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Need help with a COMPUTER for a home studio..

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Maverick87, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. Maverick87

    Maverick87 Active Member

    Hey all. I'm a rap artist(in a duo) and record/mix our music, primarily vocals. Originally, I was going to split costs in half with the other artist in our duo, and we were going to upgrade our equipment. However, I've come to the conclusion that i want my OWN equipment. The equipment is at his place, and he doesnt know how to do anything. Basically he paid, and i run the stuff and know how to use it. It makes no sense to me to half-ass own it and have no access to it unless I'm at his place. We've had a falling out in the past, and he has to do a little county time, which takes away from my ability to move on in pursuing both music and recording/engineering.

    Long story short, i want my own set-up. I want to be able to record and mix any time I feel like it, and experiment at my own will. I want my music, and every aspect of it, to be independent and in my own hands, I dont want anybody to be able to negatively affect or slow me down.

    I' ve already done a lot of research on mics, interfaces, pre's, and all of that and have a general idea of what I want. However, I'm gonna need a computer for this. I dont want to spend any more than $400-$500 on a computer. I have to buy all the other stuff from scratch so my budget is gonna suffer, but I feel that investing in my own equipment is the smartest move in the long run, and my heart is set on it.

    What I need to know, is what do I need minimum to have for a properly and effective functioning computer for recording music. To be specific, I wont be recording more than one track at a time, so I dont need equipment that has to be able to handle bands/more than one thing going on at the same time. I'm far from a computer wiz, so I need to know what kind of RAM, hard drive, processors, etc..

    I'd like to build one from scratch so that I dont pay for anything I wont use. But not knowing the details of what I need is making this an issue. Since I have to budget and start over from scratch, I'll probably have to go with USB interface n comp. Unless firewire isnt dramatically more expensive for comp/interface combined, I gotta stick with this for now. Any information, advice, and help with this would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Maverick87

    Maverick87 Active Member

    I should note that I already have a monitor, keyboard, etc.... I used to have an eMachines comp. that took a $*^t on me(not literally of course :D). I have an Acer monitor n whatever else i had with it, so I'm lookin for specs/details on the tower only n whatever I need. I need the most functional tower setup for recording music at no more than $400-$500.

    I apologize if this is the wrong section for this, but its for a home studio and very low budget so I went for it. Thanks
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    First, USB interfaces are considerably cheaper than firewire. Make sure whatever you decide on that it is USB 2.0 and NOT USB 1. There are lots of USB1 devices out there and they aren't worth spit.

    Since USB is pretty much how you are going to go, get a laptop with an i3/i5/i7 processor. There are lots out there and all are adequate for 2-8 tracks of recording. I'd get 6gb ram minimum. There are quite a few of these out there for $400-$500 especially on sales. Uninstall all the crapware that comes on them and I include all the "helper" programs from the manufacturer. Install Reaper and your interface and go to town.
  4. Maverick87

    Maverick87 Active Member

    Any reason in particular why you recommend a laptop over desktop? It's all gonna be for my home studio and doesnt need to move/travel or anything. The equipment we share now, we already own Magix Music Studio 12 Deluxe and I'm already very familiar with that software.

    I'm buying a Shure Sm-58, I'm debating between either a PreSonus Audiobox or Focusrite 2i2 or possibly Scarlett for an interface, and probably some KRK Rockit 5's for monitors. All I need to figure out if I'm close to my budget is the computer and I'm good to go.

    Also I use wayyy more than 8 tracks when I record, most of our projects easily consist of 40 tracks within one song. Unless I'm mistaken and you mean 8 tracks at the same time like a band, which I wont need. I'm actually very happy with what I've been able to do with recording so far, and we use an M-audio MobilePre, Sterling ST-51 condensor mic, however, the computer tower took a $*^t, and I want to buy equipment for my own use and want to try some new/possibly better equipment than what i have.

    Are the focusrite and presonus interfaces I'm looking at a better idea than the m-audio mobilepre Ive already worked with? Or are the differences virtually irrelevant? Maybe it'd be a better idea to just buy a mobilepre since Ive used one before?

