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Studio built around a laptop? Signal Splitters (HW)
Old 1st September 2015
  #1
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andrew montreal's Avatar
Studio built around a laptop?

Hi all,

I've been running my home studio for personal projects with a Mac Pro 3.33 hexa core for a few years now. My Apogee Symphony is hooked up via PCIe. It's solid and fast.

I just bought a new MacBook Pro 2.8 quad core which I was planning on using while on the road.

The thing that just occurred to me... Is there any reason to keep my desktop? The Apogee Symphony can be hooked up via Thunderbolt along with the UAD-2 satellite. I can have an external drive hooked up via USB-3 along with my midi controller. My virtual instruments can reside on the 1TB internal drive. And if needed I can have a screen connected through the HDMI connector. Am I missing or is it time to move on from the desktop?
Old 1st September 2015
  #2
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andrew montreal's Avatar
Any shared experience would be great.
Old 1st September 2015
  #3
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bigbone's Avatar
 

I run everything from my Macbook Pro ( same as you ) , sound card. EXT HD.
without any problem. i got more power than i needed.
Old 1st September 2015
  #4
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Avening's Avatar
 

IMHO, having a laptop as the center of your rig is a serious pain in the a$$.

1. Cables. Your laptop ends up looking like an octopus, with a cable hanging out of every possible plug. God help you if you trip over one and your laptop goes with it. Also, disconnecting and reconnecting your laptop from the rest of your rig is an incredibly annoying waste of time.

2. Lack of USB ports. Sure, you can add a USB hub, but that just adds to problem #1 ^^. iLok, USB controller, keyboard/mouse, interface, external drive, USB stick for transferring, etc ... adds up quickly.

3. Heat. A laptop in the middle of an intense session gets burning hot. Needs to be raised. Not always practical.

4. Fan noise. Because of the heat ^^, the fan goes nuts trying to keep it cool. If it can't for some reason, the CPU will probably throttle and your session will come to a standstill until it cools down.

5. Performance. Your hex core mac pro will outperform your MBP by a good margin.

6. Your laptop is usually your general purpose computer which you will now need to share audio duties with. The dual nature is also a pain in the a$$. Having a separate studio computer all rigged up and ready to rock is much better and more efficient than trying to combine it in one machine. Having a DAW on the laptop for mobile stuff is perfectly fine, but being able to take those sessions back to your desktop rig and work is a great thing.

I could go on ...

I did the macbook pro thing with a Symphony for a while too and hated that setup. For all intents and purposes it works fine, but having that dedicated machine for audio kept things clean, tidy, and running smoothly. Since the desktop couldn't move, it also forced me to work without distraction.

Just my $0.02 YMMV, etc.
Old 1st September 2015
  #5
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andrew montreal's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Avening View Post
IMHO, having a laptop as the center of your rig is a serious pain in the a$$.

1. Cables. Your laptop ends up looking like an octopus, with a cable hanging out of every possible plug. God help you if you trip over one and your laptop goes with it. Also, disconnecting and reconnecting your laptop from the rest of your rig is an incredibly annoying waste of time.

2. Lack of USB ports. Sure, you can add a USB hub, but that just adds to problem #1 ^^. iLok, USB controller, keyboard/mouse, interface, external drive, USB stick for transferring, etc ... adds up quickly.

3. Heat. A laptop in the middle of an intense session gets burning hot. Needs to be raised. Not always practical.

4. Fan noise. Because of the heat ^^, the fan goes nuts trying to keep it cool. If it can't for some reason, the CPU will probably throttle and your session will come to a standstill until it cools down.

5. Performance. Your hex core mac pro will outperform your MBP by a good margin.

6. Your laptop is usually your general purpose computer which you will now need to share audio duties with. The dual nature is also a pain in the a$$. Having a separate studio computer all rigged up and ready to rock is much better and more efficient than trying to combine it in one machine. Having a DAW on the laptop for mobile stuff is perfectly fine, but being able to take those sessions back to your desktop rig and work is a great thing.

I could go on ...

I did the macbook pro thing with a Symphony for a while too and hated that setup. For all intents and purposes it works fine, but having that dedicated machine for audio kept things clean, tidy, and running smoothly. Since the desktop couldn't move, it also forced me to work without distraction.

Just my $0.02 YMMV, etc.
Damn! That was a solid response. Much appreciated indeed.

Heat has indeed been my concern. That being said, the laptop has an SSD internal drive. Don't imagine heating will be an issue.

As for the cables... good one, I hadn't thought of that though I do plan to have everything external when I work... even the keyboard. The laptop will be between everything. Not really an issue.

USB... ****... good point. Hmmm...

0ne of the issues I've been having to face is the UAD-2 set-up. I'd like to be able to take sessions between my laptop and desktop along with the UAD plugins. Problem is there is no Thunderbolt available on desktop and having a Thunderbolt to PCIe will become tiresome to manage. I could go with the Firewire Satellite but it isn't their fastest set-up nor their latest.
Old 1st September 2015
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew montreal View Post
Damn! That was a solid response. Much appreciated indeed.

