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westhemann

recording equipment

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Hey guys, this is a copy of my post in a thread i created in the electronics section of the forum. i thought I might get a few more responses from here though.

Hey guys, as far as I am aware, ther are no other threads to do with this as much as I would like so I thought i'd start a new one. Sorry in advance if there is already these questions answered elsewhere.

Ok I am wanting to record some tracks with my guitar. Also pu tthe bass down (either using my guitar as bass or borrowing one and drums with drum machine). I was originally thinking of an 8 track along the lines of Boss-864. But then I thought I would consider PC recording.

I have come accross two systems so far:

M-Audio Delta 66 (without software included though)

Steinberg System Cubase System 4 (includes Cubase software)

I was wanting people's opinions on each of these products and also any other products I should be considering that are within the same sort of budget area s the two above. The Steinberg system looks good and was recommended by a guitar shop here in the UK that I emailed. But thought i'd ask for the advice of people on this forum before making any decisions.

Thanks guys.

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Before I got hooked on Logic, I spent a few months with a demo version of Cubase. I liked it alot, but I don't have any experience with the other one.

In any of these systems, you can easily record multiple tracks one at a time. Better yet, you can record individual measures or sections of a song (like the verse or chorus), repeating takes if you like, then pick the best take and just copy and paste it in the rest of the song, so that you don't have to play the same parts over and over. Makes it faster to get a whole song down and then play around with the arrangement.

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Hi, so what your saying is that the Steinberg Cubase System 4 is a good system that won't be bad quality and won't give me any latency problems (even though I don't know what this is). But people have mentioned latency problems with USB devices for audio work, can anyone explain what latency is and if th eSteinberg system is likely to have these problems. I take it I won't need anymore that four inputs/outputs and the Cubase software is good is it not?

What is firewire and will this be better than the system mentioned above. Can I get any firewire systems for around the same price as the Steinberg system mentioned above?

thanks for anymore input and help. Thanks so far for all help.

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I'm surprised the Delta 66 doesn't have software-- usually it comes with Live! Delta and Reason Adapted. However, as I mentioned in the other thread, a fully working sequencer called Tracktion is available for only $80 anyhow.

The Cubase system... is fine. I'm just not a fan of Cubase or Steinberg.

Latency refers to the delay between the time you play the note, and the time you HEAR it through your speakers. This delay comes because of limitations in your hardware-- first there's the Analog-to-Digital conversion (as your sound enters the soundcard), then there's the processing that's applied to it (any effects you add on inside your sequencer program), and then there's the Digital-to-Analog conversion (as it goes from the soundcard to the speakers).

USB devices sometimes have higher latency because your PCI bus is congested, and it doesn't prioritize your USB soundcard properly to give it the most importance. Therefore it takes longer for your computer to get around to 'processing' it.

Firewire and USB 2.0 are just other technologies that allow your device to transmit more data at a time. Not sure what the impact is on the PCI bus, but it's probably similar.

For what it's worth, people who are obsessive about recording REALLY believe that anything longer than 10ms latency (that's a tenth of a second) is god-awful. I've recorded with 10ms latency and haven't found it annoying. As long as your computer is relatively decent, any modern and popular sound card will get you around 6ms of latency, which I can't even detect. If you have a great computer and a recent and popular soundcard, you will probably get it down to 2 or 4ms, which as far as I'm concerned is "realtime".

---

Back to the question, though-- unless you're already very familiar with hardware recording (ie. the concepts of Sends, Inserts, Buses, etc.), Cubase or almost all other software will present a bit of a learning curve. That's not necessarily a problem, as it's good to know what you're doing. But Tracktion (OK, OK, I'm very biased) offers little to no learning curve and gets you up and recording.

Check out the other thread for my other recommendations... and remember, although I talk the talk, I'm still just one opinion in a sea of opinions, so take what I say as a suggestion, not the "ultimate truth".

Greg

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Yes, USB 2.0 transmits data at... 40X the speed of 1.1, if I'm remembering correctly. Substantially more quickly, anyhow.

Pretty much any computer made after 2002 will have USB 2.0 ports (not a hard and fast rule, but pretty much), but strangely enough the soundcard industry is just getting started with 2.0 on THEIR devices.

Greg

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...but strangely enough the soundcard industry is just getting started with 2.0 on THEIR devices.

