Laptop/notebook recording?

Suggestions for laptop AND sound system?

I looked around on the forum and did not see much directly in line with this topic. I received a promotion from Dell today for 25% off cretain Dell notebooks, but the offer is only good thru Wed night… of course. It’s a valid offer, I bought a Dell D505 for my company today with it. I had thought of going more mobile with my recording. Currently I am PCI based!

For those who are currently recording via laptop, what are you finding to be the killer issues? High RPM disk drive? More RAM? Higher CPU? USB 2.0? Firewire 800? What laptop are you using? Also, what sound system are you using? What are your limitations in terms of the number of tracks and effects you can effectively process?


I forgot to add… anyone using any external USB 2.0/Firewire 800 drives off there PC or laptop? If so, what are you using and what are you using it for? Thanks,

How many audio inputs do you need?


Less than four or so and that would be stretching it. Mostly acoustic guitar and vocals. No band recording right now… just demo tracks. I do, however, need MIDI in an out, headphone jack. Would love XLR inputs for at least two of the inputs. Pristine sound is the key for me. Thanks, Paul

I’ll be buying this for a laptop based voiceover setup:

USB Omni Studio

I already use M-audio’s Duo for very simple audio recording and the Omni Studio has very flexible monitoring…and amazing clarity with no noise. The laptop I use is an HP with a P4 2.66 gig, 40 gig hd and 512 megs ram. The hd is not a 7200 rpm (5400, I believe), but I’ve never maxed out track count with up to 25 tracks…

Thanks, the Omni Studio looks interesting. Can’t find any pro review on it though. And on their website, I can’t tell whether it’s USB 1.1 or 2.0. Have you demo’d this device for audio recording work? Any other possibilities from anyone?

I bought my son a Tascam US-122. VERY nice sounding unit. Up to 24/48 audio with XLR’s & Phantom power. MIDI I/O too. I have yet to try it with my laptop but there is no reason it would not work well. On your question about USB/Firewire drives, if I were going to do serious recording with a laptop with just a couple inputs, I’d look at the US-122 for the audio interface and I’d hang a Firewire drive on the Firewire port. USB2.0 has a higher burst data rate but falls behind Firewire for sustained data throughput which is what you want for streaming audio. Just recording 2 tracks at once won’t be a problem but what if you want to build up a magnum opus and wind up with 40 tracks to playback and mixdown? That Firewire speed would come in handy!


I would get a firwire 800 drive and the new Echo Layla 3G.

that’d give you up to 16 inputs for only $500 on a pcmcia card and you could also get the pci card and use the same sound card on your desktop and laptop.

usb doesn’t have a good reputation for stable audio.

firewire sound cards are be better but if you use a firewire drive you’d be using a lot of bandwidth on the same irq I think.

Get one on my Cube DAWs instead of the laptop - it’s a “real” computer :laugh: - Cube DAW.

USB 1.0 will not support numerous streams of audio in and out of the laptop. It will allow for two in and two out simultaneously - just make sure you have nothing like a printer or other bandwidth hogging device plugged into your other USB ports while you are recording. From demoing the Omni Studio unit I can say it sounds fantastic for the price. If you really want to get elaborate, an excellent device that takes full advantage of firewire’s capabilities is the Tascam FW1884. Touch sensitive, motorized faders and outstanding sound quality…

PS - you really need FireWire IMO to do streaming audio to a laptop (or desktop). The mobo in my cube DAW doesn’t have FireWire so I’m going to have to use different components.

I’m using Edirol FA-101 with laptop. Already did a live performing with it, playing softsynths. Everything went ok then. It has excellent latency and the sound quality is also excellent, from what I hear about people. I can’t verify yet, since I don’t have excellent headphones :) but it does have very good and warm, airy sound. 10 ins/outs might not be what you need currently but who knows what tomorrow brings you. You might want to record drums with more than 4 mics. Also the optical in/out ins’t a bad thing to have nowadays… :cool:

I forgot to add... anyone using any external USB 2.0/Firewire 800 drives off there PC or laptop? If so, what are you using and what are you using it for? Thanks,

A friend of mine uses an Motu 828MKII with his P4 laptop for recording live gigs.
Quote (Willy @ Oct. 29 2004,02:24)
A friend of mine uses an Motu 828MKII with his P4 laptop for recording live gigs.

