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Mid-Level DAW Laptop Specs

Discussion in 'Recording' started by flatliner, Dec 23, 2014.

  1. flatliner

    flatliner Active Member

    Researching this online has been an absolutely mind-numbing experience. Then I came across this site and am hoping for some no-nonsense advice on spec'ing a decent mid-level laptop to get my music ideas down and do some basic mixing. One guitar/vocal in and I'm guessing no more than 10 simultaneous tracks during mixing with some virtual instruments and MIDI. This is what I THINK I need based on my reasearch:

    Intel Core i7 CPU (would an i5 be sufficient?)
    8MB DDR3 RAM
    256 GB SSD for OS and programs
    750 GB 7,200 rpm HDD (internal or upsize SSD and add external if things get bogged down?)
    15" Screen (with port for additional external monitor)
    USB 3.0 ports
    Optical drive (Save a few bucks and transfer files virtually?)

    I've looked at custom build (PCAL, ADK) and pre-configured (Lenovo, Alienware, Sager) sites and, truthfully, just want to be done with this so I can get back to creating music.

    Bottom line: I don't want to overbuy but I also don't want latency and drop-outs because I cheaped out on one component or another.

    Thank you in advance for any assistance you care to share.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I have PCAL, 3 years now and its been very good. But,I use it mostly for 4 track mobile . It was tested with 24 channels of StudioLive Capture for 4 hours flawlessly before I got it. Which is what I wanted it for back then.

    They get hot, so, I would be looking for something that stays "less hot".

    Here is the specs. Hope it helps.
  3. flatliner

    flatliner Active Member

    Thanks for the info. What's your drive situation?
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

  5. flatliner

    flatliner Active Member

    $1,200 max.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Based on what you say you want to do, which is really not all that intensive in comparison to many other users who are frequently working with 32 tracks of audio - with 2 processors per track - along with 16 VSTi's, several subs and aux channels, I'd say your specs are certainly solid.

    I know you are kinda burnt on research, but another few important parameters you need to be thinking about are your mic pre - I/O, and your mic(s). Having a powerful machine is great because it gets you grounded in a system that won't hiccup or freeze up on you... but it won't really effect the sound -other than what I just mentioned regarding glitchy behavior due to an underpowered machine.

    If you are mainly acoustic guitar and vocals, you really should be thinking about putting some of that money towards a good pre and at least one very good mic. $1200 isn't much to divvy all those things up though, I'm afraid.

    I guess what I'm saying is that you may want to consider not getting an elite custom built computer - While they are wonderful to have, and certainly you need something powerful enough, it may be that you are paying for more than what you actually need...because your production style, as you've explained, really isn't all that complex, and won't require huge amounts of power as DAW's go and as some projects can require.

    I use a desktop, it's an HP with an AMD Quad Core, 3.2ghz CPU and 8 gig of RAM, and I can run 48 audio tracks, with two processors on inserts per track, 10 VSTi's (Superior Drummer, Independance, Garritan GPO and Big Band, NI B4 and Colossus) and still also have 8 buses and aux's running - with processing on each of those as well - and it's very rare that I encounter any problems related to computer power and speed, as long as I'm using a high buffer setting during the mix phase.. (2048)

    (FWIW I'm using Samplitude Pro X Suite...just mentioning this as a reference).

    IMHO of course.

  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Totally agree with Donny.

    I would like to try SSD for the OS but not to track.
    I have the option to use Sata/USB or FW for external drives. For what you are doing, FW is sufficient.

    If I was to upgrade, I would go RME madi interface. Its the interface where I would be looking. But, this is also dependent on your needs and requirements. Your ADC and interface has a lot to do with how it all flows too.

    Better capture and edit flow between your converters, seems to make everything work better. Small track counts, not so much.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    that should do just fine. i5 would be ok too but the i7 would be better. the only thing i would add is be sure to get an NVIDA video card.
  9. flatliner

    flatliner Active Member

    Thank you both very much for weighing in on this. Donny, I am nowhere near the level of complexity you describe and, frankly, don't think I ever will be. I will be tracking bass and electric guitars and MIDI keyboards, too, and layering them to create 3-part harmonies, both instrumentally and vocally. Your point is well taken that a custom build might be overkill. Any thoughts on off-the-shelf systems that'll get the job done? Any brands I should avoid? I'm using a Steinberg UR22 interface and could use some help with mics now that you mention it. My knowledge is limited to what I've used on stage: Shure SM58 for vocals, SM57 or E609 for guitars. I am happy I found this site and appreciate your valuable feedback.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    it's hard to go wrong with a 57 /58. one or the other can do double duty as a vocal mic and then on guitar amps. a real all rounder. another "desert island" mic is the venerable AKG 414 ... if you want to make a major upgrade over an SM 57, the 414 is the next logical step. good for acoustic instruments, drums, vocals .... a guy working by himself could do just about anything with a 57 and a 414.

    another critical decision is what interface and mic pres are you going to use?

    there are many available .... on the cheap side i like the Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 for a USB box .... also high on the list is the Alesis i/o26 although you'll need a firewire connection to your computer. both of these box's provide decent a/d and d/a and useable pres but for a HUGE difference in mic pres look to outboard.

    last for a substantial improvement in both converters and mic pres you could look at the Focusrite Forte" or the RME Babyface. these are both desktop form devices that provide a pair of very good mic pres and excellent d/a & a/d .... the added cost of these units is offset by the fact that they both would be less money than seperate mic pre and converter combonation.
  11. flatliner

    flatliner Active Member

    I looked at the Focusrite 2i2 but it doesn't have MIDI so I went with the Steinberg UR22, which does, for the same price. Will make due with that for the time being and see if it does what I need it to do. I suspect more USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces will be brought to market by the time I need to upgrade again. Suffice it to say, the AKG 414 is well beyond my means at this time.
  12. Reverend Lucas

    Reverend Lucas Active Member

    USB 2.0 versus USB 3.0 shouldn't have any effect with the number of channels you're using.

    Happy recording!
  13. flatliner

    flatliner Active Member

    Thanks Rev. Pulled the trigger on a sweet little system that should arrive tomorrow and the tinkering will begin in earnest. The systems with the faster processors have USB 3.0 by default so at least I didn't have to decide on that component.

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