Killer Specs for High End PC in 2006

I have read several different threads re iPods for audio and video, as well as various suppliers for the custom PC of my Audiogon dreams.

However, when speaking to PC builders, I have been caught surprisingly off guard when asked for the specs - I would have thought I knew what I wanted, but I am not yet clear enough to place the order.

In fact, I was practically flamed in another forum, by simply saying that I wanted the fastest, "best" PC with tons of memory and disk space for audio and video applications.

Given that PCs are not very expensive, and are not room dependent like audio, I still dont understand the mystery of building a cost no object, Windows based PC.

I would guess Alienware or other high end gaming PCs might be a good rough draft. But I dont want geeky hobbyist cases, gaming will not be my primary focus and I would like the audio and video to be even more sophisticated.

So I would greatly appreciate any advice and perhaps we can collectively design the ultimate, multimedia PC?

Here are my initial, perhaps frustratingly vague thoughts:

Maximum memory and hard drive space for audio/video
Capacity for additional, stackable hard drive modules
Ability to read and "burn" both CDs and DVDs
Fast "boot up", lean mean OS
Is component output for video possible?
Digital output (WAV files?) for external DAC?
Multiple monitors - at LEAST 3 - in "hydra" configuration
Video sufficient for video, gaming, but not necessarily CAD or molecular research
High end PC, or HTPC cases, as linked in other threads
Keyboard also "high end" build quality, preferably wireless
Robust, reliable build quality (dont want tweaky cooling systems for overclocking etc. if that reduces reliability)

I realize these few points may barely begin to solve the puzzle here, but perhaps this might inspire some thinking for others who plan to build a PC.

And any ideas, suggestions, personal experiences or vendors would be greatly appreciated.


Extra Credit I

I thought it might be interesting to also design the ultimate "nearfield" audio system to go with this concept.

Powered studio monitors? Electrostatics for low level clarity? Surround sound perfectly oriented to the desk chair of this computer?

That could be another thread all by itself but please let us hear your ideas here too.

Extra Credit II

Another idea - could this system also be the hub of a LAN?

Could I log onto this system remotely, using it as a server, and accessing my files? And connect to a wireless router so send music around the house?
“Think Mac”
I am using a Power G-5 with OS X. The G-5 has an programable (software)internal audio output selector. Using digital out with AirPort Extreme and Express system it connects wirelessly to a DA Processor in my music room. iTunes is used for interface. I use Roxio’s Toast 7 Titanium ($80.00) burning software for CD, DVD-A and DVD-V recording.
I converted from Windows based computers in 05 after spending years and bags of money getting my computers to do what a Mac does out of the box. Like all Apple products it’s easy to use, looks cool and engineered like a BMW!

Happy New Years
CW - Apple makes all the things you're asking about very user friendly in
their iTunes interface. You certainly don't need tons of RAM to stream music,
but modern operating systems, certainly the current Apple OSX, are memory
hogs and you'd do better with a gig of RAM, though you can certainly get by
with less. Hard disk (storage) space is going to be more vital to you than
RAM. If you are planning on ripping a CD collection in .WAV you're going to
be needing quite a bit of storage. You might want to consider Apple Lossless
which takes up half the space and is a true lossless format. You also may
want to consider storing your library on an external hard. That way it is a
portable device you can take with you easily..bring it on trips, entertain the
neighbors..etc. Also considering the time it will take you to rip a CD
collection to a server you'll want to consider a backup solution. Either a
duplicate hard drive since storage is relatively cheap, or copy your hard drive
to DVD's (also a lenghthy process, but pretty safe). You could certainly
stream music all about your home using Apple's Airport Express. Which
brings me to another response; If you are into critical sound quality...sitting
in the sweet spot with goosebumps and like that...the critical part of your PC
system will be the interface that converts/clocks the digital stream from your
hard drive/server. The conventional gamer's approach is to have an internal
audio card, of which many are available. Arguably better sound can be had
by going to either an external USB>S/PDIF convertor such as a Waveterminal
U24, or going directly to a USB DAC which will provide the clocking internally.
The knee-jerk reaction to your spending a buttload on a SOTA computer that
is maxed out, is likely based upon the fact that the demands of streaming
music is just not that great, and the money you would put towards additional
memory and fast processors would largely go unrewarded in comparison to
compromising there and putting the money into the USB DAC or USB interface
or audio card. Yes, do get plenty of hard disk space, especially if you are
running video applications and or storing video. If you gotta go with PC I
know there are some professional audio stores that market PC's that are
supposedly optimized for audio use. The one I know about is
Sweetwater where I purchased my Waveterminal a while ago. The link
is to their PC Audio section of their site, where you will find all you are asking
about. They have both Mac and PC systems. The only reason I'd go with PC
is if you are used to the interface and or have all PC software anyway.
Otherwise the Mac audio interface (also available on PC as iTunes) is very easy
to use. BTW, their new iMac computers come with a hand-held remote
control, which I'd imagine may be a nice feature for a PC audio system. No
idea how the interface for the remote works other than you point it at the
screen and click.

