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Topic: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

  1. #1

    Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    Hi Everyone,

    I work longterm, out-of-town projects for my job, and one rack computer and keyboard is all that is practical to travel with and have for a music workstation right now.

    My one DAW has EW Silver/Gold, Cubase SX, Kontakt on P4/2g Ram with three (Programs/Samples/Audio) 7200rpm drives. Present small compositions consist of 6-8 Siliver/Gold midi tracks playing realtime live. I'm still learning how to work with software sequencers and haven't yet learned how to record to audio in Cubase. Audio in my world is running analog line-outs from RME multilface to Sony Walkman DAT. With that background, hopefully you can understand why I can't predict if the following is even realistic:

    As compositions become larger and more instruments/tracks/libraries are added (wish list is to convert VSL to Kontakt and add KH, SI, Bela, Lastufka, Garritan, SAM, Atmosphere, on and on (did I miss anybody?) etc), what is the feasibility of accomplishing a fairly large composition with all these multi VST's/libs on one machine? My understanding is that when I run out of power, I can bounce a section of midi tracks to audio on my hard drive, and then continue building the composition -some tracks playing back with the less power consuming audio, some still in live sample midi form. And with this process, I "should" be able to continue to work from one computer, building fairly complex compositions and using a variety of VST's/libraries.

    Other than the pain/inefficiency/time it takes to work this way, is this one machine scenario realistic? Are there libraries so power intensive that you could not run two channel audio, the sequencer, and at last one live sample midi track, all at one time?

    Thank you,

  2. #2

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    Hi Joanne, it defenitely is feasible to work with one DAW. As you say, you will need to bounce tracks more often than a multi-daw setup.

    One Daw these days can actually handle a significant amount of data but some easy ways to alleviate the load is to;

    - render tracks to audio (particularly if they have a high polyphony count)
    - render tracks to audio (if the part is cpu intensive, for example; filter sweeps on a soft synth.)

    I guess setting Cubase to 16bit would help too, you might also set the latency on the sound card a little higher to keep the CPU load down as well.

    Eventually, you will run out of horsepower but perhaps down the track you could consider linking up a laptop with FX Teleport? (I'm just trying to think of ways for you to have portable studio, not sure how practical it would be on the road!)
    - SCA - Sound Studios -

  3. #3

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    What I would suggest is doing away with the idea of lugging around your daw, especially if you're considering compromising ANYTHING to make it more road-worthy.

    Here's an article about many top-notch musicians and engineers working on laptops while on the road:
    Wired article

    Of course, most of the examples that were given seemed to indicate they were primarily for editing previously recorded .wavs.

    I still think this is a better way of doing it though. Have you looked at Edirol's High Quality Orchestral Synth? It's a 16-channel softsynth. The sound is amazing for a synth and I could get a solid 16 tracks of live processing on my old P3. Today's laptops could do much better than that.

    If you did it that way, all you'd need is a laptop and a midi controller. You're not really comfortable with mixing down to audio at this point anyway, so you could use the Edirol for composing on the road, then transfer the files to your daw and work on burning midi to audio when you're home, with the sweet libraries. Additionally, you could install any VSTi and run it on a laptop, so long as it has an ok soundcard (it'll need one of those no matter what), you just have to be careful about disk space.

    That would be a much more appealing prospect to me

    Michael Peter

    If music be the food of love...
    play on

    William Shakespeare


  4. #4

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    Hi Scott,

    Helpful to hear I can move forward with one daw for a while. I've had more luck working just with one machine and keeping giga sampler at home. Adding a second machine in the form of a laptop sounds better than two desktops though, and I've heard fxteleport is stable and relatively simple. Also didn't think of Setting Cubase to 16-bit or adjusting latency to keep consumption down.
    BTW, I liked Night Disturbance. I think when I went to the link a while back, it wasn't working. This comp was mostly Gold? I wonder what lib the voices came from.

    Hi Michael,

    Hope things in Phoenix are going well. I enjoyed the Wired article - well written and entertaining. I didn't realize that laptops are now replacing pianos in the music schools. To your point though, it sounds like most of the laptop applications talked about are more backend mixing,editing of wav files vs. streaming live samples. It would also be nice if laptops moved past the 1gb ram barrier and wonder why they've been slow to have the power of destops.

