Time to release the cat out of the bag now. I have been working with
your Stealth Cube for some months now and I feel it is time to put
some opinions and factual findings in ink for you as a reference and
for your potential clients.
First some background. I established South Austraila's largest recording
complex in 1996, Hippo Audio. I had first met Vin during his past
life when he was working as a Music Technology Consultant for a Major
Retailer.During this initial set up period he supplied me in excess
of $150,000.00 of midi, outboard and computer equipment. From memory,
the first "box" he built for me was a PII200 with 64 Meg
Ram and SCSI2 Drives of a total huge recording media of 9GB. It worked
We were a total "linear" recording studio. For those that
might not be familiar with the term, it was when you actually recorded
to analog or digital tape. If you wanted to repeat a section or do
a dub, the "talent" actually had to do the work and deliver
the goods. Cut, Paste, editing mistakes and retuning vocals were done
as a drop in on tape by the artists. You know, the artists were responsible
for the perfect performance, not a person wearing a cap with a spinning
propellor spurting off quotes like, "close enough, I'll edit
it" and "Just sing the chorus once and I'll cut and paste
it!". Saucer of milk over here please! Meowwrrr!
But I digress. The computer was used for sequencing and burning CD's.
Thats was it. However, I was forced by public pressure to delve into
"nonlinear editing". Called Vin, "Pro Tools my boy",
was his advice. "How %$#%& much??", was my response!
"Forget it!" "That can buy wonderfull things like Pultecs,
Neve modules and another Studer. I can link 2 of them together for
48 tracks of analog heaven!". But after much discussion, a Paris
3 system was purchased and Vin built me a new workstation in 1998.
A PIII 450 with 128 Meg Ram, Dual Head Video Card, 40Gig SCSI 2 yada
yada. It worked very well. It it introduced me to a whole different
world of production. Making really dodgerama musicians sound pretty
good! It had its merits. Clients were happy. BUT the whole Paris platform
proved less than happy syncing to any external sources, which was
proving more and more of a concern, especially when no viable solution
was being planned in the future from the Paris Development Team.
Long story short, Paris "left the building" in 2000 after
much bantering between several parties. For all concerned, yes, I
was very pleased with the outcome and cannot speak highly enough of
all the parties involved. So I was free to search the world for a
Now I was quite up to speed with a Windows operating system now, (you
needed to be if you owned Paris), so I was looking for a new package
that would offer all the reliable features I was looking for. Pro
Tools was again suggested, and seriously considered. But Vin introduced
me the Nuendo Platform. After some serious investigation, my PIII
450 was fitted with the Nuendo Core System, RME cards and converters,
with an Ardvark Sync Box. I now had 16 ins and outs, rock solid transfer
between my DA98's and bullet proof syncing to SMPTE and VITSC. But
the performance was amazing for this "old" computer.
The largest project/song that was attempted on Nuendo and my PC involved
the following. Some 80 tracks all playing back in real time, with
automation and the folling plug ins. 6 or so delays, 2 TC Reverbs,
4 RCL's and 4 Auto tunes. With the DSP load, the CPU would about choke.
But it always flawlessly play back those 80 tracks of audio. Not bad
for such an old, clunky computer by todays standard.
2001 signalled the end of my involvement in Hippo Audio. The big studio
was and still is in my opionion struggling in Australia. The return
on investment is so poor that I made a decsion to sell. But what does
one do with all that free time and cash? So I caught up with Vin in
Melbourne and asked for a system that would totally replace everything
I use to do in the analog world on a six figure Amek console! So I
sent him on his way.
During this period I also looked back into Pro Tools, and decided
that I needed 24 I/O's with TDIF and ADAT transfer, bullet proof syncing
and up to 100 tracks of Audio. Well the Digidesign camp wanted a horrific
amount of money for this solution. And it was also met by "you
only get 64 tracks". But I suppose an industry standard can't
be all that bad. I'll just compromise my track usage. Bugger that.
I work this way, I'll continue that way. Why would I spend my money
on a system that can't deliver what i require form my system. And
it was so approaching $80,000.00 that one is forced to question, "why
did I sell my studio, if I need to spend this amount of money".
