Archive for July, 2008

Take it one piece at a time and educate yourself

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

So many times I see people thinking about upgrading their audio rig and they always wonder which of several places in their signal path that they should begin upgrading. I’m of the mindset that once you have a working recording rig that gets it’s basic function of tracking and mixing done well, then you only have to upgrade further as absolutely needed and one piece at a time.

Take the time to make sure that you have fully exhausted the capabilities of the pieces that you’re working with. This is a big deal as you have no reason to spend money if you’ve already got a good thing going that you don’t use fully. So in short, use it fully. Take each piece to the max. If you still need more then you’ll know exactly where you need to start upgrading and you’ll be in a much better position to want to research the specifications and capabilities of the piece that you’re interested in. There’s no need really for someone with experience to constantly be asking questions of others about what they might think of one’s upgrade ideas. Only you know exactly what you need and you’ll know that for sure when you use what you have to the fullest.

Say you have a pair of entry-level monitors. After a few weeks or months of mixing on them and fighting to figure out why your mixes don’t translate to the widest variety of playback systems then you will naturally seek out exactly why this is so. You will likely come upon the issue of room treatment and then you’ll notice that before any monitor can be fully useful it must be placed well in a well treated acoustic space. Thus, proper room treatment becomes a priority on your upgrade list. So you write down, “room treatment”, and you get on with the business of researching the types and costs of room treatments that will work for your acoustic space. After a while you will have a definite plan of action for what you need and you’ll know what you want without having to constantly ask people to tell you what you want. That’s the professional approach in my opinion.

The same goes for anything. Say you have a microphone that you use for vocals and you notice that everything that you record comes out sounding a bit harsh in the high end of the frequency spectrum. After deliberation you will likely start to research microphones that don’t sound harsh in the high end. You will likely come to the conclusion that many cheaper microphones suffer from this problem and that it’s difficult to find a cheaper alternative that happens to keep a smooth, classy sound when you’re shopping for microphones. That’s when you start looking to spend more money on microphones. Because you’ve found that you’re just not satisfied with many of the cheaper alternatives. You never had to ask people, “How much should I spend on a mic?”, because you already know that you’re likely to get what you pay for,(with a few notable exceptions). Also you easily know what to put on your upgrade list because you’re not just buying things to say that you have them. You’re purchasing because you know what you need and you’re not satisfied with the quality of the sound coming from what you already have and use all of the time.

When you take the time to go to the manufacturer websites and read about their products, go to the respected gear magazines and read their reviews, go to the forums and do searches for gear info. You educate yourself. You educate yourself not only about the gear you have in mind, but also the techniques of use and esoteric info surrounding that gear. That’s how you become aware of what you need and how to implement it in your rig.

It’s not enough to buy a piece. You need to know how to use it and how to integrate it into your setup before you put your money into purchasing it. That means that if there is a piece that you think you want, you should take the time to research how it’s used before you buy it. Trust me. It saves a lot of time and it makes you a better engineer. You’re no longer a wannabe who’s buying gear. You become an experienced user who knows what they need and want and knows how to ask for it and discuss it’s proper use. That’s commitment to your practice and education. That’s what needs to be done.

Specifically regarding signal processors and plug-ins, don’t go buying the hottest thing on the market if it isn’t going to be “the answer” to your problems. The vast majority of the time it isn’t going to be anyway so why are you fooling yourself? I recently saw somebody’s rig that had multiple thousands of dollars of big name, outboard signal processors and yet this person was using entry level monitors to mix with. I don’t get that. I think that if you’re going to be using expensive signal processors then you’d probably want to use some decent monitors so that you could hear what you were doing without having to second guess. Why spend thousands on processing stuff but only hear it through a couple hundred dollars in monitoring? It doesn’t add up to me.

As far as plug-ins go, why would one purchase a bunch of high dollar, big name compressor, EQ and reverb plugs when you can only master the use of a couple at a time? I find that I use the same two EQ plugs on about 80% of everything that I mix. What can I say? They work and they sound great. That’s why I keep using them. I can’t even imaging having to figure out the sonic differences between a dozen different EQs or compressors. I figure one should use a couple and master their use. After a few weeks of use on several mixes you will really start to get a feel for what they can and can’t do well and what they actually sound like and are doing to the sound. Then you’ll be in a better position to know what to look for in an upgrade. Also, when you compare them side by side you’ll know the differences between your plug-ins, and the new ones without having to second guess because you’ll be so familiar with them. That helps you by making you an “expert” on the use of your chosen software. You’ll know what to look to improve upon and what happens to be just fine. There’s no need for a million plug-ins when you’re, realistically, only going to use a few regularly. The rest is marketing hype that suckers those that don’t know any better. Don’t let it happen to you.

The bottom line is for you to use what you’ve got and use it to it’s fullest. Then research anything you wish to upgrade. Make sure you know how it works before you buy it and make sure you know exactly how to incorporate it into your rig. That’s the way to make smarter decisions on gear without having to be spoon fed by someone else.

Happy recording,

Liz

Holiday Guide for Designing a new DAW.

Sunday, July 27th, 2008


– by nanashiwanderer Ive been on a week long hiatus. and over the week I had a good chance to really look the computer hardware market, and coming up for christmas. I have to say Im a lot more enthused about the current hardware market than I was about the hardware market 3 months ago or 6weeks a month. Intels new chipsets are very solid, amd finally seems to have some good options for motherboards, and competitive for lower end DAWs. Manufacturers have realized theres a high demand for silent PCs and have really ramped up the Market for silent cases, with Antec Leading the way, but also a nice offering from cooler master. PC Power & Cooling, and Antec (seasonic) both have released quiet energy effecient Power Supplys.

