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westhemann

recording equipment

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thanks for the info goreki - i need better midi sounds! i think i will see this ua25 on the 3rd feb :D guess what time of year it is, hehe!

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Can you actually buy laptop motherboards? I didnt think this was possible? Does that mean you could effectively, to a point, build your own?

Yes, but the parts are harder to source and warranty. :D

Regarding a few older questions and random points:

-a Pentium-M bundled with the rest of the Centrino technology will run a good number of plug-ins, and will stay relatively cool, making it a fantastic contender for laptop studio.

-AMD64 also runs cooler, and has been getting good reviews for stability as well

-M-Audio is highly regarded in general for having stable drivers. I don't know anything about their portable solutions, so read the reviews as suggested-- however, understand that the reviews for a USB Audiophile won't be the same as for a Firewire Audiophile.

As always, I still can't help but wonder exactly what it is that you intend to record. Begin with the end in mind. Every single suggestion has been very good and very well educated (well, most anyhow), but only if it suits your needs. Always evaluate your needs and buy the gear to meet them rather than buying the gear and then wondering if it was the right set of purchases for your needs.

Greg

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Ok, what I want to do is get experience with sequencer software like Cubase or Sonar with a firewire audio/midi box interface such as the M-Audio Audiophile. I will be recording mine or a friends band studio format (one instrument at a time) and dont know how many tracks I will use. I also want to try recording as a live setting, as in them or my band playing all together at the same time. Plus anything else I come accross that seems interesting.

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Can you actually buy laptop motherboards? I didnt think this was possible? Does that mean you could effectively, to a point, build your own?

Since most laptop parts are proprietary, it isn't a cost effective or flexible way to go like it is with desktops. You could build one, but it would be expensive and the same exact PC as you would be able to buy whole anyway.

But if you HAVE a laptop, you can sometimes upgrade the CPU & video systems, and you can almost always upgrade the memory, optical drive, and hard drive.

I was given a non-working IBM T20 laptop for free ($500-ish on eBay). I bought a motherboard on eBay for $75 (the problem was a well known one and I knew a new mobo would fix it) and voila! cheap backup laptop!

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Ok, been looking around for laptops and have a list of two or three companies that I like. However, I have run into a problem choosing one. Its about processors and chipsets (more chipsets really). I have been hearing bad things about laptops with AMD processors because they use the VIA chipset, which is apparently not too good for audio, for a number of reasons but one main one that was mentioned to me was something about the firewire bus.

This has been mentioned to me by three audio computer companies here in the UK, they all use only Intel processors. However, on places like the Studio Central forum, they all seem to prefer AMD, despite these apparent flaws in the VIA chipset with audio.

I'd be very greatful if any of you guys could clear this issue up for me as it is frustrating running into many problems once old ones get sorted out.

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Only thing that I know is the Firewire chipset itself seems to cause some issues. Seems most devices are compatiable with a Texas Instruments chipset and not with others.

Also, people have had problems with VIA/SiS chipsets for varying reasons so I would suggest finding out what devices and softwares you want to use a find a compatible system for those pieces. Unfortunately there is no perfect PC because of all the possiblities.

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Ah, so there will be no problem at all with the VIA chipset if I make sure the firewire device is compatible with that particular chipset? So some devices wont work with it but others will?

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I wouldn't say no problems at all. Problems are more frequent with firewire devices and non TI chipsets. Otherwise it's a gamble. When programs are written for PC, the programmers have to take into account all possibilities of chips/peripherals it may encounter. Most of the time, they don't cover all the bases, but the most common are covered. I stick with Intel based for these situations because they are the most commonly considered for compatibility.

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Hi, ok so if the Intel chipsets are the best. How come a lot of people prefer AMD processors when they use VIA chipsets. Ok admitedley you can get NVIDIA chipsets for the AMD processors but a lot still also use the VIA and those with notebooks using AMD over intel are bound to the VIA chipset. So thats why this is all a little confusing for me. Most people's preference are contradicting the opinions and advice of the audio computer companies i contacted that only use Intel based systems. Should I follow the advice of these companies or should I try for AMD which have had a lot of reviews as being better than Intel processors?

