Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

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Eliminator Jr.
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Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Eliminator Jr. » Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:25 am UTC

Hey, I wish to get a laptop soon and one of the things I want it to be able to do is record audio, because as of now there's recording equipment available to me however the desktop computer cannot go out to where the drums are and my dad's laptop records sound really poorly. If possible something that's good with video as well, though audio is more important. I would want it to be under $800 however I doubt that's possible, so I'm willing to spend around $1000. What laptop should I get? Any help is appreciated.

tl;dr
Main Purpose: Audio recording, general purposes
Type: Mac or PC, I don't really mind.
Price Range: Under or close to $1000.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby cerbie » Mon Dec 28, 2009 4:24 am UTC

What is said recording equipment? That is rather important to know. Also, do you know what it is that makes your dad's laptop poor at recording? Given a relatively low budget (on top of the main notebook hardware, anyway), are you mainly looking at using USB?
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Eliminator Jr. » Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:16 am UTC

It's pretty much just a mixing desk and couple of microphones. Nothing really too crash hot, the mixing desk belongs to a friend. Their recording was using like a good computer, like a home computer and it turned out great, same thing with my dad's laptop and it didn't turn out that good, so I came to the conclusion my Dad's laptop isn't that great at recording audio. And yeah, it'd probably be USB recording.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby icelizarrd » Mon Dec 28, 2009 2:26 pm UTC

Once you get past a certain point with computer hardware--the point where your computer can handle the incoming audio at your desired recording settings (e.g. 192kbps/24-bit) with your desired number of tracks--you won't be getting a lot of extra benefit from more processing power, as far as recording goes. Sometimes hard drive speed can be a factor too, but for simple recordings, I don't think it should be.

What will have a much greater impact on the quality of your recordings is the soundcard (audio interface) you use. The onboard soundcard for most laptops won't cut it for high quality audio; so typically you will want an external USB or Firewire interface. In addition to a higher signal-to-noise ratio and supporting higher bit depths + sampling rates, these cards include more and better inputs than a laptop's onboard will, so you don't have to be limited by a single 1/8" (3.5mm) jack.

I suggest being pretty conservative with your laptop choice, and reserve a pretty sizable chunk of cash ($200-$500, depending on your needs) from your budget for a decent interface. You can get quite a usable laptop these days for ~$600.

You might also try asking this question at KVR Audio, GearSlutz, Recording.org, or Harmony Central. You might also do some searches at those places before asking--odds are good someone else has wanted similar advice at one point or another.



Microphone quality and placement, and the quality of external effects (if any) will also have a huge impact on sound. That may be getting beyond the scope of this question, but it would be good to know whether your dad's quality was worse due to factors like this rather than his laptop.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby cerbie » Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:30 am UTC

Eliminator Jr. wrote:It's pretty much just a mixing desk and couple of microphones. Nothing really too crash hot, the mixing desk belongs to a friend. Their recording was using like a good computer, like a home computer and it turned out great, same thing with my dad's laptop and it didn't turn out that good, so I came to the conclusion my Dad's laptop isn't that great at recording audio. And yeah, it'd probably be USB recording.
I think I may have been assuming too much knowledge. Alright. it goes like this:
Sound -> analog to digital converter -> digital stream -> ???
That's done per channel.

Now, reliably making a digital stream of it, or taking that stream in and storing it somewhere on time, every time, is where hardware and software performance come in (custom drivers, and/or devices supported by ASIO4All, FI). USB generally needs a faster CPU (USB was made to be cheap and ubiquitous, FW to be good), but most new CPUs are fast enough (Athlon II X2, Pentium Dual-core), most new machines have enough RAM to not be a worry (2-6GB), and for the most part, major latency issues in hardware don't seem to be big issues w/ P35+ Intel, and newer AMD chipsets. Now, if the mixing board is also a A/D converter, such that it plugs in to the PC with USB, Firewire, Expresscard (unlikely), etc., then the computer's own analog sections don't matter.