Good luck!

In response to the PC part of your post I would recommend Building the Perfect PC by Robert Bruce Thompson. I believe that reading this will give you a firm basis for designing the PC system you want, and also for dealing with custom PC builders. There is a website associated with the book:
First of all, the recommendations for a Mac OS X based system is a great start. It sounds like you want more than just a music media server. In general, Apple's OS X and their Mac computers are really better geared for handling digital media like audio and video than PCs.

There are some good guidelines for building a Windows XP PC and optimizing the OS for best audio performance. The first reference, I would go to is Tascam who manufactures professional audio products ( They have a great guide to optimizing Windows XP and Windows 2000 for professional audio applications. For the most part, the same recomendations would hold true for a music server as well. You can use Google or any other Web search portal to find out how to best build a quiet, or even silent, PC.

For a high end Windows XP system, I would recommend the following:

- 1 GB RAM minimum from reputable manufacturer
- Intel chipset-based motherboard with IEEE 1394 (FireWire) controller and port(s) and AGP support and room for at least one PCI slot for soundcard
- ATI Radeon or nVidea AGP graphics card with required video output
- Intel P4 (single or dual core processor) with Hyperthreading
- 80 GB hard drive for Windows XP and audio applications
- Additional quiet drives (i.e., Seagate Barracudas): 1 drive for audio (7200 rpm or faster, SATA), 1-2 drives for video (7200 rpm or faster, SATA). I recommend Glyph Technologies FireWire drive systems as they are encased in quiet enclosures and optimized for best performance for digital media.
- Plextor DVD/CD optical drive for playback and writing
- Prosumer-level PCI soundcard from M-Audio, Emu, ESI, Echo Audio, RME Audio or Lynx Technologies with S/PDIF and/or Toslink digital output
- Aluminum silent or quiet PC case
- Noiseless or quiet 350W (minimum) power supply and silent cooling like heatpipes or ultra-quiet fans. Zalman makes very nice products for this.

Since a high end PC is going to cost some bucks, I really recommend buying a pre-built unit rather than rolling your own. Let a qualified technician with professional test equipment and experience sweat hardware and driver compatibility issues. For custom builders, I would recommend companies that build pro audio digital audio workstations (DAWs) for starters:

Some of these builders have the flexibilty of building a PC with any HTPC case of your choice.

The Glyph Technologies FireWire drives work very well with both Macs and PCs. Most Glyph customers are musicians like Herbie Hancock who use Macs exclusively for music production. If you have a large budget for hard drives and even RAID systems, go with archiving your entire libraray in uncompressed files like AIFF or WAV (a.k.a. PCM files); otherwise, you can use the lossless file compression formats like FLAC, ALE, etc. Besides FireWire for connecting the computer to the outboard media drives, you could go with a Network Attached Storage (NAS) RAID or multi-drive appliance that can sit somewhere else in your home. I would use 100Base-T or 1000Base-T (Giga-Bit) Ethernet connections. Wireless is great, but it's not bullet-proof and not as secure as a wired LAN. How would you like a slacker to tap into your big dollar rig and destroy your archived music files? That's one reason why I am not thrilled with the Squeeze Box technology.

