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Using a laptop to record live?
Old 17th November 2009
  #1
Question Using a laptop to record live?

I've bought an A + H ZED R16 which has Firewire to record straight to a laptop. I was wondering if anyone who uses a laptop to record live sound could recommend what sort of processing power and HDD space I'd need to record up to 16 simultaneous channels for about 3 hours with about two 15 minute breaks in between. I don't have the money to buy a HD recorder at this time and the desk doesn't have direct outs so a laptop is the way to go. Thanks.
Old 17th November 2009
  #2
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m_gant's Avatar
 

I will be doing the same when my R16 arrives. My plan is to abuse the hell out of it before taking it to the field.

I also plan on renting an alesis HD24 and sending out of the inserts on every channel for a safety net.
Old 17th November 2009
  #3
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As long as it's not a Dell laptop you should be okay with that Firewire interface.
Old 17th November 2009
  #4
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I am using an Onyx 1640 to record up to 16 tracks on my 2.0g c2d macbook on the internal 70 gig 5400rpm drive. I am also running itunes at the time and using the native effects built into Ableton Live 6.0.10 (buffer at around 120 samples). This is not supposed to work but does....most of the time. Occasionally I overrun the buffers and there are clicks in the audio where there are gaps in the written tracks. I am upgrading the internal drive to a 20 gig 7200rpm drive and expecting more consistent stability. I am planning to partition the drive with a large section for audio next to a separate partition for the applications.
A 30 minute 16 track recording will be around 40 gigs at 24 bits/44.1.<---- disregard...I'm out to lunch!

Last edited by mingustoo; 17th November 2009 at 04:26 PM.. Reason: way off
Old 17th November 2009
  #5
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hbphotoav's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by funkymunk View Post
I've bought an A + H ZED R16 which has Firewire to record straight to a laptop. I was wondering if anyone who uses a laptop to record live sound could recommend what sort of processing power and HDD space I'd need to record up to 16 simultaneous channels for about 3 hours with about two 15 minute breaks in between. I don't have the money to buy a HD recorder at this time and the desk doesn't have direct outs so a laptop is the way to go. Thanks.
Using a 3-year-old 15" MacBook Pro 1st Gen 1.83 Core Duo, 2GB RAM... up to 18 tracks out FW400 from a Onyx 1640 (16, plus L/R bus, with the FW dig card) or up to 8 tracks from my Apogee Ensemble/DAV BG8 rack. I use a OWC SATA FW800/400 enclosure with a Seagate Momentus 320GB 7200rpm drive (well over 300 minutes of 18 tracks, 44.1, 24bit) for acquisition storage, running Logic Studio Pro. All other programs and processes (including Airport) are shut down for the duration. I generally transfer the raw tracks and the Logic session file to a USB harddrive for transport to the client's storage device. I archive raw tracks to DVDs for now.

I run a Edirol R09HD (44.1, 24bit, line in) for a rough mix backup (L/R Out) on Onyx jobs, or main pair backup (on acoustic performances), from REC OUT on the Mackie or from Output 1/2 on the Ensemble. So far (20+ recordings... just getting started) no problems.

I'll probably pop for a "new" 15" MBP after the next speed bump or new model release. I'd like the RAM headroom the 4GB max will give me, and I can hardly read my current keyboard (no touch typing here) for the wear after 3+ years. Love the factory "refurbs" at 25-30% off with a full Apple warranty after the product line changes... and love the idea of a back-up laptop and power supply onsite whether or not it comes out of the backpack.
Old 17th November 2009
  #6
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swafford's Avatar
 

I use a stock 15" Macbook to record up to 18 tracks to an external drive daisy chained with Metric Halo units
Old 17th November 2009
  #7
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RMe multiface 1 here with apogee rosetta , 16 ch recording to lap top in my studio all the time . Very old lap top acer 1 giga Ram .....No problem .... I record 24/48 and have only 40 GB of space which is ok for couple of hours , then i dump to external drives and everything is cool .....
Old 17th November 2009
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by mingustoo View Post
A 30 minute 16 track recording will be around 40 gigs at 24 bits/44.1.
what? A 1,5 HOUR of 16 track in 24bits/96kHz wouldnt be THAT much
Old 17th November 2009
  #10
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mingustoo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyjanopan View Post
what? A 1,5 HOUR of 16 track in 24bits/96kHz wouldnt be THAT much
DOH! my bad I meant 3 hour......and I'm still waaayyyy off

Last edited by mingustoo; 17th November 2009 at 04:25 PM.. Reason: I'm De- tarded
Old 17th November 2009
  #11
Elk
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bishopthomas View Post
As long as it's not a Dell laptop you should be okay with that Firewire interface.
Dell laptop here. Multiple 24/88.2 tracks to internal HD via stock factory-supplied FW400 with zero problems.

