PC and DAW Recommendation

Discussion in 'TASCAM DM-3200 & DM-4800' started by Peter Batah, Jan 11, 2021.

  1. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    Hello all. I trust that everyone is doing well. I made a decision to finally part with my Soundscape ReD32 24 I/O (TDIF) external DAW. I may have discussed this with some of you in the past. I would like to work with one piece of software / hardware (PC)

    Perhaps, it is high time that I join the real (current) world.

    The first thing that I am going to need / build is a new PC. I am not really keen on taking the Mac route. Sharing your own specs with me would be much appreciated.

    Now obviously, the next thing is deciding on a DAW. I don't want to get into the Cubase vs Pro Tools debate because for me I would basically be starting from scratch with either. Although, I have spent a little time with Cubase 5.x. Not extensively. So, I am not sure that even counts. I know that they appear to be priced similarly.

    However, I haven't looked into upgrade / support pricing.

    I look forward to your input. And, as always I appreciate it immensely. Have a safe and wonderful day!

    Peter
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2021
  2. skier

    skier Well-Known Member

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    Hi Peter,

    I use Windows and my current computer system is a Dell Precision Scientific Workstation with the following specs:

    - Intel 4-Core Xeon Microprocessor
    - 24GB of RAM
    - C: Drive - 512GB SSD
    - D: Drive - 3TB Hard drive

    I install the OS and all apps on the C: drive and store all my projects with wav files on the D: drive. This way, I’m able to backup the D: drive regularly and the C: drive only when an app gets updated or newly added, such as a new plug-in. Also, in my opinion, my most valuable investment are the songs I’ve created – I can always re-purchase the apps, but my creations ( for better or worse) cannot be purchased – I’d have to start over.

    HOWEVER:
    If I was purchasing a new computer, I would make some changes because faster hardware has been developed since I built this system. As much as I’ve really liked scientific workstations ( I have 3, my music studio, my photography studio (need the power and memory for large, hi-res raw files and the power for Photoshop with these huge files) and my office machine, I would buy current technology. The Xeon processors these days have many more cores and are most useful for multiprocessing, such as transaction processes. For the studio, I would instead go with a machine having an Intel I7 or I9 multi-core processor. You could also consider AMD’s Ryzen 7 or Ryzen 9 line.

    I would definitely still use a 512GB SSD for the C: drive and a large fast (at least 7,200RPM) D: drive to store my music. You could also go with a 10K RPM hard drive, but they become costly and make more noise, not quite as quiet as I like in a music studio.

    RAM is getting cheaper and I would have at least 16GB or more. HOWEVER, this really depends on how many audio tracks, MIDI tracks, etc., you decide to have in your creations, how many tracks will be frozen, how many plug-ins you’ll ultimately use on a song, etc. Every additional track, plug-in, etc., means the song will need more RAM and require more processing power. Personally, I’d start with 16GB and then add more only if you need it.

    I use two 24 inch monitors, one for the editor and one for the mixer. I use Pro Tools for my DAW, but I agree with you that there are many that will help you put out professional quality music. And because they will operate differently, one approach may work better for you than another. For example, some are software simulations of multi-track recorders while others started as sequencers, so you need to explore them to make the right choice for you and I’m sure that many other members here can share their experience, what works well for them, and why.

    I hope this is enough to get you thinking and asking more questions.

    Jerry
  3. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @skier Thanks so much for responding to my post Jerry. For someone who had two retail computer stores and sold hardware and offered purchasing advice for a living, you would think that I would have a handle on this. Mind you, that was a long time ago and so much has changed I am sure. Here are some of my thoughts. After all, I have to start somewhere.

    CPU:

    I am reluctant to go the way of the Mac. They are expensive and from what I have been reading the OS updates can really make ones life miserable. Plus, I have been a Windows user for as long as I can remember.

    I will have to explore the CPU options / specs. There was a time when AMD was just as reliable and compatible as Intel. I did use them in quite a few systems that we sold back in the day (mainly to keep the cost down). But, secretly I always leaned more toward Intel. At least when it came to my own computers.

    DAW:

    I know that Cubase has been around a very long time and is quite popular. However, it seems to me (of course I could be wrong) that Pro Tools is considered the Industry Standard. Are some people using both in an attempt to cover all bases so to speak. I assume that there might also be ways of converting / saving projects in their respective formats. Hey, but what do I know.
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  4. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Peter. There are some good write ups on PC hardware for recording (and they are constantly updated). Single thread operation speed is important, and more RAM is good.

    I use Reaper with my console. The routing and delay compensation are configurable. It comes with a very good compliment of plugins. Plus it's inexpensive.
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  5. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @-mjk- Thank you for your response. Much appreciated.
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  6. skier

    skier Well-Known Member

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    Happy to help, Peter. Yeah, technology changes so very fast that it’s difficult to keep up. I used to also work in the microwave field with radar and high-frequency transmitters; these days, I no longer feel adequately competent in these areas. In fact, as the frequencies get higher, they’re not even the kind of circuit most of us can create or build ourselves because the width and distances of PC board traces greatly affect the capacitance and inductance of the circuit too much to ignore; even the antennas must be exact to function properly. So, don’t feel badly, you’re in great company! (Yes, I egotistically feel I’m great company… though I could be wrong about this last assertion.)

