Best Computer Setup for Recording

Subject: Compatability and Performance

I would like to know all of what kinds of
motherboards,chipsets,and cpu's you have tested. And in what combinations, for
the best performance of Pro Audio and the new Sonar. I am set up to do
primarily audio and want to be able to do as many audio tracks simultaneously
as possible. I went to a dual-processor G4 Mac, but it will be a long time
before the second cpu would ever do me any good, and I was just not happy with
their excessive prices and picky hardware. Everything with them is expensive
and too selective. And I couldn't transfer my data back and forth to my PC
without spending a ton more money and a lot of extra time. So, it is gone. But
before I build another computer, I want to know what works the best with and
for what I already have and own. I have 2 dman 2044 cards, which came with Mac
drivers but would not work in a G4. And I have Cakewalk Pro Audio 8.0 Deluxe. I
am thinking of trying to put enough money together to build a dual processor
unit, but don't even know who makes a good board and what board and cpu
combinations will yeild the fastest most powerful performance, but stable and
consistent. I was hoping you might be able to offer some advice or at least
some results that might be beneficial to me during my decision making process.
I'm tired of buying stuff and fighting with computers and hardware, etc. I just
want to record and make good music. So, if you can help me I would be very

Sounds of Grace Studio
25 answers Last reply
More about best computer setup recording
  1. I have not used the specific software that you are talking about, but I have worked with Cakewalk. I use it with a Delta 66 Analog to digital breakout box which allows me to have mike and acoustic guitar at the same time. I was using an old Yamaha XG soundcard with no problem, but ran into difficulty with the SB Platinum. The Breakout box has a PCI card, and the soundblaster really does not like to co-exist with it. I am running a T-Bird 750 (can OC), and an Abit KT7-RAID Motherboard with 224 MB PC 100 SDRAM. I have been really pleased with the performance of this rig. Allows me to playback previously recorded tracks through headphones and record additional ones in real time. It also handles real time effects with no problem. Hope that this helps.

  2. The athlon sucks for sound recording. I wouldn't use AMD for anything professional.

    This may effect the quality of your recording since playback is effected too.

    This patch doesnt fix the problem, it just hide it. your quality of recording will suck.
  3. don't listen to fugger he is one of the most biaised people one this site at least in the since that he won't ever say anything good about AMD
    i would personal wiat too see how the next generation p4 does becuase there is no way to get around the fact a p4 is good for bandwith intensive tasks
  4. Yes but don't ever think about buying a current P4, they run at half FPU.....

    AO Admin
    The Dr.Twister Network
  5. i've had success with my sb live platnium, running on a tbird 800- i would think you should concentrate your money on a good RAID-0 setup along with a top end athlon....
  6. One thing to keep in mind is that older AMD chipsets were incompatible with Echo audio cards and other cards that basically had a Motorola DSP onboard.

    I'm in the process of upgrading as well. I still have a PIII 450 that is bogging down with two many plug-ins (mostly direct x native). Speaking of direct x- direct x 8 has been a nightmare for most digital audio, and it's not easy to revert to a version of 7. I use Cubase, which is optimized for PIII instructions- so I'm a bit leary of going with AMD- but will probably opt for an Athalon anyway. I also need a new audio card- the Gina is hardware limited to 20 bits. If you go with any OS more potent than Win ME and run midi off USB you might have severe timing problems- Also, a bunch of audio cards don't play well with win 2000 (no drivers yet- at least not ASIO2... if that matters to you).

    The bottom line is to not listen to anyone on this board and to research each element of your setup to make sure it is compatible with the motherboard and with the OS you go with. Those will be your two biggest potential problems.

    I can't imagine you'd need RAID if you run modern HDs. Your drives stream mostly linear data anyway. I'd stick with two fast drives- probably skip SCSI unless you are a Rockerfeller and run your apps on one and your audio on the other, but that should do fine. My CPU always has bit the dust before I ran into HD problems- and of course you can always mute a few tracks and export if you run into either problem. Even at 24 bits, I've been fine with my ATA 66s. The inherent hardware limitations (like seek time) of the drives are probably more of a problem than transfer rates anyway. There are a lot of people who really get into overkill on all of these issues. I usually shoot for about $1000 to 1200 in parts (not including monitor) for an audio system. Paying an extra $500 only buys you about four months of extra technology!

