I'm 16 years behind! - HELP?

I feel so overwhelmed. I do stereo recording only (for live acoustical recording - archival mostly). I’ve never needed to upgrade before (and technically still do not) but - I would like to see if I can accomplish SUCCESSFULLY what I use my $10,000 Gateway E350 (from 1998) on a new laptop (software is Wavelab 3) = yes, please laugh freely. It does all I need to do. The computer has a great 24/96 MULTIWAV audio card with 1/4 in/outs (SPIDF and AES/EBU) and back in the day was one of the top spec’d cards. It was important back then that an audio card could not be on the motherboard. I have 2 Seagate HDD (a whopping 9GB each). Everything is Ultra SCSI, and I think the specs are 10,000 RPM’s, gave two CD Drives (Plextors) and I have the operating system and the program (and everything else) on one drive and the other drive is strictly audio. These were requirements back in the day. I even have the retro white computer. I feel so grandpa - but - running Wavelab and the quality of the audio is great and I feed them into Genelec S30D’s. My recordings are done with, typically, two AKG480B’s, into an Apogee Mini-Me which I digital input into a Tascam HDP1. When I get back I SPIDF into my Lexicon PCM91, add some reverb and realtime record into Wavelab.

I have NO IDEA what’s changed, how it’s changed and being 16 years older, have little desire to hit every single forum and google search for months to become enlightened - so - I’m hoping that some will realize that from me to become enlightened to where we are today would be a lot of work and time and I’m hoping symathetic souls will help me with what I want to do.

Basically, I would like to get rid of the “digital workstation” and have my laptop serve all my needs (haven’t bought one yet). I still want to record into the AKG480’s into the Apogee MiniMe and into the HDP1 and just transfer that into (digitally) the laptop…via the Lexicon PCM91…into Wavelab 3 (I hear in Windows 8 you can run old software through some virtual ‘something’???) listen to it through my Genelecs…burn my CD and call it a day. However “IF” there is a way to “just record into the laptop” (via Wavelab 3 - or if I MUST upgrade to the latest or buy the latest - I might be okay - just hate learning curves) - I would love to sell the HDP1, the Apogee Mini Me and just go straight in. I DO NOT WANT TO SACRIFICE QUALITY THAT I ALREADY HAVE - with the Apogee Pre-Amps - so if there is something that is kind of all in one - great. I also want to use the laptop for the rest of my business (documents, emails, etc;).

Do I need a seperate HDD? Do I get a laptop with two HDD’s? Can a USB be used for the audio and I just need a computer with one HDD? Can Windows 8 run my old Wavelab? Does it matter anymore if the audio is on seperate HDD? I don’t like a bunch of peripherals. My customers love my quality - they like clean, transparent, clear and I do use good legitimate micing techniques - so I’m wondering if I’m stuck - but I don’t want to buy all new software and hardward “just” for audio because I don’t make the money to support it but since I am buying a laptop - if I can get one that can do what my desktop does, I’d like to. Another issue was speed of HDD’s, etc; back in the day.

I hope someone is interested in enlightening a poor pathetic soul like me because if YOU KNOW what I need (also open up to recommendations on who, what and where to buy the laptop) - I would SOOOOOO appreciate your help!!!

THANK YOU - everyone for the time you’ll invest in helping me. It means so much!!!

Hello supo,

First, congratulations on staying in business. I’m impressed you’ve been using the gear this long and equally impressed you want to upgrade and make it easier for you. You’re going to get many contradicting recommendations from many folks and you’re going to have to embark on a learning program to get to where you want. I emphasize learning - please study as much information online as you can. Recording audio on a laptop is ridiculously easy these days and doesn’t take much technical skill but there are many OS-related pitfalls to be aware of. Since quality acoustics and quality signal flow are so important to your business you’ll need your research to be sure you’re purchasing only once. And don’t decommission your existing rig yet, you will have many, many growing pains that will make it difficult initially. I promise you’ll hate it for awhile.

Your basic signal flow for two channels is mics>preamps>a/d>usb>laptop. Easy to do but you must listen to everything before you purchase it. Mic preamps and A/Ds are very good these days but you’ll need to listen. You may be fine with keeping your MiniMe and that it’s just as good as what you can purchase now, but listen and compare. One interesting feature with the MiniMe is you can use the AES output to feed one recorder and the s/pdif to feed another so don’t dump your HDP1 yet. You always need a backup recorder for live events, always.

I’m intrigued that you’re using the PCM91 to transfer into your Gateway. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the increase in clarity you’ll get bypassing that step. The PCM91 sounds great as a verb but it’s not a transparent transfer device. If you end up deciding the PCM91 is part of your sound which it may be, then you can send the audio through it once you get back to the studio, no need to use mediocre plugins if the PCM91 is doing the job.

Good luck and prepare to be overwhelmed. You’ll be lost for awhile then acquire a critical mass of information at which point things start to make sense.


May I recommend going online and watching the Steinberg tutorials site on utube, first, to get a feel of the new software and its potentials.

Yes, a laptop can do all this, you MUST go 64 bit operating system to future proof yourself. Win 7 is better regarded (mostly) than Win 8, generally because Win 8 has an ugly GUI, under the hood its probably better. I use win7 and am happy.

Generally people still use outboard sound cards, for a laptop you simply chain something in. Even a budget card, will probably be better than old tech. Latency is important but most card build specifically for the music market will handle this well these days. Other thing to consider is how many ins and outs.

On the storage front, I would be waiting right now because, there is a new tech on the way, very new:

If the price was right I would use these for storage, but a standard HDD is fine really.

I have also used early Cubase and Wavelab, nowadays everything is much faster, more stable and more sophisticated but the principles are the same. Get a good mic and a good pre amp record at the correct levels.

Relax the mind, it will take months to learn the new Cubase, buts that’s OK.

You don’t say your budget, but mention a $10,000 pc. If you state your budget and what you want to replace you get better answers.

I would say that you should go for a core i7 architecture, though I am not up to date at present.

Cubase can utilise more than a single core, so multicore systems are best. I have a quad core laptop be warned that they eat juice

Don’t forget to factor speakers and amps

You did not mention MIDI?

I think this is the basics, you should enjoy the new world.

Not 100% sure as what ‘exactly’ you want to do…or not sure you know yourself either, which is fine. But I’ll chine in.

As for old software, I still use slightly older ‘everything’ myself, hardware & software. My personal thoughts are, If I want to keep using what I have, or what I want to keep using, I have to stay behind a little for it all to play along well. Years ago I bought Wavelab 3, never really used it, though it will still run on my Win XP systems…which my 7 year old technology/machines still do what I need it to.

Unless you want to buy a newer version of Wavelab, and/or Cubase, you could buy a computer or laptop that is still able to run Wavelab 3, and still able to run whatever OS you need that will accommodate Wavelab . It doesn’t sound like you need Win 7 or 8, or some new Mac system, though if you insist on the latest computers, that’s what OS you’ll get, and then you may be forced to start & continue an extensive upgrade path.

I’ve always used more than one hard drive so I don’t get bottle necking, though if only recording a single stereo track, maybe it’s not as critical(?) For the rest of us using lot’s of VSTi’s, lot’s of audio tracks multiple hard drives it’s more critical. I think of it as having more lanes on the freeway to allow more traffic to pass. I have 3 HDD’s in my main DAW…(#1) OS/Programs HDD, (#2) All recorded Audio/projects, #3) all VSTi sample content.

If upgrading ‘everything’ to the latest is in your desire & budget, and you don’t know how to build your own DAW, or want a laptop set up specifically for music recording, I’d suggest looking at buying a pre-build DAW from a pro builder. At least one pro builder is on this forum…Scott from ADK. I have nothing to do with his company and I build my own DAW machines by the way. But in general a pro builder can get you into the right machine for your needs & budget, sell you the software you need, install & configure it all…an all-in-one package deal/purchase…or as much/little as you want them to do. That’s what my buddy did (from a different pro builder) about 10 or so years ago, and he’s still using that system.


1/ do not buy something without good advice. In essence it is still the same as in those days. Quality is expensive.
A good starting point is pro DAW sellers. One that is on this forum is this one:


They will probably be able to meet your requirements.

2/ A computer can do amazing things at low cost nowadays, but as said by other posters, watch out for traps. The most obvious trap is an unbalanced overall system. In fact, technically there is not so much changed since the 80’s functionwise. Still samplers, sample players and synths do the job together with recorded live instrumentsand voices. What has changed is integration (user environment and synchronisation), resource capabilities (memory and stuff) and pure power (processing).

Hardware has economically hard times to compete with modern processors in laptops that just run software. Low cost systems really have catched up with high end in a way that everybody who purchases the basics can now sound nearly pro.

Software can do allmost the same as what in those days was all hardware. Look alone at cubase, if used wisely, this is a full blown studio environment, capable of recording hundreds of tracks from end to end, that would cost many many 1000’s of dollars/euro’s on gear back in those days for just 500 dollars/euro’s. It can do it without hardware, but (and imho this is the learning gap) people who are used to the same thing in those days, now have to adapt to a much more softwarebased aproach. Hardware is still available, but at a cost.

Industry standards are these days for example if you want to go all the way end to end:

But a valid question is if you really have to go all the way up to the topdollar equipment.
Software can bring you a very long way in to your production.

In those days, if you wanted f.e. to insert an efx, you took the hardware, connected it with cables into the mixer, and so on. If you wanted to change something on the efx, you walked to it and did this on that fysical machine. In a way this was very logical to do. Every machine had its dedicated purpouse.

In 2014 you do click click click somewhere in your software where most of it, if not all, is integrated, and that is it. The result is remarkably the same. but that being said, it needs a totaly different mind setting and approach.

That learning curve is, what i have noted with a guy in a band where i play in, who has emulators and other expensive stuff galore but also switching to a modern computer environment as we speak, is the big thing to overcome. I use his words: “it is learning everything all over again”.

3/ Next big thing to look out for is that laptops are a big compromize if you do not pay for it. A laptop has not the power of desktop systems, unless you pay more for it then a desktop system. It is more mobile, but this means that it is most of the time optimized for mobile use, and thus lower power consumption. This is not what you want with music machine. So those laptops that can compete with desktops are by nature more expensive than a desktop. And without the intention of being rude, stay away of mac since that is overexpensive for what it is, certainly with SB software. If you want the bigger is better on that, look here:


For the moment they do not offer dual CPU laptopts, but that depends. The guys under 1/ will add to the discussion that these machines are a) too high end b) not optimised for audio. That can be true.

4/ It is also a possible idea to hold the following into account:

  • are you going to do everything yourself, including the mastering ?
  • do you want the end to end proces completely under your control ?

If not, then you should thouroughly think about what it really is what you want to do with the machine.

I read that you say: Basically, I would like to get rid of the “digital workstation” and have my laptop serve all my needs (haven’t bought one yet). I still want to record into the AKG480’s into the Apogee MiniMe and into the HDP1 and just transfer that into (digitally) the laptop…via the Lexicon PCM91…into Wavelab 3 (I hear in Windows 8 you can run old software through some virtual ‘something’???) listen to it through my Genelecs…burn my CD and call it a day.

The best way i can imagine when you say this, is:
a) buy a decent machine (laptop or desktop). You can allways give a use for it in any way.
b) do use the ability that SB provides by downloading the demo and then:
c) very very important!
—) try to read the manual from a to z. If that is unsuccesfull, that is a very big indication that you will not be able to catch up with modern software, but also do not expect to master the entire shit from the first read…; :slight_smile:
If you understand what happens, and you can do the click click, that is the thing to look for.


kind regards,

Great advice above, to add to the ‘laptop’ comments…If it was ‘portability’ I wanted, I’d personally build myself a rack mounted rig to give me all the benefits of a desk top with portability.

One thing I would avoid is rack-mounted computer cases, as they are VERY heavy. After dispensing of a 17kg 4U Antec case, I bought a 4U Aluminium light-weight road case, added small wheels, and fitted a narrow midi-tower case with drilled angle brackets as rack mount ears into it. Much easier to move and lift.

Horses for courses, but you don’t have to run on a heavy track!

Hey there you go, that sounds even better. I’m especially liking the inventive/customized aspect of it. The challenges of bringing components together, and fitting them in a proper enclosure that’s portable & light weight is interesting.

On the other hand, I do realize that in certain non-demanding instances a laptop may just do.

Not the same, but as an aside…I built my own very basic home studio 12 space skeleton rack out of scrap aluminum I found on a job. Very light weight (the rack itself) but obviously all the gear mounted in it makes it heavy. I made a home-made ‘Lazy-Susan’ to swivel it around for accessing the rear connections.

One of the reasons I got rid of the computer rack case was that it tended to overbalance the light-weight 21U rack I had it when I slide it out to work on it. I would have to have a chair onto which it lent.

With the road case, while a little more fiddly (unplug cables, flip on end, unscrew bolts and pull case out), at least I did not fell in mortal danger of being crushed! Also, I could take it to where I wanted to work on it, rather than having to squeeze in where it stood.

I have not put my latest computer in the road case because it can fit underneath my desk, but at our next move I will probably take the opportunity to mount it in there so it will be safe for the journey.

Sometimes I wish DAW computers were not so power hungry, as then they could be as compact as the GigaByte BRIX (115x108x43mm) that we replaced my wife’s compact midi-tower with.

I hear ya Pat…as I was installing my home made ‘swivel mechanism’, consisting of two small pieces of plywood with two plastic circle cut-outs from coffee can lids within that, with white grease sandwiched in the middle and a bolt in the center (didn’t want it to rotate TOO easy by using bearings), I had to lift my entire rack to rest it on top & mount. It only holds 6 sound cards, 4 midi routers, 2 sound modules… In the process of lifting it, I threw my back out! :laughing: I didn’t even THINK about adding rotation to the rig until AFTER I had everything mounted in there, DOH! …and NOW I’m thinking of adding wheels, DOH!

I’m not too hung up on size right now, as much as enjoying the art of & facing the challenges of tinkering. It’s just a home studio in a dedicated 11X14 ft room, and nothing needs to be transported anywhere. In fact, I’m trying to find the time to finish renovating a huge 5 1/2 foot tall server rack I’ve acquired, which can house multiple computers and possibly (not sure yet) all my rack gear. Oh, and I already installed EIGHT heavy duty caster wheels on the bottom to roll this MOTHER around! :laughing:

Anyway, back to our regularly schedules programing! The original poster?