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How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby alexis » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:16 pm

Hi all!

(Hobbyist here, with more enthusiasm than $ ...)


I'm thinking hard about going to C7 from C6.5 (mixer, Variaudio improvements, etc.), but I can't afford a new "real" DAW to replace my nice but old one running XP now, nor do I have the knowledge/skill to "build" one.

What I'm wondering about is whether I can supplement my existing DAW system (described below) with an inexpensive computer of the sort not typically considered for a DAW - with the idea of continuing to record in XP on C6.5 on my legitimate but old DAW computer.

Then I would move everything over to the new "cheap" one for mixing in C7. In other words a hybrid system of my existing DAW computer and a new low budget one.

Background: I've got a very stable custom-built PC about 10 years old, runs C6.5 on XP. It all works OK for me - I do have to do a lot of bouncing and such of course, but I don't mind. I've got a M-Audio Delta 66 card in the computer, connected to an external Omni I/O Studio "break-out box". I've got a UAD-1 card in a PCI slot. And everything is OK.

But I am thinking hard about Cubase 7, which won't boot up on XP as I understand it.

So my question is - where is it that "bad" computers fail in the DAW world? Could I continue to use my current setup (C6.5: record audio, use my Yamaha Motif to record MIDI) ...

... and then bring everything over for mixing to a low budget PC which has C7 loaded (and PCI slots for my old UAD-1 card)? Such a computer would be LOTS less expensive than a "real" DAW computer, even if I had to buy an interface to USB connect.

I guess I had the impression that the main way a low budget computer fails as a DAW is in recording/timing - but would be OK for mixing. Or is that not right? If I did this, I would need to buy a free-standing interface also, right?

Or ... where does this whole idea fail?

Thanks for any thoughts!
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby BJG145 » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:35 pm

I think you might have to inject a few more facts and figures into this...what prices and specs are you talking about...?
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby johnny h » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:38 pm

alexis wrote:Hi all!

(Hobbyist here, with more enthusiasm than $ ...)


I'm thinking hard about going to C7 from C6.5 (mixer, Variaudio improvements, etc.), but I can't afford a new "real" DAW to replace my nice but old one running XP now, nor do I have the knowledge/skill to "build" one.

What I'm wondering about is whether I can supplement my existing DAW system (described below) with an inexpensive computer of the sort not typically considered for a DAW - with the idea of continuing to record in XP on C6.5 on my legitimate but old DAW computer.

Then I would move everything over to the new "cheap" one for mixing in C7. In other words a hybrid system of my existing DAW computer and a new low budget one.

Background: I've got a very stable custom-built PC about 10 years old, runs C6.5 on XP. It all works OK for me - I do have to do a lot of bouncing and such of course, but I don't mind. I've got a M-Audio Delta 66 card in the computer, connected to an external Omni I/O Studio "break-out box". I've got a UAD-1 card in a PCI slot. And everything is OK.

But I am thinking hard about Cubase 7, which won't boot up on XP as I understand it.

So my question is - where is it that "bad" computers fail in the DAW world? Could I continue to use my current setup (C6.5: record audio, use my Yamaha Motif to record MIDI) ...

... and then bring everything over for mixing to a low budget PC which has C7 loaded (and PCI slots for my old UAD-1 card)? Such a computer would be LOTS less expensive than a "real" DAW computer, even if I had to buy an interface to USB connect.

I guess I had the impression that the main way a low budget computer fails as a DAW is in recording/timing - but would be OK for mixing. Or is that not right? If I did this, I would need to buy a free-standing interface also, right?

Or ... where does this whole idea fail?

Thanks for any thoughts!

Seems a bit longwinded to be honest...

Why not just get a cheap motherboard and chip, small ssd and ram. Perhaps Pete could tell you what to buy.
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby alexis » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:14 pm

BJG145 wrote:I think you might have to inject a few more facts and figures into this...what prices and specs are you talking about...?


