Computer system MUCH better than Multitrack Recorder??

Discussion in 'Digital Recorders' started by razor_usmc, Oct 5, 2004.

  1. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Howdy everyone,

    New to the forum but not recording. Unfortunately, I come from the pre-existing multitrack recording studios from wayyy back. Every recording device I have ever owned was a multitrack recorder from the cassette porta-04 studio to my current Roland digital 8-track.

    I see by the posts on this forum that virtually everyone has a PC or Mac based system. I am super-intimidated by all the gear that is required for a great Mac based recording studio to go in a smallish room in my house. I have Korg keyboards, drums, guitars and all that Jazz. The problem is I am so used to the very decent sound and simplicity of self-contained Multitrack recorders and was wondering if someone could tell me why everyone seems to be so much more for the computer based systems. Are they THAT much better in quality than the multitrack recording devices out now? Is it worth the headache of patchbays, mixers, drivers, soundcards, effects programs, sequencers, compressors, finding humming noises in your gear, polarity issues, software upgrades, system crashes and all that? Korg and Roland have some (IMO) very nice 24 and even 32 track recorders with 8 XLR inputs, optical ins and outs with all the effects and CD-burner right on board., plus it's very quiet for someone who cannot put his noisy gear in another room!

    Is this still a good way to go for my $3000, or can someone convince me to go the way of the computer? What are the disadvantages of the Multitrack with all of its simplicity? Why a computer based studio?

    Thanks very much for your time and responses,

  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Can you say "Can of Worms" ???

    You'll get a lot of replies on this one.

    Let's see - comparing a $3000 computer system with an "all-in-one." First let's talk about the negatives about both.
    Negatives to the All-in-one:
    1. Bad mic-pres
    2. Bad A/D converters
    3. Cheesy on-board effects processors
    4. Very limiting (though you can add outboard stuff to a lot of these boxes, there's typically no helping the sound of an all-in-one.)
    5. Upgrades VERY pricey - when this thing breaks/needs upgrading - you have to flush the old and drop another $3k for a new one.
    6. Lots more disadvantages, but I'll leave those to other 65 posts you'll get on this one.
    Negatives to the PC/Mac based:
    1. Initially kind of expensive. (However, for $3k, you can do just fine!)
    2. Portability can be a pain. (It's do-able, but less easy than the all-in-one)
    3. Not much else. (Or at least, in my biased opinion there's not.)

    Positives - All in one:
    1. It's all in one! Take it everywhere you go. Throw it in a laptop bag and record anywhere!
    2. GUI has a relatively small learning curve.

    Positives to PC:
    1. Outboard gear infinitely upgradeable.
    2. Built-in effects on Cubase/Cakewalk/PT are far better than those built into all-in-ones.
    3. If parts break or become outdated, replace a relatively inexpensive part, not the whole beast!
    4. Very easy GUI!
    5. Sound quality associated with better gear.

    I just built another rackmount pc for on-the-road recording consisting of an AMD 64, 3200 processor, ASUS Motherboard, Antec Rackmount case, Silverstone quiet power supply, Maxtor 40GB and 160GB hard drives, Windows XP, 1 Gig of Kingston RAM, Samsung LCD (15"), Gator Shock mount case, and Pelican flight case (to transport the lcd and mics) for $1621.87. Add Cubase SX to that, it brings you to $2200. Add the Aardvark Q10, you're now at $2900. You now have a bad-ass machine that is infinitely upgradeable with great converters, good pre's, mobile, quiet, and incredibly flexible. Did I mention, it sounds good!

    This, to me, sounds like a no brainer. If you e-mail me, I will gladly send you an excel spreadsheet with links to all of the parts that I used as well as prices (at least they were the prices a couple weeks ago - they've probably gone down now.)

