I've been out of the scene for a few years doing other stuff. Now I'm jumping back in; so forgive me for asking the following question.....
How close can I reasonably expect to get to zero latency playing live AND recording simultaneously on the Garritan Steinway (with its verb)?
Can I simply buy the standard Core i7-920, 6 GB Memory system currently on the market in Canada for about 1000 US (including full hd monitor and ATI Radeon card, windows home 7 premium, and 1 TB drive) drop in a couple of 10k rpm maxtors and call it a day?
OR is something more required (using my m-audio 2496 sound card)?
The latency has more to do with your audio interface. With modern 7500 rpm hard drives, you shouldn't have any issues playing the Steinway. If you are concerned about hard drive speeds, then look into solid state drives.
I'm running around 6-7 ms latency with an EMU 1212m PCI soundcard and with 7500 rpm drive for samples.
I wouldn't personally get 10k rpm drives, but if you already have one you might as well use it. If you want to optimize the hard drive you might as well get a SSD as Jim suggests. The Intel ssds are very reliable, and I believe the vertex2 drives are good too. You just need to be a little careful to research the ssds beforehand, and get either an Intel or a new model with good reviews from any manufacturer. Avoid any models that were introduced a year or more ago unless they're Intel.
I think an i5 would probably be quite ok, though the i7 will be better. I typically use my dated macbook with a core2 at 1.8ghz and it does 32 sample buffer sizes with the right audio interface.
Which brings me to the matter of getting the right audio interface. I've had good luck with RME when I used their devices for the NAMM trade show; I was demoing at 32 samples over the 4 days in January without trouble using the fireface UC. I'm sure there are other audio devices that are quite good also. I just don't have extensive experience to say which might be very good and which might have trouble at low latencies.
Hope this helps-
Great advice. I'm surmise that I need to pay attention to the audio card and, if I'm inclined, the speedy drives--which should be solid state. No particular advantage to going for the fast maxtors (I do have a couple of 10s, but I've never noticed much improvement in latency.)
What I did in the "past," which is a totally relative term in this industry, is play in the music using a reasonable facsimile of a piano-type-touch keyboard/controller (you know what's out there), and then listened to the result through on Garritan Steinway. But like everybody else, I'd like to get a little closer to the action.
Wouldn't all (or most) of us virtual piano guys just like a Bos with midi on board (Bos makes one) and the ultimate recording studio in which to play around? On the other hand, Bach, Jarrett, and Evans didn't miss the tech, so why should I???