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Sweetwater Forums [Archived]

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Can I get more for the money if I don't buy my comp from Sweetwater?

nickcangie

I'm looking to buy a new PC and I want something fast and quiet. Is it cheaper to go to a store here (in San Francisco) and have it custom built rather than paying $1500 for, say, a Tower from Sweetwater? I feel like 1500 is a lot to pay for a PC, and if I went elsewhere, I could get exactly what I wanted...more firewire/usb ports, more ram, no cell phone/media interfaces on the front, etc. Any thoughts?
May 16, 2008 @04:12pm
tech1

WARNING: TOTALLY BIASED RESPONSE TO FOLLOW.
You probably can get something with similar specs built for cheaper, but can you guarantee that a non-audio industry cumputer shop will give you a compatible system? Can they give a two-year, "bumper to bumper" warranty, plus additional warranties through the component manufacturers? Can you call them when Pro Tools (or Cubase, Sonar, Samplitude, or whatever) isn't working properly? Will they help you configure it for audio, add a restore image, include test files, diagnostic tools, and free training videos? Can you call them any time for support?
The point of getting a custom audio PC is that it is built and supported by people who know and work with computer audio every day. It's ultimately up to you whether those additional services and warranties are worth the potential extra cost.
May 16, 2008 @05:11pm
nickcangie

Touche, Matthew.
But just how quiet are these machines? "Whisper quiet" is one thing when it's idle, but when you're tracking with plugins and Reason is open and everything is cranking at full speed, how quiet are they really (and don't worry about the biased opinion)? I only ask because I, like many of my counterparts here, are recording in the room the comp is in. Also, is there some sort of a soundproof box or casing for computers that would minimize noise but allow for air to get in an out?
May 16, 2008 @05:55pm
michaelhoddy

The bonus of buying a computer from Sweetwater is basically this:
1. It's configured specifically for music and audio work by people who have lots of experience in this specific field and know what they're doing. Therefore, you will have a stable configuration that works well.
2. Sweetwater tech support is fantastic. And since they deal only with audio/music/recording issues on these machines with their users day in and day out, they have a knowledge and experience base that's completely relevant to any issues you might run into.
So you're basically paying a little more for a machine that doesn't interrupt your creative flow, forcing you to become a computer tech rather than a musician or engineer.
May 16, 2008 @07:03pm
tech1

Iso Racks: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=iso+rack&go=Go%21
"Whisper-quiet" is just that. It is about as loud as someone whispering in the room. Extremely quiet sources (harp, classical guitar, etc.) may pick up a very slight hum from the system if it's in the tracking room a few feet away, but for 99% of what most people record, it's never an issue. I can stand 5 feet away from a system here that has the lid off and not hear it. The processors almost never heat up enough to the point where the fan begins to ramp up its speed, unless it falls into disrepair and lots of dust is caking the fans (see: http://www.sweetwater.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16127 ).
May 16, 2008 @07:35pm
nickcangie

Is it possible to customize it or is what I see what I get? For example, I don't need an interface for my cellphone or anything like that, nor do I need two harddrives (unless the system is actually built to utilize two harddrives).
May 16, 2008 @08:51pm
tech1

It;s not a cell phone interface. It's an SD/media card reader. It allows you to record to connected the cards used in portable recorders, keyboards, cameras, and other media-card-enabled devices.
For serious audio work, 2 hard drives are definitely recommended. One drive is used to run your system (OS and installed programs), while the other handles the recording tasks. This allows each drive to do something specific, yet very differnet. The system drive reads the thousands of little OS and program files from all over the drive, while the audio drive handles the few dozen very large audio files. Things work MUCH smoother like this.
I would call a Sales Engineer to talk about customization. There are lots of options available.
May 16, 2008 @10:04pm
soloact

