New Hardware..suggestions?

Talk about your MIDI interfaces, microphones, keyboards...

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dchurch24
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New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by dchurch24 »

Hi all,

Glad to have found this place, I can tell you.

I'm thinking of building a dedicated machine soley for recording - my desktop would be ideal (very high spec), but everyone in the family uses it and it's in the living room - if I move my keyboards and guitars in there, I might get a few complaints ;-)

So, with that in mind (and the fact that I think my laptop is underpowered for such a job), I've been looking at this:

http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/spec ... l?BB-A502M

...as the bare-bones system.

Obviously I'll get the HDDs that I have found to be reliable, and the fastest I can get.

The thing that I know absolutely nothing about it sound cards - obviously I want low latency, but other than that I know nothing about them, having never recorded in this way before.

My previous recording attempts were with 4 (and later 8 ) track Tascam tape recorders. I also played a fair bit with Midi using Cubase/and/or/Cakewalk.

The graphics card I am happy about choosing too - I know I want nVidea and two screens - not bothered about Compiz on this machine, just like high-res when using DAW software as I like a lot of room.

I have monitors (one 19in, and one 25in) laying around doing nothing, so I should be able to build this without breaking the bank with any luck.

Any suggestions?

thorgal
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by thorgal »

ciao.

What's your budget and how many IOs do you need ?

dchurch24
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Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:44 pm

Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by dchurch24 »

Hi, thanks for the reply.

My budget is about 3-400 quid - that's not as bad as it sounds, as I don't need HDDs (I have about 4 SATA 10k rpm, and a few 36gb SCSI discs sitting about doing nothing, along with a decent PCI scsi controller), I don't need monitors - I have 2 doing nothing - a 19in and a 25in, keyboards, mouse etc... I all have spare already.

I even have 2 graphics cards spare that I found last night - both nVidia, one a pcix and one agp, so really all I need is a bare-bones system and a decent sound card that works with Ubuntu - I have experience of linux, but I do prefer Ubuntu - the kids machines are running Xubuntu so it all ties up and makes sense if I can run the same software as them.

thorgal
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by thorgal »

Yo,

I was not clear enough, sorry. What's your budget for a soundcard and how many inputs / outputs do you need on it ? should it have MIDI as well ? ADAT, SPDIF ? analog balanced IOs ? integrated mic preamps ?

WHat's your goal ? acoustic recordings ? pure electro-synth music ?

The answers to these questions will determine how many bucks you'll have to spend.
My recommendation: RME Hammerfall DSP + Multiface II + some external preamps (like the RME OctaMic or QuadMic). That's not given, believe me, but it works really really nicely (my system is using these gears).

About the OS, I don't recommend ubuntu. It's nice and shiny for desktop usage, recognizes most laptop hardware, which is fine for newbies. A DAW is another story, and you will have to customize it. To my mind, one of the best distro for customization is debian. You could try sidux (based on debian sid) or 64studio (based on debian etch or lenny, so a bit less bleeding-edge). UbuntuStudio tends to become a joke (8.10), unfortunately. If you do want ubuntu, either hardy (with a bit of work) or gutsy (best but a bit outdated).

dchurch24
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Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:44 pm

Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by dchurch24 »

Fair enough - I tried the 64_studio live disc, and have no problem with using that at all.

That's where I shall head then ;-)- Hey, they [Ubuntu, Xubuntu] are all debian in any case.

Re, the sound card, I was looking at the M-Audio Delta 66 (as recommended by another forum member) and this looks like it might be the beast for me.

I won't be recording electro-synth music, it might be easier if I tell you my set up.

I have a Yamaha DX-7 (first edition, so I know the MIDI interface wasn't completely finished in this device) and a 66 Key MIDI Controller. I have several electric guitars and a Marshall JCM 900. I also have a serious Sony recording Mic - although the model number I don't know off the top of my head (it's at home, and I'm not) - it can be switched to change the angle it listens at. I have a HH 100w PA with 6 inputs - which I currently use for the keyboard.

I'd like to be able to record these sometimes with the mic without going straight to the sound card (to capture the sound of the amp etc...)

Also, if I record a midi track, say that controls the DX7 and also record an audio track, e.g. from the guitar, how would I capture the sound from the DX7? I'm not sure I'm explaining myself very well here.