However, if you plug an analog signal into the computer, you'll need a good sound card. Emu (Creative) and Yahama have quite a few for <$200, but I can't say what's a good one.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:47 pm UTC

Eliminator Jr. wrote:Hey, I wish to get a laptop soon and one of the things I want it to be able to do is record audio, because as of now there's recording equipment available to me however the desktop computer cannot go out to where the drums are and my dad's laptop records sound really poorly.
...
tl;dr
Main Purpose: Audio recording, general purposes
Type: Mac or PC, I don't really mind.
Price Range: Under or close to $1000.


I'd immediately recommend an Apple computer for two simple reasons:

The CoreAudio driver set is the best there is. It is the most solid, widely and well supported audio driver system, and it is integrated into OSX. Nothing will wreck up your digital audio day quite as comprehensively as driver issues, so the best is really worth it.

If you decide to follow it, the GarageBand (Free), Logic Express (Cheap and Powerful), Logic Studio (cheap, complete and very powerful) upgrade path is an excellent way for a beginner to enter audio recording. At this point there is very little to distinguish different audio software, so whatever works for you is best, I just think that Logic will give you the most, fastest, with the most upgrade flexibility, and it's Apple only.


Were you to go for a PC, the only thing I'd say is to find one with a FireWire port, because that format is best for audio interfaces. Once your PC has FireWire, you'll be able to do perfectly good audio recording with it. There's nothing wrong with them at all, it's just that Apple stuff has a couple of minor but significant benefits. Compared to a second hand, late model MacBook I see absolutely no reason to buy a PC.

For the record, I actually know what I'm talking about here, my advice comes of real experience.


So, a few questions before I give any specific advice:

What are you intending to record? Drums, Guitar, etc?

How many mics do you see yourself using in the near future, and how many other audio sources, like keyboards and so on?

Does your <$1000 include software and an audio interface, or will you have more budget to fit them in at some point?

Each of these answers will affect your best choice of equipment, and you should have a clear idea in your head of your goals for the recording before you spend a penny in the equipment to do it. Finally, if you read around pro audio forums do it very carefully. They are swimming with people who will talk up whatever it is they use themselves as being the best possible thing ever, and they are prone to recommend purchasing gear as the solution to every problem. I have to be quite guarded myself, and I'm experienced enough to spot bad advice when I see it.

PS, nothing anyone has said here is unhelpful, it's just we should get these things in the right order. You asked about the laptop, so I answered. Before I touch anything that cerbie or Icelizzard got into, I'd like to know what you're planning to do.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby cerbie » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:29 am UTC

I have experience building, maintaining, and repairing machines, including crappy hardware and drivers, and have gained some other minor knowledge experience from being a bit of an audiophile. Beyond selecting a good balance between cost, performance, and quality for a non-Apple computer, I'm out of my league, now that someone has popped up with real experience on the actual recording side (IE, you).
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby cymon » Wed Dec 30, 2009 4:26 am UTC

PRO TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLS

Just kidding. Oh also, good luck finding a mac for less than 1100$ (the cheapest Macbook on apple.com) with a USB audio interface. If you have no qualms recording track-by-track, you could use something like the EMU 0404 USB or one of the cheaper PreSonus products. I know the EMU0404 is bundled with Cubase LE, which is more than suitable for recording drums (even with each drum as a seperate track, though that would suck to record). Most importantly, a platform like Cubase supports Plugins (the VST is a standard plugin format across Windows based digital audio software (as opposed to analog audio software, I don't believe they've managed to get the old Whirlwinds multi-tracking yet) although Pro Tools doesn't use it because Pro Tools does whatever Digidesign damned well pleases.) I have found Cubase to be quite amenable to my tasks, and it works with much more hardware, and has more plugins (and is slightly cheaper) than Pro Tools.