    I spend some time on Apple and LINUX systems also, but I’m not crazy about them. Though I came from the strictly command line world and LINUX has X-Windows, I prefer Microsoft windows. And with Apple computers, I feel as if I don’t have as much granularity of control that I have with Windows; this could mean that I don’t know the Mac enough, but no matter. It’s hard enough to keep up with Windows and Windows’ servers, so I’ve finally decided to spend the majority of my time there. To be clear, I do feel these are all great operating systems, but I leave it to each person to choose that which feels most natural for them, similar to the way I feel we should choose the DAW that feels most natural for each of us.

    So that segues nicely into DAWs. I’ve never tried Cubase. I know it’s powerful, has its dedicated base, and that it can produce wonderful musical products. The same is true of Logic, which I did try many years ago, but it just didn’t fit me.

    In addition to those, I’ve often heard that some, such as Reason, Reaper, and Ableton Live, provide an unusual interface and work exceptionally well for many people. i've not tried them, but you may want to. In fact, as you asked, yes, some audio engineers will work in more than one DAW because they stimulate other ways of thinking and working that cause us to come up with different creative ways of composing and producing. With such a rich collection of approaches that help us push new limits, plus many more DAWs we’ve not mentioned, it’s why I’m reluctant to advocate for any one DAW. I know what works for me, but I have no idea what’s best for anyone else.

    In addition, it’s likely that I could benefit from one or two additional DAW approaches in addition to Pro Tools. However, I have so many hobbies and passions that I just don’t have time to add more DAWs to my life. I need to limit where I spend my time or I’ll just be a dilettante who produces nothing of value (that could be happening anyway). So, I recommend trying a few DAWs, pick the one that “feels” right” to you, and then truly explore and learn it to start producing your own music. If you go down a path and don’t like it, switch to another and try that. Most of the DAWs offer either a free version or a 30-day trial. That gives you the opportunity to “try them on for size” to see what fits best. And don’t worry, as you well know while you’re trying on different apps, you can always come here to share your thoughts, experiences, and ask questions. There are some great people on this forum always ready to help, especially because you’ve always generously helped others.
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  7. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @skier You are great company Jerry. And, as I have probably said on many many occasions I appreciate the fact that you take the time and effort to so eloquently lay out your responses. In fact, I always look forward to receiving them.

    You are absolutely right about how quickly technology is moving. It really pains me to think that a decade ago the Soundscape / SSL system that I have held on to like a warm blanket cost me 5K. And, that was used. Support has ended for it and frankly there are so few people who even know it exists / existed. It is what it is. Welcome to the real world, right?

    Obviously, there is never going to be a one size fits all re: DAW. First things first. I should probably focus on putting a decent PC together. It is going to be essential regardless of what software I choose. Plus, a little forward thinking is always a good thing. If I / we ever have to move away from our beloved DM's it would be nice to know that there is something to fall back on.

    By the way, I see that you are using Pro Tools 12. Is this a version that requires additional hardware or can it be native to your PC only. I did have another question for you but fir the life of me cannot recall what it was. Must be getting old!
  8. skier

    skier Well-Known Member

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    PT comes in several versions:

    Pro Tools First, Pro Tools, and Pro Tools Ultimate. Pro Tools First has a max of 4 simultaneous inputs, 16 tracks, and is free - this is what you should evaluate to determine if Pro Tools is for you. I use Pro Tools, which is native and requires no additional hardware - The PC provides processing power and you can use its inputs and outputs and also add higher quality interfaces from FocusRite, Apogee, PreSonus, UA, MOTU, Tascam, SSL, Neve, and many more - this covers a huge range from inexpensive to highly expensive top-of-the-line gear.

    Pro Tools Ultimate is for full-blown studios or what you and I might buy if we won the lottery - we wouldn't need it, but we could have it if we wanted it. It, too can interface with the aforementioned interfaces, but it includes Avid's hardware for maximum track and plug-in counts with almost no limits, except financial ones depending on your budget.

    Both Pro Tools and the Ultimate version can go to 512 tracks, but PT is limited to recording 32 tracks at a time while the Ultimate version can record up to 128 tracks simultaneously. Truth be told, recording 32 tracks has never limited me and I don't think I've ever recorded more than 16 at a time. Most times, I'm recording 1 or 2 and occasionally around 8 when I have friends over.

