The Budget Studio
What can you do with old PCs?
Not a lot?
Well depends what you want to do.
I have a lot of SCSI based equipment, at the moment they connect to my main DAW PC.
This of course is not ideal.
My main SCSI units are my EMU ESI samplers.
And they are also my main reason for this article.
Is it possible to breath life into an antiquated PC?
I believe so.
So I had this idea a week ago, find an old pc and set it up for sending samples to my samplers.
It had to be able to run propellerheads Recycle and maybe an audio editor.
I then decided that if it can run the SCSI card to do the job of communicating with the ESI sampler, then maybe it can also run my SCSI CD burners.
So the PC has to be able to run Recycle, possibly wavosaur or audacity and hopefully Nero burning software.
Software will be kept down to a minimum to save on space and clogging the system.
***DISCLAIMER: Before you go ahead you’ll need some basic knowledge of how to set up networks and how to adjust your bios.
You’ll also be possibly installing software and hardware dependent on what you want to do.
If you’re not sure you’re capable then don’t try it. If you need to understand setting up a network then make sure you’re comfortable with that before you carry on. There is no information about that here.***
Graveyard stuff this, 4.3 gig hard drive installed with Windows 2000.
Weirdly with only 128meg installed it starts up quite fast. Noisy but fast.
Strangely on the day I take ownership from one friend another friend gives me a second ancient desktop which has been in his garage.
Curiosity as always kills the cat and I’m a curious little bugger, I plug it in and it blows. Not big but a pop all the same.
I open it up and see rust all over the inside and on the fan of the processor. Lesson there, if in doubt open it up and take a looksy before you plug it into the mains.
Two sticks of 64 meg and a 10 gig hard drive are salvaged and in working order.
So in they go into the Kayak.
Extra ram from the rusty death trap give me over 240meg of ram in total.
The salvaged hard drive gives me an extra 10gb of storage space.
I install two SCSI cards, an adaptec to communicate with my samplers and a generic one to control the two CD burners I have removed from the DAW.
I’ll install an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 as it’s sound card as that will work with a low spec PC and my EMU 0404 won’t.
The Audiophile 2496 will give me digital, analogue and midi inputs and outputs.
Allowing me to use this desktop as my sampling and editing machine for the samplers.
:::One Keyboard, Mouse and Monitor for two pcs:::
Sharing the keyboard is an issue, KVM switches are quite expensive and space becomes a desktop issue.
So how about using a lan connection?
Apparently a VNC based software program will allow you to do this.
Problem arises with a pc not having a keyboard plugged in it will fail to start.
To fix this we can try and disable keyboard and mouse in bios if you are able to or set it to halt on no errors.
With VNC it will boot without a keyboard if your bios allows it.
The Kayaks Bios does not have that function available. In fact there is nothing regarding the keyboard or mouse.
This presents a problem, to find an update if one is available and wether or not to risk flashing the bios.
Seems there isn’t a bios update, need to find a keyboard.
Had a look around and it looks like I’m going to have to have a spare keyboard at least, no bother though it’ll easily be stored somewhere.
So before I begin again, let’s make that known. A second keyboard will need to be connected in order for the PC to bootup. I’m pretty sure all PCs make ane error noise when no mouse is found but still enter windows.
Before I begin though, installing the EMU ESI sampler and making sure it works is the main reason for this experiment. So best check it does work.
I connect the Syquest Drive and the ESI via the Adaptec Scsi card. Turn on windows. First connection finds the EMU ESI and Syquest but software(recycle) doesn’t see them.
So now I remember, ASPI drivers. Download from here @ chicken systems.
Now the old dog sees the rabbit – the PC sees the Sampler and Syquest. Cushty.
Back to connecting my two pcs.
Setting up a network between the 2 pcs – Old Dog w/Windows 2000 <-> New Dog=Laptop /w XP.
You’ll need a cat 5 crossover cable and both PCs should have LAN cards installed.
I have two 100/10 cards – this should be adequate – if I wanted to I could connect using two 1000/10 cards.
It’s not really an issue for me to do that at the moment but who knows what will happen in the future.
Setting up a network is really quite simple, but if you have no idea you’ll need to do some reading up on that, it’s one of those things that works differently for everyone in my experience.
Also you’ll need to give each of your PCs a static address.
Basically – Control Panel -> Network Connections -> * Local Connection -> Right Click -> Properties
General -> Internet Protocol(TCP/IP) -> Click Properties
Change: ‘Obtain an Ip address automatically’ to ‘Use the following IP Address’
The ‘IP’ address should be different than any already on your network.
The only number that you need to change here is the last number.
In this IP we have ’4′ the rest stay the same this should be changed.
‘Subnet Mask’ – This will update automatically.
You should do this on both PCs – also be aware, if you intend to use a laptop or PC that connect to the internet you may have problems connecting to the web whilst being networked in the above way.
This will fix itself when you disconnect. Or at least it does on my Laptop which connects wirelessly.
Restart each machine and check that they connect to each other.
This is the software I installed, I downloaded it from above site.
