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Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby wayne » Thu Apr 13, 2017 8:52 pm

Hi there,

I am currently a Mac user using Logic. My MacBook Pro is 6 years old and I am considering upgrading it. I could stay on Mac, and am still looking at that option, but they are expensive and restrictive in respect to upgrades. This is a hobby for me and I need to spend wisely.

I used to run a PC DAW, running SONAR. I was forever battling driver issues, clicks and pops, and really had to keep the PC as a DAW only. That was over 12 years ago and I'm sure times have changed.

If I went PC it would likely be a Scan build. I would need to change software and would probably go with Cubase as I have a UR22. My questions are about characteristics of a modern PC DAW:

- Ideally I would want to use the PC for more than just music; general internet duties, office and some development work. Is that a good idea with a PC DAW or do they still need to be dedicated and stripped back?

- A virus scanner is a must with a PC. But they can interfere with audio performance. What do you do about this?

- I had to rebuild my PC every couple of years due to Windows degrading. Is that still necessary? I was on Windows 2000.

- Does USB, and using USB devices when working with a DAW still cause audio dropouts? I had dreadful problems with USB! I ended up disabling all of the ports to get audio stability.

- Bottom line - have PC DAWs reached the point where they just work?


Thanks,
Wayne
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby forumuser918214 » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:26 pm

My experience (I have always used Windows) is that modern multiprocessor PCs with Win 10, lots of memory, and SSD drives, are excellent for music (unlike several years back.)

So, my ASUS laptop has a 4 processor I7 chip, 16 G memory, an SSD hard drive, and I use a Behringer UC204 USB audio interface. I use Ableton 9 Suite and lots of plugins. I have had zero problems with viruses, interruptions of work due to Windows crashes, etc. I use the Windows Defender built-in malware manager, and it works perfectly. (I cannot say that Ableton is crash-proof, though). I need to vary the parameters on the Behringer occasionally - for real time recording audio and midi, I can get to 8 msec latency. If I am fiddling around with lots of plugins (and not recording in real time) I can get away with <30 msec. Clicks will occur if you have latency set too low, but this is easily managed by adjusting your audio interface.

It is a pleasure to use Ableton with Win 10 on a fast, modern PC.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby CS70 » Fri Apr 14, 2017 12:20 am

Have ever been used a laptop PCs (last 5 years), with no problems at all. Never used a mac - I never got why people paid three times the money for them.

The keys are two: one, as you say, the interface drivers. I use an UR28M and the Yamaha drivers aren't stellar but they dont crash. Others I have are better, but they don't cause particular problems. The consensus seems to be that the best drivers are RME's, but I've recorded with the Steinberg, a Focusrite Forte and others with no issues. Only problems I had was with AVID gear - the drivers were *still* terribly written in 2014.

I use that laptop for everything (not development or games as its SSD is only 120Gb), so no reason to have a dedicated system. Worst case, put it in airplane mode when recording.

The second is that a PC is a basically a bunch of components on a common bus. Its real time throughput does not depend on the best component (say, a powerful CPU) but on the worst. A simple misbehaving network card can slow it down. So good if you have your pc built for audio, or if you add (or activate) one component at the time to figure out if all pans out. Motherboards tend to be pretty good these days, but there are online resources for boards which work well for audio.

Windows 10 is pretty solid; USB (at least from 2.0) has never by itself the cause of audio dropouts, is as fast as it needs be for way more channels of audio which you may need. Any issue is always downstream.

So, yes: choose a good interface, and it just works.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby OK1 » Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:12 am

A few months ago, I was a pretty frustrated Windows die hard, who was quite displeased with the challenges I had with getting a PC(Windows 10 laptop) to do what I wanted it to, 1. Playback youtube videos, during breaks in my music making,
or

2. Being able to playback audio through my DAW, as I listened to youtube/deezer,

3. As well as simply making/mixing music in the DAW.

I was planning to go the other way, to adopt the legendary stability of the Mac Pro for creative work. All major mixing engineers and studios have a Mac Pro, and Protools !!! I almost did.

