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Edzel Yago

How Do You Build a Digital Audio Workstation

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Hey, all.

 

So looking to understand what you need to build a DAW. From what I hear, low DPC Latency is important but I can't tell how you minimize it through parts choices. Does anyone have anything to share?

 

What are RAM requirement likes these days? Is there an advantage to more VRAM? More cores or high clocked CPU? Does a sound card matter? Internal vs External? What peripherals do musicians use and what kind of I/O do they need??


Follow me on Twitter at: @edzelyago

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I do a lot of music production and mixing

11 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

What are RAM requirement likes these days?

about 16gb more if you are using a ton of effects

11 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

What peripherals do musicians use

only thing extra is a xlr interface and a midi keyboard

11 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

what kind of I/O do they need??

usb is only thing I can think of

11 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

Does a sound card matter?

not really because sounds is routed thought the xlr interface


Cameras main canon xti Secondary Panasonic GX85 spare Samsung ST68 and nikion s4000

main HP compaq 8300 prebuilt - Intel i5-3470 - 14GB ram - 500GB HDD - bluray drive

old windows 7 gaming desktop - Intel i5 2400 - lenovo CIH61M V:1.0 - 4GB ram - 1TB HDD - 160GB HDD - MSI GT 710 - dual DVD roms 

main laptop acer e5 15 - Intel i3 7th gen - 16GB ram - 1TB HDD - dvd drive                                                                     

school laptop lenovo 300e chromebook 2nd gen - Intel celeron - 4GB ram - 32GB SSD                                                     

storage server - AMD X2 250 - ASUS m4a785-m - 4GB ram - 500GB HDD - 320GB HDD - 80GB HDD                                  

myanimelist

#Muricaparrotgang #MacsAreGoodComputersToo                                                                                          

 

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More actual RAM to load in your VST's (16gb personal minimum). LOTS of storage as some VST's can be 20-50gbs or more each. Some are even hundreds of gigabytes each (but they're usually packages with lots of stuff in them). I don't know about other software, but Ableton Live doesn't really benefit much from a beefy GPU. As for CPU, higher core clocks are usually better than more cores. An SSD is a must if you wanna get anywhere in your project. Sound card doesn't really matter too much. You just gotta make sure you use the right ASIO drivers. As for peripherals, that's all really up to the individual. Me personally, I just use an old keyboard (piano) as a MIDI controller. But some people like to have different kinds of controllers for different kinds of instruments. Mostly it's all USB. An XLR interface if you're gonna do vocals or live recording an acoustic instrument. But if you're doing a live setup, rather than for recording, the standard 3.5mm output really should suffice (at least it did for us). I ran into an issue though on my personal system with latency and USB 3, WIFI, and even Ethernet drivers. Those all had to be disabled in order to correct the latency issues. But then again, the system I built was much older (AMD FX series CPU). Use something like Latencymon to monitor what causes your latency. You'll also have to fiddle with your ASIO drivers a bit to get that latency down as much as possible. Beyond that, that's all I really ran into myself.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Thanks for the input, guys! Much appreciated!!

 

So will latency be a post-build thing rather than a pre-build consideration?

 

Would VSTs be fine to be on say an HDD with projects being on the SSD?

 

Do many music/audio peripherals use thunderbolt?


Follow me on Twitter at: @edzelyago

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2 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

Would VSTs be fine to be on say an HDD with projects being on the SSD?