    I wasn't even aware of Edirol products. You're right that this sort of solution seems better than what I'm doing - and min requirements are 128 mb ram- and didn't realize full orchestra sounds came packaged this way. I'm trying to kill two birds by staying with the conventional libs on the road so that I can continue learning the libs - but I might have to move to this.

    Thanks for the suggestions,

  5. #5

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?


    The specs of your "road" DAW are impressive (when compared to mine anyway) and with the current DFD technology, combined with the power of the sequencers, you should be fine to run all of the libs on your list.

    What I mean is, it doesn't say whether you have SX 2 or SX 1, but if you did upgrade (which I recommend) to SX 2 you have the freeze function, which is also convenient for those in your situation. Once you get, say 16 midi tracks, all a'blazing the way they sound good to you and your CPU cycles are starting to get up there, simply freeze that instance of Kontakt and you're good to continue...

    Or render to audio and disable the midi tracks (if you save the multi in Kontakt you can even clear out your RAM and reload the multi if changes need to be made later). It's easier than it sounds, your analog out to dat is actually more work than you need to be doing...

    Simply place the cursers in the timeline where you would like the audio file to begin and end, go to File > Export > Audio Mixdown, and if you want a copy of that audio track to appear in your project, in perfect sync, simply click on both the import to pool and project options in the lower section of the Exprot dialogue box.

    Hope that helps...
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

  6. #6

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    Joanne, I have a lunchbox DAW. Lunchbox refers to the style of case

    It uses a standard motherboard and can support two internal drives and room for a CD/DVD player/burner. which in effect could be used for a thrid HD if you wanted to scratch using the CD/DVD burner. Then you could get a firewire burner.

    It is about 30lbs. Not too light but doable. I had to buy a carry-on suitcase to house it and my soundcard's breakout box (using Ardvark Direct Pro 24/96. The carry-on fits in the overhead compartment of most airplanes. And if you don't have to travel by plane then it is very very doable since you can nix airport security hassles.

    I have used this one DAW solution for the past 4-5 years. It was Soundchaser built back when they were in biz. It is mostly very stable and I can do very reasonable small ensemble comps with it loading libraries like Kirk Hunter strings/Ultimate ORchestral Percussion/X samples woodwinds...
    Many of my libraries are not the current huge libraries but as discussed before, rendering to audio will help in most cases if you're running low on CPU.

    For a controller, I'm using a Evolution MK-125. Octave and a half keyboard with buttons to go octaves higher or lower. I think there are better octave and a half controllers out these days...maybe by M-Audio...not sure. My Evolution with rechargable batteries serves me fine when composing out and about.

    Another possibility which I'll write about later after I know results is two firewire drive along with a laptop computer. I got an apple powerbook with a 400 firewire drive for audioand samples. Next to come is a firewire 800 drive used via a PCMCIA firewire adapter. I'll use that 800 drive to stream samples. All of this will happen within Logic and its sampler EXS-24. I'll try and post those results after I've done some testing with both drives.

    With just the one 400 drive using audio and streaming samples you can see here at the bottom

    I felt it was a basic accomplishment with even just one 400 drive...enough for me to composea anyway.

    More to come.

  7. #7

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joanne Babunovic
    Hi Scott,
    BTW, I liked Night Disturbance. I think when I went to the link a while back, it wasn't working. This comp was mostly Gold? I wonder what lib the voices came from.
    Hi Joanne, thanks, that track was predominantly Trilogy believe it or not. It (Trilogy) was on sale in the States and a good friend helped me out in getting it.

    The voices are from Symphony of Voices and there was some Kontakt percussion. Strings were Gold.
    - SCA - Sound Studios -

  8. #8

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    Joanne - your PM box is full

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    Hi Joanne,

    I think the system you propose to take on the road with you is good thinking. I believe I am understanding you correctly in that your location assignments are not travel-oriented once you've arrived. I would personally much rather have a rackmount system in that case. If you actually want a rack that FITS it, you have to get unusually deep racks, but Anvil makes them. It's worth it to be set up and ready to go. My live rig is broken into two racks by necessity, since the "live" computer doubles as a Giga/Synth machine in the studio, so I just disconnect all the cables and slide the single unit out. I have duplicate cables, trackball, keyboard, etc., already packed in the other rack so that I don't have to tear anything out except the box itself.