    Anyways, back to the issue at hand, the computer.... how many gigs of ram and all that good stuff should i be looking for?? Is the processor more important than the RAM? Maybe the laptops ARE the way to go, I just want to make sure Im covering all the basis and being as specific as possible to make sure I'm making the right purchase

    EDIT: Sorry I didnt see that you already posted 6gb minimum

    Plus Im wondering, since I already have a monitor and keyboard and all that, would a tower with the specs I need be cheaper than a laptop from scratch? And if so, whats the best processor/gigs i should be lookin for, for putting together a tower from scratch for recording?
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The gear you are looking at is good entry level gear. Note, you use Magix whatever at your friend's house but you will need your own license to run it on your home computer. Not a big deal but an expense none the less. The KRK monitors are actually a good deal on that $$ end of the spectrum. By 1-8 tracks and USB, what I meant was simultaneous recording. There is no way on god's green earth you are laying in 32 simultaneous tracks on any computer that isn't purpose built and expensive. Mixing 40 tracks is another story. That can be done on a good PC or Mac that has been tweaked/optimized without too much effort. If you are going to truly be running that many tracks and their associated plugins your computer goal of $500 might be optimistic however. Plugins take lots of ram and efficient CPU and motherboards. I had recommended a laptop so that you could take your personal setup to where the band is recording but a desktop-especially if it is rackmounted-can do this too. You will want to stay with the i3/i5/i7 processor range. The older ones may or may work for what you are doing but are dead end streets even if they still can be had in new machines. Their memory controllers are not good enough and the motherboards route poorly causing latency and bogging. You can probably build your own desktop for $500 if you shop real hard and if you already have a case and a good solid 500 watt or larger power supply. Stick with an Asus board in the P6 or newer equivalent category.

    As to how much ram, the more plugins and the more VSTi instruments you plan on using then plan on starting with 6gb and eventually upgrading that to 8 or 12gb. 6GB will handle quite a bit though.
  6. Maverick87

    Maverick87 Active Member

    I see. I just came to the realization that magix music studio 12 deluxe is most likely NOT compatible with windows 7, which is a total bummer to me right now. One of the artists we used to do shows with recorded with samplitude, and i thought i could just hop on it since I was familiar with magix, but the plugins were different and I just couldnt get things to sound right at all. Everything sounded way too soft and when i tried to compress or turn them up it sounded distorted and crazy. So now it looks like I have to either save up and buy samplitude, since its similar format to my program now, or I have to buy the MobilePre with ProTools bundle for $300. I'm not completely against that, but 1) its more money.. and 2) i have to start from scratch and learn an entire new format and program, a complex one at that... very frustrating.

    I'm trying to move forward because I want music to be what I do for a living, whether it be as an artist or audio engineering, because I love both, but I'm starting to get a little discouraged because it seems like every step forward is two steps back. I cant even find magix music studio 12 deluxe on the friggin magix website, must be ancient software or something.

    So would it be fair to say, if the laptop is around $500, and i could build a desktop tower for the same price, i might as well just get the laptop, right? Im thinking about getting the Dell Inspiron 15R, i3 processor, 6 gb ram, 500gb hard drive. Does this seem adequate for what I'm trying to do? Its about $600
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Samplitude for what it's worth, is a professional level DAW program with capabilities beyond what you've been using. There isn't anything wrong with starting out simpler though. It will get the job done. Some programs are tailored more for particular kinds of things like looping or midi. You'll do research and figure all that out as you continue to work. As far as a cross platform DAW, you could do tons worse than Reaper.

    Also, which Magix product do you have? I say this because there is no reason for it NOT to run on Win7 if it already can run on Vista. In fact it will run better on 7 than Vista any day.

    A desktop machine will always (at this juncture of technical history) be more powerful and have more expansion potential than a laptop dollar for dollar. There are "desktop" machines that are even housed in rackmount cases or the guts could be put in a rackmount at a later date. If mobility isn't an issue at all then stay with desktop.
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Unless you are plugging in a specialized hardware card that requires PCI/PCIe, ain't no reason not to be using a convenient laptop. Besides, laptops invariably have quieter cooling fans that don't cost $100 extra. And all high-speed ports from USB 2.0/FireWire to USB 3.0/Thunderbolt are coming into being along with audio gear designed expressly for those high-speed ports. Where latency if any at all exists will be so low as to not be problematic any longer. But then one doesn't have to worry about latency with devices that have pass-through monitoring as much as devices that don't have that feature.

    And in another area, you're still going to need an external hard drive be it mechanical or, SSD. You really don't want to utilize your operating system drive for general recording purposes and/or 40 tracks of audio to be mixed. The operating system needs full-time access to where it resides on the hard drive without any distractions. This is why an external hard drive for recording purposes & mixing purposes is vital. Of course in a desktop machine, this can be an additional internal hard drive as opposed to external which would be required on a laptop. And a laptop machine is designed to be rugged. Desktop systems are not designed to be rugged nor moved regularly unless expressly designed to do so which are very expensive units. You WILL be taking this unit out, I can virtually guarantee that.

