An Introduction to Equalization - A Free Guide from Audio Masterclass

Equipping Your Home Recording Studio - A Free Guide from Audio Masterclass

An Introduction to Compression: Basic Compression - A Free Guide from Audio Masterclass

Do computers give you a headache??

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006
Computers can be great tools for recording. But they can sometimes give you headaches, and even nightmares...
Do computers give you a headache??

Here's an interesting question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

I have played guitar for almost 30 years, and have been recording on tape for years, and on a Zoom MRS 1266 CD for about 4 years. I have recently been looking to get into computer based recording via Pro tools Mbox (not sure which model yet). My problem is that I want to buy a separate computer to record audio only, as recommended by just about everyone in the know. I have no idea what the system requirements specs actually mean. Is a 2.4 GHz way better than a 2.3? Do I need a separate hard drive to record on and not the one in the computer itself, and what the hell is DDRAM and SDRAM anyway? I keep seeing words(?) like Fat32 and IDE/ATA, SATA, ATTO, HBA and Firmware etc. I can surf the net and get around Windows pretty well, but I cannot speak Computerese, please, can you help translate?

Thanks. I got a headache,
Mike O'Neill

We sympathize. We deeply sympathize.

Let me say one thing about Audio Masterclass just to make sure everyone understands. We love music and we love recording. We love making money from music and recording too! And that's what the site is about. We have fun with the toys too.

We like computers because they give us great recording facilities at an incredibly low price, compared to the way things used to be years ago. Accordingly we often talk about computers and software

But we don't like the way computers often get in the way of making great recordings. The Audio Masterclass stance is that you shouldn't have to be any kind of computer genius to be able to use one to make great music and recordings.

So, back to the question...

You are exactly right that you should devote a computer to audio. It will simplify things no end. And if you only connect it to the Internet specifically to register software and then disconnect it immediately, you will be fairly safe from being preyed upon by those who would do your computer harm from a distance.

Now, talking about speed. Buy the fastest computer you can afford. But also bear in mind that there might be a significant price-hike to gain just a couple of extra points of gigahertz.

More speed equals more tracks and more plug-in instances, but 2.4 GHz is only fractionally better than 2.3. You probably won't notice the difference.

Also, bear in mind that your hard disk affects the number of tracks you can achieve. A faster rotation speed is better. 10,000 rpm is better than 7200. 7200 is better than 5400, which really is the lowest practical limit.

ATA is the same as IDE and is an internal hard disk connectivity technology that is just on the way out now. SATA is the newer standard and will lead to further progress. However, many great recordings have been made on ATA drives.

It is usually recommended not to record onto the system disk. This is busy doing system stuff, so your audio will have to take its turn. A second internal disk is a good option. An external FireWire disk is a good option too. Many people find that external USB disks work fine, but since the whole point of FireWire is that it is intended for audio and video signals, it is a safer bet.

Regarding the rest of the 'computerese' you mention, this is really the province of your dealer. If you are not confident with computers, then you should buy a complete system from a single pro audio dealer, and get them to guarantee that it will work. If it doesn't, then it's up to them to solve any problems for you.

By the way, if you want to have nightmares as well as headaches, just look at Digidesign's compatibility info.

This will show very clearly what we don't like about computer recording...

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)