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Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?

pattyClink 18 Sep 09 - 10:38 PM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Sep 09 - 01:00 AM
M.Ted 19 Sep 09 - 01:00 AM
Joe Offer 19 Sep 09 - 01:37 AM
Thompson 19 Sep 09 - 04:09 AM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Sep 09 - 06:04 AM
Amos 19 Sep 09 - 11:49 AM
Ross Campbell 19 Sep 09 - 11:56 AM
Ross Campbell 19 Sep 09 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,pattyClink 19 Sep 09 - 02:39 PM
Dave Roberts 19 Sep 09 - 05:36 PM
open mike 19 Sep 09 - 06:14 PM
Tangledwood 19 Sep 09 - 06:49 PM
M.Ted 19 Sep 09 - 08:24 PM
GUEST,pattyClink 20 Sep 09 - 10:51 AM
Tangledwood 20 Sep 09 - 06:19 PM
EBarnacle 20 Sep 09 - 11:12 PM
Will Fly 21 Sep 09 - 02:32 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 09 - 03:51 AM
Tootler 21 Sep 09 - 07:01 PM
The Fooles Troupe 24 Sep 09 - 06:02 PM
The Fooles Troupe 24 Sep 09 - 07:35 PM
matt milton 25 Sep 09 - 06:11 AM
Tootler 25 Sep 09 - 05:53 PM
Paul Burke 25 Sep 09 - 06:25 PM
TonyA 26 Sep 09 - 01:53 AM
Tangledwood 26 Sep 09 - 06:15 PM
TonyA 26 Sep 09 - 07:47 PM
robomatic 26 Sep 09 - 08:10 PM
TonyA 26 Sep 09 - 08:34 PM
robomatic 27 Sep 09 - 01:55 PM
Tootler 27 Sep 09 - 06:17 PM
TonyA 27 Sep 09 - 09:50 PM
M.Ted 22 Oct 09 - 12:28 PM
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Subject: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: pattyClink
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 10:38 PM

It occurs to me that I could probably get more audio editing done if I worked with a laptop, rather than being anchored to a desktop. I've been using an hp media center pc which I assume has a decent sound card or whatever they call it now, pulling in stuff from tape, record, etc. I'd like to start working with some simple microphone input and sound layering software in the future.

I am so ignorant about modern laptops. Are there any in the cheap category that can support adequate sound recording? Is there any way to re-purpose an old windows 98 laptop for such work?


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 01:00 AM

There are Linux builds intended specifically for audio recording and mixing, as well as specific software for Linux, mostly free as far as i know. What computing power is required, or what sound cards would be necessary, I do not know.

I do know that you can get pulgin audio to usb stuff though.

Generally speaking a Linux box needs far less grunt than an equivalent set up for Windoze, so a slightly older laptop should work ok ...


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 01:00 AM

Macs are the standard for recording and music production--doesn't mean that they are the only way to go, but they are the best way to go.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 01:37 AM

My son produces CDs on a Mac laptop. I was amazed at what the software could do - wish I could remember the name of the program.

Your only hope for an old Windows 98 laptop is Linux, and I think even Linux would have trouble doing much with a computer that old. I've been trying to resurrect a Win 98 laptop with Linux, and the results are OK but not exactly wonderful.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Thompson
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 04:09 AM

If you're buying a Mac, the best way to get a good deal on a great machine is to look in your local Apple Store (online) and go to the Refurbished section.

These are usually machines that people have given back within a couple of days of buying them (for instance because a new MacBook has been launched and they want the new build). They're taken back by Apple and given a much more thorough check than the new machines before being issued for sale. And they're cheaper.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 06:04 AM

I have just acquired an IBM Thinkpad T23 (512 ram) - basically a 1Ghz approx P3 M.Came orignally win Win2000/NT - about 2001.

Running Fedora - but might be better with DSL or Puppy, but not sure they would take the SW for recording - might need lots of other libraries.

Slow when upgrading :-) but runs firefox for browsing fine - but chokes a bit on pages with a lot of Flash.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Amos
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 11:49 AM

On macs you will have a lot of fun with SoundStudio, which has a great array of sound editing filters and tools, SoundSoap for cleaning up buzzes and hisses, Audacity and Amadeus for general music recording. Not to mention the wonders of garageBand which is wide and wonderful.



A


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 11:56 AM

The Mac software for Audio recording/editing is called Garageband, and it is fairly easy to use, certainly enough to get you going. Rather than use the built-in audio in/out sockets, I use a device called an iMic (Griffin Technologies) which is effectively an analogue to digital converter - about £30 in UK. It takes line- or mic-level input (switchable) and delivers the digital signal to your computer via a USB port. Assign this port to your recording software, set up a new project and go. Also works with Audacity, Audio Hijack, etc.

