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Build a Music PC - XP2000 - super-cheap!! [pt1]

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Author: admin
Date: 21-Jul-02

Build a budget 2000 Athlon XP music PC - PAGE 1 - (July 2002)

Ok... I need a new test PC... So why not also use that as an opportunity to test a new KT333 chipset boards supporting a 333mhz memory speed and a fast ata133 ide system...

Update 7/5/2003: Bare in mind the date of this published article... It is a BIG article, and the pages have been tweaked with updates in some places as I've worked with the PC over the following months into 2003, but prices mentioned in the Article are for the time of purchase which was summer 2002... (see date above by title)

Now bear in mind I have one test PC running a Duron 700 on 128mb of pc133 sdram on an ata133 drive and it runs VST 5 and Reason together in sync, and allows complete garage & RnB compositions in-PC, all Reason generators able to be played live in realtime from a master keyboard & allows plenty of effects to also be added in VST either applied to the rewired Reason generators or to audio tracks or master busses...In other words, it runs a whole studio, sounds & fx and it's a Duron 700! .... Now that is a Duron 700... this is an Athlon XP 2000 !!!... so er, let's assume it'll do the whole job eh!...

Eeee... when I wur a lad y'could go aht fur a neet on the town, 'ave a slap oop feed at t' Ritz, get a cab 'ome and still 'ave change from a Fiver!...

Indeed!... But thanks to the bungling of the capitalist economy, PC stuff is giveaway prices now as warehoused stock = dead money... This is what your 395 quid buys you today......

Oh yeah!!... Now THAT is more like it!!.... GOBS of power for peanuts!... thing is, will it work!... will this new dreaded VIA chipset cause any problems?.. will anything cause a problem...

Zoning in on the main package - The motherboard, ram, cpu, cooler and well, you don't have to spend a fiver on some thermal paste to be honest but there it is...

Heh heh... it says: "Designed for eXtreme Performance" - you have to say than using a deep, gruff, 'Video action-movie trailer voice-over' accent to get the right effect :)

The A7V333 board has the new-ish KT333 chipset which i ain't seen mentioned too much in music sites, & it is 'new' in this industry's terms, so hence i decided to get it to see how it faired with some music gear... The Southbridge is the VT8223A, with the 'A' suffix designating it's capable to run IDE devices at 133 ata speed..

There is another variant of this board with an onboard Promise RAID controller, in which case the area circled in red in the image above would have two additional IDE connectors allowing a total of 8 drives to be run if the PC power supply is up to it!


The AGP slot doesnt 'back into anything behind it' if you get me, there is space behind it for any long cards & the slot has a nice retaining clip.... There's plenty of space round the cpu and even tho the Northbridge has a hefty ally heatsink, it's far enuff away from the main CPU socket to allow a fairly heft sink/cooler of the more esoteric/quiet type for your CPU should you choose to add that.

There's 3 dimm slots taking a max 3gb memory; however!.... According to the manual, using PC2700 ram speeds to run at 333mhz you can only use 2 of the dimm slots... adding another dimm causes the board to revert to run at 266mhz. That's really no problems tho, a gig of ram is now 100-110 quid for pc2700 so you can start with 512 and go up to a gig when another 50 quid comes along.. a gb of ram is tons & 512 is plenty for a decent daw to be honest.... So your max ram using pc2700 @ 333mhz is 2gb which is plenty and thus I can't say this is a problem that should put you off this board should this build be successful!

You have 5 pci slots and a decent manual showing shared slots and much more - the manual's ok and covers everything, pretty comprehensively.. Certainly it explains things in clear English without any Japan-glish or Korean-glish at all, even the newbie should be ok cos it devides the manual up into stages including CPU install, adding ram, eveything, and a clear Bios walkthru.... The newbie shouldn't be too worried about having to tweak and do tasks in the BIOS we'll show you that anyways, image by image as this article continues...

Those Dip-switches (marked 'dip/sw' above), is a row of dipswitches you can use to alter the clock generator manualy if you set another bios overide master jumper elsewhere on the board - however, for all intents and purposes i think we can forgo that as the default is set to Bios. However, you MAY like to set your board manualy and you can with this option, the manual switches allow freq settings from 100 - 230mhz...