Shouldn't matter as long as it's storage SSD is a little faster tho


Reminder⚠️

I'm just speaking from experience so what I say may not work 100%

Please try searching up the answer before you post here but I am always glad to help

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19 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

Do many music/audio peripherals use thunderbolt?

some do, others still use usb 2.0

like this apollo twin

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1511708-REG/universal_audio_apltwxd_apollo_twin_x_duo.html?sts=pi&pim=Y

 


Cameras main canon xti Secondary Panasonic GX85 spare Samsung ST68 and nikion s4000

main HP compaq 8300 prebuilt - Intel i5-3470 - 14GB ram - 500GB HDD - bluray drive

old windows 7 gaming desktop - Intel i5 2400 - lenovo CIH61M V:1.0 - 4GB ram - 1TB HDD - 160GB HDD - MSI GT 710 - dual DVD roms 

main laptop acer e5 15 - Intel i3 7th gen - 16GB ram - 1TB HDD - dvd drive                                                                     

school laptop lenovo 300e chromebook 2nd gen - Intel celeron - 4GB ram - 32GB SSD                                                     

storage server - AMD X2 250 - ASUS m4a785-m - 4GB ram - 500GB HDD - 320GB HDD - 80GB HDD                                  

myanimelist

#Muricaparrotgang #MacsAreGoodComputersToo                                                                                          

 

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26 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

So will latency be a post-build thing rather than a pre-build consideration?

Mostly a post-build thing. But there may be some USB controllers, Ethernet controllers, etc that can cause latency. So you'll have to look at user forums for the specific software(s) you intend to use. So you may end up having to buy something like a different motherboard that originally planned for.

 

26 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

Would VSTs be fine to be on say an HDD with projects being on the SSD?

Yes. But I will personally never use HDD's unless I really have to. But if it's a cost saving measure, it will be fine.

 

26 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

Do many music/audio peripherals use thunderbolt?

Some MIDI interfaces do. But USB 2.0 has a faster transfer rate than the MIDI standard. So it's kinda pointless to spend money on those kinds of interfaces UNLESS you need a lot of MIDI in/out.

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3 hours ago, Edzel Yago said:

Hey, all.

 

So looking to understand what you need to build a DAW. From what I hear, low DPC Latency is important but I can't tell how you minimize it through parts choices. Does anyone have anything to share?

 

What are RAM requirement likes these days? Is there an advantage to more VRAM? More cores or high clocked CPU? Does a sound card matter? Internal vs External? What peripherals do musicians use and what kind of I/O do they need??

I'll try and answer all your questions at once so here goes, 

Latency
1, Latency in ASIO workloads is heavily CPU dependent so single core performance is important (if you're using a modern CPU it should be fine) and if producing music/audio using plugins this workload can be multithreaded so clock speed and core count are important from a latency standpoint as well as the audio interface you choose to use (different manufacturers use different drivers that allow for differing amounts of latency). The reason latency is CPU dependent is that ASIO buffer size (and by proxy latency) can only be reduced so much before you start getting artifacting in the audio signal, I mean random starting and stopping, popping, ugly stuff that you basically don't want BUT the faster your CPU is the lower you can reduce this buffer size before the artifacts start. The more plugins you use the more likely you are to exceed your buffer and start artifacting again at which point you have to increase the buffer size (latency). I usually run at about a 512 buffer size at 44.1khz on my Ryzen 5 1600 just because I use a lot of taxing plugins and any lower buffer (or higher sample rate) and I create artifacts, the 512 buffer gets me about 16ms input latency and 12ms output latency.

RAM/Storage
2, I produce easily with 16GB of RAM but if you'll be multitracking (recording lots of channels at once) or using large plugins disk speed is much more important so SSDs are a must. Personally I use HDDs for my massive plugins but the loading time for some large (70GB+) KONTAKT libraries can be very painful so if you've got the chance use SSDs for plugins but in reality they should do fine off a HDD.

Gear
3, Take a look at the guide in my signature, it runs through the basic components of a studio setup as well as explanations on what each bit does and the best mics/interfaces at given price points. On top of the info there about interfaces it's important to remember a couple of extra things for production, the first being that knowledge on how to set up mics is more important than the mics you use and the second is that there's no shame in using plugins for instruments if you don't have access to the real thing. If you'll be using plugins you will want a MIDI control surface whether that be a keyboard, launchpad or otherwise is up to you but they will make it far easier for you to play around with ideas and record them. Many interfaces are thunderbolt but they're usually either large format interface designed for pro studios with lots of channels or interfaces designed to be expandable with multiple interfaces coming together to form a conglomerate device (yes you can do this natively on MAC with any interface but it requires manufacturer support in Windows). Thunderbolt interfaces are also much more expensive but price point is up to you. Other connection options to be aware of are Dante (ethernet) and ADAT (optical), each serve a purpose but for your situation as far as I can tell USB and Thunderbolt will be the two main considerations.

