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Dell XPS 8500 for Music Production

Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Messages
10
Motherboard
Dell XPS 8500
CPU
i7-3770
Graphics
HD4000 + HD 7770
What version OS X would you recommend me to install on my machine? I have the 10.6.3 install DVD from the Apple Store. A second SSD for OS X is also on my to purchase list for this machine - recommendations? I want to build this box for stability above all other desires. Eventually, I would like to dual-boot this with Win7 64-bit Professional.

My brother has a circa 2010-2011 27" iMac currently running Snow Leopard 10.6.8 that he uses for music production. He is using Logic Pro and I would like to share files to work on with him. Is there any application compatibility issues between 10.6.8 and later OS X versions? If he were to upgrade to a later version of OS X would he have difficulties running his current software?


Here are my Desktop Specs:
- Stock Dell XPS 8500
- 256 GB SSD (boot/OS drive)
- 1.8 TB HD (C: drive)
- Intel Core i7-3770 CPU @ 3.4GHz
- 12 GB Ram
- Win7 64-bit OS w/SP-1(Professional)

Please share your advice!


Thanks,
nwHack
 

BoomR

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Your focus should be more on what version of OSX is compatible with the music production apps that you are using. If, for example, you are going to use Logic Studio X (the latest version of Logic), then there's no reason NOT to install Mavericks. In fact, I think pretty much all the major DAW applications now provide full support for Mavs. So that would be a good choice. BTW, Logic Studio X is optimized for Mavericks, but you can still run Logic Studio 9 on Mavericks, too.

And again, the OS doesn't really factor in on whether you'll be able to exchange Logic files between yourself & your brother. I think Logic has changed up their file structure & the way it organizes resources for each project in Logic Studio X (over Logic Studio 9). So for best compatibility between the 2 of you, make sure you are both running the same version of Logic.

Hope that helps!
--B
 
Joined
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Messages
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Motherboard
Dell XPS 8500
CPU
i7-3770
Graphics
HD4000 + HD 7770
Hey BoomR!
You helped tremendously! Your response is exactly what I was hoping to receive, especially with your expertise and background in recording. I've read your old Recording Studio Rig thread and that is quite impressive! And lots of good info in there too... I've also read the one about your Atari - back in the day I tried to record on my Commodore VIC-20 onto a cassette for storage!

I have an extensive computer background so building a pc to do the job is not a problem. But I want to avoid previous pitfalls others have been through, and I want the most stable system that I can build. All options will be considered before I start on this build.

Here's what I have on my agenda; so I would appreciate any direction you could provide. It's time to resurrect all my miles and miles of 8-track 1/2" Tascam M-38 reel-to-reel masters to digital format to do further overdubs, sweetening, and mastering. These old master tapes have myself on guitar, my older brother on bass, and younger brother on drums! Talk about a full and tight 3-piece that actually sounds like a BAND playing together! No sequencers, click tracks, or computers used at all. And the warmth of tape, and the needles going into the red, and the saturation - ahh good times... All of these songs were single takes all the way through without any edits, and they sound too good to ever try and recapture that groove again.

So much more to say but I'll leave it with this. I'm really interested in how you would go about doing the A/D conversion to capture that warm tape tone? Do you like MOTU?

Thanks so much!
--nwHack
 

BoomR

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The project sounds like a BLAST!!! I would love to hear some of the work - esp. once you can provide both "before" and "after" clips! :)

So a few questions:
  1. Would love to know the reason that you're going to try & use a stock Dell box as your hardware of choice. There are quite a few threads for taking existing hardware (think pads, HP laptops, etc) and making a CustoMac. But these always seem to be fraught with LOTS and LOTS more work than simply buying components from the Tonymacx86 Buyers Guide. I gotta tell you, I just did an upgrade to Haswell on my HTPC, and it has to be the easiest install/config that I've ever done, followed closely behind by taking my Studio 2.0 build and updating it to Mavericks. I bought a new Samsung Evo SSD and did a clean install of Mavericks. ZERO problems and it's SCREAMING fast. Under Mavericks, it GeekBenches out at about 1,200 points faster than the original Mountain Lion build.
  2. What are you going to use for an audio interface? Looks like you're going to need something that's an 8-channel interface so you can do all your Tascam transfers in one pass. I've long been a fan of MOTU - that was some of my first gear. But I've gone a different direction with my hardware in the past few years, so not really on top of their latest hardware. Focusrite is coming out with a new 8-ch USB2.0 interface. They have always had a good track record & pretty good bang for the buck. Not many people know, but they used to build some of the hardware & pre's for all the early Digidesign/ProTools stuff (if memory serves me right). For remote/portable recording sessions, I've got the Mackie Blackbird & I'm quite fond of it right now. Not only does it sound great for the price, but it's built like a TANK.