Garageband comes as part of the iLife package that's already loaded on new machines, iLife can also be purchased separately. I think Garageband recommends min 1Ghz processor speed, so it may struggle on slower machines.

Ross


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 12:28 PM

I have been finding eMacs (17" crt monitor with everything built into the box) on eBay at silly prices for the capabilities they provide (£20/£30/£50). For a later (1Ghz/1.25Ghz/1.42Ghz) model, £100 is common. Very quiet machine, could be in the same room as your recording session. For a laptop or Mac Mini with similar speeds, prices go from about £180+ (Mac Mini) to £200+ (iBook or Powerbook). This is for machines that are now five or six years old - still with plenty of life in them.

Don't know anything about PCs, don't want to - but I suspect that your Windows 98 machine wouldn't be able to run any software currently available without major upgrading.

The iMic device I mentioned above works with both Macs and PCs, and might be worth investing in. Audacity and Audio Hi-Jack are also available for PCs but I'm not sure what versions of the operating system they will work with.

Ross


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: GUEST,pattyClink
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 02:39 PM

You people are awesome!!

Thanks for all the ideas, I have a lot more of a grip on the situation now; it's amazing what you can learn from a few sentences from people who know a lot. Ross, first thing I'm going to do is get an iMic and experiment with input to Audacity and Blaze through that. And lots of apple shopping to consider. Perhaps some right-brained young relatives would be interested in unloading an outgrown apple book at some point, I'll look into that.

Which is not to cut off any further pearls of wisdom from joining the thread, I just wanted to check in and say thanks for the thoughtful and helpful input.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:36 PM

I use a cheap, secondhand Dell laptop with Windows XP. It's a bit slow, but fine for bits and pieces, using Audacity.
The secret is to resist the temptation to add anything else - web browsing, Microsoft Office etc. It all soon mounts up and takes memory which could be used for sound editing &c.
Anything major is done on one of two desktops with either Audacity or Wavelab.
I'd love to move to a Mac laptop, though.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: open mike
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 06:14 PM

the notebook computer i have is specifically chosen for it's compatibility with a video and audio editing system/program.

the Toshiba Portege' is paired with the Casablanca Liberty
for an editing system useful for all sorts of media projects.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Tangledwood
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 06:49 PM

I don't know what demands serious editing puts on a system but what I'm doing sounds similar to PattyClink's current tasks. My three year old HP laptop* running windows XP does the job with no problems that I'm aware of, using Audacity for most tasks. Typically I start with a recording from a Zoom H2 in wav format which may be as large as 500mb. It can take a couple of minutes to import/export a track but processing is pretty quick.

The only limitation is the poor response of the inbuilt speakers. That's easily overcome with plug-in external speakers or headphones.

*Pentium M 2.13Ghz   2.00 Gb ram
SoundMAX integrated digital audio


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 08:24 PM

If you want a good USB mike, forget the Griffin thing and buy a Snowball USB recording mike--it's a much higher quality mike, for not that much more money--


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: GUEST,pattyClink
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 10:51 AM

More good info, thanks, and good to hear specs from some PC users brave enough to buck the apple tide. I am stuck using a PC for scientific applications so going apple would be a hassle, though if Microsoft keeps being evil it may get to that some day. We have converted an old tower to be a linux box but it has a roaring cpu fan that makes it crazy for sound work.

The Snowball mike does sound good, anybody else using one?

The iMic is apparently ill-named, the item I was looking at is an audio interface that lets you plug mikes or components into a USB port instead of having to have audio-in ports on the computer, which would be helpful on a laptop.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Tangledwood
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 06:19 PM

You might find the Zoom H2, or the more expensive H4, recorder useful. Again, the H2 is what I use but don't know if there are alternative options more appropriate for you. It works well as a stand alone recorder or can be used as a USB microphone direct to the laptop.

Zoom H2

Just in case my previous post was ambiguous, the speakers I referred to are those of the laptop. The Zoom has no speakers, has a phone jack as well as USB output, and comes with bud type earphones. For portable convenience I sometimes use a pair of iPod speakers with it.

I'm assuming that, at present, you're not looking at professional CD quality recording.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 11:12 PM

I've been playing around with using my TASCAM recorder as an interface into my Compaq EVO so I can edit field recordings.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 02:32 AM

I've used Macs for over 20 years and am currently using the latest Mac Book Pro with Garageband and Audacity. The quality is excellent. I've also tried using a Zoom H2 as both a mic for the Mac, and as a recording medium for uploading recorded files to the Mac, and it works extremely well in both capacities.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 03:51 AM

"roaring cpu fan"

A little surgery can replace noisy fans with modern VERY quiet ones - if you get several, and undervolt them (by running them from the difference between the 12v & 5v lines, you get about 7v) they run slower & quieter and will push enough air if you have enough of them. You can get VERY large diameter ones nowadays too... If you have a hassle with the power supply fan - you can get very quiet PSUs, even ones that are designed to run with no fans at all...


