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Thread: DAW Questions

  1. #1
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    DAW Questions

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    I am a singer/songwriter guitarist/vocalist and have been procrastinating for 2 years about jumping into recording with a DAW. I have a KORG D8 stand alone unit that I record with but really want to use a computer as I know firsthand all the benefits you describe very well in your articles! I have ACID PRO 6 and can actually record audio with this version but have not done that yet. I have used prior versions of ACID PRO to create drum tracks and bass lines but have never recorded audio into my computer.

    I have never built a computer but have switched out power supplies, added memory and replaced hard drives and fans in desktop computers. So I think I could build a DAW but know I could end up frustrated with latency problems or pops and clicks and being frustrated and clueless as to the cause or what I may have done wrong in putting everything together!

    I did a lot of research over the past few months and about 2 months ago purchased the Presonus Firebox that has Cubase LE. I think I made a good choice on a good quality audio interface. The Firebox was part of a package deal including some half decent mics, stands, monitors, cords etc for under $500. So I have pretty much all I need now except a designated DAW. I will only be recording 3 tracks at most, at a time so I am sure the Firebox will be great for my usage. I also know I don't need some top of the line, super fast computer to be able to do this basic type of audio recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. I don't care if my DAW right now is a desktop or laptop.

    I do have a year old laptop. It is a HP Pavilion AMD 64 Mobile Tech. ML-32 1.58 Ghz with 1 GB RAM with Windows XP Home with a 4-pin firewire connection. I use it for work and personal stuff but have not tried to use it as a DAW because I am not sure I would have good results? Not sure if it is worth loading the software and hooking up the Firebox to this and try?

    Do you think I should try using this laptop as my DAW and tweak it by turning off processes that can slow it down? I could get a nice 250 GB Glyph external hard drive that has enough speed to record my audio onto for a little over $200.00

    Should I move to using Vista? I saw that this summer the Firebox will be compatible with Vista.

    For audio recording do you have a preference for AMD or Pentium processors? If so, which and why?

    Is it hard to modify a store bought computer? Is it worth doing? Prices for off the shelf computers continue to drop and make that alternative very attractive, but I know none of them are put together with DAW usage in mind.

    I just want to make the right decisions as I move into the world of recording with a DAW. Your expert opinions would be greatly appreciated!


  2. #2
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    STAY AWAY FROM VISTA. It's way too hungry & not very stable - all you need is a stable OS that will run your recording prog.
    I started comp based recording with an old PIII running '98. I got rid of all the extras from 98 with a custom reinstall & bunged in some more RAM & have had some excellent, for me, results. I still have that set up as back up now. Currently using an old (2000) P4 with 512 RAM & a dedicated 8 I/O soundcard & have amazing results limited only by my skill levels.
    Lots of folk swear by lap tops - I don't like them personally but no particular reason.
    The external hardrive would be an excellent addition to whatever you do. I use a very small one to back up to and to transport my work between computers (cakewalk bundles etc).
    IF you're going to use the laptop for other stuff you might consider buying an older desktop that can be left set up & dedicated to the task as this'll prevent all sorts of possibilities - you can then tweak it to optimum setting for recording..
    I'm considered a tad paranoid but also don't have my recording comp connected to the net or a network beyond the recording room I've had virus issues in the past that has cost the contents of my hardrive & a reinstallation of the OS.

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    Thanks for the response Ray!

    I think I should be then looking to build a desktop. Any advice there?

  4. #4
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    Here's some stuff I downloaded from somewhere to set up my standalone recording specific computer - I did most of what is suggested to ensure that it's "optimized" given the circumstances of hardware & software:

