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Looking for input on building a DAW for live performance


n9ne

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I've decided that in order to take my band in the direction I'm wanting to go in, I'm going to have to start using a DAW. At this point, I plan on using a combination of Ableton Live and Reason, along with some VSTs and soft synths.

 

However, since this is my first foray into this genre, I'd like to get some input from folks who have more experience with this stuff, and who can offer advice, and maybe help me to avoid some unanticipated pitfalls.

 

Just for the record.....I'm not the computer geek I was a few years ago, but I'm a fairly technical guy with a pretty strong understanding of computers. However, I got out of the computer field around 2005, and I haven't kept up with the technology like I used to, so a lot of the latest tech is foreign to me.

 

Anyway....a few random questions. Any and all input is appreciated.

 

- Laptop or desktop? I'm leaning toward a laptop for the convenience and mobility factor....but desktops offer much better bang for the buck, and are more scalable. But they're also unwieldy, require more setup, and have a much bigger footprint.

 

-From a musician's standpoint, is Windows 7 Pro significantly better/more stable than Windows 7 Home?

 

-I currently have an inexpensive 2x2 USB audio interface. Is that enough to get me started, or do I need to look at upgrading to a better quality audio interface? (A new audio interface probably means cutting corners in other areas.)

 

-I've also seen it suggested that cooling can be a major problem in live performance settings. Anyone have any problems with this, or any suggestions on how to keep it from becoming a problem? Is a simple laptop cooler enough, or do I need something more elaborate?

 

I'm sure I'll have some more questions later, but that's enough for now. And again...any and all input is appreciated. :)

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I've expounded on this subject so many times I'll just lay out the highlights:

 

1. MacBook Pro

2. Firewire interface for audio (including click track)

3. MOTU Midi Timepiece AV for midi

4. Glyph PortaGig external firewire drive

5. MOTU Digital Performer DAW (it's the only one that allows unlimited sequences to be contained in the same project file).

 

Avoid the soft synths unless you pre-record them, or use external synths driven by midi which you can also use for lighting, patch changing and effects control.

 

Can't comment on Win7. I used a WinXP laptop when I first started but Windows was so picky about where and when things are plugged in it made setup a nightmare.

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I've expounded on this subject so many times I'll just lay out the highlights:


1. MacBook Pro

2. Firewire interface for audio (including click track)

3. MOTU Midi Timepiece AV for midi

4. Glyph PortaGig external firewire drive

5. MOTU Digital Performer DAW (it's the only one that allows unlimited sequences to be contained in the same project file).


Avoid the soft synths unless you pre-record them, or use external synths driven by midi which you can also use for lighting, patch changing and effects control.


Can't comment on Win7. I used a WinXP laptop when I first started but Windows was so picky about where and when things are plugged in it made setup a nightmare.

 

 

^^ What he said ^^

 

I'd personally avoid Win 7 because of hardware incompatibility and firmware issues. If you really want to do this right, look into a Venue system. It will have everything you need in a single package (albeit, an expensive one). No worries about incompatibilities buy every DAW, especially something used live, will need a backup. Doesn't matter Mac or Windows, it would be a bad idea to assume that you won't have reliability issues at the worse moment. It is a neat plan but be careful. That is why I use only Macs in a live environment and I have a backup system. I've never had to use the backup but I have been at gigs when other bands have had issues and crashes during a performance.

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Thanks for the replies so far. A couple quick points/questions:

 

One thing I neglected to mention in the original post: I'm not looking to jump in with both feet quite yet, so my budget is around $1000. I'm just looking to get up and running for the time being; I don't need a lot of features or flexibility, nor would I expect it at that price. I just want something that's reasonably reliable; the other pieces I can fill in later on.

 

I've had very little experience with Macs. I know they're great machines, and they're the industry standard for music/video editing; I just haven't spent any time with them. From what I've seen, Macs tend to cost about twice as much as comparably equipped Windows-based machines, whether new or used. Is the difference in stability/performance enough to justify the difference in price?

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Is the difference in stability/performance enough to justify the difference in price?

