I need someone more well-versed in building and evaluating PCs than I to give me a simple answer regarding diminishing returns.
I want to build a PC (this will be my ninth build) that will last me for quite a while.
I run Reason, Live, NI Komplete, Arturia's V Collection, and the Spectrasonics stuff. Apart from 3rd party Kontakt libraries, that's all the software I intend to run on this machine. I can't air gap it because of the need for authorizations.
So which processor would be overkill for this application? And how much RAM can you have before it's no point in getting more?
I'm basically looking for the maximum without going overboard or being a waste.
Presently, I run an i7 with 32gb RAM.
Quad-core i7 (or quad core Xeon) is probably the sweet spot comparing price versus speed (along with a well designed motherboard, they are not all created equal). I'm typing this on my primary machine, quad core Xeon and 32gb RAM with Win 10 Pro.
In my experience (and I run a computer business), with Windows 10; 4gb RAM is pathetic, 8gb is sufficient for routine use; the difference between 4 and 8 is HUGE. 8 versus 16 difference is not as much, but still significant. 16 versus 32, the difference is not really all that much, with an exception: If one is running an app where (for instance) it is possible to have all of the samples in RAM as opposed to HD or SSD, then the RAM should be enough to load all the samples into RAM. I have EWQL's Pianos Gold, and it operates in that manner. I don't have any experience with 64gb or higher RAM. Depending on the particular type of RAM needed, it can be one of the most economical ways of getting added performance.
Beyond that, another item that will make a very significant difference is the drive. Even with SSD, there are choices like the NVMe that operate considerably faster than a plain SATA SSD. I have SATA SSD in every computer, PC or Mac, with the exception of two Windows 8.1 computers running Windows Media Center, that are used exclusively for recording and watching HDTV programs. Those machines run 24x7 except when reboot is needed for updates, and standard disk drives are adequate for the streaming in and out of the drive. I make monthly image backups, so if a drive dies, it can easily be replaced.
Another way of increasing performance for lower money is getting something that is discounted because it isn't the latest generation. There is not very much difference in the performance of (example) the hottest quad i7 from a couple of years ago versus the newest; but one can buy the older one significantly lower price. This is particularly important if the choice for financial reasons is the latest i5 versus the older i7 for the same $$.
Hey 09, long time no see!
I recently built a PC out of older components that were the best available circa 2013-2015. This may not be the way you want to go, but you can get a lot of horsepower for the money.
BASE MACHINE: Dell Precision T5600 with 8-core Xeon E5-2680 at 2.7GHz, 32GB DDR3 RAM (4 x 8GB Samsung server RAM). Plenty of ports, including two USB3 (one front, one back). This was a $350 thrift store find, which was actually the whole thing that got this started.
As this is a dual-socket motherboard, I added a second identical Xeon and another 32GB of RAM. Each processor must have the same amount of RAM in the same configuration.
Also, this is a special variety of server RAM. I matched what was in there already by taking a photo of one of the modules and looking for that serial number online.
Drives: Samsung 860 EVO 1TB x 4: system drive, two in software RAID as main project drive, one more for samples. External Fantom 3TB spinner for backups.
Video card: Nvidia GTX 1080 Founders Edition. This has three DisplayPort plus one HDMI connections, and supports up to 7680 x 1440 resolution.
That corresponds exactly to the three 27" Acer QHD monitors ($400 for all) I scored on Craigslist from a gamer in New Hampshire.
One caveat: There is no way, even with a PCI card, to upgrade from SATA to NVMe as a *boot* drive on this system. It's a BIOS thing, and even researching UEFI options I haven't found a way.
I believe you can use NVMe as a *storage* option, which could give me a screaming advantage for my media drives. Failing that I'll add a hardware RAID card and go crazier with the RAID.
For the cherry on the cake, my friend who helped me put the system together gave me an original IBM Model M clicky keyboard, in black, no less.
WITH the three displays and original machine, the entire thing cost under $2000. It positively screams on anything DAW-related, and edits 4K video competently. (For rendering video, I use a special codec package for Premiere called Vokouder, which takes full advantage of the GPUs in the Nvidia card. At Mike Martin's advice, I have gotten into DaVinci Resolve and am getting a lot happier.)
As always, YMMV. If I were building a current PC, I'd start with probably an AMD Ryzen 9 CPU and choose recommended parts on PC Parts Picker from there.
I have gotten into DaVinci Resolve and am getting a lot happier.
yeah, the price is right on that.
Lots of good answers here. Thanks to all who contributed! I will probably pick your brains at some point; while I am a Mac/iOS guy through and through, eventually I think I'll need to experiment with building a Windows machine to get current again (my last build was an embarrassingly long time ago).