    Finally, do your homework regarding a dual processor system. Cakewalk might not even support it. Cubase FINALLY does, but you have to assign various elements of it to each processor. I'd be curious to see some audio benchmarks for this sort of thing. Rather than using dual processors, I'll load a VA on a separate box and run it through midi, export the audio over a network and keep it all digital.

    Anyway... I'm just rambling at this point- but most of the "tips" for building an audio system are about two years out of date (like they STILL expouse the virtues of SCSI drives!!).
  7. I don't know or understand anything about Raid setup's yet. I have been reading some good things about them in Maximum PC and the like. It seems that using IBM Drives and a Raid setup, is the way to fly. I just don't know what that entails or what it means. What exactly, is a Raid setup? And how does it differ or work differently from the common IDE and SCSI setup's?
  8. Thanks for all the info. I've been pretty well turned against any of the Layla products and such. I don't know the signifigance of the DSP you mentioned, but have seen it pop up in things I've read. I have my 2 Dman 2044's, which are 20 but as well. The predecessors to the Delta series interfaces. Whilst owning my dual 500 G4 and Digital Performer, I was made aware of the MOTU interfaces, and feel pretty confidently, that they are the way to fly, since you can control any 3 of their interfaces with one card, unlike the Delta's and many others. So, my plan is to get a 2408 MkII, as it offers the most ins and outs and the most diversity of connection types. I have recently purchased a new O1v for the purpose of having surface control of my audio software, as well as being able to pre-mix all but 8 of my analog and digital ins and outs to the computer. Since the MOTU 2408 will give me 8 more analog ins and outs, as well as 3 banks each of ADAT and TASCAM digital ins and outs and some S/PDIF's, I feel like I have that area covered. Plus, I'm getting the expansion card for my O1v that lets me take advantage of 8 the ADAT channels on the 2408. That will let me run all of my ins and outs through the mixer, which has 2 full banks of effects processors built in, preamps on 12 channels and phantom power available for 12 or 16 channels. I can also record direct from the O1v to any analog or digital recording device, sub-mix the monitors on stage at the church where I play on Sundays, as well as be able to run sound for them or anyone else, including me at my studio.(my computer and I), and take snapshots of the mixes, so that I can just pull them back up at any time and the motorized faders and knobs will go right back to those original settings. Outside of having the right computer setup for optimum recording capabilities, I should be almost set. Although I have been told I should probably get Cubase. Now if I could just figure out how to hook up and turn on all that stuff, I'd be in business.
    Really, the most important thing that concerns me at this point, is being able to record enough audio tracks simultaneously, at my church, with out the computer stumbling. At home it really is not an issue, yet. After all, I can only play one instrument at a time. And I could do that with either of my good sound cards. My AWE64Gold Deluxe, and my Sound Blaster Live Card. Both do a great job. Sure wish I could get windows to allow mw to install and use multiple sound cards. Then I wouldn't even need those expensive interface cards. BTW, I have had as many as 5 Sound Cards installed along with my Dman cards, and windows let me, after I disabled half of the unneeded stuff on my computer. But, it would not let me input and/or output to but one, not counting the Dman cards. Bummer!

    Anyway, thanks for your time.
    Bob Estell/ddrummer4jesus
  9. Thanks again. I am leary of A-bit boards because of the trouble I've had with them being extremely picky about the brand of Ram I use. I don't like that at all, but except for that, they are an impressive piece of hardware.
  10. Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.
    Bob Estell
  11. Does that mean none of the PIII's are good for the task, or just that the PIV is better. I don't think I could get anywhere near being able to purchase any of the PIV's for a long time. And I don't want to wait too long. Wouldn't you say that the PIII's would still be better for my purposes than the AMD's, or not?

    Bob Estell.
  12. Half of what? Or half of what other CPU's? And what's the signifigance of that?

    Bob Estell
  13. >>I wouldn't use *** for anything professional
    Like you would do something professional in your life!