Again, by the time you invest in the hardware to make a Windows XP sing (and do it quietly), you could have easily saved a lot of trouble buying a Mac system that does the same thing straight out-of-the-box. iTunes on a Mac is far better than iTunes on a PC since iTunes on a PC relies on the Windows OS K-Mixer that can compromise streaming digital playback of your tunes. iTunes has a superior user interface and it works seamlessly with iPods which are great for portable audio.

For digital-to-analog conversion, get a good DAC with S/PDIF input that has a clock and circuitry for minimizing jitter. On the other hand, you could get a USB DAC like the Wavelength Audio's Brick USB DAC that also minimizes jitter through using USB bus technology. Be careful regarding USB audio interfaces, because some USB devices don't incorporate the same technology as Wavelength Audio to reduce jitter. As hard drive-based music servers gain popularity, I believe we'll see more USB DACs on the market.

If you plan on using nearfield, active monitors, you'll still need a preamp or passive volume control to control your volume via analog means and to serve as a source switching device if you plan to use more than a PC as a music source. Some active monitors only have balanced 1/4" TRS or XLR inputs which means you would need a preamp with balanced outputs to extract the best audio performance. One of the nicer active monitors I have heard were the Dynaudio BM6as, which I feel are every bit as good as anything I've heard from an audiophile stand-mounted monitor.

In the words of Charlie Brown: THAT'S IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hope to hear more from others who have built windows systems for audio, but you really covered the topic here so thank you very much!
My pleasure. I should mention that with a Windows XP system, it is best to use a soundcard with ASIO drivers. Windows XP's kernel mixer or K-Mixer could adversely effect the quality of the output. For that reason, Foobar 2000 ends up being the best media player for music. Windows Media Player and iTunes for the PC cannot be altered to bypass the K-Mixer.
My guess is you were nearly flamed on another forum for suggesting of the biggest ripoffs in the computing world (it's so bad, it almost reminds me of high end audio). The other reason is probably because you may not realize that the playing of audio is about the least intensive task you could find for a computer. As long as you heed Rhing's advice to bypass XP's kernel mixer, nearly any computer will do.

Point in case: I'm currently running a 2tb RAID-5 server off of a very old dual 450mhz Dell. I'm using ASIO drivers and an external soundcard and dac. Excluding the hard drives, the current value of that computer is less than $20. If spending $6k on a POS Alienware computer makes you feel good, by all means, go for it. But it won't sound a bit better.

I have several other computers of varying vintages. My ripping is all done on a 3.2ghz machine with a Plextor drive and then moved to the server. Any games played are likewise done so on a fast machine. All machines are wireless, the server is both. I VNC in from a laptop on my couch to the server in my basement to stream the music to my stereo.

I don't see the point in a cost no object PC unless you are just into wasting money. I have 6 computers in this house right now, the combined total is less than 1 Alienware computer and they each do their respective task at least as good as what an Alienware could do if not better. There's certainly no need for this number of computers, but I would suggest you get 2. Anyone that thinks they're going to put a server in a listening room and actually be able to hear the music is either planning on some very serious and expenive custom work, or is completely deaf. You're going to want a server in a basement or attic and you're probably not going to want to trek down there to play games or rip discs. That's where the second "fast" machine comes in.

As far as actually listening to nearfield music while sitting at the computer (not laptop). I've tried several pc soundsystems, went up to about the $600, and had it all sound like crap. I'm sure there are monitors out there that could sound very good, but the amount of money I would have to spend to make me not want to get up and walk 20 feet to where my main stereo is, is simply not worth it.

You make some good points.

FYI, I was flamed not for suggesting Alienware, but because I was not sufficiently specific in my request for the "best, fastest" windows based machine. Whether or not the Alienware machines were good or bad I didn't know but I just found their branding and design to be silly and juvenile.

