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?
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.
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.