64Bit and NAMM 2008

A couple of days after this article appears, we will once again be surrounded by NAMM madness. NAMM madness is a state of mind akin to Santa Claus, or possibly a barbecue buffet, in that, once arrived in the “sacred” Hall of Music Technology, we prowl the aisles looking for the next leap to ship (preferably Q1), daring the developers to make us drool before we pull out our wallets and whip out our credit cards.

To what can we compare this pilgrimage?

Some say it’s like a journey to the Oracles of Delphi, while others liken it to a journey to the restrooms in search of Advil. The former is true if you arrive Thursday morning after the Marching Band has made their appearance. For about two hours, it’s semi-blissful because it’s only the business people milling around. But once the noon hour comes and goes, the need for Advil sets in as you hear a fellow percussionist demonstrating just how loud, with precision, he can perform paradiddles. Or that rock guitarist, whoever the band de jour is this week, demonstrating how fast and how loud he can play on the baddest amps and pedals around. This playing exhibition usually happens when one is showing off in front of their girlfriend, or, trying to find a girlfriend. If the guitarist’s wife is there, it’s a different story. The chops demo is over quickly because she’s heard it all before.

The other side of NAMM is the food. Overpriced sandwiches on stale buns, warm soda pop, and chairs your butt doesn’t quite fit into. And did I mention the lukewarm gourmet coffee and fake cream?

But! What are such sacrifices compared to the opportunity to be among the immortals who sell us unfinished software long before it should be released, not to keep us drooling, nor to inflict our marriages with angst, but because they need the bucks.

Patrolling with eagle eyes, one finally arrives at a booth with 64bit ready software. But is it really ready? Or is it just more hype?

[SFX] play pop song “More Love” with lyrics redubbed in with “More Hype” in background
It is with this daunting question that we must change our persona from worshipful pilgrim, to Dr. Pete, Master of MIDI Tough Love. So hold on, MAMA! Let the “tough love” music technology questions begin!!!!!

Dr. Pete’s Top 10 Tough Love Music Technology NAMM Question List

1. Could you please show me the Intel Mac system without the witch doctor standing next to it that’s running your software?

2. I didn’t quite hear you. Could you tell me again what beta release version this software is that you’re charging us full list price for?

3. Does your software today work with 4GB or better of RAM? And on what machine can I see that demonstrated?

4. I can’t find the frickin’ manual I’m supposed to RTFM with. Where did you put it?

5. Why is the manual on the software disk in the sealed envelope that once unsealed means I own it and can’t return it?

6. Why don’t you have any authorized dealers in South Carolina?

7. I must be on drugs, but could you please explain the difference one more time between “copy” and “duplicate”?

8. How come Bach and Mozart wrote more music without electricity than I can using electricity with your software?

9. What’s a pencil?

10. Why can’t you people get together and agree upon a set of standards for both the PC and
Mac where things work together the first time?

Hints: Can the software handle it?

This is the first place to start. Is the software you’re looking at installing on the system 64bit ready? You have to think about this at two levels.

1. the music software itself

2. host mixing boards (for farm systems) and whether they’ve been optimized for 64bit which includes V-Stack from Steinberg, Forte from Brainspawn, Xlutop, etc.

For example, Native Instruments Kontakt 3 operates on Vista 32bit, not 64bit. How does it respond on systems with 4GB of RAM? How does it respond to the 3GB switch?

On the other hand, Vienna Instruments are 64bit ready, operate with 8GB of RAM with no problem, and comes with its own virtual mixing board called the Vienna Ensemble.

PLAY from EastWest is 64bit and to their credit have posted an extensive compatibility chart. Click Here. EW is releasing their own virtual mixer but at this writing isn’t yet shipping.

On the PC, when working with a host sequencing program, only Sonar is 64bit ready.

According to the Steinberg.net website, Cubase 4 is not even Vista compatible (at Sonic Control, we go by what’s posted on the corporate website). Click here to review.

Some of the best information out on 64bit is found at the Vienna Symphonic Library website.

Dual Core or Quad Core?

At this point, Dual Core is the standard. Quad core is “hot” (as they say), but there’s no indication that any of the current software is written to specifically take advantage of Quads. So you can buy it, but no one can really say what your gain will be because developers, unfortunately, do not actively pursue companies making Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) for a living to co-test with them. So any chatter about this is strictly anecdotal. Check first with the manufacturer to see if they have specific Quad core tests they can discuss with you.
Raptor Drives?

Whether or not you need a 10000RPM Raptor drive should be guided by published tests from the developer. 150GB drives are now selling for around $250 per drive compared to a 750GB drive for virtually the same price. A 1 Terabyte drive, depending on the cache, can be bought for about $349 street price, and up. Ask the developer about his published test findings.

PC Operating Systems
The debate is between Vista and XP64. Overall, the winner so far is XP64 because it uses far less RAM (Vista can take 1GB to 2GB to run effectively).

Audio Card Booths to Visit and Question

You must check the specs to see if your audio card of choice is XP64 or Vista ready. While PCI slot cards are still available, the move is to Firewire.

M-Audio has posted that it does not yet have Vista 64 drivers (check for XP64). How come a company owned by AVID doesn’t have Vista drivers?

RME has both XP64 and Vista drivers.

MOTU merely says on their website that they’re Windows XP compatible. Just exactly what does that mean?

E-MU says it has XP64 drivers.

Lynx Studio is showing 64bit support.

Though not clearly stated on their website, Echo Audio is both XP64 and Vista ready. Click here.

Virtual Instruments Consideration

The category leaders, as I look at their software, are EastWest and Vienna because the design direction is clear, and both have their own virtual mixing rack to support their programs. We’re still waiting for the EastWest version for PLAY, but if it’s anything like Vienna Ensemble, you’ll find a lot of great time-saving benefits including a greatly simplified learning curve.

I hate to say it, but Yamaha Steinberg has earned a special degree of ire thanks to the poor quality control of the HALion player, and their continued posting that the HALion player has only been tested with an older version of Logic and Digital Performer.

Now that they’ve gotten big, Native Instruments has followed history by ceasing to be the friendly servant company they once were. This is company that many of us grew to love after the issues with Tascam GigaStudio drove us en masse to this small German company.

Unfortunately, I think that Apple in some ways is a laggard with Logic 8. The program is still 32bit, not 64bit. So to take advantage of the Mac Intel’s potential, you have to do a workaround with some virtual instruments using a free-application program called Soundflower which is not supported by Apple tech support for use with Logic, and on whose website there are no instructions for use with Logic.

So my question for Apple is, “Why with all your resources, do I have to go to an outside company to get a free application so that a $495 program on a $5,000+ machine loaded with RAM can take advantage of the promise of 64bit technology that I can, with relative ease, by comparison, do on a PC?”

I bet that question won’t make it into a PC vs. Mac TV commercial.

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