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Thread: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

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    Mojo's Minions Little Pigbacon's Avatar
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    Default Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    So I just bought a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Gen 2 recording interface.

    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/det...e-scarlett-2i4

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    My old recording computer is a tower running Windows XP. I'd like to get a new laptop, as the tiny entry-level model I bought six years ago isn't going to cut it.

    So what should a person look for in a recording laptop? What kinds of things matter? What doesn't matter?

    Does the number of processor cores matter? Processor clock speed?

    Is 8GB RAM enough?

    Does a gaming computer make a good recording computer?

    Any experiences you have with fairly recent laptops, good or bad, would be appreciated.

    Thanks!
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    Braindeadologist GoldenVulture's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    I used a non brand name laptop running a Core i74510U [dual core] @ 2.0 Ghz. and 8 gig of Ram, to record some live music via a Behringer digital mixer/usb and using Reaper Multi Channel Recording Software. I recorded five channels of sound. it ran without a hitch.
    If your running software FX's etc it's going to put pressure on the system/CPU and whether this setup would run all that during a mixdown is doubtfull but it may.
    Your current entry level laptops are probably a lot faster and more capable than this setup and capable of running multi channel recording software quite well. Most modern DAW software will take advantage of multi core CPU's.

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    Mojo's Minions Kamanda~SD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Although I'd recommend desktop (with SSD and HDD), anything with a solid processor and good RAM will do wonders. A good thing to do is when you get it, do a fresh OS install to eliminate a lot of the bloatware that comes preinstalled and to streamline it for recording use.

    I wouldn't go for a 'gaming' build only because there's going to be more money invested in GPU's and stuff which you won't see any benefit for recording...just less bang for buck really.
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Any new generation Laptop would do very well for recording. There is really nothing that is absolutely required, other than a decent amount of RAM. If you are running the latest DAWs and will do a lot of multitracking, mixing and producing, 8GB of RAM is about as little as you want.

    A gaming lap top is a bit of overkill, but the real issues is that many of them focus mostly on the the graphics, which is great, but not really needed for a good recording machine.

    It really depends on your budget as well. I'm a big fan of Macbooks, as the platform is stable and it comes with Garageband which is an incredible DAW and can grow with you. Also, it comes comes with iMovie, which is a very powerful movie editor.

    If you buy PC, you also have to add the cost of a DAW in your budget and also will need to upload drivers for your interface before you can use it.

    One thing to also consider in your budget is some decent studio monitors.

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    Mojo's Minions Little Pigbacon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Well, I won’t have much money left over after buying the computer. I’ll have to go awhile using something I already have, for monitors.

    I’m thinking Thiel SCS 4 coherent-source speakers and an Adcom GFA-545 power amplifier. The speakers are time aligned for nearfield listening, and the amp has embarrassed amplifiers twice its price in the twenty years I’ve had it.

    And what would it take to buy monitors that would be better?
    Last edited by Little Pigbacon; 10-26-2018 at 09:08 AM.
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    Braindeadologist GoldenVulture's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Pigbacon View Post
    Well, I won’t have much money left over after buying the computer. I’ll have to go awhile using something I already have, for monitors.

    I’m thinking Thiel SCS 4 coherent-source speakers and an Adcom GFA-545 power amplifier. The speakers are time aligned for nearfield listening, and the amp has embarrassed amplifiers twice its price in the twenty years I’ve had it.

    And what would it take to buy monitors that would be better?

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    Braindeadologist GoldenVulture's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    There's a much wider range of DAW software available for PC and also dual platform versions of some.[ Mac + PC ]

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    Mojo's Minions Little Pigbacon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenVulture View Post
    Care to explain? Am I wrong to think $199 plastic monitors with IC-chip amplifiers would be a step down? Where’s the point where I start going up?
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Pigbacon View Post
    Care to explain? Am I wrong to think $199 plastic monitors with IC-chip amplifiers would be a step down? Where’s the point where I start going up?
    I agree entirely, in fact what you have is greatly superior to a vast range of possibilities and I don't think you need new monitors.

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    Mojo's Minions dystrust's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kamanda~SD View Post
    Although I'd recommend desktop (with SSD and HDD), anything with a solid processor and good RAM will do wonders. A good thing to do is when you get it, do a fresh OS install to eliminate a lot of the bloatware that comes preinstalled and to streamline it for recording use.

    I wouldn't go for a 'gaming' build only because there's going to be more money invested in GPU's and stuff which you won't see any benefit for recording...just less bang for buck really.
    Agreed for the most part.

