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Thread: Are Barebone desktop systems up to par for recording music?

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    Maverick87 is offline Newbie
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    Are Barebone desktop systems up to par for recording music?

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    Hey all. I cant say I know a lot about computers for audio recording, but I dont have a large budget at all. I was looking at a Dell laptop that was $600 and a few towers around $350-$400, but I was wondering just how cheap I can go and still get by?

    I dont need a system thats super powerful and upgraded and capable of running the most complex programs, I just need basically the bare minimum that wont make my recording process terrible. I came across Barebone systems and have seen people here say they use em, I only had my doubts because of how small the units are, but if they are capable I have no problem gettin em.

    I should mention I already have a monitor, keyboard, mouse and all that. The computer we were using took a dump and was old anyways. We are spending on acoustic treatment, mic, preamp, monitors, and all that too so its important that I find the bare minimum that will work for now till we can start upgrading equipment peice by peice. Any input would be appreciated.

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    DrumRookie's Avatar
    DrumRookie is offline "That" kid.
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    A mac mini would be a good route (used or refurbished of course). They usually run around $599 and up brand new from Apple. Which works great because you already have a monitor.
    What exactly are you looking to do?
    And you may want to invest in a decent hard drive with a Terabyte or two to use with the Mini.
    Or get yourself a nice Macbook Pro (used) for around $900 (I would wait until the new line comes out so you can grab a slightly older one for an even better deal).

    Just my opinion. I mainly have experience with Mac's, so I'm sure someone with the PC side of things will come along to balance it out.
    You have a good budget, it should get you pretty far though IMO.
    Good luck man!

    Quote Originally Posted by YellowDwarf View Post

    producah = a newb with a $10 microphone, a laptop, $45,000 in cracked software and a million questions

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    Maverick87 is offline Newbie
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    Interesting, hopefully it doesnt turn into a PC vs Mac debate haha. I was lookin at this $600 laptop but honestly even thats a little high for the budget, I know that seems like wtf and Ill get what I pay for, but I literally just need the bare minimum for basic function. I dont record live instruments so I dont run multiple inputs recording at the same time, just vocals in mono so one mic. I usually end up at about 45 vocal tracks give or take, and use a lot of vst plugins. Id like to get into making beats using MIDI and probably some virtual instruments.

    Idk if the barebone systems are what Im looking for. Ive found some desktops for about $300-$400 range and hopefully they can do the job.

    Im looking at an HP Pavilion desktop with an AMD dual core processor, 5gb of RAM, 500gb hard drive, and 64 bit Windows 7. The only thing that worries me about it is it seems like a really low amount of hard drive space. We ARE gonna be using an external hard drive. Pretty much looking for functional bare minmum, is this the way to go? There are other options closer to $400 with 1TB of hard drive space if its an issue

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    gecko zzed is online now audio illusion
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    Barebones computers will work for audio applications just fine.

    Audio work does not necessarily require very fast speeds nor extensive RAM (though both are always handy).

    When I started digital recording, I was using Logic on an 600mhz PC with 256mb of RAM and a 16GB hard drive and Windows98, and I could accomplish most recording tasks pretty well.

    Where you will run into trouble is when you want to get into a big and complicated projects, e.g. many tracks using lots of plug-ins and VSTi.

    However, I expect 'barebones' today is a pretty decent machine.
    http://homerecording.com/bbs/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=45599&dateline=1256715193
    I have a theory about that

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    Suppose it really depends what you're asking when you mean barebones. What it sounds like, is that you just want a cheap system. But what it actually means is that you buy the parts separate and put it together yourself. Basically what my machine is. It's also a good chunk of the reason why they are cheaper.
    You can make the same machine at retail from Dell or HP or someone, but without their branding and all the crappy software they pile onto it and stuff, and for cheaper. But cheaper doesn't have to mean cheap. You could run into the 10s of thousands if you really had that much money to throw about. =P
    So look around at places that sell just parts that you can put together. Remember that you need to include everything, other than, of course, your monitor and keyboard and that, which you already have. But it's amazing how many people can forget something as little as the SATA cable to actually hook your hard drive up to the motherboard. =P Or a CD/DVD drive to be able to install programmes and drivers. =P
    Make sure what you choose is compatible with all the other stuff too. There's no point getting a CPU that won't fit the motherboard, or a 200watt PSU for a system that needs 400.
    If you are using a firewire interface, make sure your motherboard has a Texas Instruments firewire port, or enough PCI slots to add one. If you're over in America, I'm not sure what websites could help you out, but over here in England, Scan.co.uk is a great place.
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    If you're doing a small number of tracks, one at a time, with few to no effects and plugins, then almost any computer you could pick up would be enough.

    Your problem is more likely to come from software on the computer actually. As somegeezer implied, a pre-fab computer will come with a bunch of bloatware that will slow things down a lot. If you get a barebones kit and install your own OS, you'll save a lot of cycles. If this is a dedicated recording machine (i.e. you never plug it into the internet or let your non-musician family members touch it; you just record with it), you can save even more cycles by disabling A/V and not having to worry about toolbars, viruses, and other malware slowing it down.

    However, if you get a computer with the latest and greatest trial software that Dell bundled in there, toolbars that your computer un-savvy kids installed, and assorted viruses; even if it has great specs, it's going to be slow and not work very well.

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    It doesn't take a super fast computer to record. Where you may get into trouble is hardware compatibility between whatever interface you get and the machine it has to work in. That's where you neen to do your home work.

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    Thurgood is offline Force of Nature
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    Mav: I have a pc similar to the HP you cited. Works fine for audio. Most of my projects 30-40 tracks, 4-5 vsti's, ( I usually render my midi files and mute the synths on large track counts) 30 + plugs. Granted mine is quad core but even so I rarely tax the machine above 42% percent. 500gb hard drive should not be a big issue, backing up your projects to dvd hard storage after your sessions will also keep your hd less cluttered. 00gb is still an aweful lot of space. Did I read 45 vocal tracks correctly? or 4-5?

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    Detector is offline Newbie
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    All my recording PC's are nothing special. Pretty much your out-of-the-box PC's. They all work just fine for me.

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    You might want to check for one of those places that offers to custom build you a PC. They can be pretty cheap and that way you can get the things you want (decent processor, a fair bit of RAM, lots of disk storage) and not pay for fancy gamer video cards, in built audio when you need a good USB one, etc.
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