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Digidesign Session Multitrack Recording Software (part 2)

Okay, I know some of you are going to be disappointed that your computer isn’t quite up to the demands of Session when once it was the fastest on the block, but that’s the price of progress...

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Hardware requirements

Okay, I know some of you are going to be disappointed that your computer isn’t quite up to the demands of Session when once it was the fastest on the block, but that’s the price of progress. To run Session successfully you must have at least a Mac IICi or better with a Digidesign Audiomedia II card, a similarly equipped Quadra (I’m sure a Centris would do too, but it isn’t mentioned in the manual) or a Power Macintosh. What’s more, you will need a bare minimum of 16 megabytes of RAM! I remember thinking that I was never going to be short of memory again when I installed 16 megabytes in my computer. I’m sure that this time next year you’ll need 32 meg just to do a bit of word processing. You may be wondering how it is possible to get by without a sound card on a Power Macintosh since an Audiomedia II card still represents a pretty hefty wedge of cash to buy. The answer is that the new RISC processors used in all Power Macintoshes are so fast that they can handle the vast quantity of data that used to demand a special sound card, and more besides. Most Power Macintoshes have 16 bit sound circuitry which in conjunction with Apple’s Sound Manager software can do everything that a sound card can with the exception of SPDIF digital input and output. This brings us to the question of analogue audio input and output. Would you be happy putting your analogue audio into the harsh electrical environment inside a computer? It is usually thought that audio equipment should be very carefully designed with a suitable power supply, sensible circuit layout, and potential sources of interference such as displays should be treated with very great care. I don’t know about Apple’s designers but some computer people I have met have managed to convince me that they shouldn’t be let loose on audio because they see it as an infinitesimally small subset of computing and give it a proportionate amount of attention, rather than the be all and end all of everything as an audio professional knows it should be. I could say that I have listened to one model and have found it acceptable, if not as good as an Audiomedia card, but that won’t account for all the other models in circulation now, and those which Apple (and others) will undoubtedly introduce in the near future. My advice: if you want a computer for audio, listen - like you would with any other sound equipment.

If any hardware manufacturers are reading, please take note that the time is now ripe to develop an SPDIF digital I/O interface for the Power Macintosh. If it can be external to the computer so that it doesn’t take up any slots, and with multiple separate analogue outputs, that would be perfect. You’ll sell one to every studio, engineer and musician with a Power Macintosh and you’ll make a mint. Any takers?

One last point on hardware. With an Audiomedia card, you will get four tracks of audio. With a low end Power Macintosh you should get eight. With a faster computer, assuming your hard disk is up to it, twelve or sixteen tracks are possible with no additional hardware. I tested the software on a Power Macintosh 6100 and it could handle eight tracks just fine.

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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