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PC laptop under 1200 for live performance, limited fancy stuff (noob) Audio Interfaces
Old 19th December 2010
  #1
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PC laptop under 1200 for live performance, limited fancy stuff (noob)

Hi! I'm painfully new in this big ole' scary world, but I think my needs are a bit unique. I actually come from a classical background, and have mostly written/arranged for live instruments. However, I've now been getting into arranging more hip-hop influenced pieces, and I realized that I should dive into computer stuff.

I know a lot of my friends who are really big into serious computer-music compositions use Logic. But that's not what I'm looking to do. Basically, I'm looking to continue using real-life instruments almost exclusively, just be able to process their sound (including voice) live, and occasionally add a beat or sound I've created to the mix. I've been fiddling around with Ableton Live, and it seems like that's what I'd be using. So, to be clear, I'm not really looking to do any recording (studio or live) or production.

THAT BEING SAID, I'm looking for a PC laptop (under 1200) that would meet my needs for live performance. I don't think I'll be straining it too much resource-wise, but like I said, I *would* like to process sound in real time. VSTs and whatnot.

Some other preferences:

1. Something relatively easy to dive-into and doesn't require a lot of advanced/nuanced sound setup. I know Macbooks are esteemed in this sense. But I don't have the money and am used to PCs.
2. Ideally, in non-musical considerations, I'd like the size (screen and overall size) to be a small as possible for the sake of portability. I'd also prefer a brand noted for reliability and sound construction (this will be my main work machine too). And Windows 7, 64 bit?

Thanks SO much for any help in advanced, you fine, fine smarties on this board.

-rm
Old 19th December 2010
  #2
PC laptop under 1200 for live performance, limited fancy stuff (noob)

Sad to say, your best bet is a MacBook. It's simple, compatible with Ableton live, and has enough umph to do what you want to do.

Yes, I'm a pc guy, but in your case, you want something that works out the box.
Old 19th December 2010
  #3
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beau_mckee's Avatar
PC laptop under 1200 for live performance, limited fancy stuff (noob)

Quote:
Originally Posted by djgizmo
Sad to say, your best bet is a MacBook. It's simple, compatible with Ableton live, and has enough umph to do what you want to do.

Yes, I'm a pc guy, but in your case, you want something that works out the box.
+1

Don't bother with pc laptops live. I've toured USA, Canada, japan, Australia, Singapore, and I never once saw a professional using a pc laptop live on stage. I also ran ableton on a MacBook pro for all samples, beats, keys, bass drops etc. Plus I had my own separate mix of that in my ears with my kit.

Hope that helps!
Old 19th December 2010
  #4
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Thanks for the input. I'm not innately opposed to the macbook pro or anything, it is just a little out of my price range. Would the 13inch ($1199) model function well do you think, or would it not have enough power?

And if anyone else has other PC suggestions, I definitely would be interested in hearing those too.

Again, thank you.
Old 19th December 2010
  #5
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Oh, and additionally, how do standard MacBooks and Macbook Airs compare to the pro in terms of live-performance use in the way I described?

thaaaaanks.
Old 20th December 2010
  #6
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beau_mckee's Avatar
PC laptop under 1200 for live performance, limited fancy stuff (noob)

Your best bet is to grab the base model MacBook pro 13inch. You will also have FireWire then which keeps future options open
Old 20th December 2010
  #7
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beau_mckee's Avatar
PC laptop under 1200 for live performance, limited fancy stuff (noob)

The base model has slightly higher specs to the one I used, and I never had errors relating to CPU etc
Old 20th December 2010
  #8
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It seems like the MBPs are due for an upgrade any time now, so I'll probably wait til that happens and then grab a 13" unless there seems to be some sort of consensus on these boards that the new versions blow.
Old 20th December 2010
  #9
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One additional question. Reports seem to indicate that the new 13" MBPs might not have discrete GPUs (Intel Sandy Bridge) while the 15" and 17" offer AMD GPUs. Not that I'm an expert on this, but would that impact their performance live, or am I still looking at a performance increase from the previous generation of 13" MBPs?

I guess my question is: The fact that they work well for live performance is due to:

1. processing power
2. RAM
3. well grounded audio
4. generally easy compatibility (i.e. no searching for drivers, etc.)

