Join G. W. Childs for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing the right laptop for stage performances, part of Reason and Record for Live Performance.
Choosing a laptop is one of the most important purchases that you'll make if you're planning on taking your recorded or programmed music onstageonstage with you. In this movie, I'm going to give you a few things to consider before you purchase that very expensive laptop. Before I begin, however, I'll tell you a little story of my own. I was going to be triggering some audio for a very high profile event for some very influential people. The person that I was accompanying was actually the president of the company that I was working for at that time. We were essentially performing for all of the company's partners from around the world.
The main problem was, if my timing with him is slightly off, he'd be the one looking bad onstage, because I was in the background and couldn't be seen, no pressure. I've got all of my files perfect. I've got my controller set up and ready to go, everything was dialed in. However, when I got to the venue and plugged into the house system, a very serious hum came from my laptop over the PA, which was a dell at that time. Come to find out, if I removed my power supply from the laptop, the noise would go away. We tried to lift. We tried all sorts of things. Apparently, there was a grounding problem with the power adapter.
So I had to perform on battery power, which meant carefully keeping an eye on my laptop's battery meter at all times. If I had looked up this laptop before going to my show, I would have discovered that many, many people had reported this problem online. I should have done my research. First, let's talk about operating systems. At the current point in time, the two proven reliable operating systems for live performance are Leopard for the Apple, and Windows XP, if you're going to go with the Windows-based platform.
However, Snow Leopard is starting to get to the point where it's compatible with more things and people are starting to look out little kinks and things like that. Also, Windows 7 just came out, and there's a lot of really good reports on it. So, I would definitely keep an eye on it. However, I tend to lean towards the Apple for live performance. Granted, I am not opposed to Windows machines. I use them both, but I just had a little bit more luck with the Apple-based machines onstage. When it comes down to it, you need to go with something that you're the most comfortable with onstage.
Don't go with a brand-new operating system that you've never worked with when you get onstage, because you might find yourself fumbling around. Secondly, let's talk about buying used laptops or buying a new laptop. Well, the first thing that you want to consider when buying a used laptop is that somebody else has used it, you never know what they were doing with that laptop before you got it. Even if you're buying it as a refurb, you don't know what happened to it before. So if you're going to pick up a used laptop, I would say, use it about a month before you take it onstage.
Use it with lot of band practices, really push it a little bit. If you're going to go with a new one, make sure you go online and research that laptop before you pick it up. If you're using a certain type of audio program like Pro Tools, Reason and Record, Ableton Live, whatever you're using, make sure that you go on to the forums for that particular software developer, and see if people are reporting any particular problems with any of those laptops, especially the one that you're looking at. There are all sorts of compatibility issues out there.
So, doing your research ahead of time will keep you from having to storm angrily back into the computer store and return it or find out the hard way when you're just getting ready to go onstage, or a band practice. Let's talk a little bit about memory. The more memory you can get, the better. Memory helps improve the performance of your machine. It means that you're buffering audio a lot cleaner. You're basically avoiding any kind of hiccups by having more memory. The best part is memory these days is really cheap. There are plenty of websites that sell it, like crucial.com, they have great deals.
Also, when you're purchasing a laptop, make sure that you're researching how many ports it has, like FireWire ports, USB ports. If you're buying a new laptop and you already have a specific audio interface, make sure you've got all the ports you need for that audio interface, including controllers like MIDI controllers that are USB-based. You don't want to get yourself in a situation where you don't have enough ports. Granted, there are hubs out there, so you can expand on that. Although, some of the hubs don't supply any kind of power over FireWire or USB, so keep that in mind.
Also, make sure before you start using it, that you optimize that new laptop. In terms of optimizing the OS, there is plenty of websites out there that have gone through and they've set up really cool checklist for optimizing either OS X or Windows. So check them out if you get some time. It will only help. In the end, as you can see, there are several considerations to make before purchasing your laptop. Again, go on the websites, check out what people are saying, check out what's going on with your audio software, and just be as informed as you can beforehand.
- Building a creative base for a live performance
- Choosing and setting up equipment for a live performance
- Tweaking the MIDI controller with Remote
- Creating patches in the Combinator
- Importing and editing loops
- Integrating with ProTools, Cubase, and Ableton Live through ReWire