What problems have you seen that are specific to Dell? Perhaps there is something I should know.
Old 17th November 2009
  #12
LX3
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From time to time, when I need to keep the size of my rig right down, I use a 2007 15" MacBook Pro with a Firestudio Lightpipe interface. However, I would never run that system without a very dependable backup. There have been times that it has been totally reliable, recording 32 tracks for 90 mins or more without a glitch. And then others where, once in a while, it has stopped recording audio for a fraction of a second... and if you don't have time to listen thru carefully you may not notice until you've handed over the multitracks.

Some strange driver/application/OS weirdness I expect. I'm confident I can get the bugs out, but as I say, I would always make sure I had a reliable hardware recorder with me as well.

In my experience, the day you tell someone "Oh yes, this laptop system has been completely reliable" is usually the day it randomly craps out on you.
Old 17th November 2009
  #13
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Gerax's Avatar
 

Another DFell (XPS M1330) here...just recorded an orchestra gig (Beethoven 3rd) last night...16 tracks plus on the fly rough mix (that makes 18) at 24/44.1 with no problem on a standard USB 2.0 external drive. Pro Tools M-Powered 7.4/M-Audio Lightbridge combo...works like a charm.

L.G.
Old 17th November 2009
  #14
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I use a regular Macbook too. Presonus Firestudio and Digimax. Usually use the internal drive and then transfer it over to a desktop for mixing. I had a Dell that had too many issues also.
Old 17th November 2009
  #15
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I do 8 channels of 88.2 regularly. I run two laptops as recorders. I use a Grace 802 preamp that has 3 outputs per channel. 1 set goes to an Apogee AD16 x and another goes to a Apogee R800. I use firewire from each Apogees to one of the laptops. Both are dual core 3 gig laptops.

I always record onto an external 2.5" USB drive powered from the USB connector. The data rate is not very high so any reasonably new 2.5" drive should work.

I have used a MOTU Traveller into an older smaller memory 1.6 Mhz single cpu laptop with 8 channels at 88.2. The MOTU drivers seem to be able to handle higher rates than the Apogee on a given laptop. Apogee doesn't really care much about Windows these days. When I mentioned this to Apogee at AES they didn't really seem to care about following up.

Do tests and make sure the buffering is set high enough. I use Wavelab's analysis tool to look for glitches in the wave files.
Old 18th November 2009
  #16
Gear Head
I use MacBook with FW400, recording through Firestudio Lightpipe to an external drive. I have recorded 22 tracks for 90 minutes without any problems. I always have HD24 as a backup though.
Old 18th November 2009
  #17
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I use a 13" MBP and I ran some tests and it managed 8ch @ 24/192 fine for an hour. The next day I used it as main recorder at a concert and had glitches.

The PC laptop set up I used as main hade the same problem. It could run very stable some days but then all of a sudden there was clicks in the files. I thought Mac would be more money = less problems (or rather no problems) but it seems to be no better than PC's and windows.

So, now I use both machines and have to carefully listen thru all material and pic the parts from either machine that is without clicks and pops. VERY time consuming and highly frustrating.

What kind of buffer do you guys use who run Macbook Pro's without problems?

I'll try with a really high buffer next time and at lower sample rates.



/Peter
Old 20th November 2009
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

from the short couple of months that i've been recording to my laptop, i've found that your average laptop should be fine to record long sessions, and that its not the specs of the machine, but rather the maintenance of the system that makes the difference.

the few basic things i do is this:

i always defrag the day before a session, the whole pc as well as the particular drive i'm recording onto.
i'll minimize the startup stuff so i have the least number of things running.
on occasion, if the machines feels kinda sluggish, i'll do a scan and clean with the antivirus and antispyware.
antivirus and firewall i'll turn off.
wifi i'll physically turn off.
check power settings to make sure its set to max performance.
check update schedules and turn them all off, i think in most cases if you're not connected this should not be a problem.

basically, whatever process you dont need, kill it, and you should be ok,....

oh and moxt importantly, keep your fingers crossed
Old 20th November 2009
  #19
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Those are all important things to do. In addition to that I have a separate boot partition that I use for recording. It only has WXP, my recording software and audio drivers installed. The recording boot partition has no anti-virus installed and I don't connect to the internet from that boot. I use the main boot partition to run anti-virus scans and do any backup copying on my network.

