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Inquiry re slightly irregular voiceover/computer needs

Discussion in 'Computing' started by AllanJK, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. AllanJK

    AllanJK Guest

    Hello everyone,

    I’m hoping you'll have opinions/insights regarding the two computers (likely a desktop and a laptop) I’m considering for the following, slightly irregular voiceover circumstance.

    I’ll be using, in my home studio, either Adobe Audition or SoundForge, along with a TLM 49 and higher-end pre. For half the year I’ll be in one location and, for the other half, I’ll be packing up the gear and moving to location two. There may be occasional trips throughout the year when, for a few days, I’ll need to take the computer, mic and preamp to a third site for some recording (where there would be monitors, keyboards, etc...so if that particular computer were to be a desktop, only the tower would need to go).

    I’m usually engaged in a number of writing projects, so while these new VO computers could be dedicated to recording work, I’d prefer the option of being able to load WordPerfect, FilemakerPro and the backup software for my PDA so that, should my primary writing-related PC crash, I could use either of the two new recording/VO computers in the interim. I’m experienced with the Windows platform and really don’t want to adjust to a Mac (apologies in advance). Also, because I have another computer onsite for Internet/email use, I could keep both new ones totally virgin and away from the Internet forever.

    I’m often hearing that a desktop offers desirable VO-related expandability/performance and is the better recording choice. I’m willing to go that route, along with a (to-be-purchased) laptop for remote/portable recording and mobile auditions. This laptop could similarly remain entirely offline.


    My questions are:

    1) Portability aside, is a desktop the superior voiceoverperformance/expandability choice? If so (or not), why?

    2) If I have the option of keeping the two new recording computers entirely offline, is that a legitimate consideration in terms of performance stability?

    3) If folks have experience with voiceover computer specs, could I ask for some computer make/model recommendations for both a VO desktop and a VO laptop, including preferred features and specs (sound card, memory, noise level, etc.) deemed necesssary?

    In the past, I’ve been happy with Dell for my non-voiceover work, largely because much of my seasonal writing is done in a remote area which is mysteriously covered by their on-site, next-business-day, extended-service warranty...a feature seldom used but, like any insurance, comforting when needed. Given the absence of geeky neighbours (any neighbours, really), I also like Dell’s online support, through which I have created many enduring friendships in New Delhi.

    4) Is Vista the inevitable/go-to operating system?

    Thank you all very much for your time; I appreciate it!
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    1) Purpose built and designed desktops or rackmount pc's with PCI/PCIe buses tend to have the lowest latencies levels. Low latency and sample buffers are highly desirable for voice over work or punching into mixes. That said, I mostly run laptops these days with 1394b firwire connections with very happy results.

    2) Keeping a computer completely offline means you really don't require firewire/antivirus/anti spyware software installed. This streamlines things a great deal. Most full time pro recording computers whether desktop or laptop do NOT have antivirus software. The catch is that it is up to you to be aware that every flash drive, thumb drive, aux hard drive may or may not contain viruses so your main computer should be scanning these regularly. It's like safe sex, know where you've dipped your wick.

    3) The best machines are built by audio companies or home built with great pieces. The best place to look at specs is the digidesign website even if you don't intend to use ProTools. I use Dells when I buy off the shelf but the in built latency varies greatly from model to model. If possible check it out with DPC Latency Checker before you buy.

    4) Vista Business or Ultimate is just fine. Joe Hannigan just posted some good tips regarding permissions in an earlier thread. I've used Vista Ultimate highly successfully myself. That said, if you wait until Win7 is released, I really like it.
  3. AllanJK

    AllanJK Guest

    Reply to John Dutton...

    Hi John,

    Thanks very much for your detailed answer; this helps a great deal and points me in the right direction. The recommendation to use the Digidesign specs is a great one.

    Given my comparatively isolated seasonal worksite and the on-site service/repair available through Dell, would you think that, if I were to provide Dell with Digidesign's recommended specs and have them put something together on that basis, I'd likely end up with computers that would be perfectly fine for my VO work and not give me any compatibility problems with either Adobe Audition or SoundForge?

    Again, thanks for taking the time.

  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Allen you are terribly confused here. For most normal voiceover work, a simple laptop is all that is required. It makes the most sense and is less likely to be dropped kicked by the airline baggage handlers. You only need a simple, basic, FireWire or USB with direct monitoring, external audio adapter. You're not doing any tight rhythmic musical productions so, a little latency won't screw you up. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a Shure SM58 with an additional foam pop filter. Don't bother with the Beta 58. Don't bother with a nylon stocking lollipop. Condenser microphones are more prone to damage & effects from different climatic environments. You don't need 20-20,000 for voice overwork. The bandwidth limitations along with a built-in pres rise from the SM58 will get you closer to the sound of a Neumann U87 than anything else. Believe it. It's true. Everybody else is full of themselves. Take it from a 40 year pro. I know what I'm talking about. You won't impress anybody with equipment that might fail along your way. You need reliability & consistency. That's what I'm preaching.