    Out of curiosity, why are you recommending a HDD? These days SSDs are so reliable and cheap that there really isn't a reason to buy a HDD for anything unless you need so much capacity that SSDs are prohibitively expensive. I recently purchased a pair of 6TB HDDs for my RAID array because SSDs aren't yet available at that capacity and I couldn't afford them if they were.

    Take the 500GB Samsung 860 EVO for example, which has an endurance rating of 300TB written. If you write 50GB per day (which is ridiculously high btw), it will take more than 15 years to write 300TB of data. In actual endurance testing these drives frequently survive well beyond their rated endurance as well. When they do eventually fail, the firmware goes into a read-only state (if possible), so in the vast majority of cases you'll be able to copy the data off in case of failure. Lastly (and maybe most importantly) SSDs have no moving parts, so there is just less to go wrong.

    Back in the day the recommendation was to have your system and recording data on separate drives, but SSDs make that advice obsolete. With mechanical disks writing to one area of the disk and reading from a different one incurs a huge performance penalty due to rotational latency. SSDs can read and write to and from anywhere with virtually zero penalty in comparison. That doesn't mean that having a second disk is a bad idea, but it isn't necessary for the same reasons it used to be. For a laptop I would consider a 250GB SSD bare minimum, and I'd go to 500GB if you're going to install lots of plugins or virtual instruments. A larger external drive for backups is also a great idea.

    Regarding the laptop itself, if you're going to record with effects, get as much CPU power as you can. If you're going to add effects later, CPU power is less important. I would lean toward 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB since it's not that much more expensive, and Windows 7 and 10 are both getting rather bloated these days. I would also recommend upgrading RAM yourself instead of buying it pre-installed since most manufacturers gouge heavily for that. I bought a new Lenovo Thinkpad T460 for work a couple years ago, and they wanted to up-charge more than $300 for 16GB of RAM and an SSD. Instead I bought it with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD, then purchased 16GB of RAM and a 256GB Samsung 850 EVO from MicroCenter for just over $200. I put the 500GB disk in an external case and I use it for my backups.
    Quote Originally Posted by crusty philtrum View Post
    And that's probably because most people with electric guitars seem more interested in their own performance rather than the effect on the listener ... in fact i don't think many people who own electric guitars even give a poop about the effect on a listener. Which is why many people play electric guitars but very very few of them are actually musicians.

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    Mojo's Minions Kamanda~SD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Great advise dystrust.

    I was simply thinking in terms of if I was building a recording machine, where I would have SSD for most things, with HDD's in a RAID array (and of course, backed up offsite for me). Like you, I need large amounts of storage, and I need redundancy. A 500GB SSD would work well for most guys. I pulled the classic forum trope of 'this is what I use, so it's what you use'.
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Pigbacon View Post
    I’m thinking Thiel SCS 4 coherent-source speakers and an Adcom GFA-545 power amplifier. The speakers are time aligned for nearfield listening, and the amp has embarrassed amplifiers twice its price in the twenty years I’ve had it.

    And what would it take to buy monitors that would be better?
    LOL, those are awesome!!!

    Here's the thing. This is going to sound stupid, but bear with me. Those are much too good to do basic mixing and producing. You're going to hear every little imperfection in what you record and how it sounds to you. I know, I know, not necessarily a bad thing, but with my really bad OCD, I would never finish one project!

    When I mentioned studio monitors, I was talking about much smaller book case style speakers that can go on a desk, so they are right there in front of you.

    Stick with what you've got if you are happy with them!

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    Mojo's Minions dystrust's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Guy View Post
    LOL, those are awesome!!!

    Here's the thing. This is going to sound stupid, but bear with me. Those are much too good to do basic mixing and producing. You're going to hear every little imperfection in what you record and how it sounds to you. I know, I know, not necessarily a bad thing, but with my really bad OCD, I would never finish one project!

    When I mentioned studio monitors, I was talking about much smaller book case style speakers that can go on a desk, so they are right there in front of you.

    Stick with what you've got if you are happy with them!
    Or go with both. I have a pair of small monitors, but I listen to any mix on headphones, on my DCM K12 stereo speakers, and in my car before I consider something done. It doesn't mean my mixes are going to be perfect (they never are), but it gives me a better chance of catching mistakes and having a mix that translates better overall.
    Quote Originally Posted by crusty philtrum View Post
    And that's probably because most people with electric guitars seem more interested in their own performance rather than the effect on the listener ... in fact i don't think many people who own electric guitars even give a poop about the effect on a listener. Which is why many people play electric guitars but very very few of them are actually musicians.

