I'm a computer programmer, and an audio recording engineer, and like to think I know how to put a powerful PC through its paces. That being said, it's been some time since I've been really able to do that with a modern machine. The machine that this one replaced was pieced together back in October '07, so it lived a good long life. I'm hoping that the selection of parts that I've used in this build will help contribute to another PC that continues running through its senior years, and still provides a little bit of room to grow.
The present, is a difficult time to decide on a new computer system as there are so many options to consider -- Skylake CPUs are said to start shipping in the next few months. Broadwell chips are relatively new, and Haswell-E has been out for a few months now.
I decided to go with Haswell-E because of the fact that you can get a lot of bang for your buck with the 5820K. A couple of extra cores, reasonable single-core performance, additional PCIe lanes, and of course... the ability to start using the new DDR4 modules. I'll need to double the RAM that I have in this machine currently to take advantage of the system's ability to run in quad-channel, so that gives me some breathing room for upgrades, as does the next gen CPU -- Broadwell-E which is rumoured to also use the same 2011-3 socket.
DDR4 is more energy efficient than its predecessor, and that should let me keep the heat down a bit more. The maxwell-based video cards are known to sip back the power too, so this machine is extremely quiet too, which is very important since I don't want to hear the hum of fans in my audio recordings. The P280 case takes a number of steps to keep ambient noise levels down to a minimum as well, and besides... I like its unassuming style too.
The dual video cards have been just laughing at everything I've thrown at them so far, and the eye-candy on the screen has been incredible. It's amazing how much extra immersion a couple of peripheral screens can add. I'm also really pretty impressed with the Sound Blaster Zx too. It's replacing a very old Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum that I have had with me for the last couple of systems I've owned. It used a legacy PCI slot though, and those are tough to find on modern motherboards. The sound to noise ratio is better on this new card, and it really seems to drive the rear channels of my speaker system a lot better than its predecessor did. The only complaint I have about it has to do with a nuance to the way I'm used to using my system. My old Audigy 2 Platinum took up one of the 5.25" drive bays in my system, and I plugged in my headphones there. I could have sound coming from both the headphones and the speakers at the same time -- which I very much liked. One of the reasons I got this sound card is because of the fact that it comes with an ACM which I'd be able to plug my headphones into. When you're using the ACM however, you'll need to toggle between speakers or headphones through software.