Buying a computer, need some advice

Discussion in 'Computing' started by Alden, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. Alden

    Alden Guest

    I'm a singer/songwriter whose looking to do some cheap recording (I know, I'm such a rare breed).
    I've got the M-audio fast track USB interface, the accompanying Session software, a Sennheiser e835 (I think), and am about to get a Studio Projects B1.

    My computer, however, just died on me. My old laptop, a 4-year-old Vaio, never really ran right and would crash if I tried to work with more than a couple layered tracks. I'm buying a new computer and want to make sure this one will work effectively.

    Is it possible to buy a sub $500 laptop that will record at 100%? What are the specifications I need?

    Also, the Session software has a few major flaws: it can't adjust volume or panning over time (If I'm wrong, PLEASE tell me how!!). Is there good garage-band equivalent software for PCs that can do this (that has midi support)?

    One last question: Do I have everything I need? I've seen references to mixers and I don't want to be missing some critical element.

  2. fmw

    fmw Guest

    The amount of computing power you need for recording and mixing really depends on the kind of recording and mixing you do. If all you want to do is track your voice, then any modern computer will do. If you want to mix a couple of dozen tracks with lots of VST's and virtual synths, you'll need more than the basics.

    My portable rig is a notebook computer that cost me about $900 plus about $70 to upgrade the hard drive to a 7200 rpm unit. It has a Centrino 2 Ghz dual core processor and 3 GB of memory. It can handle anything I do in terms of tracking and it can do simple mixes without any problems. I think you could do quite a bit with a $500 unit.

    Software is important, too. There is a very inexpensive program called Reaper that some people recommend. It is downloaded from the internet and costs $45 for amateurs. I haven't used it pesonally but it gets good marks from many people.

    There are some inexpensive software packages from the big guys, too, that should handle the load. Tracktion3 from Mackie is one. Sonar Home Studio from Cakewalk is another. These aren't terribly expensive and they provide most of the functionality a project studio needs. I haven't used Sonar Home Studio but I am a Sonar 7 user and I think it's a very useable system.
  3. Alden

    Alden Guest

    Thanks for the response!

    I took a look at the software you mentioned. Reaper looks great; I'm just concerned because I'm pretty inexperienced with this stuff. What would a program like Reaper not include that the more expensive programs have?
    I would be willing to put $100 into software if it offered something worthwhile.

    My basics are guitar and vocals, and that's what I want to be able to effectively record. What I've been able to do so far has been limited by my computer, but I'd like to be able to lay a few midi tracks over the top.

    Quick question on terminology; when programs say they have midi support does that mean they include digital instruments? It looks like all of these programs do.
  4. l0calh05t

    l0calh05t Guest

    Compared to Cubase, Reaper has
    • -fewer soft synths (but the good ones are only in the full cubase, not in essential or studio)
      -no score layout and editing (not in cubase essential either)
      -less comfortable midi editing (but still usable, and it's being worked on)
      -much more flexible signal routing (that's good ;-) )
      -a far smaller size (requires less disk space)

    PS: Stay away from Tracktion... it may have a nice interface and be very accessible to beginners, but it's horribly unstable in my experience
  5. Alden

    Alden Guest

    I understand well enough. Sounds like Reaper is the way to go for me. Is it fairly accessible for those coming from a meager garagebandish background?

    I think I figured out the laptop I'm gonna get. I figured I'd post it in case anyone had advise/warnings to offer:
    Dell Inspiron 1525:
    Intel® Pentium® Dual Core T3200 (2.0GHz/667Mhz FSB/1MB cache)
    2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz (up to 4 gigs)
    160GB SATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) Free Fall Sensor
    Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
    High Definition Audio 2.0
    It comes to $580 which is a little high, but I think worth it.
  6. l0calh05t

    l0calh05t Guest

    It shouldn't be too hard to learn, although I can't compare it to Garageband since I have never used it. That build sounds fine too.

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