    30+ years of voice over recordings experience.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. AllanJK

    AllanJK Guest

    Thanks, Remy. Could I ask you to get specific with the laptop model you're using, along with its specs, monitoring/audio adapter info, etc.? I'd really appreciate knowing exactly what you're using. Thanks!

  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    A Dell D820 or D830 or any Inspiron 9400 or later will suffice just fine. Jeremy Cucco has a Vostro he uses for location recordings. As Remy says, you don't need to worry too much about super low latency if you are doing single track voice overs. I record 16 tracks 88.2 with no problems on these machines and even mix with fx. VO work and punching in on full mixes are different things. G.A.S. applies to computers too not just recording gear.

    Points 2-4 remain the same.
  7. AllanJK

    AllanJK Guest


    Thanks for the specifics; it helps to know model names as a point of reference regarding specs.

    Have you ever seen a brand-name desktop tower (Dell, etc.) that's been adapted to rack-mounting for easier transportability? An engineer I worked with a while back was talking about it but I was on the way out and couldn't get details. Think it's doable?

  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Don't let me dispute what most of Remy said. I'm not. For what you have described, you don't need a super duper gazuper computer. My only real contention was inre Vista. I buy used Dell D820's off of ebay and fix them for light audio use. They don't get in the 64u for latency but I don't need that and you likely don't either. My Inspiron will do that just fine. The caveat is I can fix a lot of things on a laptop/desktop myself.

    If you really want to buy an all around good machine, rack built, with warranty then look at Sweetwater.


    There are a couple other mainstream audio pc builders several of which advertise on this bulletin board.

    If this machine will be at all a multi purpose machine then you must make it dual boot for optimum results.
  9. AllanJK

    AllanJK Guest

  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    These Dell models will work. I use them myself. Neither one is in current production. Therefore if you are looking to copy cat someone then you will have to find them used. This entails some knowledge about repairs sometimes as eBay is not a reliable source of 100% functionality. All I do is make them functional and then max out the ram and install new hard drives and perform a clean install of the OS. I have on occasion had to replace fans, screens, optical drives, and processors. If I were choosing between THESE two models for audio use I would choose the Inspiron 9400 every day of the week. It has a better motherboard.

    There are plenty of current production Dell computers that will do the job off the shelf. I should imagine any of the XPS series or their equivalent would work. You don't need a power house pc for what you have described. If it will at any time serve dual use then simply make two partitions on the hard drive and dual boot. One boot partition for audio and one boot partition for general use. These are of course clean installs and not a "System Restore."

    If you are not comfortable with installing a fresh copy of an operating system then perhaps you should look into something like the Sweetwater machine. It's overkill for what you describe as your usage but you will have a warranty and won't have to worry about setting it up yourself.
  11. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    EXCELLENT Point, and this particular 4 point post should probably be it's own sticky!

    One solution I came up with was to take an older (slow performance) box and take it offline. I loaded it with every kind of AV/Malware/utility I can trust.

    It gets assigned the task of scanning every externally received file; CD's, DVD's, USB sticks, firewire drives, etc. A quarantine box, if you will.

    Once a file passes muster, it can then be loaded on the server or put directly on the workstation. If a nasty is found, it's isolated from the rest of the network and I can clean it/extract the real files.

    Again, it doesn't need to be much of a box as far as horsepower. It just needs to be expendable and easily rebuilt in case it gets trashed itself.

    I know not everyone can afford to do this, but if you can, I certainly recommend doing it. Especially if you get a lot of clients who send/bring in in their own working files.
  12. AllanJK

    AllanJK Guest


    Hello MadMax,

    Your idea sounds effective, but I'm wondering about this: By taking the "quarantine computer" offline, how are you keeping up with new viruses and thus arranging for the AV/malware software updates necessary to keep up with each week's new, infectious strains?
    Or do you go online with this computer at regular intervals to maintain its currency?

    Would there be a downside to loading up this quarantine computer with the AV/Malware as you described but keeping the computer online for the sole purpose of receiving automatic viral/malware updates...i.e., no email, no surfing, etc.: just the receiving of the updates (although, I presume, that would work only with subscribed accounts vs. freeware; with subscriptions you do get those automatic updates.).

    Thanks for your input!

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