It has been at least two years I have been thinking seriously about upgrading my music machine (will call it DAW – Digital Audio Workstation, just for the ooomph.) However, so many other things stole priority from my music related activities. The old DAW was working fine for the things i was using it for, listening to music and once in a while to play games.
The old DAW was a Compaq that I got on sale. It was a very nice machine at the time I bought it. But, once I loaded all the hardware and software in it, it started deteriorating. May be I was a bit too over-enthusiastic. It started with three internal sound cards, and later a firewire one. I know, I know, that was too much. The drivers for two of the sound cards, ESI pro and Mackie Firewire where quite troublesome. Despite all that, I did all the demo recording and mixing for both my bands and wrote most of my recent songs. So, it did the job as good as it could. Time just grew past it I guess.
For over two years I have been secretly scheming to get a new DAW. First I went to Dell and customized various configurations. Went to New Egg and started two wish lists that I named “My Super DAW” and “My 64Bit DAW”. During one of these sessions, I found the Studio XPS with Intel i7 processor and decided that I will get either that one or will build one on similar lines.
This is about the same time I decided that the next DAW will be Vista 64bit. I have a very different position to Vista both from ease of use and stability perspectives. However, it is not always easy to get a Vista driver for all the obscure hardware I have. It is even harder to get updates for some of the many of the plug ins. Things get even worse when it comes to 64 bit.
While going through all the forum postings and blogs, I found, to my surprise that a lot of digital musicians intuitively ignore 64bit. Their main complaint is the same as the ones I have. They use quite crafty technique of networking several DAWs using iMidi, lpMidi, Ethernet based audio networking plug-ins and what not to overcome the limitations of 32 bit, mainly memory. I have no intention of wiring up a network and diagnose every latency problem for half of the time I get to write music.
So, yet another Studio XPS offer came from Microcenter, I was again very much tempted. This time, I had a better bargaining chip. After a long dry spell in music, I really wanted to get back to it. In many sense it is a much better therapy to life’s problems than anything else. At the same time, buying a Studio XPS is of much less financial significance (and public ridicule) than buying a Ferrari (or worse, a Ford Mustang Convertible).
There was still one sticking point. XPS does not have a PCI slot. My MIDI interface is on ESI Wamirack and I did not want to get yet another interface. I already have two of them and if I could use it in the new machine that will be the perfect way. Last time I searched for an PCIe to PCI converter, all I could find was one from an obscure UK firm with a dubious looking website for close to $100. But, this time I found several of them. One of them was from Startech, who apparently manufactures and sells every niche cards for $60. I actually found that the lowest price for that card is actually at Dell. For $39. This was the final straw. I gave into my desire!!
Stories about setting it up, finding all the updates, upgrades etc. will follow.