  14. i was just saying that the next genararion p4 might be something to look into when it comes out according to intle the price are spose to be down around the sdram prices by then which would make the system price a bit closer to a none p4 pc
  15. Drummer, get a CUSL2 by asus, a P3 667 ~ 1Ghz (depending on budget) and at least 256MB PC133 RAM,geforce2 MX, ATA100 hard rive, and a high end sound card with midi (quite a few to choose from, depending on your needs)

    For well under $1000 you will have extreamly stable machine that will not self destruct at 50degrees celcius, suffer from VIA chipset nightmare, it will be 100% intel compatable, everything will operate correctly without line noise, CPU process pausing, and no stupid VIA/Win2k patch.

    Take a minute to read thru the dozens of posts on AMD and thermal problems/failure, incompatabilities, and other crap associated with owning them.

    Then you can "try" to find a Intel post with problem.

    People talk of more bang for your buck, but in reality you spend same amount on both. gotta figure in 300+ watt PSU, extra heavy duty HSF, extra fans in case, higher prices on motherboard, and higher price on DDR ram. not including your time it takes to confirm each part is AMD approved and getting feedback here to make sure you dont step on land mine. like the SupraExpress modem does not work on most AMD systems period. had to give an example or the AMD lemmings will try to come back with "what incompatabilities" or "what doesnt work".
  16. I'd skip the RAID- I don't think it would help for an audio system all that much. Most of the data streams linearly, or just ends up being cached in RAM. You'll likely overload your CPU before running into drive issues. You can only have so many tracks at once before having complete clutter. Even if you move to higher bitdepths you won't have many problems. I've had no trouble at 32 bits with ATA 66s.

    Finally- regarding Fugger- sure it's a no-brainer putting together an Intel system- as the world revolves around Intel. This guy isn't talking about buying an off-the-shelf system. He's like anyone else- he just wants to get the most performance for the money... and he's doing his homework so that he DOESN'T step on a landmine!

    regarding your patch link- don't think for a minute that Intel hasn't dropped the ball before- let me think... didn't they RECALL a bunch of chips a few years ago? Any patch that involves a MERE addition of a registry key can hardly be much of an error anyway. We're not talking about driver patches, BIOS fixes, or anything earth shattering here.

    I'm not getting into a pissing match on the issue. I don't own a single AMD processor (hence am not a "lemming")... but I made a tidy bit of money buying AMD stock a few years ago. I wouldn't rule out buying an AMD CPU for my new box (I might end up feeling a bit dirty... but I can live with that). What's the alternative- buying ANOTHER PIII, or rolling my dice with a P4 ? Sounds a little like a lose/lose situation to me. You don't like DDR, Mr. Fugger? How about Rambus! I fail to see your logic.

    I know I'm getting way off-topic with this, and the AMD/Intel debate is like religion or politics- but it would be cool to do a double-blind computer test for Mr. Fugger to see if he can tell the difference by merely using a computer!

    Finally- an incompatible modem?! I'll puke if I ever hear a modem again! Good riddance to all modems! Yes- there are definite incompatibilities (see my first post). In the world of digital audio there are even more profound incompatibilities with OS upgrades. Ever try to use an LM4 with Win2000? Ever try to use direct x 8 with anything? IRQ sharing flies out the window with half the audio cards. PCs were not designed for music production. Five years ago you would be lucky to get 8 tracks out of a PC- and native plugins were unheard of! We've come a long way in no time at all- much further than MS Office!
  17. Thank you. Yeah, I agree, Fugger is pretty far out there. I have had real good experiences with my AMD's. It's just that my latest were and are with the K-6-II/450's. They have done really well for me and so have all of my ePox boards. But, they are not so great for the audio recording tasks. That's why I am considering Intel for the first time, although I'm getting more and more convinced that I should not build a dual proc. board at this time and that I should go with the T-bird(as fast as I can afford for now), and try to find the best motherboard to support it. I really feel like it needs to have Intel chipsets, but don't if and what board that would be. Besides, I don't know what Intel chipsets might support the faster bus speeds that the AMD uses. I really don't know what to do. I might just use my Intel 233Mhz w/MMX computer, on the new Power Color board I just picked up, that will support socket7 up to 650Mhz and it supports up close to 1gb of ram. I'm going to try both my extra K-6-2/450 and the 233MMx cpu's on it and see what happens. If I can get 10 audio tracks to take without glitches then I will live with it for now, until all of the dust settles around the really fast bus speeds and the supposed really fast bus speeds that are supposed to be available with both brands of cpu's. Until I get a MOTU 2408 MKII, I can't really try for any more tracks. When I get one, I hope to get to the point of being able to record my maximum input capacity, which should be around 24 to 28 tracks of audio input, simultaneously, using both my analog and digital ins available. Anyway, that's my goal.

