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Old 06-07-2011, 12:11 AM   #1
elsrkite
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Upgrading my laptop for audio work. Advice?


I have a Dell Inspiron 1545 and I'm starting to get frustrated at its limitations, but I'm pretty ignorant about hardware... I'd like some advice on making effective, economical upgrades.

For those of you familiar with the software, I've been using Rosegarden (or sometimes MusE), ZynAddSubFX and Hydrogen all synced up, and Audacity on the side. I'd really like to be able to run one or two more software synths and have more MIDI tracks without worrying about CPU overloads or anything.

This is what I have:

Dell Inspiron 1545
32 bits

CPU: Intel Celeron 585 (1M Cache, 2.16 GHz, 667 MHz FSB)

Memory: 2GiB
DIMM DDR Synchronous 800 MHz, 1GiB X2



Thanks!
 
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Old 06-07-2011, 03:45 AM   #2
business_kid
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Should be plenty of resources. The only bit that made me wince was the Celeron. Have you considered Puredyne for audio? Last heard (Gurus will correct me) the celeron did a 6:1 reduction. The 667Mhz will have a 166Mhz clock & ddr (=333Mhz) which is pretty close to 2.16G when multiplied by 6. You will not get 800Mhz from the ram, unless I am mistaken.
 
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Old 06-08-2011, 12:54 AM   #3
elsrkite
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Yes, the processor is the weak link here. I've had some difficulty finding straight answers about what replacements will be compatible, but it LOOKS like I can safely get any Core 2 duo mobile. I'm afraid your computations are lost on me. With a faster processor, I will be able to get closer to 800 MHz from the RAM?

I am curious about puredyne. How can a live distro can run more efficiently than an installed one? Wouldn't it all be limited by the speed of the CD or USB drive? I must be missing something here (a common experience since moving to Linux). Never mind if you don't feel like answering these questions -- I guess I should find a more appropriate place to ask them.

Thanks for the reply!
 
Old 06-08-2011, 01:28 AM   #4
cascade9
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@ business_kid- reading all the stuff on FSB I put in the other thread wore off on you! LOL. BTW, you're right, that celeron is 667MHz FSB, and running it at 800MHz FSB would only be possible with overclocking.

I really wouldnt worry to much about 667MHz RAM vs 800MHz RAM. Its nice if you can get 800MHz, but it wont make much difference.

@ elsrkite- sorry, no you cant run just any Core2Duo mobile CPU. Some of them are socket P, like the celeron you have now, some of them are socket M. Socket M is the same size and pin count as socket P, but not comptibile. There are also soldered on core2duo mobiles (FCBGA) and µFC-BGA 956, which is only used for ultra low voltage CPUs.

You should be able to run Core2Duo mobile socket P CPUs, though its unlikely that you could run a Core2Quad or Core2Duo 'extreme' CPU.

Getting more CPUs cores and cache should help, but I'm not sure its worth it. Working on laptops is always more risky than working on desktops, and the prices I was seeing for 2nd hand Core2Duo mobile socket P CPUs was fairly high. A desktop would be much nicer for audio production, if only because you could get a quality sound card in the system, and not have to deal with whatever cheap junk dell speced the 1545 with...

As far as Puredyne goes, I'm pretty sure that business_kid was suggesting that you install it, not use it as a liveCD.
 
Old 06-08-2011, 01:38 AM   #5
headrift
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RAM speed works off the FSB, so yes, 800MHz RAM is overkill on a 667MHz FSB. Good for overclocking, but even then you won't be making the RAM sweat before the CPU overheats and hangs.

All academic because I imagine Jack gives you xruns almost all the time if you have Rosegarden and Hydrogen going at the same time, which will make the resulting track in Audacity (or Ardour, or whatever) glitchy.

Also, I have concerns about how useful the stock Dell sound card is in that machine... I'd be surprised if a laptop of that vintage had soundfont support... try QSynth and see if it flies. If not, try amSynth.

I personally would not do any audio work aside from live recording at a bar with that machine, sorry. Laptops don't exactly upgrade well (RAM and HDD/SSD are about the best you can do), so I would personally shoot for a newer laptop like a Studio XPS... if you wanted to stick with Dell.
 
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Old 06-08-2011, 03:47 AM   #6
business_kid
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@cascade9- I'm a techie. I am also a numbers type. I'll remember your phone number, mobile, car registration but not your name :-/. The numbers come fairly automatically to me.

BTW, I second the negative opinion on the sound card. Inspiron is dell's 'cheap junk' range. You may be better disabling it in the bios and going usb.

Last edited by business_kid; 06-08-2011 at 03:49 AM.
 
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Old 06-08-2011, 04:56 AM   #7
headrift
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
BTW, I second the negative opinion on the sound card. Inspiron is dell's 'cheap junk' range. You may be better disabling it in the bios and going usb.
Disabling, yes. USB for sound, probably not. USB adapters tend to have latency issues, and drivers might be problematic. I'm considering one for my desktop right now, but that's only because I need 1/4" inputs. If I had to get a sound card for an Inspiron, I'd try to track down a PCMCIA Audigy or something. Hadn't thought of it before, but they did make them, at least for a while. Might be more expensive, but I think it'd work out better.

Of course, it depends on the type of music you're doing. With a few hardware tweaks, what's there right now would probably cut it for live recording in a pinch. I've got a friend who gets fair recordings out of her Eee with a good pro microphone, even with a few adapters in the chain. If that kind of thing is a goal, then a SSD is also a really good idea, as mics love the sound of a thrashing HDD for some reason.

