Dangers of Recording onto Internal System HD?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by ben88, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. ben88 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    #1
    Hello everybody,
    Around 4 months ago I bought a 2.4 ghz alu-Macbook, and I've generally been very impressed with it. However, since my Dell crapped out on me, the burden has fallen on the Macbook to handle my music recording and editing demands. (Bear in mind that the Macbook was never intended as a straight ahead desktop replacement.)

    Anyway, I've already asked for advice using a different thread (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=648815), and I think the conclusion is that the Macbook is perhaps powerful enough CPU-wise. However, the main issue is the lack of firewire for recording direct to an external hard-drive. Assuming that USB 2.0 isn't fast enough or stable enough, the only option available is to record directly onto the internal system drive. I know that this isn't the perfect solution by any means, but can anyone explain the dangers or consequences of doing this?

    If needs be, I've already budgeted for a new desktop- maybe a low end Mac-Pro refurb- but I want to test my Macbook's capabilities first as I'd rather not waste the money. On the flip-side however I defintely don't want to overburden my Macbook if it isn't capable.

    I'd appreciate your advice greatly,

    Ben.

    P.S. My demands aren't too great. I'm not an electronic musician. I just want to make professional sounding backing tracks with acoustic/electric guitar and at most a two or three midi loops (bass loops, drum beats etc.) As a serious acoustic guitar player audio reproduction quality needs to be good however.
     
  2. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #2
    Thie problem is not that it's a bad thing to do, it's that the system writes to the drive on a constabt basis, so you're asking the drive to record and playback contiguous audio and work the system calls at the same time. This means longer seek times and a higher chance of a buffer under-run.

    However, this only manifests itself in mid to high track counts, and 8-10 tracks of audio at 44.1 or 48Khz is usually fine.

    USB2, whilst not as useful as FW800, is still perfectly capable of delivering the required performance, there used to be some issues where protools wouldn't allow a USB2 drive, but I think they have been resolved.
     
  3. ashjamben macrumors 6502a

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    Oct 28, 2007
    Location:
    Shanghai, China
    #3
    wintermute hit the nail on the head, recording just a couple of tracks at a time (i presume this by your description at the bottom) is fine onto the internal hard drive.

    just out of curiosity, what program are you/planning on using to record with?
     
  4. ben88 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    #4
    OK guys, thanks for the advice. I guess there's no harm in trying with the Macbook for the time being. It'll probably be adequate for my needs.

    In terms of software I'll probably end up buying Logic Express 8. I acquired FL Studio 8 producer edition for my PC, and in due course I'll probably get it running on the Macbook (once i get a copy of Windows)- but in the meantime it'll be much easier just to buy software for OS X. Garageband is OK for acoustic stuff but I'll definitely want more flexibility when it comes to effects. I'll also need a new interface. I'm thinking about an Emu 0404 USB. Can anyone recommend it?

    At the most I'll probably have around 6-7 tracks in a mix. For instance; Rhythm guitar, Lead Guitar, 2nd Rhythm guitar, Midi Bass, Drum Loop, maybe one or two virtual instruments. I can't see more than two tracks being recorded at the same time. Probably just two mic inputs. Latency won't be an issue will it? I've had problems with this on the Macbook already, but I guess that's due to the fact that the little recording I've done has been through a mic pre-amp/direct box, and not a proper external interface.

    I hope this is straightforward enough. I've only got into computer based recording in the past year, so excuse me if I don't quite make sense sometimes!

    Ben.
     
  5. TheSeal macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    #5
    I'm relatively new to home recording myself (about a year and a half). I've done basically what you are doing now. I run 4-6 mics into a presonus firestudio and into my intel macbook pro w/ 5,400rpm internal hard drive. The overrun problems are the hard drive. I've been told you shouldn't write to an internal drive because it has system work to do and can't focus on writing your music...5400 isn't fast enough anyway. BUT...if you're only recording 2 tracks at a time you should be ok. When Logic started giving me 'disk overload' errors I would switch to 2 mics and it could handle it for a while. You'll be fine as long as it's a normal length track 3-6min. If it starts to choke you can always switch from 24bit to 16bit in Logic. The quality isn't as nice but at least you can get a take. Also, if a track is really quiet it would record just fine with a bunch of mics. Quiet stuff compressed really well so your internal can handle it.

    I'm in the process of getting a good external to fix this problem. Glyph seems to be the pro standard. They were recommended to me. They're expensive so I'm buying a seagate drive (what glyph uses) and an enclosure with a firewire 800 port.

    hope that helps.
     
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #6
    The EMU box has a "zero latency" mode. If you use that mode, latency goes to zero but you can't hear any software effects, so the guitarist just hears the clean sound. It's a trade off. A vocalist wouldn't care.
     
  7. pkoch1 macrumors 6502a

    pkoch1

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Location:
    Boston
    #7
    Most vocalists I have worked with care at least a little. They like hearing reverb on their voices so they sound better. ;)
     
  8. ben88 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    #8
    Thanks for the continued advice...

    Just tried for the first time to record directly to the external USB 2.0 HD, and it seems to work without a hitch. Based on what I've read, I just assumed that USB 2 was not stable enough to do the job. But no problems are obvious at the moment.

    Therefore, even though it's perhaps not a perfect setup, I'll continue to use the Macbook. However, I have a few questions to ask about an audio interface. As I said before, I'm thinking about the Emu 0404 USB. I don't neccessarily want to hear effects as I monitor an acoustic recording, but would the "zero latency" mode mean that I wouldn't be able to add software effects when monitoring an electric guitar? If so, could anyone recommend me another USB interface that would do a better job? I presume that an electric guitar plugged directly into an audio interface wouldn't be as prone to latency as microphone-based recording however.