Software
4, Program of choice is important, there are tonnes of different DAW softwares and some work better than others for some people, spend the time finding the one that is right for you but for starters I always recommend Reaper, it's one of the best quality DAW softwares out there and it's free! (sort of). It has all the features of ProTools without the dumb stuff that makes ProTools annoying to use like lack of VST support and constant crashing.

If you have any questions about specific pieces of gear, plugins or software I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you have 


Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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Posted · Original PosterOP
17 minutes ago, The Flying Sloth said:

I'll try and answer all your questions at once so here goes, 

Latency
1, Latency in ASIO workloads is heavily CPU dependent so single core performance is important (if you're using a modern CPU it should be fine) and if producing music/audio using plugins this workload can be multithreaded so clock speed and core count are important from a latency standpoint as well as the audio interface you choose to use (different manufacturers use different drivers that allow for differing amounts of latency). The reason latency is CPU dependent is that ASIO buffer size (and by proxy latency) can only be reduced so much before you start getting artifacting in the audio signal, I mean random starting and stopping, popping, ugly stuff that you basically don't want BUT the faster your CPU is the lower you can reduce this buffer size before the artifacts start. The more plugins you use the more likely you are to exceed your buffer and start artifacting again at which point you have to increase the buffer size (latency). I usually run at about a 512 buffer size at 44.1khz on my Ryzen 5 1600 just because I use a lot of taxing plugins and any lower buffer (or higher sample rate) and I create artifacts, the 512 buffer gets me about 16ms input latency and 12ms output latency.

RAM/Storage
2, I produce easily with 16GB of RAM but if you'll be multitracking (recording lots of channels at once) or using large plugins disk speed is much more important so SSDs are a must. Personally I use HDDs for my massive plugins but the loading time for some large (70GB+) KONTAKT libraries can be very painful so if you've got the chance use SSDs for plugins but in reality they should do fine off a HDD.

Gear
3, Take a look at the guide in my signature, it runs through the basic components of a studio setup as well as explanations on what each bit does and the best mics/interfaces at given price points. On top of the info there about interfaces it's important to remember a couple of extra things for production, the first being that knowledge on how to set up mics is more important than the mics you use and the second is that there's no shame in using plugins for instruments if you don't have access to the real thing. If you'll be using plugins you will want a MIDI control surface whether that be a keyboard, launchpad or otherwise is up to you but they will make it far easier for you to play around with ideas and record them. Many interfaces are thunderbolt but they're usually either large format interface designed for pro studios with lots of channels or interfaces designed to be expandable with multiple interfaces coming together to form a conglomerate device (yes you can do this natively on MAC with any interface but it requires manufacturer support in Windows). Thunderbolt interfaces are also much more expensive but price point is up to you. Other connection options to be aware of are Dante (ethernet) and ADAT (optical), each serve a purpose but for your situation as far as I can tell USB and Thunderbolt will be the two main considerations.

Software
4, Program of choice is important, there are tonnes of different DAW softwares and some work better than others for some people, spend the time finding the one that is right for you but for starters I always recommend Reaper, it's one of the best quality DAW softwares out there and it's free! (sort of). It has all the features of ProTools without the dumb stuff that makes ProTools annoying to use like lack of VST support and constant crashing.

If you have any questions about specific pieces of gear, plugins or software I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you have 

Ok, so if you exceed your buffer, you'll get artifacting. If you increase your buffer size, you get latency so you want the buffer size low? What does a higher latency turn into? 