    My e-mail address is:

    My 2 pennies,

    J... :D
  3. Hey Razor... I'm fairly new to recording but I can say this... I looked long and hard at the all-in-ones and then at the pc/mac based recording setups and from the economist view, the all-in-one sounded much better to me (this was before I looked at all of the possibilities in a pc/mac based setup...). It didn't take long once I started looking at pc/mac based to make up my mind that that is what would suit me the best. I am a student and very hard pressed for money so the considering that I had built a pc about a year ago that would do fine with the recording setup that I desired I didn't have to dish out the 800-1600 bucks for the pc... this set up also attracted me because I knew I could just keep adding to it and upgrading as a I needed and as my music grew!!! (irreplacable to a musician like me) so the pc/mac system is the route I went I have no regrets, although the all-in-one sound nice, they have serious upgrade issues if you ask me :wink: :cool: :cool:
  4. dabmeister music

    dabmeister music Active Member

    Jan 11, 2003
    Woodbridge, Va
    Home Page:
    Thought I'd drop this in too. Computer based systems offer the user that..."do it yourself syndrome". You'll find yourself basically, not having to drag it to a repair center for servicing, and furthermore, you'll know it inside & out. I own an Adat XT20 and virtually don't use it at all other than doing a few transfers into the DAW system via digital I/O. And to add to it, you'll never have problems doing hardware upgrades. There's an abundance of support, especially for PC's. Just my .02 worth.
  5. radioliver

    radioliver Guest

    Cucco explained this very well and I just want you to know that he's not the only one who thinks like that. You will only get replies telling you pc is the best way to go. His example is really good too. That would give you 8 mic preamps, 8 line outs, four inserts, midi input and output....everything you would get from your all in one and more. One thing I don't agree with is Cubase. If your really into midi, go with cubase but if you record mostly audio, i would suggest the new Sonar 4 from Cakewalk. That software kills any all in one in a flash!!

    Good luck finding what suits you!
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Very true! Cakewalk for Midi is tough to beat. The Cubase example is for me; that's what I use.
  7. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Thanks for your input, people. Where on earth do I start?? Any good ideas? Really like the idea of a Mac based system, but have no idea how or where to get started and what the necessities are. Thanks a million and please forgive the newbie question. New to computer recording and Mac especially.

    thanks for the inputs.

  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I think you have already gotten a good start. The first thing to do is to ask questions and do some research. The question I have for you is, why specifically a Mac? If you are not familiar with Macs and moreso with PC, there is no reason not to use a PC. You'll find they are less expensive up front, just as stable (nowadays at least, running 2000 Pro or XP), and easier/more cost effective to upgrade. (Though Mac is closing the gap on this).

    Many good hardware devices exist for PC as do many great pieces of software.

    If you have your mind set on Mac, by all means, buy one. However, don't just do it because a couple die hard Mac fans tell you it's the only way to go.

    (P.s. I happen to love Macs, but that doesn't mean I think they are the best for all situations.)

  9. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    I was under the (mis)impression? that macs were better suited for this kind of work and were more stable OS-wise. If there is NO difference in reliability or sound quality, I am happy with a PC. I just don't want to get something that crashes, or get my PC with Win XP and find out that some new windows is on the horizon and that all my software will be obsolete in 2 years time. As I mentioned before, for someone used to an all-in-one, this multi-faceted PC method is very intimidating and I need all the user friendly means/methods at my disposal I can get.

  10. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    Macs are reliable out the door- pcs have to be made so. You can spend a lot of $$$ on a pc to optimize it for music while the mac is set to go from the getgo- If you want to get a pc though, make a post in the daw forum- someone will help you get it together there-

    If you are set on a mac I recommend at least a dual 867 (about $700-800 used)- any of the crops of new macs are fine if you want new. make sure you have at least 1 GB ram and get an extra drive for audio- all the power macs have room for at least another drive- not sure of the imacs or emacs- you might have to get an extra firewire drive-

    For programs is either Motu Digital Performer ($500), logic express, (299) or logic pro ($1000) - there are others but these are the ones am familiar with and they rock!

    For interface I recommend the firewire 828 mkii from motu ($750)- and that's it, you are set to go!
  11. igloo

    igloo Guest

    I agree with maintiger.