Again this being advanced noodling you’ll need to either read the instructions or just go for it.
Restart each PC when it has installed.
On the PC we want to log into we will also need Tweak UI Powertoys – to enable auto login.
When you’ve installed TweakUI you can go to *Control Panel* and TweakUI – with that software change you’re logon option to auto.
To test your system unplug your monitor from the ‘Old Dog’ and restart both pcs wait, go and make a coffee or something – give it enough time.
Then try and logon using TightVNC if no joy then check your pc – you’ll need to reconnect the monitor again.
On the PC we want to log into we will also need Tweak UI Powertoys – to enable auto login.
Hopefully you’ll now be able to control the old dog with the new dog.
Ever needed a bespoke studio storage solution?
But the industry standard is
1. too expensive
2. too big/too small
Why not make your own or hack a peice of furniture,
Waiting for a delivery of amp parts from Germany I came across this article
As someone who has built a mobile computer to fit his studio and has turned to Ikea to house other studio bits I can totally dig what this guy has done.
Take a tip from people like this, don’t splash the cash on industry pushed stuff.
Finding something else that will do the job just as well for a fraction of the price is class.
So ok you might have to hack away but when space and money are a consideration you have to think around a problem.
Check it out and take some inspiration.
If you read my previous article - Audio Processing – Hog That CPU – UAD then you’ll get a kick out of this.
===o=–>>> Using another PC as an FX processor.
Using a network connection it’s possible to use a 2nd PC or laptop for VSTeffects or VSTinstruments.
Clearing up CPU usage – well almost – a network will still use some processing power and there are pitfalls.
First let’s take a look at 3 different ways to do this,
1. FXTeleport – Link
FX Teleport is a unique and revolutionary DAW networking solution. From now on it’s not only possible, but also very easy, to use as many computers as you want for your DAW. Just launch your favorite VST host on one machine and VST instruments and FX on the others, and enjoy working on your ‘audio processing farm’. You can even dedicate a whole computer to your favorite VST synth.
2. Steinberg VST System Link – link
Used as a music production network, VST System Link allows the number of computer/users to expand and contract depending on workload and work methods. Autonomy between computers is always maintained even while linked up. Every user can access as many audio tracks as desired and as many VST instruments as necessary. Each additional computer in a VST System Link network adds hard drives and increased processing power. Audio or MIDI data recorded outside of the studio on a laptop is easily integrated into the session, simply by docking onto the local system. Routing is controlled by a master software patchbay running on the first computer in the chain. A typical configuration might include a keyboardist with many virtual synths operating on one computer that does not affect the mixing engineer’s computer running with many VST effects and plug-ins. Nonetheless, all of the different computer’s audio sources remain in perfect sync with VST System Link’s sync protocol using just a single digital audio cable to connect them.
3. Reamote – Link
ReaMote is REAPER’s network FX functionality. It allows you to have any FX chain in your project processed on a remote machine on your local network.
This is very useful if you have a lot of CPU consuming effects and want to add more CPU power to your project without upgrading your main host’s CPU.
-=-o-=> So how do they work?
Well to be honest I’ve only ever used FXTeleport -
It works, it works well but be advised there is very little support from the software site and it seems the software is dead.
But yes it works although some VST’s don’t like it – and DX fx are just a no-go.
It’s advisable to get a dedicated network lan card for both machines and if you can, get cards with a gigabit transfer speed.
If you connect from one PC to another(straight connection no hub) you’ll also need a crossover cable.
My setup is a Laptop w/express gigabit lan card + a PC tower w/PCI gigabit pci lan card.
A crossover cable – PC to PC connection.
You’ll also need to read up on setting up a network connection.
It’s a bit of work – costs money as well – the software was $99 when I first got it.
I also had to buy both cards – for some reason onboard lan is not good juju for this to work well.
+++more to come+++
If like me your CPU is shall we say a little on the outdated side then you’ll probably be looking at updating your pc.
But what if you don’t have the moola or like me you simply can’t.
===Hang you say, why can’t you…
I can’t for a few reasons, serial and parallel ports are one reason.
PCI slots are another.
Most PCs these days come without serial and parallel ports and I have equipment that needs these to communicate with my software.
I know it’s antiquated but would be expesive to replace – I have a MOTU 128 express with a parallel port connection to replace that would cost me money.
So I’m stuck a new PC would cost me too much, so what do I do.
Well how about UAD cards?
With the new PCIe UAD cards coming out a lot of people are selling there old bog standard cards on ebay relatively cheap these days. The plugins are decently priced and sound brilliant.
The main bonus is that they have their own DSP chip so no load on the CPU.
Transfer of plugins is relatively easy but make sure the vendor knows or intends to do so.
For the price of a bog standard VST plugin you cand get yourself a DSP card and several plugins off ebay.
To be fair they fairly cheap at most online stores now as well.
Ebay is problematic but it also can lead to some cool bargains, it’s worth searching for UAD, Powercore and any other DSP card. EMU has a chip on most of their sound cards as well.
