considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Configure and optimize you computer for Audio.
ztrauq
KVRist
173 posts since 13 Dec, 2004 from USA

Post Sun Oct 13, 2019 11:16 pm

I’ve probably been making music on Macs since the days of the Performa, eventually going from Logic Express to Logic Pro X. However, with the debacle that is MacOS Catalina, I am seriously considering eventually switching over to making music on my PC laptop instead (I’ve used it mainly for gaming, but I’ve begun to port some music software over).

The PC I’m thinking of using is a Lenovo Legion Y520 with the following specs:

Intel Kaby Lake Core i7 @ 2.80 Ghz
16GB Ram @ 1196Mhz
GeForce GTX 1050 Ti & Intel HD Graphics 630
SSD (system+apps), HDD (internal storage), external HDD (sample libraries/koktakt instruments)
Realtek High Definition Audio/ASIO4All

My questions regarding this, as I'm still familiarizing myself with PC audio, are:

-Is this laptop reasonable for an audio workstation? It plays most modern games well, but they have a different workload than audio software in terms of being much more GPU- than CPU-intensive.
-Is the internal audio and ASIO4All sufficient for running a modern DAW properly, or do I need something like an external soundcard or audio interface that has proper ASIO drivers? If so, any (reasonably inexpensive) recommendations?

chk071
KVRAF
22245 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Sun Oct 13, 2019 11:30 pm

I would definitely go for a audio interface. If you want to make use of the processing power of the laptop, you don't want to waste it by using ASIO4ALL. Drivers for your audio interface usually give you a better performance.

Hardware wise, i'm not a expert, but, the specs seem fine. It depends, of course, on which virtual instruments and effects you want to use.

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Googly Smythe
KVRAF
2557 posts since 12 May, 2011 from Not where I was just now.

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Mon Oct 14, 2019 12:41 am

As above, but seriously think about a SSD for sample/Kontakt libraries.
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ztrauq
KVRist
173 posts since 13 Dec, 2004 from USA

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Mon Oct 14, 2019 9:39 pm

Thanks for the pointers. Not sure it would make sense to buy the amount of SSD required to host the multiple terabytes of samples I have on the resource drive, but it might be worth it to figure out which ones I use the most and switch them over to a smaller external SSD.

Any recommendations for a not-too-expensive audio interface? The most highly-recommended ones I've seen (RME) seem to go for $600 on up, I'm hoping to find something workable in the ~$100-200 range if possible (with stable/reliable PC drivers under Windows 10)... not looking to hook up a huge recording setup, would mainly be using it as external soundcard/monitoring with headphones, maybe adding a microphone if I upgrade from my USB one.

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BONES
GRRRRRRR!
8915 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Mon Oct 14, 2019 10:18 pm

Try ASIO4all first, you may find you don't need an interface. We only have them because we need to record vocals now and then. Even the on-board REALTEK audio has it's own ASIO driver now and that may be good enough, even without ASIO4all. (I've never thought to try it out, TBH.)

Your host may be an issue, too. I can't run Cubase with the same latency I was running Orion. To get half-way reliable performance I need to run a 1024 sample buffer with Cubase, whereas I can get similar performance in Orion at 256 samples. The thing with that, though, is that 1024 is still OK (but only just OK) for real-time playing of VSTi from my controller so it doesn't really matter.

If you want a decent I/O device, though, you should look at a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. It's very popular and does a good job -https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/ ... s=pi&pim=Y

I'm currently using a Zoom U24. I used to think it was brilliant but maybe it's what is causing the latency problems in Cubase, so I'm a bit hesitant to recommend it just now -
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/ ... s=pi&pim=Y
chk071 wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 11:30 pm
If you want to make use of the processing power of the laptop, you don't want to waste it by using ASIO4ALL.
In what way, exactly, do you think ASIO4all would be wasting anything? It either gives you the low latency you want/need or it doesn't. It has no other effect.
NOVAkILL 4.0 : Dell G7 17 (Core i7, 8GB RAM, Win10), Zoom U24, Cubase, DUNE, Hive, Thorn, TRK-01, Equator, Substance, Arcsyn, Synthmaster One, Aparillo, Trueno, Analog Keys, MicroMonsta, Uno, Skulpt, Craft 2

chk071
KVRAF
22245 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Mon Oct 14, 2019 11:45 pm

ASIO4ALL uses more CPU and has less performance, i.e. letting you use less voices or instances of your VSTi's, than a audio interface with good vendor ASIO drivers.

