Help for a Newbie

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Member Since: Jan 06, 2004

So I am going to start the long process of setting up a home studio. I am looking to buy a computer and plan to do most of my stuff off of that. I was going to use Pro Tools or Cubase, etc. I am not sure yet. So I was wondering if y'all have any suggestions. I was thinking about getting a Mac G5. Is it a bad idea to go with Macs? I have a fair amount of money to spend as well. Question 2: I have a Tascam 4-track, do I need to get a little Berhinger (or whoever) mixer to record onto the hard disc of the computer or can I just use the 4-track. Thanks in advance for any help, hopefully I gave y'all enough info.

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bace135 in the house tonight!
Member
Since: Jan 28, 2003


Jan 06, 2004 05:35 pm

Hello,
Welcome to the spot to be. I'm sure you will got lots of good info here. But here's my two cents(not to be confused with the good info here). Anyhow, I would go with a PC over a Mac for several reasons. One is the overall number of applications you have to choose from will be greater for PC than Mac. They are also easier to upgrade if need be. I think overall, for the same specs, they are cheaper than Mac. But most importantly, is if you have any problems with the computer, there are a lot more people who know how to fix PCs than Macs (it will likely be easier and cheaper to fix if it ever comes to that). Horror story time:

My rap group Vox Machina was working with this one cat (who was supposed to make beats for us, and record us) who decided to buy a G4 despite me telling him the same thing I just told you. After owning it for about 4 months, the Mac developed some problem where he couldn't access the hard drive, meaning he couldn't even boot it up. Service for the computer was going to be extremely expensive, and I'm not sure what ever happened, but last time I talked to him he said there was a 50% chance he lost everything on the computer (so basically everything he ever created).

The moral of the story is do your research and don't just get something because for some reason you think it is the "industry standard"

Freeleance Producer/Engineer/Gtr
Member
Since: Aug 11, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 05:36 pm

it's a bad idea to go with a g5 if you are planning to use pro tools. there are a lot of compatibility issues with PT 6.1. i use pro tools and have a pc running XP and have NO problems. there is info on digidesign.com as to what motherboards and other hardware that will be compatible.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 05:43 pm

Ok, first, welcome to HRC :-)

Second, nothing wrong with Mac, PC's just have always seemed better for me personally cuz they can do a lot more stuff cuz there are more apps available (in and outside of recording) cheaper to upgrade, more products available for components and such...

The mixer, well, depending on the type of four track you have, you may be able to use it, depends if it has any usable preamps or anything in it or if they are all just simple line ins...Mic preamps are surely the best route, if you four track doesn't have them, I would consider getting a mixer.

Personally I would not recommend ProTools, while being a very powerful app, and good sounding and all that, what you buy at first you are stuck with, if you plan to upgrade for over 32 tracks or anything like that it's gonna cost you, cost you BIG! Cubase is great, works with most any hardware (not so for ProTools, it works ONLY with DigiDesign hardware) but it is a very step learning curve...if you are prepared to tackle it, go for it.

Cakewalk Sonar is very powerful and very intuitive to use by comparison, as well, on the more budget side is a program called MultitrackStudio that is quite cool too and only about $120 for the best version of it. www.multitrackstudio.com/ to check it out if you are interested. I have used it a bit and it's cool. Though, if you do wanna spend more money there is always a bunch of choices like Cubase, Sonar, Vegas, Acid Pro and more...

Member
Since: Jan 06, 2004


Jan 06, 2004 06:31 pm

Thanks for the quick and intelligent help and the warm welcome. What kind of specs as far as RAM, Disk Space, etc. do I need for this sort thing? I would prefer to get something more powerful than I really need so I don't have to worry about upgrading it any time soon. Also I don't understand how Pro Tools would only work with Digidesign hardware. Sorry I'm not great with computers. Thanks.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 06:50 pm

ANy modern PC (that being AMD Athlons or Pentium 4's are more than powerful enough for audio and video applications, the trick is a lot of RAM, 512 MB preferably.

As far as ProTools, they purposely make the ProTools software (made by DigiDesign) only work with Digidesign hardware. The upside is that it is a rock-solid system and easier for them to make and support because they KNOW what hardware you are using with it, cuz you can ONLY use theirs. The downside is that they can charge enormous fees for going beyond their 32 track version of software that comes with their sound card, because if you are stuck in the ProTools platform you HAVE to go with tier stuff, professional studios that have large proTools rigs have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for them. Steinberg is also taking this approach with their Nuendo line.

As it is right now, things like Sonar and Cubase already have unlimited track usage (or virtually unlimited) in their software and you can use most any hardware you see fit. Of course your performance will only be as good as the sound card you choose, but the software WILL work with most anything...

does that help at all?

bace135 in the house tonight!
Member
Since: Jan 28, 2003


Jan 06, 2004 07:05 pm

Oh, I also forgot, some of the info will depend on exactly what you plan on recording. Like will you be recording many tracks at once, or one at a time? Will you be using MIDI much? What are your plans?

Contributor
Since: Dec 30, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 07:27 pm

what's all this chatter about SX having a steep learning curve? It's not that un-intuitive, infact, just for the record, I look at sonar and to be honest, the interface looked all over the place ;)

jues

Member
Since: Jan 06, 2004


Jan 06, 2004 07:28 pm

Well ideally I would be recording 8+ tracks at the same time at the most. And there would probably be some MIDI but not a ton. I've been looking at sound cards and I think that I may have to spring for a fairly expensive one to do anything like that. But if the computer doesn't have to be too special that makes it easier moneywise.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 07:37 pm

8 ins would be well served with an M-Audio Delta 1010 or Echo Layla

Delta 1010 service.bfast.com/bfast/c...mp;bfmtype=gear $599

Layla service.bfast.com/bfast/c...mp;bfmtype=gear $699

jues, yes, you got me there, while I have not actually used SX yet, I have read and have seen screenshots and you are right, it does look like they have made a huge advance in user-friendliness...so, yes, maybe I have to set my stereotype of Cubase asside until I get a chance to play with it now that it has had a good usability face-lift...

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 08:44 pm

WEll, welcome to HRC. It looks as though most questions have been answered. And I will conquer that the PC is by far the best route to go as far as upgrading, as well as being the most stable as well. Drivers are much easier to maintain and the hardware issue is by far the greatest issue for cost effectiveness. Yes, a nice small mixer to start is a good idea, and dont through out that 4 track unless you intend to never use it again, it make a grea scratch pad and can sometimes be incorperated into your system in one way or another.

I will boast a bit about Sonar 3 as being a bit more user friendly, but I wont jump on Cubase either. But Sonar 3 now has stepped up to the plate with an interface that is at the same level as Cubase SX. They made a huge jump to todays standars from their previous version of 2.2. Cubase SX is still a very usable and powerfull DAW without a doubt. But I will say that Sonar has taken steps to make learning its deeper power easier to get around in. They have gone to the point of putting everything right in the main view with simple icons and one click entry into many tools. Cubase does have the ame type set-up but I do have trouble getting beggining users to find their way around in it.
but truth be told, both programs are top of the line as far as PC DAW apps go. Sonar has integrated some great features that now allow it to integrate with many of todays most used add ons as far as VST and DX plugs and synths go, it is also now Rewire compatable which in my case make it an all around great tool.

And also as dB posted back a bit, there are several other entry level programs that work fantastic for the begginer who is just jumping into the PC DAW.

Good luck, and welcome again.

Noize

Member
Since: Jan 03, 2004


Jan 06, 2004 10:17 pm

While I can't pretend to kow anywhere near as much as these guys on the recording front, I can speak to the hardware end of things somewhat.

