Recording - April 2016 - 61

which keeps my vestibular system behaving properly.
That graphics card needs a power supply that can supply
600W minimum, so I put in one of those as well.
A quick word for anyone else with eye-sensitive
vestibular issues: after consulting a succession of doctors who couldn't help, I found a tech support guy at
Micro Center who also has vertigo problems, and he
pointed me to the fancy video card and to a monitor
with in-plane switching (IPS) (Google it to find out
more). With that monitor, with the resolution adjusted
to the minimum setting (800 x 600 pixels), color quality set to Medium (16 bit), and refresh rate set to 75 Hz
(most important) on both computers, my inner ears
behave themselves when I work on either.
Because Bert's onboard graphics output is VGA and
Ernie's video card output is DVI, I was able to hook up
both to the same IPS monitor and switch between them.
Neither computer cost more than $150 used. I had a
keyboard and mouse already for Bert, bought used ones
for Ernie, and spent about $125 on the nice video card
and $50 on the souped-up power supply. Add in $75 for
labor at the store, and my total-for both machines-
was a bit over $600. As you can see, having a separate
computer dedicated to audio doesn't have to break the
bank... far from it.

So yes, you can adapt the computer you already have to
also run a DAW. But if you can swing it, I think it's way
preferable to have a computer dedicated to audio. And if
you have a used-computer store where you live that you
consider both trustworthy and reliable, you can swing it.
What kind?
Okay, you've decided to set up a dedicated audio computer. Next comes the question: should it be a desktop, or a
laptop, perhaps a smartphone or tablet, or a netbox?
You can probably rule the netbox out from the start.
Netboxes are minimal computers that run software living in
the Cloud. Cloud-based DAW software is beginning to be
available, but you need a super-fast Internet connection to
use it. Consider that a modest 16-track recording, 32 bits at
44,100 samples/sec, uses 168 MB per minute of audio. So a
three-minute song takes up 504 MB, or half a Gigabyte.
That's a trivial size for a modern hard drive or flash drive,
but a daunting challenge for all but the speediest uplinks.
So my feeling is until we all have super-speed Internet connections, Cloud DAWs are not quite ready for prime time.
I feel the same way about DAWs on smartphones and
tablets, for different reasons. Smartphone and tablet technologies are still new; the hardware and operating systems
are evolving rapidly, which leaves DAW users at risk of

Yes, you can adapt the computer you already have
to also run a DAW. But if you can swing it, I think it's
way preferable to have a computer dedicated to audio.
And why is a specialized audio computer a good idea?
Aside from storage questions (which I'll get to in a
moment), the best thing about Ernie is that he doesn't
connect to the Internet, so I have few worries that he
might pick up a bug while surfing. That feels great. Aside
from peace of mind, I mentioned that Bert has three antimalware programs installed, and they check online regularly for possible updates. That's something you really
don't want your computer doing while it's trying to
record audio, because the computer must use a bit of
mental effort (CPU load) to do the checking. That shortterm load on the CPU can mess up your recording with a
momentary glitch. Ernie, on the other hand, has minimal
virus protection, and its programs never try to reach out
and touch someone for an update. (Every few weeks I do
hook him up to the Net for a minute, get updates, unplug
the cable from the Internet, and run a scan.)
I note with interest that the computers in the university's studio, where I recorded Ottoman Underground, are
also devoid of Internet connections. That's something the
faculty had to insist on; the IT department wanted to hook
them up, but the Department Chair put his foot down.
Should you?
So should you dedicate a computer to audio?
Certainly one computer can do it all; my old Dell did
everything-audio, writing, drawings, Internet-the
works. And it didn't suffer much. (One malware invasion
took down a lot of software, but left my DAW reasonably
intact.) When that computer went down I was effectively
crippled in the short run, but because I was singleminded about backups I lost very little in the long run.

having their software orphaned, and their projects too.
That's a problem we all face, but it's most acute in the
smartphone/tablet segment of the market. There are, however, smartphone and tablet programs that convert the
device into a control surface that can be used to control a
DAW in a stationary computer-watch this magazine for
reviews! (Of course you could get orphaned there as well,
but in that case you'd still have the DAW software and your
music intact.)
So I confess to an old-fashioned preference for desktop
and laptop computers for audio recording. Desk or lap?
Both have strengths and weaknesses (there's a mealymouthed statement, but a true one). Desktops, because
they're larger, can offer space inside the case to mount
additional hard drives, internal audio cards, and fancy
video cards (but see below). You can't do that with laptops.
Of course they're portable, and have the keyboard, touch
pad and monitor built in-and they're virtually silent,
while desktops almost always have some residual fan noise
unless they're specially constructed for silence.
Which brings us to the subject of building a computer
from scratch in your own workroom, optimized both for
audio and for quiet operation. (This would, of course, be a
desktop.) That's certainly possible, not as daunting as it
used to be, and one way to save a few bucks. (Not many,
though, because people who build their own computers usually opt for higher-quality components than most commercial manufacturers.) There are also computers customdesigned for running a DAW (look in the back pages of
Recording for ads). Or you can do what I did-go for a lowball solution in a used computer; this requires a dealer you
can trust, preferably with a good return policy.
RECORDING April 2016

61



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - April 2016

Contents
Recording - April 2016 - Intro
Recording - April 2016 - Cover1
Recording - April 2016 - Cover2
Recording - April 2016 - 1
Recording - April 2016 - 2
Recording - April 2016 - 3
Recording - April 2016 - 4
Recording - April 2016 - 5
Recording - April 2016 - Contents
Recording - April 2016 - 7
Recording - April 2016 - 8
Recording - April 2016 - 9
Recording - April 2016 - 10
Recording - April 2016 - 11
Recording - April 2016 - 12
Recording - April 2016 - 13
Recording - April 2016 - 14
Recording - April 2016 - 15
Recording - April 2016 - 16
Recording - April 2016 - 17
Recording - April 2016 - 18
Recording - April 2016 - 19
Recording - April 2016 - 20
Recording - April 2016 - 21
Recording - April 2016 - 22
Recording - April 2016 - 23
Recording - April 2016 - 24
Recording - April 2016 - 25
Recording - April 2016 - 26
Recording - April 2016 - 27
Recording - April 2016 - 28
Recording - April 2016 - 29
Recording - April 2016 - 30
Recording - April 2016 - 31
Recording - April 2016 - 32
Recording - April 2016 - 33
Recording - April 2016 - 34
Recording - April 2016 - 35
Recording - April 2016 - 36
Recording - April 2016 - 37
Recording - April 2016 - 38
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Recording - April 2016 - 40
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Recording - April 2016 - Cover3
Recording - April 2016 - Cover4
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