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  #1  
Old 07-19-2010, 06:52 AM
oettinger1919 oettinger1919 is offline
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Question UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

I have heard different views on the matter but want to ask you guys.

Im using a new stock imac 21.5"(no PCI possible) with an mbox 2 mini handling all the A/D converion. Most of what I record and mix with is VI and software based and with the new imac I have not run into any significant processing issues.

my question is when it comes to a computer based recording setup is it more important to upgrade interfaces(when PCI is not possible) or is the actual computer performance and components more important when it comes to getting the best and cleanest recordings.

What Im trying to say is that I'm confused as to weather or not the soundcard in the interface is more important when working with lots of software based signal processors and VI's or is the computer itelf more important.

I have never been happy with the overall quality of a lot of my VI's and yes I know a big part of that is because im working with bottom grade equipment but I want to start upgrading in the areas that are most important. I just don't know if I should say double the RAM of my computer or go with something else completely like Digital Performer and a nice MOTU firewire interface since PTHD is way too much money.

thanks for your input.
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  #2  
Old 07-19-2010, 06:59 AM
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Gothboy Gothboy is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

When working with VIs it's more important to upgrade RAM to 4GB and have the best possible CPU at your disposal.

I don't know exactly what Imac you have though can you give more info?
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  #3  
Old 07-19-2010, 07:08 AM
nst7 nst7 is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

The computer processing and ram will not make any difference in improving the sound quality. All they will do is allow you to perhaps run more instances of VI's and tracks, with less errors, etc.

Also, the type of interface will not make any difference in sound quality. There is no sound advantage just because something is a PCI interface vs. usb or firewire. There are crappy $100 soundcards that use PCI all the way up to the HD system.

Also keep in mind that jumping to MOTU will not improve your sound quality as their interfaces are no better then the Protools LE line.

The only way to improve your sound quality would be adding external A to D and D to A converters, and the good ones cost some money. In doing that you will also need to add external preamps for your mics, except in a few cases where the preamp and converter are combined in one unit.

For VI's, since they're already in the computer, your main thing will be the D to A conversion for listening back.

Also, you mention you're not happy with your VI's. Which ones are you using? The ones that come with protools are not bad, but not the greatest. There are plenty of 3rd party ones that are very good.

Maybe you could tell us more about what you're trying to do, what kind of music, how many inputs you need, etc. We could make some recommendations.
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Old 07-19-2010, 07:15 AM
oettinger1919 oettinger1919 is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

Like i said its the latest stock imac on the market 21.5" (500gb HD 3.06ghz dual core intel)

I know for a fact that Digital Performer is much better built than LE is and it allows you to better customize your project to optimize your systems performance. I was told that their interfaces are built to the same level as PTHD equipment. Isn't true that LE is purposely built downgraded to offset it from all the HD stuff?

as far as my VI's I am not unhappy with the VI's themself only the quality of them once I bounce project to disk. They will sound awesome in a mix and even after i put them through T-racks but on a CD in the car they sound muddy and dull. perhaps this is another issue unrelated to the computer or interfaces?

so would you say i should double up the current RAM? obviously more RAM is better no matter what but what would be the best thing to do.

can you explain the D/A conversion aspects. I kinda know about it but wonder how that improves quality if the mbox 2's abilities are so limited and lacking in quality...
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Old 07-19-2010, 08:28 AM
68topls 68topls is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

Now that I understand your problem it sounds like your not getting an accurate picture of your mix. What studio monitors are you using. Are they pre-amped and if they are what pre-amp and how are they connected. I'm not sure how the mbox 2 mini's outputs differ from an mbox or digi 003 output though I can only assume the fire wire interface is better. Also, your going to need to purchase or borrow some one VIs and really see if you need better VIs. Are you using plugins on the VI's? Changing to motu is really not going to help you. you need to find out what the week link in your setup is and attack it. There are many people that are doing excellent work on LE interfaces.
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  #6  
Old 07-19-2010, 09:51 AM
nst7 nst7 is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

When I was asking about your setup I kwew what computer you were using, I was asking more about the other things, like monitors, what LE interface, how many inputs you need, etc. Some of that has been answered now.

As far as the motu interfaces, I've never in my life heard anyone compare them to the Protools HD quality. I've heard plenty of people say they're no better than the Protools LE interfaces. In the price range they are in, the Protools LE interfaces are generally in line with most other brands of interfaces as far as quality goes. The main exception would be the Apogee Duet, but that can't be used with protools, as it doesn't function as a standalone converter.

Adding more ram may help your system run smoother, but won't do a single thing to improve your sound quality.

Your issue of it not sounding good in the car is a very common one. As the previous poster mentioned, your studio monitors may be part of the problem. Also the acoustics of the room will have a big impact. It's possible your monitors may be hyping the treble frequencies, which might make you think there's enough brightness in the music when maybe there's not, then you notice that in a real world listening environment, like your card, it sounds muddy. This is an example and may or may not be the problem.

The digital conversion is basically how accurately it takes the analog signals you record and converts them to digital for processing and back to analog for listening purposes. Better converters will enable you to hear more accurately to make mixing decisions, so in that sense it might help you make a better sounding mix.

Regardless of what you have, what would help is to compare your mixes as your doing them to major label records that you like - through the same monitors you're mixing through. That should be a step in the right direction.

There's a couple of ways to do this. One is to import a song from a cd into the session and alternately solo and mute the track while doing your mix.

