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Topic: months of prep...what do ya think?

  1. #1

    months of prep...what do ya think?

    Hi, I'm literally days from finally taking the plunge and dropping about $12,000 for my Gigastudio setup. I was hoping I could bounce off my list of gear I'll be purchasing and see if anyone sees any faults in the line-up.

    Currently I own 1 PC which has Cubase SX, Sibelius, Kontakt, and Gigastudio 160 (with several libraries including GOS, Dan Dean W.W.'s and Solo Brass, QL '56 Strat, DFH, Ethnoworld, London Perc, Sam Horns, etc, etc.) on it. I also own a Yamaha S80 keyboard.

    Anyway, on to the list o' stuff:

    3 PC's with the following specs:
    - Case: Antec Sonata
    - Mobo: Asus P4C800E Deluxe
    - Memory: 2GB Corsair XMS
    - HD: OS on Western Digital 40GB IDE HD, Samples on 2 Seagate 120GB SATA's in RAID config
    - CPU: Intel Pentium 4 Prescott 3GHz 800MHz FSB
    - Floppy Disk: Sony Floppy Disk Drive
    - Optical Drive: Sony Model CRX320E

    As well as the following hardware:
    - Master Computer Audio Interface (RME HDSP9652)
    - Gigastudio Computer Audio Interfaces (RME DIGI9632 x 3)
    - D/A Convertor (RME ADI-2)
    - Monitors (Mackie HR824's)
    - KVM Switch (IOGear Miniview III USB KVMP Switch Kit)
    - Ethernet Hub (whatever looks good at the time)

    And then of course there will be the software:
    - Cubase SX upgrade to 2.0
    - Gigastudio upgrade to 3.0
    - Gigastudio 3.0 subsequent copies x 2
    - MIDIOverLan (or similar software)
    - Windows XP
    - VSL Performance Set - Pro Edition

    In a few months I'm going to be recieving an additional $5000. My options are putting together yet another Gigastudio computer (depends on how streamlined this current setup will be), purchasing more sample libraries, purchasing effects plugins, or whatever else I or you guys can think of.

    Anyway, my goal is by the end of this to have a fully functional (read: efficient) setup that will seamlessly make the transition from the world of composition student to the world of real life. I have about 2 years to get cosy with this stuff before I leave school and all hell breaks loose.

    So (other than the stupid loan itself am I making any mistakes here with my future purchases? Any suggestions would be appreciated greatly.


  2. #2

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    Points well taken. Thanks for the sage advice. Let me give you a bit of my equipment history and see what you recommend.

    I really began composing heavily in the 6th or 7th grade using the General MIDI on my then very crappy Soundblaster 16. This evolved gradually until I came across Soundfonts. I must have used this technology for 4 or 5 years. I amassed quite a collection of these things and became pretty good with using them to get good orchestral results. The thing I loved most about them in hindsight was how easy they were to use. Since they were so small I could create huge custom MIDI banks for each project I was working on, etc, etc and I only had notes dropping out during heavy tutti orchestrations. Anyway, they were a breeze to work with and I was very happy with them until I heard something performed using Gigastudios which completely blew what I was doing out of the water.

    So I saved and planned, bought a copy of 160 on Ebay for half the retail price, and proceeded to begin amassing libraries. I also gave me old computer to my brother and wound up building a new computer to make the most of everything. What I had thought to be a good idea turned into a three year curse. My productivity dropped by about 99% simply because every step became so much more complicated with Gigastudio. I could no longer even attempt full orchestral arrangements or even a quarter of that because the polyphony would never hold out (my machine has some issues there. The polyphony rarely peaks at 160, yet tons of notes are still dropped). Then there was the fact that everytime I did a project I essentially had to mix it twice--once while I was composing and then again after I had recorded everything to .wav and loaded the tracks into Cubase SX.

    Suffice it to say, I tried it and didn't like it. Granted the results were worth the work, but long gone were the days when I just plopped myself down in front of a computer and two hours later had a finished piece. Basically using the system had become a joyless chore and I just couldn't see myself sticking with this setup for another two years.

    Thus the new concept for my home studio. I figured with the setup I presented to you guys I'd be doing well for myself since I could get everything running smoothly again. Granted it may be a little overkill, but I'm willing to compromise if you think its a better idea. Anyway, I've already invested several thousand dollars in Gigastudio, so I feel like I'm past the point of no return. But if you think Gigastudio is on the way out then I think I better heed your advice. But what should I do in the meantime?

    I'm currently pumping several hours a day developing my ear with the help of a private teacher in Dallas, and I have projects galore being thrown at me right and left up at school. Most I wind up turning down because of time issues, but the few I take are excellent in helping me get better at composing and scoring.

    I guess the question I need to ask myself is which do I do?

    1. Buy now, do as much as possible with what I have, and enter the market with a firm knowledge of the equipment I possess. Everyone needs to start somewhere right?


    2. Hold off buying, work on just my composition chops, bear with my setup, and enter the market with fresh new equipment that I have no clue how to use.

    I don't know. The second option sounds kinda freaky to me. Atleast with the first option, I could produce a product in a timely (and possibly fun) manner now. I realize that things become obsolete quickly in the computer and audio businesses, but I feel like the market is a moving bullet train and now is as good a time to enter as any.

    I'm truly torn here though.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Chandler, Arizona

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    I have to agree with Lee on most of his points.

