Twitchy switcher (Audio advice)...

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Derwood, Dec 21, 2005.

  1. Derwood macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2005
    Regards to all,

    Am eager to switch to Mac (currently have an ailing Celeron 333 running '98 :eek: ) but am obviously quite cautious about the upcoming January announcements. I'm looking at a home-studio set-up based around Garageband initially and then possibly migrating to Pro Tools M-Powered at a later date (I'll be purchasing the M-Audio Pre-Mobile USB interface which would allow for this transition). I have no need for soft synths, MIDI, loops, or any such other features as I'll be treating the recording environment pretty much like a tape-machine. All my recording work will be based around live instruments and I would like the portability of a laptop so that I might hire a rehearsal space and record drums and other things too loud to be done at home.

    So... *draws breath* for a number of reasons I am considering an Apple Refurb 14" 1.42ghz G4 iBook. This seems to me to represent good value at about 25% less than the retail price. I can't stretch to a powerbook so I'm looking at maxing out the RAM straight away to 1.5gb, getting an external 160gb 7200rpm Lacie Firewire drive, and am hoping that this will give me the headroom for around 20 audio tracks with minimal effects (always been of the get-it-sounding-right-before-it-goes-in school of recording). EQ tweaks and a splash of compression here and there.

    Why not wait for MacTel? Well, I will not at any point in the forseeable future be able to stretch to a powerbook (am far too close to my Bank Manager as is), and am concerned that Firewire may be dropped from the next round of Apple consumer level notebooks as recording to a fast external drive appears to be the first rule of computer based recording. Also, it seems unclear how long it will be before all those audio programs that require Altivec support will be on the market for the new Intel machines.

    I apologise if this is a rhetorical ramble but would really appreciate it if anyone running a similar set-up could give some insight into what might reasonably be expected of it in terms of performance.

    If I could record drums and loud guitars at home I would obviously plump for a G5 iMac and carry out the same mods to that which I'm sure would run at blistering speeds.

    Ta very much, Derwood
  2. WinterMute Moderator emeritus


    Jan 19, 2003
    London, England
    I run Protools LE with the M-box on a 17" 1Ghz PowerBook, and I've had around 30 raw audio tracks running from an external FW800 drive.

    The key is the external drive and the RAM, although the iBooks buss speeds are lower (I think) your 1.42 should be quicker than my 1Ghz. Get your FW drive (the LaCie triples are good for forward thinking) as big as you can afford, and use it to record everything.

    Don't expect to be able to do much on the way of mixing however, with anything over 20 tracks, it becomes difficult to use much more than a few EQ's and comps, so it's good that you don't expect to do much.

    The Intel machines should be very much more capable (given the advance specs which are, as we all know, so much guesswork...) but it might be a long wait and I wouldn't want to buy 1st gen hardware anyway.
  3. Derwood thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2005
    Ta very much for taking the time to reply WinterMute. It might just be my luck but I don't think I've picked the easiest time to think about buying a Mac. :rolleyes:

    I've read much about Garageband's locking track feature which reads as though it gives some further headroom by rendering tracks to free up processor cycles - as a ProTools LE user do you have that same feature, and what kind of recall do you get (i.e. can you unlock to tweak effects settings or do you have to start from scratch again).

    Also I take it you can't set up AUX channels in Garageband - is this a Pro Tools LE feature and if so how usable is it? Would you realistically group tracks and send them to an AUX channel or would this just sound awful.

    Over the years I've worked with 4-tracks and ADAT's and after a couple of weeks intro to Pro Tools last year I'm not as daunted by computer based recording as I once was.

    Thanks again for your help. It is much appreciated.

  4. beatsme macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2005

    yes, you can unlock tracks and tweak effects, and I'm pretty sure it can be done during playback, though the processor lag may be prohibitive; my G4 is a little older so I usually don't fool around with it during playback...a little too slow for that.

    as for aux channels, I dunno. I'm assuming you want to group tracks together so you can work on just ONE track without affecting the others. Typically, what I will do is save a copy of the GB file I'm working on, and export the bass and drum tracks (for example) to an .AIF file. I then import the .AIF file back into the original GB file, and use it as a background to play with the track I wanted to tweak; saves processor power that way. Once I've got the tweak down the way I want, I just toss the .AIF file. It's a rather roundabout way of working, but it gets the job done without too much fuss.

    hope this helps...

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