High end audio is an appropriate metaphor, particularly as we are having this discussion on AUDIOgon.

As with my audio equipment, I care not only about the performance, but also the build quality and the appearance of any tool or applicance or component, my PC included.

I think the PC industry is still stuck in the dark ages, (other than the geeked out hobbyist world which decorates their home made Alienware PCs with neon lights and exotic cooling mechanisms) which is exactly why I am researching this topic.

Now further to your $20.00 PC, you might argue that a $10,000 Yamaha motorbike, or a tricked out Honda CRX goes just as fast as a Ferrari 612, so the only reason you should buy a Ferrari is if you want to waste money.

Or maybe that we should all have two cars: one, all AWD minivan, preferably purchased used at a discount, to get the groceries and drop off kids at soccer games and two, maybe a tracked out, fast and furious style Honda, or a second hand Caterham 7 which anyone knows will leave a Porsche Turbo in the dust for 10% of the price.

But we've explored all of these arguments before - a Seiko keeps better time than a Rolex, a Sears range top boils water as well as a Viking, a generic refrigerator cools milk and makes ice as well as a Subzero.

And those arguments dont belong on AUDIOgon.

For my house, and perhaps even for my office, I want a well made, beautifully designed, blazingly high performance PC which doesnt look like a mass produced, injection molded, depressingly ugly box, with a plastic keyboard, and yet another viewsonic monitor as seen on every white color slave's desk.

I have to spend many hours, day and night, on my computer and want it to be a high performance, luxury experience with gorgeous video, gorgeous sound, and everything I otherwise might need right at my fingertips. Why is that not a good idea?

You restored my faith to some degree with your comment on "PC" speakers, which I agree sound terrible. But in addition to having my ARC, Levinson and Tympanis in the next room, I think it would be great to have really good, studio (?) quality, active nearfield monitors also on my desk for the times when I can switch on some music, or tune into the video.

So Rhing and others, please keep the suggestions for "killer specs" and other high end, PC ideas coming.


I agree with some of your points. Alienware, and the whole flashing neon light crowd, is simply juvenile. Then again, the only people (barring the video editing crowd) that require the ultimate performing computers are generally the juvenile gamers, so the marketing is pretty spot on.

Personally, I hate plastic. I particularily hate the look and feel and noise of today's plastic computers. That's why I am mid way through an absolutely monstrous project. I am putting together a 8 drive, RAID-5 400gb SATA Seagate server. This server will be a 0 decibel passively watercooled beast (with the exception of 3 very quite pumps). Every heat producing item will be watercooled, PSUx2, hddx8, RAM, MOSFETS, Chipset etc. Some waterblocks were purchased, I'm making the hard drive cooling blocks and I've had to had others machined for me. All of this will be output to a large, but beautiful, copper radiator. There will not be one fan in this entire system. And just to add to the challenge, as I also do woodworking, I'm enclosing this entirely in a cherry end table. The pumps and hard drives will be further sealed in mdf and foam enclosures to block the small noise they do create.

This will be my first watercooled setup to this extent, but I've been building wooden cases for my computers for years. Currently I have a nice beech wood dual 2ghz machine that I'm typing on with a single wine holder and 15 disc rack built in.

The total cost of this computing project looks like it's going to be pushing 3.5-4k. It's using really the finest products made today for computing. However, this machine will not make my music sound even the tiniest bit better than my $20 machine in the basement. This project is simply about the aesthetics, silence and the challenge of attempting something that I believe is unique. I completely understand your desire for something beautiful--there's no shame in that and I obviously share that too. Unless you have need for all those cycles (and a desire to deal with the extra heat and noise from fans), I would skip the "fastest" cost no object audio pc as, in my opinion, it creates more problems than it solves. I highly recommend finding a slower (i.e. cooler processor) computer and building an enclosure to your liking.
Assuming the same connection between the computer and an external DAC with uncompressed files, which sounds better a PC running Foobar 2000 or a MAC/iTunes?
To a certain extent, I agree with Ultraviolet on overspending on a music PC. It doesn't take a mega-processor to run a trouble-free processor, and that's why I didn't recommend a dual core Xeon motherboard. It doesn't take muc h processor power, but the system and OS should be optimized for best performance. For me, I am waiting for the Intel-powered Mac Mini to be introduced (hopefully at Macworld Expo next week). A current Mac Mini with Bluetooth and WiFi runs under $700. My main investment is in Glyph Technologies drives, which I do feel is worth the investment if you're going for a high end PC hard drive digital transport (and I am).

