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Computer for music

Ruby

Member
Messages
75
I'm looking to buy a new computer to use mainly for music and have heard that Apple Macs are better for this tho more expensive. I've not used a Mac (always used Windows PC) but want to make sure that whatever I get is right for what I want even I have to pay a bit more and learn a new system when I first get it. Does anyone have any views/experience on what is best for music?
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,953
Wouldn't bother with a Mac. Get a pc with a decent sound card. Use the money saved to buy another sax.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I personally feel that arguments concerning PC versus Mac may have had some merit in the past as computers were being developed, but today it's pretty much a meaningless debate, IMHO. Chose whichever computer you prefer, either one will be able to handle music just as well as the other one.

I personally own a PC and have no complaints. In fact, I use a notebook which is nice and portable, which brings me to my next point.

Don't look to a computer for sound

I mean, you can if you want. But personally I think you'd be far better off looking into getting a small mixer interface, and external amplifies. Then your sound quality really has very little to do with the computer at all.

Just to give you an idea and some food for thought I'll describe my "sound equipment". I'm not necessarily recommending these precise products, but I'll point to them just for reference.

To begin with I have a very simple Compaq Persario notebook computer. It's the cheapest model I could buy. I think it was about $258. I bought it at Wal-mart. It works fine.

Then for the sound system I bought the following (again just suggestions and not recommendations)

For interface to the computer I got a Behringer 1204 mixer.

Behringer 1204 USB



Wow! That went up in price since I bought mine. I think I only paid $125 for mine.

Anyway, that's just an idea. They also make smaller models.

Other companies make mixers too. Just be sure that whatever mixer you buy has a USB connection to the computer and a 48 volt phantom power supply if you're planning on using condenser studio mics.

This mixer has both.

~~~~

For input into the computer you'll need a microphone. I bought the following condenser mic and I'm very pleased with it:

C-1 Studio Microphone



I actually bought two of these along with stands for stereo input. They also require cables which are about $10 each.

Yep, it cost to build a sound studio. But this is about as inexpensive as it gets really. These are fantastic mics for the price. They perform as well as mics that cost well over $100 a piece. I'm totally pleased with these mics. And they plug right into the 1204 mixer which supplies the 48 volts phantom power they need.

Then the mixer plugs right into the USB port of the computer, so your ALMOST done. This get's your music into the computer. You also have left over of channels for other inputs, and trust me they tend to come in handy. Especially if you ever find yourself wanting to record with other people and additional instruments. Someone can plug their guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, or what have you, right into the mixer and off you go. You also have standard stereo inputs for imputing music from stereo devices and/or backing tracks.

Music Output

So far you've got music into the computer. If you want the computer to play the music out this audio system you'll need either headphones (which plug right into the mixer and are great to have when playing with backing tracks, or a click track). Or you can put the output of the mixer into some sort of stereo amplifier.

I personally just use a guitar amp for the output and play it in mono. I just plug the headphone-out jack right into the guitar amp and I've got all the volume I could ever want + reverb too if I want it.

My amp is just a 25 Watt Fender Frontman that sells for about $99. Of course I use it for the guitar too. ;}

But anyway, that's my story.

~~~~

Like I say, this has all just been offered as food for thought. I'm not necessarily recommending any of these specific products. I have nothing to really compare them with. All I can tell you is that I'm happy with them and they work for me. And ultimately they were about the least expensive system I could put together, yet the quality seems pretty good to me.

~~~~

As a side note, I have read a quite a LOT of negative reviews concerning Behringer recording mixers. I own two of them, the 1204 I pointed to above, and their smaller 802 5-input mixer. I haven't had any problems with either mixer.

Also, as far as I can tell, most of the complaints aimed and Behringer mixers are by people who are comparing them with mixers that cost over $1000+. Well DUH? I most certainly hope that a $1000+ mixer performs better than a $100 or $160 mixer!

For the price I don't see how you can go wrong with a Behringer mixer. I haven't had any problems or complains with either of mine.