Short answer, it is possible to have a Windows PC that works.

Is it easy, NO.

To do simple audio on Windows - a few tracks/simple mix - no problem. Once you need to do anything a bit more involving - demanding, like I did, it needs more than average effort.

Why? - so many Windows configurations, processors, chipsets, components, and which Windows version - each has its idiosyncrasies. I must have clocked weeks of time on the Internet looking up every ridiculous detail of every component required to make Windows and Audio DAW simply just work, and allow me to do what I need to do.

For those who live and breathe computers, which I once did as a hobby and a day job, music can be done - with some effort, on a Windows PC.

If you are not ready for lots of education, configuration, research, stick to the Mac. The Mac has far fewer different configurations, so therefore someone else is very likely to have a similar configuration. On PC - every single PC in the world can have a different config, so what works on someone elses PC may not work exactly the same on yours.

APPROACHES - Windows PC

1. Desktop - Specialist Custom PC Builder - Is there any DAW hardware/software custom vendor such as scan.co.uk, whom you know and has experience, and a good reputation for doing this as a business, and can trust?. Such vendors have custom and standard configurations - for DAW (and or video production), which have been put together from their many years of experience, testing and the most suitable components in the current market. Yes you pay a premium for their PC's, but you may gain this back in more hair on your head and fewer grey hairs.

2. Laptop - I do not advise - most Windows laptops are ok for listening to music, but impose limitations on processor performance to maximize battery life, and unless you are using an expensive desktop replacement laptop(with a desktop processor) its almost impossible to stop the laptop from "throttling" your CPU's performance to prevent it overheating. Especially on a laptop, you need to use the High Performance Power saving mode, or you will not get the full theoretical maximum speed of your processor.

3. Desktop - Off the shelf - most of the online stores - Dell, Lenovo, HP, will have ok systems, but geared towards - everyday personal computing, and not digital audio production which has very specific demands. You may find some success in their workstation ranges - Stable systems starting at just few hundred dollars above the consumer range. The kinds used by non audio engineers, architects, for computationally intensive workloads - with zero downtime 24x7 operation for months and years.

4. Desktop - Self Build - with enough knowledge you can do this, but there are many components involved (new or used) and all it takes is to get the wrong part, sometimes which differ by a single character in the part name/label, and you have incompatible parts - inspite of all I know, I have ordered and had to return the wrong type of RAM, for a desktop PC which needed expansion - simply because the motherboard manufacturer's documentation was vague.

With self build, You have to think of everything, and bear the risk. And be ready to do quite a bit of research and troubleshooting. Not for the faint hearted.

I almost destroyed a GPU(graphics card), by my oversight, using some rather special softeare configuration tools - and had to upgrade my bios to resuscitate the GPU.

Approach 1, where cash is not significantly constrained, is my preferred option. Typically such purchases come with a few years of low or zero payment support, which you will need anyway. You pay for your peace of mind
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby job » Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:10 am

I would say they can just work, particularly from win 7+ (assuming stable drivers). Previous to this they certainly could have their annoyances. I still think it's good practice to separate out your computer accounts so it keeps all your audio crap separate to your other crap, as well as not working habitually under an Admin account (for security reasons).

I also think it's worth pointing out an important point and difference between PC and a Mac and that is that you can't buy a shit Mac but it's so easy to buy a shit PC, so as far as comparing one to the other goes you have to be fair, i.e. a £300 Asus laptop is not a comparison to a Macbook pro and a £500 desktop is not a comparison to a Mac pro.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby John Egan » Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:03 am

wayne wrote:Hi there,

- Bottom line - have PC DAWs reached the point where they just work?

