I’m looking to buy a laptop in the coming weeks with a view to using Cubase for live gigs. I know people seem to prefer a Mac but I’m used to PCs. Basically I’d have most of my tracks down as an audio mixdown and would play a live track over this. I hear Asus are good for this, as are Lenovo. Any help greatly appreciated guys.
I have a friend who swears by Dell laptops and that’s what he’s used for Cubase for years, various generations. It works well, we record 16 tracks regularly at rehearsals. However, we don’t use it live, just for recording multitrack rehearsals. Strangely enough I inherited a Dell laptop from my Dad which he bought cheap from an advert in the Daily Mail, and to my surprise this too plays Cubase absolutely fine. I’ve not used this laptop live with Cubase, but I have used it live with ProTools 10 both for displaying a Score while I play on hardware synths (score synced to midi time code and backing track) and for playing live PT instruments in another jazz gig. Both times performing flawlessly! So in fact, flawless all round really for Dell laptops.
Everyone else I know uses Macbook Pros. And indeed, I have one of those as well which I run entirely with MainStage, it works flawlessly too. Three other bands I play with all use Macbook running either ProTools or Logic with video and backing tracks etc. But actually I don’t know anyone using Cubase live…
One tip I have is to make sure you get a SSD rather than a spinning HD because on stage the drumming vibration can cause all sorts of mechanical read errors to the latter! Learnt from experience on this one… Also make sure it always has good ventilation otherwise it will overheat - sounds like an obvious thing but it’s easy to place it on something which provides a good grip but doesn’t let the air circulate underneath very well, especially as it may well be working hard playing all the audio.
I was using such a setup (with a Dell laptop and Cubase connected with 16 CH to a X32 digital audio interface console) to be able to playback additional sounds and tracks during live gigs as well as substituting people in my band that were absent during rehearsals (we are 9 people in the band). In the end it is not very feasible. So I changed to a 24 track digital recorder like the Tascam DP-24.
That is placed next to the X32 mixer and is connected with stereo out to a pair of inputs and from the effect send of the DP-24 I’m sending the click to the drummer.
On the DP-24 I have all tracks (exported from cubase and copied via USB cable to the DP-24) and I have all faders and comand buttons (play, stop, rewind, jump to markers) directly at hand on the DB-24 to control which track is going out over the speakers and how loud.
This requires more work upfront (to export, level and import to the DP-24) at home but it pays out on the live gig where the handling is much easier. The DP-24 stores all pojects and WAV tracks on a SD-card. So maybe consider using your current PC at home for creating the projects and a similar device as the DP-24 for playing back during the live gig.
If you have a person who does the live mixing, the laptop option might still be ok but if you are - as I am - the lead singer, guitar player and “master of ceremony” on stage with the mixer next to him, I must have a solid gear that works. Laptops or computers (no matter if Win or MAC) on stage come with some risk.
I currently use Cubase Elements on stage. Up until 2 months ago I was using an Asus i3 with an SSD drive without problems, I decided I needed a backup and purchased a Dell i7 quad core, also with an SSD drive, in both cases using a Focusrite’s Scarlett 18i8, also no problems at all, also both running Windows 10.
I’m a big fan of using computers that were built specifically to be used as DAWs. The components are generally tested against all the major software to make sure they play nice together. Additionally the systems are tuned for optimal audio performance. Also if you do need support at some time you’ll be talking to someone who understands what Cubase, Kontakt, etc. are for and how they interact with the hardware (try that with Dell tech support, no dig at Dell they’re just more general purpose oriented).
Yes it will cost more, but I’ve found you get a lot of value for that extra cost - especially in the avoidance of strange problems (that you’d hate to pop up at a gig for example).
These guys made my desktop which I’m very happy with. And they also do laptops.
I do the same, program all my sequences in Cubase and then port them over to Mainstage (only $25!) on my Macbook for live shows. OH how I wish Cubase was more friendly for live use bit I get that is not their market. The sad thing is, if they just add one or two features like “Play next” after markers… it would be usable but that’s another topic.
Actually, there’s another thing here that should be mentioned, and that’s the audio device that’s being used. I’ve had no problems with audio devices on Win7 laptops but on my Macbook I had regular glitches. I tried 5 different devices before I found one which would work reliably without glitching. In this case I tried M-Audio, MOTU and finally Focusrite which fixed the problem with 100% reliability. So, that’s another thing to worry about for live, not just the laptop but the audio device too…
Though my advice is not to necessarily to buy a Focusrite (I prefered the sound of the MOTU personally!), but to be prepared to swap devices to find which is most reliable in your setup.