    I have an Anvil case for the CPU, and one for a flat-screen monitor, but I only use the one for the monitor when I'm doing local gigs, to save space. It's only when other people are moving the computer that I rack it up, like flying or using cartage. If you fly to locations, you'll need a case. My case isn't actually a rack, it's an Anvil box just a bit larger in all dimensions, and it's very padded inside. I'd recommend it for flying, even if you're going to rack it up when you arrive, just because music gear gets HORRIBLY abused on planes. As if being targeted.

    My worst nightmare was getting on a plane in Detroit after a layover, with 11 flight cases full of percussion gear, racks, etc. It was pouring rain, and as we were pulling away from the terminal, I looked out the window and saw every single one of my cases sitting on the ground in the rain. I think I was almost given the terrorist treatment...the crew could not comprehend my concern, and until I finally got through to one of them, they were not even willing to check it out. I arrived at about 3 pm. I got the wake-up about 4 am. Nice trip. Defnitely plan for the worst. I'm probably the most anal freak in the world about this, but I find the very best way to survive is to have all your necessary files backed up on a totally separate set of media. That includes having the OS and all the apps pre-authorized, a complete working system. Also, making sure that your OS/program drive contains zero user data--so that a switch is effective. You can never keep this totally up to date, and the preferable OTHER option is to have a drive which contains a Ghost, etc., backup of the OS drive, kept up-to-date religiously. You need the startup floppy for some of these, in duplicate. Recovery plan #1 is restoring the backup. Recovery Plan #2 is bailing out on the bad drive and plugging in the fresh new drive.

    All this sounds silly until the first time your computer melts before your eyes in the clutch. I've had it both ways, and recoverable is better.

    For sample libraries, you always have the install disks, but it's much better to just copy your drive to a fresh backup and keep it handy for insta-changes.

    Putting a (nice) removable drive rack in your system is super-helpful. I put one in any empty slot. If you have multiple machines, it's especially good. When you need to churn massive amounts of data around, it's faster to pop a drive in a machine than to wait for it to snake across Ethernet in tiny chunks, and when a machine goes down, it's sometimes a lot easier to do the sleuthing and repair work in another machine, while pursuing "plan b" to keep your work flowing.

    It's not as bad as live performance, at least. For theatre designs, I have a duplicate box running realtime beside the active one. If something goes down, the second machine goes online. Before computer control came along, you didn't have so many elements tied to action in live sound design--you had to keep it peformable on a sampler and usually MiniDisc players. But design has changed so much that if the computer goes down for even a cue or two, the restoration process for the soundscape may require going backwards ten or fifteen cues to pick up the changes. It's kind of scary. I am always fearing the phone call, but so far, the dual machine system has never failed us.

    God, I am rambling like an idiot.

    I recommend you get a Cubase genius over to your place, and pay him for a couple of hours of intense tutoring. Using one machine (if your compositions get complex) you may have the need for some rendering of synth/sampler tracks to audio tracks. If you keep good master files and version files, you can keep unloading your sequencer as you work towards your final mix, so that by the time you're finishing up, everything is in the audio domain, and you're free to concentrate strictly on getting the best possible mix, using every available processing cycle to do so. That, ultimately, is the key to using one or even multiple machines--that you constantly free up your resources and re-allocate them towards the final mix, and you find some organic way that works for you.

    I really don't recommend keeping things "virtual" except for progress mixes as you're working. The control is not there, and certainly the basic mix automation is not nearly as detailed as can be accomplished in audio tracks. The audio domain is also a creative process 100% its own. So, again, if I'm hearing you correctly, you have a lot of opportunity to improve your overall experience by learning to use all the features of your sequencer to their fullest potential.

    Another possible good way to get this knowledge down is to look over someone's shoulder who's a good user of your sequencer. In fact, I bet someone here would do it, since there's such a large number of NS folks concentrated there. Your computer is plenty fast, you might want to beef it up in some or all of the ways I mentioned above if you want to crashproof yourself. But I think the main thing is getting the sequencer features under your belt, so that you can manage your resources in the best way for your work.

  10. #10

    Re: Feasibility of working with one DAW?

    "Putting a (nice) removable drive rack in your system is super-helpful."


    Which one(s) would you recommend?

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