Some questions for the computer savvy among you...

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Some questions for the computer savvy among you...

Post by wenley » Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:56 pm

Hi All,

Been many moons since I've been on the board, but I thought it was the best place to ask these questions.

My ancient Imac G5 2.16 Intel machine is starting to waver. It will still play discs but refused to burn any. I looked up the error I was getting when trying to burn discs and it looks like some sort of very serious logic board problem that's probably not worth fixing in a five year old plus computer.

That said, I'm in need of something new. I need to get a laptop because I have to have something portable and need to stick with Mac because that's what I know and like?in spite of their inflated price and overly proprietary stance. I teach music to a mentally challenged 29 year old and he wants to learn recording. We're going to get him an iPad with GarageBand and some decent headphones, an OK vocal mic, and an acoustic guitar and I'm going to help him record the songs he writes?sort of hip hop-ish stuff. I just don't want him to completely fill up the iPad's hard drive and we need to have backups just in case of any digital weirdness (or the thing gets destroyed or God forbid, dropped...).

I have a Digi002 that is basically useless with any new Mac since they decided to execute Firewire a couple years back. I run ProTools?it's what I know best, and I don't have time or the inclination to learn another DAW at the moment.

I don't really want to drop a ton of cash on replacing everything (computer interface, hard drives software), but I need stuff at least as good as my current rig. I have two Seventh Circle Neve pres that a friend helped me build and one decent mic. I mostly do vocals and overdubs at home after doing full-band tracks in a dedicated studio.

I'm in a good situation because as a full-time grad student, I can get a education discount on a Mac.

Basically, here are my questions:

So, should it be a MacBook Pro w/ SuperDrive and one Firewire 800 port so I can use my current audio setup? Or get the Retina and just update to PT 10 and get some other kind of interface (Sweetwater has a deal on the Eleven for $700 but it looked a little too much like a POD on steroids. I'm thinking the Apogee Duet as I think it's probably ultimately a much better unit?) Either way I'll continue to use my two Seventh Circles as a front end.

I don't really need more than a couple inputs since I'm primarily overdubbing one thing at a time like guitars, percussion or vocals.

Will the Apogee Duet be able to play in mono to check mixes? Is there some kind of ProTools plug-in or do I just need to bus all my tracks into a stereo track running right down the middle? The Digi002 has many drawbacks (i.e. the converters et al) but it does have that handy Mono button right on the front.

Can my Firewire Hard drives be put into other enclosures (i.e. USB 2.0 or 3.0 so that I can easily keep them?)

Will I need to now record directly to my internal HD now that Firewire is dead?

Many thanks to all! Take care! Keep making fun and wonderful noises!

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Post by GooberNumber9 » Mon Feb 25, 2013 11:32 am

My 2007 iMac just died and I went through what seems to be a similar thought process, except I use Reaper now which has a built-in Mono button on the main bus controls.

Here's what I just ordered:
- Refurbished 13" Retina MacBook Pro
- Refurbished Thunderbolt Display

The display is the kicker: it has a built-in hub/docking station which provides Gigabit Ethernet, FW800 (compatible with 400 with a cable), extra USB ports and a Thunderbolt pass-through.

Now even refurb the Thunderbolt Display is $830, so that is a bit rough to handle, I know. If you can swing it, it's like having an iMac and MacBook at the same time.

If that's too rich for your blood, you don't have to ditch Firewire right away. There is a ($30!) Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter that is FW800 (again, downward compatible with the right cable). If you get the Retina MBP then you have something slightly heavier than a MacBook Air with two Thunderbolt ports, so you could have two separate FireWire connections.

I don't think you should record directly to internal in any case, but that's just me. If you go MBA or Retina MBP, then you'll have an SSD as your internal, which are still pretty small. That being said, you can get ultra-portable, bus-powered 1TB external USB drives for like $100 right now. Add one of those and you'll have plenty of room for content without filling up the internal.

So you could keep the 002 using a Thunderbolt-Firewire adapter, and use that same adapter to move your working space from an old Firewire drive to a new sexy USB drive. Also, the reports that trying to daisy-chain drives with 002 is a disaster was something that I never experienced myself back when I did that out of desperation. You might be fine with one Thunderbolt port, adapter, and then daisy chaining FireWire off that port.

One more thing, if you can afford the Display and Apple Care, note that the Apple Care covers the display also (for no extra money) if you get it all at the same time. I'm a big fan of Apple Care myself, but that's just me.

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Nick Sevilla
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:08 pm

You can still get an older MacBook Pro with FW ports if you want to.

I have a late 2011 15" Macbook Pro, with BOTH FW800 and Thunderbolt ports.

It is simply awesome. I run my ProTools HD sessions off it when traveling or editing late at night in my dining area, and as long as I have my plug in dongles, it all plays back just fine. ProTools HD 10 translates TDM plug ins to RTAS / AAX and back again just like that. Awesome.

I ALWAYS use an external hard drive with my laptop, for playing back audio and any movie files if I am doing things to picture.

I may get hit in the head again by many forumites here, but I recommend you NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER use your system drive to record and play back audio sessions. All DAW manufacturers recommend against this practice, because it can prove fatal to the system drive.

Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Jeff White
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Post by Jeff White » Mon Feb 25, 2013 8:03 pm

I work on a 2011 17" Quad 2.3 GHz MBP, for both audio and graphics work. Simply put, it is an incredible computer. I know that the 17" models are long gone now, and in all honestly it makes me really sad. This is why...

I have mine configured for audio in conjunction with an eSATA expresscard 34. This is how I record audio to an OWC quad interface external hard drive. I then hook the FW800 port to another OWC external quad interface hard drive (it has both FW400 and FW800 ports). I run my Metric Halo 2882 2D (with my Black Lion MOTU 828mk2 hooked up via ADAT) via FW400 ---> the OWC drive ---> MBP's FW800 port. I prefer this to using the FW400 to FW800 adapter because it hooks in more stable and securely, but obviously you don't need an external HD to do this (FW400 to FW800 cable).

I have an older Apple 20" Cinema Display (Apple 20" Cinema Display) that I managed to get for free. I use the Apple DVI to mini-display port adapter to connect the MBP to the monitor via the Thunderbolt port. So I have dual screens and I can separate out Digital Performer's windows between them, etc. It's great.

I also own a 1st Generation Apogee Duet FW and I have to say that I swear by these interfaces. They rule. No matter which generation of Duet you go with, each will allow you to run your Seventh Circle preamps into it via line level. I would DEFINITELY record to an external FW hard drive. USB 2.0 is not great for large track counts. I have no idea about USB 3.0 and audio, but I have seen USB2.0 drives screw the pooch in PT sessions with as little as 12 tracks at 96K playing back. Firewire just allows more stable throughput.

Also, the mono playback... Both Reaper and Digital Performer have a Mono switch on the master fader as discussed. There are tons of plug-ins out there that should be able to do this. I use DP's Trim plug-in on buses if I need to collapse to mono before the master fader.

I record, mix, and master in my Philly-based home studio, the Spacement.

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