Thanks,
Wayne


HI Wayne,
First of all, I'm no expert. However, as far as I'm concerned, the answer to your question is yes, pretty much.
My current system is running Windows 7 with a four core i7 processor and 8 gig of memory. I have been using it for around ten years and have experienced two crashes in that time, both due to me abusing the asio4all driver. I have used it to run Sonar, Reason, Reaper, Kontakt, EZDrummer, EZKeys and Soundforge. I don't run a lot of tracks, up to around 20 on Reason with a lot of rack extensions.
I record vocals, guitars, mandolin, banjo and keyboards without problems, although I do try to use direct monitoring to avoid the risk of latency.
I did have one problem with an audio driver which needed to be reinstalled (Focusrite were extremely helpful) and with Sound forge which also needed to be reinstalled, since the software apparently forgot that I was authorised !
I do disable the ethernet LAN, as this can spike if it is left running. I use the Internet connection when I need it and don't have any problems.
I built my last three systems using Novatech barebones bundles as the basis.
I will probably replace the system in the next 12 months/2 years and may well use a Scan system.
Hope this offsets some of the negative comments above.
Regards, John
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby wayne » Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:34 am

Thanks for the replies, they have been helpful.

If I were to go PC it would be a desktop rather than a laptop, and it would be a custom built audio one from Scan. I have done self builds in the past but don't want the headache of that now.

Cost wise it would probably be the same as a Mac, including the Cubase licence I suspect, but whereas the Mac would be fairly closed in terms of upgrade ability and repairs I think a PC would have more scope.

But I do like Mac OS and Logic. I was looking at the old Mac Pros, but they are still pricey. Not sure if can justify that spend on a 7 year old system that may not be supported by Apple for much longer.

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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby OK1 » Fri Apr 14, 2017 12:55 pm

If you still consider a Windows based DAW (software and hardware) :

Anything can be learned. Cubase and Windows(including a few necessary tweaks to get it to work optimally - If purchased from scan, and you can confirm this, they should have set it up with these tweaks during installation).

In my case, for some extra peace of mind, I'm moving from a Windows 10 laptop, for my most intensive - stress free audio work, to a workstation grade - entry level server (about the same specs as could be obtained from scan.co.uk), where I will revert to Windows 7

Windows 10 is fine, but as you will find below, sometimes less is more.

I would suggest at least 16GB RAM, to be on the safe side.

While all computers multitask very well, at the kinds of things normal users do - a few web pages, some listening, some microsoft office, where the load is distributed either towards heavy use of RAM(like databases) or processor(like Excel for computation) or disk, with audio, the PC places a consistent demand on so many devices at the same time - RAM, Processor(using all processor cores - unless you limit this intentionally) as well as disk.

Ideally, as much as possible, to get audio working well on any computer, it should be the predominant application, with very little else running on it at the same time. Real time audio demands extremely timely responses from the computer, nothing can wait, otherwise it will result in gaps in the audio you hear - revealed as spikes, glitches, stutter, zipping sounds, burps, distortion, etc.

Any other activity running on the same PC which demands attention from these resources (RAM, processor, disk) contends with your DAW software (e.g Cubase). An example is the antivirus software, constantly checking, routinely hogging the hard drive, etc.

An Audio workstation (PC or MAC), should ideally be dedicated to this one task. This same concept is applied to all heavy workloads that are time critical, even on the largest computers in commerce - avoiding/limiting contention.

This partly explains my aversion for Windows 10, it has by default many bells, whistles, and anchors, that need to be snipped, shut down, disabled, moreso than Windows 7. And if you really want to do a good job with WIndows 10, you need the Pro edition, cos the cheaper Home edition comes with some strings attached - as you have to sell some of your soul to Microsoft - via background data gathering - for their optimisation - i.e you become an unlimited test bench for Microsoft to improve the operating system.

Windows 10 by default just has so many things running in the background, which you may not notice in regular use, I simply prefer to avoid this on a mission critical workstation like audio. It can be managed but as I said earlier - these things need a bit of research, the risk of self harm from user error with unsupported tweaks- depending on what you read on the web. Windows 7 is a lot easier to tweak, for optimal Audio workstation performance.

This is the other reason to avoid the online retailer provided PC, which comes with some bloatware that also is not required on an Audio PC, and sometimes may be difficult to uninstall without consequences.