As I recall, there are several PreSonus ADC/DACs around 200$, I believe they are Firewire. Also, keep an eye out for interfaces that include effects (like a compressor or reverb) on a DSP. I know the 0404 PCI has these, if your interface has an effects DSP, then you don't have to use the CPU for those, which means that you can get away with a cheaper CPU!

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Wed Dec 30, 2009 2:49 pm UTC

cymon wrote:If you have no qualms recording track-by-track, you could use something like the EMU 0404 USB or one of the cheaper PreSonus products.

This person is planning on recording drums, so this is poor advice. More inputs than the 0404 would be a very good idea, if it is an affordable option.

cymon wrote:(the VST is a standard plugin format across Windows based digital audio software

VST is owned by Steinberg, and is every bit as closed off as any other plugin format, of which there are many. Regardless, other than a few audio software houses, most plugins are available in all the principle formats.

cymon wrote:I have found Cubase to be quite amenable to my tasks, and it works with much more hardware, and has more plugins (and is slightly cheaper) than Pro Tools.
As I said:
Dream wrote:They are swimming with people who will talk up whatever it is they use themselves as being the best possible thing ever,

I think we should recommend what would be good for the OP, rather than for any of ourselves.

And Pro Tools is an absolutely fantastic system. There is a reason it's in pretty much every studio in the world, and it's merits are not exaggerated. Nothing wrong with any other software package, as I said, I use Logic. But this kind of knee jerk opposition to Pro Tools is foolish.

I'm genuinely sorry if this come off as hostile, but the advice isn't good, and there's no other way to say it.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Pinky's Brain » Wed Dec 30, 2009 7:12 pm UTC

Dream wrote:VST is owned by Steinberg, and is every bit as closed off as any other plugin format

The license is a bit nasty by Open Source standards, but it's freely available without discrimination ... compared to the selective licensing from Avid it's obviously a lot more open.

For a non developer that matters not at all of course.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:51 pm UTC

To be honest, I really like the idea that the RTAS format is tightly controlled, so that if I were to buy a Pro Tools plugin I'd be certain, within reason, of the stability and code quality even if I wasn't sure of the manufacturer's pedigree. With VST I wouldn't be quite so sure, as I wouldn't feel there was anyone looking over the developer's shoulder. For professional software I just don't value Openness, as I only value quality. If it's open and good quality that's great, if it's open and not quality, being open isn't an inherently good thing. Regardless, it's my understanding that VST hosting is controlled fairly strictly, even if the plugin development isn't.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Eliminator Jr. » Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:02 am UTC

What are you intending to record?
Drums, guitar, bass, vocals would be the main ones, though I've written a few songs on piano (not keyboard, like the one you can't move) that I'd like to record as well. So yeah, basically all that for when I'm recording alone. I'm in a two-piece band as well, so something that can record live (as in not having to record each part separately) would be good.

How many mics do you see yourself using in the near future, and how many other audio sources, like keyboards and so on?
In the near future not too many. Definitely no more than three. I finish my last year at school in November (different school year in Australia) and after that I'd probably expand on that a bit if I hadn't already bought the laptop. Keyboards I might use once or twice, like I don't actually have my own but there's a chance I might record with one - either way I wouldn't base my choice off recording with keyboards. I don't know exactly what you mean by audio sources, like do you mean keyboards that can record or something? Probably just mics in this case.

Does your <$1000 include software and an audio interface, or will you have more budget to fit them in at some point?
I'd say yeah include the audio interface, but honestly over the past week or so after seeing all this computer jargon I've realised I've got no idea how to do anything audio related. I know little about what an audio interface is. Is it like a mixing desk or something? Very basic knowledge, and I probably won't be able to learn it until after school is done and I'm not focused on studying and stuff. So I figured I'll get just the laptop now but with the capabilities to do all this audio recording stuff, and then get the software and/or the audio interface thing later on, maybe nine or ten months later. As for budget, I'm not looking for anything cheap that won't work but I probably can't fork out more than $850 because of having to get my guitar amp fixed and other annoying things like that.

