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Laptop or Desktop for Music production?

Discussion in 'System Builder's Advice' started by suraswami, May 18, 2011.

  1. suraswami

    suraswami

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    My brother's BIL is into music composition and audition etc. He is looking to buy a new system (or build one). He was asking me if a Laptop will suffice for recording his compositions with good quality audio and video. He was looking to buy a i5 or i7 based Quad core + dedicated graphics powered laptop (with 8GB ram + 500GB Hdd). I suggested to build a Desktop powered with i5/i7 + dedicated grarphics and buy a real good $100 sound card and good headset. May be go little cheaper and build a AMD Quad/Hex based desktop.

    Is a Laptop good enough or desktop is better?

    If laptop suggest me few good ones. Looking for a mid-range priced ones (about $800).

    :toast:
  2. Bo$$

    Bo$$

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    i'd go for a AMD based hexacore + a nice expensive sound card + headphones + speakers...
    compiling should be fast and multitasking would be seemless, plus playback would be a dream
    graphics is not a fundamental requirement for something like this so try and maybe get a board with a decent onboard card.

    Laptops i feel would get held back in terms of connectivity if he decides to start recording or something and plus a desktop can be upgraded if he is still not happy with performance rather than having to buy a whole new laptop
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  3. CJCerny

    CJCerny

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    You know, you didn't really tell us why this person is looking to get a new machine. We need to know that before we can answer your question. If he has a Pinto and wants something faster, anything new will be faster. If he has a Corvette and wants something faster, then you job is much harder. Maybe he just wants a new computer. You need to tell us why he wants a new computer--and you also need to tell us what kind of machine he has now--if you expect our answers to have any relevance.
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  4. suraswami

    suraswami

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    Right now he doesn't have his own machine and he shares with his room mate, I guess thats a good reason. Also back at his parents place he has an old P4 machine.
  5. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    Depends on what he plans to use for capture. Overall tho, the desktop would be cheaper, and allow him to spend more money on music equipment. It should be the way he goes.
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  6. twicksisted

    twicksisted

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    Laptops generally come with 5200rpm hardrives which can be a problem if recording multiple input channels of audio at high bitrates in realtime. Best bang for buck would be to build a desktop as youll get far greater performance for the same money.

    Audio software dosent really tax todays processors as much as they did back in the celeron/P4 days. My "old" intel Q6600 quad core is more than enough for cubase, sonar, ableton live, reason and thats fully loaded with multiple stereo 24bit 192khz tracks, multiples VST's etc in realtime.

    Depending on what type of music production he wants to do on the rig the most important part for him would be choosing the right soundcard with the correct amount of I/O's so that he can plug all the instruments he needs etc.. I'm fairly confident that the majority of mainstream processors out there along with a 7200rpm HDD and at least 4GB ram will be able to handle almost all production software with ease. More RAM and a 64bit OS will also help specially if you are using up to date production software and loading/auditioning hundreds of samples in real time.
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  7. suraswami

    suraswami

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    So what I suggested is better then - Desktop.

    Now for the drives, gaming or any fast drive access machine I generally put in a fast 160 or 320 GB drive for OS and add couple of 500 GB drives in Raid 0 for speed. With the cheap drive prices I will suggest that route. Also will suggest him a SSD.

    Sound card - suggest me a good one.
  8. Bo$$

    Bo$$

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    small SSD eg 30gb + 1-2 mechanical drives

    Asus Xonar HDAV or D2X or DX
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  9. micropage7

    micropage7

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    better take desktop
    first. you can add any add on card like soundcard graphic or other that match your needs
    second. desktop version is kinda cheaper so if you on budget now you can add something later
    third. it support many storage like sata2, sata3 or other that match your need
    fourth. desktop component is kinda easy to find
    fifth. for long term usage its easier run desktop than laptop
    sixth. cooling solution, desktop would give you chance to upgrade cooling solution especially when you run 24/7
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  10. twicksisted

    twicksisted

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    A new 1TB hardrive is a lot quicker than a single small 160gb or 320gb version and will allow for a lot more audio streams to be written/read simultaneously as well as more recording/sample storage. They are also dirt cheap thesedays! You could use an SSD for the OS but its not neccessary to be honest and will add a lot to the cost with the only benefit really in terms of music production being the machine booting faster.

    For music production soundcards you will need one that supports ASIO for low latency recording and playback through a DAW music program. Onboard audio and even gaming soundcards generally dont do this with the exception of a few and they lack decent inputs for you to plug in multiple microphones, synthesisers, Hi-Z inputs for guitars etc... You should work out how many different "stereo" inputs you need to produce your music and then decide on what card to buy based on this. I generally prefer external USB 2.0 audio interfaces as they are easy to unplug if not needed and as they are external its easy to patch all your inputs and outputs without having to go to the back of the case to plug/unplug things when needed.

    Theres hundreds of different professional audio interfaces for every budget (from £40 - £10000!). The main difference in price comes from the quality of the AD/DA convertors on the card and this will affect the quality of the recording if you use external instruments, mics etc. If your friend will not be recording anything into the computer and making all of his music digitally inside a software program, the soundcard will not affect the quality of the music atall so even a cheap soundcard will suffice as long as it supports an ASIO driver.

    Here are a couple of audio interface manufacturers that i can think of off the top of my head that you can google and they are all fairly decent:

    M-Audio
    Alesis
    Avid/Protools
    E-Mu
    ESI
    Focusrite
    Lexicon
    RME
    Mackie
    Motu
    Native Instruments
    Presonus
    Phonic

    Inputs/outputs on a music production soundcard are always listed as mono channels, so if you require 1 stereo input, you will need a 2 input channel soundcard and so on.
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  11. Jack Doph

    Jack Doph

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    Agreed with almost all of this, but it does depend on what you wish to render with.
    Something as simple as Synthfont is plenty to render to wave (individual or multi-channel) and the number and complexity of your VSTi(s) *do* have an influence on your CPU's ability to do so in real time.
    I know I keep harping on about my X-fi Elite Pro, but it does everything I require, & the external I/O takes care of the inputs (industry-specific notwithstanding).
    Latency is always an issue, as is the amount of RAM.
    I'm currently on 64-bit Win 7 & 4GB RAM and desperately need more, once I introduce more complex arrangements into the equation.

    In short: twicksisted has it nailed, but I'd go for more RAM than 4GB, and more cores (or a multi-threaded one) on the CPU - it all helps.
    GFX.. yes, less of an issue - the money you save here can be spent on getting more RAM and/or a better CPU.

    Nice catch btw, twicksisted ;)
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  12. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    I bipassed sound card selection issues by going with a Firepod (Successor now called FireStudio, iirc.)
  13. Neuromancer

    Neuromancer

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    I would imagine he would want a passively cooled GFX card or use an IGP, and get him on of those small Antec cases that are near sound proof. Make sure to upgrade the CPU cooler so he can run minimal fan speed as well. Lots of low speed fans for cooling :)
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  14. twicksisted

    twicksisted

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    thats a good audio interface, but if the person doesent need to have 8 preamps its pointless as youll pay more for each pre-amp thats on the card... on the other hand if they do need to plug in 8 mic's or 4 stereo channels of instruments that will work well. He will need to figure out how many inputs (if any) he wants to be able to record simultaneously and choose a card that has the correct amount of ins for his purpose.
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  15. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    They work really well for recording drums.
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