Affordable Midrange Motherboard + CPU for Home Studio Tower instead of Laptop with crazy sound settings

Configure and optimize you computer for Audio.
10 posts since 2 Apr, 2008

Post Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:33 pm

Unfortunately, my office workstation and my Yamaha Grand do not fit in the same room (not if I want to work). Consequently, I have been using my relatively new i7 based Laptop to music making duties.

The laptop, a Dell Inspiron 13-7359, is great, it runs Cakewalk (the latest free version), Mixcraft 8 and Studio One 3 (artist) as well as Band In A Box, without any issues at all.

The problem I have is that if I use the laptop for any task involving sound, when I put it back into service with my Lexicon Lambda Soundcard and my AKAI Mini MIDI controller and my Yamaha Grand, it often takes me half an hour or more before I can map the Lexicon Soundcard so that the sound comes out of my studio speakers and not the laptop's. More often than not, I'll have all the sound coming out of my Lexicon, including Windows sounds, but youtube will play off the laptop speakers.

Sometimes I want to do outrageous things like Listen to a youtube video backing track while playing my guitar or bass over it (or even the piano when I feel adventurous) and I can't. I actually have to fire up my VPN, download the video as an MP3 and then import it into my DAW, when all I want to do is practice a bit.

As an example, if I used my laptop on my lap for manual MIDI piano roll composition, necessarily I have to switch soundcards in whatever program I am using and map the sound to my headphones.
It used to be a piece of cake to simply remap my sound card, but since a recent Win 10 Update it has been a nightmare.

I am a hobbyist, not a pro. If I get a song idea I want to be able to sit at my piano and flesh it out without having to deal with faulty drivers and other issues.
By the time I finally have the sound coming out the right speakers, I am often spent and ready for bed.

To fix that, I thought that maybe I can get an old tower computer I used to have in 2008, change the motherboard and CPU, load it with 16GB of DRAM and keep it stationary in my studio. The case, fans and power supply are still top notch as I always overcompensate (I think I have a 800W Power Supply and if necessary I have a couple of older 500W I can rig to supply more power to the rig.

Problem is that I haven't had to buy midrange components in a decade. I just rebuilt my Office workstation and spent more than $1500 just for CPU, MOBO and 32GB of RAM.
I can't afford, and likely I don't need, the same kind of horsepower for my hobby music computer.

In fact, I was thinking of researching components that are around 1 or 2 years old, as it will likely work just fine for my needs but won't be bleeding edge priced.

Of course, the ideal solution would be for my laptop to actually work, but since the update that broke the sound, it ignores my settings and seems to choose soundcards at random. I think it has a realtek on board, but that internal soundcard alone has something like 8 different settings like Headphones, speakers, line out, another headphone setting (likely for telephony or meetings), etc. and depending on how it feels that day, my Lexicon lambda either shows up by its name and works fine, or it reverts to "USB whatchamathing" and multiple restarts and manual set up won't work until I am ready to rip my eyeballs out and I have sworn to never make music again.

For the record, I realize my Lexicon Lambda is an old sound card, but it has Win 10 drivers and works very nicely, when my laptop actually selects it. I have a drawer of a file cabinet full of old soundcards going back to my Tascam US-122 and I am tired of buying new soundcards when my old ones should still work.The Lambda has a nice pre-amp and lots of inputs. Something equivalent but more modern will likely set me back the price of refurbishing my old tower with new components and still my laptop may give me grief.

Sorry for the rambling post. I have been reading the forum and it looks like there is a lot of real life experience here, unlike non-music centric forums I usually frequent.

If there is a fix or workaround for my Laptop, I am all ears. If anyone knows of a nice, music centric MOBO/CPU combo that won't break the bank, I'll be very interested to take a look.

Thank you.
Marco Conti

Passing Bye
564 posts since 5 Nov, 2014

Re: Affordable Midrange Motherboard + CPU for Home Studio Tower instead of Laptop with crazy sound settings

Post Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:50 pm

It seems that your laptop can work on Windows 8.1, maybe that's an option?

10 posts since 2 Apr, 2008

Re: Affordable Midrange Motherboard + CPU for Home Studio Tower instead of Laptop with crazy sound settings

Post Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:10 pm

Unfortunately, I am in no position to go back on 8.1 as it was never mounted on it and I use my laptop for work as well. Music is kind of a second job for it. Good idea, but not for me.

Incidentally, I might have found a solution: I moved the Lexicon Lambda to my desktop, where it seems to work OK, and I am using the Behringer UMC22 with my laptop and so far it's working better. Not definitive yet though. I'll have to test working with the built in sound card away from my piano and then connect back. If that works and I can reliably just pick the Sound Card as default, then I'll be fine. The problem with the Lexicon was that each time I reconnected it was a crapshoot whether my laptop recognized it as a Lexicon or a generic "USB Device". With the latter it was crackle and pop city.
Marco Conti

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