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> Hardware And Software Tweaks For A Music Pc
Saoirse O'Shea
post Sep 26 2007, 07:23 PM
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PC set up

Apologies to those who use macs – Afraid I don’t have one and so can’t say much about them.

In an ideal world it’s preferable to only use a music pc for music, no internet, no games and so on. Most of us however don’t live in an ideal world. What follows are some suggestions that may help improve your pc’s performance as a music pc. Please note though that some of the requirements of a music pc are not the same as a general pc or a gaming pc so some of the following may not be relevant if you want to specify your pc as one of these.

With a music pc you should ensure that it meets the minimum, and preferably the recommended, hardware requirements for the software that you install and run. I’ve given those for Reaper elsewhere in this sub-forum along with some brief suggestions from me for recommended pc hardware so I’m not going to repeat those here. Reaper is not particularly hardware intensive so most people should have a pc that can meet the minimum, and hopefully recommended requirements. This means that many of us may find that other software will dictate what pc hardware we require and if that is the case then you can always ask for help elsewhere on the forum.

Hardware - Silence your pc
There is no such thing as a silent pc but there are steps that you can take to reduce noise from one as I find the continual hum from noisy pcs just a bit irritating.

In my new house I haven’t got a nearby box room to use so I’ve had to try to ‘silence’ the pc instead. Most of my aim is to reduce pc noise either by reducing unwanted vibrations or to minimise fan noise. I use a large and rather heavy Antec tower case that has a lockable door on the front that hides all the drives and the power switch and helps deaden noise from the drives. The case sits on feet so there is some air circulation at the base. I’ve fitted large, 120mm low speed fans internally for cooling and put a Zalman flower cooler on the cpu. A 550 Watt Antec PSU which has thermostatic cooling provides juice. I can monitor the temperature of most of my pc and alter it by speeding up and slowing down the internal fans via software. Incidently I routinely keep my cpu at around 50 degrees C. All my disc drives are isolated from the pc case by putting little rubber feet, or grommets, under them. The one thing that remains for me to do is to fit some soundproofing material. At present my music pc is noticeably quieter then my wife’s mass market desktop.

Additional hardware suggestions
One of the issues that faces all of us who do home recording is noise. I live in a relatively noisy environment and can’t afford a sound proofed studio. To get round ‘environmental’ noise in my house I often do my recording early in the morning as there is much les chance that my daughter will wander in to my office/studio whistling or that a tractor will drive past outside (my house is in the countryside). Things aren’t perfect even at 3 am – dogs in the campo have a tendency to bark – and continue to bark for hours on end – is they think they’ve heard something odd but that’s the world I live in!

To put some of this into perspective it may be useful to think about noise in some different environments. As a rough guide normal conversation is around 60dBl SPL (sound pressure level) and shouting 80 dB SPL. A quiet office environment is 40 db SPL, whilst the background noise floor of a recording studio is around 25 dB SPL. A typical mass produced pc emits 30-40 dBL SPL at 1 meter distance whilst a quiet, or ‘silent’ one is about 24 dB SPL. Personally during quiet passages of music I’d much rather hear the intended music then a pc whirring away. Even if I record direct into the pc the noise from it will be there as external background when I listen to the mix.

In the past one thing I’ve tried that didn’t involve opening up a pc was to site my mics and guitar amps in a different room to my pc. This of course required longer mic and instrument cables and I also ended up buying a remote hardware controller (Frontier Tranzport) so that I didn’t have to run backwards and forwards to hit the transport controls on the sequencer (ie play, record etc). In essence this was sort of a cheap version of a multi room recording environment – a better then my one here but more expensive solution would be to invest in an isolation booth. For those of you with the room you might want to think about this. For those of us without the room one more possibility is an isolation box for the pc. I've never gone down this route though as I like easy access to my pc.



Software
Windows prior to XP often required a lot of tweaking to get audio software to run smoothly. I use XP (service pack 2) for my operating system and at present it’s a stable system and the following suggestions are all for XP.

Processor scheduling should be set to background services.
In Systems Properties click Advanced and then Performance Settings. Click Advanced and set Processor Scheduling to Background. Apply the setting and exit. The reason why this is important is because ASIO drivers run as a background service to ensure low latency without dropouts. If you leave Windows XP Processor Scheduling set for programs then you may not achieve low latency.

Switch off Power Schemes.
Again in system properties click on Power Options Properties and then Power Schemes. Set Power Schemes to always on and set the Turn Off options for both Screen and Hard Disc to Never. Click Apply and exit. Reason why – these settings will prevent power management from throttling back and speed ramping your cpu, either of which can cause drop outs and clicks when recording. Always On forces the pc to keep the cpu at its maximum speed setting. Keeping the monitor and hard disc turned on – well I spend a lot of time staring at a sequencer and repeatedly playing back long tracks. For me its annoying if the screen goes blank part way through playback.

Disable System Sounds
In Sounds and Audio Devices select Sounds and set it to No Sounds. The mayority of the WAV files that come with windows to provide you with system event messages are at 22kHZ sample rate. Depending on your audio card if a 22kHZ sound plays through your ASIO card whilst you are using 44kHZ for recording and playback in a software sequencer the sequencer may suddenly jump up an octave.

Disable Taskbar Auto-Hide
Right click on a blank area of the taskbar and un-tick the ‘auto hide taskbar’ box. Otherwise you can get audio glitches everytime the taskbar appears or hides itself.

There are other Win XP tweaks but I don’t use them as I’ve never found any significant improvement with them. However if you want to know more of them then shout.

Non-Windows Tweaks

Hard drive DMA
In Device Manager ensure that you have your hard drives set to ‘DMA if Available’. If its set to ‘PIO’ then you may only be able to manage 1/10 of the number of simultaneous audio track for recording/playback as DMA will allow.

