[SOLVED] Build advice + read/write speeds for recording multiple channels simultaneously etc ?

Jul 12, 2021
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Hi

I was hoping y’all could give me some advice for my new PC DAW Build…

Please keep in mind I’ve not really done mixing/recording for like 10 years so I’m very out of the loop re tech/hardware and software + today’s audio file standards etc. I’ve done as much research as I can but still got loads to catch up on.

I’ve never even used proper MIDI let alone synth instruments etc so don’t assuming something’s too obvious to mention ok 

It will be Windows 10; but might try a second boot with Windows 11 later to see if it’s any better for DAW?

BTW – when it comes to PC Hardware - I don’t care about RGB – I’d rather spend the money on what matters most. Similarly, I only go for brands if they are reliable ones to get – otherwise I don’t care about branding.


I need to know what are the values I need to know regarding Read/Write speeds for Recording Audio to Storage AND for Read/Write speeds needed for multitrack playback AND for Storage to actively and properly utilise Samples + use Synths on PCIE Nvme’s,M.2 SSD’s, regular SSDs, old school HDDs etc.

I want to record audio and use MIDI stuff, plugins, samples, synths etc.


I need this info so I can determine what to choose for storage; as well as determine if my whole build should be based on PCIE – 3.0, 4.0 or 5.0 as this affects which CPU/MOBO and RAM I get. As well as massively affecting the types of Storage I end up with.

For reference - I have a brand new Roland Octa Capture I will be using for Audio Recording + MIDI; probably on Ableton 11/10 or maybe Pro Tools etc – here are the specs
https://www.roland.com/au/products/o...pecifications/

What bitrate etc would you recommend for mics, guitar/instrument inputs etc?
Eg just 44.1kHz, 24 bit or should you go higher these days?
Are there certain instruments, sounds or tasks where you’d use specific bitrates that are different to other fields?


Would a PCIE 3.0 system be enough to record AT LEAST 3-5 live channels simultaneously, and also curious re the possibility of up to 8-10 channels too but not soo important for me?

Or would PCIE 3.0 limit the amount and quality of channels I could record simultaneously – would PCIE 4.0 really be required?


I was going to get a new 12700K Build – but now I’m seriously reconsidering scrapping that and just get a 10th or 11th or maybe even 9th Gen Intel system instead; as I should be able to get a heck of a lot more bang for my buck (I’m certainly not rich but want to future proof as much as I can afford).

I would most likely be looking at i7’s, maybe even i5 for 12th gen, and might consider i9’s or specialty if there’s a good value deal. I’m looking for the best balance of single CPU Speed, multi core speeds and Cache for my money.

Can y’all advise me on what you think the priority mix is for Single CPU, Multi Core CPU and Cache when it comes to DAWS like Ableton/Pro Tools. Eg Which tasks require which of these things the most and what minimums would you recommend for various things – Including for RAM too? Which tasks rely of what tech the most etc?

This goes for the different areas of Audio Recording, multitrack playback/mixing, MIDI using samples and Synth instruments, as well as power hungry Plugins etc?


Re RAM - I was planning on minimum 16GB (2x8GB) 3200/3600 but hoping to get 32GB instead if I can (ideally 2x16GB to leave space for more later if I can afford it).

The thought of getting secondhand RAM is a possibility but I really worry it might have been pushed hard for work purposes 24/7, or Crypto Mining, or Overclocked to death by gamers/renderers etc and be compromised or just die sometime not too long after buying it?

Am I worrying too much? I could surely get a lot more secondhand but worry it could all be lost too.


Reality is DDR5 is too expensive for what you get and nothing uses PCIE 5.0 yet. Plus anything 12th gen will cost through the nose compared to older stuff. On top of that – they don’t even have any cheaper Motherboards yet.


I probably won’t try to Overclock the CPU – maybe, but more likely towards the end of its life when it’s not such a big deal if it dies. However, I might be tempted to try some level of Overclocking RAM – or at least just using the XMP profiles. How safe is it Overclocking RAM – and any advice?

