When it comes to assembling a computer for professional audio use, the temptation to “DIY” is great. For those with the knowledge, skill and time it takes to assemble a finely-tuned audio workstation, the monetary savings and sense of satisfaction are well worth the effort. But for those less inclined, traveling into unpredictable and unknown territories constitutes an unjustifiable waste of time that can easily counter any gains in budget or pride.
Product PointsApplications: Project studio, broadcast
Key Features: Fully configured turnkey digital audio workstation; one year of 24/7 technical support and on-site service.
Price: GigaStudio Edition standard configuration – $2,842 without GigaStudio – $2,463
Contact: VisionDAW at 800-326-9994 or Web Site.
Vision Digital Audio Workstations, a division of Buena Park ,California-based Building Your Computer, LLC, sells fully configured workstations designed for specific audio applications. VisionDAW caters to audio professionals who are looking for a turnkey computer with full support from the manufacturer.
For this review, VisionDAW provided a two-rack space “Whisper Quiet” GigaStudio Edition workstation ($2,842). As the name indicates, this workstation is engineered and optimized for use with TASCAM’s GigaStudio software. The application software is preloaded, configured and tested thoroughly (four days, 24 hours per day, according to VisionDAW) before shipping.
The standard VisionDAW configuration of its GigaStudio Edition workstation includes the Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition operating system, TASCAM GigaStudio 160 software and Frontier Design’s WaveCenter PCI audio interface. The WaveCenter audio interface features eight-channel lightpipe I/O, S/PDIF I/O and two sets of MIDI I/O.
System components included in the GigaStudio Edition are a 2U rackmount chassis (19 inches x 21 inches x 3.5 inches), Intel 2.6 GHz HyperThreading Pentium 4 and Intel motherboard with 800 MHz front side bus, 1,024 MB (512 x 2) of PC3500 Xtreme Speed RAM, Seagate 40 GB Ultra ATA-100 7200 RPM hard drive (for system), Maxtor 80 GB Serial ATA 7200 RPM 8 MB buffer hard drive (for sample data/recording), 16X DVD-ROM drive and Logitech keyboard/optical mouse combo.
VisionDAW’s website allows quick, on-line customization of its standard configurations Ð components can be added or subtracted with the total price updated instantly. The unit sent for review included a 3 GHZ processor, 2,048 MB of RAM, a three-port FireWire PCI card, a 160 MB Maxtor SATA recording/sample data drive and no keyboard or mouse.
VisionDAW workstations come standard with one year of 24/7 technical support and on-site service. Two and three year support packages are also available at additional cost.
As one who has personally specified and configured at least 20 digital audio workstations for studio use Ð and consulted on many more Ð I feel I know quality workmanship when I see it. The expert component and software configuration of the VisionDAW GigaStudio Edition workstation reflects the utmost attention to detail and quality. This unit is built by people who clearly never expect to have to see it in their factory again!
The impeccable layout of components and judicious use of cable ties creates unexpected order and openness for a 2RU-thin computer, which in turn translates to excellent interior airflow throughout the enclosure. That, of course, translates in to long life for components.
Speaking of airflow, the VisionDAW features three fans, not including the CPU heat sink/fan or the one built into the 400-watt power supply. Despite the total of five fans, the workstation lives up to its “Whisper Quiet” moniker. When the unit was rackmounted about 10 feet from my listening position, it was difficult to immediately tell if its power was on or off without looking at the computer monitor. Ultimately, all things with fans are relegated to my adjacent machine room, but for typical home and project studios, the computer’s total noise output will fall well below the room’s existing ambient noise level.
The system booted up consistently in under 25 seconds and shut down in less than six. Such benchmarks, while not necessarily directly important, often reflect how effective or muddled a system’s software and hardware configuration are. The short times on the VisionDAW reflect its singular and streamlined configuration approach. Predictably, performance within GigaStudio was excellent.
VisionDAW offers similar workstations configured for other popular audio applications including Steinberg Nuendo and Cubase, East West/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra sample library and more generically configured offerings like V-Synth, Extreme Audio, Mobile Studio and AudioCube workstations.
Note that the 2RU VisionDAWs such as the one reviewed here allow the installation of up to three PCI cards (horizontally mounted). The Frontier and FireWire cards take up two of the slots, leaving one open slot. The PCI bay can take full-height PCI cards up to 11 inches in length; perfect for, say, a UAD-1 DSP card, but at 12 1/2 inches long, a TC Powercore will not fit.
The hardware/software configuration of the VisionDAW GigaStudio Edition workstation resulted in excellent performance within GigaStudio, demonstrating the benefits of a finely tuned and streamlined system designed for a singular purpose.
The VisionDAW workstation proves to be an excellent solution for those looking for a stable and reliable turnkey system that includes round-the-clock technical support and on-site service.