On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with climbing to the pinnacle of PC music server nirvana. If I had the bucks to buy a G5 Power Mac or an ultimate custom-built Windows rig, I would do it. The spec's I have provided earlier simply serve as a guide to those who want to pursue an excellent system. Who knows, I still might buy an A-Tech Fabrication HTPC HeatSync Case 6000 and roll my own, just to build a fanless system.
You know, you owe it to yourself to go to the local Apple store to see the Apple products. The build quality and attention to detail is what you are looking for in terms of a premium user experience. I would like you to simply remove the cover from a G5 - it looks like a BMW.

Add to that a very seamless level of integration - and the absence of a lot of stupid Windows stuff - and at least until Longhorn ships it is the media platform of choice. (Personally I don't think Longhorn will change anything but a bit of suspense is entertaining.)

IMHO a very tweaked dual Xeon from IBM with top of the line ATI video cards and Cheetahs or Raptors for the boot and application drives, SATA for the data, several gigs of RAM etc would be a powerful second best but it will never approach the aesthetics or attention to detail of a Mac. It will also be more expensive and harder to use. And it won't do much for your music - except perhaps let you rip faster.

Here's the deal...

There is a revolution going on. Its all about the fact that global standardization has dropped the prices of the all the essential components (drives, RAM, USB, displays) to the ground. Go into your local Frys (a huge discount retailer) and marvel at the aisles of 300Gb hard drives... and the people who are stuffing them into their shopping baskets.

Because audio is a relatively simple computational problem for modern PCs, we - the AUDIOphools are the beneficiaries... for perhaps the first time in history every body has access to the good stuff.
I quess no one can answer my question.
This thread started with Apple and ended with Apple, you should get the hint by now.

PC's will never be able to compete with a Mac when it comes to video encoding. Apple's were built for this very purpose. Pixar, Disney Studio and many others are dependant on Apple not PC's.

IMHO going for a PC would be a mistake.

Apple Mac excells in Multimedia (period).

Disclaimer: I am part of the administrative team at but in no way associated with Apple Mac
Kana813, I am not sure there would be a difference between Foobar on a PC conected to a DAC versus iTunes on a Mac connected to a DAC provided that the PC is using kernal streaming (i.e., bypassing Windows' k-mixer).

My point has always been that to get a PC to "sing" like a Mac, you have to invest in the necessary hardware and software to get bit-perfect audio out of a PC to feed to a DAC, so why not get a Mac and save money and frustration? Not only that, but as far as I know, Foobar 2000 and iPods don't exactly work together as seamlessly as iTunes and an iPod. I'm with Quadophile and other Mac enthusiasts in recommending a Mac.

By the way, the new Intel-powered iMac and MacBook Pro have built-in digital audio optical outputs, so there is absolutely no need for an external digital conversion device to send digital audio straight into a DAC with digital optical inputs like the Benchmark DAC-1 or the Apogee Mini-DAC. It will be interesting to see what other great products Apple will be introducing throughout this year. I'm going to Macworld in San Francisco later this week to talk to one of Apple's techies about digital audio. If anyone is interested, I'll post my findings.
I went to Macworld 2006 at San Francisco's Moscone Center. For Mac enthusiasts, the place was buzzing with the new dual core Intel-powered iMac and MacBook Pro. These machines are beautiful and do move fast. They are overkill for sole use as audiophile music servers, but they do have the power for those who are interested in transferring their vinyl collections into high resolution digital audio file formats. Unfortunately, the show didn't have much going for high end audio, but I wasn't expecting much either. What I did find was the following:

Maxtor had a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device connected via 100Base-T streaming high definition video to a very sharp plasma screen from a Mac. The Maxtor rep said this same NAS hard drive (250GB in this case) could easily stream high resolution digital audio signals as well.

