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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please)
      #1040861 - 02/04/13 07:40 AM
Hello all, I'm new here.
Was just looking for some advice on buying a new cheap laptop that is good for mixing/rendering music.
I don't need it to be able to record directly into the laptop, as the tracks I use are from an external source, but I do need it to be able to record the internal stereo mix (something which my compaq can't do).
I can always get an external sound card in the future if I need to record directly into it.

So I'm just looking for something reliable with a large enough storage and adequate memory for running music software. Nothing fancy, just using Beatcraft and an old version of Mixcraft by Acoustica.

I've got about £300-400 to spend.

If you can't recommend a specific laptop, what sort of specs should I keep an eye out out for?
Or would it be cheaper to get a custom built one so I can leave out all the stuff I won't need?

Thanks,

Dan


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041128 - 03/04/13 05:24 PM
Anybody?

I don't believe all 130 of you can't help me in any way


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johnny h



Joined: 24/07/06
Posts: 3617
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041133 - 03/04/13 05:58 PM
Quote Danplifier:

Anybody?

I don't believe all 130 of you can't help me in any way




Its a difficult job because your budget is too low to include any of the music specialist laptops or the Apple range. A lot of cheap laptops may work just fine, but others will have glitches and dropouts, and individual models and components change quite regularly.

I would advice buying a computer which you can take back if you are not satisfied within 30 days. And make sure you test it well.


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Martin WalkerModerator
Watcher Of The Skies


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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041172 - 03/04/13 08:11 PM
Good advice there from johnny!

It's also why I started the sticky thread near the top of this forum entitled 'Survey of Recommended PC Laptop Models' so that people who have tried specific models can report back on their audio findings:

www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=414373

Although it's a few years old now, you may also find the advice I wrote in this SOS feature useful:

www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug08/articles/budgetpc.htm#3

Oh, and welcome to the SOS Forums Dan!


Martin

--------------------
YewTreeMagic


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table for two
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041262 - 04/04/13 11:03 AM
Quote Danplifier:


I've got about £300-400 to spend.





Hi Dan

I have been looking at touchscreen 11.6" win8 Asus S200e it has the current Intel Ivy Bridge : (i3 3217u on this). I dont know how it performs ... dawbench test, latecny, glitches etc. Memory is upgradeable to 16GB, has a USB3, buildwise aluminium lid aluminum top chasis.


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Pete Kaine
Scan Computers


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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: table for two]
      #1041328 - 04/04/13 02:10 PM
TFT - One finally landed with me this morning in fact. I'm out of office now until Monday but it'll get tested then.

I'll mention now however that after examining the spec this week, it doesn't turbo like the other unit (see Surface Pro thread) so at this point I'm expecting to see it to come out of benchmarking with more limiting results, so we'll just have to see how great it is next week.

--------------------
ScanProAudio & 3XS Audio Systems
ScanProAudio Blog


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: johnny h]
      #1041398 - 04/04/13 07:42 PM
Quote johnny h:

Its a difficult job because your budget is too low to include any of the music specialist laptops or the Apple range. A lot of cheap laptops may work just fine, but others will have glitches and dropouts, and individual models and components change quite regularly.

I would advice buying a computer which you can take back if you are not satisfied within 30 days. And make sure you test it well.




OK thanks for your help.
What sort of prices am I looking at for a music specialist laptop? and what brand names should I check out? I hear that Lenovo are good, but not sure which models to look into.
I could probably stretch to £500 if I know it's going to be reliable and last me a good few years.
Don't want apple BTW.

Thanks again


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: table for two]
      #1041400 - 04/04/13 07:47 PM
Quote table for two:

Quote Danplifier:


I've got about £300-400 to spend.





Hi Dan

I have been looking at touchscreen 11.6" win8 Asus S200e it has the current Intel Ivy Bridge : (i3 3217u on this). I dont know how it performs ... dawbench test, latecny, glitches etc. Memory is upgradeable to 16GB, has a USB3, buildwise aluminium lid aluminum top chasis.




Thanks, I'll look into that.
Are Asus a good known brand for music?
Or are they known to be reliable in general?

This Compaq is OK for what I'm doing at the moment but it bugs me that I can't record the internal stereo mix. I need to mix-down that way sometimes because a few of my vst plugins don't like to be rendered/printed.


