#1
Hey guys,

Thread isn't strictly recording based, but I trust some people here more than most of UG, not to mention that it will need to be able to handle recording up to 16 simultaneous tracks of audio, but anyway...

I'm thinking of getting a laptop this Christmas, as I just bought a 16-channel analogue desk that doubles as a firewire interface (luckily the signal to firewire can be set to run before all the desks circuitry, minus the pre's/converters, as it's a fairly cheap one ) and am hoping this will allow me to get more live sound work (and offer to record bands' sets, and do a quick mix for them as a record of their gig etc.).

It doesn't need to be incredible, or to be able to run specific software, as I already own a Mac and have Logic Pro and all sorts of nice mac-format plugins, but it does need to be capable of tracking the 16 inputs of the desk simultaneously without any real hiccups. Presumably the software wouldn't be an issue (though someone do tell me if they have any bad experiences of running larger track counts in any specific program) as I'd most likely use Reaper on it, then export the audio files and import into Logic on my Mac to mix/edit etc.

So really I'm looking for advice on where are the best places to get reliable laptops at good prices, and if anyone has any specific models they'd suggest I'll be happy to take a look - I'm trying to look at keeping the price at a max of £350-400, though may be able to stretch a bit if I have to (got other, more important things to save for though, like touring and an album release in December!).

Also, would 4GB of RAM be enough? Haven't looked into Windows-based systems in a while, since getting the Mac, so not sure how much headroom 4GB gives me to play with for more hardcore audio use. Other spec suggestions would be useful, though I do have a basic knowledge of computers and would hope that most current processors coming out would be more than capable, and RAM is the bigger issue.


Tl;dr - Looking for a laptop, must be capable of recording 16 channels of audio at once; suggestions for spec and where is the best place to buy for value and a reliable product.


Thanks in advance,

Steve


Edit: Suggested/Desired Specification
RAM: 4GB+
HD: anything should do, but will need to be a fast one.
Connectivity: FireWire (if possible, two ports)
Processor: Dual Core 2.66GHz (enough?)
Additional: Must be capable of recording 12+ simultaneous tracks (preferably 16)
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Sep 22, 2011,
#2
I just bought an HP Elitebook 8560p and it works like a dream! It has on-board FW, USB3, USB2, esata, SSD drive bay, and express slot for TI firewire.

I highly recommend one. I got mine new for under $900
Audio Ecstasy Productions!

Guitar/Backline Tech in the Los Angeles area and on tour!
Custom guitar pedals and cabling for stage and studio!

I set up DAWs and tweak computers to record audio. Hit me up @ audioecstasyproductions[at}gmail.com
#3
Quote by fastlanestoner
I just bought an HP Elitebook 8560p and it works like a dream! It has on-board FW, USB3, USB2, esata, SSD drive bay, and express slot for TI firewire.

I highly recommend one. I got mine new for under $900

Thanks for the reply. Did you get yours direct from HP, or shop around (and online, or in the shops?).

Also, you reminded me that despite mentioning the desk/interface was FireWire, I didn't actually put that the laptop needs FireWire, so I better go amend my OP
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#4
Watch out with built in Firewire devices - some types of chipsets operate better than others, Ricoh chipsets are notoriously glitch city on recording lots of simultaneous audio usually and they are what is installed on most laptops that have firewire as a standard. You want a Texas Instruments chipset if you can, or pre-test your interface with the laptop to make sure it will work - Firewire is a horrible standard that is seriously choosy about what it wants to work with.

This list is a good place to start, Avid list all the laptops that they have had tested with their systems:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=380551
Owen - Sound Engineer - Mixing & Editing Available, PM for details.
#5
Quote by Beefmo
Watch out with built in Firewire devices - some types of chipsets operate better than others, Ricoh chipsets are notoriously glitch city on recording lots of simultaneous audio usually and they are what is installed on most laptops that have firewire as a standard. You want a Texas Instruments chipset if you can, or pre-test your interface with the laptop to make sure it will work - Firewire is a horrible standard that is seriously choosy about what it wants to work with.