Follow me on Twitter at: @edzelyago

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3 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

Ok, so if you exceed your buffer, you'll get artifacting. If you increase your buffer size, you get latency so you want the buffer size low? What does a higher latency turn into? 

Lateny at best can just be annoying. At worst it can introduce distortion, noise and all sorts into your final track.

 

Buffer size is an act of compromise.

 

A small buffer size increases the strain on the PC, but reduces latency.

 

A large buffer size lowers the strain on your PC, but increases latency. However it can reduce the chance of distortion.

 

A smaller buffer size causes the pop and clicking noises as the PC is essentially struggling to keep up.

 

Personally, I change buffer size depending upon what I'm doing at the time.

 

I don't mind trading some latency in for less distortion when mastering. But when recording, I like the smallest buffer size I can get away with to reduce latency upon playback.

 

There are some pretty hefty arguments online about the "ideal" buffer size.

 

To me, the "ideal" buffer size depends upon the PC's processing power and of course the task at hand.


If you have any questions about ultra high end audio (Or any speakers or audio gear!), don't be afraid to shoot me a message, or mention me.

 

Spent over 700k on audio gear, still trying to increase sound quality.

 

Why 44.1kHz is all you need: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist–Shannon_sampling_theorem

 

How loud should you listen?: http://dangerousdecibels.org/education/information-center/decibel-exposure-time-guidelines/

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15 minutes ago, Edzel Yago said:

Ok, so if you exceed your buffer, you'll get artifacting. If you increase your buffer size, you get latency so you want the buffer size low? What does a higher latency turn into? 

Yes, in essence you want the buffer size as low as possible to reduce latency as much as possible, for a more visual explanation here's what my normal settings look like
image.png.357ec7d037a94658e770a94522b975c3.png
And if I increased the buffer,
image.png.e648b8241a66e1267a73284097339555.png
Notice the latency difference,

Remember also that buffer sizes are based on a the number of samples so if you use a higher sample rate (like 96khz rather than 44.1khz) the latency decreases for the same buffer size (because each sample is faster) but the CPU tax increases meaning you'll artifact at a higher buffer size than if you were at a lower sample rate. I know it sounds confusing and I'm probably butchering the explanation but basically;
Higher sample rate = less latency = more likely to artifact
Higher buffer size = more latency = less likely to artifact
Lower sample rate = More latency = less likely to artifact
Lower buffer size = less latency = more likely to artifact

Higher latency just means more latency, in the absolute worst case scenario it can cause distortion but I've never personally experienced that. Latency doesn't matter that much if you're just doing electronic production but if you're recording with a microphone it means that the vocalist/player won't have real-time monitoring of their mic (unless you use studio hardware like a Behringer MA400) and the recorded track won't align with the timing of the electronic aspects you've already created or the metronome you have set up. You can still shift the recorded track to the correct time but it's just a pain. 

Again, don't worry too much about latency if you'll be using a decent CPU, I get away with a Ryzen 5 1600 just fine for all but the most demanding projects, if you want to have the lowest latency possible then Interface manufacturer is also an important consideration as the drivers from some manufacturers have more inherent latency than others (we're talking about differences of single digit milliseconds though so it's really not a big deal)


Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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2 hours ago, Edzel Yago said:

-snip-

I do hope your inquiries here means that LTT is planning on releasing a build guide for a DAW station. Would be a nice change of pace compared to those made for gamers or video editors.

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2 hours ago, TempestCatto said:

I do hope your inquiries here means that LTT is planning on releasing a build guide for a DAW station. Would be a nice change of pace compared to those made for gamers or video editors.

Despite some youtube production channels (Glenn Fricker) claiming that some companies have specialised computers (Rebranded Clevos) that are better for audio production that you should really buy if you're serious about audio, really any decently specced machine will do fine for audio production. Sure if you want to get into DSP or making your computer silent there are some extra steps but in most cases you just get a PC (or Mac) and connect up an interface, open a DAW and start recording.

 

If you want to build out a full studio with a bunch of IO over optic fibre or use a mixing desk there are certainly some extra steps but for a normal production station, outside of studio gear choice there's not really a difference between an audio production PC and a gaming PC.


Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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Regarding VSTs, here is something that was not discussed.

VSTs don't need any special kind of storage, however VSTi will benefit from SSDs.

VST is is usually something that will alter sound and doesn't use lots of disk I/O operations except to load itself into computer memory, VSTi is virtual instrument and in some cases (eg. virtual orchestra) samples are huuge. In that case you need fast storage to read that amount of data.

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7 hours ago, The Flying Sloth said:

specialised computers

mostly I have seen macs being used


Cameras main canon xti Secondary Panasonic GX85 spare Samsung ST68 and nikion s4000

main HP compaq 8300 prebuilt - Intel i5-3470 - 14GB ram - 500GB HDD - bluray drive

old windows 7 gaming desktop - Intel i5 2400 - lenovo CIH61M V:1.0 - 4GB ram - 1TB HDD - 160GB HDD - MSI GT 710 - dual DVD roms 

main laptop acer e5 15 - Intel i3 7th gen - 16GB ram - 1TB HDD - dvd drive                                                                     

school laptop lenovo 300e chromebook 2nd gen - Intel celeron - 4GB ram - 32GB SSD                                                     

storage server - AMD X2 250 - ASUS m4a785-m - 4GB ram - 500GB HDD - 320GB HDD - 80GB HDD                                  

myanimelist

#Muricaparrotgang #MacsAreGoodComputersToo                                                                                          

 

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8 hours ago, The Flying Sloth said:

Despite some youtube production channels (Glenn Fricker) claiming that some companies have specialised computers (Rebranded Clevos) that are better for audio production that you should really buy if you're serious about audio, really any decently specced machine will do fine for audio production. Sure if you want to get into DSP or making your computer silent there are some extra steps but in most cases you just get a PC (or Mac) and connect up an interface, open a DAW and start recording.

 

If you want to build out a full studio with a bunch of IO over optic fibre or use a mixing desk there are certainly some extra steps but for a normal production station, outside of studio gear choice there's not really a difference between an audio production PC and a gaming PC.

Personally I just use a powerful "consumer" rig for anything audio related.

 

Looking at PCSpecialist, their DAW PC's just seem to dump more money into CPU + RAM rather than the GPU. Which does make sense.

 

Other than that, it just seem's to be a standard PC. Throw a good GPU in one of these build's and it'd be a good gaming PC.

 

image.thumb.png.5932984ace1cea52c8d51f6b3e1e0490.png


If you have any questions about ultra high end audio (Or any speakers or audio gear!), don't be afraid to shoot me a message, or mention me.

 

Spent over 700k on audio gear, still trying to increase sound quality.

 

Why 44.1kHz is all you need: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist–Shannon_sampling_theorem

 

How loud should you listen?: http://dangerousdecibels.org/education/information-center/decibel-exposure-time-guidelines/

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Posted · Original PosterOP
13 hours ago, TempestCatto said:

I do hope your inquiries here means that LTT is planning on releasing a build guide for a DAW station. Would be a nice change of pace compared to those made for gamers or video editors.

Don't know about a 'build guide' but we're looking at doing something for a DAW. =D So far it sounds simple enough. Just the question of DPC latency based on parts that doesn't seem like it can be answered until after it's built and tested.


Follow me on Twitter at: @edzelyago

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, Edzel Yago said:

what kind of I/O do they need??

Forgot to respond to this.

 

Most I/O is as follows:

 

USB - Audio interfaces. Some mixers use USB aswell.

 

Firewire - Also used on some audio interfaces. Not as common now, but some people still use it for high bandwidth stuff.

 

BNC - Very similar to S/PDIF.