Anything else?
Old 20th December 2010
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beau_mckee View Post
+1

Don't bother with pc laptops live. I've toured USA, Canada, japan, Australia, Singapore, and I never once saw a professional using a pc laptop live on stage. I also ran ableton on a MacBook pro for all samples, beats, keys, bass drops etc. Plus I had my own separate mix of that in my ears with my kit.

Hope that helps!
i have a pretty good number of clients touring with PC laptops without issues.

Scott
ADK
Old 20th December 2010
  #11
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goz211's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmt5 View Post
Basically, I'm looking to continue using real-life instruments almost exclusively, just be able to process their sound (including voice) live, and occasionally add a beat or sound I've created to the mix.
I am interested in this area (real time audio manipulation of acoustic instrument + voice) - and have also gigged with a laptop but not in any experimental setting, just using it for addition sound sources.

Have you considered splitting the live manipulation side from adding beats?

What about doing the manipulation using hardware - just to get going - maybe a looper and a delay and filter? Fading in beats can be done with a tiny desk and your iPhone (or an mp3 or tape player) at a push.

Just a thought - it's the direction I'm thinking of after a couple of laptop issues requiring a reboot on stage.
Old 20th December 2010
  #12
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goz211's Avatar
 

Slightly OT (to the OP)

How are you coping with having the original acoustic sounds going at the same time as the manipulated audio? Is it not an issue artistically or are the venues big enough that the audience doesn't really hear it?
Old 20th December 2010
  #13
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I'm not averse to hardware sound manipulation. It just doesn't seem as cost effective as software, considering the near infinite amount of options that the latter has.

As for the combination of acoustic/digital sound, sure it's definitely a strange, timbrel balancing act, and something that gets tweaked on stage with the physical placement of performers. But indeed, the venues are large. And I'm not looking to pair it with an oboe or anything. Mostly brass, electric strings, and I'm experimenting with (!) pipe organ and harpsichord.
Old 20th December 2010
  #14
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goz211's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmt5 View Post
Mostly brass, electric strings, and I'm experimenting with (!) pipe organ and harpsichord.
That's gotta be a mighty sound.

Go hardware to get it going is my tuppence worth. It's just more reliable. If you must do software $1200 may be enough to pick up a second hand or refurbished Receptor. It'll run VST effects and comes with audio ins and outs.

Laptop - yes, I agree, you've got lots it can do and do really well - but not real time manipulation of multiple audio feeds.

The problems start with getting the audio into and out of it efficiently and reliably. You'll need a firewire or USB interface with multiple in/outs - and really stable drivers. You're manipulating live sound using software plugins - it mightn't run that many channels before you get random clicks and pops in the audio output. You will grow to loathe those rice crispie sounds - especially amplified over a quality P.A. for everyone to hear.

Second problem with a laptop on stage - the look of the thing. This is a live music event - a wonderful thing - to half the audience you're going to appear as if you're watching TV, channel surfing or answering your e-mails. I suspect that once they see a computer on stage a fair number of the audience will suspect that it's a premixed backing track. Some of those in the audience "with a little knowledge" - that dangerous thing - will tell those around them that it is premixed.

$1200 should get you a second hand desk with long throw faders and multiple output options - and then a selection from the following - a Kaoss pad, a hardware delay, looper. If you're a keyboard player you may find you can get a good groove going on a Korg Wavedrum or a Roland Handsonic - just have a regular thump playing underneath everything (even a stereo mp3 will do the job) - to keep it all going.

Good luck - I've subscribed to this thread so please post back and let those of us with an interest in this area hear how the rehearsals/performances go (and what you bought).
Old 21st December 2010
  #15
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmt5 View Post

THAT BEING SAID, I'm looking for a PC laptop (under 1200) that would meet my needs for live performance. I don't think I'll be straining it too much resource-wise, but like I said, I *would* like to process sound in real time. VSTs and whatnot.