LaCie and G Tech displayed their beautiful Aluminum-clad FireWire hard drives and FireWire RAID arrays. LaCie displayed their "mini" hard drives and hubs. The hubs combine a single hard drive with additional FireWire or USB ports. They were designed to stack perfectly underneath the Mac Mini PC with clearance to allow adequate ventilation to the Mac Mini. G Tech's hardware have that cool-looking G5 Power Mac perforated Aluminum enclosure. Since there was so much noise on the expo floor, it was very difficult to gage just how quiet these hard drive products could get.

JBL had their clear plastic-shelled speakers on display, but you can only imagine what the sound was like (not good at all). There was also a small booth promoting ADS Technologies' low cost DAC for vinyl and tape transcriptions into the digital format. They were touting the device as a high end audio application, but I wasn't impressed.

I spoke to an M-Audio representative who was at the Guitar Center (pro audio equipment retailer) exhibit. He said that M-Audio should be releasing drivers their digital audio interface products for Intel-powered Macs by this Summer. He explained that their Audiophile 192 soundcard does output bit-perfect digital audio through the S/PDIF coaxial output jack and that it fully complies with Max OS X's Core Audio. Of course, for Windows PCs, they offer ASIO drivers to bypass the Windows k-mixer.

There were numerous purveyors of iPod accessories like Griffin Technolgies, Shure, Eytomotic Research, Altec Lansing, JBL, manufacturers of multicolored Silicone iPod skins, high fashion cases and other neat little gadgets.

What was most disappointing was that there seemed to be fewer exhibitors than in previous years. Macworld used to take up both sides of the Moscone Center--North and South. The creative section that would normally feature many pro audio equipment manufacturers was dramatically trimmed down from what I remember. I know NAMM will take place in Southern California next week, and perhaps pro audio equipment manufacturers don't want to be stretched thin on expo expenses. I am sure that the CES Show in Las Vegas was probably a better forum for PC audiophiles anyway.

Prior to going to Macworld, I contacted a local Wavelength Audio dealer in Northern California, Synergistic Sound in Rohnert Park. Jim said he may try and setup a demo booth at next year's Macworld to show off Wavelength Audios's Cosecant and Brick USB DACs with an SET setup using a Mac Mini as an audiophile music server.

The answer is NiveusMedia... They create by far the best HTPC I have ever encountered. I have been building PCs for the past 15 years and built a HTPC about 5 years ago (which I thought was great) until I got my hands on a Denali by NiveusMedia.

Their intro line, Denali, is a fanless PC and I believe it is the only PC out there to be ISF certified. It is built strong; about 80lbs strong.

In terms of making it a central hub... Yes! Using Media Center Extenders over CAT5 or wireless, you can access live TV and any music, photos or videos stored on the HTPC from an extender. Another kicker is the XBOX 360 supports realtime transmission of HD content from the HTPC to the extender over CAT5.

Anyway, check it out at

Let me know what you think.
Rhing- thanks for taking the time to answer my question.
I have no interest in owning a iPod or using Toslink connections. If there's no sonic improvement, IMO
there's no reason for audiophiles to an buy a MAC.
I have recently replaced my Pre/Pro,scaler-line doubler,dvd player, swithcer and processors with my HTPC.

I have the following:

Win XP Professional

1GB Ram (expandable to 4GB)

512 MB Nvidia video card with DVI,VGA,Component,S-Video,or Composite out.

2 DVD Burners

200 GB 7,200rpm Seagate Hdd

Onboard SATA Raid

M-Audio Delta 410 Sound Card (1010 will be next upgrade)SPDIF in and out and independent bass management on each channel!

