PC in a rack case, and so Scan it is.

I browsed Scan's site and had a discussion with one of their employees via online chat, and it came down to these 2 options...

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... t-computer
https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... unt-system

I said to the rep that it will be mostly used for audio, but also some light Photoshop / Illustrator work, and possibly some HD video editing in Premier. The rep actually recommended the cheaper tour model. In this thread, the following has also been suggested...

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... tudio-rack

I don't have a strict budget. At the moment, Scan themselves have recommended the cheaper of the options. The next model up is +£350 and if I can identify the value of spending that then I will as £350 doesn't stretch too far in terms of obtaining other gear that's on my shopping list. The powerrack options is >£1000 increase in cost. That's a decent mic or a sexy synth. When I've been told that the cheapest model will do what I need, then I can't really justify over £1000 extra spend at all.

I'm OK buying NVME SSDs.

jaminem wrote:Also if the pc is based on an mATX Mobo that’s going to restrict internal expransion if you are rocking a pcie sound card and some uad2 cards for example.

Finally for either case option, if noise is a huge issue consider the 8700 (non k) this runs at 65w tdp so you can use a passive cooler. Combine that with a fan free psu and ssd’s and you will have a really capable totally silent device.

...I don't really understand how to relate this to the models that I'm looking at. Relies on technical knowledge that I don't have I think.

So...

Hopefully that helps you help me :D

My current musical demands are never really going to stretch further than the capability of the Motu 828. If they do in the future, then that's only going to be in a scenario where my studio has started covering it's own expenses, and any upgrades should therefore pay for themselves. So, in theory, whatever PC I buy + Cubase 6.5 + Motu 828 could be my rig for life.

Likewise, My needs for Photoshop and illustrator are minimal, and it's all stuff that I can currently do on my laptop, which is significantly underpowered vs. the modern scan machines.

HD video - I can't edit on my laptop, but I can on my iphone, and looking at the specs of these machines vs. the requirements of a software like Premiere, I should be OK to achieve the basic video projects that I would be occasionally undertaking.

So it really does come down to a crystal ball scenario of which machine would better serve me in the future, which perhaps nobody here can answer....

Thanks

Ben
BasicMIDI
New here
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:28 am

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby RoadieChauffeur » Sat Dec 30, 2017 6:32 pm

Well, if ever a situation said 'laptop' to me, this is it. It's mobile, so you can work wherever - stick some headphones in and mix wherever you like in the house to suit. Take it out for work elsewhere.
But I am well aware that some people like big shiny kit with lots of lights, so each to their own! Don't forget your desk you've freed up space on by removing the laptop is now covered with a screen, mouse and keyboard, which is all much harder to move from room to room, or out of the way when you want the space for normal life.
I'm sure Scan will look after you - never seen anything but praise for them on this forum.
RoadieChauffeur
Regular
Posts: 88
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:00 am
Location: UK
Also electrician, tea boy, secretary...

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby BasicMIDI » Sat Dec 30, 2017 7:08 pm

:headbang: :headbang:

{a couple of emojis are more than sufficient to make your point. Andy :beamup: }
BasicMIDI
New here
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:28 am

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby emilstefan » Sat Dec 30, 2017 8:41 pm

there are 2u audio pc http://www.dawplus.com/index.html
emilstefan
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Dec 27, 2017 1:27 am
ESS

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby job » Sat Dec 30, 2017 10:39 pm

The 8700 man! :thumbup: It runs cooler than x299 CPU's, which means quieter, but it's still powerful, which seems to suit your wants just nicely. Spend what you'd save from not getting the x299 platform on more memory (or whatever else you fancy), than the 8GB that's currently installed in that build.
job
Regular
Posts: 303
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2016 3:12 pm
 

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby jaminem » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:54 pm

Ok Dude, given everything you have said - internal expansion space not really an issue, Rack mountable PC that lives in a Gator case, that's preferably silent and only needs to run Cubase and occasionally do a bit of video editing I would suggest you get this

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... o-computer

In the Silverstone Rack case with 16GB RAM and NVMe's - you'll have to talk to them as you're not buying 'off the shelf' but I see no reason why they couldn't do this...

Easily powerful enough (remember 3 months ago you'd be looking at a 6 core X299 enthusiast chip to get this level of performance and paying a lot more for it) totally silent, and lives in a short rack that's not based on a server case and is therefore reasonably portable
jaminem
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1008
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 1:00 am

Re: Rack mount PC - what should I look for?

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:20 am

Yes, sorry, Christmas break and a busy start to the year has kept me off here of late.

BasicMIDI, I think whoever you spoke to over here was pretty much on the mark from reading through the thread.

Image editing and other illustrator work won't tax many modern systems. HD video is the more taxing scenario but even then until you move up to 4k video editing it isn't really something that you'll have to devote much thought to with modern hardware.

So the crucial information here is figuring out the capture and audio editing requirements I guess. I'm not entirely sure on the sort of music you're producing here, but the suggestion that the 828 is enough to channel wise, would lead me to think it's a more traditional rock and roll sort of setup equipment wise and a limited amount of virtual plugs?

So maybe 20 channels of audio, a handful of plugins on each and maybe a couple of channels of strings and tings to accompany it all?

If that scenario is correct, then I'd say the cheaper options are indeed the right direction to be heading at this point as the is quite a lot of power to be had with the newer mid-range chips these days.

jaminem wrote:Size: most rack mount cases are either based on server cases or media centre pc cases. This means that the server based ones (rx299) are usually really deep, which is great for internal space but they end up protruding along way out of the back of your rack, which can often compromise where you place it in your studio. The media centre based ones (coffee lake) compromise internal space meaning that you can’t have a lot of mechanical drives in them - fine if you can afford a load of nvme ssd’s Not so good if not.

Yes, that is indeed the trade-off. I have two X299 rack case variants 1 being a full-length 5U and the other being a far shorter 4U media case. The 5U allows you a full build with half a dozen full-size drive bays, where the 4U sacrifices the drive bays to make it work and it won't take i9's due to the heat. You can mount a couple of M2's and AIC's for the storage still in the 4U, so whilst maybe not ideal if you need to carry every library in existence the is still a lot of room to work with for a mobile setup.

jaminem wrote:Ok Dude, given everything you have said - internal expansion space not really an issue, Rack mountable PC that lives in a Gator case, that's preferably silent and only needs to run Cubase and occasionally do a bit of video editing I would suggest you get this

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator ... o-computer

In the Silverstone Rack case with 16GB RAM and NVMe's - you'll have to talk to them as you're not buying 'off the shelf' but I see no reason why they couldn't do this...

So yeah, that's the 4U and that's an interesting idea. My concern would be that the cases we use for that cooler are vented at the top, so the convection cools them. If you take a rack system and put it in a gator case then I'd be concerned that heat would have nowhere to vent too although a couple of low rpm fans might be able to get enough movement whilst still being effectively muffled by the encloser. I haven't tried it, but it'd be an interesting experiment.

emilstefan wrote:there are 2u audio pc http://www.dawplus.com/index.html

DAWPlus systems are on the http://xi-machines.com/en/systems-audio.php site these days.

I've also got a fully passive half rack 2U that screws on to the VESA mount on the rear of your monitor. The's a 1U rackable edition as well but no current gen slim ITX boards at the moment so I've held off working with them.
User avatar
Pete Kaine
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2922
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester
Kit to fuel your G.A.S - https://www.scan.co.uk/shop/pro-audio


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users