First of all, this is not intended with any disrespect to Sweetwater, whatsoever. I am very satisfied with this company and I have made several major and minor purchases from them, and will continue to do so. The sales enginees are top-flight, tech support is awesome and shipping is stellar. A top-notch company - all around.
I was in the market for an audio pc about one year ago. I did want to purchase a CS - I knew the value of the components, the tech support, etc. Unfortunately, the one problem I found was that I was not given the option to customize any of the machines. I spoke at length with my sales engineer and was told (after he checked) that the CS are as is - with perhaps the exception of adding additional ram.
I was looking to upgrade the processor on one particular model, without buying the next model up. Of course I was willing to pay the difference. I just wanted the speed of another processor, without the increase in size of the secondary hard drive - I could not get it.
I know Sweetwater carefully matches their components and configurations, but I do not believe that a processor speed has to be tied to the size of the hard drive and this was the only difference, admitted by my engineer.
The next model up was about $500 more, and I figured I could save about $300 if I was allowd to just upgrade the processor, without the hard drive size - this would have made all the difference to me and I would have bought a CS if it was at least somewhat customizable. I wasn't looking to get a different model motherboard or anything like that.
Again, I am extremely happy with Sweetwater and will continue to purchase from them. Unfortunately, I did not find thier CS computers to be "customizable." Hopefully, they have changed their policy on this within the last year.
June 10, 2008 @04:55pm
EC_Beast

The short answer is of course you can save money by buying the parts and building it yourself. You can save money by purchasing the parts and just doing it yourself with EVERYTHING.
The hidden cost is the amount of time you spend on configuring it, and trouble shooting it, and the down time you may have as a result of something you did incorrectly. and/or incompatible parts with the DAW you want to run.
I do network administration work and I can't tell you how many times I've gone to sites and their servers were configured so poorly and incorrectly that I was amazed the thing was still running, and they've had to poney up major bucks for me to completely redo their network and not to mention the lost money in down time.
The moral: sometimes it pays to spend a little bit more for the assurance that it's done right the first time, and if there is a problem, you will have zero downtime as a result.
June 10, 2008 @05:14pm
brianbfw

i would base your decision on how tech savy you are. building a computer is not difficult, but can be overwhelming for some.
you can defintely save alot of money. but like others said, you'd have no tech support, and i'm sure sweetwaters support is great, there are certainly great with my purchases.
i'm an engineer for my day job, so building computers is actually fun for me, but you can easily screw things up if you don't know what your doing.
my college roomate ruined his breand new pentium chip because he jammed it in there, so be careful. you also have to think about proper fan placement, cooling, etc. most audio machines are pushed hard like gaming machines.
it's much easier now, the parts are basically plug in play. back in the day (i'm showing my age here), you had to put in jumpers on the motherboard and cables. now it's pretty easy.
June 10, 2008 @07:06pm
Justin

I'd say that if you're 100% sure that you can build it yourself and that you have carefully researched the compatiblity of your interfaces, and all you pepherial hardware and your software an plugins, then go for it.
If you can save money and afford to get better mics, keyboards, software or whatever, great!
I would be hesitant to trust the average PC store to build a machine for Pro Audio. Most computer shops have zero exposure to the kind of hardware we use in this industry. Most think Pro-sumer or expensive gaming audio cards are good for professional use. I'm not trying to bash these shops, just keep in mind, they don't deal with these kind of systems everyday, and we do. This stuff is just not what they're used to.
One of the reasons we started the Creation Station line was because we had a lot of customers calling us trying to get their computers working with their pro audio gear. They were frustrated that their new machines from the local shop or big box store wouldn't work without expensive upgrades or lots of tweaks. So we started building machines that were specifically engineered for audio. Yeah, they cost a bit more than the mass produced machines, but we have done the leg work for you, and we're going to be able to support you through any issues you may have.
June 10, 2008 @09:41pm
JerryB

I'm trying to save the bucks needed for a CS, as I agree that the attention to configuration, software compatibility, etc., is worth the extra money, and I've always been very happy doing business with Sweetwater. Then, the other day, I saw these computers in a "big box" store:
1. HP, AMD Phenom 8400, 2.1 GHz Triple-Core, 4GB memory, 640GB hard drive, DVD +/-RW, 15-in-1 reader, Vista Home Premium 64-bit, 24" flat panel monitor, for $999
--- and ---
2. Dell, AMD Athlon 64 X2, 2.8 GHz Dual-Core 5600+, 3GB memory, 500GB hard drive, 16X DVD +/-RW, 19-in-1 reader, Vista Home Premium 32-bit, 24" LCD monitor, for $999
I know I would need to be attentive to issues like connectivity (are there the necessary USB & firewire ports), and the usual gobs of junk software. But what are the other issues? Is Vista Home Premium a nightmare? Are there other issues I haven't even thought of?
I run SONAR, Sibelius, and VI libraries (not the mega-massive, $million ones...)
I feel very guilty posting this on Sweetwater's forum, and I'm maybe hoping that someone will burst my balloon so that I just stay with my original plan to save enough for a CS. But man am I tempted........!
Jerry
June 12, 2008 @12:03pm
tech1