This list is a good place to start, Avid list all the laptops that they have had tested with their systems:

http://avid.custkb.com/avid/app/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=380551

Seriously, nice one on that - I had heard about FireWire being awkward to get working in harmony with computers, but obviously using a Mac as my main machine I hadn't encountered those issues so have little knowledge on what exactly to do.

I was thinking of looking into a typical laptop with 4GB RAM (as they're cheaper) and adding a FireWire card, but haven't had a chance yet to properly research it - do Texas Instruments just make 'inner components' or would they also have expansion cards with FireWire? Also, are there any main disadvantages to using a plug-in FireWire card as opposed to having it in-built/fitted on the motherboard?

I'm probably showing my limited knowledge of computers here, but ah well

Will check that list out now, as well!
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#6
I got my HP from tiger direct.

interfaces that use the dice or dice ii chipset NEED the TI host controller in order to function. some interfaces work with a regular controller. the digi 002r works fine with my 4-pin JMicron controller, but my Focusrite needs that TI b/c of the dice ii chip.

the chip in your interface matters as much as the chip in your firewire controller

cheerS!
Audio Ecstasy Productions!

Guitar/Backline Tech in the Los Angeles area and on tour!
Custom guitar pedals and cabling for stage and studio!

I set up DAWs and tweak computers to record audio. Hit me up @ audioecstasyproductions[at}gmail.com
#7
Ah, now that's something I didn't know - will have to do even more research then

It's a Phonic Helix Board 24 FireWire MkII, not the greatest of mixers but better than the bloody Behringer Eurodesk I end up using half the time I get live sound gigs, and as far as recording goes it only needs to deliver a clean enough signal to the DAW. Luckily for more intimate arrangements in a studio situation, I can use my Apogee Duet for any stereo or mono tracking
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#8
OK, sorry to ask....but does it have to be a laptop? The price/performance ratio of laptops to desktops is insane, you could build yourself a six-core, 8GB ram monster for the price of a mediocre dual-core laptop. I built a powerful recording system (3.5ghz quad core, 4GB. 1TB hdd etc) for around £300.
You've also got the advantages of using a RAID 0 disk array using multiple hard drives. This can massively increase hard drive performance - loading/writing audio data or loading massive sample libraries will be a lot quicker.


If you are stuck with laptops, MAKE SURE whatever you pick has a 7200rpm hard drive. Most typical laptops come with 5400rpm disks, which are much slower. You really don't want that, trust me!

Anyway, I recommend Pcspecialist.co.uk: http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/laptop-computers/3/
#9
Quote by kyle62
OK, sorry to ask....but does it have to be a laptop? The price/performance ratio of laptops to desktops is insane, you could build yourself a six-core, 8GB ram monster for the price of a mediocre dual-core laptop. I built a powerful recording system (3.5ghz quad core, 4GB. 1TB hdd etc) for around £300.
You've also got the advantages of using a RAID 0 disk array using multiple hard drives. This can massively increase hard drive performance - loading/writing audio data or loading massive sample libraries will be a lot quicker.


If you are stuck with laptops, MAKE SURE whatever you pick has a 7200rpm hard drive. Most typical laptops come with 5400rpm disks, which are much slower. You really don't want that, trust me!

Anyway, I recommend Pcspecialist.co.uk: http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/laptop-computers/3/

No harm in asking, but yeah I'm afraid it does have to be a laptop - otherwise there's no point in me getting one. I already own a Mac that is more than capable of competing with the average off-the-shelf PC for performance, despite being 3 years old now... heck, if I had the time and effort I'd just unpack and re-set up the Mac each place I went, but I'm sure many are aware that taking apart half of your home studio set-up just to use for a few hours elsewhere, then come home and re-set up is a total pain in the arse lol.

I have no problems with my current setup for performance - currently running mixes with 40+ tracks and plenty of CPU-heavy plug-ins at a buffer rate of 128 samples with no real issues, and if I needed any extra oomph I have the space to double the RAM

I'm basically just looking for a portable setup with (what I believe to be) fairly basic spec, albeit with the need for FireWire connectivity - though it only needs to be FireWire 400 if that's any easier on the budget. After getting the mixer I mentioned, it would just be a lot more convenient to take only that and a laptop (plus usual live sound gear) and be able to record a full set-up, instead of having to take half my home studio with me!


