Need advice on building a DAW por favor.

Discussion in 'Computing' started by Daniel Leonard, Dec 28, 2003.

  1. I have a Mac G3 with a 500mhz processor with 768 MB of RAM, and 20 GB of Hardrive space (small, I know). I would appreciate suggestions on the proper equipment to buy for long term use. I am on a budget but would rather buy a couple of quality things first and build on a good platform than to try and conquer the DAW world all at once on a limited budget and end up with a half ass studio. These are the things I was thinking of getting.

    MOTU Digital Performer 4.0
    MOTU 828 interface
    An external hardrive, maybe LaCie
    A Couple of Mics, maybe Sure 58 and 57

    I am going to want to run both digital instruments: keyboards, electric drums, etc., and analog: vocals, accoustic guitar, bass, accoustic drums, etc, into this DAW. In other words the whole shebang. I am very open to experienced insights and wisdom on what to buy and how to get started. I am not set on getting any one thing yet. I want to eventually be able to record my own stuff and master it, beginning to end. I am a songwriter. I play multiple instruments and sing as well as my wife and children. Thanks ahead of time to those who contribute to my question!


    P.S. Feel free to shoot back questions to better help answer mine.

  2. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Aug 15, 2003
    Can we get some more stats on your computer? What model mac do you have, how much RAM, etc.

    Are you tracking one track at a time? Or do you need the ability to record several musicians on several instruments or several singers simultaneously?

    From your list of possible purchases, I would change two things. I'd get a second internal drive, they're cheaper and faster than external drives (and also get a PCI IDE card like the Sonnett Tempo card). And a condenser mic to accompany the Shure dynamic mic. the Studio Projects C1 is a good affordable choice.

    Digital Performer is a good choice. I use Logic myself.

    The 828mkII is good but you'll want something with higher sound quality within two years. Its advantage is that its an all-in-one solution, which means you don't need to buy a mic pre and mixer.

    I'd suggest you think about your needs (single tracking vs. multitracking) and get a high quality interface with exactly enough inputs of the right type. RME has a good name, as do Echo. The drawback is you'll need to buy the components separately, such as a mixer and pre-amp. But quality wise, your tracks will thank you.

    Also search this forum, there are at least a dozen threads just like this one within the past 6 months.
  3. You sure can. I have an iMac PowerPC G3 500 Mhz with 768 MB of RAM.

    I want to multi track simultaneously for sure. So, the 828mkII is not exactly Pro quality? Because if it is not, I would rather go with something different.
    Can I add a PCI IDE card to an iMac? When you say "mixer" do you mean a large multi track board with 32 or more channels like one that you would see in a more typical Pro studio? Or, rather a smaller mixer that would have multiple inputs but more suited for a DAW found in a small home studio? What is your DAW setup like?

    I will also search this forum for more info. Thanks for your help! :cool:
  4. M Brane

    M Brane Guest

    No, you can't. :(

    Your only hard drive option with an iMac is Firewire. USB is too slow for audio work.

    You could always sell your iMac, and put the money toward a tower.
  5. In your opinion, is a PC tower a better computer setup for a DAW? Is it more expandable, and therfore better able to grow with needs/wants?
  6. M Brane

    M Brane Guest

    Actually when I said tower I was referring to a Mac tower not PC.

    While PC's offer good performance per dollar, and many people swear by 'em I personally prefer Macs.
  7. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Aug 15, 2003
    You can look at the Metric Halo Mobile I/O ( I've heard that the 828 has sub-par converters and mic pre's. They say the Mobile I/O has some awesome converters (but beware because some users complain about its ADAT optical port). But it costs twice as much as the 828. And that's why I wanted to kow more about your computer, because with a Mac tower, you have many more options, such as internal hard drives and sound cards. Your imac should be fine tho.

    And a firewire drive should adequately meet your needs. I would suggest you skip Lacie though and build your own FW drive. get a quality FW case from wiebetech or OWC, and buy a hard drive spec'd like you mentioned earlier.

    The reason I was suggesting a better audio interface is because, you may get more serious in the future, and want better quality equipment, which means any money you spend now on sub-par stuff is essentially wasted. Such is my situation. I have an M-Audio Omni Studio, a combined pre/mixer/audio interface. Its well priced and does what it says, but I feel that my music suffers because of the lower quality. I just can't afford anything better right now.

    And yes I was referring to a small mixer, like 8 channels or so. This is ideal when you're recording one or two tracks at a time through a two channel audio interface. But if you want to record more than one track at a time then skip the mixer because you'll need a multi channel interface, something like an 828 or Mobile I/O. And these types of interfaces usually have software mixers built in, or you can use the audio mixer in DP4 as your mixer.
  8. First off, thanks for the respones.

    M Brane...where would be a good place to sell my i Mac? This is something I had considered doing. Not sure where to start, or if it is worth the effort.

    mitzelplik...will I want to shoot myself if I attempt to build my own hardrive? I am not saying that I wouldn't be willing to try, just that I value my sanity and don't want more voices in my head than I already have. :d: At least in my world everybody knows my name.

