The 64bit music production system change adventure

My last music computer DAW has been running for a long time. And like everybody else I added bits and pieces, trials, bought software, hardware, tried free instruments and fx and twiddled around until everything ran in more or less perfect harmony to my need. Unfortunately a production system costs money – and, frankly, it really sums up through the years. I am a PC user, and regarding my music system I was perfectly happy with running XP in 32bit. Surely 32bit has its limitations, like not being able to address more than 4Gb of memory. But I could live with it, having it tweaked to the max through the years.

When Vista came out there was a first temptation to change to 64bit but the music production market was slow in developing software and drivers then, and so you could read all the horror stories about not working software and endless tuning session. I refrained. It simply was not worth the effort. Vista came and went and Win7 seemed to be the better alternative. Was it time to change to 64bit? I calculated thoroughly and decided to wait, because it still meant to abandon quite a lot of hard- and software I like(d). Yes, I know, I could have left it in 32bit but that counters the whole idea, doesn’t it?

Anyway, around Christmas 2011 my fortress crumbled. I took the time again and surfed the internet for blogs, opinions, advice and reports of the brave who had done it before me.

Well, the decision was not easy. What about my old EMU audio interface, what about the 32bit software that could not be integrated flawlessly, what about my UAD-1 card? Would all of this work with my 64bit DAW to come? And how much would it cost?

Well, for a start I needed to get a new computer and pretty soon it was clear to say goodbye to my audio interface, too. No more drivers for the new system. Also, I could more or less forget about my UAD-1 card (which had been switched by the manufacturer to UAD-2 a longer time ago without supporting 64bit… which doubles the trouble, really) which was quite a drawback because I loved working with the UAD plugins. I also needed more (and sometimes different) software because not everything would change to newer drivers … wow… quite frankly, it was more than I had expexted.

 

Next thing was the search for those drivers and 64bit versions of my “old “ music software. Dear me, did I hate this!? It’s literally weeks before you get it all together, remember all the passwords, serial numbers, download addresses, sometimes writing mails to companies that don’t bother to answer or give you lapidary answers like “buy the newest software, we don’t invest in legacy systems anymore”. To be fair, I also want to point out that quite a lot of the vendors did have the necessary drivers AND the possibility to upgrade for free, so I am not complaining.

Thank you for that, you got another loyal customer.

And then, after all of the  above: day X. The start. A new system was about to be set up from scratch. Installing Win7 64bit was a breeze and literally did it by itself. No problems, no reboots, no endless waiting, thanks.

Drivers for the new audio interface…no problem. Great. The most important hurdle has been taken. And now… the software. I tried to use 64bit software exclusively but in some cases it is impossible (for example: Reaktor of Native Instruments is in 32bit and your choice is either use it or leave it). Fortunately the majority of my software, instruments and effects  had new drivers (or, as a registered user, a new version could be downloaded ) and guess what: it works!

Ah, by the way: for all the 32bit plugins you still want to use there is an absolutely marvellous software called “jBridge” (which you can find here: http://jstuff.wordpress.com/jbridge/). This is what it does:

 “jBridge is an application designed for bridging VST plugins (up to the 2.4 VST specification).

Using inter-process communication mechanisms, it aims to make it possible to run 32bit plugins in 64bit hosts, 64bit plugins in 32bit hosts, or even bridging 32bit plugins to 32bit hosts, allowing to overcome the memory limitations of a single 32bit process, in this last case.”

This is not just talk, it works really well. You can buy it for 15 Euros, and it is more than worth the cost. It’s compatible with all major DAWs and easy to install and use. And, by the way, there is an excellent explanation how it works and what to do on

Anything that doesn’t work? Unfortunately yes. There seems to be no way I can make the UAD-1 card work properly. I read about it, tried it, damned it … but, nope. Not even with jbridge. Well, you could ask yourself: with computers much more capable and powerful than any DSP card … are they still necessary?

Probably not, but that’s only half the truth. The other half is that I have paid for it and that it worked nicely in my 32bit system. And because the vendor does not think it is necessary to develop new 64bit drivers (not even for the UAD-2 card) it gets the feel of a slight rip-off. And here is what Universal Audio has to say: “We are aware of our user’s concerns and requests for full 64-bit plug-in support, and we have announced that all UAD-2 plug-ins will be fully 64-bit compatible in 2012. Any changes or new announcements regarding full 64-bit plug-in support will be posted on the UA website.”

Let’s put it this way: after all there is hope. And, of course, new investment. But at least they have woken up.

Ok, let’s wrap up: yes, it IS possible to drive a nearly 100% 64bit music production system on a PC these days. And, yes, it does feel much better, faster, capable and reliable. It still IS a lot of work and you should not underestimate the time it needs to be invested (4 weeks in my case until I got it all running the way I wanted).

Is it worth it? Absolutely. I guarantee, you will never want to go back. Good luck with your change and if want to comment, you are cordially invited.

PS: just today (11.April) I saw the following on the UAD site: From April 1st – June 30th, 2012, UAD-1 owners who trade-in their UAD-1 card at a participating UA dealer will receive an instant $200 discount on the purchase of a new UAD-2 PCIe card or UAD-2 Satellite FireWire unit.

Well, I hope they’ll get the 64bit drivers ready, too :-) .

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2 Responses to “The 64bit music production system change adventure”

  1. bjgrude Says:

    Interessant, wenn ich jetzt auch noch wüsste, was überhaupt eine UAD-Karte ist, wäre es sicher noch spannender… (aber für Laien ist das Ganze wohl auch nicht gedacht)

  2. EO-Manager Says:

    Hallo Bernd, die UAD Karte ist eine proprietäre, mit zusätzlichen Prozessoren versehene PCI(e) Einbaukarte (wie zB eine Sound- oder Grafikkarte, nur mit eigenem Prozessor), die damit weitere Rechenpower für (proprietäre) Instrumente und/oder Effekte zur Verfügung stellt. Aber wie jede zusätzliche PCI Karte braucht sie natürlich Treiber. Da die Karte relativ teuer ist, ist es doppelt ärgerlich, wenn keine Treiber zur Verfügung stehen.

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