That's because USB1 was too slow for multi-track recording, and rarely adequate for single track recording. (USB is not a constant rate, and slows down dramatically when it has to share an IRQ... which usually the case with modern Windows computers.)

D~s

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Exactly. Which is why it's weird that it took so long for them to start adopting 2.0 on their devices, and that they even bothered with 1.1 technology in the first place. :D

Greg

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Hi gues. Ok thanks for that. Since most questions are getting answered in the electronics section, I would like to sidetrack and ask a question about the PC's you record on. Someone suggested I check out the forum "Studio Central" and all people on there go on about DAW computers. Computers specifically for music recording and most have a computer for recording purposes, or at least a seperate/partitioned hard drive. Does anyone here go to these extreme lengths just for PC recording? Thanks for anymore information on this.

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The bottom line is this; if your computer has a ton of stuff loaded on it (games, MP3 players, instant messangers, etc.), the computer will slow down. That's why a lot of people recommend a computer that is dedicated to audio; it's not loaded down with a bunch of drivers and apps that you don't need. For the guys who run demo-studios, this is even more important: one internet-born virus can ruin their computer and their business.

But, for the average person, one computer can work.

However, very few people stay "average" after they learn how to use their recording hardware/software. Before too long, they're mixing 14 tracks with reverb/eq/compression/etc. running on all of their tracks... and then their PC stalls.

When their PC stalls, they come to Studio Central, and geeks (like me) tell them that they are doing too much on their computer. In some cases it's just a reflex answer, but most of the time it's true.

Of course, we have some youngsters over there who think that a 2gHz system is too slow to do audio, and they put down people for trying to record on a 1.7gHz system. That when old farts like me have to remind them that we used to do multi-track mixing on 486 computers... back when we lived in caves and killed our food with clubs... but I digress.

If you get one of the low-impact programs (like Tracktion) then you should be able to do everything on one computer. If you step up to Cubase or Sonar (and install all of their plug-ins) and use them to their full potential, you may wish that you had a seperate computer that you could call your DAW.

The beauty is this: You can use your current computer while you're learning (provided it's not too slow for what you're trying to do) then move your audio interface (or sound card) and software over to a seperate computer if/when you need it.

My advice would be to find the hardware/software that works with your current PC and fullfills your needs.

If you're running a Dell, Compaq, etc. (what I call "consumer-grade) then you may hit some potholes along the way. The two biggest problems with consumer-grade PCs are 1) the on-board sound will cause major conflicts, unless you shut it down in BIOS, and 2) the dreaded NVIDIA video cards and drivers, which usually need to be upgraded to work as a DAW. Sometimes the consumer-grade PCs will have too much hardware plugged in, and you run into a problem with too many items sharing IRQs, but that can be sorted out, too. About the only thing that can't be sorted out is a computer that has a Celeron processor; most of those stall under the load of multi-tracking... but not always.

So put down your guitar, and get ready to beat your head against the wall!

D~s

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Mostly agreed-- especially about the yung'ins and the old farts. I fit into the latter category, so I can relate. :D

To expand and answer a few more specific questions:

- No matter what your host is (Cubase, Tracktion, Sonar, n-Track) you will be streaming your audio files (your recorded audio tracks) from hard disk. I have personally used 20 tracks on a ONE-hard disk system without any hiccups, but this is where you should look first if you're having a tough time:

* put your system and your streaming audio on separate hard drives. I wouldn't bother using separate partitions if you're just using one hard drive. It's more convenient for organization, but won't actually increase your system's performance unless you use a special app to make sure your audio files are in the faster-moving part of your platters. It's much easier to slow your system down with partitioning than it is to speed it up.

* As Dugz mentioned, it's the other crapola you have installed that will slow your system down... resident anti-virus and firewall... schedulers... things like that. Check out http://www.musicxp.com for tips on improving Windows XP performance. There are all kinds of levels you can take it to, depending on how obsessive you are and how much you need 'streamlining'. Generally, if you have a super powerful computer, you won't notice any real-world benefits from some tweaks and you're better off spending that time making music. However, if you have a slow system and you need to squeeze every drop of performance out of it, some of these tips can prolong your system's life.