Wireless keyboard and mouse

Air2Pc HDTV Tuner

WinDVD 7 Platinum

Intel P4 3Ghz Processor

This processor is connected to 3 Yamaha Power Amps and 1 dbx 4 channel power amp.

Speakers are as follows:
Snell E-II (3X - Front Array)
Custom 15in Subwoofers (2 Eminence drivers)
Def Tech BP1 (Side Rear)
DCM Subwoofers (2 - connected to Def Tech's Full range)
RCA 2-way (Back Rears Kevlar midbass drivers)

I want to replace the rears with Snell's also - but this system is nice. My old pre/pro was a citation 7.0/technics shac-500 combo. I'm happy to report that my computer has taken the pain away - along with over 20 cables
Wordalive: i know its a small point, but your system is only capable of 4 gigs of ram if you are running windows xp prof 64 bit version. otherwise it will probably only recognize up to about 2 gigs.
I still havent managed to build the new PC of my dreams and would greatly appreciate any up to the minute advice.

I continue to be obsessed with build quality, and I continue to be disappointed with the geeked out teenage video gamer PCs, as well as the boring, looks like everyone elses mass produced injection molded stuff.

So although I am still agonizing over the specs, I have noticed a couple of cases that some of you have recommended in other threads: Lian Li cases


(although bummer that I can never get the atech guy to return a phone call, so I suspect he is a hobbyist garage operation, and only God knows when I would receive the product.)

For rack mountable options, and some pretty interesting looking accessories, take a look at this: (or

Now here is my question - this might seem a bit backwards to some, but can I please choose the CASE or the rack mountability FIRST?

If so, can any of you please recommend a custom builder that I could hire to cram my high end case with the functionality that I need?

I would like this too!\

Long overdue for the new state of the art machine of my dreams so all tips and suggestions greatly appreciated.
I recommend the Lian Li cases, too. Great cooling, which is very helpful if you have multiple hard drives (music server,) and a heat-emitting graphics card (or 2 -SLI,) excellent build quality IMHO, very easy to work with - no sharp edges. Here is a site that modifies Lian Li cases to your specifications - extra fans, etc.. I purchased my latest Lian Li case from them this spring and really love it. They do very good work, again, IMO.

I've recently put in the orders for my new workhorse PC, although its not really intended for HD or audio duty. I bought a Core2 capable motherboard, the ASUS P5WDH Deluxe, but am probably going to run a Prescott until the delivery and pricing of the Core2's gets squared away.

I also ordered the heatsink 6000 case from A-Tech. I don't know if there is a phone issue, but I found Glenn very responsive via email. I checked with him before I ordered on some compatibility issues and got quick responses and, in fact, I mailed him the IR remote receiver that comes with the Asus mobo and he is double checking to make sure it will fit with the 6000's IR window/shelf. He's also pretty diligent about checking a sticky thread over at AVSForum on A-Tech in the HTPC subforum.

So, the specs (from memory) on my machine are:

A-Tech 6000 case, with cpu heatsinks & video board heatsinks
Asus P5WDH Deluxe mobo
Prescott P5@3.67GHz, pending Core2
2GB PC6400 RAM (think its OCZ Platinum)
150GB WD Raptor 10K RPM SATA150 drive
Asus 7600GT video board
Some random Plextor CD/DVD
Dell 24" widescreen LCD (sweet display!)

I have several RAID5 systems on my network, so I don't really feel the need to run huge stacks of internal drives. I'm more interested in speed--my workflow seems to be to move a couple hundred photos off a CF card, do post-processing in Adobe Bridge/Photoshop CS2, then dump to archive on network.
Apple may have an edge for some video applications, but when I last investigated, PC was still best for audio because all of the best studio quality sound cards were only available for PC. (M-Audio, Lynx, RME)

Has this changed?

