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Home music studio with Powerbook G4

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by nesbitt_a, May 29, 2004.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Hi Guys,

    My band and I want to start taking advantage of my powerbook. How would I go about setting up a home studio, or using my Powerbook as a mixing desk for live gigs?

    Cheers in advance, Andrew.
  2. macrumors newbie

    Using Powerbook as home studio

    Andrew, the first part of your question is easy . You have many, many options, but the gist of the matter is: 1) buy multitrack recording software package (ie Logic Pro, CueBase, ProTools etc). 2) buy an audio interface that fits your input/output needs (I like the stuff from MOTU) and connects via firewire. 3) if you're going to be using midi also, you'll also need a midi interface (or sometimes your audio interface will also have some limited midi capability). 4) This is a must in my opinion, subscribe to a magazine that's geared towards this area of endeavor (ie Electronic Musician, Home Studio and Recording, Sound on Sound, Keyboard etc)

    Now depending on you audio interface, you "might" be able to set up a computer controlled mix thing, but this is tricky as any computer processing always takes some time, thus there'll always be a delay between audio being directly fed to the house system and audio going through the computer and out to the house system. There are ways around this (ie feed all the audio through the computer and pray the delay isn't so long that it throws off your playing). Also it really depends on your entire set up and what type of music you're doing.

    I mainly use my computer to make/compose music in my home studio, thus I'm not the best to ask about live playing/mixing via computers.

    Hope this helps.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Thanks for your help.

    If I was to purchase a firewire interface and a logic 6 pro license, how would I actually be able to record audio? Could you go into the whole process in a little more detail. Connecting up, recording, what you can do afterwords. I'd love to hear how you use your home studio to make recordings of live music - to maybe give me a better idea of what I'm after.

    Cheers, Andrew.
  4. macrumors 68000


    there is not enough storage space in the world to even scratch the surface on the world of recording and engineering. let alone, things like MIDI, VSTs, etc. do yourself a favor and pickup an issue of Computer Music magazine. it is aimed at the beginner and comes with a cover CD on every issue filled with software, tutorials, and sounds. there is tons of info in there that will help you get going fast. they even give away an entire software studio suite on every cover disk. trust me, this is the best way to start.
  5. macrumors 6502

    Thanks for the advice. It would still be nice to hear from macrumors members, to see how THEY use their macs for sound recording.

  6. macrumors 68000


    i do sound design and composition for t.v., small film, live theatre, multimedia, etc. i also make my own personal music. i run Logic for the work stuff and use Ableton Live for my own music. i record very little hardware or live instruments so my input needs are minimal. i also mix in software so the most outs i really ever need is 6 for a 5.1 mix, which is rare for me. at home i use a 12" PowerBook with an emi 2|6 interface and a small mixer with audio working off a Lacie FW drive. this is also my setup for field recording and live performance, which is also rare these days.

    what you need to do is learn the basics, what exactly is going on. and remember, what ever setup you decide on; READ THE MANUAL. there are so many people out there who load up on tons of gear and never even master what they have. don't get caught up in gear lust. get what you need and learn it inside and out. just about anything you buy nowadays will be more than enough to handle what you're looking to do. i also suggest checking out some more music-oriented websites. you'll get much more info. try http://www.harmony-central.com and http://www.osxaudio.com to start
  7. macrumors 6502a

    2 Things:

    1) I second the osxaudio site. It'll be easier to navigate for info than harmony central which is more "blurbish" and is a lot more interesting once you know what you are doing.

    2) It's "Cubase" not "Cuebase" and the current version is SX2.
  8. macrumors newbie

    check out the Logic site also

    I forgot to mention, that's it's important to choose a software/hardware system that works within the power of your Powerbook (unless you're going to be upgradeing your computer soon). These audio apps are REAL power hungry. LogicPro6 comes with every soft-synth, sampler and effect plug-in Emagic makes. But actually being able to run all of them at the same time requires and extremely fast machine and disk system. Emagic also sells Logic Express which is significaly less expensive than Logic Pro, doesn't have all the soft-synths and plugins, but might still do what you need and run good on your system.

    Check out the Logic users forum:

    There are also tutorial sites on Logic:

    Sorry for being so vague but it's difficult to answer your question to the level of detail you're requesting until you put your recording system together. You can have 100 people build 100 systems and they'd all be different because it also depends on what they're trying to do.

    I record one midi or audio input at a time, but if you're recording a band with 12 mic inputs, or wanting to monitor your rhythm tracks while recording background vocals, how you patch things and your recording process would be completely different than mine even though the software might be the same.

    Hope this helps.
  9. macrumors 6502

    I manage and use several types of computer/audio systems, so here's my opinion:

    To start with your group, I would recommend starting small, with a relatively inexpensive audio interface, like something from m-audio or Edirol. That way, if you don't like it or would rather not do it, you haven't lost out on much.

    However, if you really want to jump right in to it, you can spend a lot of money and make it really great really fast. If you're just going to be doing band recordings, (editing, mixing, effects, etc.) then you could try Digidesign's Pro Tools. Despite the company's "dictatorship" in terms of having to use their software with ONLY their hardware, their products are easy to use and offer a lot of options. Their base system, the mbox, is a two-channel USB interface and the software will let you run up to 32 tracks of audio. It's around $500. The next step up is the 002, and the rack version (002R) offers eight channel analog in and up to 32 tracks. It's around $1200.

    The mbox is a great little device, but limited in terms of capacity. Only two tracks at a time makes for a very slow process, especially with percussion.

    The 002R is a good step up, letting you record eight tracks at once, but only four of the eight channels have mic preamps, so you would need to find another four channel preamp to round it out if you wanted to record eight instruments simultaneously.

    The other hardware company I would recommend (if you're going to be serious about this) is Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU). They make great FireWire interfaces. The 828 is an eight in/eight out box, but it only has two mic preamps, requiring an additional purchase of a preamp. It's about $800. Their 896 interface gives eight in/eight out and each channel has a preamp. A very good deal, if you ask me. The price is around $1200 for this one, but it has significant advantages over the 002R (eight mic preamps, higher sampling rates, and a CueMIX DSP function that lets you mix on it without a computer for live gigging).

    The only downside to MOTU is the software. Their stuff comes with AudioDesk, which is identical to the recording/mixing portion of their retail software, Digital Performer. AudioDesk is great and will be good for recording your band, but if you want to do MIDI work for other instruments or any software instruments, it won't do it.

    Then it comes down to software on top of any of this hardware. Pro Tools is very much a standard in studios everywhere, making your work very portable. But as computers are gaining speed, that standard is breaking away a little and people are looking at more inexpensive options. Logic is making its way up as is Digital Performer. These programs are used with film and other forms of media. My opportunity to use Logic was shot down very early because I got it in a very early version and didn't like it, I've never tried it since. But in recent years I hear it has gotten better, but I'm already focused on the Digital Performer/Pro Tools combination.

    What I would recommend is that you find a store that demos these products and then check them out. Ask questions, do research. It is a big investment. The other things you will need are microphones, possibly more preamps (depending on what you decide with hardware), cables, speakers and/or headphones, and storage. Your internal drive will not be capable of running big sessions, so a FireWire drive is definitely needed.

    By the way, there was another big long forum about this a while ago... do a little searching to find it. It addressed a lot of your upcoming concerns.

    Good luck,


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