So, this caught my eye recently:
While I’ve been eager for such a thing for a good while now, I hadn’t really considered it in terms of more audio-specific applications until now. While this is a bit overpriced for how it’s spec’d, the form-factor is quite compelling, as it’s close enough to laptop size to be decently portable while also lacking a powerbrick; more important are the PCIe slots, with which one could forgo the video card and have two slots for internal audio interface cards (I believe, assuming that x16 GPU slot will work, apart from that x4 slot which almost certainly should), or else one slot and two panels, which seems more common. Plus, since that NUC9 module has two thunderbolt3 ports (which I understand to be as fast as PCIe), there’s always the possibility of expansion using external PCIe chassis (particularly if one were to install a video card later on).
For my part, I’m thinking RME’s HDSPe RayDAT would be ideal on the higher end for maximizing the potential for interfacing with hardware (for the purpose, of course, of forgoing USB), particularly on the ADAT side of Expert Sleepers’ eurorack wares, though the two MIDI I/Os are a major plus, not to mention AES/EBU (which seems very useful, though I know little about it). But on the more affordable and less complicated side of things (i.e., just getting stereo into or out of the box), I imagine the Soundblaster AE-9 would work well. Then I suppose Lynx interfaces would fill out the middle quite well, but I’ll wager there are a plethora of aftermarket sound cards of every stripe that wouldn’t work terribly either (probably mostly aftermarket, considering these cards are a dying breed, though I fear there’s probably not much in PCIe, as opposed to PCI).
Probably one of the main downsides is the need for a monitor and keyboard and such, apart from the computer itself. There is the option of using something like a dumb laptop, but in the remote possibility that I ever go the route of acquiring such a machine as the Ghost Canyon, I would use my Planck Light and, preferably, some sort of portable multitouch display, the latter of which I guess works pretty okay with Bitwig and with VCV Rack (VCV should be improving upon this rather soonish, incidentally).
Anyway, it seemed like it could strike an interesting balance between the more professional-studio-side and the usual laptop-performance-side of computer music production, though, admittedly, this might be a solution in search of a problem. I’m just looking at the long-term and thinking it might be worthwhile to someday invest in such a modular, yet singular approach, most particularly in consideration of the PC’s expanding role in my own music production.
I put together a little kit of what one might hypothetically require to make good use of such a system: