0% Interest for 24 Months! Learn more »
(800) 222-4700
  • Español: (800) 222-4701
Cart
June 2017 Giveaway

Sweetwater Forums [Archived]

After 15 years of great discussions, the Sweetwater Forums are now closed and preserved as a "read-only" resource. For discussions about current gear, check us out on Facebook, YouTube, inSync, and our Knowledge Base.

Laptop or multitracker for live set!!!

robotomy

Hi all,
I play electronic music live since many years. It's time now to replace again the laptop I use for live performances due to its obsolescence but I still have many doubts about which kind of machine is the best for our purposes.
We have an hybrid set with electronic sequences and live instruments as drums and keyboards and we use a laptop to play audio sequences, to send metronome clip to the drummer and to control MIDI syncronized effects.
Laptops PCs and MACs are commonly used today for live performance but I still think these are not so reliable and sound quality is affected by too many elements (audio interface, machine performance, memory etc.). What about using a Multitrack recorder/player as the BOSS BR-1600CD or YAMAHA AW1600 instead of a laptop machine???, these are reliable devices with high audio quality and even if not as flexible as laptops it seems that they can support us with all the features we need for our purposes including MIDI control for effects. I would like to have all the available suggestions about this matter from who have already faced this issue. To be honest I'm still quite confused about...!!!
Thanks in advance for any help.
July 29, 2009 @01:48pm
Psykostx

If you need to actively use soft synth software, get a QuadCore with winXP, learn how to configure the OS and spend your money on software. If its just for recording, get a nice portable easy to use and reliable multitrack. Any questions let me know!
August 4, 2009 @04:04am
robotomy

After some months I'm still in trouble with this issue.
We need to play live electronic background tracks and send metronome click (which can be also an audio track itself) linked to the tracks to our drummer. I don't need to play soft synths, I have an Access Virus TI Polar and some other analogue stuff to play live. Playing background tracks is something different. Actually we use a laptop PC (optimized for music use) with Ableton Live but seriously I'm not really sure about the reliability of this system, we have already experienced problems with this solution and without background tracks we cannot play, we have also used a Power Book laptop but the final reliability is very similar. I know that big professional artists use multitrackers for the backtracks (Alesis HD24) and some other devices for backup (minidisc or DAT for high resolution audio) to avoid problems if the main device fails during live acts, but I'm still not sure that this can be the final solution, the laptop is still more flexible and "easy to set". I would like to have more suggestions.
October 5, 2009 @10:06am
5454stevef

After some months I'm still in trouble with this issue.
We need to play live electronic background tracks and send metronome click (which can be also an audio track itself) linked to the tracks to our drummer. I don't need to play soft synths, I have an Access Virus TI Polar and some other analogue stuff to play live. Playing background tracks is something different. Actually we use a laptop PC (optimized for music use) with Ableton Live but seriously I'm not really sure about the reliability of this system, we have already experienced problems with this solution and without background tracks we cannot play, we have also used a Power Book laptop but the final reliability is very similar. I know that big professional artists use multitrackers for the backtracks (Alesis HD24) and some other devices for backup (minidisc or DAT for high resolution audio) to avoid problems if the main device fails during live acts, but I'm still not sure that this can be the final solution, the laptop is still more flexible and "easy to set". I would like to have more suggestions.

From the point of view of reliability only, I think you'd find a stand-alone to be superior. I used my old Roland VS for years and had it lock up ONE time, and that was when doing some stupid editing thing. Never did it fail me just playing back or recording. I can't say that I've had that kind of performance from my PC.
As long as you don't need to be able to record MIDI data and control anything, either of the two devices you mentioned earlier would be workable.
Editing your backing tracks is more of a pain, and you might find that the amount of on-board disk space is limiting. I'm not sure what they come with these days, but I doubt it's as much as the average laptop.
The kicker here is, you mentioned using MIDI to control effects and such. If what you mean is you're using midi from Ableton Live to control external devices such as multi-effects units, change programs, etc., I'm not sure either of them would do the job. The BR-1600's midi functionality is, I think, limited to synchronization purposes; I'm pretty sure you can't sequence control data. Reading about the Yamaha, it sounds more capable, but I'm not knowledgeable enough about that kind of thing to tell from the specs if it will do that or not. So you'd sure want to confirm that it has the MIDI functionality you need. If your needs in that area are very complex, I'm pretty sure a computer-based DAW will be a lot simpler to work with. You could always have a CD with your backing tracks as a last resort - you wouldn't have the click, but maybe you could squeak by.
SF
October 5, 2009 @06:08pm
SoloArtist

I think I have to agree with SF regarding the reliability of a stand alone. I have the BOSS BR1200CD which as a stand alone unit does not compete with memory space on my laptop. Better still, while I have had several computers crash, lose files, delete data, etc. my BR1200CD has only locked up once. None of my work was lost and I like the fact that I can make as many CD's as I wish of my tracks. Software, in my opinion is only as good as the system that supports it. As you have seen, using a laptop can be dicey.
October 5, 2009 @09:39pm
robotomy

Yes, your suggestions are interesting. I need this unit only to play the backtracks live, all the editing operations on the track files can be done safely on my PC workstation in my homestudio and then transferred on the playback machine. I have no need of great editing capabilities I don't use the unit as a "recording machine" but as an advanced multitrack playing machine (we need at least 3 separated tracks per time: rithm, melody and metronome on separate output and sometimes we need to load more than one song on the same bank to be mixed up). Yes, in the past we have used the PC also as a MIDI controller for external effects but we can do this job in different ways: i.e., we can sync the playback unit with the laptop and use it as MIDI controller only, in case of laptop crash, without "realtime effect changes" we can play anyway without problems... As you can see I start thinking seriously about the recording/playing device, do you know KORG D3200 or TASCAM 2488NEO??? Do you think these machines can do my job??? Another critical issue is the audio quality, some multitrack recorders can manage 16bit/44,100kHz audio files only, now we are using 24bit/48kHz files for higher sound resolution, do you think this can do the difference on live performances??? Thank you very much for your support.
October 6, 2009 @07:00am
robotomy

I've just heard about the new ZOOM R16. It seems a new multitrack recorder/player concept and it can also work as USB audio interface (PC or MAC) and as control surface for DAW. It can record/manage 44,100kHz/24bit WAV files. The unit is compatible with SD or SDHC cards up to 32Gb (almost a "normal" HDD) and can be connected to a PC or MAC by USB for full data bidirectional transfer. It can also send "clock" signal to the headphone output only. The cost is around $400 and it seems my optimal solution. Anyone knows something more about this new device??? In particular I'd like to know your opinion about the playback sound quality.
October 6, 2009 @04:19pm
Byll

October 6, 2009 @05:36pm
5454stevef

Yes, your suggestions are interesting. I need this unit only to play the backtracks live, all the editing operations on the track files can be done safely on my PC workstation in my homestudio and then transferred on the playback machine. I have no need of great editing capabilities I don't use the unit as a "recording machine" but as an advanced multitrack playing machine (we need at least 3 separated tracks per time: rithm, melody and metronome on separate output and sometimes we need to load more than one song on the same bank to be mixed up). Yes, in the past we have used the PC also as a MIDI controller for external effects but we can do this job in different ways: i.e., we can sync the playback unit with the laptop and use it as MIDI controller only, in case of laptop crash, without "realtime effect changes" we can play anyway without problems... As you can see I start thinking seriously about the recording/playing device, do you know KORG D3200 or TASCAM 2488NEO??? Do you think these machines can do my job??? Another critical issue is the audio quality, some multitrack recorders can manage 16bit/44,100kHz audio files only, now we are using 24bit/48kHz files for higher sound resolution, do you think this can do the difference on live performances??? Thank you very much for your support.

I'm not familiar with either of the mentioned devices - I pretty much moved on from stand-alones for my setup so haven't done much looking. That new Zoom looks like a heck of a thing, though.
I doubt you could tell the difference between 24-bit and 16-bit tracks in a live performance environment. In a noisy environment like that the dynamic range would be wasted anyway.
The only other comment I'd make regarding that is, you might not plan to use it for recording at this time, but it never hurts to not be boxed in if you think there's even a faint chance you might use it to record, in which case the ability to record at 24 bits would be a great asset.
Depending on how many tracks you use for your performance backing tracks, you could leave a couple tracks open to record from the live instruments and maybe have a pretty nice live recording.
SF
October 6, 2009 @11:14pm
SoloArtist

Yes, your suggestions are interesting. I need this unit only to play the backtracks live, all the editing operations on the track files can be done safely on my PC workstation in my homestudio and then transferred on the playback machine. I have no need of great editing capabilities I don't use the unit as a "recording machine" but as an advanced multitrack playing machine (we need at least 3 separated tracks per time: rithm, melody and metronome on separate output and sometimes we need to load more than one song on the same bank to be mixed up). Yes, in the past we have used the PC also as a MIDI controller for external effects but we can do this job in different ways: i.e., we can sync the playback unit with the laptop and use it as MIDI controller only, in case of laptop crash, without "realtime effect changes" we can play anyway without problems... As you can see I start thinking seriously about the recording/playing device, do you know KORG D3200 or TASCAM 2488NEO??? Do you think these machines can do my job??? Another critical issue is the audio quality, some multitrack recorders can manage 16bit/44,100kHz audio files only, now we are using 24bit/48kHz files for higher sound resolution, do you think this can do the difference on live performances??? Thank you very much for your support.

Hi Robotomy,
I'm not too sure about the KORG but the TASCAM units offer many of the same features as my BOSS BR1200CD. As you've noted, you can still use your laptop as these digital recorders can exchange information between each other. This is also so much better than having all of your eggs in one basket in case of a laptop crash. I saw a demo of some "high tech" recording software last year. A lot of add ons and it still didn't have all of the features of my stand alone box.
I believe the BOSS BR1200CD supports 24 bit/48kHz files which does offer higher sound resolution. Still, you're not in the recording studio but playing live over ambient sound. I don't think you would notice a major loss of sound quality in that environment.
October 7, 2009 @07:34pm