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laptop vs workstation


suraci

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Hello all, my 1st post!!

 

I find that I am sensitive to the way a keyboard RESPONDS, in terms of the resulting sounds'/samples, authenticity. I have found that the big guys, Korg Yama Roland and Kurz, KNOW how to engineer the final rendering of the sample, (in many cases, better than the software guys) in a way that I HAVE YET TO SEE (HEAR) in the software world!! I suspect if I had more knowledge with engineering, I might be able to improve this.

 

Is it just a latency issue? I doubt it is just that...the way the key responds REALISTICALLY, is at issue, too. It sounds like the team that produced the final samples were not that deep into the instrument being sampled(bass, sax etc), and or, the keyboard itself.

EXAMPLE I tried out TRILOGY'S Stand up Bass( one of many) sounds. The sound (inappropriately, in my opinion) made the slappping sound (from a hard keystroke) AFTER I RELEASED THE KEY!!!!!! Not as I would have expected, namely: at the ATTACK of the key. I also heard some inappropriate ticking sound in there!! I am not making this up. My apology to Trilogy.( I offer my ear/experience to them and all, free of charge, in any future ventures)

AS a bass player/keyboard/sax player( 30+ years)( I shared a bass track with T Levin, where he played the solo and I played the groove-Deodato around '74- I also did one bass cut on an album featuring Stanley Clarke)), I am pretty touchy about the way bass sounds, AND how it responds to the keyboard input.

Actually, my current favorite string bass is from the Roland's "bass and drums" card ("Bass Legends" Spectrasonics) . Rolands engineers got my John Pattituci( not spelled right!!, sorry John) sample right. I use it without modification, in my JV-1000. Even Yamaha, Korg etc are lacking in the string bass area.

 

Another way to present this is:

 

I play these workstations in a near field environ (Guitar Center), they sound pretty impressive in that context. I play in multitimbral mode. The whole thing is mixed to that end..to sound great thru near fields, in multi timbral mode. On the other hand, when I hear a sample, it has no panning, reverb, etc, plus it is only one naked instrument( or set of the same).

Can I, an electronic fledgling, hope to create anything as good as what the genius at Korg did with the Triton? Of course it is flawed..the Korg ac pianos are..well they aren't Kurz. Ditto for the bass..and yet!! But somehow, if you ( psychoacoustically!!) accept their "premise", you find yourself really enjoying yourself on a Motif or Triton.

 

I would love to bring a powerful Dell or Powerbook to the gig, loaded up with the cutting edge sounds, but I hesitate because (numerous) of issues like the above example. I am generally much more impressed with the "out of the box" quality of the Motif/Triton/PC88/Roland than with the CD set. ( Obviously, the Vienna Strings would knock my socks off, but!!) BUT I want to confidently step into the 21st century.

 

Can anyone from S Calif direct me to who has a PC or MAC setup that I could try??

I am very serious--meaning I would pay for the opportunity. I believe it is a lack in the post production that is the initial problem, that, followed by my heavy (over??)emphasis on playing and on NOT knowing how to tweak. BUT CAN TWEAKING MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS AREA??? I must be sure before I plunk down many thousands of $$$.

Failing the S cal opportunity, can ANYONE GIVE ME FEEDBACK?

I really need help here..so far none of my friends knows ANYONE who has a "rig" I can audition.

A few people put this idea in my head, yet they don't actually know anyone who is doing it. I am talking about a keyboardist who is very accomplished. I have heard Herbie Hancock is doing this. I mean a lot of guys talk the talk about.."you've got to get a laptop with such and such in it...it is so versatile..expandable( I AGREE!!). But if I told that eg. guitarist, 'get rid of you guitar because with this guitar controller and these CD's you can sound like Hendrix to Montgomery blah blah'. Would they do it?

My thing is jazz, classical, r&b, fusion, a little pop.. old school???

 

Thank you all for reading this

suraci (John Giulino)

The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown
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There are a lot of strong opinions in this matter. I KNOW I get better results with software, much better. To my ear ROMPlers sound one dimensional. They sound as good as they do largely because of the FXs. When you listen to the samples closely you hear all of the issues resulting from trying to respresent an instrument with too little sample space. I have a Motif ES. There are maybe a dozen sounds on it I might use in a recording situation. It's a good controller with an excellent keybed, a lot of useful arps and phrases and I like the EPs.

 

Your issue with the the Trilogy bass is quite simple. Those are RELEASE NOISES that you're hearing. Look at the patch and you will see two main sample sets, one of which is the release samples. If you don't like them, simply turn them down/off. BTW, the same idiot who designed Trilogy created the "Roland" Bass Legends ROM which you praise. Eric Persing/Spectrasonics brought Bass Legends out years ago. Roland merely licenced it and put it on ROM. The CD sounds better, as you would expect. If you want a killer acoustic bass library, try Larry Seyer's. Each note sampled at multiple velocities AND at four (I believe) playing positions, no loops.

