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Anderton

Do you use a laptop for music?

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If so...what are your thoughts on the subject? Do you use it as a "desktop replacement," or just as a sketchpad that gets beat up as you carry it around? What do you like most or least about the laptop you're using?

 

I'm using a pretty plain vanilla laptop -- 5400 RPM drive, onboard AC97 audio card -- from Digital Audio Wave. I like it a lot, except I sure wish battery life was longer. I've been told that the Centrino mobile laptops aren't that good for music but that may be an internet urban legend thing.

 

I've also found DoubleDesktop to be a great accessory for making it feel like your screen is a little bigger.

 

So if you use a laptop, do you use it for recording or just for editing/songwriting? Any favorite programs that seem real happy on a laptop? Do you use it for live performance?

 

I just think it's time to zero in on laptops for music and see what people think.

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I just decided to go that route in order to have a mobile option for location/live recording. However, I use it as a desktop replacement.

 

Dell Inspiron 9300 (recently discontinued), 2ghz Pentium M, 2GB ram, 60GB 7200 RMP drive, 17 in monitor, XP Pro...

 

I use a TASCAM 1082 firewire as the interface/control surface and haven't had an issue streaming 10 tracks at once in using either CUBASE LE or SONAR 5 Studio. I've tested it with some fairly large drum Soundfonts with little latency.

 

I've yet to stress test it in a complex mixdown with a bunch of plugs but don't anticipate any issues as it kills my desktop...

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Craig I use a Dell 8600 Centrino and it's not an internet legend as far as performance. At least for Pro Tools le, Vegas, Live, etc I've had exellent performance. The battery life was about 3 1/2 hours but my battery is now dead. 2 years after I got the computer so I have to buy a new one..Another thing that just happened yesterday was the AC adapter just popped, quit working an died!..So and with about 15 minutes of battery time available now max, I had to hop onto Ebay and order a new AC adapter..This is ill timed due to the fact i'm in the middle of working on a new CD so I had to shut my laptop down until the new power adapter comes..Basically i'm shut down from working probably the rest of this week...My advice is get an extra AC adapter if you have laptop!! I happen to own one of the few laptops that you can't really get an after market adapter for or I would have gotten one at Radio Shack..:)

 

That said, I LOVE LOVE LOVE having the laptop..I went from a PC desktop and a mac G3 that I used to run Pro Tools with to running Pro Tools on XP and the Dell Laptop...IF you get one, max out your RAM, use an external 7200rpm Firewire drive and I would have also get a 7200rpm system drive if possible....I spent $2K on this Dell when the centrino 1.7 was brand new butyou can get this performance for around a grand new now with a DVD burner and I've seen systems similar in performance rating on Ebay for much less. I'll probably get a Dual Core desktop system this time next year for the studio and I expect it to SCREAM but I'm sure I'll use this laptop for stage and mobile recording until it dies!..And when it does, I'll promply get another Laptop...Once you go laptop, it's tough to ever completely go back..I take it everywhere I go and with an MBox so I've got a studio with me no matter where I am!!!

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I switched to a laptop (Powerbook G4, 1.67) last year for the following reasons/ambitions/goals:

 

The feature set available on laptop is up to snuff with desktop machines. I have a dual-layer DVD combo drive that will read/write any current optical media I'm aware of. The number of ports was adequate. I have a hub I use at home for convenience - just unplug the hub, the power and the modem cable and put it in the bag to go out.

 

I can save home studio time for tasks specific to the gear there, I can spend my time riding commuter trains doing the mundane tasks like file management and typing project notes and outlines. I can do some audio editing tasks on the go. Cleaning up regions in digital audio files is primarily visual - look at where the flat line ends and the waveform begins. I can do all that on the train, and just double check quickly at home before I bounce stuff down. It's non-destructive anyway, so what's one mistake if I can do twenty regions?

 

I can take all my stuff on the road. With a four space rack, I can record direct guitar tracks or anything I can mike up. I could even get by with a two space rack if I had to. I did a vocal session on the go already, and would like to try some more location work. Plus, I hijacked my father's tv to run a slideshow of his grandson during the holidays.

