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Topic: GPO computer system: build, buy, or upgrade?

  1. #1

    GPO computer system: build, buy, or upgrade?

    I originally posted this in the sample libraries forum. One of the replies suggested that I post it to the Garritan forum and the East West forum, so here goes. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Be forewarned, this is an overwhelming and lengthy post. The great thing about this forum is that it is frequented by lots of knowledgeable and talented people who are willing to give their time, opinions, and assistance for free. It also contains many great problem solving minds, and I hope that there are a few problem solvers out there who could lend me a hand in making some decisions. Operating under the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing (and I have a little knowledge), I’m looking to find someone with a lot of knowledge, so that I don’t go off and make a mess of things and end up spending lots of money buying or building something that won’t suit my needs, or won’t work. Thanks in advance to all those that reply.

    I’d like some help. I pre-ordered GPO before EWQLSO (Silver) was announced, but I may end up buying EWQLSO (Silver), too. I’d like some advice on whether I should upgrade my present system, buy a new one, or take the plunge and build a new one.

    My objective is twofold:

    First, I want to run as many instances of GPO and/or EWQLSO (Silver) as is required to realize large orchestrations in real time (I’m talking an orchestra the size of the one employed in Stravinsky’s “The Rites of Spring”) and capture the performance to .wav or any other format that will allow me to burn a CD of the finished composition.

    Second, I want to convert my old Akai, EMU, and Kurzweil sound libraries to Kontakt or Giga format, so that I can sell the hardware sampler I own.

    Third, of course, I’m also looking for the cheapest way to get the job done.

    Here’s my present system:

    Dell Dimension 8100: P4 1.5 Ghz, 400 FSB; Dell motherboard with Socket W (it is only upgradable to P4 2.0, and Dell “recommends” it not be upgraded); 256 MB Rambus PC 600 memory (two 128 MB sticks); M-Audio Audiophile Delta 24/96 soundcard; DVD and CD-RW drives, and ATI Radeon Rage 6 graphics card w/ 32 MB ram; Windows ME.

    My sequencer is a dinosaur: Cakewalk professional 3.0. I haven’t had a use for DAW. The sequencer functions are more than enough for me, and the application itself takes little memory to run. I have been using my computer purely as a sequencer, triggering an EMU E-Synth keyboard and recording the outputs of that to tape when I finish compositions. I’ll be selling my E-Synth shortly.

    I just installed Gigastudio 160 on my computer, but have not played with it too much yet. I understand that it has a capture to .wav function so that you can turn your real time compositions into .wav files and then convert them to burn your music onto CD. I haven’t tried this feature yet.

    The way I see it, my alternatives are as follows:

    The first alternative is to upgrade the RAM in my present system to 768 MB for $172 by buying two sticks of 256 MB and installing them along with the two 128 MB sticks in there now. This is the cheapest price I’ve found, and the memory has to be replaced in pairs. Alternatively, I could spend $344 and buy four sticks of 256 MB to upgrade to 1 GB, but I’d be wasting the sticks in there now. I could also replace the processor to a P4 2.0 GHz for about $120 if the one I’ve got now won’t do the job. All told, I’m looking at $172 on the low end here and $464 on the high end. But I don’t know whether upgrading my present system will bring it up to a point that it will do what I want to accomplish.

    The second alternative is to buy a machine and network the two together. I’m not sure what is involved in this. Do I need to install network cards on the systems, or is there another way to do this? I also do not know what I should be looking for in a new system regarding system requirements for accomplishing what I want to do. I’ve read that GPO will run well with 1 GB of RAM and a P4 2.0 processor, but is this enough to realize a large orchestration? My thought was that I could buy a cheaper system (just the computer), run GPO or EWQLSO (Silver) on one and Gigastudio 160 on my old system. I’ve got a Sony dual input monitor, so both machines could be displayed. If I networked the machines, could I then use the same keyboard controller (thinking about getting an M-Audio Radium 61), same keyboard/mouse, and same speakers/soundcard?

    The third option is to build a system. I have never done this before, but feel capable of doing it. I’ve done some research, and it seems that Athlon processors (like the XP 2600+ Barton Core) give you more bang for the buck than P4 processors. I’ve also read a lot about the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe motherboard, which everyone seems to like.. If I build, the components come out to something like this: ASUS mobo: $110; Athlon XP 2600+ Barton: $120; DDR RAM (what kind do I need? How much of it? 1GB; 1.5 GB; 2.0 GB); case, fans, and power supply; HD; DVD drive (because EWQLSO- Silver only comes on DVD); CD-RW drive (or combo DVD CD drive). I won’t need a sound card or video card because the ASUS has onboard sound and video, which I understand are good. If the machines were networked, would I not even need to install a DVD or CD drive? Am I talking about merely building a machine that consists of a motherboard/processor/RAM and hard drive?