    The Audio Box is a fine USB device with class A microphone preamps and is currently fine for your described applications. And I don't necessarily agree that all USB 1.1 devices are inadequate. Crappy ones are inadequate. Good ones are completely adequate as that's what I basically utilize most often. I have found that too many of the M-Audio units don't necessarily have pass-through monitoring. That's where latency becomes a huge issue. So searching for your equipment not based upon specifications but requirements are more important than specifications. I have actually purchased equipment that follows my specific requirements and not giving a damn about their specifications. That's because, I know their specifications are 100% adequate while not necessarily being 100% ideal. That's not the issue. The requirements are the issue. Professional equipment is professional equipment and sounds like professional equipment with minor differences in specifications that don't mean squat. You don't record on stuff based on specifications but based upon sound solely. For instance, API 2520 op amps do not have a fast slew rate. Audibly, they are considered superior to most everything else. But if you're basing your decisions upon specifications, you get something much better that doesn't sound much better if that doesn't sound as good as an old-fashioned circa 1966 2520 from API. So I utilize Neve & API microphone preamps with Edi-Rol UA 1EX, USB 1.1 device with my HP laptop/IBM laptop. And that sounds way better to me than someone else's blah blah " class A microphone preamps " with blah blah better specifications and my API 312/3124 microphone preamps. Which ain't class A and neither are my Neve's. Those devices were created by real engineers not considering profit margin based upon lower-cost manufacturing techniques & parts. I think I've talked about this before with you? You still haven't gotten it have you? You keep asking the same questions over and over again. So you have some valuable information here and it's time to make an intelligent decision. If that's actually possible for you? You are currently mixing with your eyes, recording with your eyes. Funny thing is, you don't listen with your eyes and that's obvious because of your continuous same questions. Not to be hard on you mind you. But let's face facts here. None of us who you are asking questions of possessing anything less than 1-2-3 dozen different microphones, 2-3-4 different computer audio interfaces, 1-2-3 desktop machines & 1-2-3 laptops and I myself possess 2-36 input all transistors vintage Neve consoles, 2-26 input AudiTronic 501 consoles, 1-Op-Amp Labs console, 2-Altec Lansing 1567 tube mixers and then some more. It never ends. It shouldn't end. It will never end. You are just getting started in your collection process. So start recording stuff already.

    Software is another issue. Many computer interfaces include some incredible software which might be LE & SE (Ltd. edition & special edition) versions. All of which are still extremely powerful. So to save hundreds of dollars in software, choose an interface that has software you want to utilize. You won't find M A G I X in any of those supplied versions with hardware. You will find Studio 1 version 2, Cue Base, Pro Tools as the included software with a purchase of hardware. So stop shopping by specifications and start shopping by requirements. None of the other gobbledygook is going to make any difference if you don't understand the software to begin with. Too loud, too soft, too distorted are just marks of an inexperienced, entry level, amateur. So if you want to make this your living, you got a lot of reading, studying, practicing and a lot of money you are going to be dishing out to become a professional at this. It doesn't come with a course you take it the community college or local recording school. It comes from hard work and research along with endless hours of practicing, experimenting, LISTENING.

    Tommy can you hear me? Sorry if I sound brash. But I think at least you can hear that?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Remy, just an FYI, most of the brand new laptops do not have and expansion slot (card bus or express card) and 99% don't have firewire anymore so that is a factor too if we buy for the long term as you and I have. Both my recording laptops were purchased in 2002 and 2003 respectively and still running so obviously it can be done if you can make the connection to your intended interface. Otherwise, the OP needs to figure out for sure the max number of simultaneous recording inputs he might require within the next 1-4 years and purchase the interface accordingly. If we're just talking two turntables and a microphone it simplifies things a bit.

    Where It's At? Right here baby!
  10. Maverick87

    Maverick87 Active Member

    Thanx for all of your input everyone. Remy I can see why it seems like im beating a dead horse here, before I was working with a different budget and we were splitting costs on upgrading, where now the situation changed up a little bit, and Im taking all the expenses myself, so I had to rethink everything from the next step, to the basics again I suppose. I dont mean to irritate or frustrate anybody, so I apologize if that's the case.

    It would be awesome if we had an equipment shop around here where I can test things out and see how everything sounds, but I cant and dont have a lot of experience with other equipment other than what Ive used so far, so I have no basis of comparison. I'm sure this is all part of being a beginner and learning.