 

ADAT - Uses a Toslink connector, but allows 8 channels of audio (7.1) @ 48kHz - 24bit

 

AES3 + AES/EBU - Uses an XLR connector (110 Ohms), primarily for stereo signals at up to 48kHz. Alot of pro gear uses AES/EBU to communicate in the digital domain. Can also use BNC connectors, but only up to 100 metres (When used with an XLR connector, the maximum distance is roughly 1000 metres). This standard is AES-3id.

 

AES10 - Very similar to AES3 + AES/EBU, but has much higher bandwidth. Can support up to 64 channels and sample rates up to 962kHz. Used alot for linking large format mixing consoles/desks to digital multi-track recording devices.

 

XLR - Just a balanced connector that can carry an audio signal. Used rather than RCA due to better noise/interference rejection.

 

TRS/TRRS - An alternative to XLR. Alot of headphones use this. Most instruments use TRS/TRRS.

 

23 hours ago, Edzel Yago said:

What peripherals do musicians use

Alot of us just use a mixer to mix all the instruments/microphones into a stereo output, then an interface to use as an ADC to route that stereo mix into the PC.

 

Some just use an interface with multiple inputs, such as a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. This provides most of the flexibility with the advantage of slightly less mess, and only one component to get audio into the PC.

 

The interface also provides the output needed for monitoring the DAW/Inputs.

Edited by Derkoli

If you have any questions about ultra high end audio (Or any speakers or audio gear!), don't be afraid to shoot me a message, or mention me.

 

Spent over 700k on audio gear, still trying to increase sound quality.

 

Why 44.1kHz is all you need: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist–Shannon_sampling_theorem

 

How loud should you listen?: http://dangerousdecibels.org/education/information-center/decibel-exposure-time-guidelines/

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4 hours ago, Edzel Yago said:

Don't know about a 'build guide' but we're looking at doing something for a DAW. =D So far it sounds simple enough. Just the question of DPC latency based on parts that doesn't seem like it can be answered until after it's built and tested.

There are round trip latency tables on another forum where they tested the drivers from each manufacturer so as far as interface/driver latency goes there are hard figures (if a little outdated) but from memory RME came out on top.

 

As for ASIO latency, like Derkoli said it depends on the workload, if I'm just doing acoustic recording with basic plugins I could probably get away with double digit buffer size which would make the latency meaningless, latency really is going to end up being a factor of how complex the project is but like I said before you should get more than good enough latency just by using a decent consumer CPU.

 

6 hours ago, Derkoli said:

Personally I just use a powerful "consumer" rig for anything audio related.

 

Looking at PCSpecialist, their DAW PC's just seem to dump more money into CPU + RAM rather than the GPU. Which does make sense.

 

Other than that, it just seem's to be a standard PC. Throw a good GPU in one of these build's and it'd be a good gaming PC.

 

image.thumb.png.5932984ace1cea52c8d51f6b3e1e0490.png

I agree completely. The reason I mention that channel specifically is that he supports a company called Slick Audio who rebrand Clevos and NUCs without doing anything special (pump up the price) and then claim they are specialist designed audio production rigs....

 

My rig is a "consumer" one too, perhaps not as powerful as some others but it's more than enough for any acoustic workloads, when I start loading in iZotope plugins and the like I jack the buffer up.

 

Also, don't forget AES50 or DB25 from that IO list, might not be the most common but you gotta show them some love.

 

7 hours ago, sub68 said:

mostly I have seen macs being used

For one very important reason, MACs just handle audio better, now I am as much of a PC purist you can be pretty much but I have no qualms in admitting that MAC OS just handles audio better. MACs also have the option to create conglomerate audio devices (use multiple interfaces at once) no matter what the interfaces are which makes it easier for pro studios to just add more inputs though many high-end interfaces allow expandability over Ethernet on PC and many lower end interfaces have ADAT as an option.

 

Beyond this, Logic is one of the best built DAW programs and it's MAC exclusive, I personally have very little experience with it but from what I gather it's another big draw to the platform. I've figured out my workflow without it though so it doesn't really interest me too much if it would mean a platform change.


Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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