 

I fully intend to try and do some live performance this year or early next at the worst. Trying to work up something that isnt' quite karaoke-oid.

 

I have to be disciplined about backing up the data though. The whole wide world is a more dangerous place than my music room. I shudder to think what would happen if there was damage or theft and I didn't have a weekly backup.

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Originally posted by Anderton

I've been told that the Centrino mobile laptops aren't that good for music but that may be an internet urban legend thing.

 

That's funny, because I've actually heard just the opposite...that the Centrino models are actually the best for music performance. I have an IBM T40 that I've been using, and it's done pretty well...but I'm looking to upgrade now.

 

Originally posted by Anderton

So if you use a laptop, do you use it for recording or just for editing/songwriting? Any favorite programs that seem real happy on a laptop? Do you use it for live performance?

 

I use mine a bit for editing/songwriting, occasionally to record a track or sound (not very often, really, but it's been known to happen), and mostly for live performance. I currently run B4, Absynth and (sometimes) Reason from the laptop through an MBox and UM-1 interface. I'm really curious about NI's newly-announced KORE. It sounds like it might work quite well for me.

 

I'm actually looking long and hard at the new MacIntel Powerbooks to replace my IBM (because I need to use the laptop for business as well, the key will be whether I can easily run a Windows partition along with an OSX partition on the Powerbook).

 

 

 

Cheers,

Mark

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Been using a 1GHz Powerbook as my primary DAW for a couple of years. It does what I need.

 

Probably will upgrade to a Macbook(I hate that name) early next year.

 

:cool:

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I considered purchasing a lap top.

the cost /problems ratio

is still to high for me.

I was waiting in the show room of a large manufacturers retail outlet and while I waited I went over to the service area and listened for a while .

monitor failure and harddrive failure on new computers seemed to be the topic of the day. customer support as I heard it that day in that store was ....ah ...

less than friendly though served with a smile.

 

the small shop that built my PC does not build laptops, if they did I would buy one of their products. they don't unfortunately.

when the reliability of the platform is improved I will be using favorite computer game reason as I commute and wait in the dentist office.

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the biggest problem for me with laptops are the monitoring, I am so used to easy-on-the-ear near-fields like ns10. I use an Asus W1, 1.7ghz centrino. Any work except final stuff I do on the laptop whenever I am out of the studio. Next would be the graphics, when playing cubase or vegas, theres a bit of "ghosting" that you dont get in the desktops. Plus I hate laptop keyboards and touchpads. I have to use an ordinary keyboard and mouse. I rarely work with just batteries so I don't have problems with the batteries.

The W1 works as well as my previous desktop, an athlon 1600+XP.

 

My work consist mainly with arranging and composing although I record track by track any midi stuff I sequence so I mix basically like mixing bands.

 

My desktop rig is an athlon 3200+ socket 939, sata 200gb, 1gb dual channel ram, nvidia 6600GT, motu 828, m-audio delta 1010lt, gadgetlabs 496, midisport 4x4, steinberg usb2midi.

I don't think I can use a laptop to replace that.

 

however, maybe with these:

 

http://www.clevo.com.tw/products/D900K.asp

 

http://www.discountpcsales.com/cgi-bin/shopper.cgi?preadd=action&key=MTECHD900K

If I have to replace my desktop with a laptop, it will have to be these.

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the biggest problem for me with laptops are the monitoring, I am so used to easy-on-the-ear near-fields like ns10

 

Why is this a problem? You are not limited to what you use for monitoring by laptops.

 

Furthermore, NS-10's are anything but easy on the ears, and this is coming from a faithful NS-10 user.

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Originally posted by where02190



Why is this a problem? You are not limited to what you use for monitoring by laptops.


 

Can you imagine yourself sitting in a train composing and listening to those NS10s?:D

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I can and do use headphones when composing or tracking but when I do serious mixing I don't rely on them so as I previously said, any work except final stuff.....

