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How many PC's should I use?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by reolizo, Mar 6, 2002.

  1. reolizo

    reolizo Guest

    Hello All,

    First of all, I would like to say that this forum ROCKS!! I'm new to this forum and have had a lot of my questions answered regarding DAW's just by reading through these topics!
    I am new to DAW and am interested in building a dedicated machine for this purpose. Someone from Guitar Center told me that I should have two machines? One for sequencing, soft synths, samples, etc...and the other for plug ins and mastering. How acurate is this suggestion? What I want to do is use Gigasampler, Reason and a MIDI/Audio sequencer (Cubase, Sonar Logic...will demo first before making final decision). I also want to use my existing equipment with this new set-up. (Yamaha EX5, MPC, Variphrase, VS1880) Any and all comments and suggestions appreciated.
  2. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    The guy from GC is sorta right, if you can afford it - especially if you want EVERYTHING (quality AND quantity) Soft synths tend to eat up processing power, but don't require as fast hard drives (unless they play direct from disk) where digital audio tracks done right (high sample rate/bit depth, native processing) require both lots of CPU power AND fast hard drives with lots of storage. A two machine setup would typically be one for recording/playing back digital audio with whatever effects/processing each track needs, with a second machine set up for soft synths, GigaStudio, Reason, etc. - The output of the synth machine (from the virtual mixer)could go digital into the SPDIF input of the audio machine's sound card, and if you set the audio machine to sync to the SPDIF in, you could record the synth machine mix as a stereo pair into the audio machine as "scratch tracks", do whatever digital audio tracks you want (guitars, vocals, banging on garbage cans with can-openers, etc.), then go back and change whatever track doesn't work and remix til satisfied...

    All this can be done with one fast and brutal computer, but it won't give you as many tracks or options as two separate (but synchronised) machines. On the downside, two computers are twice as hard to get quiet as one, and would just about have to go outside the room with extender cables. If you rent, this sucks (unless your landlord loves extra holes in walls/floors)

    Also, depending on which software you use and which sound cards, you may find it easier to accomplish the 2-machine setup with a small tabletop mixer. That would give you things like control room volume, headphone jacks with volume controls, extra inputs for mics, hardware synths, etc. - So many ways to go, so few legs to go there... Steve
  3. reolizo

    reolizo Guest

    Thanks knightfly, I currently have a $5000 budget set aside for these computers. What CPU/MB/soundcard/MIDI config would you recommend? Should I get separate cards for audio and MIDI? (i.e MOTU 2408 and MIDIMan 8x8) or should I go with the all in one solution? (i.e Delta 1010 or Echo Layla) I'm sold on getting two computers, but as far as what DAW components I should get, I'm still in research mode.
  4. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Distinguished Member

    Apr 7, 2001
    Umm...look at the "and the winner is..." post
    thats all you should need to look at!!!
  5. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Actually, computerwise that thread will get you there - just buy two of everything, except maybe the drives. Drives for audio (the second one in the machine) can vary anywhere from 20 gB (personal use, not too prolific a writer) to 7 80 gig drives and a 40-80 gig boot drive(my plan - heavy project use, 2 client plug-in drives, don't wanna change system once its working for at least 3 years) With your budget, I would go for 2 512 meg PC2700 sticks in each machine. Can't go wrong with more ram, but (pointed out on "winner" thread) 3rd slot for ram doesn't support dual sided chips. So, 2 512's is clean, simple, and more than adequate.

    Sound cards are a different story. There are as many combinations of multiple cards as there are users. I personally have yet to see a reason to recommend ANYTHING by MOTU for a PC user. From all the crap I read about MOTU/PC problems, I've come to the conclusion that the only reason MOTU claims to work with PC's is that one of their techs accidentally found out that PC's have PCI slots too, and since the card plugs in, it should work... It's a shame, because they make some configurations to drool over - 24 in's, 12 channels @ 24/96, 3 adat, 3 TDIF, etc. - BTW, saw a post a while back that some of the 24i's have reversed polarity on the inputs - interesting that that should escape the factory unnoticed...

    You need to interface the VS1880 and some other gear, but you don't mention how many other inputs you need. Can you use the I/O on the VS1880, and live with stereo in? Do you want separate banks of inputs for multiple (future) synth modules? Probably not, with the soft synth computer. If you plan to have a drum pad setup and several MIDI controllers external, then an 8 x 8 MIDI interface makes sense. That would allow for expansion, + let you organize things with each subsystem having its own MIDI port. If not, but you want to sync to external devices (VS1880, etc) then you will still want a MIDI interface that has external SMPTE in/out so your external hardware and your internal instruments can all play nice together.

    So paint us a more detailed scenario of how you expect to operate, if you can - sound/midi cards are almost as hard to decide on as computer components - even harder if you don't know what you expect of them... Steve
  6. reolizo

    reolizo Guest

    Thanks Opus,
    Funny that you mention that post because that is THE system that I'm gonna build for both computers. My question is, since one computer is going to be used for recording & FX and the second is going to be used for sequencing, sampling & softsynths, should I get the exact audio/MIDI set-up for both? I want to sync both PC's, but knightfly's suggestion only speaks of syncing two tracks. Is there a way to synch more that two tracks? I believe SPDIF only handles 2 tracks. Is TDIF or ADAT PCI cards an option? Or are these cards only for connecting outboard gear like digital 8tracks and mixers?
    Again, I'm new to the PC's for DAW scene and I apologize if these questions make abolutely no sense, but any and all input is appreciated.
  7. reolizo