Is it ok to use less well known RAM Brands – eg generics like V-Color or other random things as long as they have a consensus of pretty good reviews? Eg https://www.amazon.com.au/V-Color-32...07YP5RQ8W?th=1


Storage wise – IDEALLY I’d prefer a PCIE 4.0 system with PCIE 40 NVME/SATA etc but wondering if the PCIE 3.0 drives will be just fine instead? This is the plan for storage allocation – please advise me on if this needs adjusting? I really will be guessing with sizes – no idea what to get.

Again – I am way out of the loop and have no experience with this stuff – just going on what I’ve read.

I’ll try to get all PCIE 4.0 NVME drives if I can afford it – or is that not necessary?

  1. System Drive (Win 10/11) – 1TB min, maybe 2+ TB PCIE 4.0/PCIE 3.0 NVME
  2. Recording/Project Files Drive – 500GB min up to 1+TB PCIE 4.0/PCIE 3.0 NVME
  3. Samples Drive – 500GB min up to 1+TB PCIE 4.0/PCIE 3.0 NVME
  4. Scratch Disk Drive – 500GB min up to 1+TB PCIE 4.0/PCIE 3.0 NVME
  5. ANY OTHER DRIVES I NEED for specific purposes?
  6. Of course other backups too
Are some of these size estimates way too big? If I can afford it I’ll get bigger where I can – but just curious where I might consider saving some coin for other things?

Regarding Scratch Disk - would Ableton/Pro Tools etc really benefit from one drive just for Temp files and stuff just like Photoshop does? Or is it not that important these days?

How would it work – what functions would it allocate to the Scratch disk as opposed to the DAW program itself probably running from the System Drive (can you only install Ableton/Pro Tools on the System Drive in the normal way as opposed to any drive you want)? For example, re cpu/ram etc main mixing functions allocated to Ableton program but S
ynth Instrument and Plugins allocated to RAM and Scratch disk?

Can the 2) Recording/Project Files Drive + 3) Samples Drive be combined into one drive instead - or should I definitely keep them separate?
Are there any other combinations of drives I can combine too?


If I am forced to get PCIE 3.0 only – would it help or would it actually be necessary to RAID some drives for faster read/write? If so – what do you recommend?

Of the four drives suggested above – can you please write down if there any of these that will require a “minimum” type of storage to work properly and also a ‘would be better to have at least’ option too? EXAMPLE ONLY - System Drive must be min m.2 SATA but would be better as PCIE 4.0/PCIE 3.0 NVME, Recording/Project Files Drive, must be min SSD but would be better m.2 SATA or higher etc etc?


I’m hoping to get a Motherboard that has ideally 1-4 m.2 slots for PCIE 4.0/PCIE 3.0 NVME’s and I hope running at full PCIE speeds (eg x4 each rather than x2). But if I really have to – maybe I could get a x16 - 4x4 Drive adapter card at some point if needed.

I’m currently going to use an old 7970 video card or integrated gpu so most PCIE Lanes should be pretty free for more storage as I’m told most modern video cards max out usage at 8x PCIE lanes at most even if they say they need x16 – but mine is from 2013 so I assume it should really use 8x or less in reality?


Re Read/Write speeds - would it be faster/better to split a single 1-4TB PCIE Nvme into 3-4 partitions rather than have the DAW trying to Read/Write to multiple physically separate drives all at once? Obviously I could have backups on other drives in case it fails. And could I just RAID two or 4x 1TB drives together then partition that one “big drive” for even better speed etc?


Any recommendations on good value Motherboard pref with m.2 slots – something good for Audio or just a good mix of features?


Also regarding Storage – I’ve seen videos/sites saying you might want to get different drives and in different ‘arrangements’ for different purposes. Eg get the fastest PCIE 4.0 Nvme you can for System drive.

But get the fastest Write/Read drive (in that order) for BOTH your Audio Recording/Project Files Drive, AND your Scratch Disk Drive – and maybe raid them for speed for Write/Read? And for those drives also I’ve heard you should choose a drive that is capable of more read/writes over it’s life time specifically? What term do I search for regarding that?

Similar thing for Samples Drive or just a drive that has faster Read speeds (RAIDED or not)?

Have I got the idea right? Any recommendations for specific drives or sizes etc?



Any recommendations on moderately priced and slightly more higher end CPU Coolers, Case Fans and Quiet/Silent Full EATX/ATX PC Cases? Re Cases I’ve heard part Mesh cases are good but should have some kind of filters? What kind of filters do you need and can you add them if they don’t have em?