    Thanks a bunch for your input.
    Bob Estell/ddrummer4jesus
  18. You guys sound pretty knowledgeable about digital recording. So I had a few questions.

    I have used 3 sound recording programs Digital Orchestrator pro Cake Walk pro, and Cubase (all the new versions). I learned on D. O. pro (hey it’s a lot cheaper) and got very proficient at it but now I want something a little more powerful, more effects and so on. So what is best and why?

    My second question is my sound card. I was planing on buying a Yamaha SW1000xg. It has high quality A D converters and a lot of effects. I also like the MIDI sounds of the Yamaha XG sound set. Recording a lot of tracks at one time is not a big issue for me. 1 stereo track at a time works for what I’m doing. I also thought it would be nice to have the MIDI and wave function in 1 card. That way if I want to convert the MIDI to wave there should be very little noise added.

    Last, what’s the best low cost monitors (near rage) u would recommend?

    Thx & Cya

    <font color=green>Paranoia is just a higher awareness of reality.</font color=green>
  19. I'm going to pretend to be unbiased here.

    I don't know that of Cakewalk/Cubase/Logic that one is any better than the others- although arguably Cakewalk would be many people's third choice and it would be between Cubase and Logic. I know Cubase inside and out and am very comfortable with it. Using VST5/32, the audio can run in 32 bit float, but I'm guessing Logic has a simlar engine. VST also supports both VST and Direct X plug-ins- but I think Logic does as well. I also think Steinberg's Wavelag is the best wave editor available for PC.

    With Cubase 5, I now have built-in 4 band EQ and the dynamic efx on each channel. The bussing options are very deep (including the group mixer functions). You are probably already familiar with all the features if you've used it before- but it really takes months to really get up to speed with all the things the program can do. Sure it has its bugs, but so do the other programs.

    With Cubase, I've spent more on plugins than I have the actual software (Waves NPP- soon to upgrade to Native Gold, Arboreteum Hyperprism, a bunch of TC|Electronics, etc....). I think Logic probably bundles more effects, but I'm still more a fan of third-party ones- esp. Waves- even though the are direct x rather than VST- so the CPU takes a bit more of a hit. The VST instrument implementation is excellent with Cubase- and should be since Steinberg developed the protocol. Logic has some cool proprietary format soft synths like their sampler and the Access Virus (which costs a fortune, BTW).

    I don't know if I would buy the Yamaha card. I think its a bit old at this point, and I wouldn't get anything with less than 24 bits. I'm guessing the XG soundset will begin to wear on your nerves after the novelty of the card wears off. XG is basically a souped up version of GM, and if you are recording ond track at a time you might want to get a more sophisticated synth engine. Of course, I'm more into soft synths, VA synths and hardware modules. The soft synths undergo no D/A or A/D conversions. A high quality audio interface with give you enough headroom that you should have very little noise for recording sources outside your PC- especially if you record dry. Of course a Soundblaster is not the solution.

    I use Event 20/20 monitors. I'm not saying they are the best, but they are inexpensive and sound decent.

    It is difficult to recommend the best software, since Cubase v. Logic is much like Intel v. AMD- its a religious/political thing, and most users are quite evangelical about their brand. Ironically, deep knowledge of one suite doesn't easily translate to the other.