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planetearth
KVRAF
1605 posts since 10 Jul, 2006 from Tampa

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:14 am

Focusrite makes some good, economical interfaces, with stable drivers for Windows 10. You're definitely going to want to stick with Focusrite's ASIO drivers and disable your on-board sound "chip" in the system's BIOS if possible (or within Windows' Device Mangler, if not). The on-board sound system will cause you more headaches than it's worth, and it's simply not designed to handle real-time, multi-channel, simultaneous recording and playback of "high-def" audio. And ASIO4All is hit-or-miss with some systems, but it's still not a real replacement for an interface's (or DAW's) own ASIO drivers.

You may also want to check the speed of the RAM you listed here: 1196 MHz doesn't sound right. You certainly don't need the video card (and its relatively loud fans) for audio work; the Intel 630 HD is sufficient to drive multiple displays. The video card will be great for games, but will require a very large power supply and more fans in the case (and on the card). More fans equal more noise, so unless you're going to liquid-cool some of that gear, it's going to get a bit loud.

Steve
Listen to some of my stuff here: https://soundcloud.com/shadowsoflife.

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DJ Warmonger
KVRAF
3387 posts since 7 Jun, 2012 from Warsaw

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:16 am

The on-board sound system will cause you more headaches than it's worth, and it's simply not designed to handle real-time, multi-channel, simultaneous recording and playback of "high-def" audio
+1.

Laptops tend to have poor onboard converters (unlike Macs), so you will need an external interface even just to plug headphones into it.
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toonertik
KVRAF
1887 posts since 15 Feb, 2017 from a worn out vinyl groove

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:33 am

BONES wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 10:18 pm

In what way, exactly, do you think ASIO4all would be wasting anything? It either gives you the low latency you want/need or it doesn't. It has no other effect.
Because of the way it works.
It sits between the audio application, which sees it as an ASIO driver and the WMD driver of the sound card.

Although written in assembly it still needs energy (CPU cycles) to communicate/ translate between the app and the WMD driver/sound card.

fairlyclose
KVRist
147 posts since 4 Jul, 2019

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:23 am

planetearth wrote:
Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:14 am
Focusrite makes some good, economical interfaces, with stable drivers for Windows 10. You're definitely going to want to stick with Focusrite's ASIO drivers and disable your on-board sound "chip" in the system's BIOS if possible (or within Windows' Device Mangler, if not). The on-board sound system will cause you more headaches than it's worth, and it's simply not designed to handle real-time, multi-channel, simultaneous recording and playback of "high-def" audio. And ASIO4All is hit-or-miss with some systems, but it's still not a real replacement for an interface's (or DAW's) own ASIO drivers.

You may also want to check the speed of the RAM you listed here: 1196 MHz doesn't sound right. You certainly don't need the video card (and its relatively loud fans) for audio work; the Intel 630 HD is sufficient to drive multiple displays. The video card will be great for games, but will require a very large power supply and more fans in the case (and on the card). More fans equal more noise, so unless you're going to liquid-cool some of that gear, it's going to get a bit loud.

Steve
I've been happy with Focusrite for years

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BONES
GRRRRRRR!
8915 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Tue Oct 15, 2019 3:56 am

planetearth wrote:
Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:14 am
The on-board sound system will cause you more headaches than it's worth, and it's simply not designed to handle real-time, multi-channel, simultaneous recording and playback of "high-def" audio.
If you want to give useful advice, it pays to read the other guys post so you can understand his needs. Clearly he doesn't need multi-channel, simultaneous recording and playback so you're advice isn't very relevant.
And ASIO4All is hit-or-miss with some systems, but it's still not a real replacement for an interface's (or DAW's) own ASIO drivers.
Of course it is, I use it at least half the time and mostly don't even realise it. Yes, it works better on some systems than on others but don't you think it would be a good idea to download and install it before you arbitrarily write it off on spec? After all, it's completely free.
You certainly don't need the video card (and its relatively loud fans) for audio work; the Intel 630 HD is sufficient to drive multiple displays. The video card will be great for games, but will require a very large power supply and more fans in the case (and on the card). More fans equal more noise, so unless you're going to liquid-cool some of that gear, it's going to get a bit loud.
Why is that an issue? Unless you are recording from a microphone in the same room it's pretty much irrelevant. Ambient noise outside your window - passing cars, birds, the wind in trees, etc. - and/or other people moving around in your home are likely to be a bigger problem.
toonertik wrote:
Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:33 am
Because of the way it works.
It sits between the audio application, which sees it as an ASIO driver and the WMD driver of the sound card.