I don't believe anybody here can seriously be mixing or mastering with headphones and consistently get it right.

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Centrinos are basically budget processors, avoid them like the plague (however being underpowered they're good for batt life and heat).

 

 

I bought an Acer Aspire 1520Wlmi to replace my desktop as I had to force myself to stop playing PC games (used to be a hardcore gamer and I just got broadband, too tempting) and I love it so far.

 

As an audio interface I bought an edirol UA1000 which I'm also very happy with so far. To be honest I haven't put it through it's paces yet due to software issues but I'm sure it will eat anything I can throw at it.

 

One thing I would say is it's a lot less portable than I thought. I was kinda expecting to be able to sit in a field somewhere writing drum n bass, but it really does need a desk & sockets etc. Having said that it still kicks the crap out of a PC for portability.

 

I would say overall make sure you get a laptop by a well respected company rather than one that's 'specifically for media' as reliabilty support etc are more important than the fact that it comes with a slightly better soundcard to start with (that will undoubtedly be replaced)

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Originally posted by where02190



Why is this a problem? You are not limited to what you use for monitoring by laptops.


Furthermore, NS-10's are anything but easy on the ears, and this is coming from a faithful NS-10 user.

 

 

I discovered the magic, missing ingredient for NS10m's. A Yamaha receiver with a passive loudness control.

 

When I was using my NS10m's for monitoring before I got my Event 20/20BAS's I was using the amp flat (it's also got a straigh wire function that cuts out everything but the master voluem -- even the balance is outta there). And, you know, they sounded pretty much like NS10m's... thin, a bit harsh and overbright. Good for peeling apart problems, to be sure. But not so nice for listening for long periods. (And that was WITH the grille cloth on.)

 

But when I moved and decided to rig up the NS10m's as my 'home stereo speakers' I finally kicked in the variable-passive loudness comp.

 

Ohmigosh.

 

They must have been designed for that control's curve. Or vice versa.

 

Everything I didn't like about the NS10m's seemed to smooth out. (Not saying they're flat, mind you -- but, honest to gosh, they now do sound a bit more consistent with the much flatter Events.) The bass warmed up (it's still shy, of course.) And, surprisingly, considering what I normally think of as the Fletcher Munson curve -- the high ends was tamed, smoothed and given a little very discreet (as opposed to discrete, yo) sparkle. Well, maybe not sparkle. But a bit of sheen.

 

Anyhow. Don't get me wrong. I still think EQ is evil. But it may be a necessary evil if I want to use these day in and day out and enjoy them. (And when I'm doing serious mixing, I pull the Events out and move things around, anyhow, for better room placement.)

 

____________

 

Anyhow, back to the subject at hand:

 

I bought my laptop primarily as a business machine and while I was a bit keen to do some location work once I got my MOTU 828mkII, I still haven't. :D

 

But I was surprised that the machine, a Dell 8600 1.4 GHz Centrino with the sweet little TravelStar 60 GB/7200 RPM internal drive, was well more than adequate to finish the projects I'd been working on on my then 3+ year old desktop.

 

Unfortunately, like so many of us, I became ADDICTED (addicted, I say) to VI's and nasty, CPU-sucking plug-ins like convo reverb.

 

While the internal hard drive works great, I ended up moving my audio production work to an outboard USB2 7200 drive (with a measly 2 MB cache... I bought it in a pinch and didn't have time to shop around... it was really just supposed to be for backup, since I didn't think USB2 would be all that robust -- but I was able to put my installation of BFD on it AND use it for audio files, too.

 

 

All that said I now find myself jonesing for MORE POWER. Freezing tracks is great. But, you know... I wanna be FREE! Spontaneous...

 

 

And, since I really haven't been using the laptop for remote (although I JUST bought one of those Samson C01U USB mics for casual remote, overdubs, etc) I will probably build a desktop for my music production work in the not too distant future.

 

But the ONE THING it has to have is something my laptop has (mostly) spoiled me for: QUIET.

 

I will no longer tolerate noisy fans running all the time.