Hi BJG145 - Thanks for reply. For the new one, I guess I was wondering/asking (not as clearly as I should have, sorry) whether a standard off-the-shelf Tesco or Best Buy PC running windows 7* would be able to run Cubase 7 if no recording was needed - just mixing of recorded files brought over from my current computer. Here's an example http://www.bestbuy.com/site/HP+-+Pavilion+20%26%2334%3B+All-... , $469 plus the cost to bring the RAM up from 4GB to whatever is needed.

* with possibly additionally an interface/sound card for the new computer.

JohnnyH - Thanks for your answer as well. Sorry - I'm not quite sure what you are suggesting ... refurbishing my current computer or building a new one? Unfortunately, neither is a good option for me - I'd love to build, but have zero experience, and would probably wind up burning the neighborhood down, which might be more expensive in the long run .

I'd love to buy a "bespoke" computer again, and I will in the future, but I can't see that anything would be available for as little $ as we're talking about here.

Thanks!
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby Ramirez » Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:48 pm

I'd think that if the cheap computer could handle the mixing, then it could easily handle the recording. Anything you'd buy now, no matter how cheap, would probably be fantastically more powerful than anything you bought 10 years ago, so long as it's stable.

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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby tex » Thu Nov 29, 2012 4:06 am

It's a definite no on C7 and XP. If you can afford C7 you can afford a computer. You can't do it on the schoolboy scrooge any more as most of the DAWs have grown up and are no longer affordable by those who have no money.
Stick with what you know and wait for the pioneers to get the arrows in the back while you're saving your money.
If 6.5 has problems on XP then C7 won't fix them, it'll likely get worse.
Thinking of 6.5 I wouldn't let it know XP was still alive anyway.
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby alexis » Thu Nov 29, 2012 4:32 am

tex wrote:It's a definite no on C7 and XP. If you can afford C7 you can afford a computer. You can't do it on the schoolboy scrooge any more as most of the DAWs have grown up and are no longer affordable by those who have no money.
Stick with what you know and wait for the pioneers to get the arrows in the back while you're saving your money.
If 6.5 has problems on XP then C7 won't fix them, it'll likely get worse.
Thinking of 6.5 I wouldn't let it know XP was still alive anyway.

Thanks Ramirez and tex.

I am buying an off-the-shelf general use computer for the household anyway, the question is whether it will also be satisfactory for Cubase 7 - mixing only. Steinberg doesn't list minimum specs like that! All the while of course saving up for a proper music DAW as you suggest ...
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby johnny h » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:45 am

alexis wrote:
BJG145 wrote:I think you might have to inject a few more facts and figures into this...what prices and specs are you talking about...?

Hi BJG145 - Thanks for reply. For the new one, I guess I was wondering/asking (not as clearly as I should have, sorry) whether a standard off-the-shelf Tesco or Best Buy PC running windows 7* would be able to run Cubase 7 if no recording was needed - just mixing of recorded files brought over from my current computer. Here's an example http://www.bestbuy.com/site/HP+-+Pavilion+20%26%2334%3B+All-... , 69 plus the cost to bring the RAM up from 4GB to whatever is needed.

* with possibly additionally an interface/sound card for the new computer.

JohnnyH - Thanks for your answer as well. Sorry - I'm not quite sure what you are suggesting ... refurbishing my current computer or building a new one? Unfortunately, neither is a good option for me - I'd love to build, but have zero experience, and would probably wind up burning the neighborhood down, which might be more expensive in the long run .
"Building" a computer involves a few minutes with a screwdriver. Honestly if you've ever made the most basic lego structure you will find it ridiculously easy. There really is nothing difficult about it at all.

Just put a new motherboard in, new chip, memory, hard drive and power supply. You can get it all for a few hundred pounds. It will feel a million times faster.
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:07 pm

johnny h wrote:
"Building" a computer involves a few minutes with a screwdriver. Honestly if you've ever made the most basic lego structure you will find it ridiculously easy. There really is nothing difficult about it at all.