    For reliability and ease of use, go for a Mac. If you've got the dough, get a PowerMac G5. iMacs are a bargain and you get 17 or 20 -inch flat monitor and up to 1.8 GHz G5 processor.

    Digital Performer, Logic and Logic Express are great options. DP is very user firendly and powerful for MIDI sequencing as well as audio applications.

    The 896 HD MOTU audio interface just had a price drop and you can get it new for a little under $1000. I don't work for them, but I love their stuff. Good luck!

  12. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Is the imac powerful enough to perform everything I would need? I dont wanna blow dough on things I wouldnt use in a G4 or 5 but if I would need the power in the long run I dont want to be without.

    Anyone got the 4-1-1 on an imac G5? How would that do?
  13. also if you need help building a pc from the ground up... I can help you, this is what I did and I highly recommend doing so for obvious reasons... you know what you have... lol and you know how to work on them... also when you go to upgrade you can do it so much easier and you can customize everything! my e-mail is or my AIM is Guitarsince1985 ... macs are great and good with Mathmatic equations, moreso than pc, but in the long run, if you are more familiar with pc and price is an issue I we could put a pc together that would be powerful and fit your needs for around $1000 sometimes less (depending on hardware that you may already have i.e. cdrom/burner, and the same.... ) good luck!
  14. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Now what??!

    I do currently have a multipurpose PC that has some bare minimums for recording, I think. An Athalon 2600+ 2.0 GHz processor with 512 RAM. Two hard drives 20 and 60 GB. Pioneer DVD-RW. An ATI Radeon all-in-wonder 85000DV. Asus A7v8x motherboard. Running windows XP home version. What do you guys recommend I do from here? What to upgrade? What to buy, and why? Any books to get me understanding the basics behind all these acronyms I don't quite get? Especially as it pertains to the PC becoming my DAW? I am currently using my PC for gaming and high speed internet. Willing to dedicate it solely to the studio/audio, but wondering about cheap options to put in the office to continue the cable internet for the wife? All inputs welcome and appreciated mucho!

  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I believe that Macs used to be more stable than PCs for audio apps but that this is no longer the case.

    PCs running XP Pro need very little tweaking to run audio ... as before, this was the case with Windows 98, 2000/ME but with XP Pro all those issues have evaporated. Now all Macs have to offer is a way to spend twice as much for the same power. The whole Mac and Digi hold over the audio community is slipping. More and more studios are looking to PCs and other programs for professional applications. The Macs clear keyboards and flat panel monitors are cool looking ... but IMO, not so cool as to warrent the expense.

    The most important thing with a PC is to stuff as much RAM as you can into it... and to install at least 2 HDs ... one for the OS and program software .... and then one drive dedicated for the audio files ... partitioned into at least four divisions.. this way you can de frag a partition after a session without having to de frag the whole drive. If you do this and run XP Pro, you will have a great machine.

    I don't think MS will be upgrading XP Pro any sooner than Apple will be upgrading OSX ... in fact I think it's more likely that Apple will be upgrading OSX before Microsoft upgrades XP Pro.
  16. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    I get 40+ tracks with plugins in my dual 867 G4 using Motus DP and is very steady and reliable. I'll be upgrading to a G5 maybe next year only because I've been using soft synths a lot and i could use the extra power- otherwise I'd stay put where I am- any G5 will give you enough muscle to run your programs and get high track counts. I also have a pc and for me it sucks- I won't even use it for other than playing games... but what can I say, I love my mac! :D :D :D :D
  17. hey Razor.... I think what you have in your pc will do very nicely with a few upgrades... and you can get a pc off of ebay that would run your cable modem and games for a a max price of about $400... but what you have in the pc that you own now like Kurt implied will deffinetly suffice... so don't worry about buying a new Mac if you don't want it... your pc will just need some more ram (make sure that you buy the right bus speed etc so it matches your Mboard) and like Kurt also said, the partitioning is a wonderful advantage!!! also.... you might want to look into buying some new fans and a power supply that run at quiet levels.... they are advertised as low noise fans and power-supplies for this is a must for any pc or mac system that will be in the same room, or with an internal sound card...