Although written in assembly it still needs energy (CPU cycles) to communicate/ translate between the app and the WMD driver/sound card.
So what? If it allows you to run with a 256 sample buffer, then it works. In my experience it runs with the same latency as any of my USB I/O devices.
NOVAkILL 4.0 : Dell G7 17 (Core i7, 8GB RAM, Win10), Zoom U24, Cubase, DUNE, Hive, Thorn, TRK-01, Equator, Substance, Arcsyn, Synthmaster One, Aparillo, Trueno, Analog Keys, MicroMonsta, Uno, Skulpt, Craft 2

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planetearth
KVRAF
1605 posts since 10 Jul, 2006 from Tampa

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:37 pm

To the OP: Just search on KVR for issues with Realtek audio or on-board sound cards/systems/chips, or ASIO4All, and you'll see how often people have problems with them. You'll also see time and time again that the solution is to disable the on-board sound chip and use a dedicated audio interface. Some of us on here (myself included) have helped many people who've had latency issues and/or pops/clicks with their on-board sound chips. And unless they're also running a ton of apps they don't need, the culprit is invariably the on-board sound chip.

And then consider this: Realtek is a company that makes you supply an e-mail address just to get the latest drivers. If they had developed an audio system that could deliver real-time, multi-channel, simultaneous recording and playback of "high-def" audio...do you really think they'd just give it away to companies like HP, Asus, Toshiba and others? If it's that good as an audio interface, why not put it into its own box, slap a USB port onto it, sell it for $150, and compete with PreSonus, Focusrite and others? ;)

Steve
Listen to some of my stuff here: https://soundcloud.com/shadowsoflife.

ztrauq
KVRist
173 posts since 13 Dec, 2004 from USA

Re: considering switching from Mac to PC laptop, hardware & interface questions

Post Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:19 am

Given that I've been using onboard sound for gaming and had issues with that from time to time, it doesn't surprise me that Realtek doesn't exactly cut it for real audio work. I've started to test out ASIO4All a bit more, however, and I seem to be able to get DAWs to recognize it for now, at least. (weirdly enough, they seem to play better with the "soundcard" from my USB-connected no-name gaming headset, but I'm not sure that's really suited for audio mixing...)

I realize I may not have been clear enough about what I'm trying to do, so let me be more specific. Right now I've installed and am trying out a variety of DAWs (lite or otherwise) that I have on hand to see how they work on the PC. That being said, most likely I'll be mainly moving work from Logic to Studio One, with a couple of other DAWs on hand (MuLab and Reaper) for special projects. In terms of usage for an audio interface, I have a recording environment where I have to be cognizant of disturbing other housemates, so mainly I'm limited to working via closed-back headphones, and would need something that can provide sound to them reliably. I do most of my projects in-the-box and most of my actual recording is recorded on-site with a field recorder. The in-studio microphone, aside from very occasional vocal clips, is mainly for my non-music radio station work, which is mostly spoken-word dialogue. So I'm probably not going to be doing anything that would be pushing an audio interface too hard, I mainly want one that can provide stable sound output and won't cause my DAW to freak out when I try to get sound into and out of it.

I've been reading some other threads and have seen mixed messages about the Focusrite interfaces and their drivers - some people seem to swear by them, others seem to have issues with them. I'll need to do some further research into that topic. In terms of the other stuff... since I'm using closed-back headphones the fan noise doesn't bother me, and while some of the DAWs I've tested don't seem to love ASIO4All, I haven't seen it noticeably slowing down the programs. In terms of the system specs, I'm just listing the readouts from the Speccy program, I haven't really kept up with PC hardware that closely to know what is or isn't that good (honestly I just wanted a gaming laptop a few years ago and grabbed one that looked decent at a big-box store).

In any case, thanks for all the suggestions. I'll definitely look into the Zoom and Focusrite options to see if they'll be a good fit for what I'm looking for.

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