Sample Rate
Whilst lots of people like to set the audio to 96kHz, or even 192 kHZ, 24 Bit/44kHz is often good enough for most purposes and on most music pc setups. A 96kHz setting may half the number of plug ins (VSTs and VSTIs) that your sequencer can handle at any one time.

Latency
Low latency is good but you get to a point of diminishing returns. For most of us a 6ms latency for recording is good enough (and the way I play keyboards I could use about 30 seconds latency. Just where is the middle c on the keyboard again?) 12 ms during mix down should again be fine for most occasions. Lowering latency can affect how many soft synths your sequencer can run at any one time. Reaper, by the way, tells you what the latency is in the top right hand corner of its screen. You can normally make adjustments to latency on the setup page for your sound card.

That’s all for now. I’ll talk about setting up project templates in Reaper next.

Cheers,
Tony

Editorial note: published 2007-10-15


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Muris Varajic
post Sep 26 2007, 07:29 PM
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Man,friend of mine was setting my PC and he probably did things you mentioned here,
but he sucks in music.
And you,you know ALL!!!!!! biggrin.gif

Great Tony,great!!

Did I tell you guys that we have a massive book here?? wink.gif


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Sep 26 2007, 07:43 PM
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laugh.gif .

Thanks Muris, appreciate the kind comments.

Afraid though that this particular book has got lots of blanks pages and even more crossings out and erasures rolleyes.gif . Most of what I know is self taught and often was learnt the hard way I'm afraid with many, many wrong turns on the way wink.gif .

Cheers,
Tony


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Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

Be friends on facebook with us here.

We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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Muris Varajic
post Sep 26 2007, 07:46 PM
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Ahhh not sure cool.gif

Perhaps you are self thought Tony but you've been doing that job more than great! smile.gif

It's so great to have you here,indeed.


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Andrew Cockburn
post Sep 26 2007, 07:55 PM
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QUOTE (tonymiro @ Sep 26 2007, 02:43 PM) *
Most of what I know is self taught and often was learnt the hard way I'm afraid with many, many wrong turns


The school of hard knocks - best way to learn! Great lesson, reminded me I gforgot about the background task thing last time I rebuilt my PC - thanks!


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blindwillie
post Sep 26 2007, 08:54 PM
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Thanks tony. You pointed out some stuff I hadn't thought of, like system sound and that Reaper shows you the current latency. Great.


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Sep 26 2007, 09:08 PM
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The system sound tweak above is tbh a partial solution but one that should be good enough for most occasions.
If people want to know what a more complete answer is then shout.

Cheers,
Tony

I don't give the more complete one as I thought it might be a bit confusing.


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Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

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We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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Juan M. Valero
post Sep 27 2007, 12:43 AM
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Excelent work !!! I will study hard biggrin.gif


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Joey
post Oct 17 2007, 05:46 AM
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great work tony ! but just a side note i have a dell inspiron desktop and i dont think i've ever had a problem with noise? its very quiet

This post has been edited by Joey: Oct 17 2007, 05:46 AM
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Saoirse O'Shea
post Oct 17 2007, 11:38 PM
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I've heard several good reports about Dell pc's being quiet Joey. I've never had one so haven't had chance to take one apart to see why though smile.gif .

Cheers,
Tony


--------------------
Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

Be friends on facebook with us here.

We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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Vinod Saranga
post May 10 2008, 03:33 AM
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Thanks Tony smile.gif
This is very useful as I am going to build a new PC  smile.gif


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Saoirse O'Shea
post May 10 2008, 05:53 AM
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Pleasure Vinod and good luck with the build smile.gif .

Cheers,
Tony


--------------------
Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

Be friends on facebook with us here.

We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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Hisham Al-Sanea
post May 10 2008, 09:57 AM
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nice work tonymiro


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Nemanja Filipovi...
post May 10 2008, 12:17 PM
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QUOTE (tonymiro @ Sep 26 2007, 08:23 PM) *
PC set up



Latency
Low latency is good but you get to a point of diminishing returns. For most of us a 6ms latency for recording is good enough (and the way I play keyboards I could use about 30 seconds latency. Just where is the middle c on the keyboard again?) 12 ms during mix down should again be fine for most occasions. Lowering latency can affect how many soft synths your sequencer can run at any one time. Reaper, by the way, tells you what the latency is in the top right hand corner of its screen. You can normally make adjustments to latency on the setup page for your sound card.

That’s all for now. I’ll talk about setting up project templates in Reaper next.

Cheers,
Tony

Editorial note: published 2007-10-15




Uh,I had quite a problem with latency,when I installed my new sound card(E-MU 0404) i could not get it run,it turn out it was buffer break down,so I put my input latency to 9,252,and output 6,854...and it is all ok know.
and I know one thing now,the better the equipment the bigger problems to solve.smile.gif

thanks Tony for this.


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Mrblomme
post Nov 12 2008, 10:44 PM
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I use a laptop but I'de want to record some things with it but I dont know if my sound card is good enough.

I don't think so smile.gif it's a Conexant High Definition SmartAudio 221 , standard card from my HP laptop.


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Andrew Cockburn
post Nov 13 2008, 03:24 AM
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QUOTE (Mrblomme @ Nov 12 2008, 04:44 PM) *
I use a laptop but I'de want to record some things with it but I dont know if my sound card is good enough.

I don't think so smile.gif it's a Conexant High Definition SmartAudio 221 , standard card from my HP laptop.


It will certainly work, but probably not well ... you will likely have 2 problems:

1. High latency(which makes monitoring whilst recording hard)
2. Quality - the converters in the laptop won;t be great so your recordings might suffer.

But ... its better than nothing and will get you started!

However, for a reasonable amount of money you could add a USB interface that would fix both problems!


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