Building a Music Production Computer—Micro ATX


Your Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at home

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      It’s been a while since I’ve done an article about putting together a computer for music production. I’m going to spin things a bit by spec’ing out a computer with a Micro-ATX motherboard. These computers don’t have the expansions ports internally a full size desktop does but since there are so many interfaces and peripherals that are either USB 2.0 or Firewire available now, that’s the direction we’re going to take.

      The first thing we’ve got to look at is a case. APEVIA's X-QPACK2-NW-AL/500 Black/ Silver Computer Case is black with silver accents and looks very much at home with a lot of other music production gear. It has a 500 watt power supply and has space for two 5.25” and one 3.5”external drives . Internally, however, it has space for 2- 3.5” drives which is perfect, since we are going to use them both for hard drives. It also has a 80mm front fan as well as a rear 120mm fan. Its footprint is only 11.2” by 14.7” and is only 7.9” high so it won’t take up hardly any space on your desk. All this for $84.99

      For a motherboard, we're going to use an Intel branded BOXDG33TLM Micro ATX motherboard that supports LGA 775 processors for $104.99. It supports up to 8GB of DDR2–800 memory and has the best upgrade path since it supports the lowly Celeron processor and Intel’s newest Quad Core screamers. It also has 2 PCI slots as well as 1 each PCI express X 16 and PCI express X 1 slots. With onboard video and audio, 6 USB ports (all in the back), a Firewire port as well as a 10/100/1000 LAN, we don’t really need to worry much about expansion but it’s there if we need it.

      Now a processor— Intel's Core 2 Duo E4500 2.2GHz processor with a 800Mhz front side bus has 64 bit support, which is important if we decide to use one of the software packages that are optimized for it. It includes the heat–sink and fan so that makes it a pretty good deal at $124.99

      Memory comes in the form of 2- G.SKILL (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800 memory for a total of 4GB ($44.99X2—$89.98). It has a lifetime limited warranty and was the winner of a Customer Choice award.

      We’re going to stick with our tried and true Hitachi hard drives. Both will be 160GB 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s drives for $48.99 each.

      Our external drive will be a DVD/CD writer since a lot of software programs are shipping on DVD’s and we’ll still be able to write CD’s. LITE-ON's DH-20A4H-08 fits the bill for $34.99.

      All we’ve got left is a mouse, keyboard and monitor. Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 black keyboard and mouse will do the job for $21.99 and Hanns·G JC-199DPB 8ms highest rated 19” LCD monitor is going to set us back $169.99 but the Acer AL2016WCbd Black 20" Widescreen LCD Monitor is available for only 20 bucks more.

      So what is all this going to set us back? Depending on whether you choose the 19” or 20” monitor the total package is going to set us back either $729.00 or $749.00 with free shipping. Add in Windows Vista, your choice of music production software and an audio interface and you’re set to go. Not only is this machine small, it’s the cheapest full featured computer we’ve put together so far.

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