Getting Old

September 30, 2011

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Way, way back in 2005, I purchased a dual processor Power Mac G5. The machine featured dual 2.0 GHz PowerPC 970 (G5) processors each with an optimized AltiVec “Velocity Engine” vector processing unit and 512k level 2 on-chip cache. Each processor held over 50 million transistors. It was a great platform for running Pro Tools. And it still is. But, the machine is getting old. It is entering its seventh year of service and I am still not sure what to do about an upgrade. All of the software and hardware is now unsupported and out of date.

The reason why an upgrade is challenging?

PCI-X slots. And money.

My Pro Tools HD rig contains two really expensive PCI-X audio DSP cards. And those cards are not compatible with current generation PCIe computers. PCI-X is a parallel interface that is directly backward compatible with all but the oldest (5-volt) standard PCI devices. PCIe is a serial bus with a different physical interface that was designed to supersede both PCI and PCI-X. And the PCI-X cards will not work on PCIe machines.

Avid has a promotion for upgrading the cards and the cost for the two cards is in the three to four thousand dollar range. This does not add any new functionality or performance to the Pro Tools rig. It simply allows the cards to run on current generation machines.

Add in the cost of a new Mac Pro and it is not too hard to get up to eight or nine thousand dollars to upgrade the Pro Tools HD rig. And that cost just seems too high given that there is not really a lot of gain in new functionality. And given that the current box is working quite well.

I have been looking at my options to see whether I really need to plan and budget for a migration in the not too distant future.

Or, perhaps I can make a staged migration by moving to a native  Pro Tools rig first and then acquiring the audio DSP cards later. However, given that most of my really expensive and useful software plugins for Pro Tools only run off the audio cards, I may not be able to make such a move.

Even so, will I have to upgrade my software plugins to run on the new environment? Probably. That could also run into the thousands.

Maybe I should just move to a native DAW and get off the Pro Tools platform. I would still have to plan for the cost of a new machine but I would not have to budget all of this extra money simply to run a couple of audio DSP cards.

Or maybe I can classify the current rig as “vintage”. A vintage DAW must sound warmer than current generation DAWs. The new DAWs are just too “digital”. I could treat the old rig it like a tape machine and run the thing until it dies.

Years ago I thought it was important to be absolutely current on my recording gear. Now, as I get older, I’m not nearly as concerned about the age of gear. At least not until it fails.

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