This time around I’m not going to give a fixed template of what to build but general guidelines. These selections are untested, and made from a general knowledge of how hardware works, and an understanding of PC Design. The designs them selves are untested and any one who chooses to do so builds at their own risk. Before reading this article I suggest some, particular novices to DAW design, read my first article on how to select DAW, which would give one an idea of what to look for in DAWs.

Cases & Power Supplies. Power Supplies are probably the most important core component over looked in most peoples PCs. Since on paper, they seem to have no tangible effect, on the PCs power. However, Power supplies have a drastic impact on stability of PCs. After ram, the power supply is the second leading cause to PC instability.In general for my philosophy when designing a DAW, Stability, compatibility, comes before power. In todays market, the power most DAWs far exceed the ordinary engineer or musicians needs, with the given software. As new and inventive things come , we may need more power, but you can always buy a DAW for those days. No matter what PC you buy theres a finite life. For this reason I dont recommend skimping on the power supply for a bit faster CPU or a nicer video Card. Other than the Quality of the Unit itself, the two biggest factors that one should consider when purchase Power Supplies is the size of the unit (how much wattage does it provide), and the noise level. There are several manufacturers.
How much power does one really need ? Cheaper power supplies often underrate the value of their power which provides more power at a lower temperature levels. The problem is most computers are not room temperature, particularly sparsely cooled systems like DAWs. At the minimum most DAWs today use A Dual Core Processor, with 2GB of RAM, Dual Hard Drives, a DVD Burner, and a low end to mid range graphics card. This means most computers at a bare minimum will need A very effecient 400watt Power Supply. Higher End units, which use Quad Core CPUs, 3 or 4 Hard Drives, a Mid range Video card may want as much as 500watts.

So what are my selections for power supplies ?
PC Power & Cooling Silencer Seems like a solid choice for many people particularly, ones who aren’t buying one of the new Antec Cases. With a long standing reputation for making some of the best Power Supplies in the Industry,The Silencer 470 is 83.00$ and just the wattage one would want to cover most midrange DAW’s running a modest graphics card.
Antec has released a new line of energy effecient power supplies from Seasonics called Earthwatts which are of extremely high caliber and very low noise. (Seasonics is the leading manufacturer of quiet power supplies, and makes Power Supplies for Corsair, Antec and other companies). The best thing about the Earthwatts Series is the 500watt (price stand alone at a modest 80.00) is being included with many of the Sonata Series Cases, which are top choices for DAW.

Antec as of late has stepped up on the quiet case market, and has paid some attention to our own DAW market, with the introduction of the Studio Series Cases. While the Studio-Series is nothing to write home about. The Performance series has been. With 4
models, the P180, P182,P190, and now the Sonata III Designer. The Series has a number of features for quiet which can be found in reviews. The major ones are a dampening system on the side doors (Which makes these a monster to lug around, these are fixed install), and rubber grommet suspension system for the Hard Drives, which isolates the drives stopping that annoying popping and clicking sound. The Cases are equipped with 92mm or 120mm fans instead of standard 80mm. Which allows the user to purchase slower fans, 92mm and particularly 120mm fans push much more air at much slower speeds than traditional DAW fans.

A recent addition to the market of mainstream Quiet Cases is Cooler Masters new cosmos which also has a “sound proofed” side panels. The main aspect of the case it is large, spacious, and luxurious it has the type of features that will make it more of a pleasure to work with than Antec, which tend to be vanilla. Cooler master construction on their highend cases are usually flawless. But at 210.00 with out a Power Supply. It doesn’t come with out a price.

Antec’s new sonata III . Is a midtower case and has a variety of models, including the Sonata 3 Designer and Sonata Plus, the differences can range from size of the fans, the model of power suppy but all use Highend Power Supplies manufactured by Seasonics and have at least 500watts of power. They share majority of the core features of the Performance Series making them an astounding value. Sonata III which ranges from 140-160$ in price (including shipping.) It has room for 2x 120mm fans, and comes with an Antec Earth watts 500..

and can use 3 Isolated hard Drives, (or carry 4 total using normal mounting) and has 3x 5.25″ Drive Bays. The biggest complaint is the removal of the Firewire header that is present in its larger Performance 18x Series Cousins.

AMD or Intel, at the current moment Intel and AMD are admidst of a price war, and Intel has a firm grasp of the the highend crown. Price of Processors are lower than ever due to massive price cuts in the last year. A Quad Core 2 Duo @ 2400mhz (1066FSB) is right now 280$. and fast Dual Cores like The E6750 (2.66ghz 1333FSB) @ 195$. Intel’s processors clock for clock are 30 to 50% faster than AMD’s. Making Intel pretty much the only choice for highend. AMD hopefully will have more competitive processors once there new Barcelona desktop edition is availible. However at the given prices theres still place for AMD on the modern processor market. @ 65$ Athlon X2 4000+ gives a fair bit of power, for those of us on a budget. To top it off nicer AMD Boards can be found for 85 $ or So, versus nice Intel Boards costs 200- 2800$. Where money is tight AMD Can fill a gap. With the Price drops, there processors are right now a somewhat viable alternative. Factoring in that the cheapest Core 2 DUO 800mhz costs over 130$.
The Penryn Intel’s next generation architecture has been revealed at this point and will work with Intels exisiting X38 and P35 Chipset. Benchmarks show it to be a small improvement 5 to 10% over existing core 2s and quad cores, but much more over clockable. Since over clocking is generally a feature DAW users avoid this won’t be excitement to most people. The Penryn is a 45nm Die Shrink of the Core 2, and increased cache. Launching at a 3ghz and 1000$ the Penryn won’t be the choice processor for most new DAWs.