    - Processor scheduling should be set to background services and not Programs.
    This is a very important tip and could make a significant difference to how low you can set your samples per buffer for your soundcard.
    A lower samples per buffer setting means lower latency, which is better for vsti's and ASIO monitoring (if you use it).
    Processor scheduling should be set to background services and not Programs.This has the effect of switching from more frequent and smaller CPU time slices (applications), to less frequent and longer CPU time slices (background services).
    This allows the audio application or driver to "hang on" to the CPU for longer without interruption.
    In addition, the background services setting also reduces the amount of "priority boost" that foreground window's threads receive.
    Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced Tab > Background Services
    Visual effects should be set to a minimum.
    Like all previous Windows operating systems, there are many graphic effects - menu animations, dissolving menus and "tip" pop-up windows that all require additional processing power
    For a professional audio system, these "accompaniments" just use additional CPU power and can cause audio glitches due to the additional traffic being generated on the system bus.
    There are a number of different ways to reduce the number of graphic effects, but it seems that the quickest way to turn off any unnecessary Windows XP animations, is by going to Start > Control Panel, click on Performance and Maintenance (if not using classic view), click on System, select the Advanced page and then click on the Settings button in the Performance section. A window will appear with a Visual Effects page. The default is "Let Windows choose what's best for my computer", which will mean that most graphic options will be highlighted (dependant on computer).
    Change this to "Adjust for best performance" and this will disable all of the "highlighted" options. When you have done this, the overall GUI look and feel will be more like the "classic" Windows
    Disable Fast User Switching
    There is a completely new function in both the Home and Professional versions of Windows XP,called "Fast User Switching".
    While one user is logged on, another can logon without having to log off the first user. The applications that the first user started will keep running in the background so that he/she can continue where they left off - once the second user logs off again.

    This is a very clever and potentially useful feature for companies where more than one person may require access to the PC at the same time, without having to constantly log on and off for each user.

    However, this is not really a useful feature for a dedicated audio system.

    So, disable this feature by going to Control Panel and under "User Accounts", select "change the way users log on or off" and then disabling "fast user switching". Remember to click on Apply Options.

    Note that this will not affect the ability to log on as different users. The difference that this will make is that one user has to log off completely before another logs on. This will stop additional programs staying resident in memory for multiple users.

    Note that this feature can always be turned back on again if required.
    Switch Off Power Schemes
    Open the "Power Options" applet of Control Panel and set Power Schemes to "Always On, Turn Off Monitor to "Never" and Turn Off Discs to "Never".
    Switch Off Hibernation
    Windows XP by default creates a file called hiberfil.sys, to store the contents of RAM in the event of the computer automatically going into "hibernate" mode.
    The size of this file will be determined by the amount of RAM you have installed in your system. If you have 512MB RAM, then a file of 512MB will be created. If you have 1GB of memory, then a 1GB hibernation file will be created.

    This is not required for an audio PC, regardless of whether or not ACPI is activated or not, so in the Power Options applet in the Control Panel, click on the Hibernate page and untick the "Enable Hibernation" box.

    This will immediately free up this space on your disc.
    Disable System Sounds
    This is a very important tip.
    If system sounds is left switched on, then it is possible that this could interfere with your sound card and/or sample frequency settings
    Some XP media sounds have been sampled at 20khz(to conserve disc space?) and if these are triggered during playback or recording in your sequencer, then the audio may slow down and adjust to the lower sampling frequency.
    There are other things that can go wrong with system sounds, so the best bet is just to disable them.

    Select Control Panel and then the "Sounds and Audio Devices" applet. Click on the Sounds tab and change the sound scheme to "No Sounds".
    When asked to save current theme, just say no, unless you want to recall it later
    Do Not Map Through Soundcard
    Applications may still try to play sounds through your "pro" soundcard, so it is recommended that you disable this.

    Go to Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > Hardware Tab > (highlight your soundcard from the list) > Properties > Audio Devices > (highlight your soundcard from the list) > Properties, and check the "Do not map through this device" checkbox.
    Disable System Restore
    This is similar to the same feature that first appeared in Windows ME, although it has been enhanced slightly in XP to provide more specific restore points, i.e. specific drivers rollback.

    Basically, it lets you rollback XP to a previous state if there is a system problem, i.e. if you have installed a bad soundcard driver or software update and your system doesn't work properly.

    This function requires continual monitoring of hard disc activity, and runs (by default) automatically in the background.