While I do not recommend running without an antivirus, you could either :

a) Disconnect from the Internet completely and disable your antivirus temporarily during audio sessions.

Or

b) Use a light weight but reliable antivirus like Windows Defender, which is ok to keep enabled all the time. I assume this music workstation will NOT be used as your primary web browsing system - for which I think you would need something more heavyweight like Kaspersky, to really allow you to configure your internet safety with more granularity, interaction with your web browser, etc.

On the other hand considering your investment in Mac and Logic, based on my recent research 1st Quarter 2017 :

As long as you do not need the latest greatest processor speeds, there are amazing bargains - check ebay.co.uk, between £500 and about £800, depending on age, for Mac Pros between 2008 and 2010, with ridiculous amounts of RAM - starting at 32GB, SSD drivers + additional SATA storage drive, which IMHO, because of the industrial strength Intel Xeon multicore processors used (between 4 and 12 cores in total) which will serve a Mac centric user remarkably well for another 5 to 10 years with a few caveats :

a) No support for upgrade to Sierra, but these will run every OSX before Sierra.

b) No official support for installing Windows 10 via bootcamp on Mac.

c) No warranties on a used computer

d) No they do not have Thunderbolt - but the have PCie slots and USB 3.0 - lots of them, Thunderbolt is simply PCIe over a nice cable with hot plugabble feature added. Unless you are recording a Symphonic Orchestra with 60+ microphones @ 192Khz, Thunderbolt may not provide any advantage over USB 3.0. And with the Mac Pro you can always use a PCIe audio interface to address the highest audio interface demans, anyway.

Considering that you are probably best served in stable DAW setups, by not running the latest greatest version of the operating system(while they work out the bugs in it and fix them), I do not think these constraints should be of any concern.

The only reasons I did not acquire one of these significant bargains, was my learning curve going from PC to Mac, my DAW software runs better on PC, and availability of certain plugins which have no Mac versions or still have a few kinks to work out on the Mac. Unless you run a commercial concern with very heavy use of plugins over 40+ channels of audio, I am pretty sure a 2008 Mac Pro 3.1(8 core - 2 processors with 4 cores each) which comes at about £500 on ebay, with 32GB RAM, should be more than good enough for today's DAW workload. Of course you can always spend more and improve the specs, to a slightly newer model like the 2009 Mac Pro 4.1 or 2010 Mac Pro 5.1. Any of these older Mac Pro's for audio workloads, will give much more recent hardware a good run, cos these were the Rolls Royce's of their time - the very best that money could buy.

This way, you can keep your current software, and workflow and most of the money you had planned to spend. I reckon you'd be saving about £1000, at the very least.

Unlike the recent Macbooks and Mac Pros the older one's have probably the best expansion options, drive bays, connectivity and build quality of any computers ever built for personal use. And these remain the design icons of the desktop world - unbeaten in this regard.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby CS70 » Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:12 pm

OK1 wrote:A few months ago, I was a pretty frustrated Windows die hard, who was quite displeased with the challenges I had with getting a PC(Windows 10 laptop)

My guess is that you've been unlucky. I've used exclusively a laptop (relatively powerful in its time, a Dell e6530, but laptop nonetheless), and the mixes I see average 20-30 tracks and as many busses. Windows 7 earlier and Windows 10 since last year. It's got only 8Mb RAM and still have had precious little problems (apart a period when I was using my AVID 11r as an interface). I run both native plugins and UAD-2 via the PCIe card.

I am now moving to a desktop but simply because I've got bored of the laptop SSD being so small, I have 16Gb on that one, and I got an old PCI RME interface with many inputs/outputs which will help with outboard.

I suppose there may be some chipsets in some laptop motherboards that misbehave, but mostly it's the embedded network cards which are greedy in interrupting the cpu. So good to check that.

I used to tweak the core parking in Windows 7, but since I've installed W10 I haven't seen the need at all.

