Need input on new gear

I'm currently looking to upgrade my setup and I need some advice. I will be purchasing a new computer and basically I need to know how powerful I need that computer to be.

I am writing primarily for film at the moment, so I will need the ability to run a large number of software instruments simultaneously. Many of these are orchestral and very high-quality, so they take up quite a bit of RAM. Many film composers nowadays run a main computer for hosting their DAW, then a slave computer (or four) for running all of the software instruments.

My question boils down to this: how powerful should I make the main computer? I don't want to spend all my money on a blazing fast main computer if that money would be better spent on a slave computer that can handle most of the workload.

Also, I am set on using the Mac platform for my main computer. I would be open to running a PC as the slave if that is the most cost-effective option.

Any ideas or feedback would be much appreciated!

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  • Thanks. I'll just wait with you! ^_*

  • I was so 'in rhythm' to be waited on by a music production student at the Apple store! So he knew all this lingo for me and that was greatly helpful. He helped me look at possibly configuring an iMac with i7 (3.9ghz) processor, 16 GB RAM, 1TB @ 7200 rpm storage at about $2700 (includes Logic PX & apple 3 yr warranty). I have a 3T external Seagate backup drive and an external CD/DVD burner/drive already.

    Since I'm new to all this computer talk, do you think this is a good set up computer for me to use at entry level as well as grow into (for composing orchestral, piano, vocal/piano film music)?

    Still, an option is to wait for the new MacPro which is around $3000 --but I think that will be too much out of my budget once all is added up (I don't think that price includes monitor or warranty, etc.)..

    Or, another thought is to buy a refurbished iMac or MacPro with comparable specs. As an educator, I only get a hundred or so as a discount. Any words on buying refurbished (through Apple, with warranty)? 

    (Not planning on the PC route due to being too accustomed to Macs.  I don't doubt they work well, but my learning curve there is too slow...)

    Please, someone, buy my baby grand piano so I can fund my new composer gear!!!!! ^_^

  • Keep the baby grand!! That's one bit of kit that definitely won't become obsolete! 

    I've recently taken to the recycling dump gear that cost me thousands of £££ and which is now worth nothing. Samplers that were once 'state of the art' and now are many hundreds of times less powerful than my phone!


    For me the most important thing is to have a rock solid, powerful and reliable hardware set-up (computer, interfaces etc). I can always add new software as an when I have the need or the funds but hate being in a position where the software makes demands that my hardware can't meet. So, when I upgrade my computer I will put all my funds into the fastest, most powerful and future-proof ( 6-10 years?) system I can and wait a little longer to add some of those tempting virtual instruments.

    If you really are a newbie with techie stuff my advice (for what it's worth) is to get a good computer and work with Logic until you are quite secure and confident and then add sample libraries gradually getting to know each one. There are a bewildering array of goodies out there and it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the different software with their different user interfaces. Fortunately youtube is full of tutorials covering almost anything you need to know if you get stuck.

    Personally, I prefer to buy new, just for peace of mind.

  • Thanks, Michael T!  Yes, that IS my basic plan: get as much of a computer as I can, with LPX, and LEARN through that software while composing.  Then add libraries to LPX as I get 'better'. 

    My baby grand is still up for sale, as the cost of my computer gear is about what the piano is worth and I wanna pay cash!  I also want to get a different grand piano one day...(bigger!) ^_^

    Thank you for your advice.  I'm still learning how to use Finale to compose! Feel like a turtle crawling through the techie maze!  

  • I would never pay $3000 for mac to produce music as a beginner. As Ray says getting a PC is much more price efficient. I would go for a PC instead and spend around $1000 on it

    • Get a lot of ram for the PC 16GB+
    • Get a SDD hard-disk for the most used samples
    • Buy Reaper (which is an awesome DAW) for $60
    • Spend the rest of the money on great VST samples

    I compose all my stuff on a single PC I bought two years ago. I very seldom have performance issues and compose orchestral stuff all the time. A complete set-up for composing wins over having a sleek $3000 mac in my book, :-)

    And I never had a virus or trojan on my PC. All you need to do is install free Avast anti-virus and have your software update automatically.

