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A string-length question....

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A string-length question....

Postby Writerman » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:47 am

I suspect this comes under the "How long is a piece of string?" heading, but here goes....

After a LONG time away from music I've decided to take some time off work and actually record the album I've been yakking about for years. I'm pretty much building a DAW setup from scratch so would really appreciate some input/advice. I have a passing acquaintance with Logic and am in a position to buy a Mac (iMac or Pro?) to run it, but my question is - what kind of system configuration should I go for? Most of the recording will be done at home, although I might venture into a studio for any vocals.

The music is keyboard-based (but not exclusively), with audio recording + Midi instruments + software instruments + Sample streaming orchestras etc. It may be heavy-ish on track-count (what qualifies as "heavy track count" these days?), so I'd appreciate hearing what kind of track / plug-in usage etc you guys get and what systems you're using - 4/6/8/12 Core? Proc Speed? Ram? HDD speed? Has Thunderbolt changed everything? Will a high spec'd Mac Pro laugh at what I want to do? Or buckle under the weight? Or do I not really need a high spec'd one at all? Should I bite the bullet (and my Bank Manager) and go Pro Tools? Or Logic + UAD? Although I could probably afford a basic Pro Tools rig, if I don't really need to spend all that dosh I'd be very happy not to....

As you can tell, a) I need all the help I can get, and b) I have no idea how long a piece of string is.

Thanks in advance for all replies.
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Re: A string-length question....

Postby daedalus » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:12 am

Well, let me get the ball rolling.

The new iMacs are beasts. Very capable and you would have no problem with track counts. You should even be ok working with orchestral samples and high track counts due to the multiple cores Logic can address. Expendability, while still more limited on the iMac, is less so with the introduction of Thunderbolt. Peripherals are now starting to appear. However, for audio, unless you're looking to buy the Apollo with Thunderbolt option, FW and USB still rule.

I'm currently on a 2009 Mac Pro 2.26 with 12 GB or RAM and it's handling large orchestral templates very well. My track count is VI's is easily into the 30s with a total VI/plugin count of anywhere from 15 to 40 and doing just fine. Only upgrade I'm planning in the near future is doubling the RAM to 24GB and contemplating and SSD for Start-up HD and Sample HD. Oh yeah, it helps to keep your start-up drive (with Logic on it) separate from your Audio Projects HD and your Samples HD.

With the MacPro I have the luxury of having these components all internally and still lots of room for more expansion. Plus, no built-in monitor gives me the chance to set up a matched dual screen, highly impractical for the iMac. Though I recognize this is of little importance to most people.
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Re: A string-length question....

Postby Writerman » Sun Dec 16, 2012 7:31 pm

That's great, exactly the sort of info I need. Many thanks.

One more thing - when configuring a Mac Pro for music, is number of cores more important than processor speed? So is a 2 x4 (8) core/2.26 better than a 1 x 4 core 2.8, for example...?
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Re: A string-length question....

Postby daedalus » Mon Dec 17, 2012 3:03 pm

That is an interesting question and one I pondered myself before my purchase. I won't be able to give you a scientific answer, I'll leave that up to people more qualified. Here's my two cents:

Depending on whether a process is very CPU intensive or not, I imagine it would be better to have more powerful CPUs. However, in Logic things are processed according to their channel, as I understand it. So every plug/VI on the same channel will be using the same CPU/Thread as a process (someone chime in if I'm wrong). For me, with the 2x4 (=8, but giving 16 threads in Logic) it's great. I tend to distribute my load in such a way that no single channel is overly burdened. I find that Logic does a pretty good job at using all threads and even with fairly large orchestral templates, I have been able to work without a hitch. (buffer @ 256. Work mostly with VIs and leave the latency the same whether I'm tracking or mixing)

So, if like me, you use Kontakt a lot, and nothing that is a humongous resources hog, than this approach may work well for you too.
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