But yeah, thanks heaps for the help, I've been busy so haven't been able to sit down and write a proper reply but yeah thanks to everybody who replied. You've helped heaps (especially by making me realise that I know even less than I thought XD).

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:58 pm UTC

Ok, it looks like you have quite standard needs that are catered for by many products. First of all, the trickiest part will be deciding whether you want to invest in enough equipment to record the drums upfront, or leave that until later. To record drums, you'll need about five mics (kick, snare, toms, and two "overheads"), though it's possible to get away with only three if you have a very talented drummer who won't need a lot of mixing work done to their performance. Five mics means buying five mics, or borrowing them, and probably an eight input interface. That is, one of these, or similar. It powers and amplifies your microphones, and passes the signals from them into your computer. They're not cheap, but they are the only way to get that many mic inputs at once. Plug the interface into your computer, and the mics into the interface, press record and start playing. I think you should be able to work out the finances and possibilities of recording your drums fairly easily. Can you afford the interface, and can you obtain or afford the mics necessary?

What Ive been describing is what is referred to as a signal chain. In this case the signal, or recordable audio, goes from the mic, to the interface's [i]preamp/i] (a kind of small amplifier designed to boost mic signals to usable levels), from there over USB or FireWire to the computer, where it is recorded onto a track of whatever recording software you're using. Recording drums requires many simultaneous signal chains from different mics, and that's why it's a bit pricey. Fortunately, once you've wrapped your head around how this works, it's the same for all other instruments. Your vocal is just Voice>mic>interface>computer. Guitar cab>mic>interface>computer. Piano>mic>interface>computer. For these other uses, fewer mic inputs are necessary, so they are far cheaper. You can find any number of interfaces around that will do 2 or 4 mics, and happily allow you to record your voice and guitar, a stereo piano or similar. Something like this would be ideal for your two player sessions, or if you don't mind having only having 2 mic inputs, and overdubbing successive takes, something like this, which is about as cheap as you'll find a decent quality for.

To sum it all up, you need microphones for what you're planning. How many you get depends entirely on how much you can afford to spend, and if it makes sense to spend a little now, and more later, or try do do it all at once. This would be my recommendation: buy a 4 mic channel interface and start getting some mics together. Use your Dad's laptop to get started (could you post the model of that, just to be sure I'm not leading you astray?), using whatever software is bundled with the interface, or using Reaper. Start learning the old school way, by doing. Record yourself every day, and learn basics like mic placement and mixing techniques like EQing and compression. Record you and your mate together. Once you have the basics down, you can think about getting the kit necessary to record your drums, because drum recording is a fair bit harder to do well than is a guitar cabinet recording. I can't recommend starting off trying to mic up a drum kit and spending a lot of money on that before you get at least some experience of recording at all. But don't let any of this get you down! It's easier than it looks, and it's huge fun :)

Have a think about all this and post again. There's one thing missing from the thread so far, and that's something to listen to your recordings and mix on, i.e. monitors or headphones. That's a different issue to all this, and deserves it's own post, which I'll get to another time.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Eliminator Jr. » Thu Jan 07, 2010 1:33 pm UTC

Thanks heaps for all the help. Yeah, I'll have a look around over the next few days and figure out what I can afford.

By the way, my dad's old laptop wasn't too bad, but his new one is really not good. An Asus EeePC 1005HAB, or something like that. Don't know the exact name but that's what it said on the sticker on the bottom so yeah.

Say I wanted to get a laptop first, one that's capable of doing all this recording well (something with a CoreAudio Driver like you said before), is there anything in particular I should be looking for? It's just I'm not confident in my dad's laptop with recording and I don't have any other computer that I can set up next to the drums or the piano etc.