    I’m not sure what this system would cost to build, because I’m not sure what components I’d need. However, I estimate it has to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $600-700, without the $100 it would cost to get Windows XP. I could have this system dedicated solely to running GPO and/or EWQLSO (Silver) and use my current computer to just surf the web.

    Of course, the fourth option is to build a scaled down machine with a less expensive motherboard and slower processor and have both the new machine and the Dell networked to achieve the result I’m looking for.

    Added to all this, my understanding from reading the posts on the NS forum is that the version of Kontakt that comes with GPO and EWQLSO (Silver) does not allow one to load, edit, or “tweak” the sounds. Does this mean that I would need to buy the full version of Kontakt if I want to import and edit my old sample libraries? If so, this appears to be another $399 expense. If I just keep GigaStudio 160 on my old Dell system, I could import the sounds there and edit them with the Giga-Editor. I do understand however, that the synthesis engine in Kontakt is supposed to be much more extensive than Giga.

    While we’re on the subject, what would be the best program to convert Akai, EMU, and Kurzweil sounds to Giga and Kontakt format: CD Extract or Chickensys Translator? I’ve heard good things about both, and they seem to be evenly priced at about $130 to $140.

    What would you recommend?

    What would you do? Build, buy, or upgrade? If the answer is build, please help me out by specifying the components you would use and the software you would buy, given the objectives I have set forth above.

    There’s my \"dilemma.\" Probably way too many questions for one post, but they are all things I am considering. For anyone that has read this far. Thanks for reading. If anyone wants to tackle all or some of the questions in this post, I’d love to hear from you. I imagine that the post is relevant, since GPO, EWQLSO, and VSL have now opened the doors to realizing orchestral music to many people like myself: hobbyists with limited time and a limited budget who feel overwhelmed by the choices and extremely excited by the possibilities. Thanks again to all those that reply.

  2. #2

    Re: GPO computer system: build, buy, or upgrade?

    Ho boy. Here comes my $0.02:

    When I read your current system\'s specs, the first upgrade choice was memory--which seems to be yours, as well. If you decide to stay with the Dell as your only machine, I\'d max out the memory as much as possible--especially if you decide to run Kontakt AND GigaStudio (\"GS\") on the same machine. GS is a bit of a memory hog: when I load up a full Advanced Orchestra, memory usage is around 50% on my 1.5GB machine.

    Networking two machines gets a bit dicey. Hardware-wise, for the actual networking aspect you need two network interface cards--either PCI or USB as some are now. I\'d go with PCI because they\'re cheap ($15) and very reliable. Then, a special form of network cable known as a crossover cable. This way you can connect both machines to each other, rather than going through a hub.

    I have not run GPO, so I can\'t say what the prime specs would be for it. However, to answer your question on using some of the same hardware, here\'s my answers:
    1) Keyboard controller - it is possible using MIDIOverLan (http://www.musiclab.com/products/rpl_info.htm) to send MIDI data from one machine to another via a network.
    2) Keyboard/mouse - slightly more of a hassle. I\'m running two machines myself, and I\'m using a KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) switch to change where my keyboard/mouse send data. It IS possible to install a program such as VMWare (http://www.vmware.com) - however, I haven\'t set up such a system myself and it seems to be prohibitively complex. I\'d go with the KVM switch.
    3) Speakers/soundcard - no, unless you will not use sound on one of the machines.

    As for option three...
    Onboard sound & video? One caveat. I believe it can use CPU cycles to do some of the sound processing. I may be wrong--if so, please let me know. However, my opinion of on-board sound is that there are better quality options out there.

    If the machines were networked, then no, you wouldn\'t have to have a DVD or CD-ROM. You\'d just have to make sure the DVD/CD on your primary machine was shared, so that the other machine can browse to it and use it as necessary.

    OS installation can be a bit tricky without a local CD/DVD drive. I\'d pop in a drive to at least do the installation, then possibly remove it once that\'s done.

    That\'s about all I have knowledge of, and this chest cold is frying my brain a bit, so I\'ll end this now. Good luck to you!

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