Updated: Added surround sound speaker setup, Xbox One Elite Controller.
I use my computer a lot, for work (software development), gaming and music production. I wanted to build a high-end computer setup, as I’ve always lagged behind with upgrades before. So I gradually have been accumulating and swapping bits around to make the setup above.
- Surround Sound Soundcard
- Speaker Stands
- Surround Sound Speakers
- Sound Interface
- Desktop Microphone
Case – Fractal Design Define R5 Black ATX Midtowerr
I finally got rid of my Thermaltake Level 10 GT Full Tower case. It lasted about 4 years before the fan started making horrible grinding noises; the case had become slightly bent out of shape. It also didn’t help that someone that visited my house spilled a full cup of tea with sugar into the air intake. Thankfully all the components were fine, but I thought it was time for a new case without the tea stains.
I got the Fractal Design Define R5 Black ATX Midtower because I wanted a near silent running computer, and I quite liked the styling of the case. It hasn’t dissapointed and there are no more annoying buzzing fans. The only thing I would mention is that the case is heavy even when it’s empty, as there are soundproofing padding that weighs the case down.
Motherboard – Gigabyte Z77X-D3H 1155
This was bought because it was a cheapish seat for the Ivy Bridge processor and the 16GB RAM. It has some niceish features, such as the fancy 3D BIOS which you can navigate with a mouse, and the onboard graphics which is enough to get into the BIOS when your graphics card isn’t working. The onboard sound is best avoided.
CPU – Intel Core i7 (3770) 3.4GHz Quad Core
This was the processor that was the top of the mainstream mid-high end CPUs when I was purchasing. It differs from the 3770k as you can’t overclock it, but it has decent support for hardware virtualisation, which I wanted and is not available in the 3770k. I figured I wouldn’t miss the chance to overclock this for a good while, as CPUs of this type already are vastly overpowered for the applications that I use. CPU utilisation for typical use (not including games) rarely rises above 10%
Update: 4 years later and this processor is something I want to upgrade. It isn’t slow by any means, but it’s something that could do with upgrading if I want to get a Oculus Rift CV1 VR headset, which I eventually do.
CPU Cooler – Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 Pro
This is a bit overspecced since I am not planning to overclock, but I don’t like stock heatsinks and so bought this. It is a huge heatsink and probably wouldn’t fit in many other types of cases, but as I have a full tower it’s fine.
RAM – 16GB DDR3 RAM Ballistix DDR3 PC3-17000
This is fast RAM for gaming. 16GB is a bit overspecced for my current needs, but it’s the maximum my board will take, and means I won’t have to upgrade for a long while.
Wireless Card – Asus PCE-AC68 Dual Band Wireless PCI Express Network Interface Card
5GHz really makes a difference, especially compared to the saturated 2GHz wireless network at the house. Since I got a BT Homehub 5 router with BT Infinity, it supports the latest AC1900 standard, which means I can get 975 mbps per second on average, which is 25MB/sec, transfer on the local network.
Optical Drive – Pioneer BDR-207DBK 12x Internal BD-RW Burner
I didn’t really need a Blu-Ray burner, but it’s useful for backups and I thought I could write some discs to be played in my PS3. It has a very fast read speed for reading Blu-Rays and burning DVDs. To be honest I could have gone for a Blu-ray reader and DVD writer combo and not really noticed the difference.
PSU – 850W EVGA Super NOVA Gold Modular
850W allows a lot of headroom for graphics cards’ power requirements, and extra components in the future. It is a good quality PSU and is fully modular which is a lot nicer to work with.
3x Hard Drives –
I now have 2 250GB SSDs, one for the OS and one for applications and games. I have a 3TB storage drive for backups and my music collection.
Monitor – BenQ BL3200PT AMVA+ 1440p 32″ Widescreen
This is a high-end 1440p 32″ monitor. It has made such a big difference to using the PC, more screen space, more pixels and better clarity. I was considering a 4K monitor, but don’t think the technology is quite cheap enough yet, and the software and games support is severely lacking. It’s 60HZ refresh rate, but that is enough for
Graphics Card – Asus STRIX GTX 980 4GB GDDR5
I had to upgrade my old Nvidea GTX 660TI, and just went for the absolute maximum I could afford. The STRIX 980 is an amazing card and comes slightly overclocked compared to the reference model. It plays all current games on maximum settings on 1440p at over 30FPS, which is no a mean feat; on this resolution there is more than a million pixels being drawn to the screen on each frame.
