Best laptop and recording software for Phonic Helix?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by wotnwhy, Jun 16, 2010.

  1. wotnwhy

    wotnwhy Active Member

    Hi, just bought a lovely Phonic Helix mixing desk with firewire. Unfortunatly what i thought was a firewire connection on my laptop is actually something else, no biggie as it's time for a new one anyway so...

    I can afford a grand+ or two- for a new laptop and software (i currently use Cubase, Live and Reason. I like them all but am open to others), the main consideration for the software is how many tracks it can record simultaniously, the Helix has 18 ins and i plan to use most of them. As for the computer, don't need any flashy tricks or bits, just a quality base thats as future proof as possible (Mac or PC).

    So, what do you think?
  2. dayn72283

    dayn72283 Active Member

    I'm using an HP dual core with 4gb ram, Vista and Reaper as my DAW, and a Helixboard 24 MKII. For $60, Reaper is incredible. Great workflow, good built-in plugs, very friendly UI, constant updates, etc. Not insulting your intelligence, but the FW connectors on laptops are tiny, I'm assuming you checked out adapter cables?

    The laptop ran me about $1400 new a year ago from Tiger Direct. I got it because it was one of the few laptops I could find with a firewire port built in. There are also PCMCIA cards you can buy to adapt to firewire, if I'm not mistaken, so you might want to look into that before spending a bundle on a laptop you might not really need.

    The Helix has been pretty good, got mine about 3 years ago. I use it in a small venue/bar I work in as a semi-permanent install and until a few days ago it has been great except for channel 12 not running to the main out but still to the DAW, for some reason, but I just use that as an OH or snare bottom mic channel for live recordings. The other day I was working on a project while we were closed and the firewire connection just dropped out and has not come back. I suspect this has more to do with Vista being sh***y, not the drivers or board itself. The drawback is I find Phonic's support to be lacking, and it's hard to find people authorized to work on them (at least in NC).

    All in all, it's a great board for the price and is definitely a workhorse. The preamps aren't great, but they're not terrible and IMHO sound better than most Mackie or Yamaha pre's I've used in the same price range. Mine has stood up to decent abuse for 3 years (drunk college kids, DJs trying to blow out my entire PA when I'm not there, etc.) and except for the one faulty channel and the recent, probably Vista-related, connectivity issue it has been a great purchase.
  3. wotnwhy

    wotnwhy Active Member

    Good to hear you like the Helix. I have used a smaller Phonic mixer (without firewire, but essentially the same) for a long time now and though they're not as robust as could be, they're fantastic for the money! :)

    I quite fancy getting an iMac, which has a firewire 800 port. From my limited knowledge of it this is a different connection to the 400, anyone shed any light on this?

    Cheers :)
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    A FireWire800 port will run a FW400 device if you use the correct cable adaptor.

    You originally asked about a laptop, but are now talking about an iMac. Have you broadened your spec, or did you mean a MacBook Pro?
  5. wotnwhy

    wotnwhy Active Member

    Sorry. Broadened my spec. Will be recording on location so didn't want to have to set up a PC every time. But with the iMac there's no more to it (cable wise) than with a laptop and from what i can see you get better specs for less money compared to the macbook pro.
  6. FlyBass

    FlyBass Active Member

    The iMac will work great for recording, but a little less portable - a little awkward to carry and transport. Everyday for 6 months, I shuttled my iMac between home and an offsite office, but one icy day I almost lost it walking on a concrete driveway. That night I went out and bought a MacBook Pro. Plan on having a some sort of box or padded bag for the computer to keep it safe. I use well-made utility cart to move my gear from van to venue. I still use my iMac at home for recording and the MacBook Pro for the road.

    Any recording application should work with this mixing board, including Cubase. (I mostly work in the box and use Apple Logic Pro and Harrison Mixbus.)
  7. wotnwhy

    wotnwhy Active Member

    Thanks for the response, i'm definitely leaning towards the iMac. Much bigger spec for less money is a winner for me. But the portability issues are still weighing on me.

    Cubase LE came with the desk, but can only record 8 channels simultaniously, so Cubase 5 is capable of 18?
  8. FlyBass

    FlyBass Active Member

    Cubase 5 is 256 inputs/outputs and unlimited tracks -- I'm guessing YMMV. Computer processing power, hard drive speed, etc., etc. (to quote Yul Brynner), will be limiting factors. But 18 at once? Keep the DAW free of plugins and crank up the hardware sampling high and you should be able to record 18 channels. I do 10 channels simultaneously @ 48/24 with my old iMac and I have no issues.

    Anyone out there with a new iMac and Cubase 5 care to chime in?
  9. wotnwhy

    wotnwhy Active Member

    Thats good to hear! Will be recording my band live with 7 drum mikes, guitar, bass, keys, percussion and 3 vocal mikes. Not quite 18 but thats how many outs the Helix has.

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