    Also I didnt have to worry about a computer before, and its become the biggest issue for me now. More curve balls thrown in my direction, but thats fine with me, its worth my independence for experimenting like you said.

    For an external hard drive, does a flash drive work? Or is that not enough gigs? For software, I supposed Im just too used to Magix Music Studio 12 Deluxe and I dont want to have to backtrack and relearn, though if I want to take this seriously Im going to HAVE to learn to use different programs and how to work them. The reason i keep asking about interfaces is different factors keep popping up. I looked up my program and couldnt find a single source that says its compatible with windows 7 so thats why it got me thinking. The computer we were using has old windows xp, so its fair to say our program and computer are outdated. If our program will work with windows 7 thatd be awesome and a load off my back.

    Sometimes I think I overcomplicate things. For example Ill hear someone say that the FocusRite interfaces i want are good, then I hear them say to someone else the AudioBox is good, then I start to say well wait.. which one then? Then i tell myself if my program isnt compatible with windows 7, I might HAVE to take the ProTools/Mobile Pre package route. I mean no harm or annoyance by it, I dont have the means to try all the equipment out, so I try to make up for it by hearing everyone else experiences with them. Once I have a solid answer about if MMS12Deluxe will work with windows 7, i can make my final decision easily thanks to all of the information Ive absorbed from you guys.

    I'm 100% positive that music is what Im going to do, whether its an artist, engineer, or both. I actually quit for a year or two and it ate at me every single day, and nothing has ever felt like it was what i was meant to do besides music, i know that sounds corny, but it is what it is. Believe me I'm comprehending everything you're telling me, I just need to stop overcomplicating and go with the flow I suppose. Anyways Im done rambling for now, thanks everyone for being helpful and patient with me so far
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The current version of that program is called Music Maker MX and it comes in three versions. The Deluxe 12 is an old version that isn't available for sale but can be found at Amazon. It states it is compatible with Vista and therefore it will run on Windows 7. It being an old version it may have bugs and quirks that are addressed in later versions but I don't know. I think I'd download the trial and look at it at least.
    Free Download - by MAGIX

    Presonus or Focusrite are shades of the same thing so don't get your panties twisted over that. Even the laptop/desktop thing is only an issue for firewire and new purchase. If your recording track counts are low enough then USB is adequate and either will work. Avoid Avid interfaces. If you really get into this in a couple of years and make an intelligent reasoned decision about getting into their hardware marketing that is another thing altogether.
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I understand what you're saying. No I'm not annoyed I was only confused. You are addressing the right issues. As Jack Attack indicated, you will have to do some of your own research. While most software that was XP compatible, is also generally compatible with Vista & Windows 7, that scenario doesn't necessarily apply to the drivers required for those operating systems for your selected hardware choices. That's where the real monkeywrench lies. Compatible drivers for hardware, for Windows 7. Most software is both backward and forward compatible, up to a point. If you want to do something in software specifically designed with 64-bit software, you'll need a 64-bit CPU. Whereas if you want to run Adobe Audition 1.5 intended for 32-bit Windows 2000, I can assure you it runs great on Windows 7. Most 64-bit operating systems & 64-bit CPUs have no problem working with 32-bit programs and even 32-bit operating system drivers. Unfortunately, the opposite is not true. So I've actually found a number of manufacturers whose 32-bit drivers intended for XP is also intended to be loaded upon a 64-bit computer running Windows 7 with the same driver and the same software. But this is not true of much of the new stuff hitting the market now. It's specifically designed for 64-bit CPUs & operating systems. And not everybody has gotten their R&D completed to re-create their equipment for USB 3.0 & thunderbolt. I'm sure a lot of these manufacturers do not care much for these small incremental changes no matter how fast they might be. It's more money they have to invest with a guaranteed amount of uncertainty. So some will just say screw it while others scramble to quickly introduce the new generation of junk. And should you buy the first generation of anything? Even if it had a solid reputation before? Back in 1993 I would have said yes. My DA 88's, I purchased based on the fact that I knew what the build quality was on TA SCAM analog reel to reel recorders. They were built like Ampex & Scully tanks. BIG MISTAKE ON MY PART! They had the word " Professional " on them but there was nothing about the build quality that could have ever been considered professional. And the reliability factor followed with 3 machines costing me nearly $12,000 (not including the SMPTE card nor meter bridge nor full remote control) that all crapped out within 150 hours. Then they couldn't repair them. So they sent a new set. Does also only lasted 150 hours. Then they couldn't repair them again. So they sent me a third set. Thankfully I got 850 hours off of one before it blew the heads. Of course on an analog machine, you could expect about 3000 hours before they would require a relap and then go for another 3000 hours. And the repair costs almost as much as a 24 track analog head! So basing one's purchase on reputation of previous products no longer holds water anymore in today's economy and times. Buyer beware. If you purchased last year's technology, you're virtually guaranteed it's going to work for some years to come. My premium laptop was purchased in late 2006 and it's still my primary laptop. I recently purchased a brand-new Toshiba laptop with Windows 7. Yeah, it was really cool and I was learning Windows 7. That is, for 4 hours until it blew up! So there is another brand I shall no longer ever purchase again. Samsung hard drives are another one or should I say another 15. I love my Samsung 40 inch LCD but I'll never trust anything mechanical by them again. But then I am considering purchasing a new version HP laptop comparable to my top-of-the-line HP laptop of 2006. Knowing full well they may stop making computers for the consumer market. Just like IBM did with Lenovo. So I actually think my HP laptop was really manufactured by Hitachi? It had Hitachi hard drives in it. That might not mean anything but it does present food for thought. You don't see many Hitachi laptops floating around and that might be why?

