General computer requirements for DAW?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by macstatic, Nov 18, 2013.

  1. macstatic, Nov 18, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013

    macstatic macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    What are the general computer hardware requirements for using DAW software?
    Or rather: what are the general laptop hardware reuirements?
    I actually have two Macs: a Mac Pro 5.1 (2010) and a Powerbook G4 (1.67GHz) but alas I don't have a permanent place to keep both my Mac Pro and my music hardware, and I have a feeling I can't do much musicwise with the old and outdated Powerbook with a PPC processor. I will likely have to upgrade to a better laptop at some stage.

    I haven't purchased an audio interface yet, but the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 seems to do what I want which is to record up to 8 line inputs at once, support MIDI and be rack mountable, of course with good audio quality and reliability. The only thing I'm not sure about is if I should go for USB or Firewire. I'd normally lean towards Firewire, but having read numerous posts on the subject I hear that USB is more than good enough and more reliable than Firewire. What are your opinions? Focusrite's Saffire Pro 40 seems to be the Firewire equivalent of the USB interfaced 18i20 I mentioned above.
     
  2. BigRed1 macrumors 6502

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    #2
    I'd also consider the 8Pre:
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/det...g&matchtype=&gclid=CIDs29WD77oCFcs-MgodYy8Aaw

    I like MOTU stuff.

    As much of a fan of firewire as I am, it's not long for this world. Some work with a Thunderbolt adapter, some don't. I'd want to future-proof myself with USB.

    I'd also get the non-retina Macbook Pro. You can upgrade/replace the ram and the hard drive and it'll be plenty fast for this kind of work.
     
  3. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    So USB 2.0 is good enough even for 8 recording inputs in addition to external MIDI sync and some external MIDI triggering of the DAW all at once?
    I have a lot of analog hardware gear and would like to say record all 8 individual outputs from a synth module or drum machine in one go.

    Are there any special computer demands for running DAW software apart from a fast hard drive? Would any Macbook Pro or Macbook Air with a fast external hard drive (7200 RPM, not the "green" type) be good enough for the above use?

    Thanks for the MOTU suggestion. I'll take it into consideration. Nice with all the inputs on the back for my use (permanent setup with line ins).
     
  4. koban4max macrumors 68000

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    #4
    get UAD apollo quad...then you'll be fine.
     
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    #5
    Do you have-to-have "portability"?
    Or could you be satisfied with a "desktop only" computer?

    If you don't need portability, take a look at the Mac Mini line.

    The current ("late 2012") i7 2.3ghz would do fine for audio work. It has built-in USB3 and retains a Firewire 800 port, as well.

    What makes firewire especially attractive for DAW use is the fact that most firewire based interfaces for the Mac require NO DRIVERS AT ALL (shouting intentional). This means you won't have any problems with "driver updates" in the future. Just plug the thing in and the Mac recognizes it immediately.

    And latency is much less an obstacle with firewire.

    I don't see where USB could be considered "more reliable" than firewire for audio production. If you scan these message boards, you'll find numerous postings from folks who have USB-related connection problems, usually with drivers. Again, Apple's use of "CORE Audio" for the Mac OS eliminates the need for audio drivers insofar as firewire is concerned.

    If you were to get a Mini with a "fusion" drive installed, you might find the single fused volume suitable for DAW work. If not, be aware that it's possible to "UN-fuse" the drive. You could then use the SSD for your OS and apps, and the HDD for audio files.

    For an interface, you might also consider the Echo Audiofire Pre8 (8 XLR inputs). Echo makes nice stuff. Another to consider is the Steinberg MR 816x (or MR 816csx) -- both of these include seamless integration with Cubase.

    Couple of other notes about the Mac Mini.
    Be aware that the Mini may get an update in the first quarter of 2014. There's nothing wrong with the "late 2012" model (typing this on one now), but the 2014 version may have a few nice updates. There's also the possibility that it could _lose_ the firewire port.
    Even though the Mini is not a "portable" in the "laptop" sense of the word, as a unit it is quite portable insofar as moving it around from one place to another is concerned. Very compact and "tote-able"...
     
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Redondo Beach, California
    #6

    Yes, USB would work. I'd look for an external disk. You can get away without a SSD the standard 3.5 inch disk will work fine.

    I think the only real limitation on the system is how many virtual instruments you can run on the Macbook Pro (I assume you are not using the powerbook)

    Using FW means you free up a little more CPU power. You can use FW for both the audio interface and the external disk but Apple I'm sure will abandon FW and yu will be needing a Thunderbolt-FW dongle

    One mor thing, look at the data rates. 24 bit samples 96K times per second on 8 channels is 24x96kx8 is less then 20Mbits/second USB 2.0 can handle 480Mbits/sec Your 8 channel audio interface will use less than 5% of the USB bandwidth.
     
  7. BigRed1 macrumors 6502

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    #7
    I agree with all of this, but if I'm buying a new interface now, I'm going to buy USB. At least one recent Firewire audio device (I think it was actually the Firewire 8Pre, but I could be wrong) will not work through a Thunderbolt adapter, meaning after Apple drops Firewire from their machines, such interfaces may become useless. I'd want to future-proof my purchase a bit at the expense of short-term preference.
     