Processor Chipsets. Currently for Intel on Audio PC’s the top choice is their own chipsets. Though not in favour by Maximum PC and the like for a lack of SLI support. A simple troll through newegg will reveal why… Intel retains dominance in the Audio world. If one compares the reviews of the top choice NVIDIA boards, for the intel platform, such as the Asus Striker, and EVGA, one will be over whelmed by the abundance of negative reviews, this is a stark contrast to what one will read when one looks at top Choice 975X and P35Boards like the Bad AXE2, the New Gigabtye boards, and Abit IP35Pro. Intel’s own chipsets tend to be the most reliablie, fairly generous in terms of features, and motherboards based on the chipset, seem to have easier time integrating with DAW hardware. The only area that they are truely defecient in the eyes of many enthusiasts, are the lack of SLI Technology.

Intel Boasts two Chipsets for Audio that have similair features. The X38 and the P35. Both Chipsets have demonstrated very good performance and have a selection of motherboards that are Ideal for DAW use. The platforms are accomodating for the future as they offer both options for the current DDR-2 standard and DDR-3.

The X38 is intels luxury platform, while the P35 targets the upper midrange crowd.

For AMD a variety of options exist but the Nforce 5 with a good Firewire card is probably the best choice at the moment.

Memory in the current market, memory is with in a transition, DDR2 Prices are approaching their lowest prices, and DDR-3 has been introduced. Currently DDR-3 like most newly introduced version of DDR offers a lot of bandwidth, at the expense of latencey and a high price. Most Intel Processors don’t benifit too much from DDR-3’s performance and often do worse, at significantly higher price and AMD is a now show on the platform at the moment. As bandwidth increases and prices fall DDR-3 will replace DDR-2 (though DDR2 will be availible for many moons even once its no longer the standard.) Factoring, cost, and performance DDR-3 simply is not worth it in today’s market.
Current DAW Standard still uses Windows XP Service Pack 2 32bit, as Vista’s launch has been a nightmare (a resource hog, and annoying). With the life of Windows XP extended till at least this june. I suspect DAW’s will be running XP for quite some time. As a result the ideal amount of memory is Dual Channel 2 Gigabytes. (meaning two 1xGB sticks, or on some older motherboards 4x 512mb Sticks). The defacto spec that is compatible with most new computers is DDR-2 800mhz CAS 5 1.8V is considered standard spec in todays market. and will work with most new motherboards, provided its bought from a reliable company (corsair, crucial, kingston, mushkin, patriot, twin mos, samsung ect.)

The Hard Drive market is in full swing, with 32mb Cache drives already floating around newegg. In general a bump in cache size means a bump in speed. and at not much of an extra cost, these drive are worth jumping on. Seagate’s Barracuda 11 which features this 32mb Cache and 500Gb of ram costs around 125$. Making it well worth jumping on. With a 5 year warranty, Seagate and an excellent track record is still probably one of the safest companies to bank on.

Graphics cards… Direct X10 offerings are availible from both ATI and NVIDIA, at every price point. While power full graphics aren’t needed for DAWs, a Direct X10 card is a worth while investment, to ensure smooth transition, when we finally must move to Vista. Mid range graphics cards are of interest to those of us who also use PC’s as a general entertainment computer, most of the midrange cards such as the 8600GT and ATI X2600 Pro /XT have the power for light gaming, and features such as a hardware decoder that oddly higher end video cards lack, are of interest to those of us watching planning too watch HD movies. My personal Choices for Video Card would be a passively cooled NVIDIA 8600GT. Which seems to have a better track record than the ATI Cards. Though the ATI Cards have there merits, the 2600 Series is a better performer, and actually lower power consumption (though the 2900 is not) than its Geforce rival.

Motherboards. The motherboard market is looking good today. For intel Gigabyte and Abit have a number of boards with DAW features. The two of my particular interest. are the Abit IP35 Pro and Gigabyte P35-DS4. Both of these boards have Intel P35 Chipsets and ICHR9 which has a number of nice features, like lots of USB 2.0 ports, Built in SPIDF I/O. Lots of SATA Ports. The biggest strength of these boards though is they all have built in Texas Instruments Fire wire, which is a must have feature for those of us using external Firewire interface.

For those interested in the best of the best, utilizing Intel’s Flagship X38 chipset theres the Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6.

For AMD Boards my suggestion doesn’t have my fullest confidence. Particularly because the Nforce chipset is hit or miss with some audio interfaces (presonus comes to mind). However with a fairly good track record for audio, for the budget concious the Nforce chipset could still be a viable choice. The MSI K9N4-SLI is the first AMD board I’ve seen in a while that has pretty solid ratings all around. MSI lacks any firewire which means someone would have to add their own firewire card. For that the best option is probably Siig NN-440012-S8 Texas Instrument Card.