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Hi, ok so if the Intel chipsets are the best. How come a lot of people prefer AMD processors when they use VIA chipsets. Ok admitedley you can get NVIDIA chipsets for the AMD processors but a lot still also use the VIA and those with notebooks using AMD over intel are bound to the VIA chipset. So thats why this is all a little confusing for me. Most people's preference are contradicting the opinions and advice of the audio computer companies i contacted that only use Intel based systems. Should I follow the advice of these companies or should I try for AMD which have had a lot of reviews as being better than Intel processors?

Under the impression many people do prefer AMD but I'd guess not the majority. Many people prefer AMD over Intel simply cause it's cheaper and are somehow Anti-Intel for what ever reasons like many are Anti-Microsoft for what ever reasons.

Like I said before, no matter what you do it's a gamble unless you know an exact combination of 'things' works well. And like I said the most common vendor things are tested for is Intel.

Your best bet is to do all the homework you possibly can on what tools you want to use and find how what they are/are not compatible with and make your own conclusions.

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VIA is not the only chipset that can use AMD processors. nForce2 (and now 3) are considered very stable chipsets for AMD.

Regardless, though, any literature you've found against VIA is very very outdated information. There were issues with it way back when it was on the K133 model, ie. about 5 years ago. The issues were quickly resolved and VIA has been stable for AMD ever since. However, rumour and misconception, once started, tends to persist.

AMD are preferred for audio not only for cost (cost is getting similar anyhow, finally) but because they are better performers in the audio world. Most digital signal processing uses 32-bit floating point maths for calculations, which the AMD is a documented performance winner in, compared to Intel. On top of that, for similar performance speeds, AMD runs cooler-- something to consider. Pentium 4 also experience "denormalization" which can cripple a project using certain plug-ins, unless you take precautions. And finally, people are moving to AMD because it offers a cost-effective 64-bit solution which will enable an upgrade path not only for their hardware but for their OS.

NOW, all that said-- even AMD fans are silly not to mention that the Pentium-M (the processor used for "centrino" laptops) runs more efficiently than a standard Pentium 4, which means higher performance-to-GHz ratio, as well as cooler operation. In the laptop recording world, the Pentium-M is considered quite desirable as far as processors go.

Given your needs for recording, I still have to seriously question whether you need the most expensive software available. I admit, I'm a bit of a fan so this is coming from a biased perspective, but have a look at Tracktion 2, which is to be released this month. As a bonus, it'll include Amplitube LE, which models 3 different amps-- A Marshall Plexi (I believe... some sort of Marshall anyhow), a Vox AC-30, and a Fender Twin. There are other plug-ins to be bundled with it (the papers aren't signed, but it looks like the popular Linplug RMIV drum machine will be there, along with 2 GB of drum sounds), and other issues have been addressed since v1. For $199 msrp.

Greg

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I want to get a good high spec laptop as it will need to see me through to around 2009.

Ok so the VIA problems are diminishing now compared to in the past? So the K8 (I think that is the current one) is just as stable for use with the AMD 64 processors?

I know about the nForce chipsets but cant find them on any laptop.

Its interesting that AMD is preferred in the audio world, because that contradicts every audio computer company here in the UK who are only using Intel processors.

As a precaution, I have emailed Cakewalk, Steinberg and M-Audio to ask about any problems with VIA and an AMD system with the firewire audiophile, Sonar and Cubase.

Thanks for all the advice, hopefully I should be able to make a decision soon.

So really, I could choose either a P4 HT processor laptop, mobile P4 HT processor laptop or an A64 processor laptop and be really happy with the quality I get (no droputs, latency, or any other problems etc)?

Cheers.

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I think you'd be fine with any of those three. Many hosts and plug-ins are not HT compatible, though, so I wouldn't place that as a priority option. Your latency and stability will be more dependent on your audio interface than your processor anyhow.