If you're doing electronic music, find a card like I mentioned. The right one might last to the next laptop as well as provide some needed functionality.
 
Old 06-08-2011, 06:55 AM   #8
cascade9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
@cascade9- I'm a techie. I am also a numbers type. I'll remember your phone number, mobile, car registration but not your name :-/. The numbers come fairly automatically to me.
I remember parts numbers, and I'm not bad at rego numbers, but not phone numbers....gah. I can barely remember my own phone number.

Quote:
Originally Posted by headrift View Post
Disabling, yes. USB for sound, probably not. USB adapters tend to have latency issues, and drivers might be problematic. I'm considering one for my desktop right now, but that's only because I need 1/4" inputs. If I had to get a sound card for an Inspiron, I'd try to track down a PCMCIA Audigy or something. Hadn't thought of it before, but they did make them, at least for a while. Might be more expensive, but I think it'd work out better.
If you dont want to use a 3.5mm to 1/4'' adapter (yeah, not really possible in some stuations), have you considered a Maudio Delta 44/66?

http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Delta44.html
http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Delta66.html

I've heard good things about the Maudio 'Fast Track' USB interfaces.

From what the audio guys I know (knew? been a while since I've seen them), creative cards are awful for sound work. Maybe they are being elitist/snobby, but from my experinces with creative sound cards make me think they have a point. Still, the only other brand that made/makes PCMCIA soundcards I can think of offhand is digigram. They are NOT cheap, and I have no idea on if there are linux drivers.

Last edited by cascade9; 06-08-2011 at 07:05 AM.
 
Old 06-08-2011, 10:24 AM   #9
headrift
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cascade9 View Post
If you dont want to use a 3.5mm to 1/4'' adapter (yeah, not really possible in some stuations), have you considered a Maudio Delta 44/66?
Yes, those are exactly what I've been looking at.

...and I'll remember that good things have been said about USB interfaces on audio cards these days. Maybe there's no longer an awful lag with live instruments. *shrug*

Quote:
Originally Posted by cascade9 View Post
From what the audio guys I know (knew? been a while since I've seen them), creative cards are awful for sound work. Maybe they are being elitist/snobby, but from my experinces with creative sound cards make me think they have a point. Still, the only other brand that made/makes PCMCIA soundcards I can think of offhand is digigram. They are NOT cheap, and I have no idea on if there are linux drivers.
My last audio card was a Live Platinum. It lasted for about 10 years before dying, never once crackled or otherwise sucked, and it gave me four assignable MIDI ports to go with my 1/4" ports. It was a very good card to me, and I've never had the plethora of problems I've seen people talk about online. I'd get a Creative card for sure if I was stuck on an old Insipiron but needed to do audio work in Linux... but only because E-mu doesn't make PCMCIA cards and the Audigy 2 drivers are out. With Creative and Linux, I think it's best to wait a good four years before even thinking of drivers. They do suck from that angle.

I might also try an Echo PCMCIA card if I were feeling experimental. A bit more expensive than the Creative, but nothing outrageous. Digigram's cards are pretty expensive.
 
Old 06-09-2011, 04:24 AM   #10
business_kid
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I wouldn't go for a pcmcia sound card. You are going to have wires pulling on the socket connector which is fixed, or the wires from it, and both of these end up as points for mechanical wear issues. Even on the crappiest box, usb 2 gives 12MB/S which is plenty of bandwidth for sound work.
My son (also into audio) is using a sweex-7.1 usb after his box lost use of the internal card. He is satisfied with it. He has had access to commercial stuff, but not any more (He graduated), and has gone over to a mac.
 
Old 06-13-2011, 02:24 PM   #11
cascade9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by headrift View Post
My last audio card was a Live Platinum. It lasted for about 10 years before dying, never once crackled or otherwise sucked, and it gave me four assignable MIDI ports to go with my 1/4" ports. It was a very good card to me, and I've never had the plethora of problems I've seen people talk about online. I'd get a Creative card for sure if I was stuck on an old Insipiron but needed to do audio work in Linux... but only because E-mu doesn't make PCMCIA cards and the Audigy 2 drivers are out. With Creative and Linux, I think it's best to wait a good four years before even thinking of drivers. They do suck from that angle.
The SBlive versions are pretty tough, I've only ever seen 1 or 2 that died. Live Platinums arent that bad a solution for home audio work, as long as remember the nasty resampling issue.

All audio streams are run at 48KHz with the SBlive cards. Playing (and recording AFAIK) a stream that is not native 48KHz makes the card resmaple the stream to 48KHz, and it does not sound good. If you want a bit more information, either searchf or "SBLive! Resample BugFix" or I can post a link for you.

I've had my share of issues with SBlive cards. Most of which would have been solved by creative actually giving different cards a different name. That what really annoys me, that once creative finds a name they like they use run it into the ground, and finding the difference between cards can be a real task. :|
 
Old 06-16-2011, 03:27 AM   #12
OldManHook
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Audio work on Linux,like Windows need power systems to do audio work.
Bottom line your laptop is not going to cut it,and upgrading cheap laptops is a waste of Money.
As for USB audio on that laptop you will still have a processor problem
Your best out would be to get a used desktop or a cheaper new one from a box store and install one of the Studio Linux mixes with Jack and a real time Ken..
 
Old 07-02-2011, 05:13 PM   #13
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I'm not sure how much weight a newer Celeron can pull. I presume that you have done some system tweaking for audio. One thing to be careful of is how many reverbs you're using. ZynAddSubFX uses reverb as part of some of the bank presets.
 
  


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