I also always make a copy of the audio project from my external USB drive to the built in drive before breaking down.

Make sure there is more storage space than you need because if the disk head starts seeking all over the place it can really slow down writes. In one case I had a couple of gig of free space but it was too fragmented to run fast enough. Thanks to the backup nothing was lost.

Since I started doing all these things I have had no problems with the laptop performing. The only problems have been user error and during setup I occasionally have to reinstall the apogee drivers so their channels show up in Sonar.
Old 20th November 2009
  #20
Elk
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Also screen saver off.
Old 21st November 2009
  #21
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boojum's Avatar
All the overhead you can eliminate in your OS will help. There are lots of things that do not need to be running. But there is always the chance the darned thing will freeze on you still. It only has to happen once. I did not want to take the chance and got a recorder. It is not what you asked but it is something to consider. Mine is small, light, rugged, devoted to only one thing and has all the electronics I need already under the hood.

It is something to consider. I would have always been fearful that the laptop would take a notion and choke. YMMV of course.
Old 21st November 2009
  #22
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At one time I was a laptop recording enthusiast but I gradually became increasingly concerned about the very occasional flakiness of that route, and now I'm more inclined to take a modest multitrack one-piece recorder with me (and then everything is in one piece, less faffing around).

As I recall it, the laptop power supply could give rise to grounding issues and I used to carry an mains adapter that had no earth connection in case it was needed (do not take that as advice, as obviously there are possible electrical safety issues). More significantly, very occasionally the laptop would stop dead for exactly ten seconds, then resume as if nothing had happened. To check for that condition without having to sit in front of it for hours, I found that if I started a test recording running at home so that there was some observeable relationship between the DAW clock and the PC's time of day clock, I could tell whether a ten second hitch had happened or not (because the original relationship was now ten seconds adrift).

I'm pretty sure that the fix for that was to disable the CD drive. It seemed very occasionally to spend exactly ten seconds deciding whether a CD was present or not.

Funny things, computers.

The DPC latency checker should also be run for a while on the system - free for personal use from DPC Latency Checker on which page is a lot of very good professional advice.

When using any computer recording device I would strongly suggest running a stereo backup to something else via a route that won't be affected if the PC goes down or misses a bit. I often use a Sony RH-1 minidisc for that purpose which has saved my bacon a couple of times (ten seconds of MD material inserted into a higher-grade recording won't usually be spotted - and it's better than a total hole - but of course using a memory card recorder of some kind is more the way to go these days).
Old 28th November 2009
  #23
Laptop recording and Presonus gear

Just chiming in. I have been recording professional projects on a computer, external Firewire drives, Logic, and some kind of Firewire interface since firewire became a reasonable contender over buying hardware multi-trackers back in the early 2000's. I moved to a laptop about three years ago when the Intel Macs had achieved such awesome processing speed. I had the Tascam 24 track hd recorder before I went first to Motu gear, then to Fireface, and now I have settled into the Presonus Firestudio Tube or Project for my work. The main reason? Stability.

I decided to chime in here, because I would sacrifice features and even sound quality increments to get a system that will just be rock freakin' solid. Now, I am not saying I sacrificed either with my Firestudio Tube, I am just sharing my priorities which sounds a lot like the goal in this thread. I use a Macbook Pro and Firestudio Tube, my Firewire drives are exclusively from MacSales.com, and Logic 9 and I have rock solid sync, no drop outs, no hang ups, no mysterious synchronization errors, and no reboot to reconfigure nonsense. I have experienced all those things before with other units and configs, but this one I recommend whole heartedly. I ofter record 8-12 channels at 48K for 2 hours without stopping. I have recorded 96K for 40 hours of constant live session work over four days with 10-20 tracks with no problems. I do not recommend any other Presonus unit that does not have the identical chipset as these two units.

Hope my experience is helpful.
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