Which laptop is the best for multi-track audio editing?
February 13, 2005 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Laptops (again). I want to buy one. Specifically, I want to know which laptop is the best for multi-track audio editing (and why). Aditionally, which software should I use if I want to create stories "pro" enough for radio journalism? Do I have to get pricey studio stuff? Finally, when people out there submit already-produced audio stories to say BBC, NPR, PRI, Pacifica . . . is there a simple way to send the files via email? What kind of file would it have to be?
posted by punkbitch to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Any laptop with a Firewire port will be good for multitrack editing.

Firewire has the bandwidth to handle an audio adapter and a portable hard drive. Additionally, Apple FW ports are "bus-powered" which means fewer power packs to carry around if you're doing field recordings.

You could use an iBook if you want a really durable laptop with a long battery life.

There are many portable FW audio adapters. MOTU makes one that is portable, as does Edirol.

Smartdisk makes a portable, bus-powered FW hard drive.

You don't need special software for multitrack recordings. You can use something as simple as Tracktion to record multiple tracks and to then mix down to a final edit. It works with VST and AU plug-ins, has an EQ, and some other features to filter noise from recordings. If you just need two-track recording, Sound Studio Pro is just as good as Tracktion. Tracktion has the lowest learning curve of any multitrack sequencer and editor out there, and almost all of the important workhorse features found in the other more expensive and difficult-to-use sequencers.

A good recording is helped with a good, mono omnidirectional microphone. A Beyer M58 or Audio-Technica AT804 is a good choice for field recordings.

For submission via the Internet, you'll have to convert the file down to a manageable size. This means file compression. Converting your file from stereo to mono will halve the file size off the bat. There are different compression formats for audio out there; it will probably depend on the recipient as far as which they will want you to use.

SoundConverter is a handy utility for converting from one audio format to another, and gives you options to downsample the file to make it smaller, so that you can send it over the net. If you plan on just using MP3, you can just use iTunes to convert from AIFF to MP3.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:23 PM on February 13, 2005


Many news outlets accept MP3 or MiniDisc (MD).

If you're sending an audition track with your resume, a MD or CD-R/W is acceptable, but an email attachment of your voice work.

Any Mac, Windows, or *NIX notebook should be sufficent. Before worrying about software, you should likely investigate the market. The market is crowded with interns, undergrads and aspiring freelancers seeking to become the next Lisa Mullins or Corey Flintoff. Some excellent online resources include the Association of Independents in Radio, the National Association of Broadcasters' Career Center, and NPR's own training projects page.

pomegranate used to have some excellent links and info, but you'll have to consult the Wayback Machine to find 'em.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:26 PM on February 13, 2005


Sorry - that second sentence should've read "...but not an email attachment of yor voice work."
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:28 PM on February 13, 2005


And here's the corrected link for Wayback.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:30 PM on February 13, 2005


Hearing from an audio engineer friend, on the PC platform, Intel CPUs and chipsets are much more reliable for multi-track audio recording and editing. Stay far away from Pentium 4-M (hot) and Celeron-M (slow) processors and get a Pentium-M based laptop (often branded as Centrino by Intel).

If you don't want to lug around a Firewire audio interface, the Echo Indigo is a small Cardbus card that offers high quality stereo I/O.
posted by zsazsa at 1:49 PM on February 13, 2005


Some NPR stations will insist, rather than uploading, that you go through some wack procedure at your local NPR affiliate, where you play your sound elements for them over a high-speed link.
posted by inksyndicate at 4:42 PM on February 13, 2005


PRX (Public Radio Exchange) is a system where you can submit content that can be reviewed and possibly picked up by public radio stations (maybe networks too?). From what I understand, you wouldn't have to bother with emailing anything, as the stations would just download your audio right from the site. Unfortunately, I have yet to try either submitting or reviewing content, so I can't offer any specifics. It seems like a much better idea in principle, at least.
posted by afiler at 5:09 PM on February 13, 2005


To tell you the truth, virtually any new PC will have the chops to handle radio-style editing. Something like the Dell Inspiron 6000 series, will give you all you need.

In terms of "Professional" software, the BBC has used Cool Edit Pro (which is now Adobe Audition) for years. It's stable and it's easy to use. They even have very good free web training on their site.
posted by jeremias at 5:22 PM on February 13, 2005


Freelancer Tod Maffin's I Love Radio blog might be a good resource.
posted by bachelor#3 at 8:48 AM on February 14, 2005


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