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Tootler
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 07:01 PM

I am using an oldish Compaq Presario desktop PC for audio editing and it probably has a lower spec than more recent laptops.

It has an AMD Athlon processor (I'm not sure of the clock speed, but I suspect around 1.25MHz), with 384MB RAM and since February has been dual boot WinXP/Ubuntu Linux. The Ubuntu is a bog standard installation.

I am not after professional standards and I record on an Edirol R09 and use Audacity for editing with no problems. Audio editing is fine and does not feel slow.

If you use a separate recording device, then you can record in another room (which is what I do) so fan noise is not then an issue.

I have recently bought a video camera and use Kino (similar in capability to Windows Movie Maker) for simple edits and that is fine too. Exporting the final video takes a little time, but is not unduly slow.

Overall, unless you are a pro, an older machine is perfectly capable for basic audio and video editing.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 24 Sep 09 - 06:02 PM

An article in an Aussie mag APC October 2009 http://www.getprice.com.au/AUSTRALIAN-PERSONAL-COMPUTER-MAGAZINE---LATEST-ISSUE-Gpnc_834--39562777.htm) has a detailed article on this - using Ubuntu.

They recommend using the Real Time kernel to reduce latency issues - but this kernel is less stable than the standard. You can selective boot either kernel.

They talk about the 'Jack' system and how to use effects, etc.

They also mentuion aother things like using th einternal sound chip, etc.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 24 Sep 09 - 07:35 PM

Sorry had a call for someone else to use the PC... :-)

This article uses Ubuntu - and the Mag has a DVD with Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook & Fedora 11...

Mention is made of the 'ubuntustudio-audio' package - and there is Zynaddsubfx - a synth with onscreen keyboard. They recommend Rosegarden (uses DSSI) but prefer Ardour which is nearer to Protools than Cubase.

Jackrack allows one a virtual patch rack to connect anything such as virtual effects send units, etc to be added in on any tracks.

You end up with a virtual multitrack deck.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: matt milton
Date: 25 Sep 09 - 06:11 AM

I've stuck to Mac laptops, simply because all the PC laptops I've ever encountered were quite noisy. The really nice thing about mac laptops is they are no noise. I record some VERY quiet music and any noise at all is a no-no.

I'm sure there are super-quiet PC laptops out there, but as I'm now used to macs and Logic and Garageband, that's what I'm sticking with.

I'm about to buy a Macbook because I'm finding my old iBook a bit slow with the new version of Logic I'm now running. Plus I think the screen might be deteriorating a bit. One thing I will say about Macs is that if you use them every day for 4 years, and cart them all over the world, the screen and/or disc drive might start to go. But that's pretty heavy useage.

I'm going to get a new credit card with 0% interest on new purchases for 6 months as a way of paying for the Macbook (£750) in 6 interest-free instalments.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Tootler
Date: 25 Sep 09 - 05:53 PM

An Aussie mag APC October 2009 [...] has a detailed article on this - using Ubuntu.

There is also a lot of info on the Ubuntu help forum on this. I had a go at setting some of this lot up but gave up - couldn't get Jack to work. It takes a lot of time and effort to get it working and it depends what you want to achieve as to whether it is worth it.

I don't think latency is a particular issue unless you are using the computer as a live mixing desk. The only thing I really wanted was the midi sequencer (Rosegarden or other) and I decided I could manage without. You need pulse audio and I have that disabled as audio does not work properly in Wine with pulse audio enabled. I have Noteworthy running in Wine and that is more important to me. Pulse audio also caused Kino, the video editor to go unstable.

Audacity works fine with my present Ubuntu setup, the audio players work and I can get midi playback. For now that's fine for me.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 25 Sep 09 - 06:25 PM

You'll be lucky to get more than 35dB s/n ratio out of any PC. Nobody seems very worried about that these days, and I expect it doesn't matter.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: TonyA
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 01:53 AM

I don't know if this is still true, but it used to be that most Windows laptops didn't have stereo inputs, in case that matters to you.

The rule was that if it has two audio jacks (as most did) they're stereo line output and mono mic input. If they have three audio jacks like a desktop, the third one is a stereo line input.

The solution to that (if you've only got the two and need the stereo input) is to buy an external sound adaptor that plugs into the USB and runs on USB power.