"He wanders off down memory lane......"

This is the first documented PC build this site has published... There are some very good articles on other sites such as 'Pro-rec' which people have built, there is a system the soundcard company RME have published which people have built, there are others, and they are 2000-3000 dollar systems without s/w in most cases, Matrox dual head AGP cards etc... What I'm attempting to do here is a more down to earth 'poor-ass' PC workstation build based on common PC-fair components...

As noted above, I built another Duron test box previously last year which runs VST5 & REASON together in rewire mode all day week in week out without a problem...In fact, the user has just completed his first album, 2 tracks from which which are going to pressing to vinyl soon, and he's on a dev' deal with Mercury Records too... It works for him fine, and he's always busy as the main man in his area with a working proper contemporary studio which get's results.

THAT Duron was also based on a cheap Jetway OEM board... & it works a treat & has NEVER had a problem and get's used daily - expensive doesn't mean better perhaps!?.. All you want in the end as a musician is a system that bloody well works up to a level that you need!...

:) - - Go back 10-12 years and a decent mixer and 8 track plus a couple of fx like say a cheap multifx and a cheap delay/verb was 2 grand new... Now this pc we intend to build will do 8 tracks (!) for sure, plus synths, fx etc etc so y'know... You choose what card & host sequencer s/w you can afford and then exploit the mass of freeware vsti's & fx... and by the way this is a 2000xp we're building!... for 400 quid, it's nuts!....

Assuming you have a pc already, there is your screen, and you can move the old drives over so you might not have needed to buy a cdrom, floppy etc or even a case as I did, but this is still cheap to build an entire pc which you can then add a screen too of your choice... an xp1800 or 1700 and 2100 ddr would shave a bit more off the price down to say 360 for the bundle.

However, 400 quid to some people isn't much, so to push it the other way for more luxury you could add a quiet fan & power supply for another 80-100 quid for the pair, a cd burner for another 20 quid and another 1/2 gig of ram for another 50-55 quid... I ALWAYS advise a person to add backup device BESIDES the cdwriter as soon as they can afford it - One day your hard-drive WILL fail... So, ALWAYS get a backup device which allows QUICK backup.. burning is NOT quick and doeswnt allow you to quickly update an archive... It is always perferable to have something like a spare drive or better a JAZ backup cart system... you write to it like a drive quickly, you can backup your songs when completed as well as an archived CDR and load it up from cart again onto your working audio disk whenevert you want to do a remix or whatever... It is SUCH a good habit to get into to treat your pc songs as you would any other studio media and dont let the fact it is on a drive be enuff.... get into the habit to create a NEW folder for each new song, and copy all samples and special presets, everything for that sonmg get's copied to that folder, then you load that folder to your audio work drive to work on it, and backup to cart each session and burn an archive CDR when it finished - that way you always have TWO backups after asong is finished, and one backup while you are actualy working on the track to.....

THAT is the best way to work... beleive me.. the misery of losing material cannot ever be described to you until it happens.. trust me.. if you ARE poor, as soon as possible get a cart based backup device - If you don't record many audio tracks or dont do audio traclks at all and only loops and samples, then a ZIP backup is enuff... but whatever you can afford, get some cart backup.... ok.. *cough* think I've made my point :)

So this is a max 400 quid budget build... even if you're starting from scratch you still get 600 quid left over to spend on music s/w and s/card & screen and still bring in a 1000 xp2000 pc on a budget - all with 100% legal s/w & a soundcard such as the M-audio Audiophile or ST-Audio or Terretec etc stereo card.

Man, this technology is so cheap!.... if you then add another 500 quid for say a Studio-Projects C1 mic (199) and a few quality s/w synths & drums plus a few sample cd's you are rocking for 1500 quid budget!!!!.. I mean, that is SERIOUS studio capable of master quality output in any feild where compositions demand a sample/synth backing and multiple layered vocals.. in other words any electronic based dance or pop production! - also it'll allow superb results for any songwriters in a more acoustical setting, supplying quality, VERY realistic drums via a s/w such as NI's Battery, or any of the excellent sample players such as Halion, Kontact EXS24 etc... They all load AKAI format cdrom kits now as standard so for the busy singwriter he can simply load a kit and get on with it...

