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Old 10-31-2010, 04:04 PM
flagstaffcharli flagstaffcharli is offline
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Question Spend my money! Pro Tools & pc

I've been playing around with this question for almost a year now. I'm going to make the jump to a pc-based ProTools rig from my old Yamaha DAW.

After the first of the year I plan to spend some money. I am primarily interested in tracking mic'd instruments (guitars, cajon, hand percussion, mic'd amps, mandolin, etc... and voice.) I probably need no more than eight tracks max at any given time, but I could use the capability to record 4-6 balanced inputs at one time. I am not interested so much in mixing (only rough mixes as needed) or mastering at home. I plan to use pro studios and pro people to put the final touches on future recordings. But I want to be able to track here at home at my leisure.

I currently have mics, preamps, compressors, headphones, and monitors that I feel are sufficient for what I hope to accomplish. Or at least I have a good idea about which ones I like and may buy.

I assume I need a good, Pro Tools compatible pc and I also need appropriate Pro Tools software and interfaces to lay down my tracks and get my other equipment hooked up.

I don't really need or want virtual instruments or any advanced MIDI capability. I won't use that stuff. I also know from many other discussions that someone is going to want to jump in and say I need room treatments and such. Right. I do. But that isn't the topic here. It's a separate topic I will address.

I figure I've got up to a limit of about 3K to spend if necessary. Maybe $2000 is a better place to start.

Spend my money! This forum is always good at that. Seriously, thanks in advance for ideas and feel free to point me towards online resources. It's a bit of a challenge finding the right ones.

Cheers!
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Old 10-31-2010, 06:16 PM
moon moon is offline
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Couldn't tell you much about Pro Tools since I'm a Linux and Ardour guy but the PC is probably something you want to build yourself. You need a quiet machine but these aren't always easy to find.

Almost any current chip will do the job. Even my ancient Athlon 3000 is powerful enough for multi-tracking with a few software effects and synths. In general, something dual core at the value end of the spectrum should be all you need but check the Pro Tools hardware requirements carefully.

I've never really been a fan RAID (not sure how easy it is to recover from a major hardware failure). A good alternative HDD set up would be one small-ish disk for OS/apps, and two big data disks, at least 500gb. One of these would be used for data and the other as a backups/scratch disk. Basically you've always got twice the storage you actually need and so you can always do backups quickly and easily. That's very important.

A quiet power supply, quiet (ie big and slow spinning) fans and quiet drives are important. Seasonic and Samsung are great in this regard. You may want to swap the heatsink which comes with the CPU for something a bit quieter. Don't forget the case either: when I built my current computer I got a bunch of quiet parts but skimped on the case. It's too lightweight and resonance from the HHDs causes some humming. Get something nice and solid.

Most on-board VGA will be plenty powerful enough although probably won't support multiple monitors - highly recommended. If you do get a graphics card, make sure it's a quiet one. Something from the value bin should be all you need. Get the biggest monitor(s) you can afford. You don't necessarily want to run them at max resolution though. I've got my stuff set up to work with a remote control and it's nice to sit be able to back a bit to listen to a piece, or to follow the screen from across the room when I'm laying down a track.

I'd highly recommend a Wacom pad, or equivalent. Much nicer than a mouse. Mice and keyboards are really just RSIs waiting to happen. A soft touch keyboard like the inexpensive Cherry Evolution Stream is worth considering. Little things like this, and multiple monitors, can make it much nicer to work with the computer.
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Old 10-31-2010, 07:34 PM
flagstaffcharli flagstaffcharli is offline
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Hi Moon,

Thanks for the feedback.