Some other preferences:

1. Something relatively easy to dive-into and doesn't require a lot of advanced/nuanced sound setup. I know Macbooks are esteemed in this sense. But I don't have the money and am used to PCs.
2. Ideally, in non-musical considerations, I'd like the size (screen and overall size) to be a small as possible for the sake of portability. I'd also prefer a brand noted for reliability and sound construction (this will be my main work machine too). And Windows 7, 64 bit?
Pretty much any modern laptop, properly tweaked, and a good USB audio interface will work well. If you are gonna stream a lot of samples, replace the hd with a 7200rpm one. Simple to do.
There is no need to spend a lot of $ unless you want to. I use a $500 acer i3 laptop and do quite alot with it. Ableton and Reason are good match. Look into Reason.
Old 21st December 2010
  #16
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goz211's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hugh 7 View Post
Pretty much any modern laptop, properly tweaked, and a good USB audio interface will work well. If you are gonna stream a lot of samples, replace the hd with a 7200rpm one. Simple to do.
There is no need to spend a lot of $ unless you want to. I use a $500 acer i3 laptop and do quite alot with it. Ableton and Reason are good match. Look into Reason.
Hello Hugh 7 - the OP wants to do real time manipulation of multiple audio feeds from live instruments. The current USB boxes I'm aware of will struggle. Do you know of one that will do the trick?
Old 21st December 2010
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goz211 View Post
Hello Hugh 7 - the OP wants to do real time manipulation of multiple audio feeds from live instruments. The current USB boxes I'm aware of will struggle. Do you know of one that will do the trick?
from what I read, he wants to basically add fx to live audio feeds. I do it all the time with a VS 100.
Old 21st December 2010
  #18
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goz211's Avatar
 

Hi Hugh - that indeed looks like a great bit of kit.

If I've understood what the OP is looking for it is "Boulez with a beat" - Hip Hop IRCAM style.

I understand that box has multiple audio ins but it's USB 2.0 - at it's heart it's a two channel recorder - with lots of cool extra stuff - but two channels. You can make a stereo wav recording of a band but from what the OP has written I'm picturing:

string instrument (e.g. violin)
brass instrument (e.g. trumpet)
acoustic keyboard instrument (pipe organ)
voice

and some sort of rhythmic soundscape that can be mixed in and out

and the OP will need a separate channel (mono should do) from each of the four live sources - so that they can apply VST real time FX to each audio feed. Adding the sampled beats is the easy bit - the difficult bit is getting four disrete channels of audio so that they can be manipulated in artistic ways in real time. Four separate mono channels from the live instruments - unless they are to be grouped (and sub-mixed?) in some way.

The kit you're recommending looks great - to record a rock band rehearsal or do a gig as a Chemical Brother in front of a screen wearing what is essentially a variation of a miner's hat with a torch on it (wish I'd thought of it twenty years ago and hit the club circuit). I agree any modern laptop and just about any USB audio interface can handle that.

The OP is blending their contemporary classical leanings with a bit of urban sensibility. I'll bet there's no money in it for the performers but I want to go to that gig. Oh yeah.

(P.S. I suspect two laptops and two VS-100s would do it - more than your budget I know)
Old 21st December 2010
  #19
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goz211's Avatar
 

O/T

Hugh 7 - what live audio are you blending in with your laptop set-up? Can you post a link for a listen?
Old 21st December 2010
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goz211 View Post

I understand that box has multiple audio ins but it's USB 2.0 - at it's heart it's a two channel recorder - with lots of cool extra stuff - but two channels.

u r way off. It can record 8 individual channels and you can put effects on each separate one if you'd like. Plus play back through 6 individual outs plus the DAW out. USB 2 is not limited in the way you seem to think.
Old 21st December 2010
  #21
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by goz211 View Post
O/T

Hugh 7 - what live audio are you blending in with your laptop set-up? Can you post a link for a listen?

What I am doing is pretty cool, but nothing any modern laptop with a good USB audio interface can't handle. I have a few live set ups, but the one that is most impressive to me is:
Guitarist on one channel, recorded to its own track and processed through guitar rig 4. Bass on its own channel, eq'ed with sonitus and recorded on its own channel. vocals on another channel with compression and reverb (classic free plugs). I also record the main mix (another two channels).

And then I have ez drummer layered with Konkat SS drums. I play and record these via midi and my e drums.
I also have a midi keyboard set up with Reason 5 and a couple of VST's. Those are played and recorded as midi and the sound is manipulated through the various knobs on my controller. This is at a latency setting of 96 buffers. Though 128 is the same.