Greg

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Ah right. So the Intel with HT maybe isnt to such an advantage. So if M-Audio, Cakewalk and Steinberg email me back saying there wont be problems with the VIA chipset, I could go ahead and look at an AMD 64 processor which might be more of an advantage than an Intel £.0ghz with HT (when the HT wont advantage me much)?

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To be dead honest with you, when you're up into the 'upper end' of these processors, the differences will be primarily on paper if you're just planning on recording tracks one at a time. Even for recording 5 tracks at once, any of those three processors would be fine.

The only reason I favour the AMD-64 so much is that it'll gear you up for the 64-bit OS and plug-ins when they come out (sooner that we think, I'm betting).

Greg

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Yeah, I must admit, despite all the rumours, confusion, tales etc about the VIA chipsets with the AMD processors in laptops, the A64 attracts me the most because of the future-proofing of it. We are in the dawn of 64 bit software, so buying the A64 will keep you afloat a year or two longer than the 32-bit processors will. Obviously, choosing an Intel 3.0ghz (whether with HT or not) will last you a long time. But an A64 will last that little bit further.

On a side note, I can't see Intel going too much longer before they decide to announce or release an Intel 64-bit processor.

Thanks for any further advice, but I appreciate all the help people have given me so far. It would have been far easier for you guys to have given in to the temptation of thinking "god what an ass". Thanks for the help!!!

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I like to hear myself talk. No worries. :D

Intel is sputtering a bit for their 64-bit stuff. Apparently their current big thing is moving toward dual-core chips (as are AMD), but it's unclear about their plans for 64-bit.

With 64-bit Windows already in beta testing, I can't imagine Intel will be out of the game for long.

With the AMD-64, I wouldn't worry about the chipset manufacturer, but there ARE other things to consider such as memory timing issues, and other things; however, if you get the laptop "pre-made", those issues will have been resolved by the manufacturer. Most of them relate to desktop machines anyhow.

Greg

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Cool, thats ok then. Cheers for all the help. Hopefully i'll be able to make a decision soon on a laptop. What a long road this has been from first looking into desktops then laptops and now being able to evaluate a few laptops to decide on the best one.

Its like researching stuff for when I had my guitar made all over again lol.

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Cool beans. It's great that you've been researching rather than just blowing your $$$.

Greg

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Cool beans.  It's great that you've been researching rather than just blowing your $$$.

I concur, I'm just finishing up my new DAW and did plenty of advance planning and still ran into unexpecteds...IE The front intake fan on the rack case I got is LOUD! Need to replace it and add an additional exhaust fan on the rear.

Otherwise, the system rocks hard! :D

Edited by Gorecki

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Hi guys, one quick last question. In my research I found out that screen resolution and graphics would be important when using a sequencer software.

Would 64MB be enough for graphics (ATI or NVIDIA) or would 128MB be needed?

As for screen resolution, would 1280 x 800 WXGA do or would you need something higher (I am also assuming that 15.4" is what would need too, or of course higher)?

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Hi guys, one quick last question. In my research I found out that screen resolution and graphics would be important when using a sequencer software.

Would 64MB be enough for graphics (ATI or NVIDIA) or would 128MB be needed?

As for screen resolution, would 1280 x 800 WXGA do or would you need something higher (I am also assuming that 15.4" is what would need too, or of course higher)?

Actually complete overkill for a 2D environment, all that additional memory is used for 3D related information and on a windows GDI desktop has no affect what so ever. Example the Matrox Dual video card I'm using is only a 32mb AGP running two 17" LCD's @ 1280x1024x32 making my total desktop 2560x1024x32 and virtually NONE of the video card's ram is being used.

Unfortunately that's how Windows GUI works, it doesn't really take advantage of a powerful card until you integrate 3D vertex processing, textures and related.

Edited by Gorecki

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Ditto. Nothing new to add to that, just confirming. My card is also a dual-head Matrox with 32MB. The venerable G550, a DAW staple. :D

Greg

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Ditto.  Nothing new to add to that, just confirming.  My card is also a dual-head Matrox with 32MB.  The venerable G550, a DAW staple.  :D

Greg

Yep! :D

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