 

It doesn't sound like you're the right candidate for using a computer live as you don't believe in it yourself. For live, I use a Sony laptop with the B4, Post Bosendorfer, Atmosphere and other synths and samples. I am very happy with the results.

 

Sorry for the grumpy tone of this post.

 

Busch.

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You are beautiful, as we used to hear, back east!

 

Listen, I agree with what you say.

 

You spent $2700 for an ES Motif because of what????

I only have maybe $3000 total to update my "act".

 

I love the ES Ep's too, Yamaha makes the best IMO.

Kurz the best Ac Piano ( I have a micro pi and a pc88 )

B3 I am not sure who wins

for live, Roland makes "best" Ac Bass...why is this so tough?

 

Sorry for the tangent, I am saying we have a common experience with these keyboards. Would you give up the ES, or your other keyboards IF you had a bunch of roadies to carry your laptops and CDS? Do you use the ES WITH the Laptop?

You mentioned keybed... I have found that using Kurz micro piano with certain controllers was uneven. Does this resonate with you?

 

Am I looking at a computer AND The ES or can I get away with JUST the Laptop?

 

Thank you for the ac Bass library tip.

 

I mean Motif has lame ac basses, really lame. and not even an expansion with Basses on it. Is it poor editing that the user can correct?

 

Triton has fairly lame ac bass

 

Roland sucks too, BUt they have the expansion board. How much to get E Persing over the House lol.

But their expansion piano is so so

 

U have heard it before, but I think the Japanese are not going to give us ONE keyboard that has all the sounds we like.

 

None of the big three ( O young chang too) have all the meat and potatoes I need. This is kinda forces me to expand my horizons..

 

You mention EFX as a major key in the sounds of the Big 3(4)... what efx would you suggest for my replace the Big 3 Laptop...Altaverb or?

What platform would efficiently(cpu) add the reverb panning eq????????

 

Busch, you are alright.

 

JG

The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown
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JG,

 

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

 

The Yamaha S90 and Motif lines are well equipped to act as both a controller for the computer and as solid live performance keyboards. The S90 is lighter and less bulky, the ES has better sounds and more capabilities plus the left side of the top is a perfect place to velcro your laptop (you can do it with the S90 but it does make getting to the wheels more of an issue). I have an ES for the studio and an S90 for gigging.

 

In terms of a controller, the Yamahas have a great feature called Master mode. With this you can set up to four zones which can control internal and external sounds. For example you could create a split which uses an internal EP for the lower half of the keyboard and the upper half is triggering the B4 on your laptop. You can set it so that mod wheel only applies to the B4 and sustain only to the EP. It can also send bank/patch numbers to the external synths.

 

With regards to the computer, I use a Sony V505BX laptop. I choose it because it a) is well built, b) is very compact (10" screen), c) adds zero hum when using pro audio devices. The hum is a big issue with PC laptops. It is related to the power supply. I tried out a Compaq laptop and the hum was unbelievable when you used any kind of pro audio device (didn't matter if it was USB, firewire or cardbus). If you ran on batteries it was quiet. I don't know if this means anything but the Compaq's power supply read 90v while the Sony is 16v. Anyhow, a big issue. The only thing I don't like about the Sony is the touch pad. Toshibas are much better. The Centrino-based units are excellent performers.

 

The Yamaha units have MIDI via USB capabilities which I found to work much more reliably than going out MIDI to a MIDI-USB interface on the computer. I've had zero glitches with the Yamaha MIDI-USB and it's very clean, a simple cord from keyboard to computer. I have had mixed results with USB audio devices so I knew I would want to go PCMCIA (cardbus). I needed more than stereo output. I wanted to be able to have:

 

1 primary stereo output

1 secondary stereo output

1 mono output to send the B4 to a Leslie 12

1 mono output for click track

 

I chose the RME cardbus Multiface. It is a pricey unit but could do everything I needed and more. I keep the Multiface in a rack (with its audio outs permanently connected to the mixer in the same rack) and then run the interface cable to the laptop (again, very clean). The new Echo cards look very promising and are MUCH cheaper than the RME.