The truth is that I will likely buy an off-the-shelf laptop that's been set-up for audio. I just don't care to build a computer. One must consider where they will spend energy, and I haven't got any desire to spend mine on trying to assemble a customized computer. But I appreciate your feedback.
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Old 10-31-2010, 08:56 PM
flagstaffcharli flagstaffcharli is offline
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I should mention that I might look at alternative software to Pro Tools, but I really want to saty with a pc and away from a Mac. Thanks.
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Old 10-31-2010, 09:17 PM
chas52 chas52 is offline
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I know nothing about pro tools.
I like Reaper alot. great and helpful user forum too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by flagstaffcharli View Post
I should mention that I might look at alternative software to Pro Tools, but I really want to saty with a pc and away from a Mac. Thanks.
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Old 10-31-2010, 10:46 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Default Aloha Chuck

Aloha Chuck,

A couple years back, I started using PTLE vs. 7.3 & 8 with the same goal as you - rough tracking of live, miked acoustic instruments & voice w/o midi, VST's, samples, etc. so that I could pass them on to a pro engineer for mixing & mastering in PTHD.

In my experience, PTLE was one totally error-prone, limited, time-consuming, PIA DAW. I could see it's value (like for editing), occasionally, when I didn't have to do another fix, which sometimes took days.

Like you, Chuck, I have all the other stuff I needed to get into recording, even some analog studio & miking knowledge.

I found my PC/PTLE combination's compatibility & other problems to be insurmountable & the whole Avid philosophy of having to use an inferior dongle just to get PT to be repugnant, after stints with both an 003 rack (which died) & an MBox2 which totally sucked in every way - sound & function. What's more,Avid's "customer service" was repeatedly insulting & unhelpful.

I made the switch to the fully integrated iMac/Logic Pro 9/Apogee Duet & Glyph storage HD & haven't had a single error or crash in the year I've been learning on it. AND I AM NOT A MAC GUY! I only use the iMac for audio recording - nothing else (which is preferred, no matter what DAW or format you use, if you want to avoid problems). Everything else in my life at work or home is on PC's.

Chuck, all I'm saying is buyer beware in trying to match up ANY PC to a DAW like PTLE & hope to keep up with the perpetual upgrades. At some point, you'll get a version of something that will shut down your ability to use PTLE with your PC, of any brand. And, it'll keep you crashing in the meantime - all the time.

It came down to the proverbial, "Do you want to play music or fix DAW errors" question for me?

And what about Avid's tiny list of compatible PC's for using PT? The two I used were ON the list & crashed all the time. The upgrades will surely kill you, Chuck. Check it out first before you buy anything!

With PT, the version that is the "industry standard" is HD, or now perhaps, also the new PT Native. LE or M-Audio or Avid versions are not HD - which is fantastic! PTLE is purposely watered down. It doesn't fire on all cylinders, even for our simple acoustic needs here. But for HD or Native, to put together all the extras you need, we're talking another $12-15K! Too much for most player/hobbyist/trackers like us, given our modest goals.

The majority of people who HAVE had sustained success & stability with PTLE use Mac's. It's that simple. And they don't use their computers for other daily uses, only recording. And they don't do every upgrade. Mac's ARE ALL compatible with PTLE. Sure, they can crash too & suffer incompatibilities with plug-in's, etc., like all DAW's do. But PTLE or M-Audio PT........ crashing could become the norm?

Chuck, if you go the PTLE route anyway, then go with the 003 rack. It's not as good as other interfaces in it's class, but it's the lowest level of Avid interface dongle that I can recommend for PT. Don't go with the cheaper interfaces. Because very quickly, you will want to upgrade the converters, mic pre's, & clock - spending more dough - just to make POS's like the MBox2 sound decent, not even great. It's not worth it just to get the software, IMO. Avid's is a flawed philosophy in that regard.

I went through the research & my own dance with PTLE for about three years. I gave it a thorough chance to prove itself. It didn't work for me. I hope that your experience is better than mine, Chuck. But I still think you'll get the soft & hardware integration that eliminates most of the troubles that many have experienced by using PTLE with PC's if you match it up to a Mac. A Mac- Logic combo would be much better, IMO.

All DAW's have problems in the end & can create problems. Much of it is from user error. But, PTLE......GD!

