DAW Project: Upgrade Time…

I don’t really call myself a “musician” but I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 16 years old.  I can probably count on one hand the number of hours I’ve spent playing in the past three or four years.  At best, I dabble.  Similarly, I also dabble in music recording.  Enough so, that I have an entire desktop setup dedicated to it.  My equipment includes a TASCAM US-428, a KORG padKONTROL, an M-Audio KeyStudio, and a couple of NADY QH560‘s for monitoring.  I also have a KORG Z1, a beast of a synth, but it’s way too powerful for me to tame at this point.  How do I integrate all this tech together?

At the heart of the setup is a humble Dell Inspiron 530.  I bought it through the Dell outlet, a great place to get deals on scratch n’ dent items as well as custom systems returned by customers.  It is a 64-bit system which originally came with 4gb of RAM, an Intel Core 2 2.4 ghz processor (Q6600), and running Windows Vista.  I had intended to use the system as a dedicated Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) but found that it didn’t quite pack the horsepower needed to run the software and hardware I had.  Once I had three or four tracks going, it required too much latency to adequately run.  Frustrated, I put the whole thing aside.  That was years ago.

Part of the reason I gave up was because I had read that my Dell Inspiron 530 is maxed out at 4gb of RAM.  However, several weeks ago, I opened her up and researched the motherboard (DG33M03).  This particular board is actually capable of handling 8gb of RAM.  This launched me on a mission to push this box to it’s limit.  A tip to Fry’s yielded 8gb of PC-6400 RAM and an EVGA GeForce GT630 video card.  The fastest processor that it can handle is the Intel Core 2 Q9650.  I bought a pre-loved one off of ebay at a fairly reasonable price.  Performance has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved.  The only benchmarks I have at my disposal is the Windows Experience Score.  It was previously at 3.1 (out of 8) due to graphics capability.  Now, it is currently at 6.1 due to disk performance.  Processing and Memory scores are all above 7.  I’m not sure if I can do anything about the disk performance at this point.

As for software, I’m currently running a trial version of Sonar X2, Cakewalk’s latest version.  I like the Sonar products mostly because of how well it integrates with the US-428.  I’m really not ready to invest in a new control surface at the moment.  And now it’s time to press ‘Record’…

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