iBook for Live MIDI

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by gorbok, May 30, 2005.

  1. gorbok macrumors member

    Sep 11, 2004
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Does anyone know how good the iBook is for playing MIDI live? Is there any significant lag? I have an M-Audio Keystation 88es, which plugs in directly via USB. I will then use a mini-stereo to mono cable to plug the laptop into an amp which will power the speakers (or through a PA). Will this sound fine if the iBook is set at half volume and I use the amp to do the rest?
    If not, am I able to get a better internal sound card or do I need to use an external one?

    ps: as I understand it, processor speed is more important than RAM for MIDI, but RAM is more important for movie editing etc. (which I will also be using the laptop for, be it iBook or Powerbook). Is this correct?
  2. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    You can't do anything about the internal sound circuitry, so if it doesn't sound good enough, you can get an external USB ir FireWire audio interface. These range from the inexpensive Griffin iMic to more complex products from M-Audio, Edirol, Digidesign (MBox), Presonus, Mackie, etc.

    I take it you are generating the sounds with GarageBand or another MIDI sequencer with software instruments?

    There are no problems if you are talking about generating the sounds with MIDI connected hardware samplers and synthesizers.

    The main problem you will have with software generated instruments is latency. This is the delay between when you hit a key and when the sound appears at the audio output. It is a function of the sound buffer, the software, the speed of the computer's CPU, and the number and complexity of software instruments, effects and tracks you have running simultaneously.

    If you reduce the buffer size, you will get shorter latency (because it takes less time to fill the buffer), but the more likely you will have clicks and dropouts in your audio if you overrun the buffer and the computer isn't fast enough (or has too much else going on) to fill it.

    Native Instruments (famous maker of software synths) recommends a minimum of 1 GHz G4 for processor.


  3. brap macrumors 68000

    May 10, 2004
    I know I've seen it at a gig once... think it was actually KMFDM, who had an iBook onstage, hooked up to a MIDI controller, instead of the regulation 15" Powerbook.

    (For what it's worth).
  4. gorbok thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 11, 2004
    Auckland, New Zealand

    That was great help, cheers.
    While I'm on the subject though, is Garageband all you need for MIDI? I haven't properly used it yet as I haven't got my iBook yet. I know there are better programs, but considering I can't afford them, and that I'd rather spend my money on virtual instruments, will Garageband do?
  5. Jschultz macrumors 6502a


    Mar 14, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I'm in the same spot you are now too. I wanted something simple to do audio/musical work on without spending lots of cash, but there is never a simple way, now is there? garageband does NOT transmit midi out, therefore will not control external devices/instruments.

    I'm just going to buy Logic 7 Express, and use plugins from there. On a Powerbook I'm buying tomorrow :)
  6. spinne1 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 12, 2005
    Hermitage, TN USA (near Nashville)
    If you want to do mostly MIDI, you don't want to use GarageBand. It is not a good MIDI sequencer. Save some money and buy Digital Performer used off of ebay (you may need to get version 3 instead of the current 4.5 to save cash). If all you do is drive external gear, you can run MANY tracks no problem. If you include audio tracks and/or effects, you will run into latency problems pretty quick, I would guess. It is both processor and hard drive speed related. Also, you would ideally use an external hard drive for your audio tracks.
  7. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Barking up the wrong flagpole here...

    The OP is looking for live performance, they don't have much money and there is no indication that they have external MIDI sound modules to make the noises with. It looks like they want to rely on Mac-generated software instruments.

    Digital Performer 3 is a fine audio and MIDI sequencer, but what it does not have in abundance is software instruments. Plus DP3 supports their proprietary MAS format, and doesn't support the more widespread VST plug in format without a third party program to "wrap" a VST instrument in a MAS shell.

    An attraction of Garageband (besides the low or no cost) is that it comes with a sound set of instruments built in. Most new audio/MIDI packages have gone that route now, bundling at least some instruments with the software.
  8. bartelby macrumors Core


    Jun 16, 2004
    Reason is good.
    Well worth the money and Reason 3 works fine on my 733MHz Quicksilver(with 1GB Ram). So I'm sure it'd be fine on an iBook.

    If it wasn't so risky to do so, I'd use my Powerbook and Reason live.
  9. rugonnaeatthat macrumors regular

    Mar 2, 2004
    Adelaide, Australia
    I have used Reason to play piano at a gig with my ibook (600mhz G3 with 640mb RAM) - no problems at all. I have also used Garageband at a studio when recording as there was no synth there - we just hooked it up through the audio out and away we went. I had no problems with latency.

    Fact is people get all finicky about having the top equipment but as long as the end product sounds good then go with it. If you are doing die hard sort of composing, buy Logic, if you are writing songs casually embrace Garageband.
  10. Sirus The Virus macrumors 6502a

    Sirus The Virus

    May 12, 2005
    I recomend getting Reason for midi sequencing. Its worth every penny.
  11. jazzmfk macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2003
    Jersey. Route 78, exit 24. Gotta problem with th
    Live MIDI, you say?

    I can't imagine a reason (sorry, no pun intended) NOT to use external MIDI equipment in live performance. Is it just that the garageband instruments are free? You mentioned that you're going to be bringing an external keyboard anyway, so why not just hook up a tone generator? There are a TON of them available used (check all the usual suspects...) at every price point (well, maybe not free, but almost every other price point).

    If you're going to play along with pre-sequenced material, fine. With an external MIDI rack, though, you can layer sounds (I don't think that would be possible live through GB) to make cheapo boxes sound better than they really are.

    I had a bad experience once - a long time ago - sitting on a stage waiting for my Mac Plus to reboot before we could play the next movement of "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano" at a recital. (I was the pianist, bass player, and the drummer - well, Mr. Plus was, actually....) (I'm pretty sure it was Performer version 1 point something, too....)
    Watched a guy have to reboot in the middle of a sequenced accompaniment to "The Messiah", too (that was cool, though - watching him use the "tap tempo" feature to actually follow the live conductor! Great idea, 'til the crash, anyway. It happened in a recitative, so not everybody noticed it...)

    I know times have changed for the better - but I'd go external. A little more piece of mind, too, for those gigs in questionable places. It's a lot easier to replace that Roland box than your iBook....

    $.02 respectfully delivered.

Share This Page