Thanks again for all the help, you're making this way too easy for me XD

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Thu Jan 07, 2010 4:45 pm UTC

Ok, forget the part about recording on your Dad's machine. It can probably handle the recording itself, that's just USB and hard drive stuff. I would imagine it's RAM and processor would give up the dream far too easily to mix the recordings, because that often takes a lot of horsepower. It would also be a massive pain to fit any music production software on the tiny little screen.

If you're comfortable with buying second hand, I would grab a white MacBook from about the last two or three years. It will eat up anything you throw at it until you start into seriously intensive stuff like multisampled orchestras or modelled reverbs. For tracking a few guitars and vocals, you'll probably never need half the power in there. They are tried and trusted technology that can be relied on, which can't be said for significantly cheaper alternatives. Second hand, they're cheap enough to be attractive on a budget. I use one, and it's happily run big sessions in Logic Studio, Pro Tools, Max/MSP and other software. It recently ran the audio for a ridiculously convoluted gig involving an eight-channel sound system and a whole bunch of signal routing and processing for my own performance without complaint.

If you're happier buying new, I doubt you can afford an Apple on your budget, along with the other stuff you need. Or maybe you don't want a Mac. Go Windows, and make sure you have a Core 2 Duo, 2Gb or more RAM, and preferably, but not essentially FireWire. This is because you will ideally want your audio over FW either now or in future, and your peripherals over USB, so as not to run into conflicts. Neither is particularly faster or better, but FW has one or two arcane technical benefits over USB, and is used for most higher end equipment. So it's useful but not essential. Buy from a reputable manufacturer so that you are less likely to run into driver issues caused by knock-off parts and so that if you need support the model will be well known to the tech support and communities who can help. Because you're on a budget, resist the temptation to splash out on a very powerful machine. As I said about the MacBook, you probably don't need the power for what you're planning, so you could spend the money better elsewhere, like on a good mic or interface.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Eliminator Jr. » Fri Jan 08, 2010 12:04 pm UTC

Okay, I'm still going to look around a bit more, but I found this one that looked pretty good, and it had all the things you said to look for (4GB RAM ,Core 2 Duo, FireWire), and the only downsides in the review was that the scrollpad was too big (not a problem since I'll use a mouse) and that it doesn't have a blu-ray player (and I don't really need one/see myself watching blu-ray). I figured I would post here before looking for similar computers, just in case there's something wrong with this that I can look out for in other laptops.

Yeah, I'd probably prefer a PC over a second-hand Mac (or maybe even a first hand Mac), just because I'm familiar with it and I find it easier to use (and they're more compatible, though I think the whole compatibility issue has been fixed with most programs now, right?).

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Fri Jan 08, 2010 3:35 pm UTC

That looks quite alright to me. I couldn't ever say for sure without using one of course, but spec wise it's a good choice. The only thing you'll need to make sure of is that any hardware you buy, like an interface, is Win7 compatible. I believe most are by now, so you needn't worry, but not being a Windows user I've never really needed to know about that.

This certainly has the processor, RAM, ports, and screen size you need. It's also got a 7200rpm hard drive, which is very useful, eSATA which could be good for external storage if you go for that, ExpressCard which can be used for even more connectivity, and a DVD burner so you can back up really huge recording sessions to a single disc. It's a good choice. Still, for your needs, you could drop everything bar the RAM, ports and processor and still make a good buy, because I can't see you needing any of the things the other specs provide, even though they are very handy things to have around. I don't think you'll be making a mistake with this machine, but I bet you could do it cheaper if you need to.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby theorigamist » Sat Jan 09, 2010 3:29 am UTC

Caveat: I know nothing about audio recording. But:
Eliminator Jr. wrote:the desktop computer cannot go out to where the drums are

This sounds to me like you have a desktop already.

