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Sonica Livetracker - EMusician

Sonica Livetracker

You’d think that the editor of a magazine with EQ’s stature would have one of the most hopping studios west of the Mason-Dixon, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Actually, my apartment is probably smaller than many of your live rooms, and my “studio” is literally in a walk-in closet. Ah, the joys of living in downtown San Francisco. . . .
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But I make do with what’s available. Given my space constraints, even an old Apple G5 tower was crowding my style. I had to free up some space for my rack . . . and pronto! So I contacted the folks at Sonica and asked them to send me their newest laptop—the LiveTracker—to see if their take on the “laptop recording revolution” would suit me.

OVERVIEW

To rattle off all the LiveTracker specs would probably constitute tree abuse, so head over to www.shop-sonica.com for the nitty-gritty of what’s beneath the casing. Beyond my sparing you a thesis length dissertation on all the unit’s features, it’s important to note Sonica offers a proverbial ton of options assuming that you’re looking to build a rig from scratch, or just looking to customize the computer to your liking.

You can, however, count on the basic LiveTracker version including: Intel 64 Bit Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 100GB 7200RPM SATA II (with 16MB buffer) hard drive, 4MB processor cache memory, a 15.4" wide screen display (with support for dual display), a Super-Multi DVD/RW–CD/RW optical drive, three USB 2.0 and three FireWire 400 ports, one PCIe ExpressCard 34/54 slot and one PCMCIA type II card slot, Intel High Definition 2-channel audio subsystem, a six cell battery with four-hour battery life, and Intel Quiet Technology (no noisy fans here)—all in a nice little 5.5 lb. bundle.

IN USE

No, we’re not going to measure Doom frame rates or do whetstone benchmarks; that’s for the PC mags. All I care about is does the thing work, and that’s probably all you care about too. So I’ll be honest: I tried to hurt this thing. Having used this computer for the greater part of 2007, I put it through every test I could imagine, being sure that somehow, somewhere, I could make this thing freeze up.

I couldn’t.

I tried every compatible interface at my disposal—from the TC Konnekt 24D to the MBox Pro, the Mackie Onyx Satellite to the PreSonus Firepod—running everything from Sonar to Audition to Pro Tools. Everything played nice on the LiveTracker.

I tend to track in a rented room and then bring everything back home to mix in my little cubicle . . . err . . . studio. As you can probably deduce, beyond a couple Empirical Labs Distressors, a Universal Audio 1176, a Chandler Germanium, and a few other pieces of outboard gear, I’m working almost solely with plug-ins. For the soundtrack I’ve been slaving away on, I’ve been using everything from Reason to a googol of VST instruments, composing and recording entirely “in the box.”

No buffering issues, no crippling latency, no session-threatening crashes—and we’re talking a lot of projects here. We’re talking 24-plus tracks with plug-ins on nearly every channel, with over half of those tracks using virtual instruments.

How is this? Well, Sonica does ship the unit with Windows XP optimized for audio (meaning that any/all unnecessary aspects of the operating system have been disabled or trashed). But, beyond that, the entire unit has been built with components that are chosen solely on the basis of whether they’ll help you record and process audio.

CONCLUSIONS

If you���re like me and don’t have the time to build your own PC to devote to recording, you have limited space, or you’re into truly recording “on the fly” and need a computer that you can pack up and take from session to session, room to room, and then back to your modest home operation to mix, consider the LiveTracker. While Sonica isn’t the only company offering custom PC recording solutions (ADK, PC Audio Labs, and Rain Recording come to mind as also producing workhorse machines), they do produce a damn fine product—and with their offer of free unlimited support and a 2-year warranty, I think it’s safe to say that they’re confident in the computers they build. And after many months of putting the LiveTracker to the test, I have to say that I am too.

Product Type: 15" Core 2 Duo laptop optimized for audio.
Target Market: Recording musicians with either home studio space constraints or who want a mobile recording solution.
Strengths: Serious performance. Made to order with tons of customizing options. Unlimited customer support. Inviting price point.
Limitations: Nothing significant.
List price: $1,749
Contact:www.shop-sonica.com