So Vin and I had a Pow Wow. Smoked the bourbon and talked about my
solution. "Stay with Nuendo farkin'", was Vins initial response.
"If it does what you want, why re-invent your wheel" Made
sense. "But surely the defacto standard can't be an inferior
product Vin?" He paused, "Does it do what you want?"
No I said. "Does it fit your budget?" Hell No I said. "Then
it isn't necessarily the best option for everyone, is it!" Point
Build me a machine around this then.
December 2001, I took delivery of my Cube Workstation. All built around
a Tualatin S 1.26 Ghz processor. I have 2 x NEC LCD screens, Some
160 Gig of storage and a huge amount of Ram. Bit here was the shocker
for me. All the storage was IDE. "Where is the SCSI stuff Vin?"
"You won't need it, try it, trust me!"
I returned to Adelaide. I had an RME9652 Core Card, 3 ADI 8 Pros
for 24 I/Os, Steinberg Midex 8 and a Steinberg Timelock Pro to
connect up. All running with Nuendo and several Plug In Bundles.
All connected up and a 64 track project was loaded in taking 3 passes.
With no syncing glitch, sample drift or timecode errors. Worked
perfectly! The project was then edited with some additional 20 overdub
tracks added. Load on the CPU was unmeasured via the Nuendo Performace
meters. Nor was there any load on the hard drives, except the initial
flicker at playback start up. this baby rocks!
Time to auto tune, compress, edit add effects and mix. This is the
real world test to me. I can do bits and bytes measurements all
day, but it doesn't make me any money! So here are the real world
measurements of this system and Nuendo Platform. So here you go:
80 X Audio Tracks (12 of them stereo)
8 X Auto Tune Plug Ins
6 x Nuendo Dynamics (Gates & Compressors)
8 X TC Tools Native DX (Compressors)
4 X Waves RCL ( Compressors)
1 X Reniessence Verb
1 X Waves True Verb
1 X TC Verb
1 X GRM Tools Band Pass Stereo
3 X Nuendo Muli Tap Delay
1 X Waves L1 (master L/R)
1 X TC Parametric (Master L/R)
All mixed internally via a Radical Controller over Midi and bounced
internally to 2 tracks. CPU load just under "orange" Say
about 80% then with no load on the hard drives that was measureable.
No crashes. No glitches.
So I know there are individuals around that will have a negative
about host based processing. But here is my response. I can only
max out my system if I being stupid for the case of proving a point
about it. I have only spiked it once, and the fix was just to change
a plug in combination. "But the cost for an upgrade Steve?"
Well, AAVIM's solutions for a complete new system in 12 months or
so didn't scare me nearly as much as the upgrade path from say as
Mix Plus system to HD2? Any Digidesign supporters really want to
tackle that issue? I'll stay host based because my platform of softwear
doesn't need to change! And I have enough money left over for...say
a new swimming pool! Let me just think about my decision for a little
longer! Moving on!
The whole system also runs under Windows XP. "Windows XP!"
Yes, Windows XP. This system has been tweaked by Vin and it works
faultlessly. The "Cube" is quiet and I am able to sit
it under my desk. I am so use to a machine room for anything with
a fan, but this is so quiet, it doesn't even warrant an attenuation
box! The whole system is in black, it looks great, and according
to my clients who pay the bills, the end product is about 95% on
what I use to achieve with $500,000.00 worth of equipment. Yes,
mastering fixed my L.F Hz discressions of my home studio. Time to
call Peter Brown to fix that one. But all in all. My clients are
thrilled with the end product.
So in summary. The Stealth workstation is fautless. I cannot recommend
an AAVIM Technology solution highly enough. Steinberg/Nuendo and
RME have a brilliant product. It begs 2 honest questions. If you
are building a digital audio system based upon a solution, why would
you not consider it? And secondly, be really really honest and avoid
the marketing hype for a second, ask yourself this- "Is the
industry standard then, the best choice for me?"
Don't be scared to try the new players folks. Especially if you
are wanting to enter the DAW market for the first time!
I would have never thought that I could replace 90% of my enviornment
in the package mentioned above. Front end processing excluded of
course. I would have responded a few years ago with this little