 

 

I don't think that Macs typically run twice as much when comparing apples to apples in terms of capability compared to a Windows-based machine, but IMO, the additional cost is justified when it comes to stability, etc.

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I don't think that Macs typically run twice as much when comparing apples to apples in terms of capability compared to a Windows-based machine, but IMO, the additional cost is justified when it comes to stability, etc.

 

 

I'd agree with this. Windows has a lot of low cost providers that offer new laptops in the $500 range, but I've had a real hard time doing anything media related on them. I recently got a Mac Mini, and so far, the audio and movie making stuff seems a lot easier to work with. Mac is one company, and they focus on higher end stuff, so the Windows machines with the same capability are going to be in a similar price range.

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Thanks for the replies so far. A couple quick points/questions:


One thing I neglected to mention in the original post: I'm not looking to jump in with both feet quite yet, so my budget is around $1000. I'm just looking to get up and running for the time being; I don't need a lot of features or flexibility, nor would I expect it at that price. I just want something that's reasonably reliable; the other pieces I can fill in later on.


I've had very little experience with Macs. I know they're great machines, and they're the industry standard for music/video editing; I just haven't spent any time with them. From what I've seen, Macs tend to cost about twice as much as comparably equipped Windows-based machines, whether new or used. Is the difference in stability/performance enough to justify the difference in price?

 

 

There is a wide range of levels I suppose, apparently some folks do it just using an iPod. So......do you just want some audio tracks playing along, need to control any midi gear, change guitar/effect patches during songs?

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There is a wide range of levels I suppose, apparently some folks do it just using an iPod. So......do you just want some audio tracks playing along, need to control any midi gear, change guitar/effect patches during songs?

 

 

I plan on starting with audio tracks, much of which could be accomplished with pre-recorded tracks on an Ipod.

 

However, we tend to call a few audibles throughout the course of a gig, just to challenge each other and keep things fresh....which obviously wouldn't be possible with a pre-recorded backing track. (Hence the attraction to Ableton Live; we could easily manipulate song arrangements on the fly without completely losing the backing track.)

 

At this point, I don't plan on MIDI-izing my guitar rig, so that's not a concern.

 

I also plan on eventually incorporating real-time live keys in addition to the DAW stuff. (Possibly even before the DAW stuff happens.) I've messed around just a bit with some soft-synths and VSTi, and I figured I would just run them as plug-ins with Ableton....but your earlier post seems to imply that this might be more problematic than I'd thought, so I'm kinda re-thinking things.

 

Oh, and incidentally....since everyone seems to agree on the whole Mac vs. Windows thing, I've pretty much decided to go with a Mac....probably a used Macbook or MBPro that's a year or two old. (Also considering an Imac, but I'm leaning toward the portability of a laptop.)

 

Again, the input is very much appreciated. I'm still reading up on this stuff, trying to become as informed as possible....but I don't really know anyone who has any practical experience with it. As such, your opinions and experiences are invaluable.

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I'm using a Macbook Pro with Reason 6 (as mixer and backing tracks) and a Roland OctaCapture plus some powered speakers. It only does 8 inputs, which works for me. Backing tracks are built into each file along with effects and timings. If you run at 96k sampling rate the latency is under 3 ms.

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Oh, and incidentally....since everyone seems to agree on the whole Mac vs. Windows thing, I've pretty much decided to go with a Mac....probably a used Macbook or MBPro that's a year or two old. (Also considering an Imac, but I'm leaning toward the portability of a laptop.)

 

 

That's how I started out. After concluding that the Win machine was just a pain I re-worked my whole approach after buying a used Powerbook on eBay. Later I moved up to a MacBook Pro again used from eBay. Eventually I bought a new one from Amazon and am currently typing from an even newer one I bought in late 2010. Much of my knowledge and inspiration for the setup I eventually put together came from Keyboard magazine articles by guys who do this stuff for a living.

 

I'd certainly recommend budgeting for a firewire interface, it's easy to find a good one that won't break the bank and it's also worth noting that having a fast external firewire HD to run your files from would help make for a solid system you can trust at live gigs.

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