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I want to get a dedicated DAW, but get soooo overwhelmed! Any tips appreciated!

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  • I want to get a dedicated DAW, but get soooo overwhelmed! Any tips appreciated!

    I've basically decided to get a pre-built machine. I know I'd save a few bucks building one, but I don't know much about computers and the time/effort/frustration would most likely not be worth it.

    My main problem is I don't know what I don't know. So I'm hoping for input into things things that I'm not considering...

    Currently I have an old desktop w/ XP and an E-MU 0404 PCI. I like the 0404 well enough, but I think I'd like to upgrade w/ a new system.

    About me: Basement hobbyist. Singer/Songwriter. I use a POD XTL for guitars, and a POD KB37 MIDI keyboard. I'd like to someday get an edrum set, but for now I'm using EZdrummer and would like to continue (nice piece of software). I don't use a ton of plug-ins, but I would like a system that leans towards having a little extra power just in case.

    So of the companies out there (like Studio Cat and ADK), what do you recommend? Which models?

    I'd definitely like 2 hard drives (I have a 1TB external now) and I'd like two monitors. For an audio interface, even though it's just me, I like the idea of being able to have enough inputs to record drums if I wanted to - nothing crazy, but for a decent demo, ya know?

    Thanks in advance to anyone who chimes in. Please feel free to assume I know nothing and layout your reasons for suggestions and whatnot. My hope is after I make an educated decision; I'll be on my way to knowing enough to upgrade and/or build my own machine in the future. Thanks
    Originally Posted by christianatl


    Everybody stop hurting dap99's balls.

  • #2
    All you're really doing is buying a computer, adding an interface, and installing software.
    There are some things you have to do. Unscrew a side panel and plug in additional drives.
    thats surely no worse than installing a battery in a flashlight. Then once its up and running
    optimizing it by removing any bloatware programs is a mminimum challange.

    If you want to stick with a computer that has service support and warrantees, you can but a Dell or HP.
    You can buy an entire system including a flat screen monitor, wireless mouse and keyboard at places
    like Best Buy and Sams.

    For moost of your better recording programs you want a dual core processor for a minimum.
    A Quad core will give you optimum results. Most are using 64 bit now because it uses memory
    most efficiantly. A large flat screen monitor is best. It allows you more space for the virtual mixer and plugins to be displayed when
    mixing. The wireless mouse and keyboard allow you to be 15~20 feet from the screen so you can operate it from a distance recording live with a band.
    Having extra memory is a big thing too. 4G is usually the minimum for most DAW programs. 8~16 gig is what most use now.

    The next decision would be your interface. PCI slots are dieing out and being replaced by PCI express slots.
    If you have older PCI cards you want to run you need the older slots otherwise PCIe, Firewire, USB are the choices on a PC.
    If you went Mac, then Thunderbolt are the latest ports. So far the Interfaces for Thundrebolt are still expensive and few
    so you may not want to go thet direction.

    Most studios use Firewire interfaces. They are stable, and expandable and the gear is a step above the amature USB stuff.
    USB is fine for a solo studio. Its has its issues recording larger track counts because its a master/slave communication
    port and the data flow can be interrupted by the CPU. Firewire is peer to peer so it runs steady in the background.
    You just need to be sure you use a Firewire card that has a TX instruments chipset. generic firewire cards have issues dropping
    data packets causing communication dropouts.

    From there you simply have to do some research on the quality of the interfaces preamps. Most are very good now
    so studying your options can be difficult. Before purchasing, google up all possible bad reviews, and faults. read the manual,
    visit the manufacturers forums, read their Q&A etc and find all the data on them beyond the sales adds. You may find
    they have issues that will steer you away from buying them or thay may be great and finilize your purchase decision.

    Once you have the hardware you sinply need to install the DAW program of your choice. If you choose to use a 64 bit
    OS then you want a DAW program that will run 64Bit well. You should be able to run 32bit plugins and programs in
    32 bit mode if needed but I'd likely stick with fully compatible 64bit programs.

    The cost of everything is going to vary allot depending on what you choose.
    If it were me, I'd be able to do it all for under $1000 easily, but I wouldnt have to buy
    allot of things like the program and interface, hard drives etc. If you're going from scratch
    and buying everything new it can cost up to $2~$4000 to just buy, plugin and install software and go.

    You do pay for your ignorance and conveinence of just plug and play. You wouldnt be purchasing any better quality nor
    would it be any more stable than picking and choosing a system together. I hate seeing someone ripped off thousands.
    If you want to just for the conveinence, I'd sure there are dozens here willing to build you a great DAW for much less.
    I do suggest you focus on the basics I mentioned and save some money by doing so. You need to be able to do at least
    that because running a DAW properly will require allot more technical skill than it takes to just purchase the hardware.

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    • #3
      I've basically decided to get a pre-built machine. I know I'd save a few bucks building one, but I don't know much about computers and the time/effort/frustration would most likely not be worth it.

      My main problem is I don't know what I don't know. So I'm hoping for input into things things that I'm not considering...

      Currently I have an old desktop w/ XP and an E-MU 0404 PCI. I like the 0404 well enough, but I think I'd like to upgrade w/ a new system.