Hmm... I've heard that mkII isn't that stable on pcs (unlike on macs). Even the guy in the musicstore 'refused' to sell me one if I had a pc-laptop.

For a laptop, I'd recommend something like FSC Amilo A1630. It needs a faster hd though, Hitachi Travelstar 7K60 is a reasonable priced 7200 rpm hd, that doesn't produce much heat at all. And I recommend checking if the machine you buy comes with 2x256MB or 1x512MB memory blocks, for future upgrades.

/edit: If you want ultimate portability and you don't lack income, it'd be good to check the Mac section too. Macs got full sized(6-pin) firewire ports so you can power your fw-soundcard without external power source. Might require an extra battery for recording without any external power... Don't buy anything less than a G5 ibook or powerbook (it's out yet?) machine, though...

There are also few professional soundcards for laptops, can't remember their names. Were they from Echo? RMI?

Thanks for all the ideas! Please feel free to add more as needed. I think this would be a good topic to have around over time.

For a few months I’ve been using an eMachines M6805 (1.8 GHz AMD64, 512 MB) and an Edirol UA-1000 (USB 2.0, 10-in 10-out) sound interface. Both have been working using n-Track 3.something (not 4.0 yet) without configuration difficulties or other hassles.

The Edirol unit sounds good and I appreciate the convenience of four built-in pre-amps. I haven’t used the software monitor routing, but that’s nice to have.

You know, you might really want to record more than four tracks at a time someday soon. Still buying a four-input card and selling it later if you outgrow it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

I’ve recorded at 24/44.1 eight tracks at at time. The hard drive is slow, at 4600 RPM or so. I expected to use an external hard drive and upgrade the RAM, but I haven’t yet felt the need. The highest track count I’ve used, though, is about 14. I have very occaissionally had mild hiccups in playing back or recording, but those have occured while playing only one or two tracks, so I think that’s not a fault of my hardware or n-Track. I haven’t tried hard to set up my computer for recording, and I have something like 40 running processes just while on the internet.

I don’t think you’re going to find one computer and one sound interface to be the perfect choice. My choices were certainly compromises and leaps of faith. In the end, I’m sure your best guess will be plenty good enough, though. Laptops these days are fast and light and even cheap, and external soundcards are getting more abundant and capable, too.

Hope this is helpful.

I’m using n-track on a Dell Inspiron 2650 laptop. Edirol UA-20 USB input. This laptop only has USB 1, but I only do one input at a time. Just one guitar track and then overdub another guitar, or bass. Works fine.


Quote (Scythe @ Oct. 29 2004,04:34)
Hmm... I've heard that mkII isn't that stable on pcs (unlike on macs). Even the guy in the musicstore 'refused' to sell me one if I had a pc-laptop.

Guess the guy at the music store didn't know quite fully what he was talking about and would end up losing some sales of MOTU gear.
That's a shame.
Granted .... the MOTU's are particular on the chipset used for the IEEE 1394 controller. The Texas Instruments chipsets are the most compatible.

Anyhow .... I use an 828mkII on my HP laptop as well as on my main DAW. Both are Windows XP Home machines and the MOTU works without a hitch.
Stable as a rock IMHO.

If you don’t buy a Mac you’re just buying crap…
And if you buy a Dell, you’re surely going to ####.
Windows is great for wasting time, if you’d rather record a song one line at a time. But if you buy a Mac you won’t have to wait, even the screen’s sharper for your porn when you masturbate. Do you really think Bill Gates wants you to succeed? Instead of recording you’ll be downloading another update you need.

Gawd I kill myself…