If you choose to go PC as opposed to Mac, as others have stated, make certain you will have adequete physical memory (RAM) for your needs. DDR or RD RAM is preferable to normal SDRAM. If you are using an Intel CPU, I recommend a motherboard based upon the i875 or i865 chipsets. If AMD (athlon), I recommend one based on the nForce2 chipset, or nForce3 if they have dumbed them down to run athlons and not just the new athlon64's (unless you want/need the 64-bit capability which some people do in which case, just make sure your apps and OS can do that. But it sounds like just starting out 32-bit is all you need, to me). Those boards are very good, and come in several flavors to suit your needs. They also support power management that lets you increase the number of available IRQs which can be very important. The motherboard is the heart of your PC, and it detrmines how much and in what ways you'll beable to upgrade in the future.

I would recommend Windows 2000 or XP over Windows 9x. I would also recommend XP PRO over Home, for the IRQ open endedness. (You want ideally your audio card to be on it's own IRQ, not sharing an IRQ with other components).

As for CPU speed, it depends on your needs. The clock speed and FSB speed will directly effect the number of plugins you can use in real time, but you can easily free up CPU performance while recording or playing back tracks by "rendering" the effects or other plugins rather than utilizing them in real time, or applying the plugins to the audio files themselves on the hard disk.

High quality audio files are quite large. You want alot of hard drive space. How much depends on what you need. It can vary. Some people don't keep high quality projects on their drives once they have been transfered to external storage devices. In which case, you might not need tons of space. But more is usually better.

One idea solution is to have one drive for your applications and OS, and another for storing the actual audio data. This is because it can slow down your system if it has to soft through many (often fragmented) files just to perform a cmmon task in your OS or other software.

Make sure you have some means by which to save your music. This sounds obvious but you'd be surprised how many people have lost hundreds of files of their best work because they didn't back it up somehow and a drive died. You can add a second storage drive, and run it in RAID 1 (if your motheroard doesn't supportthis you'd need a RAID controller) so that if one drive dies, the other retains a copy of all it's data. Or you could simply save everything to an external storage device or some kind, a zip drive, etc.

Do some research and choose very carefully based on YOUR needs, and don't get sucked into wanting the best possible system if that isn't what you anticipate you'll need (and if it is, andyou can afford it, sweet, get it) but make sure it will do everything you need it to, and do it well.

The people here (with the exception of myself lmao) are very knowledgeable with respect to recording and what software to choose to meet your needs, so keep asking if further questions arise.

I'm new here myself so it's nice to not be the only one. :)

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 10:32 pm

The best bet is doing what I do (as well as many others here) and just have one custom built...it's actually sometimes cheaper than brandname PC's and always cheaper and easier when upgrade time comes...

Cone Poker
Member
Since: Apr 07, 2002


Jan 06, 2004 11:50 pm

My advice:
GO with a custom built PC as you'll have total control over it, sacrifice some desk space to run dual monitors so you will have more of a workspace in the machine.

Stay away from Protools and go with Sonar 3 or Cubase SX.

Use a few Preamps or a decent mixer like a behringer instead of the four track

Member
Since: Jan 06, 2004


Jan 07, 2004 12:35 pm

Once again thanks for the info, you guys are extremely helpful and kind enough to answer my inexperienced questions. How would I purchase a custom made PC as that seems to be the way to go? Also about how much $$$ are the PCs you are describing going to cost?

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 07, 2004 12:44 pm

There are stores that let you build your own, and they ain't places like BestBuy Company, CompUSA or anything like that. Go to your local downtown, hole-in-the-wall university campus computer store and they will set you up, everyplace has a store like that somewhere...

One big-box store that does it is MicroCenter if you are around one of those.

Member
Since: Jan 06, 2004


Jan 07, 2004 04:52 pm

I found a micro center near me so that should be suitable for the computer? I'm not sure where my local hole in the wall store would be. Why do you need a pre-amp/mixer before the signal goes into the soundcard? Once again thanks for your help guys.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 07, 2004 05:15 pm

well, not to be a smart aleck, but...ummm, to preamp the signal ;-) Seriously tho, a preamp changes the signal of a microphone to typical line-level, so it will record a better quality signal. Technicaly speaking you CAN do without the preamp, but the resulting sound will be weak and thin, the preamps give it some power...