    reolizo Guest

    Ok here goes.. I currently am using the MPC as my sequencer. My Yamaha EX5 Keyboard is being used as the master MIDI controller and sound module along with a QY70 on MIDI A, and I have a Roland Variphrase and EMU Turbo Phatt on MIDI B on the MPC. All audio is currently routed to the VS1880, but it can only record 8 tracks max at once. I am using the LR analog outs on the Turbo Phatt and the VP9000. Both have 6 analog outs that I would like to use so I’m looking at getting an analog mixer to handle the extra outs. I do want more MIDI channels so that I can have each module on a different MIDI channel + future expansion, so an 8x8 sounds good. (MIDIman MIDISport 8x8 or Emagic AMT8 8x8?) For audio, I plan on using the VS1880 for rough tracks and then import the tracks into the recording computer for further editing and pre-mastering. So at least an 8in audio card is necessary, or is there a way to digitally transfer more than two audio tracks from the VS1880 to my computer. The VS1880 has Digital Optical & Coaxial connections in the back, but I am unsure if these connections only do 2 tracks or if they can do more…(I’ll have to check the manual…) Also, is there a card that can sync and transfer audio digitally from the synth/sampler PC to the Recording PC? (TDIF or ADAT cards?)
    So now that my head is twisted from thinking too hard, I am looking at building two PC’s. Both will have the same computer hardware specs:
    P4B266, 1024MB DDR266, P4 1.6a, ATA 133 Raid controller, 20GbHD and 80GB HD..Matrox G550, 40X CDRom, 24x CDRW....

    Now depending on what options I have on connecting the two PC’s to sync as one unit, right now I’m looking at:
    The Synth/Sampler Audio card will possibly be Delta 1010* and the MIDI card will be MIDISport 8x8 w/SMPTE to control all MIDI channels.

    The Recording PC will have the Delta 1010* for both audio and MIDI since I don’t think I will need that many MIDI channels on the recording end.

    (*I may go with the Layla Card since it also includes SMPTE. I could not find the specs for the 1010 off hand.)
    Whew…Please help. It seems the more I think of it, the more confused I get…..
  8. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Distinguished Member

    Oct 7, 2001
    Just my 2 cents worth, but I have heard good and bad about the Delta cards, although I have never used them. I am using an echo Layla/24 to get sound into the computer, then I also have a PreSonus DigiMax premap setup (8 preamps) that feeds the Layla via ADAT lightpipe. By doing it this way, I still have the 8 Layla inputs available (this gives me 16 total...8 for the PreSonus and 8 for the Layla), and so many output routing options that it would make your head spin! The Layla also provides MIDI, which is cool for your setup. In addition to all that, I have the TASCAM US-428 to use as a control surface (mixer) and for more MIDI inputs, and then it can act as a portable solution for my laptop as well since it is USB.

    Check out any of the Echo stuff...the products are high quality, and they have great support. Also, consider the RME Hammerfall stuff...awesome!

    Knightfly is right (for once!!!) (j/k)...don't go MOTU for PC...they are all Mac, and have lots of problems with PCs.



    Best of luck!!!
  9. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Hey Reolizo - First, I would stop considering the Midisport 8x8 until we can find out what the "motherboard issue" is - check this link to Samplitude's newly formed user site -


    I have had ablolutely no glitches with my Music Quest 8 port SE, which is a parallel 8x8 interface with SMPTE. The problem is, It's no longer in production, and I can't get drivers newer than Win98. From my experience, I might replace it with the Unitor 8, not the AMT 8. Both units will work with USB or Serial (RS232), but only the Unitor has SMPTE, both Linear and Vertical Interval so future Video sync is provided for. The AMT 8 is billed as an expander for the Unitor. Yes, it can stand alone, but again doesn't appear to have sync capabilities. Also, the "AMT" part, which gives tighter midi timing, only works with Logic from what I've seen. The cost is about $190 more for the Unitor; Here's a link to AudioMidi.com's offerings...


    The Midi Time Piece AV could be set up as both the SMPTE (MTC) master and the Word Clock master, feeding word clock to all your audio cards - The newer ones are USB only for PC, USB/serial for Macs.

    AS complex as systems can get with multiple clocks, time codes, masters, slaves, etc, it makes sense to just use the VS1880 for a portable unit and/or a hardware control surface, and just use the computer software once tracks are imported from the Roland. To do the import, you would need to set the software in the computer to use "input word clock", so that there is no drift in the tracks from the Roland. I don't know whether the optical port on the Roland is capable of 8 tracks, or just 2. Some of the newer Roland stuff has an "R8 port" (just what we need, another freakin' "standard") about which I know nothing and may remain that way to my grave...

    "Also, is there a card that can sync and transfer audio digitally from the synth/sampler PC to the Recording PC?" How about a pair of hammerfalls? 24 tracks of ADAT simultaneously - If you went for the "Digiface" instead, it has a cool breakout box and word clock, and even 2 Midi ports, for a little more money. One of those in each machine, plus a "Multiface" in the recording machine; course, that's $2210 just in audio cards, plus $4-500 for a midi 8x8 + synchroniser, so that would be more than half your $5k budget - Still, that would allow you to transfer 24 tracks between machines, interface to anything ADAT, lock to whatever word clock works best, have 8 analog I/O at 24/96, SPDIF, + 2 extra Midi ports per machine. As before, if you are caught, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions...

    Oh, yeah, D.H. - If it ever happens that I actually AM right ever again, best believe I WILL rub your nose in it... :=}}

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