Heres Some Ideas for DAW availble today this ones 675Antec Sonata 3 140
AMD Athlon X2 4000 65
MSI K9N4SLI F 85
2×1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 CAS5 1.8V Memory 61
2x 250GB Seagate Barracuda w/16mb Cache 70
Samsung 20x DVD+/-RW PATA 28
Arctic Silver 5 & Vantec Stealth fan 120mm Case 23
MSI 8500GT 256mb PCI-E Passive Cooler 75
Windows XP Home 95
Siig Texas Instruments Firewire 33
Or How about this for 2480?Antec Sonata 3 Designer w/Earthwatts 500
Intel Core 2 QX6850.
Gigabye GA-X38-DQ6 Motherboard
w/Arctic Silver 5 2x Scythe 92mm Stealth Fan
2x 1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 SD-RAM 1.8V CAS5
2x 150GB Western Digital Raptor (RAID 0) 16mb Cache (audio Write)
1x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache (OS/APPS)
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x
3ware 8006LP-2 Hardware RAID Controller (more Reliable Better Performance)
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb
Microsoft Windows XP Home
Acronis True Image 11 (you better factor this in on A RAID System)
Microsoft Works 8.5
Microsoft Natrual Keyboard 4000
Logitech G5
Mid range model total price is 1150ish with a Core 2 Q6600 is 1230 or so. 1145
Antec Sonata 3 Designer 140
Intel Core 2 Wolfsdale e8400 195
GA-X38-DS4 or GA-P35-DS4 185
Arctic Silver 5, 2x Scythe 92 mm Case fans 35
2x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache 250
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x 28
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb 156
Microsoft Windows XP Home & Acronis True Image 11 140
2x 1GB DDR-2 6400 PC-800 CAS5 1.8v SD-RAM (mushkin) 61
Upper Mid Range for 1600.00-1650Antec Sonata 3 designer w/Earthwatts 500
Intel Core 2 Q6600
GA-X38-DS4
Arctic Silver 5 2x Vantec 120mm Stealth Fans
2x 1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 CAS5
2x 150GB Western Digital Raptor (RAID 0) 16mb Cache (AUDIO WRITE)
1x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache (OS APPS ECT)
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x
3ware 8006LP-2 Hardware RAID Controller (more reliable, better performance)
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb
Microsoft Windows XP Home

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750
Cooler Master Cosmos
Intel Core 2 QX6850.
Gigabye GA-X38-DQ6 Motherboard
w/Arctic Silver 5 w/Zalman CNPS9700NT
2x 1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 SD-RAM 1.8V CAS5
2x 150GB Western Digital Raptor (RAID 0) 16mb Cache (audio Write)
2x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache (OS/APPS & Backup)
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x
3ware 8006LP-2 Hardware RAID Controller (more Reliable Better Performance)
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb
Microsoft Windows XP Home
Acronis True Image 11 (you better factor this in on A RAID System)
Microsoft Works 8.5
Microsoft Natrual Keyboard 4000
Logitech MX Revolution

$ 2950.00
Apr. 15th, 2008 @ 05:37 pm

Daw For the Holiday Season.

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Holiday Guide for Designing a new DAW.

– by nanashiwandererI’ve been on a week long hiatus. and over the week I had a good chance to really look the computer hardware market, and coming up for christmas. I have to say I’m a lot more enthused about the current hardware market than I was about the hardware market 3 months ago or 6weeks a month. Intel’s new chipsets are very solid, amd finally seems to have some good options for motherboards, and competitive for lower end DAWs. Manufacturers have realized theres a high demand for silent PC’s and have really ramped up the Market for silent cases, with Antec Leading the way, but also a nice offering from cooler master. PC Power & Cooling, and Antec (seasonic) both have released quiet energy effecient Power Supplys.

This time around I’m not going to give a fixed template of what to build but general guidelines. These selections are untested, and made from a general knowledge of how hardware works, and an understanding of PC Design. The designs them selves are untested and any one who chooses to do so builds at their own risk. Before reading this article I suggest some, particular novices to DAW design, read my first article on how to select DAW, which would give one an idea of what to look for in DAWs.

Cases & Power Supplies. Power Supplies are probably the most important core component over looked in most people’s PC’s. Since on paper, they seem to have no tangible effect, on the PC’s power. However, Power supplies have a drastic impact on stability of PCs. After ram, the power supply is the second leading cause to PC instability.In general for my philosophy when designing a DAW, Stability, compatibility, comes before power. In today’s market, the power most DAWs far exceed the ordinary engineer or musicians needs, with the given software. As new and inventive things come , we may need more power, but you can always buy a DAW for those days. No matter what PC you buy theres a finite life. For this reason I don’t recommend skimping on the power supply for a bit faster CPU or a nicer video Card. Other than the Quality of the Unit itself, the two biggest factors that one should consider when purchase Power Supplies is the size of the unit (how much wattage does it provide), and the noise level. There are several manufacturers.
How much power does one really need ? Cheaper power supplies often underrate the value of their power which provides more power at a lower temperature levels. The problem is most computers are not room temperature, particularly sparsely cooled systems like DAWs. At the minimum most DAWs today use A Dual Core Processor, with 2GB of RAM, Dual Hard Drives, a DVD Burner, and a low end to mid range graphics card. This means most computers at a bare minimum will need A very effecient 400watt Power Supply. Higher End units, which use Quad Core CPUs, 3 or 4 Hard Drives, a Mid range Video card may want as much as 500watts.

So what are my selections for power supplies ?
PC Power & Cooling Silencer Seems like a solid choice for many people particularly, ones who aren’t buying one of the new Antec Cases. With a long standing reputation for making some of the best Power Supplies in the Industry,The Silencer 470 is 83.00$ and just the wattage one would want to cover most midrange DAW’s running a modest graphics card.
Antec has released a new line of energy effecient power supplies from Seasonics called Earthwatts which are of extremely high caliber and very low noise. (Seasonics is the leading manufacturer of quiet power supplies, and makes Power Supplies for Corsair, Antec and other companies). The best thing about the Earthwatts Series is the 500watt (price stand alone at a modest 80.00) is being included with many of the Sonata Series Cases, which are top choices for DAW.

Antec as of late has stepped up on the quiet case market, and has paid some attention to our own DAW market, with the introduction of the Studio Series Cases. While the Studio-Series is nothing to write home about. The Performance series has been. With 4
models, the P180, P182,P190, and now the Sonata III Designer. The Series has a number of features for quiet which can be found in reviews. The major ones are a dampening system on the side doors (Which makes these a monster to lug around, these are fixed install), and rubber grommet suspension system for the Hard Drives, which isolates the drives stopping that annoying popping and clicking sound. The Cases are equipped with 92mm or 120mm fans instead of standard 80mm. Which allows the user to purchase slower fans, 92mm and particularly 120mm fans push much more air at much slower speeds than traditional DAW fans.

A recent addition to the market of mainstream Quiet Cases is Cooler Masters new cosmos which also has a “sound proofed” side panels. The main aspect of the case it is large, spacious, and luxurious it has the type of features that will make it more of a pleasure to work with than Antec, which tend to be vanilla. Cooler master construction on their highend cases are usually flawless. But at 210.00 with out a Power Supply. It doesn’t come with out a price.

Antec’s new sonata III . Is a midtower case and has a variety of models, including the Sonata 3 Designer and Sonata Plus, the differences can range from size of the fans, the model of power suppy but all use Highend Power Supplies manufactured by Seasonics and have at least 500watts of power. They share majority of the core features of the Performance Series making them an astounding value. Sonata III which ranges from 140-160$ in price (including shipping.) It has room for 2x 120mm fans, and comes with an Antec Earth watts 500..

and can use 3 Isolated hard Drives, (or carry 4 total using normal mounting) and has 3x 5.25″ Drive Bays. The biggest complaint is the removal of the Firewire header that is present in its larger Performance 18x Series Cousins.

AMD or Intel, at the current moment Intel and AMD are admidst of a price war, and Intel has a firm grasp of the the highend crown. Price of Processors are lower than ever due to massive price cuts in the last year. A Quad Core 2 Duo @ 2400mhz (1066FSB) is right now 280$. and fast Dual Cores like The E6750 (2.66ghz 1333FSB) @ 195$. Intel’s processors clock for clock are 30 to 50% faster than AMD’s. Making Intel pretty much the only choice for highend. AMD hopefully will have more competitive processors once there new Barcelona desktop edition is availible. However at the given prices theres still place for AMD on the modern processor market. @ 65$ Athlon X2 4000+ gives a fair bit of power, for those of us on a budget. To top it off nicer AMD Boards can be found for 85 $ or So, versus nice Intel Boards costs 200- 2800$. Where money is tight AMD Can fill a gap. With the Price drops, there processors are right now a somewhat viable alternative. Factoring in that the cheapest Core 2 DUO 800mhz costs over 130$.
The Penryn Intel’s next generation architecture has been revealed at this point and will work with Intels exisiting X38 and P35 Chipset. Benchmarks show it to be a small improvement 5 to 10% over existing core 2s and quad cores, but much more over clockable. Since over clocking is generally a feature DAW users avoid this won’t be excitement to most people. The Penryn is a 45nm Die Shrink of the Core 2, and increased cache. Launching at a 3ghz and 1000$ the Penryn won’t be the choice processor for most new DAWs.

Processor Chipsets. Currently for Intel on Audio PC’s the top choice is their own chipsets. Though not in favour by Maximum PC and the like for a lack of SLI support. A simple troll through newegg will reveal why… Intel retains dominance in the Audio world. If one compares the reviews of the top choice NVIDIA boards, for the intel platform, such as the Asus Striker, and EVGA, one will be over whelmed by the abundance of negative reviews, this is a stark contrast to what one will read when one looks at top Choice 975X and P35Boards like the Bad AXE2, the New Gigabtye boards, and Abit IP35Pro. Intel’s own chipsets tend to be the most reliablie, fairly generous in terms of features, and motherboards based on the chipset, seem to have easier time integrating with DAW hardware. The only area that they are truely defecient in the eyes of many enthusiasts, are the lack of SLI Technology.

Intel Boasts two Chipsets for Audio that have similair features. The X38 and the P35. Both Chipsets have demonstrated very good performance and have a selection of motherboards that are Ideal for DAW use. The platforms are accomodating for the future as they offer both options for the current DDR-2 standard and DDR-3.

The X38 is intels luxury platform, while the P35 targets the upper midrange crowd.

For AMD a variety of options exist but the Nforce 5 with a good Firewire card is probably the best choice at the moment.

Memory in the current market, memory is with in a transition, DDR2 Prices are approaching their lowest prices, and DDR-3 has been introduced. Currently DDR-3 like most newly introduced version of DDR offers a lot of bandwidth, at the expense of latencey and a high price. Most Intel Processors don’t benifit too much from DDR-3’s performance and often do worse, at significantly higher price and AMD is a now show on the platform at the moment. As bandwidth increases and prices fall DDR-3 will replace DDR-2 (though DDR2 will be availible for many moons even once its no longer the standard.) Factoring, cost, and performance DDR-3 simply is not worth it in today’s market.
Current DAW Standard still uses Windows XP Service Pack 2 32bit, as Vista’s launch has been a nightmare (a resource hog, and annoying). With the life of Windows XP extended till at least this june. I suspect DAW’s will be running XP for quite some time. As a result the ideal amount of memory is Dual Channel 2 Gigabytes. (meaning two 1xGB sticks, or on some older motherboards 4x 512mb Sticks). The defacto spec that is compatible with most new computers is DDR-2 800mhz CAS 5 1.8V is considered standard spec in todays market. and will work with most new motherboards, provided its bought from a reliable company (corsair, crucial, kingston, mushkin, patriot, twin mos, samsung ect.)

The Hard Drive market is in full swing, with 32mb Cache drives already floating around newegg. In general a bump in cache size means a bump in speed. and at not much of an extra cost, these drive are worth jumping on. Seagate’s Barracuda 11 which features this 32mb Cache and 500Gb of ram costs around 125$. Making it well worth jumping on. With a 5 year warranty, Seagate and an excellent track record is still probably one of the safest companies to bank on.

Graphics cards… Direct X10 offerings are availible from both ATI and NVIDIA, at every price point. While power full graphics aren’t needed for DAWs, a Direct X10 card is a worth while investment, to ensure smooth transition, when we finally must move to Vista. Mid range graphics cards are of interest to those of us who also use PC’s as a general entertainment computer, most of the midrange cards such as the 8600GT and ATI X2600 Pro /XT have the power for light gaming, and features such as a hardware decoder that oddly higher end video cards lack, are of interest to those of us watching planning too watch HD movies. My personal Choices for Video Card would be a passively cooled NVIDIA 8600GT. Which seems to have a better track record than the ATI Cards. Though the ATI Cards have there merits, the 2600 Series is a better performer, and actually lower power consumption (though the 2900 is not) than its Geforce rival.

Motherboards. The motherboard market is looking good today. For intel Gigabyte and Abit have a number of boards with DAW features. The two of my particular interest. are the Abit IP35 Pro and Gigabyte P35-DS4. Both of these boards have Intel P35 Chipsets and ICHR9 which has a number of nice features, like lots of USB 2.0 ports, Built in SPIDF I/O. Lots of SATA Ports. The biggest strength of these boards though is they all have built in Texas Instruments Fire wire, which is a must have feature for those of us using external Firewire interface.

For those interested in the best of the best, utilizing Intel’s Flagship X38 chipset theres the Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6.

For AMD Boards my suggestion doesn’t have my fullest confidence. Particularly because the Nforce chipset is hit or miss with some audio interfaces (presonus comes to mind). However with a fairly good track record for audio, for the budget concious the Nforce chipset could still be a viable choice. The MSI K9N4-SLI is the first AMD board I’ve seen in a while that has pretty solid ratings all around. MSI lacks any firewire which means someone would have to add their own firewire card. For that the best option is probably Siig NN-440012-S8 Texas Instrument Card.

Heres Some Ideas for DAW availble today this ones 675Antec Sonata 3 140
AMD Athlon X2 4000 65
MSI K9N4SLI F 85
2×1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 CAS5 1.8V Memory 61
2x 250GB Seagate Barracuda w/16mb Cache 70
Samsung 20x DVD+/-RW PATA 28
Arctic Silver 5 & Vantec Stealth fan 120mm Case 23
MSI 8500GT 256mb PCI-E Passive Cooler 75
Windows XP Home 95
Siig Texas Instruments Firewire 33
Or How about this for 2480?Antec Sonata 3 Designer w/Earthwatts 500
Intel Core 2 QX6850.
Gigabye GA-X38-DQ6 Motherboard
w/Arctic Silver 5 2x Scythe 92mm Stealth Fan
2x 1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 SD-RAM 1.8V CAS5
2x 150GB Western Digital Raptor (RAID 0) 16mb Cache (audio Write)
1x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache (OS/APPS)
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x
3ware 8006LP-2 Hardware RAID Controller (more Reliable Better Performance)
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb
Microsoft Windows XP Home
Acronis True Image 11 (you better factor this in on A RAID System)
Microsoft Works 8.5
Microsoft Natrual Keyboard 4000
Logitech G5
”Mid range model total price is 1150ish with a Core 2 Q6600 is 1230 or so. 1145
Antec Sonata 3 Designer 140
Intel Core 2 Wolfsdale e8400 195
GA-X38-DS4 or GA-P35-DS4 185
Arctic Silver 5, 2x Scythe 92 mm Case fans 35
2x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache 250
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x 28
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb 156
Microsoft Windows XP Home & Acronis True Image 11 140
2x 1GB DDR-2 6400 PC-800 CAS5 1.8v SD-RAM (mushkin) 61
Upper Mid Range for 1600.00-1650Antec Sonata 3 designer w/Earthwatts 500
Intel Core 2 Q6600
GA-X38-DS4
Arctic Silver 5 2x Vantec 120mm Stealth Fans
2x 1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 CAS5
2x 150GB Western Digital Raptor (RAID 0) 16mb Cache (AUDIO WRITE)
1x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache (OS APPS ECT)
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x
3ware 8006LP-2 Hardware RAID Controller (more reliable, better performance)
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb
Microsoft Windows XP Home

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750
Cooler Master Cosmos
Intel Core 2 QX6850.
Gigabye GA-X38-DQ6 Motherboard
w/Arctic Silver 5 w/Zalman CNPS9700NT
2x 1GB DDR-2 800mhz PC-2 6400 SD-RAM 1.8V CAS5
2x 150GB Western Digital Raptor (RAID 0) 16mb Cache (audio Write)
2x 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 11 w/32mb Cache (OS/APPS & Backup)
Samsung DVD+/-RW 20x
3ware 8006LP-2 Hardware RAID Controller (more Reliable Better Performance)
MSI NVIDIA 8600GTS Passively Cooled 256mb
Microsoft Windows XP Home
Acronis True Image 11 (you better factor this in on A RAID System)
Microsoft Works 8.5
Microsoft Natrual Keyboard 4000
Logitech MX Revolution

$ 2950.00
Apr. 15th, 2008 @ 05:37 pm

So much to think about, so little time

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Once again, it’s been a long while since I came over to this site. Not too many people are posting, which is odd to me…. I’d have figured that anyone with a little studio would be posting their thoughts and experiences with the recording arts. O well, more space for me!! I like to ramble, keeps me sane hehe.

First of all, a band that I tracked some live-off-the-floor demos got signed! They haven’t set it in stone, but I was told that they presented the demos to the label they were going for and it helped them secure the deal. Seeing as it was my first real session of live recordings in my small studio I was pretty happy. I hope to have a song from the sessions up very soon on my website… as soon as my studio is done going through a small renovation this week =)

Recently, I’ve been advised to start running my studio as an actual business in order to be able to benefit from the financial side and keep things legit when it comes to paying clients and purchasing gear that I could possibly benefit from come tax season. My significant other’s mother is a book-keeper and knows her stuff, and she has helped me more than I could have hoped for in this regard. She has started her own business on the bookkeeping front, so she told me where to go to register myself and whatnot. She is also doing all my tax work for free (I’m going to pay her whether she likes it or not)! I gave her ALL of my music-related receipts I’ve kept since the beginning of time, and I will be able to apparently reap the benefits once things are lined up. She did work for a buddy of mine who has a PA rental business, and his first tax return was something along the lines of $4k that he used to upgrade his rig. I could definitely use a return like that… wow.

So with my business in order, an invoice system put together, everything organized, a website up and running, and a steadily-growing client list, I’m ready to go!

However no studio owner ever goes a few months without a sever case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). So I started to think about my next large gear purchase. Monitors were on my list, as my Yorkville YSM1p’s lacked the low-end detail and hi-end clarity that I need in order to step up my game.

I’m very happy with my mic collection after purchasing two Shure KSM44’s, AKG D112 to go along with my Audix D6, i5, bunch of 57’s and 58’s, and a 421. The only mic I’m missing is a good ribbon such as a Royer 121. I figured maybe I could grab a pair of Fatheads for significantly less, but I know that I’d eventually get a great ribbon so why not skip the intermediate step?  Obviously, I’m not including a vintage LDC because it simply isn’t in my budget and I can get by without one.

One actual instrument I’d like to consider is a nice amp!
When a client walks in and see’s a Mesa Triple Rectumfrier, the response is ALWAYS “Hey wow!!   Is that yours?  Can I use it when I record?  When can I come in???”  My old guitarist in my band (that’s been getting airplay on the local radio even since we broke up from a demo I recorded) owned one of these amps, and since it was at my studio I was able to use it.  It always produced a usable tone and often a great tone no matter what guitar was used.  I own a Marshall JCM 2000, but it doesn’t match up when recording hard-rock acts.  The Mesa will bring in clients, meaning anything else on this list won’t be far behind.
Another thing I’d like to look at doing is getting a great outboard compressor. Candidates are the API 2500, Smart C2, 1176, and the Distressor. I own an FMR RNC, but to be honest it’s so transparent that it does nothing for me or my tracks. I can get better sounds for the song quicker by using UAD compressors compared to running things through a patchbay messing with the RNC to get what I need (not transparent comp sounds), and then back into my PC. Blah. If I go through the trouble of wiring stuff up, I want to give the sound something special. With a box like the 2500 or the C2, I could also use it on the 2-buss to add some glue and vibe to the mix. I spoke with my mastering guy, and he told me that if it actually does give the mix some vibe he’d be all for it as long as I print a safe mix as well. He also told me he’d go for the Distressor because it’s so versatile and is a bread-n-butter type of unit. I have to find a store in Canada that will ship me some of these units to test them, and then just ship back what I don’t want. If anyone knows of a place, please PM me!!

Another item(s) I’m also considering is some of the ceiling panels from Real Traps for above my drum kit and mixing position. I have very low ceilings, and the drop ceiling isn’t the most absorbing material, although it’s not as bad as a drywall ceiling. So perhaps spending some cash on a few panels would be money well spent… but with something like this where so few people actually have them makes me very cautious. I doubt I could just return them after installing them and using them for a few sessions. The PVB from Real Traps has been great for my studio, so I’m sure I’d love the panels… we’ll see. It’s definitely in the future.
Also a few more panels from Gik… maybe a few of the diffusers would suit me better. We’ll see what Glenn or his staff have to say when I bring it up.

And finally, a desk!
I’ve went from wanting this crazy desk with room for my Axiom 61, desk space galore, racks upon racks etc… to wanting more of a mastering desk. Small footprint, simply rackspace, enough desk space for keyboard and Alphatrack and mouse, and that’s about it! I don’t need more in reality. I need the rack devices I do have right in front of me, and access to those three desk items. Problem is, it seems these desks cost more than the mixing desks. I went to local shops and it seems that they would even charge me more than ordering & shipping online from the US! So I think I’ll wait until I can afford it, and then make it happen by ordering from Sterling or Argosy. If this were to happen I’d have some planning to do anyways…

What I’ve Learned During a Project – Pt. 2

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Well it’s been a little while since I’ve been around the forums. The good news is because the studio has been busy and my day job has picked up! I just wanted to share an update of sorts on my previous post that was based on learning from a very challenging project. My work since has been very fulfilling and has really allowed me to confirm my insights that I previously stated. Some of this is a bit rehash, but I wanted to convey that I’ve taken some big steps in the right direction and my ideas brought before have helped me and held up over time as I’ve worked with better artists and worked on more projects.

To start, I have upgraded my studio quite a bit in the past year. I went from 2xDelta 1010’s to a Lynx Aurora 16 w/ a Lynx AES16. This really made a difference. The signal that gets to my hard drive is the signal that came out of my preamp, meaning it does not lose anything at the convertors. No more digital haze. Then I upgraded my preamp section to an API 3124+. So I now have an API 3124+, FMR RNP, and then a Mackie 1604 VLZ for any extra tracks I may need to record at one time. Having both of these MAJOR upgrades has allowed me to create a mix with a more defined soundstage, and give me some more confidence that the sounds I’m getting to/from my monitors are going to be what I hear in the outside world.

Speaking of translation, I also dropped a bunch of cash on some Gik Acoustics treatment. 18 pieces. My room has never sounded better, and my mixes have never translated as well as they do with the treatment. This was actually the first thing I did after my last little article on these boards. When a client walks into the studio, they now KNOW it’s a studio that means business. Sure, they don’t know why I have the stuff on the walls, but they see it and think “This isn’t just another basement studio”. They see the treatment and make a connection in their minds to the studios they see on TV or whatever. I can relate, I was the same way when I was inexperienced in a studio. I didn’t get treatment for this reason, and it’s actually worth it to get yourself some treatment just like everyone says it is… but I wanted to share that little bit because it’s a big benefit from doing up your room well. Make it look nice and people will notice and take you much more seriously. Even the Mackie 1604 gets a LOT of attention from clients. They see a decent sized mixer and assume it’s going to be used a lot; they don’t know it’s mainly extra pre’s for drum and used mostly for headphone mixes!

Another upgrade that has helped me is moving to learning and using UAD plugs. Putting the 1176LN and Pultec/Neve on a kick drum often is a good starting point for the rock mixes I do. The LA3A is probably one of my fav compressors. If only I had the cash to spend on one or two of these in hardware-land… ;)

So here’s some updates based on my last article:
The last time I wrote, the artist in mind was not well rehearsed. I’ve recorded some bands since then with all my new gear and I’d had much more experience, but the projects still turned out like junk (to my ears) because the bands or artists were just not tight with their material. I’m not one to sit and edit a song for 4 hours before I start to mix, which is simply my choice. I’ve realized that I enjoy mixing songs like the artist play them, as in I want to mix what the mic hears. Sure, I’ll put some delay on the vocals, dirty up the bass, get the kick to sit nicely in the track… but I’m not going to change your drummers horrible timing in every bar or pitch your singer’s every word if they can’t sing. The band who I’ve worked with who know their sh!t can come in, lay down their tracks with ease, experiment a bit, take my advice on tone or parts played, and leave happy. The guys who come in not knowing their stuff leave pissed at themselves or their bandmates every single time. The process is not fun when these ppl come in. Recording is meant to be fun and new for most of the people I work with, not something to frown while doing. At the end of the day, those who know their stuff are basically mixed before I even touch a fader.

The artist from my last post made me do 9-song in two weeks… including a home-brew mastering. I have a day job and a band of my own that plays out a lot. So when I get home, I do want to mix 9/10 days, but if I want to see my girlfriend I’d like to tell her that we have the night to hang out. If I get pissed off or over-worked, I notice that the work suffers. I rush through it or don’t make smart intuitive decisions. On a long project you will get sucked into using ‘presets’, that is, the settings from your first mixed song for the other ones. That often leads to a boring bunch of tunes because by the time your done everything sounds a bit the same… but hey at least you overworked yourself and made the deadline! Sure, you should work hard at your studio to make the client happy but the difference is when the artist is one of those who aren’t tight and yet ask for a rush job. Things add up to create either crap or gold!
If the artist knows the game, they will let you take your time. Most of the bands I’m currently working with simply tell me to take my time and be done when I’m done. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s nice when it does… and I usually work longer and harder for those people.

At the time of my last post, I would tend to rely on getting a workable source and trying to tame it later on. Now I take the time to dial in the amp, move the mic to the right spot, and just get it going right from the start. The thing is, this takes some experience because you have to keep in mind the sound you are going for in the end. You wouldn’t have the guitarist in a heavy metal band crank the gain, lower the mids, and later try to EQ the mids back in. If you want a clicky drum sound, get the right mic, get it in the drum, and make it happen while tracking. So now when you mix, you can sit there and say “Does this sound really need much at 5k? Do I really have to set the attack time so high on my compressor?” I often track distorted guitars and leave them as-is without any compression ITB or much, if any, EQ. If it sounds good, it IS good. Having said that, if it doesn’t sound good after tracking, then I try to get another sound.

In a nutshell…if you play like junk, your recording will sound like junk cause I’m not spending 4 hrs of my time fixing junk. You could say “Well then get them to play it until they get it right”. I charge by the project, not by the hour. One of the reasons is because I expect you to be ready to play when you come in. If you can’t play, then I’m recording your best performance I can get from you, but it’s still probably not top-notch. I can usually tell when someone isn’t going to be playing well after their 1st or 2nd take… and I’m sure most of you can as well… so once again why waste your time? Give them their recordings the way they played them.

I usually listen to a similar artist that I enjoy during the same time period as the project starts, give it a rest during the actual tracking process. then listen again before I mix. I don’t really listen heavily to a reference during the mixing session or anything because then I’ll try to ‘copy’ that artist. I’d rather have the ideas and concepts in my head while I mix so I end up with an original sound that fits the artist. This goes hand in hand with ending up with a recording that sounds like how you played.

This next point is painful for some people to realize and get across. You can’t be band X on the radio. The band you are recording loves their kick sound, is influenced by them, and wants their guitars to be as deep as band X, but you have to realize (or help THEM realize) that you aren’t in a million dollar room with a grammy-nominated mixing engineer and producer. Of course, you don’t say that… but a reality check is sometimes needed. Sure, I have API, some damn good mics, Lynx convertors, and now a decent ear… but that doesn’t mean I can put out the same quality as Andy Wallace working on an SLL. You get more than what you paid for when you come to me (IMHO), but there’s a limit. Apparently it’s hard for some people to say that… I’m always hearing crap from bands who go to a studio and are told they will sound like gold, spend a fortune, and come away peeved.

So those are some of the thing I’ve learned, and reinforced, in my little project studio.  It’s been real fun, and I have more to write and ponder over but it’ll be posted in a separate blog probably very soon.  I hope my thoughts have been entertaining to you.  Cya ’round the net!

- Erik