As for the "warm tape tone," I think you're going to get that on all your baseline tracks that you lay down because you're recording from the analog outs of the Tascam & digitizing that audio, complete with the "warm" harmonic characteristics. But be advised: the minute you start punching & overdubbing, you're going to notice a radical difference in the audio quality, as now you are recording digitally (with much better preamps that also have different sonic qualities than the pre's on the mixer you used & fed into your Tascam). You may want to look into some tape emulators to use as plug-ins on the newly recorded tracks & sweetning so that you can keep the overall warm vibe of the project.

Get back to me when you can & provide a bit of insight & we can go from there. Cheers!
--B
 
Joined
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Motherboard
Dell XPS 8500
CPU
i7-3770
Graphics
HD4000 + HD 7770
We had so much FUN back when these songs were recorded! We want to get back into the swing of things so we've decided to start with unfinished tracks... Can't wait to share once we get there!

To answer your questions...

1. Why the Dell? Well, it is simply the newest box I have! I do have a few older machines gathering dust. The next in line; is this even worth the effort?

  • HP xw8400 Workstation - RB287UA#ABA
  • Dual Processor - Intel Xeon 5150 2.66 4MB/1333 DC
  • Memory - 4 GB (4 x 1 GB) DDR2-667 ECC FBD
  • Graphics Card - NVIDIA Quadro FX3500 PCIe
  • Hard Drive - 160 GB SATA 3 Gb/s NCQ 7200 rpm

2. The Audio Interface is really the BIG unknown to deal with. I want to get the transfer right the first time, and maybe even a second time too because analog tape is still available. So laying new base tracks might just be done on tape if the new digital base tracks don't sound right to us! I have started to do research on tape emulators that you mentioned - quite intrigued. Thanks for the tip...

Back to do more research...
--nw
 

BoomR

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1. Why the Dell? Well, it is simply the newest box I have! I do have a few older machines gathering dust. The next in line; is this even worth the effort?

  • HP xw8400 Workstation - RB287UA#ABA
  • Dual Processor - Intel Xeon 5150 2.66 4MB/1333 DC
  • Memory - 4 GB (4 x 1 GB) DDR2-667 ECC FBD
  • Graphics Card - NVIDIA Quadro FX3500 PCIe
  • Hard Drive - 160 GB SATA 3 Gb/s NCQ 7200 rpm
Hmmm... so I take it $$/budget is a factor for you now (and that's why you're using a machine you already have)? No offense intended, but two dual-core Xeon processors using 2008 technology (and those processors are now EoL as of early 2009) are not going to give you the same bang for the buck as a Haswell i7 4770K quad-core + hyperthreading (or even an Ivy Bridge i7 3770K). I just did a clean install of Mavericks on my Studio 2.0 build and now my Geekbench scores are up around 15,500. Then again, if you already have the machine, the price is right.

Consider this: when you do a Hackintosh build based on non-standard hardware, there are a lot more hurdles you have to jump to get your hardware working. It also requires more hand-holding whenever there is an OSX update released. I think my big concerns for you are compatibility of the motherboard & graphics card. Those are 2 critical components, and if you want a build that goes together easy & is easy to maintain, then I think your better bet is to do a build from the buyer's guide. But if you don't mind some trial & error, and lots of reading on how to troubleshoot the problems you run into, then go for it!

2. The Audio Interface is really the BIG unknown to deal with. I want to get the transfer right the first time, and maybe even a second time too because analog tape is still available. So laying new base tracks might just be done on tape if the new digital base tracks don't sound right to us! I have started to do research on tape emulators that you mentioned - quite intrigued. Thanks for the tip...

You can always go back & layer using your tape machine to get the sound you want. Just know that syncing those new tracks back up with everything you've transferred into your DAW might be a bit tricky & time consuming. Now, depending on your budget, if you went with something like the UAD Apollo, not only do you get a killer interface, but you also get a bucket full of great plug-ins, including a great tape saturation/emulator plug. Plus the UAD has extra DSP to run all those plugs, so it doesn't take any extra host horsepower (vs. a Waves tape saturation plug). BTW, what are you planning on using for your DAW? Logic? ProTools? Digital Performer?