BTW I have no idea how much space an hour of audio takes these days. Also, if I want to have loads and loads of samples for synths eg complete orchestra packs etc I have no idea how much space to allocate for that stuff either?

Is there anything else hardware related that I’ve not thought of? Too much to think about when it comes to choosing parts!

I hope I haven’t put you all to sleep just yet – I know I have a lot of questions! I look forward to hearing some great advice from the more experienced out there!

Thank you for your help and time.



Cheers
 
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TommyTwoTone66

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9th gen is ideal right now. You can pick up a 9700K, decent Z390 motherboard, 32GB of DDR4 3000Mhz for like $350 all in. I like the Asus Strix Z390 boards. They’re all great.

Used RAM is completely fine, but not often that much cheaper than brand new RAM. It goes on eBay all the time though so sometimes you can get lucky with bid sniping.

You can’t really damage RAM by using it overclocked like you can with a GPU. Avoid cheap or unknown RAM brands though. especially if buying used. I find Corsair is a good quality brand that comes up a lot on eBay auctions, and the big heat sinks generally keep the modules safe in the mail as well.

For cases there’s a brand named “Be Quiet” and their Base 900 case is probably about the best you can get for keeping noise down. Then their “Dark Rock” series of CPU coolers run incredibly quiet. For case fans get either the Noctua NF12 or Be Quiet “silent wings” 120MM fans. Only use those. Finally you can get a Be Quiet PSU which will also run pretty silent.

For storage, any NVMe drive will do. The difference between PCIe 3 and 4 is not even measurable outside of benchmarking tools, it really doesn’t matter. Something basic but rapid like the Samsung 970 EVO Plus 2TB is all the drive you need. Partition it into smaller drives if you like. One drive to rule them all. Forget RAID, we’re past RAID now. If you want to add more storage get a second 2TB drive but there’s no point getting that unless and until you actually fill the first 2TB…

just on the 970 EVO 2TB alone you can write at well over 1GB per second, or in audio terms, approximately 3,000 uncompressed 96khz stereo recordings, all at the same time. It’s more than fast enough for any type of recording, sampling, mixing, etc. Ableton will run like a rocket ship. All that old advice about using separate drives for samples and recording and stuff was good at the time, but is out of date now, NVMe drives made it all redundant. You can just shove everything on the same drive.

if you used Dolby 7.1 surround, lossless compression and the absolute max sound quality and bitrate settings then an hour of audio might be about 2GB?
 
Last edited:

TommyTwoTone66

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9th gen is ideal right now. You can pick up a 9700K, decent Z390 motherboard, 32GB of DDR4 3000Mhz for like $350 all in. I like the Asus Strix Z390 boards. They’re all great.

Used RAM is completely fine, but not often that much cheaper than brand new RAM. It goes on eBay all the time though so sometimes you can get lucky with bid sniping.

You can’t really damage RAM by using it overclocked like you can with a GPU. Avoid cheap or unknown RAM brands though. especially if buying used. I find Corsair is a good quality brand that comes up a lot on eBay auctions, and the big heat sinks generally keep the modules safe in the mail as well.

For cases there’s a brand named “Be Quiet” and their Base 900 case is probably about the best you can get for keeping noise down. Then their “Dark Rock” series of CPU coolers run incredibly quiet. For case fans get either the Noctua NF12 or Be Quiet “silent wings” 120MM fans. Only use those. Finally you can get a Be Quiet PSU which will also run pretty silent.

For storage, any NVMe drive will do. The difference between PCIe 3 and 4 is not even measurable outside of benchmarking tools, it really doesn’t matter. Something basic but rapid like the Samsung 970 EVO Plus 2TB is all the drive you need. Partition it into smaller drives if you like. One drive to rule them all. Forget RAID, we’re past RAID now. If you want to add more storage get a second 2TB drive but there’s no point getting that unless and until you actually fill the first 2TB…

just on the 970 EVO 2TB alone you can write at well over 1GB per second, or in audio terms, approximately 3,000 uncompressed 96khz stereo recordings, all at the same time. It’s more than fast enough for any type of recording, sampling, mixing, etc. Ableton will run like a rocket ship. All that old advice about using separate drives for samples and recording and stuff was good at the time, but is out of date now, NVMe drives made it all redundant. You can just shove everything on the same drive.

if you used Dolby 7.1 surround, lossless compression and the absolute max sound quality and bitrate settings then an hour of audio might be about 2GB?
 