 

When I finally turned off my old desktop (it had been running 24/7 for years -- with reboots, mind you) the near-silence was deafening. And I LOVED it. (And that machine had a relatively quiet thermo-controlled PS fan.)

 

 

PS... on the batteries -- Centrino/Pentium M is absolutely THE KING. When my machine was new (and only had 512 MB of RAM) it was getting between 4 and 5 hours of straight battery use). Until the last month or so, the machine was probably out in the world on battery about 5 or 6 times a week. I always try to make a point of running it all the way down. These days (just shy of two years later) I'm tending to get close to 3 most days. But if it's been plugged in for a while, say a half week or so, I've noticed the battery life first time out is on the low side, sometimes under 2 hours. After it goes through a discharge and charge cycle, the next day it's fine and back up to its current normal life.

 

___________

 

 

And finally -- mouse and keyboard. Oh yeah. At home I HAVE to plug in my MS-Natural keyboard (and I have a MS mouse that plugs into that, which is my fave mouse ever... it's the concave shape). Even on the road, I have a tiny little mouse with a retractable cable. If I'm doing serious work -- or just serious browsing -- I pull that out for the scroll wheel and general ergo ease.

 

________________

 

 

PS... Most of us are simply not equipped or ready to get deep into the guts of the typical mass market laptop. I STRONGLY recommend a good (next-day, if possible) onsite service package. I haven't really used mine (it's got another year left) but I'm glad it's there. (That said, I've heard service horror stories from every major vendor. I think I'd proably still stick with Dell for my next laptop -- but, honestly, my mind is open. Sort of. There are at least two major laptop brands I can't imagine ever buying. And two related brands I probably would not consider, either. So that does cut down on the options. :D )

 

 

______________

 

 

Craig -- you're paying us by the word for these answers, right?

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Using a 2GHz centrino-powered Sony Vaio laptop with either a Fireface or an Edirol FA-66 interface. A PCMCIA card for more Firewire ports, external audio discs and 1GB of memory seems to be quite enough.

 

Very recently I've been considering using this tiny but capable machine for some more serious audio work, even live sound effects! For that, I think something like either the Waves APA-44 or TC PowerCore Compact system with an external processor box could be a welcome addition.

 

Has anybody tried either of these?

 

Oh, and plugging in a second display helps...

 

Martin

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I'm also considering using a laptop recording solution and always have that in the back of my head whenever I pick up gear/interfaces.

 

Being a seasoned business traveller, I love the flexibility of being able to take work on the go, or in this case pleasure even when I want to enjoy a quet weekend at the cottage.

 

Laptops have come a long way and despite the fact that I was running on an archaic P3 with traktion as a scribble-pad, I'm seriously considering a Dell Inspiron 6000 Centrino pumped up on RAM. My business laptop that i'm running on is powerful enough, but the fan kicks in on the Athlon XP-m every once in a while and can get really disruptive depending on where it is placed in relation to everything.

 

Ultimately, I think it depends largely on how intensive your software needs are in addition to the set-up. For someone like myself that just lays one or 2 tracks of audio down at a time, Traktion and Reason have been a blessing, but with computing where it's at today, I have a hard time seeing serious limitations outside of fan noise or video graphics in the case of multimedia work.

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Originally posted by GeoffonTour

Centrinos are basically budget processors, avoid them like the plague

 

Wrong....Flat Wrong...Go looked on the Digidesign DUC, talk to anyone who uses a DAW and they will tell you how powerful Centrino's are..they are NOT underpowered for digital audio bro....

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I recently set up a Gateway laptop for a freind for DAW,it's based on an Athlon 64 4000 with a gig of DDR and it's based on an Ati chipset. He's running everything of a WD FW external drive and a Presonus FireBox. No problems at all,and it kicks ass and doesn't seem to get hot really that much. As good as it is and as much as I like the idea of portability and containment,I'll stick with my desktop for 4 reasons,powershifting is a pain in the ass and procs this powerful will shorten the life of any laptop in comparison to a desktop,and I'm not in love with small screens. the biggest reason though is the extra CPU hit on all FW Audio devices as far as latencey v/s cpu hit. When they come up with a protocol equal or better than PCI and Powerful procs that stay cool,I'll be all over it.