Totally agree that the when I run the DAW, that's what I do, but I don't see anybody playing Tetris (or WoW) when mixing :D
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby blinddrew » Fri Apr 14, 2017 7:28 pm

i have a fairly basic dell desktop that's a few years old, a focusrite interface (and a tascam) and run Reaper. I've had to reload the drivers for the focusrite once and once Reaper has crashed when I'd been running a sampled piano for about an hour.
Aside from fun and games getting various plugins authorised it's been plug and play all the way.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby resistorman » Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:40 pm

I've been using PCs running Samplitude since the 90s. It wasn't the easiest route, but now I have 3 PCs: Sandybridge, Haswell, and Skylake running Win 10 and it's never been easier.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby Pete Kaine » Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:33 pm

wayne wrote: - Ideally I would want to use the PC for more than just music; general internet duties, office and some development work. Is that a good idea with a PC DAW or do they still need to be dedicated and stripped back?

I have no issues running everything on mine, although most pros still prefer to dual boot, or keep them stripped back and if you want to ensure you have the least amount of hassle keeping it dedicated will always win out. I find it tends to depend on if your making a living off it, or more an enthusiast. If downtime is potentially a problem then you find people tend to keep it clean and use it as a dedicated tool.

wayne wrote: - A virus scanner is a must with a PC. But they can interfere with audio performance. What do you do about this?

The in built windows defender isn't quite as zero day as the big boys, but it's also the lightest A/V going. I take the trade off personally and it does me fine.

- I had to rebuild my PC every couple of years due to Windows degrading. Is that still necessary? I was on Windows 2000.

It got better after XP. Win 7 on my main install has gone through 4 machine upgrades and has to be 7 or 8 years old now.

- Does USB, and using USB devices when working with a DAW still cause audio dropouts? I had dreadful problems with USB! I ended up disabling all of the ports to get audio stability.

That used to be board specific. Everyone tends to advise Intel these days and test on Intel (also found in Macs) so they tend to work flawlessly with a Intel chipset on the board. Third party add on solutions might have less luck.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby OK1 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:56 am

CS70 wrote:
OK1 wrote:A few months ago, I was a pretty frustrated Windows die hard, who was quite displeased with the challenges I had with getting a PC(Windows 10 laptop)

My guess is that you've been unlucky. I've used exclusively a laptop (relatively powerful in its time, a Dell e6530, but laptop nonetheless), and the mixes I see average 20-30 tracks and as many busses. Windows 7 earlier and Windows 10 since last year. It's got only 8Mb RAM and still have had precious little problems (apart a period when I was using my AVID 11r as an interface). I run both native plugins and UAD-2 via the PCIe card.

I am now moving to a desktop but simply because I've got bored of the laptop SSD being so small, I have 16Gb on that one, and I got an old PCI RME interface with many inputs/outputs which will help with outboard.

I suppose there may be some chipsets in some laptop motherboards that misbehave, but mostly it's the embedded network cards which are greedy in interrupting the cpu. So good to check that.

I used to tweak the core parking in Windows 7, but since I've installed W10 I haven't seen the need at all.

Totally agree that the when I run the DAW, that's what I do, but I don't see anybody playing Tetris (or WoW) when mixing :D


When all I did was mixing - about 30 tracks, from clients, (+about 8 busses) and lots of plugins, I had no issues with the laptop for about 2 years.

The moment I started recording some of my own tracks - maximum of two inputs at a time, and started monitoring these recordings via the DAW, with plugins, I ran into the underpowered nature of laptops, in comparison to desktops. I also do a bit more now - running stage pianos live via EQ/compression in the DAW - during monitoring.

Occasionally I also ran online streaming (youtube/deezer) through my DAW, which can only be done in "record/monitor mode", to play along with my stage piano (also routing through the DAW). In this workload, I discovered that especially with Youtube, my Onboard Intel GPU was throttling - once it draws a certain amount of power - e.g anytime I maximise the video to full screen, it forces the entire CPU to slow down, impacting the performance of my DAW - audio stutters. I am fairly certain this is not peculiar to my laptop, and would occur on most laptops.

