View Full Version : MacBook Pro for sampling and/or audio editing?

2007-04-25, 11:40 AM

Recently, from work I strenuously requested a MacBook Pro, and my wish was (justifiedly so ;) ) granted, so... as of recently, I have taken my first real steps in a very nice OS and hardware world, and naturally, I'd also like to investigate just how well this machine can be used for my audio sampling and editing efforts.

What I've got:
It's the 2.16GHz dual core Intel MacBook Pro, and it has (presently) 1 GB of memory, which will soon be upgraded to 2 or 3 GB. Of course I did not want to miss out on the possibility of also installing Windows on it, so for getting optimum performance out of the machine, I installed it natively in a Bootcamp partition (hence giving me access to the full force of the dual core processor, as well as better overall hardware support than would be the case in an entirely VMWare or Parallels installation), and the Windows of choice was XP Home (good enough for my purposes). Bootcamp 1.2 beta allows you to create a special drivers disc for better hardware support, and after installing it, the "audio hardware device" is listed as being a: "SigmaTel High Definition Audio CODEC" (more about this configuration can be found at a.o.: http://37prime.com/bootcamp.html ). I am not 100% certain as to what the actual hardware is, and probably Apple won't tell, but it does at least feature combined analogue and digital in and outputs.

What I used to use:
Previously I just used to sample from a somewhat old PC (a Dell Optiplex III or so), which AFAIK has an on-board sound card, which by no means will be a high end one. For editing I use Sony's SoundForge 8.0d.

What I'd like to know:
-Are there any (very) good Apple (or 3rd party) OS-X programs, that are up on par with Sound Forge?
-Does anyone know anything about the ADAC quality of the MacBook Pro's sound card?
-Has anyone already experimented with such a machine, and if so, what were your findings regarding audio editing?
-When sampling, would it be preferrable to do so from OS-X (if so: using which program?), or from the native Windows XP installation (with the above mentioned SigmaTel sund driver), using Sound Forge?

Finally, back in 1998 for my M.Sc. thesis I built a high end A/D D/A sampling board, and hence I know just how critical a good design is. More in particular, if the analogue sections are not very properly shielded against "digital overspeak" (if that's what it's called in English), a lot of sampling errors and inaccuracies are introduced, esp. with ADACs that are as precise as 16-bit ones!
Intuitively I would say that the space restrictions of a laptop design would almost inevitably be in direct conflict with the space requirements for such a proper ADAC design, but then, perhaps Apple's engineers have found a way to make it work really well. Is there anyone (probably a real techie) who has any idea about that?

I'm very curious as to exploring the possibilities this machine offers further, and therefore, anyone's 2 cents are more than welcome! :)

Tnx in advance, and cheerz,

2007-04-26, 06:33 AM
are you looking to just transfer or record shows [2channel stereo only], or do you want true multitrack recording capabilities?

if yer simply looking for 2track recording, you can try Audacity, which i feel is just as good as, if not better than, SF for basic fade-in/fade-out, DC Offset adjust, normalize...and its free:

i would stay away from running Windoze-based audio progs thru Bootcamp or Parallels, i've heard nothing but issues, plus you bought a Mac for a reason, cuz it does what you want better than Windoze based machines!!!

far beyond just being "on par" with SF [which is basically just a nice looking consumer prog for casual home audio recording], there are numerous higher-end OSX based audio editing/sequencing progs...a few off the top of my head:
Apple Logic
MOTU Digital Performer

as for your A/D stage, i have no idea about the built-in card/codec...a quick google search turned up alot of latency issues with this card running under Windows XP & Bootcamp...hence why i say leave Windoze and all that alone...you now have a Mac, enjoy it!

if you want a decent 2-channel A/D satge, you could always go with something like the MAudio 410 or the Edirol UA-5 [which i've used on numerous occasions with good results]...there's also Digidesign Mbox2 line, which i believe come bundled with ProTools LE...for full multitrack DAWs, there's alway the Digi002 [or the new 003] as well as numerous other boards, all of which deliver pro level A/D conversion with very nice pre-amps, etc

hope that helps a bit :thumbsup

2007-04-26, 06:36 AM
also, what do mean by "sampling"? are you looking for a sampler/sequencing program for beat production [like hip hop/DJ type ish]? please clarify

2007-04-26, 07:19 AM

Tnx a lot for the advice so far, it is very useful!

Firstly: I'll check out the mentioned programs, tnx!
Also: on Tapers section, people also mentioned Wave Editor as being good. I'll do my best to give them all a go, and see what works best.

Regarding Windows under Bootcamp: I did that to at least make Windows as natively as possible on this machine. But I hear you: IMO the mac is far superior to Windows, so indeed I too want to use it as much as possible without having to resort to Windows.

Then, regarding the sampling (after all: that's what I'm most worried about, and what is one of the major keys to getting a good end result), there are a few thingies of importance:
1-At present my personal budget for hardware upgrades is very limited (we just bought a new house, and we have a baby underway, so.... :rolleyes: ), so I'm trying to make do as most as possible with what I have at present, unless I can make very significant improvements for relatively little money (say max. 50 Euros or so).
2-The above pretty much rules out the options of buying high end recording and/or sampling gear, and at present I use a Sony MZ-R50 MD for taping, and unfortunately it doesn't have a digital line out, so (again: at present) for sampling the stuff into the computer, I have to make use of the D/A -> A/D circuitry (hence my desire for using as good an ADAC design as possible, within the bounds of the computers I currently have (being either the Macbook Pro, or a desktop PC with PCI and USB interfaces)). This, then, is also what I mean with "sampling", being basically the transfer stage between the MD to the computer (presently) via the D/A -> A/D circuitry (i.e. I'm not referring to any DJ tricks :cool: ).
3-When combining the two points above, what it winds down to, is that what I am looking for, is finding a way to be able to either digitally read out the MD data directly, and use that rather than using the ADAC circuitry, or to acquire a low-cost yet very good sound board for sampling the music. Are any of the boards you mentioned within my budgetary limitations? Also, are there any (preferrably) low-cost options for this (like specific MD decks, that feature a digital out and/or USB 2.0 and/or Firewire 400/800 port)?

I hope anyone has an insight into this, and/or the initial question(s) asked about just how well the ADAC circuitry has been designed (esp. since a laptop design is typically optimised towards small size, and we are speaking about a system with lots of parts using VERY high frequencies, so lots of digital chatter on the lines)... :D

Tnx again, and with any luck, some further answers/questions to the above points will quickly help me on my way. :cool: