Darth Fader’s series continues: Choosing a computer and interface…

Once you’ve decided on software, choose a computer that runs it.

I can’t tell you to go out and buy an XYZ Model 15A but I can tell you that even modest computers can record audio pretty efficiently — but you’ll have to make a few upgrades. Audio software requires a lot of RAM to run smoothly and efficiently. I suggest no less than 4 GB RAM. I also suggest that you use a separate hard drive for recording, whether it be internal or FireWire (Thunderbolt will have to wait, and USB ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when your track count gets high).

Recording audio to the same drive where the system lives is asking for trouble, as is partitioning a single hard drive. The hard drive has to work extra hard to access the files and eventually it will slow down and may crash. A hard drive for audio should have a rotational speed of at least 7200 RPM (Rotations Per Minute). I have had tremendous success with Seagate’s Barracuda Series of hard drives. I have had horrible experiences with Western Digital drives. Standard speed drives (5400 RPM) are tool slow for audio.

The major item you need is an audio interface. The interface connects to your computer, providing a gateway for audio signals in and out (and in some cases provides MIDI in/out). Interfaces come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in price from the PreSonus FireStudio Mobile (about $200 street price) to the Prism Sound Orpheus (a bargain at around $4,500).

When choosing an interface make sure it will physically connect to your computer. There are three or four basic types of connectivity: USB, FireWire, PCI and PCM/CIA-type cards. Stay away from the last category because card slots are disappearing rapidly. If you need maximum horsepower then look for an interface that comes with (or on) a PCI card for use in a desktop machine.

These types of interfaces typically offer a large number of audio ins and outs, high sample rate capability, fast data transfer and on-board effects and mixing. FireWire is no slouch in these departments and is the way to go if you can afford the step up from USB. I’ll admit I have no respect for USB as a way to connect an external hard drive for audio use, but it works reasonably well as a way to connect an audio interface.

Missed Part 1 and 2? Check them out here and here.

Coming soon: Part 4: More on Interfaces…

Originally posted 2012-03-21 06:12:20.