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Skerrick



Joined: 10/01/13
Posts: 262
Loc: Sydney NSW
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041432 - 05/04/13 01:19 AM
youd be better off buying a cutsom pc.
i got a custom lappy built with 4x 300gb SSD's, 1.5gb OC nvidia graphics, 17" screen, HDMI outputs, 8gb ram dvd burner/all the trimmings etc
delivered built and ready to go for $1000.
my desktop was $1100 and its slightly better.
and yeah, its an asus laptop and the MOBO in my desktop is also asus.

i ordered em both from www.centrecom.com.au

--------------------
www.soundcloud.com/skerrick


Edited by Skerrick (05/04/13 01:21 AM)


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Skerrick



Joined: 10/01/13
Posts: 262
Loc: Sydney NSW
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041433 - 05/04/13 01:24 AM
if youre having problems rendering sound. running the sound through a focusrite scarlett 2i2 (cheap but GREAT interface) will clean up your mix and most likely remove the issues youre experiencing with your compaq.
i often find that people with low powered computers just need an interface - it helps a lot seeing as its essentially a sound rendering tool as well as an input source.
if you dont need the inputs, check out the focusrite VRM box. its essentially just a device that renders sound to headphones.

--------------------
www.soundcloud.com/skerrick


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table for two
active member


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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Pete Kaine]
      #1041459 - 05/04/13 08:41 AM
Quote Pete Kaine:

TFT - One finally landed with me this morning in fact. I'm out of office now until Monday but it'll get tested then.

I'll mention now however that after examining the spec this week, it doesn't turbo like the other unit (see Surface Pro thread) so at this point I'm expecting to see it to come out of benchmarking with more limiting results, so we'll just have to see how great it is next week.




I appreciate it Pete.
These days i only have max 4 tracks playing together, usually two, often one. The basic nc2400 ulv 1.2Ghz dual core (mentioned recently in recommeded latptop thread) more than sufficed for me.

I will however go the tablet route due to (as i remembered the other day when toing and froing between the asus & surface in John Lewis) the way i have been siting using laptops has over the years given me neck strain.


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mhaigh



Joined: 14/11/07
Posts: 766
Loc: Hockley, Essex
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041638 - 05/04/13 10:53 PM
Quote Danplifier:

Hello all, I'm new here.
Was just looking for some advice on buying a new cheap laptop that is good for mixing/rendering music.
I don't need it to be able to record directly into the laptop, as the tracks I use are from an external source, but I do need it to be able to record the internal stereo mix (something which my compaq can't do).
I can always get an external sound card in the future if I need to record directly into it.

So I'm just looking for something reliable with a large enough storage and adequate memory for running music software. Nothing fancy, just using Beatcraft and an old version of Mixcraft by Acoustica.

I've got about £300-400 to spend.

If you can't recommend a specific laptop, what sort of specs should I keep an eye out out for?
Or would it be cheaper to get a custom built one so I can leave out all the stuff I won't need?

Thanks,

Dan




any laptop will be fine. don't know what the issue is - other than the 'record internal stereo mix' bit - is it the old 'record what you hear' function that soundblaster and such like cards had - or just the ability to bounce down to a stereo wav from the audio software? if the former, not sure if current built-in soundchips do that or not, or indeed why you would want it other than for nefarious purposes, if the latter then np...but any £300 i3 laptop can easily handle the computing requirements.

--------------------
My metal music! My other music!


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Pete Kaine
Scan Computers


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Posts: 3681
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1041986 - 08/04/13 10:14 AM
Quote Danplifier:


Are Asus a good known brand for music?
Or are they known to be reliable in general?





Like any brand they can be a bit hit and miss for music depending upon the componant slection, althrough I have to say I've seen a number of good un's over the last few years and my own Traktor laptop is an Asus. As far as brand reliability goes they've been voted in the top 3 in any number of polls over the last few years.

--------------------
ScanProAudio & 3XS Audio Systems
ScanProAudio Blog


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: mhaigh]
      #1042381 - 09/04/13 05:28 PM
Quote mhaigh:


any laptop will be fine. don't know what the issue is - other than the 'record internal stereo mix' bit - is it the old 'record what you hear' function that soundblaster and such like cards had - or just the ability to bounce down to a stereo wav from the audio software? if the former, not sure if current built-in soundchips do that or not, or indeed why you would want it other than for nefarious purposes, if the latter then np...but any £300 i3 laptop can easily handle the computing requirements.




