Sonic Labs this week unveiled one heckuva dream machine PC tower, tweaked for pro audio: dual-core 64-bit 3.7GHz Pentium D965 Extremes, Presler chipset, high-performance everything, a graphics card that’s ready for four-monitor output, and 48 lbs. of PC performance. There are some details I really like, notably the mobile drives, which could let you pair this machine in the studio with a performance machine on the go. US$3750 is the price, but there really are very few compromises on this machine, and items like the extra, high-speed hard drives are clearly geared for audio use.

Sonic Labs tests all their machines with a range of audio software, but it’s worth noting that Cakewalk’s DAW Labs likes their machines, too, particularly the “ready-to-record” design and low noise. I think some “audio” computers have overstated the degree to which they’re unique from other PCs, but when it comes to parts like Sonic Lab’s “Custom Ultra-Quiet Heat Pipe cooling system” made in Germany, unless you really know what you’re doing building your own machines, the custom PCs have a lot of appeal. Managing heat and noise is not for newbies, and, at least on paper (and according to the folks at Cakewalk), it looks like they’ve done a great job.

Meanwhile, on the “other platform”, if you are waiting anxiously for a new Intel Mac tower (which will probably be called the Mac Pro), you should skip the Mac rumor sites and start reading PC specs like these. It’s not hard to imagine some of these sorts of features and Intel chipsets in an Apple-branded case within the coming months. I’m sure Apple is anxious to start selling those machines, too, because the Power Mac line has traditionally had the highest profit margins of any of Apple’s machines. You won’t get the upgradeability of the PCs, but the Apple OS could make it worth it.

  • Benchmarking x86

    Let's hope Apple does much better than this and offers Woodcrest based Pro systems. All previous Apple PowerMac products were the equivalent to Intel Xeon based workstations (with the sloppy exception of ECC memory, however the latest quad G5 has it.). Use of the Pentium D965 Extreme would be a step down and use old technology. With Conroe, Woodcrest and Mermon just around the corner a better guess would be:

    Woodcrest – Server and workstation (Xserve and PowerMac replacements). Woodcrest is due June 19th/26th. Apple will announce their system in August if not before. Look for Quad core server and workstation late Q1'2007.

    Conroe – probably not used since Apple does not have the lineup to use these. A single Woodcrest system would do just as fine single dual core G5 does now and increase chip volume to get lower prices. Conroe would be used only if Intel gives Apple phenomenal pricing. It has to make up for the cost of breaking the motherboard design and manufacture. Of course Apple could always take the chance and have separate a single socket and dual socket Pro lines. They'd be betting they have enough volume to justify it. Conroe is due from Intel July 2006.

    Mermon – Replaces the Core Duo in laptops with Core2 Duo. Due from Intel in August 2006. Look for laptop upgrades in August/September. Same pinout as the Core Duo so upgrading is a no brainer. Apple has to do this to compete with PC's offering the same thing. 20% increase in performance according to Intel.

    All this is based on Intel meeting their goals with Core2 announcements and production. They have to or they are toast so it will happen.

    Using Intel based products Apple has to keep up with the rest of the PC industry or face market humiliation. As a result expect more system changes and annoucements closer together than when Apple used the PowerPC.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, Apple has already demonstrated they can keep pace with the PC market and, if they want to, get in first with technology. So I'm cautiously optimistic.

    Thanks for writing in, because you . . . actually seem to know these codenames, which I generally fail to do!

    These audio machines do tend to lag, because they prioritize low noise (and thus low heat) above raw performance, and their certification process / emphasis on reliability means they tend to avoid cutting-edge components. Still, this is a very capable system for audio, with or without latest-and-greatest Intel tech on the horizon.

  • Marc

    I am very pleased to see that the Dell Precision 380 Workstation has been tested and approved by the Cakewalk’s Tech Team.

    Unlike the Mac, the Dell bring a very good price/value ratio and Dell fixes more quickly the hardware problems. I'd hate spending 1000's of dollars for a hot and whining machine. Furthermore the Dell is highly customizable and has a quiet case. I am just wondering how quiet this is compared to a water cooled machine.

  • richardl

    I just don't get what you need all that for. For that matter I don't get why you need 64-bit for audio. Sure I understand quiet. And I understand convenience of removable drives.

    But it seems like it would be easy to put together a quiet system that's as fast as you'll ever need for audio for about half that cost.

    If you need more processing power get two systems.

    It'll be interesting to see where Apple jumps into the Intel performance workstation market because the sky's kind of the limit.

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