I would like to record the DX7 at the same time as playing to, Hydrogen and recording a guitar track at the same time. The DX7 would presumably be played by the midi track. Would I just DI the DX7 back into the PC as an audio track at the same time as recording the guitar?

Still not sure I'm doing a very good job of explaining. Sorry. :oops:

thorgal
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by thorgal »

if you do want to have the original DX7 sounds, you can definitely have a MIDI track played by rosegarden or qtractor or whatever your favorite MIDI sequencer is, output the MIDI events to the DX7 and patch the audio outputs of the DX7 to your soundcard. No problem. But if you are alone in your studio, do you really have to record things at the same time ? it's calling for less reliability. I would record (or simply play) the MIDI track with the patched DX7 audio, and record the guitar only so you don't stress your system more than you should.

I also think there's a DX7 software emulator somewhere ... let me look ...

thorgal
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by thorgal »

there you go: Hexter dssi plugin http://dssi.sourceforge.net/hexter.html

there may be some audio demos that compare the real and the fake.. Maybe you could bypass the audio recording of your DX7. What's the quality of the audio outputs on your DX7 ? It might turn out you're better off using the emulator and you save some soundcard inputs for something else (?)

dchurch24
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by dchurch24 »

Wow - thanks for the replies.

The more I think about it the more I am thinking of buying the aforementioned soundcard and using my existing system. It does however, use Ubuntu, but I would imagine a dual-boot wouldn't hurt it.

The system is an AMD 64 bit Dual Core (two of the buggers, so 4 cores) with 8gb of 1ghz RAM and 6tb of space on 4 very fast access discs. Plus it has two 24in monitors - essential IMO.

The misses might just have to put up with the noise ;-)

As to the DX7 Emu - thanks for that, I will have a play around with that when I get home.

thorgal
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by thorgal »

if your existing system uses Ubuntu 8.10 intrepid Ibex, and you plan on using MIDI with the realtime kernel they provide (2.6.27), you can already forget about it unless you don't mind losing hair :lol:

I forgot to mention that this is so buggy that the OS will only recognize one CPU core ... I mean, the realtime kernel.

dchurch24
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by dchurch24 »

I am using 8.10 - not sure what the realitime kernel is, but it recognises all 4 cores at the moment.

It's the 64 bit version if that makes any difference - will this still cause me MIDI problems?

thorgal
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by thorgal »

the generic kernel is fine.
The realtime kernel is a specially patched kernel that implements threaded IRQs, so you can make sure some devices of your choice will have no disruption. This is very good for audio as you want to avoid the audio stream to be disrupted by say a network download or USB activity, etc. The realtime patch has been developed and maintained by a guy called Ingo Molnar. It is more and more admitted among kernel devs that this IRQ thread structure is no longer a problem for the generic kernel so it will be (at last) merged into trunk.

Your system looks very powerful. You may not need the realtime patch but power is not what's at stake here, it's more about IRQ priorities. If you soundcard shares its interrupt with many other devices that tend to fight for the CPU, you may encounter occasional problems, depending on the latency setting you want to apply. The lower, the less reliable it becomes. This is where a realtime system helps tremendously. There are many small tools to tweak your linux DAW so that audio rules over the rest.

As for the buggy stuff, MIDI is definitely buggy with 2.6.27-RT provided by Ubuntu Studuio.

You should probably start reading discussions here :

http://ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=335

Ubuntu forums for multimedia production. Many discussions are about how crapy this realtime kernel is.

ntnunk
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Location: Cary, NC

Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by ntnunk »

dchurch24:

Your equipment and requirements sound very close to mine. Instrumentally, I'm using a couple of guitars, a bass, microphones, and a Korg Triton Le keyboard/sequencer. The way I work and am configured is this:

The Korg is attached to the computer with a $20 UNO USB interface for MIDI data and the stereo audio outputs are tied to AUX 1 on my Delta 66's Omni I/O interface. I use Rosegarden to capture MIDI information coming from the keyboard and when I'm ready to record audio I simply tie the AUX 1 input to a track in Ardour through JACK, arm the track to record in Ardour, and hit "play" in Rosegarden. Rosegarden will play the MIDI back through my Korg and Ardour records the audio inputs. This all works very well.