The mono mic input goes to both channels of the sound card. I've never seen a Windows laptop or desktop that has separate mic inputs for each channel.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Tangledwood
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 06:15 PM

I don't think that's still the case Tony. I often transfer old LPs to digital using the laptop. The connection is a Y cable that runs from two RCA jacks to a stereo 3.5mm plug which plugs into the laptop's microphone socket. It's obvious from the Audacity display that stereo is being received.
If there are limitations on a particular laptop I think it would be due to the soundcard incorporated rather than the fact that it is a laptop or running Windows.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: TonyA
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 07:47 PM

quote: ...a Y cable that runs from two RCA jacks to a stereo 3.5mm plug which plugs into the laptop's microphone socket. It's obvious from the Audacity display that stereo is being received.

Could be. My laptop is 8 years old and I haven't looked at laptops since then. Maybe the mic inputs are stereo now. Are there stereo microphones to plug into them?

But note that if the mic input is a mono connector, you'd still see sound on both channels in Audacity. Both channels from the source would go into the 3.5 mm stereo male connector, but only one of those channels would be read by the 3.5 mm mono female connector on the computer, and that one channel would go into both channels of the built-in sound card.

If you're not sure, you could check by unplugging one of the RCA plugs from the Y-connector. If the mic input is stereo, you should lose one channel in Audacity. If the mic input is mono, you'd lose either both channels or neither channel in Audacity, depending on which RCA plug you disconnect.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: robomatic
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 08:10 PM

Regarding audio inputs. BEWARE.

Almost all modern PC laptops have dispensed with line inputs. If they have two input jacks showing, one is for a microphone, the other is for a headphone. If they have three jacks showing, in most cases one is for a microphone, both of the others are for headphones. It is a deceit that drives me crazy. The only exceptions among the PC laptops appear to be ACERs and some of the new more expensive ASUS units. On the other hand, ACERs are half the price of a MAC, and work great. I capture and process audio input on mine frequently. For audio processing you do not need any kind of high end machine, a modern low-end laptop is more than enough to handle some audio channels.

It is my understanding that MACs have a dual use jack, that handles line-in stereo, but I'd ask the salesman to prove it. The Mac my brother used needed an adaptor.

Failing a line-in jack, there are other ways to import music, usually incorporating a bit more money.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: TonyA
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 08:34 PM

An external USB sound adaptor is one way to provide stereo input to a laptop that doesn't have it built in. Here's one for $25: Sabrent USB-SND8. It even has two mic inputs.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: robomatic
Date: 27 Sep 09 - 01:55 PM

TonyA- That is useful and good to know about, as I'm in the market for a new laptop shortly- but it is a complication to life because that little Sabret is not just an adaptor box it has a chip in there to do the A to D conversion of the music. You then have to make sure your music processing software knows where to go in your machine to access the digital feed. It's all possible, but you have to work harder to get it to work.

Still, the next run of Windows 7 laptops may not have real stereo line-in jacks, the manufacturers have for the most part abandoned them - sigh.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: Tootler
Date: 27 Sep 09 - 06:17 PM

If there is no line in, the solution would seem to be to use a separate recorder. My Edirol R09 has both a stereo mic and a stereo line in. I assume the Zoom recorders will have similar facilities.

Once you have your recording you can plug the card into a card reader to transfer the data to the computer. New computers normally come with card readers built in but if your computer does not have one, USB card readers are readily available and cheap.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: TonyA
Date: 27 Sep 09 - 09:50 PM

Robo, yes, those things are like internal sound cards. The official name I've always heard for a sound card is "audio adaptor." That's confusing, but I suppose it's meant to include audio systems that aren't on plug-in cards, such as the Sabrent, or the type that most computers now have which is part of the motherboard. At one time it wasn't normal for a computer to have an audio system, so it made sense for the hardware that added it to be called an adaptor.

I've got a much older one that I use with my antique laptop. Mine is a different brand (Creative), but it looks similar. It came with installation software, and once installed it took over all the audio functions of the laptop. When it's not plugged into the USB port, the internal audio adaptor and its speaker take over again, automatically.

The installation was as simple as any upgrade and I haven't had to do anything about it since then except plug it in. It takes its power from the USB line, so there's no battery or AC adaptor. It also came with much better audio control software than what came with Windows XP. It's supposed to have better quality sound than the built-in system, but I never had any complaint about the built-in system.


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Subject: RE: Tech: A laptop suitable for audio work?
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Oct 09 - 12:28 PM

Then there is this--Belkin Mixer for iPod which, for less that $200, allows you to do 4-track recording on your iPod--


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