    I think I'll have Chinese food again tonight?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    A flash drive is different tech than even an SSD. It won't work for either recording or mixing.

    Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk
  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Solid-state flash drives while they appear as new disk drives on Windows operating systems, they are a far cry from hard drives. Yes you can record with them. That is, if you are conservative and not recording much more than 4 tracks. The same goes for whatever you have stored on them of multitrack productions. It's not going to play back 24 tracks simultaneously. For those kinds of applications, you might want to consider any solid-state SSD drive? That stands for solid-state disk drive and while it is similar to USB 2.0 flash memory devices, they have the throughput & speed capabilities of an actual mechanical hard drive. Whereas the flash drives do not meet that criteria. Like I said, they are good enough for recording 4 tracks upon. Obviously they are good enough for that since there are all of these solid-state audio recorders that record between 1-4 simultaneous tracks to these flash drives and/or a single camcorder track with a single embedded audio track. So useful but not as wide ranging as an SSD.

    Flash drive... sounds like it exploded as in flash over.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  15. Maverick87

    Maverick87 Active Member

    I noticed the Music Maker programs, but I wasnt sure if it was the same thing, for some reason I figured it was more for MIDI and instrument oriented projects. Thanks a ton for the info on that. At first I was set on a desktop since I had the other parts, but for some reason I'm feeling confident about the laptop purchase, especially with the usb 3.0 n thunderbolt comin about.

    Now I can make my final decisions and get started, nothing like reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.. lol. I was too worried about the fact that financially things are usually tough for my family, with most of the money going to paying our bills and our daughter, its rare that I ever have spare money to put into equipment. Sadly I have to wait all year till tax time comes around, which is what I'm doing now, and spending all of that money on it, so thats why Im so picky about what Im going to spend it on. Thanks for helping me spend it wisely.
  16. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Just so you know, there are zero interfaces with USB3 or Thunderbolt available. There have been some prototypes using Thunderbolt but I would not expect them in the next year. For the forseeable future you will have four options: USB1, USB2, Firewire (1394a or b), and PCI/PCIe. Again, if you stay below 8 simultaneous recording (not mixing) tracks then USB2 should be fine. If you plan on recording more than that then firewire or PCI is the way to go. Also, if you like to use plugin heavy mixes you may eventually want to invest in some UAD cards down the line and these won't be laptop compatible as they are PCI based.

    Just trying to get the long view but I understand the need to get up and running too even if that means some purchases have to be upgraded later.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    So your real answer is to purchase last year's laptops. Thankfully, they're all on sale! You can even get some that offer the Windows XP option instead of Windows 7 should you so desire. I might switch to Windows 7 if I have a reason to do so. Currently, I see no reason for that. And if you don't intend to surf the Internet with that new machine, you also won't require the hundreds of security patches for Windows XP which I think do more harm than good to the operating system. That might be the only reason to upgrade to Windows 7? They've already built in the security patches. Big deal. That's supposed to be an improvement? Oh, you like your computer interface to look more like a cartoon like a Macintosh? I'll switch my computers into " maximum performance ", and generally making it look more like Windows 2000 without all of the animated cartoon BS. So performance to me is more important than cartoon interfaces in my operating system.

    My favorite cartoon was Heckle and Jekyll and no OS interface looks like that. Boo-hoo...
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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