When I was working on a track that had 20+ tracks of mostly audio, and I started running into problems, I had the following spec:

Athlon XP 1700+

512 MB PC2100 RAM

120 GB 7200 RPM hard drive

ATI Radeon video card

I was supposed to upgrade just a few components, but some things crapped out and got messed around, so my current system is:

Athlon XP 2600+ (overclocked a WEE bit, though it's not usually worth the hassle and risk-- a stable and cool PC is worth more than a few extra computation cycles)

512 MB PC3700 (? current gen, anyhow) RAM

-120 GB 7200 RPM hard drive

-80 GB 7200 RPM hard drive

Matrox G550 video card (dual head)

Both systems use the Audiophile 2496 sound card, and I had disabled on-board sound and video on both.

To be completely honest with you, the 'new' system is noticeably quicker, but not to the level where the upgrading was really worth it. It was like a slippery slope-- components kept breaking or being incompatible... all I really wanted to do was upgrade the CPU. B)

There are definitely diminishing returns for the money spent on a computer. You can have a reasonable DAW with an old T-bird processor and 512 MB of RAM, so depending on your needs and what you currently own, almost any current-generation (even slightly lagging) computer will see you fine for a long while. If you're already planning on building a new system, there are some very good options to be had for very reasonable money. It's finding that "sweet spot" of performance-to-cost that's more interesting than just going for the biggest and best.

More recently, I have been craving another 256 MB of RAM, though if I do that, I'll likely just jump right up to 1GB.

The thing to remember as a hobbyist is this-- do you really NEED to have the same amount of power as the pros? Not at all. It's tempting to go for it, and to think that your system is shoddy if you can't run as many plug-ins or tracks as so-and-so, but the truth is that we've had enough power for a respectable DAW for years and years, so don't get too caught up in having a mad machine if you just want to be able to make some music!

Greg

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Ok, thanks for the very valuable advice. I appreciate it.

My idea would be to have two hard drives. Not partitions, after reading what you have said. So I can have general purpose stuff on one hard drive. And just the OS and audio stuff on the other hard drive. So I boot up whichever one I will be using.

These are the rough specs I had in mind, could one of you go through them and help me out if your would:

ASUS A7N8X Deluxe motherboard (I hope this is suitable)

AMD Athlon XP processor (hopefully as fast as I can get, I take it the 64-bit ones arent supported by the music software?)

Atl least 512mb of dual channel DDR RAM

120gb HD and 80gb HD or maybe both 80gb

What do you guys think of this. Obviously I would then choose the sound card seperately once the PC was built and running.

For OS is XP the one I want to be going for. Will other versions of windows or another company such as Linux not work as well with the audio software?

Thanks.

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The computer specs that you mentioned are basically what I have, and I am very happy with my computer. Yes, there have been 2 times when I could use a little more horsepower, but I have overloaded every computer that I have used... which has been 25 years now.

As for Windows XP, it is the first Windows OS that I have actually trusted 100%. I use it at work. However, I have Win 2000 at home on my DAW, and it is very stable. (I didn't buy XP because you have to call Microsoft to authorize your software whenever you load XP... even if you just reformatted your hard-drive.)

I haven't used Linux on a my DAW, but there are some people who swear by it.

D~s

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So the software will run on Linux too if you want?

what could I do to my computer specs stated above to make it slightly more powerfull? Do any software packages (music and non) actually support the AMD 64-bit processor yet?

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So the software will run on Linux too if you want?

Check the software that you want to purchase. Some don't like Linux.

what could I do to my computer specs stated above to make it slightly more powerfull?

Buy 1Gb of RAM... good stuff like Kingston.

And keep everything properly cooled; it will run better and last longer.

Do any software packages (music and non) actually support the AMD 64-bit processor yet?

I haven't read much about it yet, but from what I can tell your software will either make use of the 64-bit architecture or it will just run like a 32-bit chip. Personally, my 2.7gHz Athlon is fast enough that I don't plan on replacing it for at least another year...probably two years. By then, there will be a lot of 64-bit stuff on the market, and the prices on the chips will be much lower.

Don't give into the hype; buy what you need.

D~s

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Totally agree--

-1 GB of RAM will keep you happier,

-2 80 GB drives are fine, but for the price difference, 2 120 or even 160 GB drives will also be fine. No need to go big just for the sake of going big, but if it's a difference of only $5 or $10 it's better to get extra storage now rather than realize you need it later. Since you're building from the ground up, get them both identical, just on the off chance that this computer gets moved to a different function later (home server) and you decide to run a RAID. It won't cost any more to at least keep this option open.

