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Laptop as real-time effects processor

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by psi, Jul 6, 2005.

  1. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    I'm interested in using my laptop (1ghz cpu, 256mb ram) as a *real-time* effects processor for my electric bass. Here's my idea:

    Effects send on Ashdown head ->
    M-Audio MobilePre input ->
    USB 2.0 interface on laptop ->
    NI Reaktor input ->
    software programmed effects ->
    NI Reaktor output ->
    M-Audio MobilePre output ->
    compressor ->
    Effects return on Ashdown head

    I'm unsure about how the MobilePre's output would work, and if Reaktor will complain or not. I'm assuming the drivers for the M-Audio card would allow me to switch the output from the laptop speakers to the 1/4" output on the card.

    I'm not dead set on the M-Audio MobilePre; I also looked at the Audigy 2 NX. As long as I have a 1/4" input (or 1/8" input... I have that adapter) and a 1/4" output, I'm good. I don't know what the manufacturer sites are talking about with "balanced" and "unbalanced" in/outputs. I also don't have a good idea of what 16-bit/48kHz sounds like compared to 24-bit/96kHz. It doesn't need to sound perfect as I will not be using this for recording... only for live applications. Also, will latency be a problem? I don't think I'll be making absolutely HUGE synths in Reaktor, but would it be a big deal for Reaktor to, say, process an octave / distortion / reverb chain in real-time?

    Advice & suggestions appreciated!
  2. Toasted


    May 26, 2003
    Leeds, UK
    What you suggest is more than feasable. Pros like Justin Mendl Johnson do it in the studio, and I've seen Doug Wimbish do it live.

    Im not sure whether or not you would need to run the effects at line level in the effects loop, or inline before the preamp.

    I cant give you anything "concrete" on latency, but i dont imagine that it would be a problem? Maybe somboyd more knowledgeable can help out?
  3. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    Steve Lawson mentioned on his forum about computer real time looping software called Mopheus I believe aparently that works really well and doesn't have any latency and you would notice when looping, timeing has to be spot on.

    You might want to look at a midi controller as well, you know a foot switch so you can switch between effects.

    I have an M-audio mobile pre and I find that it works fine on usb 1 (I think I have the older one), If I was using my laptop live though I would want usb 2 or firewire.

    Hope this helps
  4. xan


    Sep 10, 2004
    Perth, Australia
    i have a creative audigy 2 on my pc. ive never used it for real time processing but i have recorded with it. i think its actually a really nice preamp, but it does clip (distort) easily and balancing volumes may be tricky.
  5. Latency is your enemy. Make sure you buy a decent sound card with ASIO support. Behringer makes a 2 channel DI, thats what I'd use into/out of the sound card.
    So, your bass into the first channels 1/4 line-> out the XLR into your card. Then out of your card into the second channels XLR-> out the second channels 1/4 into you amp (it's stereo but the channels can run indepenent). Then you won't have to worry about a headroom problem (like the guy above)
  6. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    So ASIO just reduces latency I take it? Anyone know any cards that have ASIO support with XLR inputs and outputs? Hrm, maybe I'll need to use a desktop with a PCI card. Not a huge problem I guess. (Certainly wouldn't be more of a problem than lugging around that cab, lol)
  7. ASIO means "Asyncronis Input/output" and refers to the type of drivers it has (steinberg developed). I use an MAudio firewire audiophile and I get about just under 10ms in/out. Which basically means when i pluck a note it takes around 10ms for it to hit my speaker. You may have noticed this on some crappy digital delay pedals or whatever.
    As far as XLR ins/outs you don't necesarily need them. Look at the DI as an Ohms (electrical resistance) converter and not a jack converter. You can adapt the XLRs on the DI to 1/4 (even though that may seem stupid.) your after what it does to your signal not you patch cord. Having said that if you can afford a balanced (XLR) sound card that youfr best bet. A good sound card is key here so spend the money where it counts. The behringer DI is super cheap too BTW.

    This bad boy has phantom power so you won't even need a 9V for the DI.
  8. neotim

    neotim Webmaster, Bass Lover, Full-time Dad!!!

    Jul 13, 2004
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    So, if I have a newer laptop, what do I need to do real-time effects processing?

    Can I do it with a good sound card and the M-Audio Firewire solo?

  9. bassman314

    bassman314 I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process...

    Mar 13, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
  10. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    I don't know if you're being sarcastic, but I think that's pretty cool! :smug:
  11. bassman314

    bassman314 I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process...

    Mar 13, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    It is pretty cool..

    still kinda funny, too..

    especially the cross-shaped pedal board!!!
  12. xan


    Sep 10, 2004
    Perth, Australia
    i agree, i like your work. keep us updated.
  13. fun idea. there was a guy in bassplayer mag spotlight that is doing something like that live...had a green tracksuit cot on and a gnarly mustache...looks like he needed a meal ;) ...and he has a nice Modulus bass...was about 3-4 issues ago..look it up, or I will or somethin.

    Let us know how it goes.
  14. I have run my DAW as a realtime effects setup and it works fine. My rig is an iBook 1.25Ghz and a MOTU 896HD, using MOTU Audodesk as the effects host. My setup is very simple so I don't need the power of Reaktor, but I have been looking at moving up to Live4/5 if I start doing more of it.

    I decided to run stereo effects, and send the stereo pair to my PA rig. It solved a lot of problems. Depending on your setup you might want to A/B between the DAW and a "normal" bass rig. I use a spliter in the middle of my pedalboard so I can rout the signal to the DAW, or off to a pair of Boss delay/looper pedals (DD20 and RC20).

    Latency is a fact of live with this kind of software DSP. The only way to find out if it is a problem is to set it up and try it. You might not have much of a problem depending on the type of music and the type of effects. You might want to find a support board that covers your software or platform. Users with real world experience can tell you what kind of latency they see with their rigs.

    My experience has been that Firewire interfaces under Apple OS X don't produce any latency on their own, but the efficiency of a specific plugin and plugin host program are the big factors. Thie more intense the DSP, the bigger of a deal this is. Obviously, more CPU and RAM makes for less latency on the software side. In situations where this is a big deal you see very fast CPUs like >4Ghz Intel boxes or fast Dual G5 PowerMacs. And internal bus interfaces like PCI and their ilk are normally faster and introduce less latency.

    But again, for a lot of music you can get away with something that works well but might not have world class specs.
  15. Tecx

    Tecx Radio Rock Leads To Sterility

    Jun 9, 2002
    Halifax, NS, Canada
    His name is David Murphy, and he is the bassist for Sound Tribe Sector 9 .
    Here is the article: http://www.bassplayer.com/story.asp?sectioncode=16&storycode=5069



  16. Yup, thas' him. I just remember reading that and thought it was the most interesting thing in the rag, with the Alderete interview second.

    I will have to see if I can do some neat-o stuff with Tracktion when I get it proper.



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