~~~~

By the way, if you are thinking that you might only need the 5-input mixer instead of the 12, let me point out that the 5-input mixer does not have a USB connection. So you need to buy the USB interface separate. By the time you've paid for both the 802 mixer and the additional USB adapter you may as well have just bought the 1204 and have more inputs available. ;}

~~~~

I hope you found this ramble at least interesting if not helpful.

Like I say, even if you don't consider the precise products that I've pointed to, you might still want to consider an alternative to relying solely on a computer's sound system.

You can either buy a really expensive computer, or you can buy a less expensive computer and a nice sound studio.

One way to think about it also, is that later down the road if you change computers, you'll still have the mixer and mics. That was my strategy and it paid off, because this is actually my SECOND computer. Well, that's because I originally started off with a quite old Dell Notebook. But when that Dell died, I was able to just plug this new Compaq right back into my mixer and off I go!

So that's my food for thought, for whatever it's worth. PC or Apple is meaningless to me. Just give me some good studio condenser mics and I'll be happy. ;}
 

nlancaster

Member
Messages
36
If you're going desktop, go pc and pick and choose your computer. Decent sound card with good inputs, powerful graphics to run any programs that need that sort of support and an i7 processor to handle multi tasking. 8GB ram recommended. I got my laptop with an i7 2ghz, 750 gb hdd, full hd screen, 2gb nvidia graphics, 8gb ram and windows 7 pro. This thing hardly handles high def home video editing. Any new software for editing multi media needs something powerful
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
On the Mac side, there are a lot of things included that help to make up for the price. Music editing software is one of them...

Either way, MAC/PC, pay extra for a good sound card.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
As an Apple Fanboy, Apple bundle with a very usable music system, GarageBand. That nice Mr. Thomas does some very good samples for use with GB and he is an expert on Logic, which is far too clever for me. Add Band in a Box and it is amazing what you can knock out. Then there is Audacity and similar freeware. Open Office saves shelling out for Office.

Having said that, must admit to being worried about the course that Apple is taking, seemingly less emphasis on the computers and more on the "i" side of the business. Not to be expected from the company that made computing usable by non CLI types.
 

Sunray

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,708
Enter Sunray :-
Later the next day - Sunray awakes from his slumber ... :confused2:

Nah! - There are far more knowledgeable people here than me ... :)

For what its worth I really don't think it matters which base unit you get ...

Like others here have said ... Its more important to arrange your setup to suit your own needs ... :lb:
 
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johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Later the next day - Sunray awakes from his slumber ... :confused2:

Nah! - There are far more knowledgeable people here than me ... :)

For what its worth I really don't think it matters which base unit you get ...

Like others here have said ... Its more important to arrange your setup to suit your own needs ... :lb:
Modesty becomes you sir!!!;}
 

Juju

Senior Member
Messages
280
I used PCs for a very long time but about 6 years ago I changed to Mac and now I'm really hooked. I just don't want to use PCs anymore! For our studio we use a Mac and Logic 9. As others have said, it really depends what you are planning to do - is it for recording yourself or a band etc etc..
 

Ruby

Member
Messages
75
Thanks, that's all great advice and probably less mixed than I thought it would be. I want to get something that will be good for recording live music and also get software for composing as I wanted to have a go at making music to go with film clips and writing and printing out music, something like Sibelius (or something cheaper if I can find it!) and it sounds like I can do all this on a PC with the extra gubbins to plug in. Which is good because I've never used a Mac before. And I don't think I'm going to have to spend anything like I thought I would which is especially good news. Thanks very much everyone.
 

Sunray

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,708
Thanks, that's all great advice and probably less mixed than I thought it would be. I want to get something that will be good for recording live music and also get software for composing as I wanted to have a go at making music to go with film clips and writing and printing out music, something like Sibelius (or something cheaper if I can find it!) and it sounds like I can do all this on a PC with the extra gubbins to plug in. Which is good because I've never used a Mac before. And I don't think I'm going to have to spend anything like I thought I would which is especially good news. Thanks very much everyone.