Just put a new motherboard in, new chip, memory, hard drive and power supply. You can get it all for a few hundred pounds. It will feel a million times faster.

It's questionable whether you save anything much now though, considering the price you'll have to pay for componants and operating system compared with what the commercial builders obviously can get them for.

I'd avoid supermarket brands (and that includes PCW/Currys). But the second-cheapest Dell "business" machine is surprisingly competent. (Avoid the very cheapest - it's only there so they can advertise "systems from £299" and probably doesn't really exist. And avoid their attempts to sell you extras.)

Your suggested two-computer system is ridiculous :-)

(You don't really NEED Cubase 7, you know.)
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Nov 29, 2012 4:26 pm

alexis wrote:Here's an example http://www.bestbuy.com/site/HP+-+Pavilion+20%26%2334%3B+All-... , 69 plus the cost to bring the RAM up from 4GB to whatever is needed.

* with possibly additionally an interface/sound card for the new computer.

I don't think much of that spec at all. If you absolutly had to pull the trigger this week, then just looking at the Dell site (and it's sell) this machine that costs less would absolutely wipe the floor with the AMD spec above from a performance point of view.

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=svcth2bf&model_id=vostro-270s&c=us&l=en&s=soho&cs=ussoho1

Problem with off the shelf is You may not be able to find out what slots are free inside or even how suitable it would be for use with Cubase until you can get it home and try it. PCI slots are also far less common now so being able to port over your existing sound card & UAD may or may not happen.

Going with discussion of working on the older machine and bouceing to the newer. Well you could but it's the long way round! I'm sure you'd rather just work with the newer machine and its improved performance? Maybe as suggested hold off for 6 months whilst any Cubase bugs are ironed out, save up a bit and make sure you can do the whole new system in one go.
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby johnny h » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:50 am

Pete Kaine wrote:
alexis wrote:Here's an example http://www.bestbuy.com/site/HP+-+Pavilion+20%26%2334%3B+All-... , 69 plus the cost to bring the RAM up from 4GB to whatever is needed.

* with possibly additionally an interface/sound card for the new computer.

I don't think much of that spec at all. If you absolutly had to pull the trigger this week, then just looking at the Dell site (and it's sell) this machine that costs less would absolutely wipe the floor with the AMD spec above from a performance point of view.

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=svcth2...

Problem with off the shelf is You may not be able to find out what slots are free inside or even how suitable it would be for use with Cubase until you can get it home and try it. PCI slots are also far less common now so being able to port over your existing sound card & UAD may or may not happen.

Going with discussion of working on the older machine and bouceing to the newer. Well you could but it's the long way round! I'm sure you'd rather just work with the newer machine and its improved performance? Maybe as suggested hold off for 6 months whilst any Cubase bugs are ironed out, save up a bit and make sure you can do the whole new system in one go.

Pete, you could shorten this thread considerably by linking to a motherboard/cpu/memory/psu bundle which will do the job properly for a good price. I'm sure you have this information.
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Re: How Bad is this idea? Save $ by buying a cheap computer ...

Postby Pete Kaine » Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:47 am

For around £250 ($400) you can pick up an Asus Matx board (£60), 3570 (quad core i5) £130 and 8GB of memory £28.

This would work as a drop in upgrade and if you wanted to save a bit more you could go i3 and save £50 ($80) but you'd lose a sizeable chunck of performance and I suspect at that point an AMD system would become more worthwhile.

The reason I didn't suggest anything before was because as someone else rightly said the current system is likely to be beyond economic upgrading at this point. If it's ten years old you'll have an old style/low wattage psu with the wrong connectors, the drives will have seen better days, you'll probably also need to pick up an OS to go with it and other odds and ends. By that point your either better off doing it properly or if you still need to go for the cheapest return for your money try and pick up something off the shelf with enough poke to do what you need for the time being.
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