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Music-related parts to consider for my future-new computer...~600 to spend

permalink   Sat, May 2, 2009 @ 7:43 AM
I am eventually building myself a new computer. In the meantime, I have about 600 bucks to spend on new equipment, which is basically the beginning of the new computer. Will get the rest later. I’m getting a nice pair of 2.1 speakers (~80), a kick-butt sound card (180…is this overkill?), and a usb2.0 terabyte hard drive. That’ll probably leave me about, what?, 200-300 left.

I want to know (a) is what I’m getting reasonable, and (b) what other music-related stuff might be worth considering? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a computer component. Perhaps a better mike, or some standalone music-machine, or software, or a basic midi instrument, or …?

Here is what I have:
—A seven-year-old computer, maxed out at 1/2 gig ram, win2000, and enough disk space for exactly one large Audacity file. Not an exaggeration. Creating my remixes has been an adventure in shuffling and deleting files. I’ve also blown through about thirty cdr-s in the past two weeks.
—A very old and very cheap keyboard—four octaves, no midi, and most-definitely-not-professional sounding. I use it to create chord-stay-in-tune tracks.
—An audio-technica 75D ‘unidirectional lo-z dynamic’ microphone, which I got for about $100, something like fifteen years ago. I connect it to the computer via the 1/8” ‘microphone’ jack.
—A drum machine, BOSS DR-760. I have fun with it, but when I try to get serious, I feel out of my depth. I don’t even have a midi cable.
—A Creative AudioPCI sound card. Don’t know much about it, but I’m pretty sure it’s low-end. Came with the computer. Exactly three plugs, all 1/8’ jacks, mike, line-in, and speaker.

You should also probably know that I am a singer, and harmony and acapella arrangements are my thing—but it’s also true that I don’t have significant experience with instruments or computer-music. Basically, I could learn a significant piano piece if you give me sheet music and a week to plug away. I want to broaden my musical life, but I probably want to start by maximizing what I do best.

And one last thing: I never recorded myself singing, never made music on the computer, and never even heard of Audacity, before April, 2009. Audacity, CDBurnerXP, VLC music player, LilyPond (sheet music), and VanBasco’s Karaoke Player (midi) are pretty much the only music software I use. All free open source.

(Don’t know if this stuff changes your answers or not, but there you are.)

The only requirement: whatever I get should be useful with my old computer. But I do not want to dumb-down what I get. I want all of it to be useful for a long while.

Thank you very much for any opinions. I have a feeling you are JUST the people to ask.

:’ )
permalink   Sat, May 2, 2009 @ 12:27 PM
with a 7 year old PC there are additional questions coming into play - like: does it have USB 2.0, how much maximum disk size does the motherboard understand, what’s the max RAM the motherboard can take, etc. Also what kind of CPU does it have - because the CPU will is used a lot when adding effects (like reverbs, compression, delays), not to speak of virtual instruments.

So to upgrade that is not entirely trivial and you’d also have to mind that your new parts would be usable in the future machine. For example, it would probably feel frustrating to install a 500 GB disk, if the current motherboard will only be able to make use of a fraction of that. And it would also be very frustrating to buy an IDE hard disk now, only to find that down the road you would like to build yourself a system with SATA II disks.

I also don’t know how much longer and further Windows 2000 can be pushed for multimedia purposes.

So I would seriously consider getting a more recent vintage system. Many businesses are phasing out Windows XP based machines with not too bad specs and these are often available for very good deals in places that sell used computers. I’m not sure in how many countries this is also available, but in the US and Canada, Dell also sells used machines, which typically come off business leases and are often very inexpensive (USD 200 to 400). If you go that route, make sure you get a machine with Windows XP or XP Pro already loaded (some of them come without an operating system, and then things get a lot more tricky unless you’re reasonably competent in installing and running Linux.

Or you could just get a Mac mini which already has a rather excellent piece of music software and quite a few other fun goodies included. Everyone in my circle of acquaintances who has gone the Apple route has been been very happy — to put it mildly :-)

permalink   aliteralmind Sun, May 3, 2009 @ 4:32 AM
Oh, crud. Alright. So either software or stand-alone stuff is the way to go for now, I guess.

I gotta think about this. Thanks for the warning.
MC Jack in the Box
permalink   Sat, May 2, 2009 @ 12:30 PM
get this. it’ll be the best hundred bucks you ever spend.

i’m not a Blue salesrep or anything, but they make world class mics. this is an easy to use large diaphragm condenser mic, that needs no special soundcard, preamp, or phantom power. it’s all USB driven.

i think the best and most important investment a singer can make is in the mic. spend as much as you can. but this little Blue Snowball is great bang for the buck. just read the reviews.

i’d recommend this microphone to any vocalists here on the mixter, if they are looking for a great way to improve their signal capture for cheap.
permalink   aliteralmind Sun, May 3, 2009 @ 4:33 AM
It doesn’t seem to be compatible with Windows 2000, but it does seem like a nice mike. I’ll keep it in mind for my new machine. Thanks for the tip, MCJ.