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I have been experimenting with a Dell D-510 laptop computer for stage use. In my equipment arsenal, I also have:

I am struggling with getting the laptop to behave in a stable manner in a live performance environment.

What I have observed:

  1. The Focusrite and M-Audio USB connections to the computer are rock solid stable. The Casio and Mackie, not so much.
  2. The rule seems to be: Don't move it. If I never move anything, I can generally get it to work. The laptop seems to want to uninstall drivers when something gets unplugged, and reinstall them when things are plugged back in.

The laptop seems to forget the Casio keyboard when I move the equipment, which confounds my DAW software (which rightly expects the Casio driver to be where I left it last time the computer was on). The Mackie USB connection is recognized; it will send audio to the laptop, but only accompanied by glitches, and a lot of noise.

All of the drivers have been installed correctly, as far as I can tell. But I can't escape the lingering sensation that I'm missing something.

What I'd really like to have are just two things:

  1. The ability to do some multitrack MIDI and audio recording, and
  2. The ability play Kontakt samples from the Casio.

But I'm wondering if I'm going about this the wrong way. Are there any tips which seasoned veterans to this could offer that would improve the stability of my rig?

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A few quick notes

  • At stage volumes, you really really want to be using a SSD Drive. You will have issues with normal platter style HDD's at stage volumes due to vibration
  • Even with a SSD, you're going to want to sit the laptop on some vibration damping type material. Grab some mopads (designed for acoustically decoupling speakers) and sit it on that, leaving a nice gap underneath for cooling.
  • Windows machines seem to like to have the same things plugged into the same USB ports. Something about IRQ assignment. Mark which thing goes into which port. and always use the same ports. This should help a bit.
  • Get a mac? Sounds like a facetious answer, but Core Audio is far more solid than ASIO. Also less driver issues with plugging/unplugging this (see above).
  • Do you need a laptop? Can you get away with just using an Ipad and a midi controller?
  • I've considered getting a mac; it might be my next laptop. The Dell wouldn't be a great loss; I bought it surplus anyway. I've already tried an iPad with a Camera Connection Kit; it works great, but it won't play Kontakt samples AFAIK. Thanks for the bit about hard drives; hadn't considered that before. – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '14 at 0:57
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I think it may just be that your Dell is not up to the task - that's a pretty old machine (2005!). It could be simply failing in one or multiple ways. You could format it, re-install the basics of what you need and try again, but chances are it's not up to the job.

Personally, I would never trust a laptop this old in a live situation if there was anything at stake.

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I personally would not try to play kontakt VIs and record the performance at the same time in a live setting on the same system, at least not any live settings that mattered at all if your system crashes. Get your performance rig locked and solid ( I too recommend a powerful mac for this) and then if you want to do multitrack recording of your performances I'd handle that separately and probably by someone other than you the performer.

Computers crash, often times when you need them not to the most. Having been performing live for years with computers, daw software, I can tell you that there is nothing more frustrating, and embarrassing for you, and annoying for an audience of any size to deal with a computer crash that stops the show. Anything beyond the crucial computer functions needed to rock the crowd should seriously be avoided on the performance system.

these opinions are based on personal experience.

  • It was not my intention to record and play samples at the same time, although that practice is not exactly unprecedented. (how else would you do it in a DAW, if Kontakt was your instrument of choice?) – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '14 at 19:02
  • you listed two things you wanted to do so it sounded like you wanted to both use the daw as a multitrack recorder and play kontakt instruments live simultaneously in a performance. I'm advising against that. I have kontakt instruments that are so ram intensive they are too risky to use live. One ram spike or choke and it's total disaster live, no big deal in the studio. – user7088 Jan 31 '14 at 22:50
  • Yes, I understand the problem. So far, I haven't run out of processing power doing the things I have attempted. – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '14 at 22:53

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