  8. koban4max macrumors 68000

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    Aug 23, 2011
    #8
    you want future proof? it's not 100 percent future proof because anything could be better than current..however... UAD apollo quad/duo is the best thing to go with future proof..
     
  9. BigRed1 macrumors 6502

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    #9
    I'm glad you like your purchase. :)

    Unfortunately, the UAD is a little out of range for some us... :(
     
  10. macstatic, Nov 20, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013

    macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    For the external disk, surely we're talking Firewire, Thunderbolt, USB 3 or eSATA (Mac Pro) here, and not USB 2? I'm under the impression that you need a very fast disk for multi-track audio recording but what you say here indicates otherwise.


    Not Macbook Pro but Mac Pro (the desktop tower Mac). It would be great for this, but since I'm using it for other work in another room than where my MIDI gear is I'll need to use a different computer for audio.
    I don't see much need for virtual synths as I have hardware MIDI synths and modules which mostly satisfy my needs, but a virtual sampler is something else. Then again, won't that basically just play audio samples (audio files) back, possibly through computer generated filters and not burden the CPU as much as as a virtual synth where audio is actually generated by the computer?
    I assume effects (reverb, delay, chorus etc.) and EQ/filtering also consumes a fair bit of CPU.

    Fishrrman's suggestion of using a Mac Mini is one I'll be looking into (I'm guessing there are even rackmount kits around for it, given its compactness). Still, I do need a laptop replacement for other uses than music so that would likely be the overall most cost effective solution. As far as having a light and small laptop goes the Macbook Air looks attractive, but does it pack enough CPU power for audio use?

    For the time being, could my Powerbook G4 be used for any audio recording at all? I'm ruling out virtual instruments, but I'd be happy if I could use it as a multitrack recorder synced to an external MIDI sequencer. Since I also have hardware effects devices I wouldn't need it to generate reverb, delay etc.
    Another question is OSX version compatibility with the audio interface. The Focusrite 18i20 which is currently on top of my list states it needs at least OSX 10.7 and I can't go beyond 10.5 with the Powerbook's PPC processor. Does this mean the audio interface won't even be recognized by the computer, or that just extra features, control panels or what have you can't be installed and accessed?

    That's great! So the USB/Firewire discussion is less about transfer speeds than reliability, driver issues, future proofing/compatibility/interface availability and individual taste?
    How about MIDI in addition to 8 channels of audio -is that still no problem with USB?

    koban4max: the UAD Apollo Quad is probably a very nice interface, but way out of my budget.
     
  11. koban4max macrumors 68000

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    #11
    22vsl interface works...usb type.
     
  12. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #12
    I used my Powerbook G4 with Garageband and an M-audio firewire interface for a a number of years. It worked fine with a full size MIDI keyboard connected with a USB dongle. Also used the same setup with an old gray Power Mac g4.

    I was using whatever old version of Garageband originally came with the G4 however.
     
  13. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

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    #13
    If you would super-simplify the way audio production requires performance from your computer, I'd state it like this:

    Audio recording: HDD. The faster the better. Preferably an SSD. Fast hard drives enable you to run bigger projects with lots of audio tracks.

    Audio processing/plugins: CPU. It used to be about processor speed. These days – with the help of multi-threading and multi-core supporting DAWs, it's better to have more cores/threads available than their actual clock speed.

    Sample libraries: RAM. The more memory, the more sample-based software instruments you'll be able to use in a project.

    Hope this helps.
     
  14. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #14
    Interesting post in the MacBook Air forum: http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=18412773&postcount=8

     
  15. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

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    #15
    While this may seem impressive, 28 tracks / 68 plugins is by no means a beastly project.

    I literally HAD to buy an iMac when my MBP couldn't cope with the 80-track/200-plugin projects I was throwing at it.
     
  16. fastlanephil macrumors 6502a

    fastlanephil

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    Nov 17, 2007
    #16
    If you're using sample libraries for creating music vs recording real instruments and vocals with effects then which libraries you use can make a big difference in what the requirements are. If you want to create synth, beat type music or something similar then the overhead is not bad.

    If you want to work with large numbers of orchestral tracks using the the more professional libraries like SAM, LASS, VSL, EW Diamond Edition and others then you're looking at some pretty power hungry plugins.

    You'll want at least a fast i5 iMac with the Fusion drive or a TB/USB3.0 JBOD box. Better yet, off-loading the sample library heavy lifting to a LAN slave with something like VE Pro 5 is a good way to go. SSD drives are also better if you can afford it. The HHD is still good but many people will only use half their storage capability because of the the read/write characteristics of the HHD drive.

    Check out this custom PC DAW build list by a pro PC builder and repair person building for a professional orchestral composer.

    Click on show more to see the parts list and unit prices.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9Wb_9UcZXY
     
  17. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

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    #17
    There's quite a bit of contradiction in recommending external Thunderbolt drives or node systems over SSDs, unless the OP has boatloads of money and technical expertise on how to run such systems.
     

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