      About me: Basement hobbyist. Singer/Songwriter. I use a POD XTL for guitars, and a POD KB37 MIDI keyboard. I'd like to someday get an edrum set, but for now I'm using EZdrummer and would like to continue (nice piece of software). I don't use a ton of plug-ins, but I would like a system that leans towards having a little extra power just in case.

      So of the companies out there (like Studio Cat and ADK), what do you recommend? Which models?

      I'd definitely like 2 hard drives (I have a 1TB external now) and I'd like two monitors. For an audio interface, even though it's just me, I like the idea of being able to have enough inputs to record drums if I wanted to - nothing crazy, but for a decent demo, ya know?

      Thanks in advance to anyone who chimes in. Please feel free to assume I know nothing and layout your reasons for suggestions and whatnot. My hope is after I make an educated decision; I'll be on my way to knowing enough to upgrade and/or build my own machine in the future. Thanks
      One warning about audio interfaces. Your PCI based card likely has very low latency.

      The best of today's outboard interfaces are better than some of the early outboard interfaces but one place where there have been few improvements -- latency.

      You can monitor cue from an analog board by routing your inputs and computer playback through it or monitor cue through a 'direct-monitorting' or near-latency or 'zero' latency (so-called 'zero latency' cue monitoring via DSP is a lie, DSP means an extra ~2 ms or so, and THAT is not zero!) BUT -- and this is important -- if you're rolling with a MIDI drum kit, you're going to need to lose any latency you can. When you have your MIDI port on an outboard device, you're adding some 'transport' time (it's actually data buffering time, but let's not bog down in details)... and when playing drums, a very visceral thing, it's always struck me that you want absolutely minimal latency between the time you hit the pad and the sound comes out the speakers/headphones.
      .

      music and social links | recent listening

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      • #4
        I use a Fostex MR8...it's been a great way to learn, get my feet wet.
        http://sites.google.com/site/bizflyer/

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        • #5
          Thanks guys. From research I did a while ago, I got the sense that PCI is going the way of the dinosaur. I haven't done a lot of research on interfaces yet, but I do plan on going w/ firewire. I've read a lot of good stuff about MOTU and at first glance the Ultralite mk3 Hybrid or 828 mk3 Hybrid look good, but like I said, I have a lot of research to do there.

          As far as spec'ing my own machine, is there a site or book that lists out all the components (including case, fan, etc) that I'd need so I could start making up a list of various combinations? Also, for the sake of simplicity, what are the "main" or most popular Motherboards and other key parts out there? And if there's a site that has the pros/cons of various components, that'd be great. I'm guessing there's no one perfect site or resource; but a few good ones like here, Gear Slutz, etc.

          I really like the idea of putting my own machine together, but do get nervous about being a bit of a noob and messing things up. But if I can save a significant amount of money, it may be worth it.

          Thanks again for the help!
          Originally Posted by christianatl


          Everybody stop hurting dap99's balls.

          Comment


          • #6
            The new Intel-developed Thunderbolt is an attempt to extend high speed PCIe bandwidth throughputs via cable port out the machine -- you know for all those recording "engineers" who are terrified of opening up their computers. (In that sense, it is, in some ways a potential successor to USB and Firewire.) PCI and PCIe slots are not interchangeable. For this reason, motherboards often still offer both. Many motherboards still in use only support PCIe for graphics adapters.

            Adoption of Thunderbolt has only started and there are few devices for it. (Here's an audio box from Universal Audio with an add-on Thunderbolt i/o option.) Veterans of other bus technology upheavals would probably urge caution in adopting the new protocol. (Note, I used 'protocol' -- not 'standard.')


            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#Current_status

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface)
            .

            music and social links | recent listening

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            • #7
              Honestly, there is so much good quality stuff out there these days, it really doesn't matter what you buy.

              The most important thing is to stick with it and learn your stuff.
              I've been an apple user for over ten years, so that's what I use. I use logic because I learned on it and that what I now am most comfortable. It has a learning curve, but so does everything else. I use a Focusrite Saffire 40 interface - once again, there's a lot of other stuff I could have used, but I just stick with this one and learned all the ins and outs of it and it's software.

              Given enough time I could switch all that stuff, but I'd rather not because I'm set in my ways. If it's all new to you, just pick some stuff and get used to it. If something really bothers you after consistent use, switch it out. I had some issues with logic that were solved by buying a new mouse. You won't know what works or what doesn't work until you get cracking and start recording stuff.

              One other piece of advice, buy used. If you get a good deal, you don't lose much reselling when you want to try something different. The only thing that seriously depreciates in value is the digital stuff, like interfaces, but there doesn't seem to be anything that's really going to change on the horizon, so you could probably even score some deals and still retain resale value on those too.

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              • #8
                For a DAW, I really like Reason. I know a lot of people slag it off because of its lack of support of VST, but with Reason 6.5 they have added limited third party support. Just my 2 cents.
                WTS/WTT: Boss GT6B
                MXR Bass Di+


                Like Dubstep/D&B? Check me out at:
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