Hey, just thought I'd write up a review to post on several of the forums I frequent about the ADK Pro Audio PC that a buddy of mine recently received, which I helped him add some free VSTs and such to over the weekend. This is the first ADK system I've ever been able to get my hands on, and I know that they're gaining a rep around the boards for being able to do this stuff well, so I thought I'd let you know what I found in a 100% honest, “no-fear-of-loosing-advertising-dollars” way.
Here are the ADK system specs:
Antec Solo Case with 550W Power supply
Intel 975 Motherboard
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
DDR2 667 memory
Seagate 80G and 320G HDD
XFX Nvidia 7300 GT Dual DVI Fanless
Pioneer 112 DVD-RW
Windows XP Home
Audio Interface: RME Fireface 400
I'd like to start this whole thing off by acknowledging that I build and maintain computers for a living. ...Not in the audio field specifically, but some of the PCs I maintain are used to run ArcGIS, AutoCAD, and other “meaty” applications, along with standard workstation-grade PCs. So I kind of have a feel for what makes a solid PC, and what doesn't. I personally like PCs to be lean and mean, and I make them to work, not look pretty. Consider them to be “utility” machines, they are not created and pimped out to add to the aesthetic quality of whatever space they're used in, but just to perform well.
I put together a “stepping-stone” system to get me from “AMD Athlon64 x2 land” to “Core 2 Duo Intel land” last year, and the thing kicked butt on the ADK SONAR 6 benchmark dealie. As a matter of fact, Scott (from ADK) posted a message asking me to double check my benchmark results because he wanted to be sure of the numbers I was getting, as they were faster than anyone could hope to expect. The system I built (see system specs in my sig) was inexpensive and used most of the parts from my old AMD rig, including the DDR1 memory, x3 IDE HD's, AGP video card, FW400 card, CD/DVD burner, PS, case, and such.
So, on to the review! ...Remember that this will be pretty quick, and quite possibly a bit “different” than other reviews you may have read, as I'm not really a “reviewER” as such, but more of a “reviewEE” as it were... This review will be more “qualitative” rather than a “quantitative” look at this system, and have more to deal with “feel” and “usability” rather than “facts,””figures,” “the scientific approach,” and “hard empirical/analytical data.”
Short version: This thing kicks some SERIOUS A55!!
Longer version: This thing kicks some SERIOUS A55!! Buy one next time you need a pure audio rig, you will *not* be disappointed!! ...unless you were hoping to buy a P.O.S. or something similar.
Longest version: When we pulled this thing out of the packing, it was covered in a soft cloth bag rather than the standard plastic bagging which I usually use (because it's free and cheap and comes with a boxed computer case when you buy it). The PC was very shiny, and it smelled “new!” (I hate it when I buy new gear and it doesn't have that “new” smell, don't you? Always makes me wonder if I got a return item or something...) So basically, the system was packed well, was shiny, and smelled new. Good start.
We connected the PC up to my KVM alongside my home rig, fired the beast up, and I noticed right away that the ADK folks understand the meaning of “backup” and “redundancy,” as they had a well-known and well-respected backup utility monitoring application installed on the system (not to mention the restore CDs which were included with the system). Personally, I would not have something like this running in the background on my own system, but I am an “anal-retentive-power-user-who-backs-his-system-up-on-a-regular-basis-motherfukker”, so I can understand why they'd do this for the folks that they make systems for who probably don't fit into the same category as me. WinXP auto-booted VERY QUICKLY. We spent a few minutes rooting around the OS, and found it to be well-installed and quite lean. The only thing we found, and this is how anal-retentive I get with configurations, was that there was an older driver loaded up for the system “SMBus”, so we installed the latest Intel .inf updater, and that issue was taken care of. The backup monitoring application did not seem to impact the performance from a usability standpoint; I don't have any numbers to prove this, but this is not that kind of a review. More on this....
...Now! After a reboot, we wasted no time in loading up the freeware VSTs to match those on my primary DAW (that I referenced earlier), loaded up a project file for a 30+ track (primarily audio) project, and let 'er rip. I should go back a step and report that this is a pretty huge project; full of many delays, EQ's, some kick drum replacement samples, and it taxes a system pretty well. On my primary DAW, the CPU hit varies from 52-78% on both CPUs. On the ADK system, even with the backup monitoring application running, the CPU hit varied between 40-56% on both processors.
OK, so I lied, there is some numerical data in my review, but they were not recorded via any automated and precise processes by men (or women) in white gowns (or tight fitting nurse's outfits ...sorry, that's a topic for another forum), with really technical gear that goes “BING!” We repeated this “test” several times, after rebooting as well, always with the same result: This system smokes my rig!! Even with my e6600 overclocked and the system completely leaned out, the ADK rig hands me my rig's arse on a platter every time. I have no idea if ADK has OC'd this rig or not (I'm assuming they did), but we didn't have time to dig around the BIOS to find out, because once we had everything up, running, and installed, we got on to making some music ...which is what it's all about, right?
If I didn't enjoy building my own systems so much, I'd have these guys build me one.
If anyone has any questions, comments, or would like to send me a cutting-edge DAW rig that I can test and then keep forever and ever, please feel free to contact me via this thread or email.