Microcenter has "PowerSpec" PC's (as I recall that's the name) that is their custom boxes and can be built to your specs. Get 2.5 gHz or better processor on at least a 333mHz front side bus, 512 MB Ram, a couple hard drives, Windows XP, a 64MB or so video card (some mainboards have totally acceptable video chips built in them), then go to Musician's Friend and pick out your own sound card, order it and have them put it in when they build it.

Or, go buy all those parts and go to your local computer geek friend's house (come on, everyone has a geek friend somewhere:-) and ask them to help...that's what my neighbors do...and I am the geek friend :-)

Member
Since: Jan 06, 2004


Jan 07, 2004 05:33 pm

Hey thanks, I think I'm all set now. Sorry for the retard questions. If we were talking about guitar gear I could go on for hours, but computers are still pretty confusing for me.

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jan 07, 2004 06:04 pm

Firetruck, now need to be sorry by the way. This forum is for just the purpose you used it for, getting the imfo you need and going from there. Hang out and check it out, there are tons of guitar questions that come up and you can always input there. And I agree with the geek friend thing, thats how I got started was meeting dB and he eventually told me to build it myself and quickly taught me the dos and donts of building my own. I still make mistakes but that is how you learn.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 07, 2004 06:14 pm

no such thing as retard questions...just retard answers :)

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
Member
Since: May 10, 2002


Jan 09, 2004 12:31 am

Just a quick here here for Cubase SX. Cubase 5 was a pain to work with per the file system, but SX is very intuitive MHO.

Member
Since: Jan 06, 2004


Jan 22, 2004 07:28 pm

Okay here's the update. I went to the local Micro Center and here's what they set me up with (I haven't bought it quite yet) Intell Motherboard, Pentium 4 2.66gHz, 800 mHz side bus, 160 gig HD and XP home. I wanted to get the Echo Layla 24/96 soundcard (I think that's it, its the one with 10 analog inputs), and possibly run Cubase SX (though I'm not sure). I guess what I'm asking is can anyone see anything I'm missing (besides mixer,mics, etc.) and that all this stuff is compatable and will work. I just wanted to make sure before I start dropping $$$. Thanks as always for your help. I was reading the dual CPU article and it made me a little paranoid.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 22, 2004 07:45 pm

look compatible to me...Echo and Cubase work well together, Echo works best on Intel systems...looks good to go. Make sure you get about 512MB Ram.

Contributor
Since: Sep 09, 2002


Jan 23, 2004 04:15 am

instead of the 160GB HDD, see what you can do about getting say two 80GBs or maybe a 40GB and a 120GB.

my old P3 system blows away most of friend's systems on seek times and # of simultaneous tracks before dropsouts, and I've begun to attribute this to my having multiple hard drives

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Jan 23, 2004 04:19 am

Yes, and really, the system drive really has no reason to be over about 10GB, it can increase access time and thereby increase performance, and put the money into a bigger secondary drive, where you save your audio.

Contributor
Since: Sep 09, 2002


Jan 23, 2004 04:27 am

depends on what he plans to do with that box. mine's also my gaming and internet machine so my 15GB system drive is pretty full. I have to regulary delete and uninstall stuff just to have a GB or so for virtual mem

Contributor
Since: Sep 09, 2002


Jan 23, 2004 04:28 am

but then again i'm a packrat and i collect all kinds of stuff that gums up my free space

that's what CD-r's are for right? hehehe

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jan 23, 2004 05:18 pm

Agreed with the multiple drive advice. I run four discs at all times. A 20 gig for systm, and various sizes for audio and storage. The reason for more then two drives for me is that I run samples and slaved audio on one drive while the other is strictly for the recording application to run its stored audio and midi files on. It really brings the performance of the sytem up immensly.

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