Cambridge SoundWorks

Have you built a computer?

04/25/2009

I have just put up a new website with some more information about the SAC system. Visit Mixer In A Box if you are interested in the Software Audio Console system.


04/11/2009

I took the new rig out to a gig and used it this evening. A band that I worked with for years was doing a reunion gig at a venue they used to play. I ran the show on the SAC rig.

The management was frightened by my 'little' pa. They talked to the band and they talked to me. The owner told me that this wasn't an arena show and I didn't need all that pa (single stack of JBL SR series cabs per side - he may have had a stroke if I had rolled in about 5' of analog desk plus a processing rack). At the end of the night they told the band that the volume was perfect.

The owner of the home studio where the singer records was there and was impressed with the sound. A local Karaoke operator told me it sounded great. Several other people had favorable comments (and the crowd went wild).

I am painfully slow because I don't know my way around the software yet. I also had the handicap of mixing from directly behind one of the stacks (its a small venue). A remote on a laptop would have been a beautiful thing!

The rig ran without a glitch (I can't really say the same for me). I had 12 channels and three monitor mixes. By the end of the show I had enough processing going on to occasionally bump 8% load. There were no slipped buffers any time that I checked. I ran it at 2X64.

We will do it all again tomorrow evening and then next week I plan on taking it to a church convention that I am working. I needed to do this one so that I will be ready for the next one (you can't answer a question if you don't know what the question is, or even that there is a question to be asked). It was an interesting (read learning) experience.

The baby system is a pair of SR Series stacks 2X12 with 2" over double 18" bottoms powered by 2 Crown I-Tech 4000's and a QSC PLX-1602 for the horns (side fills for some shows). I used a drive rack PA for a system controller and drove it from the SAC output. Monitors were 3 Eons each on a separate mix (the singer doesn't want no stinking monitors in the way). The band is a four piece R&R band G,B,&D with a front man. Six mikes on the four piece drum kit, base out, guitar mike, guitar DI for the unused acoustic, and four vocal mikes.


04/07/2009

The Build Gallery is posted, click to view.


04/04/2009

The system is together and operating. I have a bit to learn about getting around the system. I have tested with one microphone and one speaker and have a basic feel for the system, but I will need some live input soon to test things further. The various parts of the system are currently stacked on a table. I have a rack that will be a temporary home for the system, but I think that a custom rack is going to be in order. I do have some ideas about how I want to set the rack up, but having some experience with the system may reveal better ways to set up the system. I need to find a jam session or something where I can play with the system with live inputs in a non critical situation.


04/03/2009

The parts have all converged. I took delivery of the sound card today. Last evening I placed the order for the software and had my download credentials in my inbox this morning. This afternoon/evening I will be installing the sound card and software. Then I will hook up the system and begin testing. I need to be certain that the system is stable before I attempt a live show or event with the rig. More to come and as they say in TV, pictures at 11.


04/02/2009

FedEx's good service was frustrated by a friend in need. I ran out for about an hour and FedEx attempted delivery during that time. I was highly frustrated to have missed the delivery, but there is always tomorrow.

I did go ahead and take care of the rest of the preparation of the host system. There are a number of adjustments to the OS recommended by the software company. I accomplished these things and turned off several background services that are not necessary or desirable for this specific application. There is the possibility that some of these things could cause glitches in the audio output from the computer.

I am about to place the order for the actual software. From information on the website it appears that the company sends a download authorization manually. I want to be able to download the software when the hardware is ready so that I can begin testing. I will bring a couple of mikes and some powered speakers from the warehouse for the initial tests.


Breaking News! I just checked the FedEx tracking site and they now expect to deliver the card tomorrow (4/2). This is a day earlier than they originally listed. UPS would let the package sit in one of their depots rather than deliver a day early!!


04/01/2009

The assembly of the computer and the installation of the operating system was smooth and trouble free. The computer posted without problem on first power-up and complained about not having an operating system installed. That complaint was resolved within an hour including the time to format a 40 GB partition on the drive for the OS.

Then came the driver installation for the mother board and video card. These took more restarts than the OS install. After that it was off to Windows Update to get the OS patching up to date. The only thing left to do are some recommended tweaks to keep Windows from intruding into the live sound environment, and installing the sound card.

I received shipping confirmation and a FedEx tracking number on the sound card. It will be on my door step at some point on Friday. The needed patch cables arrived in my mailbox today. Friday I will hook the system up and install the software to complete the system. I have a rack into which I think I can fit the system. If I am not happy with this option I may custom build a rack to house the system.

On this parts order I also included parts to complete a second system. I will possibly use this system as  a remote unit to control the mixer. If I am to use this system in this way I will build it into a 'briefcase' style of enclosure. I had considered setting up a computer in that way for a road computer in the past, and now may be the time to accomplish those plans. I will chronicle that build on a SAC_Remote page.

I am taking a few pictures as I go through this build. I will post a gallery when the build is complete.


03/31/2009

Early update. Six boxes of computer parts are listed as out for delivery by UPS tracking. They will be on my doorstep sometime this afternoon.

Update Two 3 PM: The shipment is in, now the fun begins!!


03/27/2009

The parts are all ordered (until I discover what it is that I forgot). I placed the order for the sound card and optical cables today. The computer parts are all listed as in transit. Most of the computer parts are being shipped from the New Jersey distribution center. They are projected for delivery on the 31st. As long as the sound card arrives in a timely fashion I should be able to have this system together next week. I have two nights in a club which may be my first application for the new rig.


03/26/2009

The decisions have been made and I placed the computer parts order today. Now I am waiting for the tracking numbers so that I can begin to trace the progress of the various parts as they converge on my doorstep probably next Tuesday or Wednesday. The only major part to the system hardware that I have not yet ordered is the RME Raydat sound card. The software is delivered digitally, so when the system is ready there will be no waiting for the program. I will have it a few seconds after the paperwork is completed.

The local music dealer with whom I do business is checking into the possibility of becoming an RME dealer. I will contact him tomorrow to see if he has made any progress. There are several online retailers who stock the part, but whenever possible I prefer to support the local business. Without support the store would not exist and last minute supplies would be more of a problem.

The parts list on the order is HERE. These parts will build the SAC computer and finish assembly of a second computer that may be used as a remote for the system.


03/15/2009

I am beginning to put together my parts list for the first specialized digital audio workstation. This computer will be dedicated to one particular purpose, which is to use in a live sound environment. I will be running the SAC (software audio console) software package on this computer.

I will be using an Intel E-8500 processor and probably a Gigabyte motherboard. With memory prices in the basement anything less than 4GB is almost unthinkable. I will probably go with two hard drives, one for system and one for the application. The video card will be an ATI based card with dual DVI outputs so that a dual monitor set-up may be used. The monitor will have significant real estate and contrast ratio and brightness will be considerations. There will be a combo or burner optical drive. An eighty plus power supply will complete the physical components of the build.

There will be some special considerations for this build due to environment and reliability factors for this computer. Because the computer will be used in a production environment stability will be a major concern. I will include an UPS in the system because power fluctuations can be a problem in live sound venues. The computer will also be mobile and need to be resistant to vibration and physical shocks while in transit.

I will probably go with a rack mount server case for this first instance of a computer for this application. The alternative might be to buy an inexpensive tower case and hack it up to use the parts that I want in a custom built case. I want to get this first unit together. If I can get comfortable with it I have events in April and May that I hope to run on the new system.

At this point I have 32 channels of pre-amp AtoD/DtoA on order, so I am somewhat committed to this course of action. I will be making additional entries at the top of this page as the saga unfolds, so check back to keep up with the progress!

What do you think about this?

Please tell me here!

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