Yeah I want to record what I hear being played on my laptop (stereo mix). Not to rip songs off youtube or anything.
If I try rendering (bouncing/printing etc) a mix when I'm using my more powerful vst effects, it always has lots of drop-outs and stutters. But they play fine in the mix, so I need to be able to record what I hear.
Also, I want to be able to record some real-time adjustments to effect parameters in a mix.

OK thanks for the advice anyway.


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Skerrick]
      #1042385 - 09/04/13 05:42 PM
Quote Skerrick:

if youre having problems rendering sound. running the sound through a focusrite scarlett 2i2 (cheap but GREAT interface) will clean up your mix and most likely remove the issues youre experiencing with your compaq.
i often find that people with low powered computers just need an interface - it helps a lot seeing as its essentially a sound rendering tool as well as an input source.
if you dont need the inputs, check out the focusrite VRM box. its essentially just a device that renders sound to headphones.




Really? That's good, I never knew that.
In fact, I remember asking on a different forum a few years ago if interfaces actually rendered the audio or if they were only responsible for controlling the inputs and outputs, and I was led to believe it was the latter.
So, yeah I'm having problems rendering a few (but very best) of my vsts. It's really annoying because they play fine in my DAW but they stutter the whole track when it's rendered.
Do you think this interface will fix that?
What happens with the audio when I'm not using the interface? I wouldn't have it plugged in all the time you see, so would it be a pain to keep unplugging it and reconfiguring audio settings on my laptop, or does it switch automatically when connected/disconnected?

Thanks a lot for your help so far.


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Pete Kaine]
      #1042387 - 09/04/13 05:48 PM
Quote Pete Kaine:

Quote Danplifier:


Are Asus a good known brand for music?
Or are they known to be reliable in general?





Like any brand they can be a bit hit and miss for music depending upon the componant slection, althrough I have to say I've seen a number of good un's over the last few years and my own Traktor laptop is an Asus. As far as brand reliability goes they've been voted in the top 3 in any number of polls over the last few years.




Excellent! Think I might try an Asus then. Do you know if there is an option to record stereo mix on your laptop's recording devices? This compaq can only record microphone and has no options for line-in or stereo mix.

Thanks


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mhaigh



Joined: 14/11/07
Posts: 766
Loc: Hockley, Essex
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1042406 - 09/04/13 07:34 PM
can you explain your workflow exactly? cos i'm trying to work out why you can't just use the export function from a DAW. you say you already have recorded sounds - are these .wav files from a memory stick or something? if that is what it is, certain small footprint DAWs like Reaper should work on the internal soundcard. sorry if i'm missing something obvious here.

--------------------
My metal music! My other music!


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: mhaigh]
      #1042680 - 10/04/13 04:29 PM
Quote mhaigh:

can you explain your workflow exactly? cos i'm trying to work out why you can't just use the export function from a DAW. you say you already have recorded sounds - are these .wav files from a memory stick or something? if that is what it is, certain small footprint DAWs like Reaper should work on the internal soundcard. sorry if i'm missing something obvious here.




OK. I can't export in my DAW because my favourite VST effects don't like it. The whole song stutters when I export using these vst effects. But they PLAY fine in the DAW.
It IS a small footprint DAW like Reaper but not Reaper. It's Mixcraft V2 which is about 10 years old but it's capable of everything I want it to do, and I know it inside out so I don't want to upgrade.

I'm using electronic Beats made with Mixcraft's little brother - Beatcraft. Beats are exported as WAV and then imported in to Mixcraft. All the other tracks are also WAV files which are recorded on my Tascam 8 track. The reason I use that is because it has ZERO latency and sounds fantastic. So I just record 8 tracks and export them on to my laptop via USB. If I need more tracks, which I often do, I'll just repeat the process. Mixcraft can play/record infinite tracks so there are no issues there, I just like how my Tascam 8-track kind of limits me to record what is necessary, and it sounds great.
And then I just apply vst effects when I'm mixing in my DAW. Everything sounds and plays fine, but when I hit export the whole track stutters.
This only happens with certain VSTs though. Such as the Nasty DLA or Ferric TDS (my 2 favourite effects ever). If I swap these effects for a different delay and compressor the mix exports fine.

Also, as I said in another post, I want to be able to record real-time (non-automated) changes to certain effect parameters (delay time/feedback and filters etc). So I want to be able to record what I hear using Wavelab or Audacity.
I was able to do this on my old Dell laptop so I'm sure it's possible to do with today's technology - surely it's not too much to ask. The 'recording device' on my Dell was called 'stereo mix' but there is no option for that on my Compaq. Is this the same with all laptops these days?