Monitor Backlight – Lightpack
This is a monitor or TV backlighting kit that changes the colour of the light projected behind your screen to match the colours on the edges of your display. This provides a more immersive experience when playing games with the lights down, and you can also set it to become a graphic equaliser where the lights flash in time with the music. I bought this on a whim and I’ve been quite impressed with it so far. It definitely adds to immersion and the graphic equaliser mode is rather trippy when writing or playing music.
Headphones – Sennheiser HD 25-1 IIs
Good headphones. I bought them for DJing but they have been useful for audio production work too. They are meant to have quite a ‘flat’ response but I find them quite heavy on the bass.
Soundcard – Asus ROG Xonar Phoebus Solo
Good 7.1 surround sound card, with headphone amplifier.
Gaming Headset – ROCCAT Kave XTD 5.1 Analogue
It is quite difficult to find surround sound headsets with analogue inputs, most headsets are USB only, and contain their own soundcard. This is not ideal when you have a really good soundcard already that you want to use, such as my Xonar Phoebus Solo. Previously I was using the Razer Tiamat, which was terrible. It had a consistant high-pitched electrical whine when you were wearing the headset, and you couldn’t get rid of it. The Kave is much better in this regard, and is more comfortable too. It is ‘only’ 5.1 compared to the Tiamat’s 7.1, but really, 7.1 surround sound in a headset is just a marketing tactic anyway, you are never going to be able to appreciate the extra two channels when the speakers are that close together.
Studio Monitors – KRK Rokit G2 5
These are great monitors, which I use for music production, and make for great speakers for general use as well. They are a little large for my desk and have a maximum volume which is far too loud for my flat, but I wouldn’t be without them.
Speaker Stands – IsoAcoustics L8R155 Speaker Stands
Surround Sound Speakers – Logitech Z906 5.1 Speakers
Upgraded my old speaker set for these, which are quality THX certified 5.1 surround speakers with a decent subwoofer. The sound quality for games is pretty amazing, much better than my KRK 5 Rokit studio monitors, and you get the surround sound spatial percpetion which is good. They sound great with music too. Definitely a worthwhile upgrade.
Sound Interface – Focusrite Sapphire Pro 24 + Behringer ADAT I/O box
I decided to stop using the Digi 002 mixer I had before, and switch to a pure ‘in the box’ mixing setup. The firewire Focusrite Sapphire Pro 24 soundcard provides 4 channels of input at 96khz 24bit, and connects via optical ADAT to an expander box that gives an additional 8 channels of input at 48khz 24bit, giving me 12 channels to wire up to my various synthesisers and audio devices.
Desktop Microphone – Pulse 50’s Retro Chrome Style Microphone
This is a 50’s style microphone that I liked the look of. I got it because I wanted a microphone that plugged into my mixing desk, which would allow me to talk hands-free on Skype. Also it is good for streaming games, as I can mix my voice in the microphone with the output the computer game sounds, and send both mixed to skype or Twitch.TV or wherever. It is also moderately useful for recording voices for music production and for routing via my FX pedal for some novelty vocal effects on Skype, such as delay, echo and reverb.
Webcam – Logitech C920 HD Webcam
I use a webcam for Skype often, and I want to get more into recording for YouTube, so I bought a good quality HD webcam.
Keyboard – Unicomp Ultra Classic IBM style keyboard, Black USB
The Unicomp IBM ‘Model M’ keyboard clone is an amazing keyboard to type on, and brings me back to the days when I was using a real IBM PC for the first time.
Gaming Keypad – Razer Orbweaver Stealth
This is the ‘Stealth’ model with the Cherry MX Brown key switches. I was initially doubtful whether it was worth getting a gaming keypad, but so many people have recommended it, that I had to try it out. I actually have found it very useful, much more comfortable and accurate than using a normal keyboard for gaming. It also forces you to get into the habit of remapping keys for your own preference.
This is a touchpad that I bought when finding I was developing RSI on my scrollwheel finger. I use it whenever I need a break from the mouse. Quite useful and cheap and works with Windows 10 gestures.
Mouse – Logitech 602
I upgraded from my G9x to this, the G602. It is a wireless mouse, which initially I experienced latency with, until I moved the reciever nearer the mouse. Now everything works really well, and I don’t need to worry about the cable wearing out or getting caught. It takes 2x standard AA batteries which power the mouse for a reported 250 hours, so it shouldn’t need much maintainence.
I use the Corsair Vengeance mouse matt, it is made of metal unlike my previous Razor Golliathus cloth one, which I didn’t like because the edge of the matt would get stuck in the mouse when you moved it too far.
Gamepad – Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller
This is the Xbox One gamepad with some added features. You can customise the controls, swapping in and out parts such as the joysticks, for your optimal configuration. It is a pleasure to use, and the materials and build quality are all top of the range. Definitely the best gamepad I’ve used.