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    Mojo's Minions Little Pigbacon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    I also have a dozen pairs of headphones and earbuds, B&W DM601 and NHT SB1 bookshelf speakers, a factory car stereo, and a home theater made of five NHT Super Ones. So I can do the whole “listening to it on a whole bunch of things” approach.
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kamanda~SD View Post
    Great advise dystrust.

    I was simply thinking in terms of if I was building a recording machine, where I would have SSD for most things, with HDD's in a RAID array (and of course, backed up offsite for me). Like you, I need large amounts of storage, and I need redundancy. A 500GB SSD would work well for most guys. I pulled the classic forum trope of 'this is what I use, so it's what you use'.
    If HDD's are used, 7200 Rpm disks are the go. 5400Rpm is too slow for access time.

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    Mojo's Minions Little Pigbacon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenVulture View Post
    If HDD's are used, 7200 Rpm disks are the go. 5400Rpm is too slow for access time.
    I had 10,000 RPM Western Digital Raptor hard drives in my recording computer, which is now just sitting around because it’s WinXP.
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Pigbacon View Post
    I had 10,000 RPM Western Digital Raptor hard drives in my recording computer, which is now just sitting around because it’s WinXP.
    Even better.
    If you go Laptop you could probably put those into an external case and use them as external drives.
    If you go Desktop/Tower you shouldn't need to get new HDD's.

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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenVulture View Post
    Even better.
    If you go Laptop you could probably put those into an external case and use them as external drives.
    If you go Desktop/Tower you shouldn't need to get new HDD's.
    If I went desktop/tower I wouldn’t need a case, a power supply, a CD/DVD drive... I would need a motherboard, processor, RAM, graphics card, maybe a CPU cooler.
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    A new Motherboard/CPU/Ram/Graphics card will quite possibly require more power than your current PS supplies.I'd factor that in. My DAW runs an AMD 8 core CPU and a Graphics card capable of outputting 4K quality Video.It's got four large HDD's. I've got an 800>1000 Watt PS in it.

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    Mojo's Minions dystrust's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shopping advice for a new recording laptop?

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Pigbacon View Post
    I had 10,000 RPM Western Digital Raptor hard drives in my recording computer, which is now just sitting around because it痴 WinXP.
    Raptors were fast in the early to mid 2000s (I had some too), but they're badly outclassed by even an entry-level SSD these days. And that's just looking at sequential performance; their random performance fares far worse as you'd expect from any mechanical disk. Decent SSDs aren't that expensive, so I can see zero reason to not have one. The very fastest HDD you can buy these days reads at around 150-200MB/sec with large, sequential transfers, and it'll be far slower with less ideal workloads. A SATA III SSD OTOH will read at around 550MB/sec, while an M.2 drive will read at 2GB+/sec which is generally overkill for today's applications. My favorite current SSD is the Samsung 860 EVO, and they can be had for ~$55 for 250GB or ~$85 for 500GB.

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Pigbacon View Post
    If I went desktop/tower I wouldn稚 need a case, a power supply, a CD/DVD drive... I would need a motherboard, processor, RAM, graphics card, maybe a CPU cooler.
    If your DVD drive is SATA, you won't need to replace it. For CPU coolers the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is a great buy at around $30, and even better on sale. You can get better coolers, but not without spending A LOT more money.

    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenVulture View Post
    A new Motherboard/CPU/Ram/Graphics card will quite possibly require more power than your current PS supplies.I'd factor that in. My DAW runs an AMD 8 core CPU and a Graphics card capable of outputting 4K quality Video.It's got four large HDD's. I've got an 800>1000 Watt PS in it.
    If it's a Windows XP era PC, the power supply probably isn't compatible with current CPUs since it'll be based on an older version of the ATX spec. Unless you're doing serious overclocking or have a very power-hungy graphics card, you probably don't need more than maybe 700W (and may need less). I have a 650W power supply in my DAW with a Core i5-3550S and Radeon R9 280X; I've run the calculations and the peak draw is right around 540W. I have a 450W PS in my home theater / server machine because I'm using the graphics built into the CPU. I could get by with smaller, but the 450 was the smallest 80 Plus Gold rated supply I could find and that machine runs 24/7.
    Quote Originally Posted by crusty philtrum View Post
    And that's probably because most people with electric guitars seem more interested in their own performance rather than the effect on the listener ... in fact i don't think many people who own electric guitars even give a poop about the effect on a listener. Which is why many people play electric guitars but very very few of them are actually musicians.

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