    In many respects, this is probably a useful function to have turned on, although it does use a small amount of added CPU and it creates additional disc I/O.
    If your system is working as you like it with it turned on, then perhaps you may wish to leave it turned on. If you do decide to leave it on, then it may be worth checking that the frequency of the checkpoint is set to 24 hours (as shown below), and not every two minutes like some people have experienced.
    Another option would be to leave it turned on for your system disc and switch it off completely on your audio disc(s), as there should be no drivers or programs on your audio disc(s) to be restored.
    Set the checkpoint to be once per day by setting the registry key below to decimal value 86400 (number of seconds in a day).
    Start > Run > regedit
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software\Microsoft > WindowsNT > CurrentVersion > SystemRestore > RPGlobalInterval
    Disable Automatic Updates
    This is where XP will automatically check on the internet for Microsoft updates or service packs for XP. This is a function that I would consider to be better as a manual process.
    Switch off Automatic Updates by going to Control Panel, System, Automatic Updates and ticking the box labelled "Turn off automatic updating. I want to update my computer manually.".
    Disable Error Reporting
    Whenever operating system or program errors occur, Windows XP generates a file containing the errors and offers to send this to Microsoft so that they can "help improve future products". If you don't have an internet connection or if you don't want this functionality, then you can disable it as shown below.
    Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced TAB > Error Reporting > Click the Disable Error Reporting box (Tick the "But Notify Me When Critical Errors Occur" if you prefer)
    Disable Remote Assistance
    Using an internet connection, anyone else running XP can chat with you, view your screen, and with your permission, use your computer. If you don't need this feature, then turn it off as described below.
    Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Remote > Untick "Allow Remote Assistance Invitations to be sent from this computer"
    Fixed Swap File (Virtual Memory)
    This is another tip from previous Windows operating systems, that is still relevant in XP.
    It is slightly better to have a fixed swap file, rather than to let Windows manage the file dynamically.
    It is also better to set this up just after installation as the file will be near the start of the disc and will be in one contiguous block.
    If the installation process hasn't already done so, set the Virtual Memory to be a fixed sized for both the minimum and the maximum values. To do this, select the Advanced tab of the Systems applet and then select the Performance settings button. Then select the Advanced page. In here it is possible to customise the Virtual Memory. For custom size, this is often recommended to be 1.5 to 2 times the amount of your total RAM for both initial and maximum size. Set this to a fixed minimum and maximum value according to your existing RAM.
    Of course, if you have >512 or >768 MB of RAM, then you could consider disabling virtual memory completely, although I would suggest that you experiment to find out what is best for you.
    The XP swap file is called pagefile.sys. By default, this will be on your C: drive in the root directory. If you can't see this file in explorer, then this will probably be because the "Hide Protected Operating System Files" option is active in the folder options. To disable this option and make the pagefile.sys visible, start explorer > Tools > Folder Options > View > untick "Hide Protected Operating System Files". Finally, click Yes when asked "Are you sure you want to display these files".
    If you want to clear your swap file on shutdown, then do the following: 1. Start -> Run -> "secpol.msc" 2. Go to "Local Policies" -> "Security Options" 3. Double click on "Shutdown: Clear virtual memory pagefile" and enable it.
    Speed Up Menus
    You can use this tip to speed up the Start Menu in Windows XP. You can customize the speed of the Start Menu by editing a Registry Key. Click Start, and then click Run. Type Regedit in the box, and then click OK. Expand the menu in the left panel and select the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop folder. Scroll down in the right panel and double click on the MenuShowDelay file. In the Value Data box, change to default value for the menu speed from 400 to a lesser number, such as 1. Click OK.
    Disable Internet Synchronise Time
    Windows XP automatically synchronises the computer clock from an internet site at pre-defined intervals when logged onto the internet. If you don't have an internet connection or if you don't require this functionality, then disable as shown below.
    Start > Settings > Control Panel > Date and Time > Internet Time > Untick "Automatically synchronize with an internet time server"
    Disable Hide Inactive Icons
    This isn't really a performance tip - more of an irritation. I prefer to manage my own desktop icons. Disable as shown below.
    Start > Settings > Taskbar and Start Menu > Taskbar TAB > Uncheck "Hide Inactive Icons"
    Disable Automatic Desktop Cleanup Wizard
    Every 60 days, this will run and display a list of icons that have not been used for 60 days or more. It will give you the option to remove those icons that you don't require. If you don't require this functionality, then disable it as shown below.
    Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display > Desktop > Customise Desktop > Untick "Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days"
    Disable Notification Area Balloon Tips
    More of an irritation than a performance tip. Click Start , click Run , type regedit , and then press ENTER.
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced Right-click the right pane, create a new DWORD value, and then name it EnableBalloonTips .
    Double-click this new entry, and then give it a hexadecimal value of 0 .
    Quit Registry Editor. Log off Windows, and then log back on.

    & this was useful too though I didn't folllow it to the letter:
    XP SP2 optimizations for audio workstation PCs:
    This document is NOT intended to represent the absolute final word on optimizing your pc for use as a digital audio workstation. It is only offered as a general guide.
    There's a lot of useful information available on XP tweaks. Be careful of your source(s). Most importantly, do NOT change anything that could prevent Windows from loading properly--common sense should prevail here. You may also want to create a Restore point before you make any changes to the way Windows starts up.
    Ensure your pc is running correctly before you start optimizing resources. Use Device Manager to check for IRQ conflicts, memory range conflicts, hardware and driver problems. Device Manager is pretty straightforward, so I won't go into great detail here. XP will maintain it's core drivers pretty much automatically, so you should have few if any problems with them. XP self-optimizes to some extent. It monitors your usage patterns and optimizes the file system accordingly (every three days upon system inactivity). At boot-time, it will pre-fetch certain data in order to speed up your application loading time.
    Your audio hardware drivers may be a bit more tricky. Generally, it's best to use the most recent drivers offered by the manufacturer of your audio hardware. These drivers should be available for download at the manufacturer's website. Carefully read about the known bugs/issues/fixes at the manufacturer's site. Be sure you download and install ONLY the correct drivers for your hardware and your operating system. Rarely, will the most recent drivers not be the best. (Note: ALL of the above also applies to any 'updates' for your audio software)
    Disable unnecessary 'Startup' items: XP appears to offer at least two ways to access control of these items in order to streamline your system resources. One is the 'msconfig' utility, and the other is thru 'Administrative Tools' found in the Control Panel. There appears to be some overlap between these two ways, however, strangely enough it also appears that access to some items may be found in one and not the other.
    To disable unnecessary 'Startup' items using 'msconfig', clk Start, Run, type msconfig and hit enter. If the msconfig utility fails to open for some reason, you can probably find the msconfig.exe file in the BINARIES folder, HELPCTR folder, PCHEALTH folder, WINDOWS folder on C drive. When the utility opens, clk the Startup tab, uncheck any items you feel you don't need, clk Apply, then Close. Examples of items you may not need at Startup might include 'realsched.exe' and YAHOOMESSENGER. These changes will take effect upon restart.

    Disable unnecessary 'Services' items: XP runs individual Windows components that are specialized to run various functions. Unnecessary 'Services' can be disabled in order to streamline your system resources. To disable unnecessary 'Services' items, clk on 'Administrative Tools' in the 'Control Panel'. Then clk on the 'Services' shortcut. Make sure you are viewing the 'Extended' window by clicking on the 'Extended' tab located at the bottom. You will now see a list of dozens of 'Services', their Description, Status, etc. You may decide that you need some of them, but not all of them. Examples of 'Services' you may not need at Startup might include 'Secondary Logon' and 'Print Spooler'. Carefully read an item's 'Description' to decide whether or not you need that particular 'Service'. If you don't need it, simply right-click on it, clk 'Properties', select 'Disabled' next to 'Startup type', clk Apply, then OK. Then, right-click on it again, clk 'Properties', clk the 'Log On' tab, highlight 'Original Configuration' under 'Hardware Profile', clk 'Disable', Apply, then OK. These changes will take effect upon restart.
    Other 'Services' considerations:
    The 'Automatic Updates' service should definitely be disabled for any pc used as a music recording studio. The last thing you need right in the middle of a recording session is for Windows to steal away system/CPU resources to wonder off to the MicroSoft update site. Just be sure to check for microsoft updates manually--maybe once a week.
    The 'Help and Support' service is generally pretty lame. It's probably best to simply search the internet or for any "help" you may need.
    The 'System Restore' service can cause a lot of disk-activity at the most inopportune time(s). You can always manually create your own restore points.
    Note: If you carefully examine each "function" of the available 'Services' you will easily decide which of them you don't need. Just remember that you can always turn a 'Service' back on.
    You definitely need to shut down any anti-virus and spyware apps before you begin a recording session. The same goes for any of the automatic updates functions corresponding to these apps because some of them will remain as active processes even though the actual application has been shut down. Generally these softwares don't use up system resources for updates unless you're actually connected to the internet, but some of them will randomly pop-up "warnings" if for some reason some part of the software fails to load properly or shut down properly.

    Remove msmsgs: add this line in the Run box.
    RunDll32 advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %windir%\INF\msmsgs.inf,BLC.Remove

    I'd look around the forums. I'm happy to go without cutting edge stuff. I have Cakewalk Pr Audio 9.3 & an INCA 8 I/8O soundcard with a break out box. I also have a couple of useful preamps & a range of quirky but fun mics.
    plenty of RAM, a good hardrive with a poss external one for b/up, a CD burner that is reliable & has good software & a wave to MP3 converter that doesn't stuff up the sound more than necessary.
    I also haunt these forums as there's always something to learn.
    Good luck!

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