Dream wrote:Ok, forget the part about recording on your Dad's machine. It can probably handle the recording itself, that's just USB and hard drive stuff. I would imagine it's RAM and processor would give up the dream far too easily to mix the recordings

This sounds like your Dad's laptop would be fine for the recording. Have you considered using your Dad's laptop for the recording, and then moving the recordings to the desktop for mixing? Then you can spend your entire budget on software, mics, etc. If I misread your first post, and you don't already have a desktop that could handle the mixing, you can almost certainly put together a capable desktop for cheaper than a capable laptop, and use the desktop just for the mixing. This again frees up budget for audio equipment.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Eliminator Jr. » Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:20 am UTC

@Dream: Ah okay, that's great. I'll keep looking to try and find one for cheaper but yeah it's Windows 7 compatible so it's all good. Thanks so much for all the help. I'll probably buy the laptop in a fortnight so I'll browse through the internet during that time.

@theorigamist: Yeah, I still live with my parents - last year of high school starts in Feb, so another year but after that the desktop computer won't be available. So yeah, the family has a desktop computer, the problem is it isn't compact enough to move all the time and I won't have access to it once I move out. Same goes for using my dad's laptop, it would free up a budget for audio equipment, which would be handy, however I'll be recording most towards the end of the year once school finishes and at that point I won't be able to use my dad's laptop and the desktop computer. But I appreciate the suggestions, if I was planning on staying here for two or three years instead of just one I might have gone that way.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby LongLiveTheDutch » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:16 am UTC

Dream, thanks for the knowledge sharing, I've learned some stuff reading what you've written :)

To give my $0.02, I'm currently running Ardour in Ubuntu 9.10 with an Edirol UA-25EX. As a non-power user, it does exactly what I want it to do for recording myself. If you want to save some money on software while starting off, this could be an option for you. I do mostly guitar and vocals, no drums ATM, although I would like to eventually.

Edit: I'm using an ASUS eeepc 1000he with 2GB of RAM. Cakewalk that came with my interface lagged in XP horribly, but works excellently under Ardour.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:01 pm UTC

Eliminator Jr. wrote:Same goes for using my dad's laptop, it would free up a budget for audio equipment, which would be handy,

True, and never forget you're on a budget. Gear lust can really make people do strange things. That said, one of the main reasons to own and control your own computer for audio work is that you are entirely in charge of maintaining it. If you want a scare, go look at a Pro Tools compatibility and troubleshooting page. The list of things you have to go through and alter settings for is comprehensive and lengthy. You also have to do things like turn off auto-updates for your OS, and other stuff someone else owning the machine might not like. Other software packages are similar but less drastic. Troubleshooting is something you want complete control of. Similarly if someone installs something your audio hardware doesn't like, or something that steals processor cycles off your software and causes clicks in your recordings, you want to be able to axe that immediately, which isn't always possible for a computer you don't own. Try to always own your own kit, it makes things so much easier.

LongLiveTheDutch wrote:To give my $0.02, I'm currently running Ardour in Ubuntu 9.10 with an Edirol UA-25EX. As a non-power user, it does exactly what I want it to do for recording myself. If you want to save some money on software while starting off, this could be an option for you.

I'd aim for four mic inputs, just because the OP has two people to record at once, and for that four mics would be very, very useful. If budgets won't allow that, your interface, as you said covers the basics and would be a good start.

LongLiveTheDutch wrote:Cakewalk that came with my interface lagged in XP horribly, but works excellently under Ardour.

My guess is that both Ubuntu and Ardour are lighter weight programs than XP and Cakewalk (Sonar?) respectively. This is exactly why the Eee isn't up to snuff for audio. Tracking a single track or two would be quite doable, but more than that would be a tall order. It's not a good idea to end up choosing your audio software based on what you have the power to run. You want to make that choice based on what works for you creatively and has a comfortable workflow.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby LongLiveTheDutch » Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:52 am UTC

For sure Dream. I hope to one day get something more high end, once I'm not saving for school.

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby toomuchrockcankill » Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:13 pm UTC

LongLiveTheDutch wrote:Cakewalk that came with my interface lagged in XP horribly, but works excellently under Ardour.