Another way would be to use a cd player with digital out into the spidf input of your mbox. Create a track, record arm it and do just like what I just mentioned. If you want to do this, a very cheap way is to just use a cheap consumer dvd player. They all have digital outs and will play regular cd's. Actual cd players that have digital outs tend to be more expensive.

Another way to integrate that and make it easier would be to get a separate monitor controller that lets you switch between the DAW (protools) or a cd player.
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Old 07-19-2010, 10:02 AM
CME CME is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

Here's my .02. You've got to look at everything as part of a chain. And I do mean everything. Each thing has an affect on the final out come of the project but here are some of the big ones.

Room- This is often the most overlooked piece of the chain. You could have $1 million in studio equipment, but in a room that's acoustically "unsound", even the best engineer will have problems getting it right. (Seems to me this might be you're biggest culprit). Check out http://www.johnlsayers.com/phpBB2/index.php for some more info and help on how to improve your room.

Interface- This is what takes the sound in and out of your computer. They style of connection shouldn't make a difference in performance. Basically they come in 3 types (USB, FW, PCI(e) ). The reason for the different interfaces is throughput. USB can only send so many channels back and forth between the PC. Firewire allows more channels of throughput, and a PCI(e) would allow for the most. So the reason why most of the Mbox line uses USB is because they less than 10 channels of I/O and don't require FW. An interface has 2 main parts. Preamps and converters.

Converters- are what "converts" your audio from analog to digital, and from digital to analog. The more accurate they are, the better seperation and clearer image up and down the audio spectrum. Having said that, I don't think you'd see a big difference until your room is sorted.

Pre-amps- This could be a book long. Let's say there are lots designs and ideas one what sounds best. If you're micing stuff up this becomes important. However you said you're using mainly VI's so this isn't of too much importance.

Monitors- Once you have a good room most any decent monitors will be quite usable. Yes some will show more detail and have better imaging, ect. But again a bad room can make good monitors sound bad. However you might mention what you're using. If you're using home hi-fi stuff you'll never be happy. You will need at least a set of monitors intended to be flat as possible. So what are you using?

Computer- This is what takes this digital audio, manipulates it, and sends it back to the interface. Unless you're running out of processing power, there isn't much reason to upgrade. Looks like yours has a 3.06 GHz C2D processor. If you are needing more performance, add more RAM. VI's are especially RAM hungry. You should see an improvement up to 4GB and could see an improvement past that.

So again from what you've said about your mixes translating, I'd say look at your room first. I know treating mine made a big difference for me, and considering the price was one of the least expensive things I've done. Once that is sorted I'd look at your D/A and monitors. Also I just looked at the mbox2 mini. There aren't any digital outputs. So that negates external converters. So you might have a reason to upgrade interfaces.

The question you need to ask when you get ready to get another interface is how many channels if I/O will you need (as you look to the future a bit)? If the mini meets your needs, try an Mbox 2. It add SPDIF which you could hook up to a Rosetta 200 for some really nice conversion. If you think you'll need more than that try the Mbox 2 pro. It goes up to 6 channels. Or the 003 which handles up to 18 channels. And all of these have digital outputs which you'll need for external conversion. But again don't worry about this too much until you treat your room.

Sorry I was so long winded. lol
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  #8  
Old 07-19-2010, 10:54 AM
oettinger1919 oettinger1919 is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

Thanks for all that guys. much appreciated.

I will give you the full low-down on my signal chain and all equip.

I thankfully just upgraded to some HS-80 monitors and have already seen a huge difference. Its not quite ideal yet however. Which is why Im posting this. I have also put two Auralex up kits in the room which I think do a good job eliminating the reverb and reflections.

I am running those monitors from their XLR connections to the Mbox via Mogami XLR-1/4'' connectors. They are only 10ft. long so i don't think the signal is getting degraded in that part of it...?

the mbox is connected to the computer via USB with a "performance" golden titanium unobtanium super connector(according to the packaging it came in) 15ft. long

I have started running all my soundfiles out of an External HD via USB which for some reason the USB connectivity on that has given me issues with freezing the computer... I used to have it connected with firewire but then the connector on the HD broke and I have been forced to use USB on it... out of anything I would say the External HD has caused the most problems on my system... would this make any difference??? should I just get a new firewire one for soundfiles only and leave the current one for full system backup

along with that I am using all the stock PT plugins and signal processors as well as Hybrid, T-racks, I have the MPTK2 and I connect a couple MIDI devices via USB connectors and I occasionally run a cardioid mic into the mbox.

I used to use a Presonus Studio Channel preamp but never liked the overall effect it had on what I recorded with it.

I want to also note that I do not really use the computer for anything other than PT and a bit of web surfing. I dont have any other 3rd party software loaded on it except all the VI's and t-racks and stuff.

what now?
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  #9  
Old 07-19-2010, 11:26 AM
nst7 nst7 is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

You need a dedicated hard drive for your audio and it has to be firewire. USB is not supported at all and that is most likely why you are having problems with it.

The HS80 monitors are a good choice. Hopefully you'll continue to see improvement by using them.
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  #10  
Old 07-19-2010, 11:57 AM
oettinger1919 oettinger1919 is offline
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Default Re: UPGRADING hardware VS. software?

ok im going to go get a new one with firewire port and just use the old one for system backup.

Would you guys also recommend a good plugin bundle in the $500 range?
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