Help me

Idiot beginners

I have downloaded a demo version of ntrack which seems to work fine on my laptop but before going the whole hog and buying the full programme I was hoping someone could give me an idea of wheer it will run it or not.

30gig hard
don’t know about sound card (see I told you I was an idiot)

I only really need a limited recorder, 8 tracks or so but would like some in built effects

Anyone got any opinions?


You have found the perfect program. It should work fine with your setup.

The built in soundcard on your laptop should work fine too. Just make sure you send the signal in through the “line-in” and not the “mic” input.

You have stumbled on the best tracking program for your money. Your computer should handle 8 tracks without a problem, and I think You’ll be happy with the built in effects. I hardly use anything else.


Of course, you’ll need to buy a multi-track soundcard to get 8 tracks. Don’t assume you can use your line inputs in conjunction with a 6-input card to get 8 tracks, either. (Not that I know of any 6-input cards!)

On a laptop, the biggest limitation is either the MOBO or the hard drive. With the MOBO, well, some MOBOs work well with audio and others don’t. I had an IBM T20 that was rock solid. Since upgrading to a T30, I get dropouts, sometimes even when recording only one track. This even though the hard drive went from 4200RPM to 5400RPM, which should be better.

For a laptop, you can get PCMCIA/CardBus cards, USB cards, or Firewire cards. (Well, they’re reall “interfaces” not “cards”, but never mind that.)

USB has a reputation of being flaky, especially for high channel counts. Firewire is better. I would guess that PCMCIA/CardBus would be the best option, but I don’t know that for sure.

Lots of folks will tell you that the 5400 RPM drive in a laptop is a problem, but I don’t think it’s that simple. I do believe that the hard drive in the laptop can be a problem, but the data rates for a 5400 RPM drive should be fine – even if you only get a measly 6 MB/sec throughput, that’s 32 tracks for 24bits/44KHz sampling.

So, while n-Track is a great program, and your memory and CPU are fine, that doesn’t mean it’s a slam-dunk for multitrack recording. Many folks have set up laptops for multitrack recording and been successful. Some have had to use an external drive to make it work. That doesn’t help for me, but perhaps it’s because I have a Firewire disk and Firewire soundcard. (I think my problem is OS software and stuff my employer downloads – it’s their machine.)

Multi-track soundcards aren’t cheap, especially ones for laptops. You can usually find a used MOTU 828 like mine on ebay for about $400, sometimes a little less. There are probably other solutions in that range or a little cheaper.

I suggest you pop the $49 for n-Track and record using your laptop’s line inputs and learn to do one-track-at-a-time recording, while meanwhile investigating a multichannel setup. Since multichannel can be hit-or-miss, you might want to spend a bit more and buy something you can return if it doesn’t work out.

If you do find something that works, post and let us know what laptop you have and what soundcard works out. Test recording all 8 channels at 24/44, while playing back at least one stereo track. Record something where a millisecond dropout will be very noticeable, like a steady sine wave, and record for at least 5 minutes and then play back each track carefully listening for dropouts.

Thankyou people, as a complete idiot (i believe I mentioned this earlier) where would I find a Line In ? When fiddling I used mic jack. Gather line in is much cleaner but don’t know where to plug a guitar in.

What operating system are you running? If you’re running XP then 256 ram is going to be a little light. (I suggest 512 min.) Even with w2k or w98 you’ll be pressed to get 8 tacks out of 256 ram. Especially if you are using effects. But if you do incremental renderings you can with no problem.

Your “Line In” is typically next to your “Microphone” jack.


Just to clarify, you only need an 8 channel sound card to record 8 separate tracks at the same time. If you are recording one track at a time, you can certainly play back whatever your machine can handle and the number of tracks you can payback at a time doesn’t depend on the sound card.

Another clarification: You don’t want to plug your guitar directly into your Line In (using a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter, for example); you’ll want some kind of pre-amp (e.g., AudioBuddy, mixer, etc.) to plug your guitar into to boost the signal before it goes into the Line In on your PC. Otherwise you’ll get a really weak signal.


I’m not convinced you always need alot of Ram I’ve recorded 20+ tracks and run effects with only 128 Meg of Ram on Win 98.The n-track manual used to recommend at least 64 Meg of Ram.
I believe if you run soft synths etc you then need a lot.


True, nick – but more RAM is a very good thing. It depends on what OS version and what software is loaded. For doing audio alone, 256M will probably work, especially with an older OS like Win98. If you want to use soundfonts & VSTi/DXi instruments and things like that, RAM requirements grow.

Many laptops don’t even have a line input. Hope yours does. If it doesn’t, the cheapest decent option I know of is the M-Audio Transit, which is a 2-channel USB for $80. But it doesn’t have any preamps, so you’d still need a mixer or audio-buddy to use mikes.

For your guitar, you can often use an FX unit (stompbox or rack) as a preamp, or if you have a guitar amp with a line out or headphone out you can use that.

And yes, you can use the mike input on your laptop – especially if you don’t have any of the other options yet. But the mike preamps in computers tend to stink for a number of reasons. So, better to use what ya got than to sit idle, but plan on upgrading somehow.

Welcome M1nch to the wonderful world of audio recording with n-track. IMHO you should consider getting a cheap mixer that has inputs for instruments and microphones (Behringer and others do 6 and 8 channel low cost mixers that are ok for light home use). This will allow you to connect your guitars, keyboards and mics and adjust their sound to your liking. You should avoid using the mic input on your laptop; it’s likely mono only and poor quality. Not many laptops have a line in. “Line” means kind of general purpose, able to accept analogue music signals from CD players, synths, hi-fi systems etc. Mic inputs are more sensitive, therefore also more noisy.

With my laptop I use a USB audio and midi interface from M-Audio (the Audiophile USB) and it works great with n. You can record and play back only two channels at a time. That does not mean you have a problem, because n mixes all the tracks you record down to one stereo output. I also like the Tascam US-122, another USB audio and midi interface. The midi part will be useful if you want to combine midi instruments with your “live” recordings, for example drum patterns and synth pads from a separate drum box or keyboard. A simple mixer can cost as little as USD100, and a decent USB audio and midi interface is around USD300 and up. It’s possible to start with a really basic audio-only USB input for USD80 but I think you will still benefit from having a mixer of some kind. You can record vocals and guitars “clean” and add effects in n using software.

There can occassionally be problems using a PC for audio recording, usually to do with drivers and settings, but this forum is a great source of help and comfort for n users.

If you want to get serious and use more than two channels for recording and playback then you will need a more sophisticated mixer and a firewire audio device, to cope with the larger data transfer rates.

Best to start simple and inexpensive and learn what you like and need before spending more money.

Good luck, and cheers. :laugh: