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Purchasing a computer for producing music

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While you're goal is noble

While you're goal is noble, a new computer won't really mean that he can produce better quality music. Digital music just doesn't really work that way. And your average low to medium cost computer is likely going to be of rather poor quality such that it's likely to just be an act of frustration. If you can't spend at least $1,000US on a desktop or about double that for a laptop, it's really not even worth bothering for any kind of regular use.

What you could maybe do, is spend some time asking your son some questions, try and feel out some things that seem to be limiting him with his current laptop. If he seems to always be running out of disk space, you could go out and buy him like a 2TB external HDD for $150US give or take. Maybe buy more RAM for the laptop so that programs run a bit smoother. If you want it to be a surprise, just spend a week or two just asking him occasional questions to try and get some information on what kinds of things he'd like to do but can't. Then you can come back here and people can give some better suggestions.

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I can do a grand on the desk top

His problem was storage so we purchased a 1 TB external storage drive. His current problem is that the program periodically locks up when in use. I guess what I am looking for are standard of specs (if any exist) to construct a studio set up. I notice there are PC setups for gamer's, pc's for artist, and for business. Is there a standard for music production. What specs should I make in the pc order?

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Advice from an accomplished producer

Hello,

I've have been producing music professional on a PC system for over a decade (before which I used Instruments/Hardware).

If it's any help in taking heed of my advice you can view my profile at www.discogs.com: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Corey+MacDonald

Now, to get started. The most important factor in your decision will be the two following prerequisites.

1) Which DAW (digital audio workstation) are you using. If you plan to use Logic then you're locked into using a MAC. However I would highly suggest Cubase or Pro-Tools as industry standard tools. I have also used Reason and Presonus-Studio One in a Re-Wire environment.

2) Your Audio Processing Unit will be more important than any other piece of hardware on your machine.
Here are a few examples:

USB: http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.m-audio.com%2Fproducts%2Fen_us%2FFastTrackPro.html&rct=j&q=m-audio%20fast%20track%20pro&ei=Gp89TvnwD8ru0gH5icTtAw&usg=AFQjCNHKASFXtLZyQ_3eniu9kGbLgq7jYQ&cad=rja

g

PCI: http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fm-audio.com%2Fproducts%2Fen_us%2FAudiophile2496.html&rct=j&q=maudio%202496&ei=Np89TqT_AYHs0gGSrd31Aw&usg=AFQjCNGRKwIFS9BjHsvuNzDs_uy0PZ9Jdw&cad=rja

http://www.emu.com/products/product.asp?category=505&subcategory=491&product=19007

http://www.emu.com/products/product.asp?product=10447

Firewire:

http://www.presonus.com/products/Detail.aspx?ProductId=5

http://www.presonus.com/products/Detail.aspx?ProductId=7

The above are just some examples for research.In the end you have to choose whats best for you. How many in/out, phantom power, balanced outputs, channels, latency etc.

Note that Studio Monitors (reference Monitors such as the entry level KRK Rokit 8s are also essential, otherwise you're wasting your money from the start).

Now, getting to the PC/Hardware.

Personally I suggest going with a PC, and furthermore running XP simply because the audio world has not caught up to Windows Vista/7 and do not currently fully take advantage of x64 capabilities because most VSTi's are not x64 compatible.

So in building your machine you are going to want adequate cooling but you do not need to go as far as liquid. Simply adding extra case fans and ensuring your thermal paste is applied properly in addition to having a case which has good distribution of heat/cool air exchange.

When it comes to your core board/processor multiple cores make a world of difference in processing audio. 4-8 Logical CPUs would be ideal. However a core-2-quad will suffice. Moreover on a budget a core-2-duo or an Athalon XP would also do to begin with. It's really your Monitors (speakers) and Hardware Interface (Processing unit) which will make the world of difference here.

Ram can be limited to 4GB, some may argue this point but I have run 4 quads with 32GB of ram and noticed only marginal performance differences against my Core-2-Quad with 4GB (which I eventually updated to 8GB. Yes, I run an x64 machine for production however my DAWS and VSTI's are all installed in x86 mode, furthermore there is no noticable difference between 32 and 64bit machines from my experience.

