building a laptop rig, advice welcome

Discussion in 'Live Performance & Stage Sound' started by zarg, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. zarg

    zarg guitar and computer nerd

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    Hey everyone,

    I'm very happy with the sounds I'm getting out of amplitube 4 paired with some other plugins. I want to run my rehearsal and live sound with a laptop now. I already planned everything out, I got a Laptop with an SSD and enough power, audio interface and a 200W Poweramp. Using a 4x12. Alternatively I will always have IR's ready in case I go direct out to a powered speaker or PA.

    Is anyone using Amplitube 4 with an actualy guitar cabinet? It sounds damn good with custom IR's. Are there any difficulties I may not have thought about?

    cheers!
     
  2. drjeffreyodweyer

    drjeffreyodweyer SS.org Regular

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    Stability, dependability and latency are reasons Id never consider a laptop guitar rig for live situations, but if got that under control (and latency is minmal or doesnt bother you) there is nothing against it. Depending on the music youre playing Id consider a more powerful poweramp (if its a transistor amp).
     
  3. zarg

    zarg guitar and computer nerd

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    hi! thanks for you reply. I work in IT and will definitely have several failovers in place for the laptop. I've already switched entirely to plugin playing when I'm practicing at home since I can't make much noise at all. There's almost no perceivable latency, at least for me. I play metal, everything that I play right now is distorted. I think I don't need that much headroom compared to what I'd need for clean tones, or am I mistaken? I guess I will try and if not send back the poweramp and get the next highest? Its a transistor one btw.
     
  4. zenshin

    zenshin SS.org Regular

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    Hey Zarg, fellow tech nerd here :). I'm on the dev side of the equation (js, c++, web stuff). I have some experience in this area though lately I've been temporarily backing away from the laptop rig. Not intending to try to scare you out of it. I never played shows with my laptop rig, but I've done some jam sessions and uninformal gig type situations at people's houses. Here is what I can tell you from my end at least.

    1. In terms of amp sims, for me, most of the plugin tones didn't scale too well to a high volume. That said, I wasn't running through a 4 x 12 cab either. That could change the equation dramatically for all I know. The only plugins that scaled well for me were the ones from Mercuriall and that's about it. For what it's worth, both Spark and U530 sound and play great live. However, I'm not a pro with Amplitube, Revalver, Bias, etc. There may be people getting great results from them and really know them inside and out (like you). But tone is one of those things... it's one part subjective and one part objective but only you really can know on that one. For me personally, I'm going back to tube for my live setup but that's just me based on my specific needs at this point (ironically, I'm looking at getting a Mesa Mark V, which I see you're a fan of the mark series sim).

    2. Stability was never an issue for me. For what it's worth, I run a bottom of the barrel MBP 13" with retina display, SSD, i5 processor, and 8 Gb DDR3 RAM. Never hiccuped once. Granted I kept things simple. I used a Zoom Tac-2 Thunderbolt interface which got my latency down ridiculously low and it was stupid simple to operate. I did my midi switching with the Actition Midi foot controller and it was great. Surprisingly, I think the only hiccup that comes to mind was because of my old Kontrol Rig interface which had a cheaply made USB port that was shorting out the whole interface. Switched that out and problem was solved.

    3. Tone switching has been a royal pain the ass for me. Reason being, there aren't many tools out there for guitarists playing live. Closest thing I had was MainStage but the workflow forces me to either play all of my tone patches in a list, or I have to run all of my effects and amp channel switches to individual buttons on my interface which forces you into a pedal tap dance. Not fun for me. The patch list wouldn't be bad if you knew the exact set list for the night but for jam sessions it sucks because next thing you know you're jumping up and down all over the list trying to find the right tone patch. It's annoying. But if you're ever interested, I am writing a live guitar DAW of my own. Maybe if it gets to a good reliable stage I could let you give it a try.

    3.b. Are you planning on using a DAW or are you running the Amplitube standalone app? I forgot about how the midi switching capabilities for Amplitube's standalone is really damn good.