Heat has indeed been my concern. That being said, the laptop has an SSD internal drive. Don't imagine heating will be an issue.
The heat is mostly from the processor, not the drive. That said I have no idea about how well current macbook pro's handle high cpu usage & heat.
Old 1st September 2015
  #7
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andrew montreal's Avatar
I'm getting the computer so I can let you guys know how it runs in the new set-up. Will run heavy sessions first and see where it goes... though the Symphony will have to run via USB for now seeing as I won't be investing in the Thunderbolt until I'm sure it's a change I want to make.
Old 1st September 2015
  #8
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Avening's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew montreal View Post
Damn! That was a solid response. Much appreciated indeed.

Heat has indeed been my concern. That being said, the laptop has an SSD internal drive. Don't imagine heating will be an issue.

As for the cables... good one, I hadn't thought of that though I do plan to have everything external when I work... even the keyboard. The laptop will be between everything. Not really an issue.

USB... ****... good point. Hmmm...

0ne of the issues I've been having to face is the UAD-2 set-up. I'd like to be able to take sessions between my laptop and desktop along with the UAD plugins. Problem is there is no Thunderbolt available on desktop and having a Thunderbolt to PCIe will become tiresome to manage. I could go with the Firewire Satellite but it isn't their fastest set-up nor their latest.
No probs.

Regarding heat, it's not the internal drive that gets things hot. My MBP is a 15" i7 quad with a 256GB SSD (and later a second internal 500GB SSD via optibay). During med-heavy sessions the CPU gets smoldering hot, and laptops just aren't as efficient as desktops at dissipating heat. Just a part of life.

Your UAD issue is a tough one though. I mean, if you're able to grab a satellite thunderbolt and keep your PCIe card in the mac pro, then sure, that solves that. I understand that could get pricey. Although the FW satellite will be fine for doing mobile stuff if you have the mac pro at home ready to do the heavy lifting.
Old 1st September 2015
  #9
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It will be more than good enough for road work.

I've been running a 2011 2GHZ quad i7 as my main DAW, with no issues.

I do have an Apollo that lightens the CPU load during mixing.

Also have an internal 1GB project drive that I added.

Not sure I'd give up PCIe just yet, if I were you.

Old 1st September 2015
  #10
Gear Addict
 

I've been doing all my work on laptops for years. In the late 1990s I had a Macbook with a Magma PCI chassis and I hooked up a 2408 interface. I may be the first person to ever record 24 tracks of simultaneous audio to a laptop computer.

My current rig is a four year old MacBook Pro. I use it with a MOTU 896mk3 and two 8Pres. That gives me 24 channels of mic/line input. When the rig is at home I also have a 23" monitor connected.

I have no problems with cables, heat, etc. I do all my work with the stock internal SSD and I use external drives for archive/backup.

My work is primarily traditional multi-track recording/mixing/mastering. I do use virtual instruments, including using the computer for live performance (VI and live processing of my guitar). No problems at all with CPU power, latency, etc.

Yes a more powerful computer would be able to run more VIs, but for the work I do, I have more power than I need.

Dave
Old 1st September 2015
  #11
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andrew montreal's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by magicd View Post
I've been doing all my work on laptops for years. In the late 1990s I had a Macbook with a Magma PCI chassis and I hooked up a 2408 interface. I may be the first person to ever record 24 tracks of simultaneous audio to a laptop computer.

My current rig is a four year old MacBook Pro. I use it with a MOTU 896mk3 and two 8Pres. That gives me 24 channels of mic/line input. When the rig is at home I also have a 23" monitor connected.

I have no problems with cables, heat, etc. I do all my work with the stock internal SSD and I use external drives for archive/backup.

My work is primarily traditional multi-track recording/mixing/mastering. I do use virtual instruments, including using the computer for live performance (VI and live processing of my guitar). No problems at all with CPU power, latency, etc.

Yes a more powerful computer would be able to run more VIs, but for the work I do, I have more power than I need.

Dave
Any issues with heat and the laptop?
The idea of being able to invest in UAD's Thunberbolt set-up and be able to use both on the road and at home is ideal.

Last edited by andrew montreal; 2nd September 2015 at 01:52 AM..
Old 1st September 2015
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew montreal View Post
Any issues with heat and the laptop?
The idea of being able to invest in UAD's Thunberbolt set-up and be able to use both on the road and at home is exciting.
I have never had heat problems with music software running. Interestingly, I use this computer for all sorts of stuff, including old emulated video games. Those applications do seem to make the computer run hot. If I hear the fan come on (which again, never happens when I'm doing music), I put something under the rear edge of the laptop to lift it off the table. That provides air circulation underneath.

I couldn't be happier with my rig. Four rack space box and a laptop bag and that's my studio.

Dave
Old 2nd September 2015
  #13
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djemberecords's Avatar
 

I have a few issues with using a laptop. An Intel CPU in a desktop is faster than a laptop, the screen is too small for my old eyes, and you usually get a lot more bank for the buck in a desktop.

I mostly use Windows 10, and that makes a difference. I have the last "best" Mac Mini, an i7 you could upgrade RAM in. The Apple desktop line is kind of thin, unless money is no object.
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