Pretty much a whole band mixed, processed and recorded on my $500 i3 acer laptop.
Old 21st December 2010
  #22
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goz211's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hugh 7 View Post
What I am doing is pretty cool, but nothing any modern laptop with a good USB audio interface can't handle. I have a few live set ups, but the one that is most impressive to me is:
Guitarist on one channel, recorded to its own track and processed through guitar rig 4. Bass on its own channel, eq'ed with sonitus and recorded on its own channel. vocals on another channel with compression and reverb (classic free plugs). I also record the main mix (another two channels).

And then I have ez drummer layered with Konkat SS drums. I play and record these via midi and my e drums.
I also have a midi keyboard set up with Reason 5 and a couple of VST's. Those are played and recorded as midi and the sound is manipulated through the various knobs on my controller. This is at a latency setting of 96 buffers. Though 128 is the same.

Pretty much a whole band mixed, processed and recorded on my $500 i3 acer laptop.
Wow. You win. I want one.

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep0...vstudio100.htm
Old 21st December 2010
  #23
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by goz211 View Post
Wow. You win. I want one.

Cakewalk V-Studio 100

lol. You don't particularly need the VS100 to do that. But I do like it. Especially since I use Sonar. But any good USB interface with enough inputs (and low latency) and a properly tweaked laptop can do that.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #24
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmt5 View Post
Hi! I'm painfully new in this big ole' scary world, but I think my needs are a bit unique. I actually come from a classical background, and have mostly written/arranged for live instruments. However, I've now been getting into arranging more hip-hop influenced pieces, and I realized that I should dive into computer stuff.

I know a lot of my friends who are really big into serious computer-music compositions use Logic. But that's not what I'm looking to do. Basically, I'm looking to continue using real-life instruments almost exclusively, just be able to process their sound (including voice) live, and occasionally add a beat or sound I've created to the mix. I've been fiddling around with Ableton Live, and it seems like that's what I'd be using. So, to be clear, I'm not really looking to do any recording (studio or live) or production.

THAT BEING SAID, I'm looking for a PC laptop (under 1200) that would meet my needs for live performance. I don't think I'll be straining it too much resource-wise, but like I said, I *would* like to process sound in real time. VSTs and whatnot.

Some other preferences:

1. Something relatively easy to dive-into and doesn't require a lot of advanced/nuanced sound setup. I know Macbooks are esteemed in this sense. But I don't have the money and am used to PCs.
2. Ideally, in non-musical considerations, I'd like the size (screen and overall size) to be a small as possible for the sake of portability. I'd also prefer a brand noted for reliability and sound construction (this will be my main work machine too). And Windows 7, 64 bit?

Thanks SO much for any help in advanced, you fine, fine smarties on this board.

-rm
I have a Packard Bell laptop with intel i5 4gb ram and 640gb hdd. This isnt really ideal, but for my portable work it happily records 16 channels live on cubase 5 and it handles editing mixes however i usually mix on my studio pc. I havnt had any major problems.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #25
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goz211's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chopstick94 View Post
it happily records 16 channels live on cubase 5
What are you using to get the audio into the laptop?
Old 23rd December 2010
  #26
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@op, would like to remind you that Logic Studio comes with Mainstage which allows you to do live work. That's what it was made for. You also get Logic for your composition work too.
Check it out before deciding what computer to buy.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #27
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Been using a macbook (not pro) for a couple years now for live shows.
It has never let me down with Ableton Live. Soft Synths, sample triggers in conjunction with an m-audio axiom 61. Added RAM off the bat and recently put in a 7200 rpm drive. Fortunately, I got one of the last generations with a firewire port.

I have a desktop PC for production, but I got used to my Mac pretty quickly. In fact, it's let me do everything else so my PC is only a DAW now. I'll use it all day long for whatever and that night I'll go play a show with it.

For a no fuss experience, generally I've seen my friends go Mac for live shows. I have one friend who uses PCs only and he does a lot of glitchty electronic stuff - he's never had a problem. FWIW, he's also an electrical engineer and builds his own synths and midi-guitars.

As far as interfaces, I've used an echo af4/af8, presonus firebox, motu stuff and m-audio stuff. No driver issues to speak of so far.

If you're worried about the CPU power of the 13" MBP, mine is a macbook 4,1

Core 2 Duo 2.1ghz
DDR2 667mhz 4gb Ram
7200 rpm 16mb cache HDD (Western Digital)

I'm sure PC laptops these days are fine and I'm staying PC desktop for the near future. That said, if my macbook dies, I'm at the apple store in the morning.
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