Do a bit of investigating and you’ll be suprised what’s out there.
Although I swear by the UAD.
Next Article==> Audio Processing – Hog That CPU – Network
A few years ago I started building up the equipment in my project Studio here is the equipment list.
At the hub is the PC.
The desktop is my studio – it’s a 2ghz 2gb big baby(looks like a fridge) – specs (not the fastest, but it is setup to use every bit of its components)
OS: Using XP Home
M-Audio 2496 PCI – great sounding and easy to use, installation was simple enough just found a free PCI slot and slipped it in. NOTE: Only mess with the insides of a PC if you’re truly confident, otherwise find someone you trust that is.
Recently added an EMU 0404 PCI sound card – installation seemed to be fine, same as above. Not noticed any difference in sound quality but the main reason I bought this was because of the onboard FX – curiosity got the better of me. It’s still new to me so I’m not totally up on it yet, although installation of the software that came with it has been a little troublesome mainly the free stuff and the Proteus LE seems like it doesn’t want to work yet.
UAD – Although not really a sound card this is my one of my favourite peices of kit – Easy to install, although you’ll need some kind of Internet connection to register the card. The plugins for this are superb.
When I bought the UAD it came with a $500 voucher which I spent on the Precision MultiBand, Eq and Limiter – It comes with a host of free plugins as well and they all sound mint. I love it.
Apaptec – Scsi Card – for connection to my Emu Esi 32 and 4000 samplers – (they have Os 3.0 installed which is required to transfer samples to and from the pc.)
4 hard drives – 160gb and 3 x 40gb -
XP installed on 1(40gb),
software on 2nd(40gb)
and Vst on 3rd(40gb)
2 external hard drives,
SCSI Tower – 5 HD at 18gb each – used as final backup of cakewalk projects. Paranoid? Yes!!!
USB devices include,
Korg NanoPad and NanoKontrol - Brilliant little devices perfect for those with lack of space and very portable.
M-Audio e49 Keyboard – Decent sized keyboard 49 keys – big enough for me to use – small enough for me to have in my studio. Easy setup.
X-Session UC-17 – I really like this controller, although it takes some work installing it’s brilliant for controlling VST FX
On the Parallel port…
MOTU – 128 Express XT – Yeah parallel port connection, so a no no for most new desktops – it works really well and cost about £40 – easy setup although the driver was hard to get hold of – registration with motu is a necessity. Gives me 8 midi channels and allows me to connect up my synths ands samplers.
Onboard Midi and both sound cards have midi capabilities.
I also have a laptop that acts as a synth/soft sampler connected via midi.
I installed a Gigabit Lan card in the PC (this allows netork connection to laptop via gigabit express card – this then gives me the option of farming out fx processing to the laptop using a program called FX transport)
YamahaTG500 – My favourite when it comes to it. I love the proteus but this is better.
Proteus 1 – My first synth – and cool
Roland D110 – the runt of the little, harder to use and sounds not as good – but has some nice pads
2x Emu Esi 32 with maximum 32mb each 1 with turbo card, one without.
1x Emu Esi 4000 with maximum 128mb and turbo card installed.
Now I can hear all those new school dudes saying what 32meg? why? why not software?
Well have you seen these sexy things? They’ve got knobs that flash and dials that dial.
And best of all they sound great – honestly the samplers sound a country mile better than any software program. Warmer.
The synths also sound great – I dunno but they feel more real than some desktop based instrument.
Joe Meek VC3 Compressor – really nice sounding compressor – great for vocals and acoustic guitar – has phantom power, which is a must for condenser mics – every studio needs a decent compressor – this one is perfect.
Behringer V-Pro – Rack mount guitar fx – superb. Does what I want it to do without being to difficult to use. Midi connection to PC and software for communication. It’s alos half the price of anything else in it’s class.
<—-Mixing Desk and Mics—->
Behringer XENYX 1622 FX – Much the same as the V-PRO this is extreme value for money and really easy to use. Comes with built in FX which I rarely use but sound great. (I prefer not to commit Reverbs and Delays)
3 Condenser Mics – £120 Studio Projects C1, £15 Trakstar, Cheap skate £30 T-Bone.
The Studio projects is the Mic I use for vocals – it was recommended to me by someone who tested quite a few mics before bying this themselves and they couldn’t hear the diffence between this and other mics of a similar type. That said if you scan the internet you’ll find a lot of debate with equal measures for and against.
Me I’m liking it so far.
The other two mics I use for Acoustic and Electric Guitar – I don’t have a gotp mic I try both and see what works per recording – I’d like more mics to choose from but money doesn’t grow on trees…
Tricky one this, cost is quite steep, as this is the main studio I splashed out on Sonar 7 producer edition which at over £300 is pricey but hell it works. I only use the Sonitus FX that came with it and install only freeware I want to try out. The UAD covers that end for me – VST instruments are not a real consideration, I have plenty of synths and 3 samplers – it makes my setup less bloated.
That’s it for this setup.
I will be setting up two more example studios.
An under £500 laptop studio
And an under £200 laptop studio.