    Also, it is difficult to recommend an audio interface without knowing the type of music you plan to create and your style of working. If you aren't brining any outside sounds into your PC and you are not using GM (which is terrible anyway) you could use a 5$ OEM card just to monitor and export all your mixdowns without having to worry about the quality of the convertors (that's just one extreme). I have no experience at all with using DSP processing within an app like Cubase. It sounds like a headache to me, but of course it will save your CPU a few cycles here and there. I would be a bit concerned down the road about upgrade paths if you have too many sources or processes located on DSP, since you will be tied to that box or at least the card for your playback.

    Finally, if you do want to go with a card like that, you might want to check out Creamware's Pulsar- I know people who swear by it and it seems like it is a bit more open-ended than the Yamaha.
  20. Thanks for the in-depth reply. The type of music I will be recording is industrial, progressive, rock, metal what ever the hell they call it today. A lot like NIN (Nine inch nails). I checked out that soundcard (Creamware's Pulsar) and with a SGR of almost 1300 bucks it’s definitely out of my price range. About 500 is the max I am able to spend on a soundcard at this point and I need to buy one soon.

    I will give u a quick rundown of my basic recording need and maybe u can help me choose the best card.
    I will be writing all the drum tracks in MIDI and most of the other synth stuff. So I was thinking I need a sound card with a good wave table. But can a soft synth handle this? Then I will record live instruments bass, guitar & vocals. Then add effects, mixdown and then burn it to a CD. U can listen to a song I wrote and put on at <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>. I was going to shave off a 1 min of the song but never got around to it. (if u bother to listen to it please take the time and download the MP3 version about 3 megs) The sound card I used was a [-peep-] ensoniq on a PII 266, probably worse then a SB live. So whatever I buy will be a huge improvement. Now I have a 1 gig tbird and need the perfect sound card to complement it.

    Thx again and I await your suggestions.


    <font color=green>Paranoia is just a higher awareness of reality.</font color=green>
  21. Listened to your track- you really have a great guitar tone for an act (if you know what I mean). Frankly your production already sounds light years ahead of most of the material there. What did you use for percussion on this track?

    I know you are dealing with a budget- and I forgot how expensive the Creamware card is. Here are a few things to consider:

    Generally they call the sound card for PC digital recording an "audio card"- and if you look at all the audio cards that you can get at,, Guitar Center, or Mars Music, you will find that NONE of them contain soundsets- that their purpose is to simply provide very clean A/D and D/A convertors and a wide variety of input/output options ( S/PDIF, ADAT Lightpipe, work clock sync, multiple ins and outs, etc... ). There cards don't have 1/8" stereo mini jacks either- usually XLR, 1/4", or RCA (probably least desirable here).

    You will also find that most "professional" keyboards do not contain GM or XG soundsets- or -if they do, they are basically just added on as an afterthought. The principle behind either GM or XG was to establish a standard for easily transfering entire songs done entirely in midi- particularly handy if someone wants to sing standards at a wedding and they were too cheap to hire an entire band! With that in mind, the sounds are rather generic and bland.

    What you might want to do is just get a great basic 24 bit card (as cheap as $200 if you don't care about fancy input/ouput options- like a Mona- that should work with your chipset). You can then either purchase an outboard midi module that contains percussion, OR purchase a sample CD or two, either in .wav format, or rip the audio CD directly to .wav, trim the percussive elements in an editor, and import them into Cubase, Cakewalk, or whatever. It's like using your audio suite as a sampler- and since most percussion is treated as merely sample playback (vs. multisampling, crossfades, fancy envelopes, velocity switching, etc... that a full-fledged sampler provides- like the difference between an Akai MPC2000 and an actual Akai sampler- the MPC is merely playback, whether as percussive hits or as a phrase sampler). Granted you won't be working with midi proper- but most percussion needs quite a bit of tweaking and syncing in the digital audio domain- like really dialing in the EQ of the snare and kick, compression, etc...).

    I'm not trying to tell you my way of working is right, but from what I've heard, you already really seem to know your way around music production/arrangement, and have quite a professional sound already. You might get by using an existing card with GM or XG AND using a higher quality card for bringing in your external audio, since the internal midi do not go throught the conversions. One potential problem is that some soundcards are locked into a different sample rate (48khz) and I don't think any audio apps allow the mixing of different rates. You can run into potential round-off issues converting to 44.1 if you try to do an entire project at 48 and then burn a CD- but that is a different story.