Hey Ruby ...

Here is a free one [MuseScore] ... http://musescore.org/

And Here is Impro-Visor [Also Free] http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~keller/jazz/improvisor
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,680
Macs are just so fantasticaly expensive that I can't see the value in them, however they are to use. If all you're doing is music, you actually need a very basic spec, plus the soundcard. If you know where to look you can get a new or refurb desktop for around the two hundred quid mark, particuarly if you wait 'til after Christmas. Add a bit more for a card and you're away - the savings over a Mac will buy a pretty nice sax. Alternatively go the same route as Sweet Dreamer and use a laptop/interface. Should still give you change out of four hundred quid, might manage it for three hundred.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,946
Macs are just so fantasticaly expensive that I can't see the value in them, however they are to use. If all you're doing is music, you actually need a very basic spec, plus the soundcard. If you know where to look you can get a new or refurb desktop for around the two hundred quid mark, particuarly if you wait 'til after Christmas. Add a bit more for a card and you're away - the savings over a Mac will buy a pretty nice sax. Alternatively go the same route as Sweet Dreamer and use a laptop/interface. Should still give you change out of four hundred quid, might manage it for three hundred.
Only caveat I would add is that music notation software such as Sibelius is heavy on graphics and sound and is memory hungry
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Only caveat I would add is that music notation software such as Sibelius is heavy on graphics and sound and is memory hungry
I wouldn't argue, but I'm using musescore one the cheapest add-in graphics card I could find 3 years ago, and it isn't sluggish at all. In fact we have it on 3 laptops and 2 towers and it works fine on all of them. Even on the 10 yr old compaq laptop running Ubuntu.
 

Clivey

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,028
re. Advice on what you can use. I actually use a 7 year old Acer laptop with a measily Celeron to run mainly Cubase and Reason. I do have a more powerful setup at home in my main studio but the laptop is my primary Workstation.

recently I discovered and installed the freeware ASIO driver Asio4all. http://www.asio4all.com/

This is a miracle driver that powers up "onboard sound". ie sound from the motherboard as opposed to a dedicated sound card. There will be old computers lying about gathering dust that could be magically converted to zero Latency dream machines for absolutly no cost. It really is that simple.
Fancy using Soft synths in real time . Then that is also a reality. It will either work or not so it`s always worth a shot.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,287
Macs are just so fantasticaly expensive that I can't see the value in them.
I agree they are expensive but so to are Mercedes,BMW,Jaguars in cars,and this is the quality that Mac's are in,i have owned a few PC's over the years and the Mac has been the best computer i have owned,not just for music but for it all-round capability and speed.
If you can afford it,it is without doubt the best option plus you can run windows on it and have the best of both worlds.

Brian
 
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Pete C

Member
Messages
344
Hi Ruby. I'm now running Sibelius 7 on an ACER desktop PC (following the death of my old purpose built music PC). It's a bog standard PC with 8GB RAM and 1TB hard drive and wasn't too expensive as I deliberately bought a machine without an operating system or any of the other rubbish they stuff new computers with these days. I don't have office or anything like that on it - just Cubase, Sibelius, itunes, music related stuff. The soundcard that comes with it isn't much good but I am using ASIO4All (as mentioned above) until I fit a firewire card (on order) so that I can then hopefully use my old external Saffire LE soundcard with multiple inputs/outputs etc. The main point is that, for composing purposes, Sibelius and it's inbuilt sound library is pretty good. Some of the sax sounds are still a bit kazoo like though better than in older versions. I am having difficulty getting Sibelius to run the old versions of Garittan sound libraries I had on the old PC so may yet have to upgrade them. For notation purposes, Sibelius is excellent. Pete
 

saxplorer

Senior Member
Messages
879
My kid has had 2 macbooks, both disasters. Poor build quality, and limited expansion/extension capabilities. I know some people swear by them, my experience is swearing AT them .... He wanted them for the "cool" factor .... more than happy with a Compaq now, for a much lower cost.
 
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