- What CPU (Athlon still recommended, as docs say?)
I prefer Athlon, but that’s just preference. There were issues earlier with dual core Athlon clocks drifting between the cores, not sure if that has been fixed yet. (If it has, the fixes may not have had time to move downstream into the distros) If you’ve got $$ the Operton is highly recommended by others.
- What MOBO (I understand VIA sucks, but which do not suck?)
Depends on the make and model. I have a VIA chipset that works fine. I’ve heard bad stories about others. My computer is old though, and since then I’ve built Athlon machines with nvidia chipsets without any problems. If you use and Intel CPU, get an Intel chipset.
- What Digital Audio card? Especially for analog input. Or, should I get a card that takes ADAT input and then ge t a digital mixer to do my D/A for me?
Depends on what you want to do. Probably don’t need a digital mixer though. Thay are generally overkill, expensive, and not as high of quality as a dedicated preamp and A/D converter. If you want ADAT then an RME Hammerfall card will work for you, but you have to have external preamps and an ADAT encoder. If you got money you could try a Apogee AD-16X + X-FireWire which offers 16 channels of A/D conversion piped in on firewire. But you have to get spearate preamps for that too. If you have less money a Presonus Firepod offers 8 channels of A/D conversion and preamps all in one package. Not as high end as the Apogee + nice preamps, but still nice and much less expensive.
- What drives? Is SCSI or IDE/Firewire still recommended (as docs say), or is SATA better/cheaper for these apps?
SATA Raid-5 Array is much more affordable and with more than enough throughput for most projects.
- What MIDI card? I understand that the USB cards suck, but which ones suck not?
USB midi should work fine. It’s the USB sound cards that suck, not the midi.
- Are old Matrox cards still the best for “playing nice” on the PCI bus? Or do the new AGP cards and onboard video work just fine nowadays?
I use an nvidia with nividia’s drivers. No problems. It’s not been a resource hog. (in fact, the acceleration mode offloads a lot of work from the CPU, so in my experience, it has been a big help) The ones that “don’t play nice” are probably only found on badly designed machines aimed a gamers where fps during game play is what sells the machine.
If you were to build a PC to run Ardour simultaneously with other Linux music apps, what would you put in it?
For recording: QjackCtl, lash, Jamin, Om, meterbridge, JAPA, ReZound, and any LADSPA or DSSI plugins you can find. That’s about all you need.
If you plan on doing MIDI sequencing, softsynths, etc, the number of tools you will want/need grows quickly.