DAW Hardware build with Windows 2018

My (reasonably educated but still subjective) checklist for building a Windows-based DAW machine, maybe sometime later this year (2018). Have been building my own DAW – about 5 PCs over 15 years. This page is mostly a place to keep notes for myself – making it public just in case someone else finds this info useful.

I run mostly the latest  version of Cubase Pro plus tons of VST plugins – just very   occasionally dabbling in other DAWs like Maschine, Reason, Ableton Live or  ProTools.

Hardware

I’m hoping to get well over 5 years out of the configuration around the next configuration, since my current setup (a 6 core Intel i7 CPU based system)  has lasted me that long and isn’t even depressingly slow yet.

CPU

I’ve always used Intel – not always the least expensive, but not that important for long-lasting machines. The famous security bugs may not be particularly important for music computers.

  • at least 6 core with Hyperthreading
    • options:
      • i7-7800X X-Series 3.5GHz 6 Core Processor With 8.25MB Cache
      • i7-7820X X-Series 3.6GHz 8 Core Processor With 11MB Cache
      • i9-7900X X-Series 3.3GHz 10 Core Processor With 13.75MB Cache
  • probably liquid cooler

Motherboard

  • I’ve always used ASUS motherboards so far – generally have been quite happy with ASUS quality for components
  • USB 3.1
  • at least Dual M.2 (for later addition of more very fast SSD disks)
  • look for compatibility with Thunderbolt 3 upgrade card

Video card:

  • must be able to drive at least one 4k display at 60 Hz or better
  • if only doing audio, use a silent (no-fan card –
    • MSI GeForce GT 1030 2GH OC (HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4)
  • if also doing video editing, maybe grab a faster card with fans that turn off when not needed.
  • NOTE: if encountering audio interrupts with NVIDIA cards/drivers, DISABLE 3D Power savings mode in NVIDIA driver settings.

Disk and solid state storage

  • SSD:
    • M.2 NVMe  (at least 1 TB)
      • DO NOT use M.2 SATA3, because NVMe is several times faster than SATA3 – important when loading sample based sounds
      • options:
        • Samsung 960 PRO NVMe M.2 PCIe x4
        • Samsung 960 EVO NVMe M.2 PCIe x4
        • Intel 760p Series M.2 PCIe
    • Use SSD for
      • Operating System
      • Software
      • Sample Libraries
      • Use M.2 disk, but only
    • Back up daily
  • Spinning disk:
    • 2 SATA3 disks (at least 2TB each) configured as RAID 1 (duplicate disks)
    • Use spinning disk for
      • project files
      • installation files
    • Back up daily

Windows 10 notes:

  • Very stable for me over at last 12 months
  • USB midi works better for me now than ever:
    • I can plug in or power on USB midi devices after having started  running Cubase and they are now recognized on the fly
    • and it seems that USB midi hardware can now connect to multiple open applications simultaneously
    • p.s. I think at least some of the above worked  on Mac OS X for some apps for a while already
  • Using Windows 10 Professional, so I can delay automatic Windows updates, since sometimes operating system updates break music software.