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Topic: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Robert Kooijman's Avatar
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    Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    As requested, here are some pictures & details of my X64 DAW & studio.
    This thread is basically a follow-up on http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...951#post472951

    Let's talk about some hardware stuff...

    About a year ago, I started building a DAW with below main requirements:
    1) Handle lots of RAM for using large sample libs in real time
    2) Handle lots of drives
    3) Have enough CPU horsepower
    4) Silent

    So, what does all this mean?
    ---------------------------

    1) Handle lots of RAM for using large sample libs in real time
    16GB should be possible and this meant a dual-CPU set-up.
    Several candidates, but only one that didn't waste board space with PCI-X or SCSI: Supermicro H8DCE.

    2) Handle lots of drives
    The eight SATA ports of the H8DCE proved a real blessing, great performance and no issues at all. Eight WD 320GB drives handle different things: audio, sample data such as drums, strings, FX etc. One WD 320GB IDE handles Windows & apps, one Seagate 500GB IDE handles misc. stuff.

    3) Have enough CPU horsepower
    Those dual dual-core 285 Opterons never seize to amaze me. Enough juice for even the wildest things

    4) Silent
    Initially, the DAW was planned to be located in the studio. So, no fans!
    Two passive ZEN 300W PSU's were used to power everything. This worked great. I outlined the details about a year ago on www.2cpu.com. Be warned, there's as much incorrect info floating around on the use of multiple PSU's as there is on the use of X64

    The eight SATA drives were sealed & sandwiched between large heat-sinks. This massive chunk of aluminium proved to work very well: no vibrations, quiet and relatively cool.

    A steamy NF4 south-bridge received a larger ZM-NB47J heat-sink from Zalman.

    At first, only one 6800GT graphic card was installed. When used for 2D only, its fan didn't do much. Still, a fan is a fan, so I planned to watercool the GPU instead at the time. The two Opterons received shiny Zalman WB4 blocks.

    I thought a long time about what kind of radiator to use. Long story short: a truly passive radiator was the only option when used in the studio!
    To allow some headroom for over-clocking and cooling of other mobo components , I settled for two Konvekt-O-Matic ULTRA radiators driven by a Laing DDC-Pump. Each rated to dissipate 180W, this is literary heavy stuff!


    What about the case?
    ---------------------

    Over the years I learned the advantages of thinking out of the box. So sorry, no box!!!

    Again long story short: especially for a (partly) passively cooled system, preventing hot spots is very important if you want to enjoy your DAW more then a few months. Potential hot-spots include:
    - mobo's capacitors near voltage regulators
    - mobo's MOSFETS near voltage regulators
    - RAM

    I opted for an open system, where all components were located on a large metal ground-plane. No cramped case requiring fans for airflow!
    Everything sat neatly besides each other: the PSU's, mobo, heavy aluminium drive-array, water-pump. At first, I planned to use E-SATA cabling for that, but ordinary SATA proved just fine.


    Current status
    --------------

    This open system worked fine, but wasn't ideal: still hadn't water-cooled the GPU and the small but noisy 2nd southbridge NF4 chip's fan was a bit annoying. RAM got warmer then I anticipated. And, I needed one more graphic card for a third monitor. What to do?

    Doing things really properly once and for all meant more water-cooling: at least all RAM sticks, 2nd NF4 and both GPU's (The 2nd graphics card was a passively cooled 7600GS but would have benefited from a water-block as well).
    A quick calculation showed that this would be a costly exercise. Still, this is IMO a very good way of building a totally silent DAW. Would definitely have gone for that route if it would be not for the fact that there was some space right below the studio where the DAW could be moved into. So, I dropped the idea of going all-out on water-cooling and instead drilled a whole in the floor!

    Sweden is a cold country, and having those two big radiators in the studio is a good thing most of the time So, the DAW moved right below the studio, still keeping the open system with encapsulated drives. Since absolute silence was no longer required, I replaced the two passive ZEN PSU's with a single 750W 14cm low-rpm fan Thermaltake. Those nice blue ZENs are to be used for another project that requires no-noise...

    Anyway, here are some pictures...

    That nice chunk of aluminium quietly housing all the SATA drives:


    Before closing-in:


    The Zalman WB4 blocks:


    Hidden below the studio, the open DAW:
    Supermicro H8DCE, 2*285 Opterons, 16GB Ram, 3TB WD & Seagate drives, MSI 7600GS & XFX 6600GT, Emu 1820m, Thermaltake 750W PSU, watercooling by Zalman & Innovatek, Windows XP64 SP2, Cubase 4.1

  2. #2
    Senior Member Robert Kooijman's Avatar
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    Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    For anyone wondering, what's *above* that DAW...