:headbang:
 
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Messages
10
Motherboard
Dell XPS 8500
CPU
i7-3770
Graphics
HD4000 + HD 7770
Hmmm... so I take it $$/budget is a factor for you now (and that's why you're using a machine you already have)? No offense intended, but two dual-core Xeon processors using 2008 technology (and those processors are now EoL as of early 2009) are not going to give you the same bang for the buck as a Haswell i7 4770K quad-core + hyperthreading (or even an Ivy Bridge i7 3770K). I just did a clean install of Mavericks on my Studio 2.0 build and now my Geekbench scores are up around 15,500. Then again, if you already have the machine, the price is right.

Consider this: when you do a Hackintosh build based on non-standard hardware, there are a lot more hurdles you have to jump to get your hardware working. It also requires more hand-holding whenever there is an OSX update released. I think my big concerns for you are compatibility of the motherboard & graphics card. Those are 2 critical components, and if you want a build that goes together easy & is easy to maintain, then I think your better bet is to do a build from the buyer's guide. But if you don't mind some trial & error, and lots of reading on how to troubleshoot the problems you run into, then go for it!

I like bang for the buck! So at first and try and not spend a dime to get what I already have to work. However, I will be spending my $$$ on a UAD Apollo!! I consider that well spent cash.

Might do a swap on the motherboard and processor in that HP xw8400 server. That tower is a beast. It is a perfect housing for newer internals... Anybody tried this approach?

I used to build and prototype video servers back in the late '90s when I managed the Engineering Lab for a professional broadcasting equipment company. There was no plug-and-play as you know - remember the hassle of IRQ's, and loading the drivers? We used Windows NT 3.51 on motherboards that were manufactured in-house. We also wrote the drivers and firmware to make that stuff work. Conflicts were a nightmare to debug! But those professional servers are still running today at the largest broadcasting companies. So using a pre-built anything with production operating systems is really not a problem. And I don't need the latest and greatest, simply need a stable platform for the digital bits for storage and manipulation... Once the machine is built it wont need an upgrade for a very long time. Think of it as a standalone digital tape recorder, without need of tape or internet connection.


:thumbup::lol: EXACTLY!!!!
 
Joined
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Messages
10
Motherboard
Dell XPS 8500
CPU
i7-3770
Graphics
HD4000 + HD 7770
First, I disconnected all drives in the XPS 8500 machine, and removed the AMD Radeon 7770 Video card. Then I installed a new 1TB Seagate HDD.

Second, I booted from iBoot Ivy Bridge 1.1.0 CD and installed Snow Leopard 10.6.3 in a 128GB partition on it. Then updated to 10.6.8. This now boots without fail from iBoot CD into 10.6.8.

Third, reinstalled video card - no go. Then I removed it and reboots just fine, although in HD4000 1024x768 mode, and no audio.

My main goal is to run Logic Express 9.1.8 and share the project files with an iMac 10.6.8 running same version of Logic Express. Anybody else doing this or similar?

Now I'm tempted to just install the latest Mavs 10.9.2 from App Store and see how it rolls. But would a Mountain Lion build work any better or be more stable?

P.S. The HP xw8400 boots up too - but MUCH slower. So I'll stick with the XPS 8500 for now...
 
Joined
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Messages
10
Motherboard
Dell XPS 8500
CPU
i7-3770
Graphics
HD4000 + HD 7770
Mavericks 10.9.2 is installed on the Crucial 120GB mSATA and loads within 15 seconds ! :headbang:

I had a full day this weekend to do the XPS 8500 Mav install... Audio and Ethernet were the only two snags at first, but they are ironed out, and the machine doesn't seem to have any glitches after a weekend of simple reboots.

I haven't extracted the DSDT yet to see what is in there, but I would like to dial this in to be the stable platform that I'm striving for. Is there any necessary patching that I need to do?

Also, I would like to do a backup image of this install. Is Time Machine the best way to do this?
 

BoomR

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I am by no means any sort of DSDT guru, but if you've already run MultiBeast, I don't think the DSDT you would extract would be "clean." But more research in the form where all the DSDT discussions are would be a good investment in time.

I'm partial to Carbon Copy Cloner for making a disk image/clone of a good working install (my 2 cents). Glad to hear that you are well on your way with your build!!
:headbang:
 
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