It took me about 3 months of research - trial and error to eventually drill down(fairly recently using some arcane software tools - Throttle Stop and Intel Extreme Tuning Utility) to the unavoidable root cause, which in my case, was one more issue - directly unrelated to overheating, on the laptop. GPU throttling from 1Ghz to 200 Mhz., which also throttles the CPU, from 2.3 Ghz to 1.6Ghz.

Why? Apparently on laptops, there is a maximum power draw that the GPU and CPU can simultaneously consume and all these are limited/governed much more than on a desktop, to limit the battery drain.

On almost all recent laptops its a tug of war between performance/cooling and long battery life.

Running in High Performance power mode, the recommended method to run a laptop at maximum power, does not avoid this constraint of maximum power demand, which throttles the CPU/CPU, as it is governed by non accessible settings in the BIOS - configured by the motherboard.

Who knows what else lies in the restricted configuration of laptops, which we cannot do anything about.

Under an increased workload, the laptop began to show its limitations...

Sure you can run significant workloads on laptops, with the right laptop. More often the constraint with the laptop will be it's underpowered cos most who buy these for music know no better, and will not have bought a fully specced example.

The CPU/USB and other device interrupt overheads of recording and monitoring the recording, depending on your interface, can be significant - especially at low latency or at 96k(or both), which had been my default mix frequency. I was attempting to record @ 96K with 256 buffers - and occasional - audio glitches.., forced me to record at 48K, if I wished to retain the monitoring via the DAW (with effects, reverb, etc).

The risks of all the various things on a laptop that can hinder performance, leads me to recommend a desktop to avoid these challenges - and increase the probability of arriving at a high performing tool. The desktop which almost always has adequate cooling, avoids the cooling challenges on laptops (small fans, small air vents, partially blocked air intakes from placement on certain surfaces e.g soft furnishing) that predispose laptop processors to unavoidably throttle - which you cannot turn off (in almost all cases - unless you override all the caution that Intel has built in where the processor shuts itself down from overheating)

Where the specific workloads are impossible to fully define and predict, which is the case most of the time(we learn and grow our needs somewhat over time), a desktop with the provisos I included earlier, would be a safer bet. Fewer potential issues to contend with.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby CS70 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:20 am

OK1 wrote:The risks of all the various things on a laptop that can hinder performance, leads me to recommend a desktop to avoid these challenges

Yes good point. That's what the OP wanted to do if I got it right. Laptops can be finicky, and there can be special restrictions depending on the model.

Recording with plugins live is always a risky thing tough. A synth, or a reverb, fine; but to me plugins are really for mixing, I always record dry or use hardware outboard if I want a specific character (which is quite seldom), no matter the platform. I did a full band (about 14/15 mics) with no probs.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:15 pm

OK1 wrote:Short answer, it is possible to have a Windows PC that works.

Is it easy, NO.

Yes it is.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby James Perrett » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:58 pm

As I've mentioned a few times in the past, my 12 year old Acer Aspire laptop still happily records 24 tracks simultaneously with Reaper. It was just about the cheapest laptop I could buy at the time but fortunately included a TI based Firewire port. I've upgraded the memory and the hard disk but it is still running with the original Windows XP installation.

On the other hand, whenever I've tried to use my work laptop for music I've found that it isn't as fast as I would expect - but that's probably down to all the other stuff running at the same time. If I were to treat it in the same way as the home laptop and shut down everything I don't really need then I'm sure it would zip along. We just expect to be able to do everything at the same time these days.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby OK1 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:30 pm

CS70 wrote:
OK1 wrote:The risks of all the various things on a laptop that can hinder performance, leads me to recommend a desktop to avoid these challenges

Yes good point. That's what the OP wanted to do if I got it right. Laptops can be finicky, and there can be special restrictions depending on the model.

