Jonah Walton is a producer, artist and mix engineer based out of Kansas City, Missouri, USA. He has been a professional Pro Tools user for over 20 years. Unlike our own James Ivey who chose a prebuilt Windows computer from HP, Jonah has chosen to go down the self-build route.
In this article, Jonah shares his experience building a Windows PC for his Pro Tools computer and explains his choices for each of the technical components used to create his ultimate workstation machine running Windows 10. Over to you Jonah…
The Mac v Windows War Is Dead
I must first start out by echoing the words of Simon Nakra, who recently shared his experience here with Production Expert of how well his Mac mini 2018 System is working. I firmly believe that both Mac and Windows based computers are perfectly viable options for audio production. That war should be dead. This is not a Mac vs PC debate. Leaving the Apple ecosystem after having so much time and money invested has been a difficult pill to swallow. The switch hasn’t been without some headaches. Ultimately I believe it has all been worth it.
History Of A “Machead”
As stated earlier, I come from an extensive 25-year background with Apple. I even crossed over from just using Macs, to working on the technical and engineering side of things. My roots run deep with Apple to say the least. Apple was at the heart of everything I did. From songwriting to producing, mixing, sound design and even video work. I know the Mac inside and out, from the hardware to the very core of the OS. I have owned at least one of every single Apple product that has been released over the past 25 years. The decision to switch to PC hasn’t come lightly. The transition meant learning a whole new world for me. Besides just losing the overall look and aesthetic of macOS, it meant committing to a new platform.
What Is A Computer?
After much consideration, I sat down with the intent of building my own powerhouse audio/video PC that would be geared solely at running programs like Pro Tools, Ableton Live and Adobe Premiere Pro. I saw this as an opportunity, a new beginning if you will. A challenge yes, but something I felt I could somewhat easily achieve given my technical background. It was bittersweet. I used to love Apple, but now I was embracing the ability to build my own machine. It was a chance to get on with a computer, that unlike Apple’s machines, would have a much better dollar to performance ratio. with the components costing around one third what a comparable Mac would cost if said Mac existed. I would also have the benefits of expandability, upgradability and future proofing. Something I believe no current Mac offers, unlike the old the old “cheese grater” Mac Pro. Excited to move forward, I took to filling my Amazon and Newegg carts with the components I had selected for my build.
The Goodies - What I Chose For My Windows Audio Workstation
NZXT H700 Case with Tempered Glass Panel. I chose this case because it lets your own unique personality and build shine through. It is just the right size, not too big, and not too small. The airflow is fantastic, the thermals are stellar. My system currently runs at around 35 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the fans never fully engage, so things are nearly dead quiet.
EVGA Supernova 850 T2 Fully Modular Power Supply. Delivers clean and efficient power which is key to a stable system. 850 watts also leaves tons of headroom!
Intel Core i7-9700K Processor. An 8-core processor that will enable you to push through heavy sessions without breaking a sweat. It is the latest tech available from Intel and the heart of this beast.
Gigabyte Z390 DESIGNARE Motherboard. I picked this mainboard because it has onboard Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and tons of I/O. I suspect that Gigabyte is gearing this motherboard specifically to the pro community because of its feature set. To get Thunderbolt connectivity on nearly every other board requires the addition of a PCI add-in card. Having the Thunderbolt built right into the motherboard is key because not only does it eliminate the need to purchase an additional card, but in doing so it also takes some of the guesswork and troubleshooting out of trying to get these cards up and working properly. This motherboard is proving to be a perfect choice for studio work.
Samsung 970 EVO 1TB NVMe SSDs. I chose two of these hard drives because of the blazingly fast NVMe spec. One hard drive contains the OS, while the second drive is used to store Pro Tools sessions.
Seagate Barracuda Pro 8TB 7200 RPM HD. With a huge amount of space, I chose this hard drive for storing quite an extensive sample library and for video work. Storage paradise!
Ballistix Sport LT 64GB DDR4 2666 RAM. 64 GB of RAM is an excellent choice for anyone making music that uses tons of instances of instrument plug-ins. Load up those VST instruments!
EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 GPU. The RTX line of video cards in all honesty could be considered overkill for a music production rig. I picked it because it lends versatility to the system. It will enable a person to get into video editing and VR work. There’s no need for ever considering an eGPU on a build like this either.
Be quiet Dark Rock 4 CPU Cooler. This CPU cooler keeps the machine nice and icy without making a sound. It is ideal for recording studio environments where noise is considered a bad word. Enjoy the silence.
SteelSeries Apex M750 RGB Keyboard and Rival 110 Mouse. Simply a great mouse and keyboard combo that I picked in part because they are hardwired. I try to avoid Bluetooth whenever possible to prevent stability issues from cropping up. Oh, and the pretty colors!
RME Fireface UFX+ Audio Interface with ARC USB. Amazing clarity with oodles of I/O. Both Thunderbolt and USB compatible. It is a future proof interface. I can’t say enough good things about RME as a company and the many reasons why someone building a PC should choose them. They are known as an industry standard for Windows machines for good reason. They develop all their own drivers in house, and they are rock solid stable!
Does This Baby Cook?
With nearly twice the performance at one third of the cost of a theoretical Mac computer that doesn’t even exist. Yeah, I would say we are onto something here. So now begs the question that I know all the Mac audio people are dying to ask. But what about Windows?! I am pleased. Windows does not suck! Things are extremely stable. Pro Tools runs brilliantly with no errors, no stops in playback and no crashes. I can do a lot more things on a PC without some of the constraints I had with Mac computers. My workflow has required very little adjusting, as every program that I use is cross platform. Things are essentially the same experience on the PC as they were on the Mac. The only thing that I have had to work on a little bit, is of course navigating a new OS and learning some new key commands. It is nice to have many options, such as a monster GPU like the Nvidia RTX cards. It is also great to be able to physically reach inside of my computer when I want to upgrade a component. The overall experience is different than being on a Mac, but at the end of the day I can stay creative and get work done.
It is a pleasure to run Pro Tools seamlessly with no vibe killing hiccups. I am spending less time bug squashing and more time being creative than I was on the latest Mac computers. It is hard to admit, but ten years ago this would have been a very different argument for me. I believe the future for pro audio and video creatives on the Windows PC side is bright.
So here I am, getting on with my newly built PC, enjoying the experience, and discovering that there is indeed, life after Mac.