Sonar 6.2 and Sibelius 5 are the earliest versions that work on Vista. Many virtual instruments are slow to be updated, and do not work in 64-bit. Also, just about every on-board firewire card (if you use a FW interface) needs to be replaced in an off-the-shelf PC. In addition, you would need to add a second/third hard drive for recordings and libraries, as recording onto system drives is really a bad idea, despite the amount of free space you may have. So you're still looking at potential software incompatibilities, adding at least another hard drive, and possibly a new firewire card. Then, you'll need to uninstall all of the bloatware you'll get, and do this: http://www.sweetwater.com/sweetcare/ts/detail.php?Index=31969&keyword=driver%20install%20error
If that is all acceptable to you...well, you know the answer.
June 12, 2008 @01:03pm
Ryan_Sloan

I'm trying to save the bucks needed for a CS, as I agree that the attention to configuration, software compatibility, etc., is worth the extra money, and I've always been very happy doing business with Sweetwater. Then, the other day, I saw these computers in a "big box" store:
1. HP, AMD Phenom 8400, 2.1 GHz Triple-Core, 4GB memory, 640GB hard drive, DVD +/-RW, 15-in-1 reader, Vista Home Premium 64-bit, 24" flat panel monitor, for $999
--- and ---
2. Dell, AMD Athlon 64 X2, 2.8 GHz Dual-Core 5600+, 3GB memory, 500GB hard drive, 16X DVD +/-RW, 19-in-1 reader, Vista Home Premium 32-bit, 24" LCD monitor, for $999
I know I would need to be attentive to issues like connectivity (are there the necessary USB & firewire ports), and the usual gobs of junk software. But what are the other issues? Is Vista Home Premium a nightmare? Are there other issues I haven't even thought of?
I run SONAR, Sibelius, and VI libraries (not the mega-massive, $million ones...)
I feel very guilty posting this on Sweetwater's forum, and I'm maybe hoping that someone will burst my balloon so that I just stay with my original plan to save enough for a CS. But man am I tempted........!
Jerry

Jerry,
Don't feel guilty about posting this on our forum at all! In fact, I'm actually glad that you did because this is information a lot of people may find useful.
I'm actually a Sales Engineer here at Sweetwater which means I'm talking to customers about these very things every single day. Some of my clients decide to go with some of the other brands you mentioned, while others go with the Creation Station.
The most interesting part is in relation to the calls I get after the purchases. I get calls from both customers after the sale. The first is from the person who went with the HP or Dell and more often than not they are frustrated because their machine isn't working properly or they're having performance issues (firewire chipsets anyone). Most of the companies who are offering machines with those specifications at those prices are usually finding the cheapest components they can for a machine to "run".
At Sweetwater we're very passionate about helping you get exactly what you want in a recording machine. We're a privately held company and we're also not worried about a Wall Street bottom line. Like Justin mentioned, we go to exhausting lengths to test components for compatibility and quality. We take the spare no expense approach to the audio PC. You will notice the difference right away.
Remember how I said both customers tend to call me after their purchase? The customer who bought the Creation Station usually calls to let me know that everything is working better than they had hoped, and that they were extremely pleased with the out-of-box experience.
Take that for what you will and fell free to call us if you have any questions at all. I hope that helps you out.
Thanks!
____________________
Ryan Sloan
Sales Engineer
800 222 4700 x 1306
ryan_sloan@sweetwater.com
June 12, 2008 @01:17pm
Justin

Jerry,
Don't feel bad. I'm very involved in Creation Station development, and I'll be the first to tell you it all has to do with your comfort level with the computer.
If you're sure you can build a computer yourself, or tweak a store bought machine, feel free to. Some people aren't skilled in the technical side of PC's, and so they're more comfortable with a Creation Station. If the tweaky side intimidates you, then I wouldn't mess with an off the shelf PC.
Many people buy them from us because they like having the safety net of the added technical support we provide.
I think Creation Stations are great, but I'm never going to tell you that you HAVE to buy one. I just hope you want to! :) In the end, it's all about your workflow, and how comfortable you'll be working with the machine you choose, whether it's a off the shelf PC, a Creation Station, or even a Mac.
June 12, 2008 @01:31pm