Only two DAW's are considered to be full featured & pro recording level - PTHD 1, 2 or 3 & Logic Pro 9. Most studio's have both for your mixing & mastering needs. Players tend to like simpler DAW's like Reaper, Studio One, Propellerhead Record, Digital Performer or GB.

Go to PTLE & Avid user forums if you want numerous examples of the same troubles I have experienced. I've been trouble-free with the iMac/Logic/Apogee combo. It works. I play, record, mix & master w/o problems.

BTW, IBM computers are the ones most favored by Avid for PTLE. And they are also probably among the most expensive PC's. Sadly, there is absolutely no guarantee that even they will work with LE.

Just my experiences. Others will give you the other side of the coin, braddah.

Do your homework, Chuck. And as always. Best of Luck in achieving your recording goals. Once you make the decision, that's when the fun - and steep learning curve - begin.

A Hui Hou!

alohachris

(see Chuck, nary a mention of 'Room Treatment' here - Ha!)

Last edited by alohachris; 10-31-2010 at 10:54 PM.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:30 AM
flagstaffcharli flagstaffcharli is offline
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Thanks!

It's sort of funny, but I was searching this stuff yesterday and there are tons of comments that parallel your thoughts on using a pc & PT in a pretty wide variety of forums.

And then I got a note from the guitarist/producer putting some final tracks on my record basically saying they had PT related headaches yesterday.

So in a day's time I'm leaning abck away from both the pc/Windows platform and the Pro Tools software. Go figure.

Thanks again.
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:00 AM
moon moon is offline
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OK if you don't need Pro Tools, Ardour makes a great replacement. It's donation-ware (pay whatever you want) but very powerful. Mac or Linux. I use it on Linux with a low-latency kernel and it's as stable as a rock.

There are lots of other good DAWs out there as well but Ardour often gets overlooked.

Logic may be a better choice if you want to hand over project files to a studio. They'll probably have logic but not Ardour.
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:24 AM
flagstaffcharli flagstaffcharli is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moon View Post
OK if you don't need Pro Tools, Ardour makes a great replacement. It's donation-ware (pay whatever you want) but very powerful. Mac or Linux. I use it on Linux with a low-latency kernel and it's as stable as a rock.

There are lots of other good DAWs out there as well but Ardour often gets overlooked.

Logic may be a better choice if you want to hand over project files to a studio. They'll probably have logic but not Ardour.
Thanks Moon,

I'm spending the morning looking at Logic. I'm still pretty green.

This Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 896mk3 Firewire Audio Interface looks like it will allow me to use all my external gear (mics, pre amps, headphones, and monitors), or also choose to use its built-in pre amps if I want to record 6-8 tracks at once. Am I missing something?

If I could couple this piece of gear (or something similar) with a Mac laptop and Logic Pro software I think I can do all the things I listed as goals, plus burn Red Book format CDs. ??? I'm not saying I'm going to do that. I just want to create a little milepost for myself that I can come back to as a reference.

One of the great things about the interenet is that everyone is invited to participate. Unfortunately, searching Google also leads to a lot of sources where it isn;t clear if you're getting credible information. Got my head spinning this morning!

Let me frame this another way: Because I have some stuff already (mics, pres, headphones, monitors) I need to buy three things to get my studio going - a laptop, the software, and an interface like the MOTU. Nothing else - other than appropriate cables and a climb up that learning curve?

