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Old 10th February 2013, 08:54 AM   #1
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Default Computer renovation for $300?

I am needing a new computer, but I can only spend $300. My present computer is a Velocity Promagix E2010. It has a fairly large case and a good PSU. I think I can get away with buying a new MB, CPU, RAM and maybe soundcard, and then fit them into the old case.

I have settled on the AMD FX 6300. I also considered the new AMD APUs, which benefit from very fast RAM, but since I already have a pretty decent nVidia graphics card I'm not sure an APU can be a better option than an FX Vishera.

My old 300GB HD died on me a few months back. At the time it was sort of convenient because PNY had just released the Prevail Elite SSD and they costed $100 instead of $400. So now my main HD is an enterprise-grade SSD.

I run linux. I had a Windows XP on dual boot on my old HD but that's gone now. I installed LMDE on my SSD with Lzo compression so the total OS size was reduced a bit, and the transparent compression increases speed and helps with the write barrier. One reason I want a new computer is that this one will sometimes freeze my SSD which I must then unlock. It refuses to boot from the SSD so I have to install the bootloader on another HD. So I don't know whether it might have other problems with AHCI and TRIM (It's pretty old; 2006 IIRC). Adding to this it's only SATA II, and I need SATA III to get the full speed from my SSD.

I've settled on the FX6300 CPU because it seems the best deal for my price range. I've been told single-threaded performance is pretty important since most everyday programs don't make full use of all cores. For this reason I originally was looking at the FX4300; but in benchmarks the single-threaded performance is only a few % better while the overall performance favors CPUs with more cores.

I'm not sure how to choose a motherboard. So many features and options to weigh. And the soundcard really is the clincher. Presently I use onboard sound. I know this sounds disastrous, but this computer was actually designed as an audio workstation IIRC. The onboard sound chipset is a STAC9227 which has 24/196k full-duplex recording and playback. My new computer needs to meet or beat this. What's even more interesting is that there are no DC blocking caps in the signal path on this chipset; it is virtual. All the potential motherboards I checked have Realtek chipsets. One had an Envy Vynil chipset, which had virtual DC blocking, but the motherboard was not quite what I wanted. Most of them are 24/192k, but have worse S/N ratio than the STAC9227.

On the other hand I could buy a discrete soundcard. For this my options seem to be the Asus Xonar DS/DSX. It has the same specs as my onboard sound, but low S/N ratio. However it does have an interchangeable opamp socket, which sounds fun to experiment with. In any case, despite the low S/N ratio it might be better than what I have simply because I've seen my soundcard's output on the scope and it has a lot of digital trash. They have a more expensive $100 card which would be great, but is too expensive.

There are some specialty hi-fi motherboards from Biostar and Asus which are pretty cheezy, but might work. One has a separate power connector for the on-board sound, so it would be possible to apply some inline filtering or even construct a separate supply. Some of them boast separate audio and digital grounds, power filtering, special caps, and so on. I don't know how well the hype matches up with reality.

Any advice?

Last edited by keantoken; 10th February 2013 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 10th February 2013, 01:05 PM   #2
DUG is offline DUG  Canada
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Make a table (list) with your options then list the pro's and con's of each.

Eliminate that which is least desirable and you will eventually be left with one choice.

Go with that one and don't look back.

But don't be surprised that the day after you purchase your choice something better comes along...always does.

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Old 10th February 2013, 01:30 PM   #3
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Ack... My thoughts exactly!

Problem is there are a lot of options and I don't have experience with this sort of thing. For instance do capless DACs sound better? It it worth getting a capless chipset? Are the hi-fi motherboards as good as the hype? What I really want is someone who's tried some of these things out, maybe even measured the Xonars to see if they perform as well as they should.

I have seen a lot of posts from people who joined in 2003 lately... Just coincidence?
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Old 10th February 2013, 01:56 PM   #4
DUG is offline DUG  Canada
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What is the low frequency cutoff on DAC's with caps...can you tolerate that number?

Hi-fi motherboards...what do the reviews say...personal reviews, not paid hype

2003 ... coincidence
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Old 11th February 2013, 05:04 PM   #5
BFNY is offline BFNY  United States
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I deal with PC based measurement systems all the time. If it was me, for about $300. I would get a 2 year old Dell, Lenovo, or HP commercial grade PC off Ebay. These are plentiful and cheap, as the big corporate users lease them and turn them over regularly.
In general, they have zero problems and work great. I like the Dells, as they seem to be cheap and plentiful. The Dell Precision tower line is one of the best engineered towers out there. I've had lots of problems "building" my own PCs, and usually they end up costing a lot more than you thought, by the time you are done. The case and power supply is the cheapest part of all.
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