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Newbie Starting From Scratch
Last post Wed, Feb 27 2013 by civilization 3, 17 replies.
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Posted on Mon, Feb 11 2013 00:05
by SKellogg
Joined on Sun, Feb 10 2013, Posts 5

I'm hoping this group will help me spend my money wiselySmile. I am starting from scratch with no hardware or software.

My typical uses for my future setup include:

  • Serious hobbiest only - no professional use
  • Keyboard use almost exclusively, no live instruments, 99% MIDI, using VSL and other synth solftware. 
  • I do own MOTU Digital Performer 7 (32) for Mac but find it way overkill. I have an old MacBook Pro which is too slow for MOTU's DP

VSL LIBRARY RECOMMENDATIONS?:

  • I usually write for full orchestra - not for chamber or solo instruments
  • I need a variety of strings, brass, woodwind and percussion, all playing at once
  • I am considering purchasing the CUBE. Either that or purchasing Dimension Strings and Dimension Brass, then purchasing Woodwinds and Percussion spearately. Thoughts?
  • What would your reccommendation be given my needs?

VSL SOFTWARE RECOMMENDATIONS

  • I'm planning on purchasing VSL Instrument Pro
  • I've seen VSL's bare bones piano scroll MIDI software, which may actually be enough for me. Thoughts?
  • Not sure about MIR?

HARDWARE RECOMMENDATIONS?

  • As I said, I do own MOTU Digital Performer 7 for Mac (32) but would definitely want to upgrade it to 64 if you all recommend going the newest MacBook Pro route.
  • I hate lag and buffering, so I want to avoid it as much as possible.
  • Would you recommend  the newest Mac Book Pro (plus possible slaves) or go with one of the recommended DAW providers?

So, if you had it to do all over again, what would you recommend, given my typical use and needs? I do not have unlimited funds but at the same time I want to do it right the first time.

I am located in the US.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations.

Posted on Mon, Feb 11 2013 09:19
by crusoe
Joined on Sat, Dec 26 2009, Posts 141
>> Not sure about MIR?



I see it like this: try the free version, create a project with a single instrument (whichever you prefer), and then just move it around the scene noticing the sound differences. I was sold at this point. The whole thing shold take 10 minutes (on the working set-up of course).
Posted on Mon, Feb 11 2013 20:04
by didger
Joined on Sat, Oct 27 2007, Salt Lake City, Posts 68

Re: Library

If you can afford it, I'd say start with the cube. That way you've got a full orchestra with lots of choices for percussion and winds. I personally couldn't live without Dimension Brass now, but it can certainly be added later. It depends on whether 4 separate horns, 4 separate trumpets, etc., are necessary for your writing style or not. For strings, I would definitely say that Dimension Strings is a later "icing on the cake" purchase rather than the best starter strings.

Re: Software

VI Pro indeed. VE Pro is necessary if you use a slave machine.
What VSL piano scroll software?
MIR Pro is awesome. If you can afford it, get it. It's not necessary, but... neither is any of this. :) But especially if this is a hobby rather than professional thing, it makes it easy to just plug in and go with something that sounds good rather than stressing about mixing technique.

Re: Hardware

I happily ran DP 7.24 on a 2008 Mac Pro for a long time. I just recently upgraded to DP 8, but it's not a huge deal. But rather than worry about your DAW computer, I recommend spending money on a slave. I work on a Mac in DP, but my VSL orchestra is on a PC server I built with a friend. Your DAW can be just about anything you're happy working in if your orchestra is running on a powerful slave. VE Pro allows the slave to be 64 bit even if your DAW isn't.

Posted on Mon, Feb 11 2013 20:53
by noldar12
Joined on Thu, Dec 04 2008, Posts 582

A few random thoughts:

Computers: consider keeping your Mac as a master, continuing to use DP7.  You do not have to run all the VSL libraries on the same computer, and by going that route, you don't necessarily have to upgrade your sequencer.  Realize that in entering the VSL sample world involves extensive editing in a high-end DAW, and what you have will work fine.  Consider getting a very beefy PC slave for running VSL.  The VSL team members have stated repeatedly that their libraries run better on PC.  Therefore, IMO, wisdom is to get a PC to run their libraries.  In any case, if you go the Cube route, you are looking at needing a powerful machine (and will need that in any case for the full libraries, and possibly MIR, etc).  As it is for hobby use, a dual xeon is probably overkill, but consider at least something in the i7 3930k range.  Figure 32 gigs of ram, and SSDs if at all possible.

Soundcard: You did not mention a soundcard.  For what you are doing, a good soundcard is essential.  Will you be doing 5.1 surround, or just stereo?  Depending on the answer, a different card will be required.  RME is outstanding, and their drivers (very important for latency) are a known good thing.  Lynx is also highly regarded.  MOTU's cards are also worth looking at, but, RME, if possible, would be strongly suggested.

Listening environment: You did not mention what sort of speakers you will be using for listening/mixing/mastering.  This is another important area where skimping is not wise.  However, just as important, is what sort of room will you be listening in.  Is the room treated?  What are its dimensions?  Particularly if the room is square, or extra small, the room's dimensions could cause problems.  There are some circumstances, IMO, where having a high quality pair of headphones can be a major help, when the room cannot be treated, and/or one is living in an apartment where noise is an issue, etc.  By "good" consider Sennheiser's 650 or something equivalent.  Treating the room, and having quality monitors for good sound reproduction would be the first choice, but that is not always possible.  As for the monitors, if you have a good room, plan on budgeting at least $1,000+.  There is no point long-term in getting cheap primary monitors.

Sample libraries: This is the tough one.  If you see yourself doing this as only a secondary hobby, consider starting with some of the SE sound libraries.  They are not expensive, and they can give you a feel as to whether or not VSL's libraries mesh with how you work.  They sound good in their own right.  However, if I were starting from scratch again, I would go straight to the full collections.  In the long run, there is no substitute for them.  Getting both the standard and extended portions are important, as the extended samples are critical when trying to get as realistic result as possible.

As for Dimension, I would strongly suggest not starting there.  Especially with the strings, as only the violins are currently released, that will not work for a full string section.  Dimension brass, though, could be an option.  The Cube certainly would be the more complete option.  If resources are more limited, key collections would include: Woodwinds I, Brass I, Percussion, and for strings, it all depends.  Given your interests, either Orchestra Strings I and II, or AP Strings would be logical places to start.  Note though that for added realism even in orchestral settings, the Solo Strings can be of use, and they are excellent.  Another technique is to layer orcestra/chamber/solo strings, though others prefer AP strings.  Layering normal and muted strings is another possibility. 

Note that the Orchestra Strings are divided differently from all the other string collections.  While the other collections are divided as I: normal, and II: sordinos, Orchestra Strings is divided as I: violins, violas, and II: cellos, basses.  Orchestra strings does include a number of muted articulations, though not to the same degree as the dedicated sordino libraries for the other string collections.

As for downloading individual libraries, both Epic Horns, and Fanfare Trumpets could be of use to you.  Another option would be to consider using SE 2 for secondary instruments, though in the long run adding Woodwinds II could be a strong consideration.

Software: As for software, strongly consider MIR Pro, or at least MIR 24.  I use the older MIR SE (don't have the computer power to really handle full MIR Pro) and I find MIR to be one of the most critical pieces of software I own.  It greatly simplifies mixing/mastering, and it is outstanding.  Although I do not yet own it, Vienna Suite is well worth looking at.  When using VSL sample libraries, it makes sense to use effects plugins that are designed to be used with those samples.  MIR Pro/24 does require VE Pro, and as for VI Pro 2, that too, is critical (as you mention).

One suggestion regarding VI Pro 2: As whatever you create in the free VI easily will integrate into VI Pro 2, consider learning the free VI first.  There is a learning curve with VSL's software, and VI Pro 2 has many features.  By getting familiar with the free VI first, it could help ease your way into VI Pro 2, and has the benefit of not involving any additional cost.

Above all though, to buy cheap is to buy twice, and seeking to spend wisely will help to avoid wasting money on items one ends up seldom using.  Good luck with your decision process.

Posted on Tue, Feb 12 2013 02:00
by noldar12
Joined on Thu, Dec 04 2008, Posts 582

One other thing: if you will be running at stock speed, the i7 3820 would also be a very good processor choice.

Posted on Tue, Feb 12 2013 20:44
by SKellogg
Joined on Sun, Feb 10 2013, Posts 5

Hi Randin,

Thanks for the great feedback. One question regarding the continued use of my older MacBook Pro.

It is running:

  • OSX 10.6.8
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 6 GB 667 DDR2 SDRAM

I noticed it is running DP 7 with horrible lag when using their MOTU Symphonic Instrument - but maybe that was because I was running both DP7 and Symphonic Instrument on the same machine instead of using a slave for the instruments?

I'd rather not have to buy the new MacBook Pro AND a PC slave (expensive). Are you noticing any performance issues with DP7 on your MacBook Pro?

Posted on Tue, Feb 12 2013 20:50
by SKellogg
Joined on Sun, Feb 10 2013, Posts 5

noldar12,

I'm sold on getting a PC slave. Any recommendations on resources for purchasing this? I'm looking for the preverbial great price, great service, great warranty. I know VSL has a list of recommended vendors. Any recommendations?

Posted on Wed, Feb 13 2013 02:28
by noldar12
Joined on Thu, Dec 04 2008, Posts 582

Checking VSL's recommended list wouldn't hurt.  You will pay a bit of a premium by going with a specialized DAW builder, but IMO it is well worth it.  The ongoing service is of great use - as with anything electronic, parts at some point will fail.  The DAW builders know what parts play nice with others, and have knowledge that Dell, and HP support, and the like, simply do not have.

For my own situation, I have gone with ADK, and have been using them for some time - but that predates my use of any VSL samples, and technically,  ADK is not one of the certified builders (I would still suggest you check them out).  The VSL certified builder, VisionDAW, has been around for a long time, and should be checked out, but I have no direct experience with them.  In terms of general builders, there are a couple I would also tend to shy away from.  In the past DAWs made by both Rain Computers and Sweetwater (!) have been overpriced.  It is always possible that situation has changed.

Posted on Wed, Feb 13 2013 04:49
by didger
Joined on Sat, Oct 27 2007, Salt Lake City, Posts 68

I can't speak exactly to your situation as I'm on the top of the line 2008 MacPro, not a MacBook Pro, but here's the thing. If you're using a PC slave and are not mixing any other virtual instruments or live audio tracks, then all your MacBook Pro is doing is being a MIDI sequencer, which barely takes any power at all.

As for PC shopping, got any computer geek friends? I used ADK once before, for a mega-laptop when I was living in a remote place for several years, and I loved the computer and the service, as noldar said. But it is pricey. I was going to go back to them to build my current PC, but a friend insisted that I send him the specs I was going to get from them, and he priced out the parts at several thousands dollars less. I put most of that back into getting a more powerful machine than I would have. You lose the tech support, but all the parts come with warranties of their own. We built it just over a year ago and I have no regrets so far.

Posted on Thu, Feb 14 2013 02:40
by Dstorfer
Joined on Thu, Dec 06 2012, Posts 16

I started with Special Edition Vol 1.  It gave me a good taste of VSL without a huge price tag.  Sweetwater has good prices for this stuff.  Also - once you've purchased just one of these smaller items, you get reasonable upgrade pricing if you want to add on to it.

Also, also - once you have a license for Vienna, you can download a 30-day demo of MIR and the full Ensemble Pro. Please do yourself a favor and play with it before dropping another $500+.

I gotta say - MIR did NOT blow me away.  In fact I found it not remotely as impressive as I thought it would be.  They even tell you in the instructions for MIR that putting things visually in places you think they'd sound good in does not always work - they recommend playing around with locations in an unrealistic fashion to make things sound better.  To me - the whole idea of MIR would be that you'd lay out your orchestra just like you see one on stage and then it should just sound good. If I'm gonna be putting my violins on top of my trumpet players heads and turning them all backwards to face away from the stage, then put the flutes in the back left corner behind the timpani --  well, I'd just as soon run them through some Cubase reverb and call it a day.

MIR was no miraculous solution. I also could not tell the difference between most of the mics unless I did extreme things to the configurations.  It's kind of a BS selling point.

Posted on Tue, Feb 19 2013 19:18
by SKellogg
Joined on Sun, Feb 10 2013, Posts 5






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I'm
getting conflicting recommendations regarding the Dual Intel Xeon E5-2630 - six core 2.3 GHz Server class processors:

Opinion A:

“Doing the xeon's, the six cores are
kind of a waste. You will get a much better result from doing a single six core
that is overclocked to 4.5ghz. The 2.6 8 cores will do OK, but the to take real advantage of what the xeon can do you really need to go on up to the 3.1's.”

Opinion B:

“For
pro audio it’s not all about clock speed. It is true that single processor
systems are extremely capable machines and may work, but when working with the
pro level software, looking to run one system is almost never enough. The
Xeon’s clock speed per true core is lower but you gain from the benefits of
having a dual processor architecture, dual memory controllers, dual PCIe controllers, and a dedicated SAS2 controller.”

Any recommendations on which way to go?

Posted on Wed, Feb 20 2013 20:12
by noldar12
Joined on Thu, Dec 04 2008, Posts 582

Which way to go?  It really all depends on what you want to do, and how you intend to work.

For streaming samples, clock speed is critical, not the number of cores.  Slower clock speeds equates to a lower number of samples being streamed.  Thus, for the VSL sample libraries clock speed matters.

For processing data, and doing calculations, i.e. for general plugins, and programs that require processing power like MIR Pro, the number of cores becomes important.

Thus a dual xeon, with a slow clock speed will not help.  If you were to go dual xeon, you would need to get one with a faster clock speed.  For most users, a single CPU will be fine.  However, if your goals put you outside "most users" then you might need a high end dual xeon.  Also, a single xeon has no advantage, as they are in essence the same chips as the i7's.  With the xeons you can simply have a dual CPU, which is not possible with an i7.

Posted on Thu, Feb 21 2013 01:54
by SKellogg
Joined on Sun, Feb 10 2013, Posts 5

As always, thanks for your advice.

I have decided to go the i7 route, which was verified by VST Support as a good option, given my needs/workflow.

One vendor wants to overclock the i7: i7 overclocked 4.5GHz or better with HT 12meg cache

Another vendor says they NEVER overclock.

I'm getting 4 SSD drives for the i7, totalling about 2T

64GB DDR3 RAM

My sample library will include:






Vienna
Dimension Brass


Vienna Appassionata Strings I & II Bundle  Standard 


Vienna Woodwinds  I & II Bundle (Full)  

Vienna Percussion (Full) 




Vienna Instruments PRO 2  


Cubase 7


RMS Babyface Audio Interface

Do I overclock or do I not overclock?

Posted on Thu, Feb 21 2013 18:46
by icecubeman
Joined on Fri, Nov 09 2012, Nitra, Posts 201
I think MIR is one of the most important tools for Vienna. After you learn how it is working, your compositions will sound few grades higher. For now there is no substitute for this kind of source based convolution reverb.
Posted on Thu, Feb 21 2013 20:44
by noldar12
Joined on Thu, Dec 04 2008, Posts 582

I agree with icecubeman... MIR Pro would be worth adding if at all possible.  It will significantly help your final results.  One option would be to demo it once you become familiar with your other software.  For me, MIR 24's earlier version MIR SE, is vital, and I would not want to be without it (as mentioned I do hope to upgrade to MIR Pro at some point).

As for the i7, am guessing that you settled on the 3930k?  That will be fine.  As for overclocking, things appear to have changed in the last couple of years.  Scott - the owner of ADK - a pro DAW builder in Kentucky, overclocks that chip for customers (note: I have no personal experience), and is on record as being pro-overclocking with the new generation of i7 39xx chips.  It used to be that overclocking could potentially cause instability, and possibly shorten the life of the chip.  I have no idea if those are still potential factors, though Scott, as a builder, has always been concerned with potential stability issues (ADK has built my admittedly much older computers).

Posted on Wed, Feb 27 2013 10:08
by Conquer
Joined on Thu, Sep 28 2006, Posts 812

Hi, a few thoughts on libraries: the Dimension series is overkill for what you do, and there's no immediate prospect of it containing woodwinds. The Symphonic Cube has everything most pros would need, but since you're a beginner you could test the water by buying the Special Edition (whose instruments use fewer samples, but still sound great) and maybe upgrade to some of the full instrument collections later. That way you would avoid over-committing financially too early on, and you wouldn't be buying instruments you don't need (such as chamber strings).


 

Good decision to buy VI PRO. Its simple on-board reverb isn't top quality, but it will make an enormous difference to your mixes. (MIR is cool, but not essential when starting out.) You can't record into VI PRO's sequencer in real time, plus it only operates within one instance of VI PRO, which means you couldn't use it to construct a whole arrangement.

BTW neither the basic Vienna Instruments player nor VI PRO is MIDI multi-timbral - they both play whatever MIDI data you send to them, regardless of its channel. To build a multi-instrument arrangement therefore requires multiple instances of the player. Some people (including me) find it helpful to use the free (and excellent) Vienna Ensemble mixing host - it can hold multiple Vienna (and third party) players which you can assign to different MIDI channels, insert effects, etc.

HTH! Good luck with this.

Posted on Wed, Feb 27 2013 21:53
by civilization 3
Joined on Sat, May 16 2009, SF Bay Area, Posts 1953
SKellogg wrote:
  • I've seen VSL's bare bones piano scroll MIDI software, which may actually be enough for me. Thoughts?

The Auto Playback and Pattern Sequencer is not meant to replace a primary sequencer. It's meant for such as sequencing patterns of articulation to be triggered by one note in the 'real' sequencer, say you have an articulated short/long gesture that you're going to use as typical; rather than recreate it every time you're going to use it you have it programmed in APP and you get it by a key in your piano roll in say DP.

One could set up very elaborate things of course, and I suppose it would quite enhance live capabilities but as pointed out, a sequence in it is contained within the single VIP instance. The one thing that may appear to resemble a multitimbral soft instrument is the capability to output matrices up to four different stereo outs but we can't have more than one matrix at a time.


Apple M1 - Mac OS 14
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