  • Of cause they must make their own decisions and I totally get why people like the products from Apple. Just thought I would give my opinion too :-)

  • I really appreciate this input.  I would go that route but I have used Macs for so many years at work now, I am more comfortable with their 'platform' and it  makes things much easier for me in that regard.  If I had a local buddy as knowledgeable as you are on PC, I'd piggyback to learn that way.  But I'm surrounded by Mac-ies. :)  You say you use reaper--are you composing for film professionally?  As that is my goal, I figured it best to get the needed gear for it and grow into it...  I've never heard of anyone professionally composing with Reaper.  

  • Well, that's an interesting point, Raymond.  I agree.  However, from what I'm seeing/hearing from other composers, my music (even IF it IS good) won't be taken seriously on a professional level unless I have the gear to make the instruments more realistic and the recordings higher quality.  That's why I'm moving in the direction of a new Mac desktop, and to learn more about DAWs. If I saw from more professional composers that they were using Reaper and other less expensive libraries, I'd feel encouraged not to dive in to such an expensive purchase.  I also DO see a lot of composers using Mac for making music professionally.  Of course, this is not an official or scientific research-based bit of data.  Just what I've seen online in composer/music industry forums... I am a newbie with the gear, but I am not a newbie to composing.  So it's the gear I have to tackle.  And I hear a lot of feedback that going Mac is more 'user-friendly', so that's another reason I lean toward Mac.  

    I haven't composed for ensembles, though, since college, and though I took orchestration, have forgotten that!  So I still have my work cut out for me in film genre composing.  I mainly compose piano works and vocal/piano songs.  But I look forward to being able to compose more instrumentals with decent gear!  

    Definitely all this techie 'approach' to composing music is affecting HOW I compose, and opening my mind (or, sometimes, rather, exploding it!) to new angles and new definitions of quality original music.

    Rambling on!  Thanks for listening!

  • Reaper is quite recent so it's only natural that seasoned pros aren't seen using it to any noticable extent - they've had their ProTools or whatnot for 20 some years, why switch now? Exactly the same issue as your switching to PC versus sticking to Mac - you'll pick the latter even if PCs are said to achieve similar results at a smaller cost. Comfort above all.

    Oh, and Macs are user friendly to Mac users. Heh. Trying to learn Mac after several years on PC is a nightmare, I can tell you as much.

    As for Reaper being pro/not pro, it is trying very hard to catch up (like I said, it's a new DAW). From what reviews I've read so far, the reception does seem to be pretty positive. I use it myself so my opinion is biased beyond repair, but I guess the least you can do is keep an eye on Reaper's development - if for some reason your DAW choice turns out to be extremely uncomfortable, there's always a cheap and reasonably good alternative to check out.

  • The creative industries in England, music, video etc are largely Mac based so it makes sense to be compatible with one's colleagues. However, Ray is bang on, these are just tools and PC or Mac makes no difference to the quality of the product.

    What does make a difference is the quality of the sample libraries where you get what you pay for (up to a point). And most importantly, whatever makes an easy workflow. Most people stick to what they begin with and have learnt to use.

    I like Logic because I do a lot of audio recording and mixing of bands and singers in different styles of music. LPX has some great new features for music other than orchestral mock-up style for which you require many 3rd party VSTs anyway.

    I don't know Reaper at all but if you are going to be doing orchestral music, as long as you can input mid note data and controller data and it is compatible with all major VSTs then that's all you really need I suppose.

    One thing is for sure NEVER  use Finale's or Sibelius's playback for rendering your composition! Play each and every musical line into the DAW with 'feeling' if you want a musical result. Generally I spend much more time editing controller data than choosing the actual notes!! Such is life!

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