Building The Laptop Rig

Discussion in 'Live Performance & Stage Sound' started by zenshin, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. zenshin

    zenshin SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    TLDR: This is just me documenting my journey transitioning from a tube based rig to a laptop based rig. In other words, I'm going through all the screw ups so others won't have to.

    So to begin, I first need to emphasize that I am already the owner of a couple of nice tube rigs. One being a Blackstar Ht-100 through Whitebox 4x12 cabs loaded with Celestion G12K-100 speakers. The other is based off of my Engl E530 through same cabs. My effects are handled via TC Electronics G Major 2. All in all, I'm very happy with my present rig so this begs the question...

    Why the hell would I bother setting up a laptop rig?

    Well... it all started with a little test I did after buying the Mercuriall U530 plugin and lining it up against my actual E530. It sounded and felt so close to my real Engl that I had a lightbulb moment. If I could build a laptop based rig, I could reap some interesting benefits.

    1. Fit the most of my rig into a backpack.
    2. Decrease set-up time (I'm already highly organized with my other rigs)
    3. Back up my settings on DropBox.
    4. Take advantage of a lot effects plugins that I would otherwise not be able to use in my tube set up.
    5. Fit all of my gear into my car (assuming I fold down the back seats). No more borrowing a truck.

    So I began wondering how would I set up something for live? The first obvious solution appears to be MainStage 3 since I'm on Mac. I figure if it's good enough for Nine Inch Nails, then it's good enough for me. So in essence, my software setup is looking as follows...

    1. DAW: MainStage 3
    2. Amp Sim: Mercuriall U530
    3. Effects: MainStage's Pedalboard

    MainStage wasn't hard to get up and running with. I tried to set up a patch based system but it didn't go too well so for now I've set up an amp/stompbox configuration where each button on my midi controller flips certain pedals on and off. Not as nice as a patch based set up but will do for now.

    For the curious, here is what my MainStage UI is looking like...
    [​IMG]

    All settings are mapped to their appropriate knobs within the plugins. Of course I mapped the midi buttons on my Kontrol Rig pedal/interface to switch the pedals on/off stompbox style. Also I forgot to label my "whammy" but it will be getting the expression pedal treatment.

    Hardware wise, I will be looking to expand. Thinking first move will be the Zoom TAC-2 so I can take advantage of Thunderbolt and get some ridiculously low latency.

    So in theory, my base level hardware rig could looks as follows.

    Venue with (decent) PA System
    1. MacBook Pro
    2. TAC-2 interface
    3. Actition Midi Controller
    4. Guitars.

    Venue without PA System
    1. Same As Above
    2. EV Powered Speakers.

    That being said, I'm thinking this should be a fun experiment. There will be more building to do and I'll document this stuff along the way. Maybe there is one soul out there considering the same idea and would like to see someone else screw up first, so I volunteer to be the screw up.
     
  2. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    242
    Likes Received:
    33
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2015
    Location:
    North Bay, ON
    Good Luck to you sir! I'm interested to see the results. :metal:
     
  3. ZombieLloyd

    ZombieLloyd Not one 7 string

    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    43
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2015
    Location:
    North Wales, UK
    This sounds like a cool idea, I hope it works well for you. The first thing I did when I got my E530 was compare it to the U530 plugin with the same IRs, Mercuriall did a great job with the U530. It actually almost made me feel like the E530 was a waste of £250 haha. But, I use it all the time so I definitely got my money's worth. Back on topic, I'd be too worried about someone stealing my iMac to do something like this myself. Though, having a Macbook guitar rig sounds very convenient.
     
  4. zenshin

    zenshin SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    Many thanks! I'll be doing an update post soon on my current experiences. I hope that maybe there will be some valuable or interesting in all of it!
     
  5. zenshin

    zenshin SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    First, gotta discuss that sweet E530 haha. I'm right there with you man. I love that E530, looking back I have no regrets having bought my E530 first because it was just what I needed at a time when I was giving up on plugins and needed that tighter tone. Plus I wouldn't have had the direct point of reference when I did decide to try out the U530.

    Regarding potential theft, I'm with you on that one. It's the great downside that comes with more convenient gear (regarding all equipment being Axe-Fx or laptop). The way I've imagined it going for me is just keeping the backpack on my back, at least for the time frame that it isn't in the trunk (er... boot for the UK friends) of my car. Good thing is that I've tested the load in my backpack (here it is) and with my present set up, it's nothing so it wouldn't be a nuisance. I used to do a similar thing with my effects pedals back in the day because someone tried to steal them. So I loaded them in a backpack and just walked around with them on my back. Still not a perfect solution but it seemed to help. My hope for now is that the added convenience will be worth it but we shall see! :cheers:
     
  6. zenshin

    zenshin SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    Time for me to give my first update on my current experiences with this setup.

    Hardware wise, everything is staying solid. My only real gripe has been with the NI Kontrol Rig because the buttons are so close together. Wouldn't be bad if I was doing a tone-patch based setup where I only need to push one button but unfortunately, I'm having to run an amp/stompbox setup so I'm having to do a fair bit of tap dance. The buttons being close together cause me to have some screw ups where I push too many buttons during a difficult transition. It's enough to convince me to want to try a patch based setup again. The only way I have been able to see it work in MainStage so far is by having all of the patches in a list where I go straight up and down. Not going to work for me at all so I will have to see what I can do about that. Otherwise, the hardware side is doing good. Everything is remaining stable. That said, I'll definitely upgrade my midi controller as mentioned before.

    Software wise, I've already voiced one gripe with MainStage. I want to be able to assign patches to buttons on my midi board. I don't want to deal with the amp/stompbox setup and I don't want to do the list based patch setup. However the amp/stompbox setup will have to do for the time being. Beyond that, it's proving itself reliable. I've wondered if the MacBook approach would be prone to audio drop outs, glitches, and what not but so far... nothing. I've been pushing some 2-3 hour jam times and not one glitch so that gives me a positive feeling about the stability of the setup.

    Regarding sound quality, I'm still happy with the U530 as the heart and soul of the tone set up. It sounds wonderful. Couldn't be happier with it. Figured after the long sessions I'd start picking out digital artifacts that start bugging me but nothing whatsoever has come up. My brain still gets tricked into forgetting it's not the real amp. Effects wise, the stuff from Mainstage's Pedalboard setup is pretty good. Nothing great but after having used the G Major 2, it does feel subpar. Will likely migrate away from Pedalboard into other plugins that sound much better. Right now, Pedalboard just makes me want to hook up the G Major 2 again. Don't get me wrong though, it does the job... I'm just a little spoiled I think :lol:.

    All in all, I'll likely dig through MainStage again to see if I can make my ideal patch based system work. If not, I may investigate Ableton Live. If that doesn't work, well... I am a C++ dev... I'll build my own solution.
     
  7. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

    Messages:
    21,301
    Likes Received:
    1,466
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    London ONT
    Good luck in this!

    Regarding the thing about theft: it doesn't matter what the gear is, someone is willing to steal it. This is why I've purchased insurance for my gear, since I can't afford to replace any of it.

    Are you gigging with the new setup, or will you be in future?
     
  8. ZombieLloyd

    ZombieLloyd Not one 7 string

    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    43
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2015
    Location:
    North Wales, UK

    It was the other way around for me, the U530 made me decide on getting the E530. I'm happy I got it because I ended up getting my perfect tone through my real speaker cab. But with the impulses I use, the U530 and E530 sound almost identical. Not that I'm complaining, the U530 is probably the best amp sim I've ever used. I wish the E530 had that built in chorus.

    I'm glad you have a solution to make sure your stuff doesn't get stolen, it'd be the worst thing ever to have someone steal your live rig. The people who steal gear from bands absolutely disgust me. Especially bands who can't afford to replace the gear.
     
  9. zenshin

    zenshin SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    First, that's a fantastic idea on buying insurance for your rig. I'm going to have to look into this for myself.

    Also no I'm not gigging with it yet. I'd love to put together a band again. Just need to network around a bit and see what opportunities can arise. I mean... Erra came from my city so certainly there has to be some other talented musicians around here to work with. That said, if I did find myself in a band and had a gig tomorrow... I'd still use one of my tube rigs. The laptop setup needs to earn my trust a bit more before I'll take it on stage. That and I want effects that can match my G Major 2. However, I am having jam sessions with friends/former bandmates (including a drummer) and in these instances, the MBP is hanging in there very well. Most people around here unfortunately want to play classic rock so the U530 always sounds a little overkill with their type of music. Too bad I don't have Spark yet, then I could play all the Lynyrd Skynyrd and Eagles that everyone here wants to play and blend right in :lol:.
     
  10. zenshin

    zenshin SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
     

Share This Page