    You mentioned in your last post that you can't pull off full pieces in one day. Take a look at GPO for your composing needs. The sound quality is great with an ease of use plus you can do a full orchestration on a P4 with 2 GB of memory with room to spare. Use this for the basic orchestra. I like to add stuff from GOS, Dan Dean, EWQLSO Silver and the Project SAM libraries. BTW, most of these are imported into Kontakt 1.5.3 so I rarely ever need to fire up my Giga machine. I'm using a P4 2.8e processor with 2 GB of PC3200 DDR memory with 2.5 CAS latency (Kingmax - cost $90 per 512 MB chip). I'm usually choking on hard drive access. I do need 2 computers if the pieces also include piano and harp.

    I'm using SATA hard drives on both systems without RAID at this time which is working fine. FX-Teleport is used between the systems which means I don't need a sound card or MIDI interface on the 2nd machine. This is one of the advantages of using Kontakt over Giga plus I can load VST's into Sonar which I use as my sequencer program. The total costs of my 2 computers at todays prices would be just over $2000. The Prescott processors are not necessary plus they run hotter as Lee mentioned.

    I would put extra money into quiet power supplies and CPU fans. This will really improve your recording environment.

    If you want to use GigaStudio, then you'll need the additional soundcard and MIDI interface until Max puts out his VST adapter. I would look into VSL Opus 1 if you want the legato performance option. This will also save on hard drive space.

    I really think that with the proper tools that 2 computers will allow you to perfect your composing skills and you can do this including software and libraries for under $5000 or less. This technology is changing fast and you may want to just start out with one computer with 2 GB of memory and some of the smaller more manageable libraries so you can get some composing done.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Winsted, CT

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    > the stuff you're buying won't even have components that are upgradable down the line

    > This technology is changing fast

    Not to disagree, but… These statements have always been true. And they will ALWAYS be true.

  5. #5

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    Thanks for all the great advice. I appreciate you guys trying to save me money and making life easier. Only thing left for me to say in favor of doing this is I've been composing for a long time (going on 11 years) and I'm ready to make the step into the world of pro-gear and stop acting like a passive student. I'm well on my way with composition but I'm completely ignorant with audio gear and I feel I should jump onto this very important aspect of my future career ASAP. While it may be wiser to take the more reserved route I'd like to plunge head first and start getting first hand experience now.

    The last thing I want to do is shell out several thousand dollars for another setup that, while obviously less irritating than before, will still have a large list of workarounds and problems of its own. Sure whatever I buy now is guaranteed to be obsolete in a year or two, but the same thing would hold for whatever I purchase upon graduation.

    Anyway, I hope my pov is coming across.

  6. #6

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    I think you have an obsessive cumpulsive disorder. Seriously, you dont need all that stuff. Save you cash and buy a house!!! Perhaps you just need more time to work with what you already have.

    All you need is a powerful computer, a decent audio card, and a UAD card. Many hits have been accomplished with minimal setups!

  7. #7

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    So the destinct impression I'm getting here is that I'm making a huge mistake. I should either purchase a lesser setup or just use what I have and get on with life. But I guess I made my intentions unclear, because I really wasn't asking for a judgement on me spending this money. I was asking given $12000, and possibly an additional $5000, with an intent to do orchestral scores, what would you purchase?

    Personally I don't think 3 new computers, VSL performance set, and the components required to make the above work is really that rediculous. Particularly when you consider what resource hogs the VSL legato patches are.

    As for whether I'm obsessive compulsive, that may or may not be true. I do know I'm tired of my current setup and I think its reasonable to want to upgrade. The moment technology gets in the way of creativity is the moment it should be abandoned or upgraded and I've been hassling with my setup for three years -- more than enough time to stew over this problem. Granted $12k is a large sum to blow, too much likely, but the fact of the matter is I have $12k to spend, and I'd like to invest that money the best way I can as far as equipment is concerned.

  8. #8

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    More and faster equipment will not make your job any easier. It will make it far more complex, and unless you are very technically oriented, you will be more frustrated than you are now, not less. Then you will come back here in a year and be asking a similar question about more hardware. It's not the hardware that is making things difficult. It is the fact that it IS difficult to make all these things work together seamlessly.

    Do yourself a big favor. Buy a copy of GPO, put everything else aside for now, and make music. The frustration level will drop dramatically, and then as you need it, add things a piece at a time. Borrowing money to buy all this stuff is a very bad idea, unless you already have a contract that is going to pay for it. If you're not borrowing the money and I misunderstood this, then spend the $5000 on a new, fast computer and use the software and libraries you already have. Invest the rest for your retirement. At your age, $12,000 will be worth a fortune by then.

    -- Martin

  9. #9

    Exclamation Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    Quote Originally Posted by mschiff
    $12,000 will be worth a fortune by then.

    -- Martin
    And $12,000 worth of debt takes a long time to pay off when you're doing free internships and working at Starbucks for the first few years out of school. I graduated in 1995 with a significant portion of my school debt and am still paying it off... and I've been working in music studios, building synthesizers, and ridden the Internet boom and bust since then - and the debt is still there...
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  10. #10

    Re: months of prep...what do ya think?

    Well, I'm taking your guys' advice. I'm not going with GOP mainly because the libraries I've already invested in can do just as well. I've revamped my list to the following:

    - 1 PC (with similar specs to the above one)
    - Software upgrades for Sibelius, Gigastudio, and Cubase, as well as MIDIOverLan
    - Mackie HR824's or perhaps something from Genelec (I need to go do some field tests here)
    - RME HDSP9652 in my main computer and a DIGI9632 in the Gigastudio one
    - RME ADI-2 when it's released

    The total has been brought down considerably to the much more managable $4700 range. I'm going to save the rest of the money and watch the market and just see what happens. In the meantime this should get me well on my way to where I want to be. I thank everyone for the warnings. It took awhile for the intelligence to set into my thick skull, but given the unanimous view of the forum I'm following your guidence. Thanks for the intervention!

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