    4. When you're at a gig, keep your laptop on you at all times as people will try to steal it. It's a high dollar item that is small, easy to conceal, and easy to runaway with. People are bad enough about trying to steal gear as it is, a laptop will have thieves salivating. So personally, I'd keep it in a backpack that stays on my back at all times until it's time to gig.

    5. Finding a safe secure location to place the laptop while jamming could get tricky. My work around was that I built a "laptop holder" on to the top of my rack so I could slide my MBP in and lock it into place while still having full access to the keyboard and touchpad. Basically, what I wanted to avoid was a situation where my MBP was knocked/pulled off a table, chair, etc. during exceptionally crazy playing.

    Well, that's what coming to mind for now. I apologize for the long post. Hope it gives you some ideas and I hope to hear some good news for you in terms of going out and playing with your laptop rig! Be blessed man :cheers:
     
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  5. zarg

    zarg guitar and computer nerd

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    thanks for your elaborate answer!

    I plan on using Reaper if I'm going direct out (so I can use different IR's) other than that, the standalone will do. It does have quite some features with patches and switching but I will have to look into that. I usually don't use more than 2-3 Tones anyways.

    I can understand your concern about it not being the greatest tone, but it sure is going to be better than my rig right now and way, way more flexible. I'm pretty happy how Amplitube sounds with an external IR, hope it will sound somewhat close with an actual cab.
    It's basically a AXFX/Kemper/Helix on the cheap.

    I have a part list already finished and I'm now just waiting on the funds... can't wait! I will report back.... might be a bit though :cheers:
     
  6. Randy

    Randy Ooh, Degrasse Tyson-son Super Moderator

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    FWIW, I built a budget laptop rig earlier this year (older MBP I maxed out the RAM on and added a SSD, and an Apogee Duet FW).

    Your desired use sounds to be a little different than mine, yours sounds a little more stationary whereas mine was designed specifically for recording on the go. As such, I know some of my choices aren't relevant to yours but maybe they're food for thought.

    I specifically chose a smaller MBP and the Apogee Duet for the smaller footprint, but also because the AD/DA converters and mic pres are one of the best for the size.

    At my office at work, I've got a mini-mini studio setup where my laptop docks next to my primary computer, and feeds a pair of speakers (JBLs). I've got the basics, a couple guitars and a bass, keyboard and a 1x12. I've got an SM57, and small clamp on gooseneck for recording an actual amp or I'll just plugin to the interface to track through VST, I'm currently using a mix of LePou and Logics native modeler that are decent but I save the DIs so I can reamp later if decided (more on that later).

    With the setup as compact as it is, I'll close up shop at the end of the week and my computer, my interface and all the relevant cords fit into an aluminum laptop case and take less than 2 minutes to pack up. I can also fit the mic/cables in the laptop case or a small sling bag if I'm bringing my vocal mic, stand and cord along.

    With that rig, I can easily record or mix at home, with still high quality results. I've got a pair of DT990s at home (which also fit into my case or sling bag), and I'll often do some basic mixing while I'm sitting in bed. Before I switched to a dedicated transportable laptop rig, I had to bounce my tracks and send them to the cloud to preview at home or occasionally I'd package my projects to mix on my home computer but it was unreliable everything would translate 1:1. The new setup is way more reliable. Oh, and I can also track finished/semi-finished quality guitar parts in bed or on the toilet or whatever.

    And onto the reamping thing, yeah, being super mobile has been worth it's weight in gold. I'll go to my friend's place and mic up their latest amp or we'll track his guitars there in his dining room, etc. It's gone a long way in turning drinking sessions into recording sessions :lol:

    I was worried only having two inputs on the Duet would be an issue but so far, it's been fine. If I were doing shit like tracking my full band at practice or gigs I'd have to rethink things but for now, the small footprint of the whole rig and being so easily to pack up and unload has been the biggest asset in getting shit done.
     
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