Building out the Home Studio, Part 7 - My First Custom Built Studio PC
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
If you're a computer geek like me, or if you like cool looking hardware, I think you'll get a kick out of today's blog post. Today I'm going to take you on a tour of my one of a kind, custom built studio PC.
One of the key aspects of a home studio is the PC (or Mac) that'll serve as the hub for all your music making activity. With as demanding as modern DAW software can be, never mind all the plugins you'll want to run, as fast as you can afford is usually the best type of computer to buy :-). You can always find something to throw at your machine if you end up with extra CPU cycles. The form factor (laptop or desktop) of the system is less important than specs - and for those I'd recommend some minimums. Obviously budget plays big time into this, but from my experience, going for an i7 is worth the extra cost over an i5 or i3 for Intel's side of things. AMD also has some good chips for the money - just get as fast as you can in the budget you've got. Processor speed and core count is the most important factor in how well your audio software will perform. 32gb of RAM is the amount I'd recommend, and an SSD (m.2 or PCI-E if possible) for the main drive - even better if you can afford to have one big enough to store your virtual instruments on it because it'll really decrease the time it takes to load instruments into your DAW when you're working. For music, a video card is really secondary. In my case (pun intended), I chose to build my own system. Originally I built it for photography and gaming, but it quickly became my studio PC for the Begin EP. I've been building computers since I was a kid, but had never done a full custom build and had never attempted anything quite as ambitious as this. The goal was to build as powerful of a system as possible while customizing it to fit my favorite color scheme and a sword motif that I'd designed for my desktop wallpaper.
A very "helpful" techy friend of mine also made some cool suggestions - such as the custom added Blu-ray burner in an SSD slot - which added additional challenge and time to this build. So did his suggestion to do fully custom sleeved power cables throughout the build (that one ended up taking dozens of hours - my wife says over a hundred) but I think the results speak for themselves. It does look snazzy!
Customizing this Cooler Master Trooper case to fit the Blu-ray drive involved some custom cabling, as well as cutting away some of the internal structure to make it all fit. And it allowed me to keep the front simple and uniform. The case is still fully functional and retains the top panel buttons and ports. Other custom details are the sword and carbon fiber panels, triple stacked front fans, and custom sword logo power button (check out the gallery above for close ups and extra description of those features).
This machine serves as a photography workstation, video editor, and gaming rig in addition to audio work, so the specs reflect that. Final specs in this build are:
i7 6950 Extreme Edition processor, overclocked to 4ghz
Asus Rampage V Edition 10 motherboard
64gb G.Skill 3200mhz DDR 4 memory
Intel PCI-E SSD (main drive), dual intel standard SSDs, and dual (RAID 1) 6tb Seagate hard drives
Dual GeForce 1080GTX video cards
Pioneer slot load Blu-ray burner
1200 Watt Corsair Power Supply
3 BitFenix 120mm fans, 1 BitFenix 140mm fan, and a Corsair 240mm closed loop CPU cooler
Cooler Master Trooper Case
This was the machine I first recorded on and the one I used to author Begin. Since then I've actually built a second custom PC for my home studio (it is a bit less of a modding showcase as it is a smaller form factor) but we'll take a look at that in a future post!