@LongLiveTheDutch
I use Sonar 5 under XP on a fairly average machine: AMD dual core XP 4800+, 512MB ram (ok, so the ram sucks...), and never have problems with it (I can and do record up to 24 channels at once with VSTs running on them live). Out of interest - what mode did you have the sound card drivers set to? WDM (windows' driver thingy) isn't very good for recording purposes and IIRC, Sonar/Home studio default to them. ASIO should and usually does work much better with a lower latency as it allows the application to access the data (audio input) at a much lower level.

@Eliminator Jr.
What everyone else has said seems to be good advice. Computing power-wise, you don't really need much to achieve what you want to. I have a slower computer than that Dell and I can run a fair number of plugins at once. As others have said, look for a nice 4-channel interface and spend some money on that, especially as the sound cards in laptops are of very variable quality.
All you should need is to take the sub mix done on a mixer or individual mic channels straight into your interface and then mix from there, using software of your choice and VST plugins. There are a few reasonably good and cheap pieces of software that would suit you well to start with:
Audacity is free and I've heard good things (never used it myself)
Reaper is free or not expensive and I've heard good things
If you want to spend a bit more money, then the "lite" editions of the big names - cakewalk home studio, cubase lite, logic fun (which I think does audio as well as midi) which will give you all you need at the stage you're at.
There's hundreds of free VSTs on the net, some of which are very good - I know several studio and live engineers that use free plugins in preference to much more expensive ones. If this is something you're going to use, I would be happy to recommend my favourites.

Something that I don't think has been mentioned is listening back: When you're mixing a track (after you've recorded everything, back at home), the speakers you listen to it through become very important. You need speakers you can trust, otherwise you could find you start compensating for what your speakers sound like in your mix. Laptop speakers are very definately not good enough.
Best I've heard for under £150 (no idea what that would end up in dollars these days...) are the Roth AudioBlob - cost about £50, which I imagine will come out at about $75-100 ish.

In case you're wondering, I'm a EEE student for 6 months a year and a freelance live and studio sound engineer for the rest (festival season rocks!)

Happy shopping!
Chris
"Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It's where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more."

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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby Dream » Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:49 am UTC

toomuchrockcankill wrote:All you should need is to take the sub mix done on a mixer or individual mic channels straight into your interface and then mix from there


I wouldn't begin with hardware mixing drums to stereo before the interface if it weren't absolutely necessary. It's just too hard, inefficient if your drummer isn't nailing every take, and it bears repeating, too hard. With a 4 mic input interface, I'd have kick, snare and two overheads, and no outboard mixer. That would let me EQ and compress per channel to fix inevitable playing inconsistencies, and to twerk hits in editing. Critically important if your drummer isn't seriously good. Usually adding mic inputs to the interface is far cheaper than a whole mixer anyway, and cheap counts for a lot here.
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Re: Suggest a good laptop for audio recording?

Postby toomuchrockcankill » Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:03 am UTC

Dream wrote:
toomuchrockcankill wrote:All you should need is to take the sub mix done on a mixer or individual mic channels straight into your interface and then mix from there


I wouldn't begin with hardware mixing drums to stereo before the interface if it weren't absolutely necessary. It's just too hard, inefficient if your drummer isn't nailing every take, and it bears repeating, too hard. With a 4 mic input interface, I'd have kick, snare and two overheads, and no outboard mixer. That would let me EQ and compress per channel to fix inevitable playing inconsistencies, and to twerk hits in editing. Critically important if your drummer isn't seriously good. Usually adding mic inputs to the interface is far cheaper than a whole mixer anyway, and cheap counts for a lot here.



I wouldn't either, but the OP hasn't just said he's recording drums.
Maybe he'll need to swap different sources quickly whilst doing a live recording of a concert or something - a mixer is the easiest way to do it.
I just said it as an example application, I'm not posting here to tell the OP what to do, merely to help him understand what he can do if he wants.

Chris
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