    so I'm not sure what kind of sound card you'll get but it will be supported by your OS and everything else, so that's not a problem... this would be easier if you could tell me what you have and what you want out of your DAW....

    what kind of recordings will you be engaging in?
  18. razor_usmc

    razor_usmc Guest

    Jon...wrote you an email to your yahoo address.
    Looking to do a mixture of live acoustic audio and some synth stuff as well. The complete package. Tried downloading cakewalk and using my uno midi driver to get one of my Korgs to play. Have to go through this multimedia cable thing to get into the motherboard (asus), has red yellow white rca cable inputs, s-video, optical the works..not sure I am doing this right at all. The Midi timing seemed okay but for some reason, had to turn the volume all the way up on the computer speakers to hear a thing. Same for the demo songs too, but when a windows sound effect triggered, it scared the crap out of me it was sooooo loud! LOL. So many paramaters to tweak, so ignorant...I hope the PC/mac studio is worth it...I was pretty good with the all-in-ones, right now cakewalk is...anything but. Thanks for your time and willingness to help. all of you.

  19. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Aug 21, 2004
    Quakertown PA
    I would like to clear up a few misconceptions that MAC users tend to use as an argument against PC's. Many are covered in this post including dual processors, 64 bit processors and RISC vs. CISC.

    Now before the Appleheads jump all over me if you read the post you will see that I like MAC's and think they are a fine machine. But that said I would never consider spending 3 grand on a machine that doesn't have the performance of an Intel based box nor for that price do you get a monitor. If money is not an object and you are a longtmie MAC user or just love MAC's go for the MAC. If you want more power, options, software choices, expandabilty, upgradability and best of all half the price, go with a PC.

    The crashing is no longer an issue with XP or 2K. If you want to stay away from obsolete software then run as fast as you can away from MAC's. Steve Jobs is the king of making software incompatable with new OS releases. I think it's a company requirement for their programmers to make your software obsolete. Windows is the opposite. You can still run old DOS software from the early 80's on the current XP OS, while there are programs from 2001 that won't run on OSX. As far as help is concerned follow what an earlier post suggested and go to the DAW forum we can offer you all the help you need.

    A quality PC built with top shelf components P4 3.2 Ghz will cost you roughly $1500. The other $1500 you would have spent on a MAC could go for a great preamp, mic or right in your pocket. As I said I like MAC's but Apples business practices are similar to Pro Tools which is not something I care to support. For more info on the PT debate check out Kurts post.

    One more thing I'd like to mention in line with Apples business practices is related in the article below. It deals with the fact that Apple vastly overstated the performance of it's G5's,(calling it the fastest PC in the world) so much so that it's advertising claimed almost twice the performance of a P4 system when in fact the P4 was much faster than the G5. Computers are scored on performance in what are called benchmark tests. This tests the system as a whole as well as using code it is optimized for. Since Apples G5's would benchmark lower than the P4 or Athlon 64 they cheated. Really cheated. They did things like using code and compilers optimized for G5's on the P4's and Athlon's. They also disabled hyperthreading on the P4's (a major component of the P4's design) and the coup de grace was the fact that they tested dual P4's against dual G5's with one of the P4's TURNED OFF but both G5's running. When the tests were later run by an independent lab the P4 smoked the G5 in every category. I'll bet Steve Jobs is pissed. It's really a shame because it's a great product. If they'd lower their prices and stop lying to the public about the performance of their product more people might consider buying one. Oh well here's the article.
  20. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    I thought I'd post this point from a "conversation" on another forum. Of course, the XP versus OSX comment was a side note in a native versus PT HD debate, but still....

    "The Mach Kernel in OS X is a Realtime Kernel, that is, it supports 'Realtime Threads' ...

    Windows does not offer a Realtime Kernel, it was not designed for such purposes as digital audio and hence the latency issue in a native system is far more problematic than OSX."

    Something to think about...

    If you are not going to be using your computer for anything but audio, a PC is a good way to go. Just don't take it on the internet :)

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