-Your spec sounds a lot like my computer. FWIW, the AMD 64-bit CPU don't really perform all that much better than current-generation Athlon XP... but they're cooler and use data more 'efficiently', so there's something to be said for it. At the end of the day, though, I imagine you'll be quite happy with anything that's rated at 2500+ or greater.

Dugz is totally correct-- get what you need, not what the hype tells you that you need.

He's also correct, if you decide to go this way, that the AMD 64-bit CPUs will run in 32-bit mode for 32-bit applications or in your 32-bit Windows environment. No worries.

Greg

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So would you advise getting an AMD XP 3000+ or an AMD 64-bit for the future. Or should I wait a couple of years for the 64-bit to become more mainstream and better.

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You could go with either, and they'll be similar price and even performance. I can't imagine any good reason to NOT go with the 64-bit CPU, since they're the same price and are at least more 'efficient' if not faster. (ie. they'll operate more coolly, which is a plus).

Plus, even though you'll be on the trailing edge by the time it comes out, it'll be able to run 64-bit OS.

Greg

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What do you mean by i'll be on the trailing edge by the time64-Os comes out?

What motherboard should I get for the A64. I'm confused because I went to the Studi-Central forum but there are too many differing opinions on there at the moment. Also what kind of A64 should I get?

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Best value for money is the 3000. Motherboards... who knows? Almost anything should be fine. ASUS K8V SE Deluxe will sort you out, but remember that it doesn't have PCIe if that's a feature you're looking for.

Frankly, I wouldn't bother with PCIe right now, since not only is the motherboard going to be more expensive, but the hardware made for it will also be expensive, and suddenly you have a monster machine that does more than you needed it to do.

It's a matter of finding value for money....

When I referred to the Trailing Edge, I meant that by the time 64-bit windows comes along, the 3000 will be considered an "old" processor. But it'll still run the OS fine, so I wouldn't worry about it so much.

The thing is--

It's easy to simply recommend the 'best' system that's out there and have you pay big $$$ for it. But while you've spent all that money on a machine instead of a guitar, there will still be someone making music on a P3, with their new Music Man Axis. :D

In terms of value for money, you can't beat:

-Mobile Athlon XP2500+, which can be overclocked easily to perform as at least a 2800+ if not a 3000+

-Almost any mainboard that is known for overclocking, if this is part of your strategy (Asus A7N8X-X worx fine for me)

-2 7200 RPM hard drives (if someone tells you that you 'need' 10,000 RPM SATA, tell them to check their head)

-A modest but 'pro' sound card like the Audiophile 2496 or the EMU 2496

-A small mixer like the Behringer UB802

-1 GB of RAM, though you can make do with 512

-Inexpensive software like Tracktion or Cubasis

-A decent case like the Antec Sonata

-Almost any video card. Matrox G550 worx great for DAW

Let's see--

$100 for the CPU, $50 mainboard, $130 drives, $100 soundcard, $50 mixer, $120 RAM, $80 software, $110 case, $40 video card

For a complete system (keeping in mind this includes EVERYTHING you need including software and proper soundcard) that's $780 for a dual-hard drive system with 1 GB of RAM. That's American pricing, though I've simply 'estimated' so it's not scientific. You could come up with an accurate real-world price if you wanted to spend 30 minutes tracking down those components, and you might even find that some of them are cheaper than I say.

<shrug>

It's easy to get caught up in processing power hype, but that's a powerful enough system to keep you very comfortable in 24-tracks of audio, and even when it starts getting slowed down by so many audio tracks, you can 'bounce' some of the tracks down and free up more power. With a system like that, and MINIMAL resource management, you could easily make a song with hundreds of parts, if that was your intention.

Most of us only get up to a dozen or fewer audio parts anyhow. B)

If you're still set on the 64-bit AMD, simply add another $120-150 or so to that price, for the processor and mainboard upgrade.

Greg

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Ok thanks very much. So maybe I should wait for the 64bit processor and boards to come down in price since they are relatively new anyway. I already have a custom guitar so dont need a new guitar.

Overclicking is something I have no idea about so probably won't be getting into that.

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does anyone here have a sound card from E-MU? I want to upgrade my soundcard do to latency problems that my SC now suffers from.try recording with a half second delay, it will drive you crazy.

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E-MU is pretty good. Their about the same as M-Audio.

Relatively low latency and noise-level, and relatively inexpensive.

D~s

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