    A more general question. Is there a profound difference between USB and Firewire audio interfaces? I know that Firewire interfaces, in theory, are better. I just don't wan't to make a significant sacrifice if my Macbook turns out to be unsuitable, and I decide to get another machine with firewire.
     
  9. ben88 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    #9
    Scrub that! Bit of a stupid question.

    I've read into the Emu 0404 USB interface and the reviews seem to be fairly decent. I had an Emu PCI soundcard in my PC that seemed to function well at the time, but I would like more of an oversight before I rush into buying. Within reason, what USB interface do you think would be the best option? Maybe I'll start a new thread on this.

    P.S. In terms of software I'll probably choose Pro Tools over Logic.
     
  10. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #10
    If you choose Protools you are limited to the interfaces that are "authorised" by Digidesign (soon M-audio I think) the M-box 2 is a USB stereo box that is not that good, the M-box pro is a better unit, with FW400 interfacing, a separate psu and decent monitoring, plus a MIDI interface and word-clock.

    However you may be better off grabbing an old Digidesign 002 rack off eBay or the like.

    For the kind of work I think your doing I think the M-audio 410 FW400 interface and Protools M-powered might be a good option.

    If you think you might get into MIDI composition, I suggest you look at Logic as well.
     
  11. ben88 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    #11
    Most of the interfaces you listed there are firewire only, and my Macbook only has USB of course. Could I connect one to the Macbook by using a firewire/usb adapter? If so, how would performance be affected?
     
  12. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #12
    Doh! My bad....

    Currently Digidesign interfaces don't play well with FW converters....

    There are USB interfaces for the M-powered Protools variant, check out the options on Digi's homepage, look at the eligible M-audio interfaces.

    The original M-box is still available form ebay and is a better unit in audio terms due to the Focusrite pre-amps.
     
  13. ben88 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    #13
    OK. I've had a good browse around USB Audio interfaces and the M-Audio Fast Track Pro looks alright. However I'm struck by the lack of choice of with USB interfaces compared to Firewire interfaces.

    To be honest I'm starting to think that the best option might be to cut my losses and sell my Macbook and replace it with a MBP- maybe one of those new 2.66 ghz ones. I've just witnessed a used 2.0 ghz Macbook (with an upgraded screen) go on ebay for £800. Presuming I got around this amount I'd (only!) be losing about £300-400 on my original purchase, and I've had a fantastic 4 months with it.

    I know my Macbook is probably sufficient of handling my audio recording demands, but you can't deny that Firewire 800 is a much preferable option. I have other demands as well (graphical stuff), and the Macbook was never intended to be a fully fledged desktop replacement. Saying that however, as a first time user, I've been very impressed with the Macbook's capability as a desktop replacement. I personally think it just falls slightly short.

    So, do you think that this would be the best option? I have considered buying an iMac, but unfortunately I really wouldn't know where to put it. (There isn't enough space on my desk considering I've got new a 24 inch display). A Mac Pro would be nice, but it be would be expensive, would far exceed my demands, and of course wouldn't provide me with a mobile recording option.
     
  14. ben88 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    #14
    OK, forget about the MBP. I'll stick with my Macbook for the moment. It should be fine for music recording, but I have other demands so sorry if I went off thread. I'm just slightly apprehensive about recording to a USB external HD considering that it goes against the original advice I came across, and also that I'll be keeping a huge music collection on it. Even if it is sufficient, I'd rather not use the internal HD as the main audio recording drive. Maybe for mobile recording.

    Anyway I've come to the conclusion that what ever I'll be doing computer-wise, I'll need a USB interface and a new DAW. I'm thinking about an M-audio Fast Track Ultra interface and Pro Tools M-Powered 8. Can anyone recommend this setup?
     
  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #15
    There are those who would prefer Logic and those who like Pro Tools. I think it depends on what you plan to do, your budget and if you will be doing much with MIDI.

    As for what hardware to get. Look at the quality of the software drivers. At least go to the driver download page and read release notes search the forums here and elsewhere. Software seems to be the biggest issue that differentiates the audio interfaces.
     
  16. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #16
    RE: recording onto internal HD

    I have the last-generation "white Intel" iMac, running 10.4.11.

    I use it with the Cubase LE software and a Presonus "Firebox" to record directly to the iMac's internal hard drive, without any problems. I believe the internal hard drive is 7200rpm, if that makes a difference.

    However, I have my internal hard drive partitioned into no less than _6_ different partitions:
    - boot partition
    - backup boot partition
    - audio file storage partition
    - mp3 partition
    - project partition #1
    - project partition #2
    - project partition #3

    Each of my project partitions are deliberately small in size - about 8gig each. By doing this, I achieve the following:
    - incoming digitized music data "flows" to a small space, not forcing the hard drive to "write all over" the drive's surface
    - simple to use a defragmenting app like "iDefrag" to clean up the project partition and keep all files continguous.
    (When a project is completed, I just move it to my larger "audio file storage" partition.)

    Granted, I record just a single stereo track at a time. Perhaps if I had 4 to 8 (or more) tracks recording simultaneously, this scheme wouldn't work.

    But if your "incoming needs" are relatively limited, it can work fine.

    - John
     
  17. pkoch1 macrumors 6502a

    pkoch1

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Location:
    Boston
    #17
    Are you backing up in case of accidentally deleted files or hard drive failure? I say this because if your hard drive fails, so will all of your partitions.
     

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