Questions about an iMAC

Anyone who knows....please advise.

I am looking to purchase an iMAC (24"; iMAC, Intel 2.16GHZ Core 2 Duo, 500 GB HD, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT 256 MB video) in the next 2 weeks, mostly to run Sibelius, Finale, and VDL:2.  I am wondering if anyone knows anything about the iMAC and running any of these software titles on it.

Being a long time PC user, I a curious about the sound card.  On a PC, usually to get high end sound, you need to invest in a good sound card.  With the iMAC, this really doesn't seem to be an option.  Am I able to run VDL:2 on an iMAC using the standard sound card? 

Any thoughts would be great!

Robby
Jim and Tyler (or Justin?),


Thanx so much for your info.  It really helps.  I guess I will just start playing around with it more and more until I get a better handle on it.  I am certainly in the right direction thanx to your help. 

I am also glad you mentioned that info about the RAM, because last night I actually began pricing a Mac Pro with 2 3.0 GHz Dual Core Chips and 16 GB of RAM.....the machine was gonna run around $9,000+, and I was thinking of ways I could start to save this kind of money. 

Thanx again for all the help,
Robby
It helps to have a basic understanding of mixing concepts as well to achieve a more ";realistic"; sound.  MIDI sounds like MIDI when there are very few dynamic changes, and does not sound or feel like someone is actually playing it.  My MIDI compositions are rarely perfectly in time, I'll usually shift the notes around a tiny bit to put them slightly ahead or behind, ususally randomly or with a groove template.  Adjusting the velocity by hand will also help out a ton.

I'll convert the MIDI to audio, then apply any EQ/compression/effects/automation as needed as if I were mixing something for commercial release.
Various demos on the Tapspace site are produced by various users with various machines. There's probably not one turnkey answer that will satisfy you. It may just be that once you become more familiar with manipulating midi data and controlling your instruments knowing what they're capable of (and what their tendencies are), and understanding how that affects resulting audio, you'll produce better recordings. There are most certainly many ways to skin this proverbial cat.

Most likely the higher-end demos you're hearing were produced using DAW software. This is pretty standard in the music industry. Perhaps if you've mainly focused on Finale or Sibelius (notation programs) you haven't yet taken that next leap into this area, but these programs are definitely what allow you the most control over what you hear. Those programs do come with their own learning curve however, so you may find it beneficial to learn one skill at a time and allow yourself to really absorb the ins and outs. It seems that you've been very good so far about investigating any hurdles, and that nature will probably lead you well.

Remember every system is different, every score is different, and every collection of VDL2 instruments being used varies from person to person, and project to project. So the more familiar you become with your new system, the controllable aspects of the software being used, the instruments you're playing back, and your audio hardware, the more natural you'll find yourself making good decisions to correct any undesireable results.

Personally, I currently use (mostly) a G5 quad with 4GB RAM (though keep in mind one program can only access something like 2GB max). For band/corps stuff, I load all my VDL2 sounds into Kontakt 2 in standalone mode, and send midi out of Sibelius via the IAC driver. If I'm just creating a gritty recording of a chart, I like WireTap Pro. It's about as simple as it gets. If aiming for a more professional sounding recording or writing to picture, I use Logic Pro. Ask someone else, and you'll likely get a different response as there are many great options to working with VIs (virtual instruments).
Jim,

That really helped out a bunch!  Thanx so much!  Now I just need to figure out to get AU Lab working right. 

Out of curiosity, what kind of computers are many of the demos recorded on?  What is being done to achieve those results?  What system are you using, amount of RAM, etc?  What special software, if any?  I bought this Mac because I thought this was comparable to what many others may have, and it seems I am still not getting results like the Demos on the tapspace page.  If it is unattainable on my machine, I will start saving money to get a machine or software that will produce those kind of results.

Thanx again,
Robby
[quote author=Flamdragz link=topic=1454.msg6776#msg6776 date=1166642873]
It works, and your information helps.

1 more question, I thought I had enough RAM in my machine, when I play back this particular file in Finale 2007, it plays fine for the first 10 measures, then once things pick up a little, it starts making a popping buzz, similar to what it was doing when the latency was around 8 ms.  Do you have any advice?  For the instruments that are available, I did load the lite versions.

Robby
[/quote]

I assume you're now hosting the AU plugin within Finale, right? If so, I'm not certain there is a way within this host (Finale) to adjust latency or buffer size, which can take some load of the CPU.

One thing that may help is to make sure DFD is not active (in the VDL2 ";options"; window, click so the ";active button is not lit up).

Also, for any instruments in VDL2 that contain a ";release"; knob try reducing the level of this knob which will reduce polyphony if you're playing back particularly dense parts of the score.
It works, and your information helps.

1 more question, I thought I had enough RAM in my machine, when I play back this particular file in Finale 2007, it plays fine for the first 10 measures, then once things pick up a little, it starts making a popping buzz, similar to what it was doing when the latency was around 8 ms.  Do you have any advice?  For the instruments that are available, I did load the lite versions.