So in short, your peripherials are more important than your box so long as you have at the beat minimum Dual-Core to (preferably Quad Core) at 2.4 and UP with 4GB of DDR2 or DDR4 and a 7200-10000 RPM hard disk. I would even say that SSD is the way to go for your primary C: partition. An external hard drive is key to seperate backups of your individual trackings, samples, pre-post masters and general files related to projects as many a producer has lost their entire lifes work to a system failure (be it a raid 0 failure or simply not having a backup).

If you want some suggestions for off the shelf PC units here are two that I think would suite your needs suffiecently.:

http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/ca/en/ho/WF06b/12454-12454-3329740-64546-64546-4269972-4313870.html

and

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883220058

The reason I went with suggestion AMD is because on your budget once you incorporate the peripherials you will want the best bang for buck on your system, and the I3/I5/I7s are too expensive right now whilst the Core-2-Quads seem to not be in stock anywere/being released anymore.


Just an FYI. I had a track in the top ten with Deadmou5, Daft Punk and The Thrillseekers with the following system specifications:

OS: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
CPU:Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Q660 2.4 GHz overclocked almost double (literally) 1066MHz Front Side Bus
Intel ® P965 Express Chipset
8GB DDR2
NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT
->Behringer 3030A Monitors with Transducer Ribbons and Kevlar Woofers, as well as back up KRK Rokit 8s
->Numark M6 as a cheap Audio Interface with Balanced Outputs
->Stanton FS2 Box as a Midi/Firewire interface offering low latency for my hardware


Anyways, I've rambled on here, my son is getting into things he shouldn't. If you have any questions feel free to ask me for advice. But it's very important to not get sucked into the whole of thinking the juice is in the hardware when in reality your Monitors and Audio Interface are whats most important second to a minuscule 4GB ram and Core-2-Quad/Core-2-Duo. An SSD would really help but you would want to ensure you have backups as the amount of read\writes in audio production wears out SSDs faster than most other implementations.

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Thank you!!!

Thank you so much for sharing your input. It makes sense the way you've explained it. Again thank you!

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Hi Lushys

Hey I was wondering if I could add you on facebook. There are some serious questions about purchasing new equipment for producing that I need to go over with someone carefully and with someone who is definitely experienced. It would mean a great deal to me if we could chat. My name is Reece Maines (facebook as well) . This would mean the world to me if I could gain some advice from you, I have about a 2500-3000$ budget for sound card, labtop, monitors, and midi. Anyway please if you are not too busy, could you contact me so I can finally make a wise choice. Thanks again

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I don't suggest a dell.

You sound like my father a few years ago when i started making EDM.

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Answer
Frankly? Garage Band.

Go to the Apple store and fiddle with Garage Band. Purists will bash, many love it.
Bob

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Garage band

Garage band is more of an introductory tool and is geared towards bedroom musicians looking to loop back tracking for lahing down fundamentals. However anyone serious about music production will not use Garage band in any setting beyond beginner. Am-Int-Expert-Professional and even top studios all track with Cubase or Pro Tools. Those that incorp. Vst's will usually stick to Cubase or Pro Tools but also use Logic as well. Ableton is picking up as a live performance tool sitting between the recording/producing/performance layers. Bottom line is if yiu're getting serious about audio production the key components are (in order of importance)
1) Studio Monitors (with audio interface which incorporates balanced outputs)
2) DAW (Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools and to a lesser extent Reason(/Record), Ableton and at the lowest level Fruity Loops.

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What was that other great music title?

It's in the near 1K buck range on the Apple. It's claim to fame is excellent rendition of pianos and more.

And no offense about your comments. Folk have done fine with that title and I do see musicians that take that stance as much as they do towards ... drummers.
Bob

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Re: Garage Band

VST Instruments are the industry standard for sound creation, while it may come with a great sounding Piano, but via the available VST market there are instruments which would compete and surpass in quality.

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We can go up from there.

I've seen folk over invest in this area for years. At least with the Apple we have the base hardware that we can install better apps on.

Sorry to see you upset over this advice.
Bob (not a drummer.)