So at the moment, if I want to mix-down using these certain effects, I have to use my Tascam again to record from the headphone output on my laptop. Very tedious and long-winded.


By the way, if you didn't already know - the best way of mixing down regardless of whether you'd want to make real-time adjustments to effect parameters or not is by 'recording what you hear'. It's been proven in blindfold tests. Always sounds better.

And just to add - when I was saying "render" in my previous posts I meant "export". Aren't these the same thing?


Thanks again.


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mhaigh



Joined: 14/11/07
Posts: 766
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1042712 - 10/04/13 06:28 PM
erm, isn't render/export an off-line process? it is in Sonar. you can do it as a real-time bounce which supposedly minimises artefacts. i still don't understand why, if you want to apply real-time effects to a whole mix, you don't use the read/write automation functions (assuming Mixcraft has these) and then render the whole thing as a stereo mix.

and i really really really hope you have a good flak jacket after making a statement like that about how to render to a stereo mix file....

--------------------
My metal music! My other music!


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
Posts: 14
Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: mhaigh]
      #1042833 - 11/04/13 11:17 AM
Not the whole mix. Just on certain tracks within a mix.

I give up anyway. I've gone into detail and you still don't understand my problems.

I didn't come here to talk about that anyway. I just need a decent cheap laptop that is capable of recording itself. Hopefully Asus might be able to.

Anyone with an recent Asus could confirm this for me by right-clicking the volume icon and checking the laptop's recording devices. If it has an option to record it's internal 'stereo-mix' then that's what I'm looking for. If it can only record 'microphone' or 'line-in' then that is what I'm not looking for. Simple.


Thank you once again.


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James PerrettModerator



Joined: 10/09/01
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: mhaigh]
      #1042876 - 11/04/13 02:40 PM
Quote mhaigh:

erm, isn't render/export an off-line process? it is in Sonar. you can do it as a real-time bounce which supposedly minimises artefacts. i still don't understand why, if you want to apply real-time effects to a whole mix, you don't use the read/write automation functions (assuming Mixcraft has these) and then render the whole thing as a stereo mix.





I get the impression that the problem is that Mixcraft doesn't have a real time bounce option.

There used to be a program called Total Audio Recorder which appeared as another audio device so that any program could send real time audio to a file. Might be worth seeing if it still exists.

--------------------
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.net


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Pete Kaine
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: James Perrett]
      #1042889 - 11/04/13 03:38 PM
Yeah, TAR still exists and mighty fine it is too.

I'm little confused to discussion of soundcards rendering audio in this thread as they don't in the context it is being discussed.

Your CPU does all of the sound generation work and sends it to the sound card which then converts from digital to analogue so you can hear it.

Rendering is an offline process which is exporting a track to audio and is handled by the CPU.

A sound card with good ASIO drivers does indeed help performance as ASIO bypasses the mess that is Windows own internal audio handling system but that's driver side, not hardware.

All the modern sequencers I can think of will let you freeze/bounce tracks to audio pre mixdown to ensure your not getting issues like these with the final project export. If you can't then you either need to change software client, machine or the plugin's being used to get around it.

An ASIO card helps with real time sound handling but when it's being exported as its all done on the CPU I don't expect that to make much if any difference in this situation.

--------------------
ScanProAudio & 3XS Audio Systems
ScanProAudio Blog


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mhaigh



Joined: 14/11/07
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Pete Kaine]
      #1042930 - 11/04/13 07:46 PM
Quote Pete Kaine:

Yeah, TAR still exists and mighty fine it is too.

I'm little confused to discussion of soundcards rendering audio in this thread as they don't in the context it is being discussed.

Your CPU does all of the sound generation work and sends it to the sound card which then converts from digital to analogue so you can hear it.

Rendering is an offline process which is exporting a track to audio and is handled by the CPU.

A sound card with good ASIO drivers does indeed help performance as ASIO bypasses the mess that is Windows own internal audio handling system but that's driver side, not hardware.

All the modern sequencers I can think of will let you freeze/bounce tracks to audio pre mixdown to ensure your not getting issues like these with the final project export. If you can't then you either need to change software client, machine or the plugin's being used to get around it.

