PC vs Workstation Recording

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All smoke, no mirrors.
Member Since: Aug 16, 2004

Hey Ya'll - I've been doing more thinking & reading on this site about how to put together a recording rig and I'm thinking the PC route seems to be overly technical and high maintenance for my limited abilities. So here goes with another round of questions:

The workstations in the MF catalog (i.e. Korg, Tascam, Roland) seem like a good setup, but those screens look tiny. How do you tell which ones can be hooked to a monitor? Do the screens run graphics like a software program or are they just a readout like a vu meter ? Is there anything the PC can do that the workstation can't and vice versa? Which are the best value or ones to be avoided?

Thanks for the info and advice!

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Answer:On a good day, lipstick.
Since: Jun 24, 2004

Aug 25, 2004 06:34 pm

Here's my humble opinions (as a small workstation owner/operator):

1. Workstations run from proprietary software. You need to update it from time to time. How do you do that? Via the internet on a PC. So you'll need a PC anyway.

2. The next big thing is just around the corner - ALWAYS. Your lovely new workstation can be phased out in a whim. There goes your support...

3. As you noted, a monitor may be required. You now have a workstation on your desk plus a monitor. Remind you of anything? Now you have a workstation/monitor AND a PC/monitor. Bigger desk?

4. Workstations - unless they are the top-notch stuff, will not grow with you. Within no time you'll have your eye on the next big thing....New features are added to the next generation machines. Unless you have a bunch of money, this could become an expensive hobby.

5. PC have so many programs available for multitracking, plus plug-in's. Many of these are free! With a console, you're restricted to its operating system, usage quirks, and layout.

6. Need extra ooomph? With a PC you can mix and match RAM, HD, BIOS, Software, Soundcards etc. Can't with a workstation.

I've given up on my little one. I'm going PC.
HRC is a great resource for solving any problems you might have - I've had a bunch solved, and I don't have the PC for recording yet!

Some people swear by workstations, I've just come to a crossroads with mine. It will be relegated to a secondary function.

Hope my humble ranting help. Good luck with whichever route you choose.

Since: Jan 12, 2004

Aug 25, 2004 07:12 pm

Aye..yi canny whack a PC for flexibility and power.

Easy to upgrade and there is a ton of free software oot there as well as loadsa commercial stuff.

I upgraded from a rubbishy wee 4 track to a PC. I know its not a digital workstation but I made the choice to go PC rather than workstation and man am I glad I did..its so easy when you get into it.

Its NOT easy to perfect..but the learning curve and ease of use is suited to me. I would never consider using anything else now.


Czar of Cheese
Since: Jun 09, 2004

Aug 25, 2004 09:21 pm

I'm probably just jealous of those that have mastered the PC recording method, but I must put in my 2 cents worth for the workstation. I play in a band, and frequently like to record the band live, either during practice or during gigs. With my Fostex VF-16 attached to a Behringer ADA8000, I can record 16 simultaneous channels. Try that with you PC! (Can be done with a laptop, I suppose, given proper audio interface.) After recording, I frequently export each track to its own individual .wav file and then mix and master on my PC. Otherwise, I find the VF-16's mixing capabilities adequate. Best of both worlds, I guess.

That being said, a lot of the recording I do is just me, one or two tracks at a time. I really think that PC recording would be my best option, but I'm just too lazy to learn the "ins and outs", so to speak.


Since: Jan 12, 2004

Aug 26, 2004 05:56 am

Hey Jim

Its not so hard as ya think. THe principles of mixing etc are the same - all ya need is a multitracker (some are free!) and just mix each track using each level as you would on your hardware.

Its really that easy - whats NOT easy is gettin a perfect mix but that applies to hardware mixing or software mixing I guess...

I recommend PC recording to all - for the power and ease of use it is great.


Lost for words with all to say.
Since: Sep 12, 2003

Aug 26, 2004 08:02 am

I can do 16 tracks with my PC with ease.

I have 2 audio cards that each have 8 ins and 8 outs, making a total of 16 ins. I have a Soundcraft board with each channel having a direct out. That way, each channel is going out of my board (12 preamps, 4 stereo) into my audio cards ins. Since each line is being recorded individually, makes the mixing process smoother, all being separated and not much different then a digital board (of course, it's analog though with the audio card ins). Then again, I have a SPDIF out in my board also and a SPDIF input in each of my audio cards if I want digital. The only thing is, if you have to move your stuff every weekend like I do alot of times, it's all in about 5 to 10 different pieces for the whole ordeal (pc tower, monitor, keyboard & mouse, mixing board, 2 external audio cards, ALL those cords, etc.). So, you have to be careful and have a PC case that isn't made out of cardboard.

My rule of thumb is, if you are comfortable with trouble-shooting a PC when there is trouble with one, PC recording is your way and a lovely way of going. If not, then the other way is to go. I think everyone should try PC recording, it's the way of the present and future in my book.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Aug 26, 2004 08:11 am

ESI is coming out with a new unit (I can't wait until review time comes) that has 8 preamped inputs that can be either 1/4" or XLR. The 8 inputs are in a rack mountable 2u case. It is connected by a firewire-like jack to the PCI card within the computer. Each PCI card has 4 of these jacks, meaning a card can handle 4 of these rack units. Do the math, that is 32 inputs on a single card.

[begin best infomercial voice]
But wait, that's not all, the cards are designed to have up to 4 cards in a system...still on the math? That's 128 preamped inputs in 16 2u rackmount boxes.

Holy crap...that rocks...Nuendo, Pro Tools better start shakin... ;-) Of course, I haven't seen the price yet...


Lost for words with all to say.
Since: Sep 12, 2003

Aug 26, 2004 08:25 am

Yes, that thing looks sweet. The price....hopefully it won't cost as much as a car.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Aug 26, 2004 08:35 am

I am talking with ESI quite often lately, I'm tellin ya, these guys have their act together, they have some great products, great prices and phenominal performance based on the driver I am working with now, which is the standard they are implementing across their product line.

And now, with M-Audio being bought by Digidesign, well, I am skeptical about the future of those products now...

Since: Jun 25, 2004

Sep 13, 2004 08:08 am

Call me crazy but im a little weird on a whole studio being shoved into one tiny box. Iv played around with those things b4 and didn't like em. You cant select the software you want in it. there very noisy and there's very little you can do with them. I mixed my friends EP on his "Portastudio" and asked him how to get a little bit of reverb on the drums...now for me its right click in the patch bay and select the reverb style you want..... for him it was.... Scroll down, select mix mode, and play back after you patch the fx...if its not what you want do it all over again. keep in mind you have to scroll down with a small *** knob and use the buttons on the studio to select...which aren't labeled select. id just learn the PC way man. Its like learning to ride a bike...once you've gotten it its the easiest thing in the world.

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