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I use a Gateway P4 for remote recording both at my day job (acoustics research) and for studio work. Same program for both (because I know it), Adobe Audition. Zero problems.

 

Of course the battery doesn't last too long. Also, the power supply when connected adds a TON of digital noise to the recording unless you lift the ground or otherwise isolate the laptop from any other powered devices. And I don't just mean the usual ground loop situations, I mean the really harsh and high level switching power supply hash noise. Yikes!

 

In a vehicle, a cigarette lighter adapter works well.

 

Just as an aside, I've recorded some important musical sessions that I wouldn't have wanted to screw up, but I never really knew what real pressure was until I started recording tire/pavement noise in a car traveling 70 mph with two $5,000 microphones suspended 2.75 inches above the pavement. :eek:

 

Terry D.

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My laptop has enough power to arrange songs in Acid or go through my Live tutorials. Reason is not a problem at all. In an attempt to run Sonar and a bunch of VSTi's I added a sound card, an external Firewire drive, a mouse, etc. Then I decided I wanted my 19" screen. By the time I was happy with the laptop I might as well be using the desktop.

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I'm using a Dell Inspiron 8200, which is a 1.7 Ghz w/ 400 Mhz FSB, 512 MB RAM, 200 GB Lacie External Firewire HDD, and an Edirol FA-101 Firewire recording interface.

 

I can track 10 channels at a time with no problems. We have some songs that have up to 25 - 30 tracks by the time we're finished adding everything, and I've never really needed (or even wanted) more horsepower out of it.

 

The power supply hums like a mother unless you lift the ground on it. Not sure why it is doing this now, as it was perfectly silent for over a year. All of a sudden last week it started producing a serious ground loop. I had to lift the ground to stop it.

 

Other than that, though, it performs flawlessly for recording. I could honestly use a desktop computer just as easily -- this thing stays docked w/ external monitor 99.9% of the time. :)

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I use an iBook G4 1.2 Ghz with Logic Pro 7.2 and I have a MacBook Pro 2.0 Ghz (CoreDuo) on order that will replace the iBook. I think in the case of the MacBook Pro, I shouldn't have any need to use a desktop system ever again. The iBook had marginal performance with Logic, but that won't be a problem with the new computer.

 

Here's a test that someone tried with one of the new 2.0 Mactel iMacs, the same configuration as the MacBook Pro I'm getting:

 

http://uc.panicnow.net/~johann/iMac%20DC%20intel.png

 

He ran 47 SpaceDesigner convolution reverbs before the CPUs maxed out.

I think that's plenty of power :D .

 

I also like the portability of a notebook computer. It's nice to be able to easily bring it to a gig or another studio.

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Originally posted by GeoffonTour

Centrinos are basically budget processors, avoid them like the plague (however being underpowered they're good for batt life and heat).



 

Don't you mean Celeron processors, and not Centrinos?

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After many years of recording on Adats and hardware, I'm finally making the switch to computer recording. I got a G4 Powerbook (1.5Ghz) with an Mbox and ProTools LE. I'm not a "computer person", so I find the learning curve a bit daunting, but the capability you gain, especially in terms of editing, is amazing. I have an engineer who comes to my studio and has been helping along with it and I'm slowly becoming more adept at it. The only limitation so far has been just having two inputs on the Mbox.

But I can always upgrade in the future. I like the portability of the laptop plus the fact that it is so much quieter than a desktop computer.

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I;m very much in the 'laptop as sketch pad' camp - I did have everything installed on it at one stage for the full deal but found I just preferred working at my desktop unit.

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Centrinos are basically budget processors, avoid them like the plague (however being underpowered they're good for batt life and heat).

 

you probably got it mixed up with celeron processors man.

 

In fact for reasons I don't entirely understand, a 1.7ghz centrino will kick an older P4 2.8 ghz in the ass. They are one of the most efficient intel proccessors.

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