PCAudioLabs Rokbox Elite It Does Windows — All of Them In Fact

April 1, 2010

PROS Great service. Flexible options. Reliable workmanship. Top-end components. Tested for audio applications.
CONS Pricier than your average home or office PC.
INFO $2,499, plus additional charges for extra OS options, pcaudiolabs.com

RokBox_EliteWhat you don’t see in the standard-looking desktop form factor is that the RokBox is significantly quieter than off-the-shelf PC towers we’ve worked with. Swappable OS drives let you work in multiple Windows versions.

When it comes to computers that run Windows, my needs are definitely not mainstream. Since you’re a musician too, your requirements for a PC might be a little off the beaten path as well, depending on what creative endeavors you undertake. These days, off-the-shelf PCs are certainly beguiling, with their impressive processor speeds and reasonable prices. Often, however, such bargains lack features we in creative professions need, such as hard drives that are large, fast, and reliable; lots of connectivity options; and rugged construction, to name a few.

PCAudioLabs specializes in creating and configuring PCs for audio and video professionals. While they do have particular models that consist of certain cases and configurations, they’re more a service than a retailer. You call them up, tell them what kind of work you do, and they’ll come up with options that may or may not be on the price sheet.

I did just that. I described my typical workload, of which this month is a great example. One of my big jobs involves the soundtrack of video that must be edited with a program that runs only on Windows 7 (W7) — the 64-bit version. Another task is to design a website using a program that also requires W7; the virtual server program I prefer for hosting my staging site is not yet ready for 64-bit operation, so I also need W7 32-bit. One of my recording jobs for the month involves multitracking, but being that I’m in mid-project, I haven’t yet updated my ASIO audio interface and DAW program of choice to Windows 7 operation, so I need a machine that runs Vista. Then there’s my favorite audio editor that I just plain love to use, but which I’ve neglected to upgrade for some reason. It runs only on Windows XP.

In response, PCAudioLabs sent me a RokBox Elite with some Custom Shop modifications for my specific needs. It has swappable system drives for the OS and program data (I don’t have room for one additional computer, much less four), large and fast internal drives (one to host large sample libraries and one to accept newly recorded audio and video, 465GB each), plenty of connectors for FireWire and USB2.0 (I hate crawling around to the back of my desk every time I have a new device to install), a healthy amount of RAM (4GB base), and screamin’ processing (eight-core, 2.93GHz Intel Core i7). The biggest deal, though, is the attention they give to the OS installation: They strip out anything that’s not absolutely necessary for the optimal performance of audio software. Off-the-shelf home and office computers, by contrast, are often encumbered with huge amounts of performance-hogging add-ons.

How has the RokBox performed in my OS-swapping workflow? Nearly flawlessly. The first drive bay locked the drive with a key, and the drive connectors were a little unreliable. I called PCAudioLabs, and the next day, I had a new tray, with a locking knob, rather than a key, which has performed great ever since. Its operation is quiet, though I do need to cover it with baffles when I track solo vocals in the same room, in case the fan comes on. With USB and FireWire ports front and back, it’s as easy to reconfigure my studio as it is to change the OS drive; which is to say, fast. Multitrack audio recording and editing, video ingest and editing, serious website programming with lots of Photoshop and Flash editing — on every one of my jobs, and on every version of Windows, the RokBox has rocked!

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