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Computer Guide: Introduction

Whether you're on a tight budget or have money to burn, it is important to choose the right computer specification for your music needs.
Spending money on a top of the range AGP graphics card is all very well, but you don’t need a powerful graphics card if your pc is for making music, not playing 3D games.
A powerful processor and a good soundcard should take priority.

computer guide

----[case] [motherboard] [processor] [memory] [hard drives] [graphics] [silent fans]----

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Choosing a computer case, you should take into consideration how much room you will need for adding hard drives, zip drives, floppy disk, cd writers etc.
All pc cases have a combination of 2 standard types of drive bays.
3 and a half inch (hard disk drive size) and 5 and a quarter inch (cd rom drive size).
There is also a choice of a tower case or rackmount case.
Tower cases are very common, you see them everywhere.
Rackmount cases are not so common and are generally more sturdy (which is a good thing).
Rackmount cases (chassis) were originally used for IT companies that use them as powerful servers, backup systems, control systems etc.
ISP's (internet service providers) also use them.
Because they are rackmountable you can stack them on top of each other bolted into a cabinet, just like you would bolt a hardware synth into a cabinet.

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If you can afford it, to reduce the chance of gremlins, choose a quality brand motherboard, such as Asus.

If you choose a P4 processor, then check to see the motherboard supports P4 processors.
Motherboards have choices of optional features onboard (inbuilt).
You don’t need onboard-sound. You don’t need onboard-video.
These can be disabled in the BIOS but if you don’t need them, why have them.
The less you have onboard the better, so the motherboard can concentrate on performance.

USB (which stands for "Universal Serial Bus") is an interface for connecting peripherals to computers. Most motherboards come with onboard USB interfaces. There is plenty of MIDI and audio hardware available for connection via USB. However, there have been a lot of problems with getting this stuff to work properly. There generally seem to have been less problems with the USB implemented in Intel chipsets — so, we prefer motherboards which use Intel chipsets. There is a newer, faster version of the USB standard called 2.0, and on a new machine, you want this.

Some motherboards also have onboard firewire (IEEE 1394) interfaces.


The more Memory slots the motherboard has the better.
6 PCI card slots should be enough for all your slot in cards.

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The processor is sometimes called the CPU (Central Processing Unit). The CPU is that part of the computer that actually performs the instructions specified by a program.

The contnuing progress in more and more powerful processors is the main reason that we can have the latest types of music software. These use native processing — that is, the signal processing programs are run on the actual main CPU of the computer. To run these applications well, invest in a fast, powerful processor.

The processors made by Intel are compatible with Intel chipsets, which we prefer. The latest Intel Pentium 4 Northwood is our current choice for a powerful processor — these dissipate less heat than other contenders, which means the system requires less cooling, This means fewer or slower fans can be used, so the machine can run more quietly.

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Try to use a Major brand of memory, unbranded memory is fine but branded memory is more reliable.
Most memory comes in sticks of 128Mb, 256Mb, 512Mb.
DDR (double data rate) memory is the Memory of choice for use with a P4 processor (up to 3Gb of memory).

Hard Drives
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There are two types of hard drives, IDE and SCSI.
IDE is the most common, SCSI drives are considerably more expensive and require some kind of dedicated controller, either onboard or with a controller PCI card. Modern IDE drives are generally fine for music systems.

The hard drive is where you store your data. Your programs and operating system are also installed here.
So if you are using a one hard drive computer system, we would split the hard drive into two partitions.
One partition for operating system/programs, the other partition for data storage. If you are using a two hard drive system (recommended), then one drive will be for operation system/programs, the other just used to store data such as audio files.
Partitioning drives this way not only improves performance, but keeps your valuable audio data separate from the operating system.
Now in the event that anything nasty happens to the operating system, you can restore the original installation with a recovery disk image supplied by us.

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For music-making, there is no benefit in using an advanced 3D graphics card, such as one would select to improve the performace in so-called 3D games. Indeed the substatial electronics of an advanced card would generate more heat, and so need extra fan cooling, which would increase noise.

Music makers should normally choose a average performance AGP graphics card like a 32 megabyte ATI card, unless you intend to use your computer for 3D games. AGP is the standard currently used for connecting a graphics card to a PC.

You can also get so-called dual head graphics cards like the Matrox G550, which gives the ability to connect two screens (monitors) to the computer system. You can then spread your display over the two screens. With music-making software this can be a complete delight — for example, you could have your sequencer on one screen and synthesiser plug-ins on the other.

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Silence of the fans
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We have thoroughly researched the subject of acoustic noise from PCs. We have studied soundproofing and cooling airflow patterns. We have developed our own exclusive central airflow control system, which helps us build astonishingly quiet machines. This will let you successfully record and monitor in the same room as your PC.

Special quite processors, cooling, and drive enclosures can be used in our systems.

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