As for audio recording, with fast ATA100 and higher IDE drives now, SCSI is no longer a requirement for the home recordist... and drives are typicaly 50 quid for 40-60gb size now, and cdr burners that'll work with Pro-s/w like Wavelab or Soundforge are only 40 quid or so.... we're laughing basicaly!

This machine we're building here, cheap as it is, is being advertised now by 'mass-sellers' like Time or PC World etc, as 'super-fast' 'up at the top of the range stuff... It'll theoreticaly cope with whatever we throw at it audio record & playback wise for any type of home/dance/production studio track-rate requirements...

I still have my doubts about pc's for large simultaneous recording trackrates such as is required in a 'live-band' studio, where you might want to record 16 tracks at the same time and playback a few... A pc like this with the right audio I/O hardware should do it yes, but anyways, this is Dancetech, and we're concentrating on Dance & home studio & production studio level place. The emphasis is midi backing instruments, mostly stereo audio-record multitracking done with continual overdubs and an emphasis to supply FX and synths and other backing production...

Yes, you might want to record 2 or 3 tracks simultaneously to perhaps record live overdubs of say a percussionist ensemble tracking over a midi drums backing or some BV's etc, but we're not looking to record 10, 12, 16 or more tracks at once in most production/dance studios - In all those respects of what WE need, THEORETICALY this machine'll do it... What we have to find out is, will this new KT333 chipset or any other thing make the setup crackle or pop & glitch etc even when stress is NOT being applied to the system? - Idealy what I hope to get from this bundle is a workstation which can be run at about 60-70% loading and supply the goods for a full-on production system... After all, that Duron system churns out RnB hip-hop and garage no probs!... So if you are really poor don't let the above talk of a budget 1000 machine freek you, you can as noted get a cheaper cpu and ram and that'll still provide alot of power...

"Get on with it Smithers!!!!!!!......"

Ok... nuff driveling... where were we... oh yes.. building the thing - *excellent solids* - Well first up, I think it's agood idea to have a nice cool shower before I do a build, cos that water gets every scrap of static off your body and hair etc, plus it chills you out cos you need to be relaxed if you're building a PC or a bike engine or whatever.. then, nice & chilled, prepare a work-space and get a few teacups or whatever containers for screws and things, a Philips head screwdriver etc.



'Build a Music PC - XP2000 - super-cheap!! [pt1]'

There are a total:  8  comments posted to this page.

Name:  Adi
Activity:  Hobby-ist
Date:  29-May-03

what speakers do you use for this PC ?
this is the same PC which mine.
what do you think about 'Altec Lansing'?
i take the XP1600+ what about it?
do you think it's enough if we use the onboard sound card?
why don't you get a new addon sound card?
if I want to make a dj music, what software should I use better?
I am very interesting about it, but i'm new, now I trying The FruityLoops program. I thing this is preety good. can you tell me some other programs for newbee?

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Name:  N.y.r.u.S.
Date:  20-Jun-03

Wouldn't mind picking your brains a bit could you contact this no 07951~674~835 your convienience. N.y.r.u.S.

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Name:  blah
Activity:  Professional
Date:  11-Jul-03

how much did u pay for that? it loox like shit. HAHA

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Name:  Zoran
Activity:  Hobby-ist
Date:  15-Feb-04

I'm running Athlon XP 2400+ @ ASUS A7V-266C with 768MB RAM (everything @ 266MHz) which is not enough. Do you have any suggestions for upgrade within about 150 to 200$?

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Name:  Michael
Activity:  Professional
Date:  08-Mar-04

hi i have big goals in my music and i would like to know what computer that would be best by to have so called dream `PC! what board disks how to configure and so on. I have 1300 dollars
to spend. will i get any good computer for that please help!

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Name:  Naasson
Activity:  Professional
Date:  18-Apr-04

I am interested in building a computer so that I can produce music on it. I am going for a mini music studio. I will be using pro-tools, and I need internet access. I am building it from scratch and need some advice, information, and guidance on what would be the best route to go.

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Name:  Jay
Activity:  Professional
Date:  15-Feb-08

How do i contact you in regards to getting yourselves promoted to student across the uk, in The National Student Guide

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Name:  gregory
Activity:  Professional
Date:  30-Jan-09

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