Recording with plugins live is always a risky thing tough. A synth, or a reverb, fine; but to me plugins are really for mixing, I always record dry or use hardware outboard if I want a specific character (which is quite seldom), no matter the platform. I did a full band (about 14/15 mics) with no probs.

Sure with a decent interface - in your case Firewire based, without onboard tracking plugins, most laptops can handle this.

The OP asked about only the computer, nevertheless rather than assume simple needs, I thought it better to assume a more involved workload, which is increasingly commonplace.

May I clarify.

DISCRETE PROCESSING

In the 1990's and early 2000's, preamps on audio interfaces were not the norm, so preamp duties were performed most likely by either a hardware mixer or dedicated preamp.

It would be common for most studios including smaller ones and home studios, to include a mixing board, so issues like tracking/monitoring via the mixer, would be the norm.

Furthermore, at that time the likelihood that outboard analog hardware/dsp hardware effects were applied to provide a comfort reverb , using hardware sends via the mixer, especially for vocals, was much higher than it is today.

Of course the signal could still be be recorded dry. For those more advanced, some hardware based compression and/or eq could be included in the signal path, so that this was also recorded with the track (destructively), as part of the input to the audio interface. Many devices featured preamp/compression/eq in hardware, as preprocessors to the audio signal pre or post inserts in the analog mixer, then to the audio interface via line-level signals.

INTEGRATED INTERFACES

Further down the line - about the mid 2000's, with the transition to these all in ones - interfaces which had preamps, headphone outputs, line level outputs, and in some cases inserts as well as onboard compression/eq in hardware, we in many cases can now do without the outboard hardware. And interface manufacturers now include digital effects like compression/eq/reverb on their devices to replace the external hardware, and monitoring could have these effects added. You can choose if the audio will be recorded dry - or with effects, or both on separate tracks. Lots of options.

DAW INPUT PROCESSING

Unfortunately the quality of these digital effects - has not been as high as what is possible in software, as the audio interface manufacturer has to limit their DSP to avoid pricing their device too high.

With increased speed of modern CPU's, this then opens a whole new door to omit any external hardware processing, as well as any external processing in the audio interfaces DSP, to bring all processing on input audio - In the box.

Some variants like the UAD DSP solutions provide heftier resources, but also command a commensurate investment.

More than ever before - guitar effects - entire preamp/cabinet and other guitar box effects are being modelled 100% in the box, and especially for those who work in home environments where they cannot make much noise, or wish the take advantage of these new opportunities, at tracking stage, the DAW/Computer must be up to the job.

One advantage - your entire configuration - recording/tracking is In the box(ITB), with full recall.

However - its up to the recording engineer which version of the software enabled processing to record - dry, wet or both. With the flexibility to modify effects thereafter.

Increasingly the DAW needs to be able to, simultaneously :

- Process plugins
- Run software instruments that come with a ton of effects inbuilt to authentically recreate their sound,
- Track instruments and vocals live with effects including guitars that can be tracked using 100% ITB effects.
- Run room/speaker correction plugins like Sonarworks, in my case I use something similar which I developed myself which also runs at zero latency.
- Run plugins like Slate Digital's microphone modellers, in real time.

All at very low round trip latency's, and high sample rates(which also lowers the latency).

This is the demand of today, and most laptops are unable to fulfill this modern workload, without workarounds and limitations

It is this current scenario where so much of the processing and monitoring can now be offloaded from analog hardware or DSP hardware, to plugins running in the DAW, that informed some of my earlier comments, hoping to provide recommendations for a solution that will remain capable, for a few more years.

Herein also lies another challenge of laptops, limited expansion, you cannot easily upgrade memory as usually they have only two RAM slots instead of the 4 that is more commonly the minimum with desktops, or change processor to a faster option, or change motherboard to a newer chipset standard, - you're stuck pretty much with what you bought.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby zenguitar » Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:48 pm

Duplicate post by OK1 removed for clarity.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby Revengineer » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:32 pm

I used to run on a PC, now I've moved to a 27"iMac.