An ASIO card helps with real time sound handling but when it's being exported as its all done on the CPU I don't expect that to make much if any difference in this situation.




hey Pete you're as confused as me i think. The OP doesn't seem to understand what read/write automation of vsts is, but if his DAW is so limited it might not allow it, i don't know? i'm surprised nobody has yet commented on his assertion about real-time stereo mixdown though...;-)

--------------------
My metal music! My other music!


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Danplifier



Joined: 02/04/13
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: mhaigh]
      #1042962 - 12/04/13 06:33 AM
Quote mhaigh:


hey Pete you're as confused as me i think. The OP doesn't seem to understand what read/write automation of vsts is, but if his DAW is so limited it might not allow it, i don't know? i'm surprised nobody has yet commented on his assertion about real-time stereo mixdown though...;-)





I know what automation is and I'm not looking for info on how to do that. You also use the word "limited" as though it's a bad thing. The best artists of the last 60 years would disagree with you.


Pete, thanks for your help. It was Skerrick who said that the soundcard/interface renders the audio so maybe that's why you're confused. I didn't think it did - not in that sense anyway. I know it converts it from a digital signal into audio.
So, is it just a case of getting a laptop with a decent processor? That would fix the exporting 'stutter' problem. But I still want to be able to record/bounce a mix in realtime.

And to whoever else was asking... Mixcraft CAN bounce-down a mix in realtime on to a spare stereo track but my Compaq CAN'T because it can't record the internal sound. Does that make sense?


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James PerrettModerator



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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: Danplifier]
      #1043006 - 12/04/13 10:44 AM
Quote Danplifier:


And to whoever else was asking... Mixcraft CAN bounce-down a mix in realtime on to a spare stereo track but my Compaq CAN'T because it can't record the internal sound. Does that make sense?




No - that doesn't make sense. If Mixcraft can bounce a mix in real time to a spare stereo track your computer's sound capability shouldn't come into it. All the routing should be done within Mixcraft itself.

--------------------
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.net


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Pete Kaine
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Re: Recommend Good Cheap Laptop (please) new [Re: mhaigh]
      #1043032 - 12/04/13 12:16 PM
Quote mhaigh:


hey Pete you're as confused as me i think.




That I can not deny!

Quote Danplifier:

So, is it just a case of getting a laptop with a decent processor? That would fix the exporting 'stutter' problem. But I still want to be able to record/bounce a mix in realtime.




I'm not aware enough of the inner workings of Mixtrack to say a certain yes or no.

Some plugin's allow you to run in "draft" mode whilst working and my theory here is that Mixtrack may do this some of the time to ensure your getting plenty of power to work with. The thinking here is that you run in draft whilst you write, bounce/freeze it down to an audio track and then export out the final track at the permium sound quality.

If however I suspect if you don't bounce/freeze on a track by track basis(are you doing this?) then when it starts trying to carry out the work at the premium sound quality the CPU is hitting a brick wall which is where your sound quality issues are coming from.

It's a theory, I could be completely wrong. What I can say is that I'm finding it hard to see it being a sound card issue as that wouldn't be included in the process of summing and exporting the audio but hey, I wouldn't rule out anything at this stage!.

I don't want to advise you to blindly buy something. If you can get access to a machine with more poke than your current laptop for an afternoon then I strongly advise setting up your mixtrack on it and seeing if you can export the project in question with more grunt at your disposal. If I'm right you'll know the next step and if I'm wrong then you've not wasted your money on a none resolving solution.

Quote Danplifier:


And to whoever else was asking... Mixcraft CAN bounce-down a mix in realtime on to a spare stereo track but my Compaq CAN'T because it can't record the internal sound. Does that make sense?






The reason I think most people are confused is that isn't how it tends to work as James rightly points out above.

If you Export in the traditional sense then the Sequencer sums it all internally and spits out a finished Wav/Aiff or whatever you desire. You don't hear the process and the isn't anything to record so the internal routing thing where you mention you need to record it has thrown a few of us I think.

If that really is the only way you can do it then Total recorder or indeed most other recorders (audacity/sound forge/audition) should allow you to record via a what you hear method prior to vista when MS disabled it in the OS (may have been win7?). You could use VAC (virtual audio cable) to route it internally and work around this but all in all you'd be far better trying to find someway of making it export properly rather than bouncing out through a stereo channel if at all possible.

NB. I wrote the responses in order so one might not make sense in the context of the other, depending on how Mixtrack works internally either of the above responses might or might not be valid. Confusion reigns!

--------------------
ScanProAudio & 3XS Audio Systems
ScanProAudio Blog


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