    FYI- in the old days (pre-computer) I did all my tracks in midi- sequencing a ton of outboard gear (drum machines, modules, keyboards, etc...) running through a mixer, mixing down to stereo and recording to tape. Switching to PC and digital required me to rethink every aspect of the process and focus more on the digital audio side of things. In the process I wasted a lot of time and money buying equipment more suited toward my old habits. My personal opinion is that with the quality you already have, purchasing a card with GM or XG will be a dead end for you. It might work well for where you are today, but you'll outgrow it in no time, particularly as your upgraded PC allows you to do things you only could have imagined.

    Finally- the new version of Cubase ships with a few GM soundsets that do NOT reside on the card, and it also has a watered down drum machine. I personally use neither, but you might find them somewhat useful.

    I do have a few tracks posted in a slightly different genre at <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>
  22. Thx for the complement. It means a lot, I listened to about 5 of your songs and they all sounded great.

    What I used for the Drums and all synth stuff was a sw60xg and Digital Orchestrator Pro. I guess that’s why I was thinking of the Yamaha sw1000xg. The guitar I used was a Vox I sold at a garage sale for $40. The thing was a piece, I just miked the amp and tried to make a lot of feedback. I’m not a very good guitar player, Bass is my instrument so I was really surprised u liked the guitar sound.

    I’m not familiar (or fully understand) with using my audio suite (IE Cubase) as a sampler. What I was doing was this, after I tweaked the MIDI drum track to sound close to the way I liked, I then converted it to a wave file (stereo) then added delay, EQ or whatever. Then once I had all my tracks into wave files I would mix them all down to 1 stereo track. It sounds like I am adding an unnecessary step by converting the MIDI to wave. It this true?

    I also need to find out more info on soft synths and if that is a viable alternative. It sounds like I need a good sound module for my Midi stuff and to stay away from GM and XG. So the quest for the perfect sound card goes on.

    Thx & Cya

    <font color=green>Paranoia is just a higher awareness of reality.</font color=green>
  23. You definitely are not adding an extra step by converting the midi to audio- what I was referring to was skipping that aspect of midi altogether and using samples, since you are essentially creating a sample by converting your midi to audio.

    A soft synth might not be quite where you are at, but the built-ins that already are included with Cubase might serve some of your needs quite well. I prefer outboard gear- I use a Proteus 2000 for most of my percussion, and it has a ton of other sounds in it. Of course you'll need some sort of keyboard to control it, but I just use a crappy old midi controller and invest most of my resources elsewhere.

    The thing with Cubase is you can IMPORT audio into the audio pool, than drag it from the pool into your arrangement. Let's say you had a cool sound effect on a sample CD that you had converted to wave, and you wanted to use it. Rather than "recording" it into Cubase through the soundcard, you'd just add it to the pool and place it where you wanted it. You'd probably want to place it in a folder within your other song audio files beforehand so you didn't "lose" the file later on, but it does work. You might already know that, but that's the sort of thing that opened a whole new world to me. Best of all, since it is already digital and in your PC, you won't go through unnecessary conversions. You can take a bunch of kicks, snares, whatever, trim them in wavelab, and import them, and drag them to whatever beat you want. It's just a possiblity, and it might not fit in with how you work, but that is how you can add things that you never really recorded in the first place- no matter what it is.

    I've been to the mountain and didn't like what I saw.
  24. Gosh leave it to the users to not know PC parts and reply in novels.

    Why does no one want my 2 cents?
  25. What are you talking about Oni?

    This has digressed a bit OT- but there is a pretty crazy interaction between hardware, software, and plugins with digital audio. There is also a bit of a chasm between computer people and music people. I for one don't want to spend $1000 for an audio card that has features I don't need or can't use, or $600 for a midi interface I don't need (when most people buy a $5 joystick adapter... or use an OEM soundcard or think a SB Platinum is the bees knees).

    It's not even about parts- it's about a way of working and the limits that certain "parts" impose upon that process. I won't bore you with another novel.

    I've been to the mountain and didn't like what I saw.
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