I’m thinking of getting myself a new machine to use as a dedicated DAW as previously I’ve been using my laptop.
I’ve currently got a Dell Insiron laptop with a T5500 1.6 and 1Gig of RAM and I’m running N-Track 5.1.1. I’ve been recording through a Behringer FCA202 using a Soundcraft Mixer as my preamp.
Without breaking the bank (i’m thinking of around
£500) what would be the sort of spec to go for, and in particular, what sound card should I get? I’ve got a spare monitor so that should save some money.
The Tascam USB run 122 seems to work for a lot of people. Two channels and you can move it from computer to computer.
So, that said, the only spec I am fairly sure of is a TI chipset for the USB and Firewire. There are just about a million computers out there. I have both AMD and INtel, but they are computers I put together, so I don’t know brands. It used to be build your own was the was the way to go, I’m not sure you don’t do better with a stock computer today. (Opinions will vary). Settle on you sound card, then buy a computer you can return if it does not work correctly - maybe?
Is an external soundcard a better option than a PCI card then? I won’t be wanting to move it around, so that’s not a benefit, and I have a separate mixer, which means I don’t require lots of fancy inputs other than a simple jack.
I think these days you have to determine which software you want to use, what plugin set gives you the best pallet for the type of recordings you want to do, - then which OS you will be most productive with. WinXP (32 - 64), Vista, W7, - Then what hardware you think you will be using. Do you need lots of inputs? Will you be recroding with other people or possibly recording a live band? Are you going to use USB 2.0 and/or Firewire?
Then start looking at possible systems that are going to support:
Your chosen software and plugins
Your hardware (do good drivers exist for my chosen audio interface + OS ?)
Your ports - Does system have the prefered TI chipset. (there are others that are
Do you want to go with Intel or AMD - which processor?
Will newest processor be running 64 or 32 bit OS
You could get caught up in a lot of choices and options. I think now is the time to make a decision whether you want to go 64 bit all the way, or not. If you do, you will probably be behind the 32 bit crowd for a while, but not for long. It has to go that way because that’s where the market is heading.
If I were going to go with a new system right now - I would look for a Intel Core I 7 920 processor + mainboard - I would go full 64 bit all the way. Drop all hardware that does not support 64 bit drivers and also drop all non-64 bit software as well. Now this is assuming that you want a DAW only. Not a do-all multi-purpose computer.
Regardless of your final desicion, I think the Intel I7 920 is a good processor platform. (From what I have read).
One suggestion: if you are going to build a computer yourself - check out the specs on the mainboard. This can be very important, and when it comes to a DAW my experience is that speed is Not the deciding factor. My main recording computer is an AMD 64x2 4200 with 2 gig of memory. It’s not the fastest or newest by any streatch, but it has the lowest latency. I have an Intel Quad 9450 that is pretty fast, but the latency is not nearly as good - I use it to mix or do video. I record and mix with the AMD.
A PCI card type will work fine - so will a USB or Firewire - IF they match up to the computer chipsets. PC computers are a hog-pog of components from different manufactures - it can mean one computer works well with certain software apps and another doesn’t. This isuation is certainly not the problem it was years ago, but it is something that people should be aware of. Many folks go with Apple/MAC because is it hardware specific - all the parts are Apple and all the software is tested to work on just those parts SUPPOSEDLY. This also means that MAC costs more and many folks find that they still have problems - they do, they are machines and they are not perfect. PC computers are cheaper, software is cheaper and particularly if you limit the uses of any one machine, like a dedicated DAW or a dual boot system to isolate your recording from you Interrnet games - PC are a good choice.
sevenOfeleven has some good suggestions. I don;t personally thing 64 bit is necessary and I generally trade up on computers every two or three years so the extra expence and lack of 64 bit applications kept me from going that way. That said, the AMD 64 processors would leave that option open to you.
So, the important thing is that the computer and the audio and the software all work together. We have made this sound like it is a rare for that to happen, actually, most of the time you can find that most any system will work - sometimes it just takes a little effort to get it to where you want it. (NOTE: laptops are a different story and a problem when recording, stay with USB is my suggestion)
I think you are talking about spending about 700 in American dollars?
Upgrade to Ntrack 6 or check out Reaper, both are good and run well on most all PC
Decide how many inputs you need for recording then look at price verses quality - then ask on this forum about any particular interface you are considering. I have used an Echo Audio brand Layla 24 for years. It has a PCI card and a card bus card for my laptop, but no preamps. They are discontinued, but can be found on Ebay. I use a Presonus Digimax for preamp with that unit. I tried a Presonus 26X26 firewire and could not get it to work correctly. I have a MOTU firewire that I am still learning to appreciate, works great, but that is out of your stated budget. I have a Tascam USB 122, two I/O, works great and is in your budget.
Hope this long post helps some.