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Oh cmone

I dont mean to be/sound offensive but I think instead of jumping to answer you should try to absorb some of the information first.

I clearly said I was not upset, and was only suggesting if you're going to give advice at least know what you're talking about.

There is no such thing as over investing. Studio Monitors, Sound Proifing, Isolation Booths, Hardware, Software, new VSTs. Like any other musician different tools do different jobs and you can never own everything. However those that take it seriously do invest in their profession.

Second, I never said Apple was not useful, I said no professional releases material via garage band. They may have had some artists do some work in it for promotional materials, but I'm sure the product was re-sequenced in an other DAW and had most of the post pruduction done in tools of the trade.

You need to calm down, no need to get insulted. Im just offering advice as a professional. I've performed live for almost 12 years, before that obviously as a bedroom artist. I've played alongside some of the top industry names and in some of the top industry venues. With over 30 releases (Original Material, Remixs and Engineering) as well as 2 additional albums in 2 different bands amongst a plethora of royalty checks, charted releases and radio play across 120 Countries I just think I may be a touch out of your league here.

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Thanks for the added comments.

Just a suggestion. I don't wrestle with the members so why not reply to the original poster?

Bob

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In all honest

I'm not sure why you seem to want to get the last word in, and are taking such great offense to the simple fact of giving advice. I think that suggestion Garage Band would be the absolute worst advice possible so I am in fact trying to communicate this.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not specifically looking to pick a battle here. I'm not sure what exactly has you so eager to, and again I apologize, but troll this thread. Sometimes people give good advice, sometimes people give bad advice. There is nothing wrong with accepting thta and moving on. So please, lets just let this be. If he has any further questions related to either of our comments he can message either of us directly.

I wont be replying any further in this thread. I hope that you havent taken my comments with ill intent.

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Advice from an accomplished producer by lushys - 8/6/11 1:46

I took your advice and purchased the HP unit yesterday. We already have and use pro-tools and plan to purchase the monitors next week. Again thank you so much for the advice. I don't know how the forum shows me selecting the other post as the best advice, please overlook that error. Again thank you!!

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Thanks and Assistance

No worries, I dont look to help for recognition.

If you have any questions my email is corey.macdonald @ gmail . com

I would be more than happy to help with any further questions.

Good luck, I use an HP as well, the Q6600, I used to use a custom built 4x Dual CPU with 32GB of ram and a hot swappable SCSI array with 1200RPM hard drives. Now its just a Quad-Core with 4GB.

My friend who moved to Europe to make a living uses a 486 to release! (DJ K) Killah Records.

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please read

I would seriously like to hear your advice towards my situation personally. I am very serious

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Answer
Some Points to Consider

First off, if you go with a Mac, you're locked into a closed and generally overpriced world. I'd stick with a PC.

Secondly, when you say "produce music," you could mean to create scores, or to use the computer as an instrument or synthesizer, or to employ it as a mixing console, or any combination. In any case, you will benefit from more power, a decent sound card, a Digital Audio Workstation, and the right software. This kind of hardware and software tends to be somewhat expensive. The computer is about a grand, the DAW runs at least $400 with an astronomical upper limit, the sound card is the least of your worries (around $100 and maybe even less), and the software can go sky high in price.

It's also nice to get some decent powered speakers, none of this computer stuff in a box. Diamond and Behringer are a couple of decent ones; JBL makes REALLY nice ones if you want to go a little more upscale, and then there are the regular band amplifiers from folks like Ampeg that would make your son the envy of all his friends and the bane of all their parents.

My wife is a musician who creates scores and written arrangements, and her setup is fairly enviable, with a high-end HP laptop, a Roland Fantom G8 as her chief Digital Audio Workstation (and THEN some!) "peripheral" (if your son is just interested in playing music and saving what he plays, with the Roland, a full 88-key keyboard, you don't need no steenking computer), Sibelius scoring (or maybe you could say "songwriting") software, and the very clever Neuratron products Audioscore and Photoscore that can feed music as scores into the Sibelius from recorded sources or written (even handwritten) scores, respectively. This may be getting up there a bit, moneywise.

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