As always, thanks. Your help is HUGE!
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:34 AM
rdm321 rdm321 is offline
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Hi Chuck;

One more thing in favour of an iMac - they have no fan!
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Old 11-01-2010, 10:03 AM
moon moon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flagstaffcharli View Post
This Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 896mk3 Firewire Audio Interface looks like it will allow me to use all my external gear (mics, pre amps, headphones, and monitors), or also choose to use its built-in pre amps if I want to record 6-8 tracks at once. Am I missing something?
I don't have much experience of better quality gear but that looks pretty good

If you're going to be setting up send/returns to external hardware FX, check if the DAW software can do latency compensation. It wouldn't matter for something like a reverb (so long as it passes back a 100% wet mix) but it might for other things.
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:34 PM
flagstaffcharli flagstaffcharli is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moon View Post
I don't have much experience of better quality gear but that looks pretty good

If you're going to be setting up send/returns to external hardware FX, check if the DAW software can do latency compensation. It wouldn't matter for something like a reverb (so long as it passes back a 100% wet mix) but it might for other things.
Thanks. No, I think my approach is to record everything with my mics & pres nice and clean - just going for good levels and tone. The one exception is a local bass player who has a SansAmp we might use to play direct. Any treatment comes during editing/mixdown as far as I'm concerned, and hopefully at that point I'll usually be sitting next to a pro mixing engineer and another set of ears.
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:36 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Default Aloha Chuck

Aloha Chuck,

You're very welcome. Just trying to help.

I'd also like to steer you away from the MOTU 896. There is better out there. I see more of those 896's for sale at second-hand gear sites than any other interface (except the MBox2). By many accounts, its preamps & sound are not quite as good as others in its class. It will work with Mac's though.

Apple & Apogee got together to fully integrate the hardware/software for DAW, interface & computer. It's the reason why I have never had a crash for my tracking. It's a proven winning combo. That's why I chose it - even though I wasn't a Mac guy. Stability & sound!

I use the Apogee Duet interface because I don't need to record more than two tracks at a time. If I find that I do, I would move up to an Apogee Ensemble or a Metric Halo ULN-8 multitrack interface.

The mic preamps in the Apogees provide pristine, very accurate & clear, yet open sound on their own. That is not the case with the MOTU's I have tried out. In fact, I have Pendulum, Great River & Avalon mic pre's as well & the sound of the Duet's pre's stands up very well when A/B'd with them. You could record with a MacBook & Duet anywhere! Hardly takes up any space on a desk. You may also want to consider an external hard drive or two for storing your projects so you don't tax your computer's HD.

Here's something that really could be of use to you. Say you decide to go with a Macbook Pro/Logic & an Apogee. Apple offers something called the "One-To-One" program - for $99 when you buy a computer. Best $99 I ever spent!

What you get is as much Logic Pro 9 training as you can schedule with a certified trainer at your local Apple store FOR A WHOLE YEAR! Sign up for group or individual trainings in different aspects of what you want to learn. I had 56 sessions in the last year (yeah, I abused it a bit. But the trainers grew to appreciate my passion for it - to my benefit).

The point is, you get hands-on training with your rig & overcome much of the steep DAW learning curve for a whole year! Can't beat that! Something to think about. I preferred the individual training because most of the folks at group trainings want to be DJ's - a much different crowd & focus than for our live acoustic tracking goals. They ask completely different questions & smell different.

BTW, the cheapest source of Mac's is MacMall, largest dealer of Mac's in the country. If you wait until Black Friday after Thanksgiving, you really can save hundred$ on the computer, DAW & interface! I saved over $400 last year on my rig.

Just my opinions, Chuck. Maybe they'll help ya save some money & headaches.

At work. More later.

A Hui Hou!
alohachris

Last edited by alohachris; 11-01-2010 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:43 PM
flagstaffcharli flagstaffcharli is offline
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Aloha Chris!

Thanks.

I was just reading an old post of yours with much of the same advice.

I'm going to need up to 6 or so balanced inputs. I'm going to look at the Apogee Ensemble again, but it's a lot of money. And I didnlt think it had more than 2 XLR inputs. Maybe I'm wrong?

EDIT: It has 4 mic inputs. That will probably meet my needs 95% of the time. But with the MOTU I have eight and I can use my external pres. Other options?
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Old 11-01-2010, 01:12 PM
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PS: just watched the "Unconditional" vid. Good stuff which I think deserves to be captured on good quality gear.
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