Music Center v2.0
First week of july (2004) and I started work on a new version of the music center. The reasons are as follows:
1.) The case I have right now (Lian-Li PC61) is kind of big, it is a midi-tower and has more air inside than anything else. It's hard to hide and will catch your eye if it is in the center of the room.
2.) I have a lot of cooling in the PC61 case; 4 case fans plus a big CPU cooler. The heat produced by the components is minimal, so I have too many noise sources (still).
3.) I actually need the PC61 case for another application (non-audio).
4.) I'm looking for less clutter around the PC (mouse, keyboard, wires).
The first step to take was to look for a new case to house everything. This means a CD/DVD drive and up to three hard drives. My choice fell on the very cute Lian Li PC402B (black of course) as I have had very good experiences with this brand before. Looking at the specs online, www.lian-li.com, they list this case as fitting flex-ATX boards. Double checking the dimensions revealed this is not correct. The PC402 will only fit mini-ITX boards, kind of shortening the list of motherboard candidates.
Anyway... This case has plenty of room for my needs: two 5.25" bays, one 3.5" bay and room for one extra 3.5" drive inside. Mounting the CDROM will leave three bays open for my three 160GB drives. At the front are two USB connectors and optional headphone/mic jacks. The case is pretty basic on the inside, but leaving enough room to play around in later.
One drawback of the Lian-Li is the power supply that comes with it. It contains a little fan, measuring about 40x40mm. As small as it is, it produces more noise than any PC fan I have ever heard. It's over compensating for it's size :) First thing I did was cut the leads to the fan and make sure the case fan was cooling everything enough.
The question I asked myself was; "What am I going to do with this PC". The answer will determine the heart of the system, namely the processor and main-board combination.
In the mini-ITX market there is a growing number of manufacturers offering high quality boards/combos. Most solutions you will find offer a main board with an embedded processor. VIA with it's Epia line of mini-ITX boards is one of the market leaders right now, offering quite a few choices. They offer their embedded processor boards either in a version with a cpu fan-cooler or a fanless version. The fanless versions being about 40% slower because they are not able to dissipate as much heat (and survive for very long), and hence not run at the same high clock speeds as their fan-equipped brothers.
Here again the same question pops up; what will I use it for? Since it will only be playing back audio, the choice should really go for just the cheapest board. The average load on my P4 while playing Foobar was between 1% and 6%, not a whole lot!!! My choice fell on the Epia ME6000 board which boasts a very nice integrated graphics card with hardware mpeg2 decoding (DVD), so I can always use the system as a good DVD player as well :) It's got two IDE connectors, a floppy, 4x USB2.0, PS2 mouse and keyboard connectors, LPT port, 6 channel audio, TV-out, SVHS out, and the list goes on. And the board is only 17x17cm !!!!!
Add a case plus power supply and you are ready to rock (literally).
The complete system
Cost for a basic setup