    Have you guys heard of the newer Tascam FW 1884 interface? It has 8 mic pre's, it's midi capable and has 8 faders for analog control. I talked to a guy at a music store about it and then researched it further on my own. It looks like a great setup for my purposes. It costs $1299.00. Compare that to the MOTU 896 which doesn't even have midi capabilities or the analog faders for around $1250.00. I would like to do midi also and have the ability to track more than just two mics at once. Quite a bit more than the 828 dollar wise, I know. Like I said, though, I don't want to regret my purchases. You helped make that point for me mitzelplik.
  9. M Brane

    M Brane Guest

    Lots of options for selling that iMac. Local ad, e-bay, Mac message boards, etc.

    Just make sure it's clean, and stable. Some retailers will take in on trade toward a new system as well, although you probably won't get as much for that way as you would selling to a private party.

    Putting together an external drive is not that difficult if you can handle a screwdriver, and follow directions. I'd recommend MacGurus. Not the cheapest, but they only sell stuff that works. Their customer service, and support forums are excellent.

    If you're looking at all-in-one systems I wouldn't spend a ton of dough. The sound quality of the low-end stuff doesn't vary that much. Just get something that does what you want from a company with a good reputation, and support. Once you've got some experience you'll have a better idea where to go. Some of the systems are more expandable/upgradeable than others. Only you can decide how important that aspect is. Unless you start at the top ($$$$$$) there will always be something better out there, and even if you get the best chances are it won't be next year. That's just the nature of this modern technology.
  10. DeanG

    DeanG Guest

    A lot of folks have made a lot of good sounding music with the MOTU stuff. I can't address how much better you will get by spending twice as much. I will say that if you can get the MOTU working on your system, you will love it. I know several "Horseheads" as I lovingly call em. I think their sh*t sounds fabulous...D
  11. jscott

    jscott Guest

    I have to say that as a builder of a bunch of systems, and a long time studio guy, I have to conditionally disagree with some things that have been said here.

    iMac - yes, you probably need to go to something more expandable and powerful. However, guys I know that work for SONY studios just recently bought G4s with the Digi002 interfaces. They love they way it sounds and functions, but APPLE quality has dropped off. It took an average of 4 returns of the G4s to finally get ones that were stable.

    The same was true for early 002 interfaces. So regarding the Tascam, this would be my concern of this as well, not good to buy any of these things while they are brand new. Otherwise, people have good things to say about the Tascam interfaces.

    MOTU 828mkII - Actually, this is a very decent interface and the included AudioDesk workstation software for Macintosh, with 24-bit recording/editing and 32-bit mixing/processing/mastering is decent to get started with.

    However, the real answer to the question of which interface and program is the "best" is based upon you knowing how you want to work.

    The problem people do not ever address when someone is starting out doing this stuff is 1) they usually are very concerned about buying the proper thing that will be hassle free, 2) they really don't know what that will be until they buy "something" and get started and 3) the idea is to be making music, not becoming a PC tech and 4) almost all the advertizing misleads people.

    There are plenty of decent options out there for hardware to buy. If you want to stay MAC, then go to your MAC outlet and talk to them about what they can provide before you embark upon assymbling components. Talk to the guys at They are a huge MAC Motu software outlet. They also sell most all the opther stuff. No, they are not the cheapest, but I would think you want this to be hassle free.

    The point is, do some real hands on talking with people putting these systems together and ask them why they are telling you what they are?

    The following is off of the MOTU site regarding FW drives.
    So as you can see, there are issues to comtend with, and this is true about almost all the stuff out there.

    This not to say RME, ECHO, M-Audio, Apogee, Aardvark, Lucid, etc is bad stuff. But honestly, I have used lots of MOTU stuff over the years and you can make excellent recordings using the MOTU stuff. MOTUs biggest advantage is they do enough market rearch to offer a wide variety of I/O in one box, which is what the 828 is all about. So if you "need" the various I/O on the 828, you will be hard pressed to do better. So the first place to start is to ask yourself, just how many tracks you want to record at a time, do you need MIDI, and all the 20 some I/O this thing offers?

    Now, one major advantage to RME stuff is that alot of the processing takes place on their boards so latency issues are greatly reduced over MOTU stuff. Also, MOTU is notorious for bad service. But what they have few compete with for features.

    IF you get serious, then you will develope desires and at that point, I would suggest you worry about something better.

    After all, you have stated a SM57 or 58, which are essentually the same capsule in the mic. One differs from the other only by the presence of the windscreen, which in effect keeps the singer from getting as close as they can to the capsule of the 57.

    I would advise that $300-$500 could be better spent towards a better mic or mics than can be gained by a marginally better sounding preamp. Again, you also need to address monitor speakers, which will inevitably take you towards addressing the room acoustics. Again. money better spent.

    Personally, I'd steer you towards the DigiDesign Digi002 interface and software if you are moving towards a HUI type system. Its easy, industry standard and offers most everything you say you want in one MAC friendly package.

    See compatibility specs here.

    Oh, and I do know a thing or two about drums, and you really only require 4 I/O to get an exceptional drum sound. You will want to be concerned with monitoring latency. You will want 2 Large Diaprham condnsors for overhead, something like the Studio Projects B1 and a decent kick drum mic in addition to your SM57.

    LDC mics are money well spent.
  12. Thanks for all the great info everyone!
  13. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    I have a G4 dual 867 and I get consistently 24+ tracks with plug ins in Digital performer- You can get a machine like this on e-bay for between $700-$900 and is more than adequate- I'm planniing on keeping mine for another year or two or who knows... if it ain't broke why fix it? :D
  14. golli

    golli Active Member

    Apr 17, 2003
    Exelent advice from Jscott. Time wasted on building is time away from music.

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