 

Moving on to software, I knew I wanted to be able to run things like B4, Atmosphere, a sampler, etc concurrently. I use V-Stack which is a basic VST/VSTi hosting program based on the Cubase SX mixer. It does nearly everything I need and is extremely reliably. The only time it has ever crashed is when I purposely pushed it in test in order to determine my limits. It has never crashed in normal use, nor has the computer for that matter. There are other VSTi hosting programs that you should investigate, e.g. Chainer. V-stack provides 16 slots where you can load in VSTis. I load it as follows:

 

MIDI Channel Program

1 - 3 B4

4 Atmosphere 1

5 Atmosphere 2

7 FM7

8 Pro-53

9 - 16 Kontakt

 

Note: this is one instance of Kontakt running. You set the MIDI channel in V-Stack to OMNI and then assign instruments within Kontakt to specific MIDI channels. Currently I have the following loaded into Kontakt:

 

9 - modified version of Bosendorfer 290

10 - an excellent acoustic guitar + other smaller samples

11 - modified jazz trumpet from QLBrass

15 - variety of drum loops

16 - songs and song fragments

 

This is all a balancing act. I can only put 1GB of RAM in this computer. Even though I'm using disk streaming I still have to watch memory and CPU usage. I want to keep CPU below 50% at all times and memory usage no higher than 80%. I am currently showing 470MB physical memory free.

 

A note about disk streaming. I was amazed at how well this works using the internal drive on the laptop. Laptops typically have a 4,200 RPM drive which I never thought would be able to do disk streaming reliably. I found just the opposite. I have been able to play with abandon, the Bosendorfer 290 (streaming) WHILE it's also playing back a stereo backing track PLUS a click track, all off a 4,200 RPM drive--NO ISSUES. I recently replaced the stock HD with a Hitachi 7,200RPM 60GB (the easiest HD installation I've ever done).

 

In evaluating soft samplers I went with Kontakt because I've found it to be extremely reliable under Windows XP. I tried Halion, but found that even at its lowest RAM usage setting for samples, it still used almost twice as much RAM as Kontakt. I also looked at SampleTank but it is RAM based and has much longer load times than the disk streaming samplers.

 

I typically don't just load in sample libraries and use them. For example, I found that I was rarely triggering the lowest velocity range on the Bosendorfer 290 and that tonally it wasn't that much different than the next layer up, so I eliminated those samples and extended the upper level down. I also map several instruments to the same MIDI channel and then move them so that they don't conflict. Within Master mode on the Yamaha, I can point to only the range of the instrument that I want to trigger, hence maximizing my limited number of MIDI channels.

 

I found some interesting ways in which Kontakt can be used to support live playing.

 

First, I have channel 15 set for drum loops. Each loop is assigned to a key and will play infinitely. Back at Yamaha Master mode I can assign a zone to a single key and trigger a drum loop on the lowest note of the keyboard fro example. The trick that I use to turn off the loop is map a 100ms sample of silence to velocity range 115-127 and to set polyphony within Kontakt to 1. If I pressed the key normally the loop will play but if I really wack it, the 100ms of silence will trigger effectly shutting off the loop.

 

On channel 16 I assign songs and song fragments. The group that I'm with is a trio + singer and we've recently added a guitarist. Still we're covering stuff that just needs more than I can do with two hands, so on occasion will use backing tracks, sometimes with click going to the drummer. I set them up essentially the same as the drum loops on channel 15, but they are ONE SHOT samples, not loops--ONE SHOT meaning that they will shut off automatically when the song is done. Again, assigning them to the lowest note on the keyboard in Master mode, when I pull up the Master mode preset for the song, I press the lowest note and the backing track starts. Like I stated earlier, the backing track plays perfectly while also playing back any of the soft synths.

 

One final method that I just started using is song fragments. For example, we're trying to cover Superstition. I thought I could pull off doing the horn parts while concurrently doing the clav part. I got fingering down but couldn't quite pull off the stacatto clav part with the legato horns. Instead I recorded three loops using QL Brass and SAM Trumpets and got some KILLER sounding stuff. I now just have to trigger one note for each loop while doing the clav part. The loops are locked in at 98BPM, but the band is pretty consistent in that regard.

 

Latency is not an issue in my setup. I am using a 256 (6ms) buffer. I have run it lower but it uses a bit more CPU and I didn't feel significant difference in playability. With regard to FXs, I don't use much of anything. In comparison to ROMplers, the soft synths that I use really don't require much in the way of FXs. Everything that comes out of Atmosphere sounds good on its own. FXs eat up a lot of CPU. Even the Rotary on the B4 creates a noticable jump in the CPU when you turn it on. You might want a reverb. Ambience is nice in that you can control CPU usage. Still, I ended up just setting up a delay which when added subtly functions like a reverb but uses almost no CPU.

 

With Master mode, everything is extremely transparent. Sometimes the only way I can tell if something is coming out the computer vs. the S90 is to turn down the volume fader on the S90.

 

I'm running out of words of wisdom here. Plan on spend several weeks/months putting this together and testing. Good luck in this endeavor.

 

Busch.

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BUSCH

WOW thank you. Your amazing and generous thread will take me "weeks...months" to digest.

 

But for now

 

Any thoughts on Ableton "Live"?

 

Suraci

The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown
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