For guitars and mics, the Omni I/O has inputs 1 and 2 that have mic preamps and switch intelligently between high Z (impedance) inputs (direct-connected guitars, for instance) and low Z inputs (microphones), thereby eliminating the need for direct boxes and external preamps. So, when you're ready to record a guitar track, plug it straight into the Omni interface (which sits on the end of my desk about a foot from my mouse), set up the internal routing with the envy24control program and JACK, arm the track in Ardour, and go.

It's just me and the occasional visiting friend/musician so I really don't need many inputs. About the only time I ever record more than one track simultaneously in Ardour is if I'm using a Hydrogen drum track. If I am I'll sometimes record the drum track and a live rhythm guitar or bass track at the same time. My system is a lot more modest than yours, it's a several-years-old 2GHz dual core, and it handles these tasks with no problem at all. The only time I ever see Xruns is when using JAMin in conjunction with some LADSPA effects in Ardour.

I hope all this helps!

dchurch24
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by dchurch24 »

Wow - thanks a lot guys - I have a LOT of reading to do.

I like the idea of the M-Audio Delta 66 - I've been reading about it a lot and it seems like the ideal thing for what I want.

I too would be recording alone for the most part.

I have a few machines dotted around the house (about 10 in total) - the only one that is redundant is the laptop, sadly I don't think the soundcard is going to be up for it - it's some SIS onboard thing.

I've been told by the misses that I musn't use the main desktop (the AMDx2 8gb jobbie - I've also since discovered that it has 4 dual core CPUs in it, so this is a double blow as it can easily handle everything I could throw at it.) :-(

Forgot to mention that for midi I have an old 1x1 midisport USB thing (I haven't tried it in Linux as yet, I moved recently and I can't find the bloody thing for love nor money - I DO know that it came with me though as I remember packing it!)

Thinking aloud here, so bear with me:
My system is a lot more modest than yours, it's a several-years-old 2GHz dual core, and it handles these tasks with no problem at all.
The next best powerful one I have is a P4 dual core 3ghz with 2gb of RAM - although that is a dedicated MythTV server at the moment with 3 capture cards in it.

I was thinking of putting the capture cards (or at least 2 of them) into the main server/desktop (has server architecture, but is used as our main desktop) - the AMD64 one, and using the P4 as a 'music machine' and replacing that with a mini-itx knockup for the MythTV front end - effectively making the main machine the mythtv server - I think it easily has the ooomph to handle it as well as everything else (when I look at the system, each core is usually less than 2% usage and less than about 20% RAM used).

Just trying to get this set up with the most bang for the least dosh. Despite getting the go-ahead from the misses, I'm now starting to feel guilty as she's started a job plucking turkeys to get money in for Christmas and here I am thinking of spending hundreds on yet ANOTHER PC ;-)

ntnunk
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by ntnunk »

dchurch24 wrote: I've been told by the misses that I musn't use the main desktop (the AMDx2 8gb jobbie - I've also since discovered that it has 4 dual core CPUs in it, so this is a double blow as it can easily handle everything I could throw at it.) :-(
I have a couple of PCs in my office/studio, as well. The "Big Daddy" is a smoking hot quad-core 2.8GHz pentium with 2Gb of ram, and hot video card, and tons of hard drive space. I just built it a few months ago. I keep thinking about converting it into the main studio machine since it's such a hotrod. One thing keeps stopping me: all that processing power generates a lot of heat, thus requiring a lot of fan horsepower. The net result? It's LOUD. If I'm recording with open mics I have to turn the blasted thing off. If you used the big machine how would you, or for that matter, how does anyone who's got such a machine, deal with the ambient noise? I'm asking this for my own edification as much as pointing out something you might not have thought about.

dchurch24
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Re: New Hardware..suggestions?

Post by dchurch24 »

Ahh - If I WERE allowed to use this beast that wouldn't be a problem.

I bought a 850W PSU with a silent fan, the case fans are from a firm called 'Silent Fan' (and there are 4 of the sods), the graphics card is fanless (it has a heatsink the size of Corsica mind!), the case is coated on the inside with acoustic absorbent paint - and that is on top of that foam stuff that is supposed to soak up sound.

Even the fans I bought for the CPUs are near silent.

I was amazed when I put it together, it was so quiet even with the case off that the only way I could tell if it was working was to look and see if the fans were spinning!! - I hadn't wired the lights in at that point.

If you turn EVERYTHING off in the house you still can't hear this machine -even when standing right next to it.

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