A couple of points from my experience. First, if you run a PC avoid AVID and Profools like the plague they are. I have never had any luck with those tools on a system that didn't run HDX or its various incarnations. Too much hassle, lousy support and imo, not really all that great on quality.

I have no hardware or software issues with any other manufacturer/developer products on PC.

That said, PCs do need to be properly configured - sleep timers, USB power, etc. Also, more cores is better than more RAM after 8G.

On the PC versus MAC question, when I switched to Mac, using the same interface and DAW (Focusrite 8PreX and Presonus Studio One) I immediately noticed a significant improvement in sound quality with the Mac. I no longer have to reload the OS every six months. I have fewer driver concerns and, despite Mac being the quintessence of lowest common denominator design and build concepts, overall, I've had a much, much better recording experience on them.

Now my 8 core 16 G PC serves my Excel needs admirably.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby job » Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:12 am

Revengineer wrote:...PCs do need to be properly configured - sleep timers, USB power, etc.

To me, this often sounds like it's mentioned in a negative light when people comment on PC's as workstations, but really the configuration potential of Windows is a positive not a negative since it can be customised to your requirements allowing you to direct the power to where it benefits you. Without configuration options you're going to be stuck with an all-purpose machine that's going to inevitably throw power at processes that are redundant to your needs.


Revengineer wrote:...when I switched to Mac, using the same interface and DAW (Focusrite 8PreX and Presonus Studio One) I immediately noticed a significant improvement in sound quality with the Mac. I no longer have to reload the OS every six months.

This shouldn't be the case. My guess is that it's a user setting and/or user practice.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby CS70 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:47 am

Revengineer wrote:On the PC versus MAC question, when I switched to Mac, using the same interface and DAW (Focusrite 8PreX and Presonus Studio One) I immediately noticed a significant improvement in sound quality with the Mac.

Uh? What you mean by "sound quality"?
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby Kwackman » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:38 am

Revengineer wrote:On the PC versus MAC question, when I switched to Mac, using the same interface and DAW (Focusrite 8PreX and Presonus Studio One) I immediately noticed a significant improvement in sound quality with the Mac.

CS70 has hinted at his doubt about this claim, and speaking as a long time mac devotee, I agree with his doubt. I don't believe the platform we use will effect the "sound quality" - a PC itself can't sound better or worse than a Mac.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby wayne » Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:37 pm

Thanks for the comments and feedback, they have been helpful.

I'm currently torn between either a 27" iMac or a Scan PC build and a move to Cubase. I don't think the cost will be much different between the two at the end of the day which makes it tough!

It sounds like with a PC I could use the machine for other uses if I am careful, which is the same with the Mac really. As a hobbyist I can't really afford to put that much money into just a music computer, if you see what I mean.

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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby Dynamic Mike » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:27 pm

Hi Wayne, if you decide to go with a Scan build I'd like to offer a word of advice from recent experience. Rather than deciding what you need & asking them if it will do the job, tell them what you need it to do and let them help you from there. Even the online chat is a great source of information. I thought I knew pretty much what I needed, but after using the online chat followed up by a phone call, I got the right tool for the job. I didn't end up spending any less cash (although I could have) I just ended up spending more effectively.

A nice touch is that they email you with pics of your build in progress & also send the documentation for all the parts, plus most of the boxes in case you decide to upgrade parts & sell the old ones. Incidentally I use my PC for pretty much everything, Windows Defender is ample provided you're sensible about where you visit & what you download. I also run Malwarebytes & ADW cleaner periodically but that's more out of habit than necessity.
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Re: Questions on modern PCs as DAWs

Postby blinddrew » Fri Apr 21, 2017 6:50 pm

Just one other thing to think about Wayne, how wedded are you to Cubase? If budget is a consideration it might be worth looking at other, more affordable, DAWs.
I moved from Cubase to Reaper a while back and haven't regretted it at all.

(Just to be clear, I am not paid by, employed by or affiliated with Reaper in any way. More's the pity. :) )
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