    The studio, front with alt. monitors:


    The two water-cooling radiators preventing getting cold feet:


    Studio towards the right side:


    Studio, towards the left side:



    Studio, showing alt. and main monitor on right side


    Studio, main monitor:


    Studio, after the sun has sunken in the sea...:
    Supermicro H8DCE, 2*285 Opterons, 16GB Ram, 3TB WD & Seagate drives, MSI 7600GS & XFX 6600GT, Emu 1820m, Thermaltake 750W PSU, watercooling by Zalman & Innovatek, Windows XP64 SP2, Cubase 4.1

  3. #3
    Senior Member bigears's Avatar
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    Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Wow! Thanks for posting these pictures, Robert. A very impressive studio set-up. I'm curious about the two keyboards on your desk, below the computer monitors. Are these custom made? I've never seen such a slim case before.
    I also like the two gramaphones, a reminder of how technology has progressed. Thanks, John

  4. #4
    Senior Member Robert Kooijman's Avatar
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    Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Hi John,

    you know, I brought those two gramophones from India, you can still buy them there in various shapes and sizes I believe the interior mechanism is original from the 30s or 40s. The wooden case is newly handmade. You get a little box with spare needles. It's fun to play these really old 78 disks on them

    An long-time hobby of mine is collecting and fixing old valve-radio's.
    Below is a close-up from an old Indian-made Philips that I'm particulary proud of, and one of the very few having Indian station names on its dial-glass. Some of these radio's can be used as a 'guitar amp' as well, with great results! Either via their phono/line-in, or when using a small AM or FM transmitter. Being a radio HAM, it's fun playing around with that.

    About the keyboards,
    I took these & their MIDI controller PCBs out of their original casing. This way, the keyboards can be mounted very close to each other and you don't waste space!

    The upper one is a weighted hammer action taken from a Fatar SL880.
    The bottom one is non-hammered, 'semi' weighted, from a Fatar TMK-88.
    This way, you just play whatever suits the instrument best
    To make the TMK-88 action more responsive with better repetition, I removed all the 88 little metal weights that are located under the plastic keys. This reduces the moving mass, giving a better feel.



    In Cubase you can select the MIDI input source per track, e.g. play piano on the upper and synth or strings on the bottom keyboard.

    Since I'm still in the learning phase, it's nice to hear what blends well together in a composition (which woodwinds with which brass & strings etc.).

    PS: I've added a picture of the original passive PSU's (each 300W) that powered the DAW. These are great when a totally silent system is required.

    Take care, Robert
    Supermicro H8DCE, 2*285 Opterons, 16GB Ram, 3TB WD & Seagate drives, MSI 7600GS & XFX 6600GT, Emu 1820m, Thermaltake 750W PSU, watercooling by Zalman & Innovatek, Windows XP64 SP2, Cubase 4.1

  5. #5

    Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Robert -

    Awesome stuff, amazing. How do you have time for all this?!

    I'm wondering about the drive array...

    - Where did you get the heat sinks? Do they eliminate the need for any fan?

    - What is it, 8 drives? I can't believe they're quiet enough to keep outside a case. Aren't they rather loud?


    Thanks again!

    buzz

  6. #6

    Thumbs up Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Outstanding layout! I'm currently running a simple dual-core X64 machine and am about to bump it up to 4GB to help me get through the transition to multi-proc-multi-core nirvana later this year. When I make the move, I'll be [ahem] borrowing some of your concepts - particularly the idea of open-air mounting and discarding the standard PC case altogether. SASSY!

    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  7. #7
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Killer studio thanks for posting.
    Styxx

  8. #8

    Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Your studio looks wickedly amazing. That's a pretty cool way of setting up your PC, an open "desk box". Also, looks like you've got a pretty nice view out of the windows.
    Tim

  9. #9

    Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Fantastic. Don't know what I like best. The studio or the view. Only problem is how can the rest of us ever dare post a picture of our rigs? My little Intel 975BX with 4 gigs ram and 4 satas in its little stock cooled Antec Sonata case with Conroe 6600 oc'd to 3.15 ghz running WinXP64 suddenly seems so... ho hum.

    What are those audio monitors? Are they an audiophile design similar in concept to an Eggelston or something?

    Howard

  10. #10

    Re: Details & pictures of X64 DAW & studio

    Ok, I am dying to know... why do you have two gramophones to the left and right of your screens? They are positioned like monitors, do you use them as such?
    Zircon Studios - Original music for media, electronica, sound design, and synthesis.

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