    Here's a link to a comparison providing many ore specifications between the three versions:

    https://www.studica.com/pro-tools-comparison

    Avid just released PT 2020.12 which I hope to install this week. They provide the ability to collaborate online with other PT users anywhere in the world, but I've not yet tried that.
  9. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @skier Awesome. So, in a nutshell. If I understand correctly. PT and CB should both play nice with our DM Fire Wire interface and provide us with 32 I/O. Sweet. I will head over to the link that you provided. Have a great day Jerry. Be safe! Peter
  10. Arjan P

    Arjan P Veteran

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    Hi Peter,

    I could not give you specific advice about PC hardware, since my own studio PC is already 10 years old. In general though, most DAWs benefit from multicore or multi thread processors and then clock speed can be important. It will mostly be the plugins you use though (and the amount of them) that will use most processing power. Considering the things I still can do with a 10 year old system, I would say you should be fine choosing a quality prosumer processor - with ample RAM. I have 30 GB but would at least go for 24 GB. Also I use multiple hard drives. One SSD for the OS and two others: one for current Cubase and Wavelab projects and audio and the other for VST Sounds and samples.

    Then I can only tell you that I've been using Cubase since the Atari days. What I can add about ProTools is that, yes, it was considered to be the industry standard, but it seems like more and more producers are moving away from Avid - especially because of the subscription scheme they use on their software. And I've heard of several professional studios who weren't too happy about being left in the cold with unusable Avid hardware as well.

    I find Cubase Pro a fantastic piece of software - also, coming from the old 'MIDI-Only' days, Cubase is still very strong in the MIDI department, but also comes with great tools built in, like for instance spectral editing in the latest version (11). To compare: here the versions of Cubase: https://new.steinberg.net/cubase/compare-editions/
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  11. skier

    skier Well-Known Member

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    I agree they should play nice because both are used with a DM by some of us on this forum. As Arjan stated, he's very happy with Cubase Pro and has been using it for quite some time. Similarly, I've been on Pro Tools for many years and like it a lot. I purchased it many years ago and have continued to upgrade under their maintenance program. And also as Arjan said, PT has also now gone to a subscription model and some users don't like that. I'm one of those users not in favor of subscription models because I want to purchase a product and know I will always have it without the need to purchase upgrades unless I want them. You can purchase the "perpetual" version which is also the latest and runs standalone. I fear that, in time, all apps may become subscription only, but I do know there are many of us who don't like that model and that is why developers continue to have perpetual versions of apps.
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  12. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @Arjan P Thank you so much. A question if I may. Are all of your HDD's SSD
  13. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @Arjan P @skier I imagine that it will be of utmost importance that I choose a compatible FW card. I have never had to purchase one. To date I have been very fortunate as the ones that I have used have all been integrated into the motherboard. In the form of desktop or laptop.

    On the topic of motherboards. I have also had some pretty good luck with the ASUS brand.
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  14. Arjan P

    Arjan P Veteran

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    Hi @Peter Batah, At the time I built my current PC, SSDs were not yet commonplace and also I used the two HDDs from my previous PC. So no, just the one SSD. If it's for audio files used in the DAW, I don't think there's a need for SSD - maybe for sample instruments it can be beneficial.. But again, I'm not up to speed with what is currently on the market and if there really is a speed benefit, since HDDs have also improved over the last 10 years.

    On motherboards: I've always only used Asus, together with Intel processors - again, this may not be the best at this moment.. And the MB I have had onboard FireWire (VIA VT6308 chipset) that worked instantly with the DM mixer.

    If you can (and depending on where your PC will be) take a look at the PC cooling system. I installed a fanless videocard, but for my next build I'll be seriously looking into liquid cooling and have no fans whatsoever - and maybe all SSD to even stop those sounds too.
  15. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @Arjan P I believe that the cost of SSD drives has come down significantly. That is probably the way to go. Unless of course there is a good technical reason not to do so. I wonder if ASUS still makes their MOBOS with onboard FW? Shouldn't be too hard to find out. I will definitely keep the cooling system in mind. I suppose that this would mostly apply to video card and cpu heat dispersion. Did I miss anything? Oh, and I should consider multiple displays. Would that be handled my multiple HDMI I/O or dual head video card.
  16. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm fortunate to be able to walk down the main aisle of the local NOVA computer/technology complex and pick and choose from the latest Asus stuff from various vendors, all vying for business in a very competitive field. Computers are cheap in Taiwan.
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  17. Arjan P

    Arjan P Veteran

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    Yeah multiple displays are nice and - unless you also want to play games - any current video card should be OK for a DAW. An average laptop these days can already handle 3 displays.

    Assuming you'll be building your own PC (I assume because that's what I do): don't cut down on the power supply - especially if you will have cooling fans. Those fans are indeed for CPU and video card but also to cool the power supply, so if it's big enough the fan speed can stay low.
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  18. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    DAWs typically don't utilize GPUs so save yourself some money and stick with a genetic video card. Running those extra video drivers wastes resources.
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  19. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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    @-mjk- @Arjan P Absoultely right. I was not going to put too much stock in an expensive video card. I think that on-board should suffice. No gaming for me. From what I have seen so far searching for a MOBO with embedded FW is going to be futile.
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  20. Peter Batah

    Peter Batah Well-Known Member

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