Robby
[quote author=Flamdragz link=topic=1454.msg6774#msg6774 date=1166641423]
OK, I think I figured it out....Finale 2007 needs to be running under Rosetta to work.  If this is incorrect please let me know.

Robby
[/quote]

This is correct Robby. You will need to force Finale to launch in Rosetta in order to use the VDL2 AU plugin on an Intel Mac. We are working on a Kontakt Player 2 update of VDL2, that will be a Universal Binary for Intel Macs to take advantage of (along with a lot of other good features). Until that is released (no date yet), you'll have to do it this way.

Scott Hirsh has a great rundown of this process at Tapspace FAQ Central at:
https://www.tapspace.com/support/faq/index.php?action=artikel&cat=4&id=28

Hope this helps!
OK, I think I figured it out....Finale 2007 needs to be running under Rosetta to work.  If this is incorrect please let me know.

Robby
OK, I look in the folder \library\Audio\Plug-ins\components and VDL2 is clearly sitting there.  However, Finale doesn't see it, and neither does AU Lab.  Have I done something wrong?  Being new to a Mac, I am not sure what is missing or what needs to happen.  Any help would be great.

Thanx so much,
Robby
OK, I gave what you said a try in Finale.  When I go to select one of the options (to edit/choose NI instruments for playback) in the drop down menu in FInale, only Kontakt Player 2 is available, there are no options for VDL2.  Under Kontakt Player 2, there is only the option of using Finale's GPO.  Under the folder you mentioned (library/audio/....) there is a component called VDL2.  Do I need to do something else?

Thanx for the help,
Robby
Robby,

With the Mac you do not need to use the VST plug in. The Mac uses Audio Units (AU). Check in the /librari/audio/plugins/components folder, if the installation was complete it should be there. When using VDL2 as a plugin with Finale make sure that under the MIDI menu you check use Native Instruments for playback. Right below is the Edit Native Instruments, here you will select the NI apps, load instruments, etc. this is also where you can load multiple instances of VDL2 show more than 8 instruments can be used. Hope this helps.


Ted Boliske
And one other thing....

I have looked at some of the software disks that have come with my new iMac, and I am unable to find AU Lab anywhere.  Do you have any idea how I might get it?

Robby
Jim,

Hopefully this will be my last questions in a while.  I am trying to work on a score in Sibelius that has 11 parts (Bells, Chimes, Vibe 1 & 2, Xylo 1 & 2, Marimba 1-4, and timpani).  Many of the parts are individual parts, how do I create a playback rack in VDL2 when I only have 8 banks to chose from and 11 instruments?  I tried to double up, have similar instruments share a midi channel, but that didn't work to well, and I couldn't figure out how to open a second keyboard of VDL2.

Also, on the PC, VDL2 came with VST plugins to use with Finale, I went to try to setup the VST plugin on this new Mac and couldn't find it?  Is there a way to use VDL2 as a plugin with Finale on the Mac, the book mentioned so, but I couldn't find the appropriate file types to do so.

Thanx for your efforts and time,
Robby
8ms latency will definitely be too low for this type of playback. Low latency is nice, but it really slams your CPU, so aiming around 40ms should yield better results. Sounds like you've got that heading in the right direction.

Yes, the mixer will show the hardware of your prior system until you do a ";reset sounds."; This is normal. If you're running DFD, you may want to try de-activating it (this is done by clicking the 'options' button in VDL2). Since you have 2GB RAM, DFD may not be necessary and could perhaps contribute to a few bottlenecks.

I'd recommend you use the ";LITE"; battery instruments, keyboards, and timpani as they're not quite as taxing on your system. Also, if you're using vibes, glocks, chimes, etc (anything that rings), lower the value of the ";release"; knob for these instruments. This helps immensely during busy passages.

Speaking of keyboards, do you have multiple staves routing to one keyboard instrument? If so, this is ok. Not optimal, but it's ok if you're running out of channels. If you are doing this, you may want to watch the polyphony meter on just that instrument in VDL2 (this is the part that looks like a fraction - 0/32). To raise the amount of available voices for that instrument, just click on the denominator (32), and drag your mouse upward. Try 48, if that's not enough, try 64, etc. You'll have to play those staves back (all at the same time) and watch the polyphony meter to determine whether your maxing out that instrument's polyphony. If you are, raise it.
Jim,

I started playing around in Sibelius.  The file I was attempting to play was something I tried working on under the old PC.  I went into the mixer in Sibelius and saw channels that I never selected, not even on the PC.  Further more, the mixer was showing hardware that I clearly don't have on my new iMac (such as a Sound blaster memory slot). Not only that, but the CPU usage was running near 95% with little to no relief.  I moved the latency to about 50 ms, and reworked the mixer until it reflected what I needed it to.  Finally after doing that, it seemed to play back.  Maybe not perfect but certainly better.

Anything else that you can think of?

Thanx again,
Robby
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