Last edited:
Dec 6, 2021
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I'm coming in late here and thank you to @Dylan Beckett for pointing his thread out.

I was always told to keep program files and working (including recording) files on separate drives. Is this not the case any more?

Also, is an SSD (NVMe vs 2.5) life span based on use or age? I know that's very broad, but it seems that a fast/cheap NVMe would be a better investment if it's use base failure rather than age base failure.

Where is the threshold between good/fast/cheap but gone tomorrow, and ok/decent/pricey, but here for a while ?

Hooker vs Wife is the dirty comparison here.
 

TommyTwoTone66

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I'm coming in late here and thank you to @Dylan Beckett for pointing his thread out.

I was always told to keep program files and working (including recording) files on separate drives. Is this not the case any more?

Also, is an SSD (NVMe vs 2.5) life span based on use or age? I know that's very broad, but it seems that a fast/cheap NVMe would be a better investment if it's use base failure rather than age base failure.

Where is the threshold between good/fast/cheap but gone tomorrow, and ok/decent/pricey, but here for a while ?

Hooker vs Wife is the dirty comparison here.
Separate drives was good advice back in the SATA days, since it helped with performance. It’s not really a thing any more since NVMe drives with 3gb/sec reads and 1.5gb/sec writes became cheap. Before NVMe you could have had 4 top spec 2.5in SATA 3 drives in RAID 0 on the fastest RAID controller money could buy, and it would still only be half as quick as a single PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive.

For durability, it is based on writes. Each flash cell can only be written a finite number of times. Estimates vary, but 10,000 writes is a rough expectation for every cell on a good quality drive. Some cells might last much longer.

The drive controller writes to the whole flash area evenly, so bigger is better. A 2TB drive will last twice as long as a 1TB drive. And we’re talking decades of use, not years. Add on top of that the concept of spare area, where the drive effectively repairs itself when cells do eventually start to wear out, then it becomes very difficult to wear out one of these modern drives. On a 1TB drive, assuming continuous heavy write activity, you can expect it to last easily 20 years, a 2TB drive might last twice that on current windows heavy productivity workloads.

Drive capacity will increase much faster than your flash will wear out. A 1TB+ nvme drive you buy today will likely be replaced by a 100TB+ drive once those become cheap enough for consumers to buy, many years before the flash even starts to degrade.

There isn’t really any price/performance/durability ratio to worry about, since we’re dealing with flash chips communicating directly with the CPU, with not much else in between. As such, most NVMe drives perform about the same, cost about the same, and have roughly the same durability.

That said, in general, Samsung drives are fastest by a small margin, have the best quality flash chips and are only marginally more expensive than the competition, so I always recommend the Samsung 970 Evo or 970 Evo Plus 1TB or 2TB. You don’t need any other drive. The 980 and 980 pro are also fine. They’re faster in benchmarks, but are more expensive for virtually no real-world benefit.
 

USAFRet

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I was always told to keep program files and working (including recording) files on separate drives. Is this not the case any more?

Also, is an SSD (NVMe vs 2.5) life span based on use or age? I know that's very broad, but it seems that a fast/cheap NVMe would be a better investment if it's use base failure rather than age base failure.
Separate drive is good for data segmentation.
OS and applications on one drive, personal and working files on other drives.

No performance difference either way.
It just helps if you need to reinstall the OS....your 'files' are not impacted.

Life span?
Write cycles are not really a concern anymore.
The drive will die of something else long before it runs out, or it will get retired due to size, or you will die first.
 

TommyTwoTone66

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Separate drive is good for data segmentation.
OS and applications on one drive, personal and working files on other drives.

No performance difference either way.
It just helps if you need to reinstall the OS....your 'files' are not impacted.
this is a great point. On a 2TB drive it would be advisable to make, as an example, a separate 500GB partition for windows and a 1.5TB partition for all your recordings, documents, etc. exactly how much to allocate to windows and apps is down to you.

My point was more that you don’t need separate physical drives any more to unlock good read and write performance, you could just partition one large NVMe drive.
 

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