Edit: What you've said though has briefly encouraged me to see how cheap it would be for a desktop setup + suitable hardcases to keep it in and transport it in. Only worry really is how to safely transport a monitor in that case - as a laptop protects its screen pretty easily, if you get where I'm going.
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Sep 23, 2011,
#10
Quote by DisarmGoliath
No harm in asking, but yeah I'm afraid it does have to be a laptop - otherwise there's no point in me getting one. I already own a Mac that is more than capable of competing with the average off-the-shelf PC for performance, despite being 3 years old now... heck, if I had the time and effort I'd just unpack and re-set up the Mac each place I went, but I'm sure many are aware that taking apart half of your home studio set-up just to use for a few hours elsewhere, then come home and re-set up is a total pain in the arse lol.

I have no problems with my current setup for performance - currently running mixes with 40+ tracks and plenty of CPU-heavy plug-ins at a buffer rate of 128 samples with no real issues, and if I needed any extra oomph I have the space to double the RAM

I'm basically just looking for a portable setup with (what I believe to be) fairly basic spec, albeit with the need for FireWire connectivity - though it only needs to be FireWire 400 if that's any easier on the budget. After getting the mixer I mentioned, it would just be a lot more convenient to take only that and a laptop (plus usual live sound gear) and be able to record a full set-up, instead of having to take half my home studio with me!


Edit: What you've said though has briefly encouraged me to see how cheap it would be for a desktop setup + suitable hardcases to keep it in and transport it in. Only worry really is how to safely transport a monitor in that case - as a laptop protects its screen pretty easily, if you get where I'm going.


Get yourself a 19" rackmount pc case and a cheapo secondhand 15" lcd monitor, mount it in a mixer case like this:

#11
Quote by DisarmGoliath
Seriously, nice one on that - I had heard about FireWire being awkward to get working in harmony with computers, but obviously using a Mac as my main machine I hadn't encountered those issues so have little knowledge on what exactly to do.

I was thinking of looking into a typical laptop with 4GB RAM (as they're cheaper) and adding a FireWire card, but haven't had a chance yet to properly research it - do Texas Instruments just make 'inner components' or would they also have expansion cards with FireWire? Also, are there any main disadvantages to using a plug-in FireWire card as opposed to having it in-built/fitted on the motherboard?

I'm probably showing my limited knowledge of computers here, but ah well

Will check that list out now, as well!


Yeah Apple were one of the developers to create the firewire standard along with Texas Instruments so that's really why you can count on an Apple to not bastardise something that should be so simple.

The cards are also something I would be wary about as I have heard a few things about TI cards still not working well on expresscard because they have to go through a cluttered southbridge on the laptop (the southbridge typically is the lane which runs all the peripheral inputs and things like USB, Ethernet, sound ports and expresscard and if your expresscard is designed by a subpar manufacturer like Ricoh then that can also prove a problem). Due to the nature of laptops there are small space requirements so the southbridge itself is often cluttered due to trying to condense everything into one small unit - meaning a lot of crap is running through that end of the motherboard and there is a bottleneck which is created which will also slow down the rate of data transfer and have a knock on effect on things like latency.

In total getting something that could work with you might be a bit of a mind****, your best bet might be to ask people that are already using your unit what laptop they are operating on.
Owen - Sound Engineer - Mixing & Editing Available, PM for details.
#12
Fair enough, it seems I still have a lot to think about - at least I've realised more options as a result of the thread anyway, and I think I'll do a bit more research on laptops (and their various firewire issues) as well as look into a custom PC build that I can rackmount (as it does seem quite convenient, compared to the whole carting my Mac round) and it is also possibly a cheaper way of getting a reliable system.

Out of interest, have either of you done any live recording with a setup in anyway similar to what I'm suggesting? It's a bit of a headache to get the ball rolling, but really something I want to at least try as it can't hurt offering to record band's whenever I do an engineering gig, and then upload their mix for them after a few days tidying it up at home.


And I'll have a look for the support forums/anywhere else people mention the mixer, though I'm fairly certain it's discontinued from most stores and so the support may now be limited :/
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