When last I dove into experimenting with PC audio, I couldn't find anything that was able to beat the digital AES/EBU (XLR) out of a Lynx or RME into a high end outboard D/A converter.
CWL, just to follow up... Glenn at ATechFabrication delivered my case right in line with the timeframes on the site. It fits right in amidst the other anodized black aluminum plate gear on the shelf, which happens to be some ARC gear and some Theta stuff. Build quality was superb--everything lined up and matched the mounting materials on the mobo, etc.

Took me about an hour to put it all together. I'll note that the last PC I put together was a S-100 bus monster with an 8080 processor and a pair of 8" floppy disk drives--think it was 1980, and I had to write my own mods to the BIOS to make the printer work. The machine booted up fine, and, while I installed a fan, I've left the chassis fan disconnected and it percolates along fine at 52C. This time around I installed an E-MU 1212m audio card, which was more of a pain than anything to get working (turns out its iTunes 7 that is at fault, not the E-MU).

Anyway, the hardware was the easy part--took me hours and hours to load driver updates for the mobo, network, RAID, Windows, Windows Office XP suite, Adobe CS2 Suite, and Macromedia Studio 8, along with all the other odds 'n ends of software I use. If I ever see the "You need to reboot to finish installation of this driver" again, I'll be happy.

Anyway, the machine is zero fan noise. I get some seek noise off the Raptor drive, but I'm willing to trade a bit of that for fast access times. The quietness of the machine makes the Plextor DVD/CD sound like a jet engine in comparison.

Good luck!
Can anyone update these "killer specs" now that it is February 2007?

Any major breakthroughs since this thread started?

Thank you,
I bought a Dell XPS 410 to serve as a media centre PC with Vista Premiun Home Edition ($2100.00). It does everything extemely close to the spec described in the begining of the thread. It is super quite and quite fast. I configured 2 hard drives for RAID 0 and use a 500 Gig Western Digital external drive for all my music (copied using EAC and lossless then FLAC). I also use a SqueezeBox feeding into a modded Benchmark DAC. The sound is pretty good though not a good as my modded Sony SCD-1 SACD/CD player. But the convenence factor has me listening to more music.

I believe I can get a tablet PC in the future to function as my remote control using remote desktop. I may need to upgrade to Vista Ultimate for the remote desktop.

I also have a TV tuner with this computer system and use Microsoft Media Center to record the NHL hockey games while I am at work. Everything works great.

Thanks for the update - sounds like a very nice system you are building.

Aside from huge hard drive storage, wireless and networking capabilities etc, does this puzzle boil down to the following:

* Latest, greatest video card


* Maximum RAM

Because it seems that much of what we are tying to do here does not necessarily require the fastest chipsets?

In the true spirit of being an audiophile, I am perhaps most concerned with spending the big bucks on a heavy, beautifully made chassis.

Some of the nicer silent ones I have seen have a small "footprint" and I had concerns that they might not accomodate the components I needed.

But if my thesis above is correct, than all I have to do is ask if ask the manufacturer if such a chassis will accomodate a high end video card?

Thanks for ideas.
Nope, 2007 is exactly the same as 2006. 2008 will bring more of the same too. Some important points:

-"high end video card" and "silent computing" is like trying to mix oil and water. You can have one or the other, but not both. Hence my original suggestion to get two computers with a total cost of far less than the one you are thinking of (which will perform their respective tasks better too).

-"Maximum RAM". Why? Great if you're a gamer. Utterly useless for music.

My system is constantly morphing. Currently I have a screamingly loud 8 Seagate 750gb in RAID-5 in the basement. I wired the house with cat-5 and have two workstations in the house. Additionally, I have my dead silent, single hard drive, fanless "music machine" on my audio rack which plays through my main system. The video runs through my HDTV. I use a bluetooth keyboard with integrated mouse functionality from my couch. It is used solely for playing music.

From past experience, if you want to put a computer in your listening room, your first and foremost concern needs to be silence. You'll find that limits your choices so much, decisions become rather simple. Then go for the big monitor, video card blah blah blah, whatever you want in another machine in another room.