I was asked through the site’s contact form what my setup is for playing music with the Eigenharp. It sure can be quite daunting for people that have never ventured into digital music making. So here we go.
Let’s start by listing what you currently need to be able to play the Eigenharp:
- an Intel Apple Mac computer with 2GB of memory and 10GB of free disk space
- an Eigenharp instrument
The Eigenharp ships with everything you need to start making music right away, this includes:
- EigenD, their performance-oriented music software that does all the processing for the Eigenharp
- very high quality sampler instruments for acoustic piano and electric piano
- a light version of Alchemy (a software synthesizer) with various synth patches
- 1500 percussion and drum loops
- a physical model of a clarinet
- a physical model of a cello
I already had quite a collection of software synthesizers and of course started to use them with the Eigenharp right away. These are the ones I’m currently regularly using with the Pico:
- Spectrasonics Omnisphere (product page)
This is by far the most expressive and versatile synth that I’ve ever used, that’s why I find it such good match for the Pico.
- Spectrasonics Trilian (product page)
Again the most expressive bass synth that I’ve ever used, equally so for acoustic, electrical and synth bass.
- Native Instruments Kontakt 4 (product page)
This has a very nice collection of traditional and acoustic instruments in its factory setup. However, if you can, consider getting Native Instruments Komplete 6 since it gives you such amazing variety of software instruments and effects that it very well be all you ever need, and the price is very good.
- Additional sound fonts are available on the internet both in free and commercial form. These allow you to use the EigenD’s built-in sampler which has support for the full expressiveness of the Eigenharp’s keys, breath-pipe and strip controller. I only just started using these and am still looking for my favorites, I’ll post about them when I have settled on a good collection.
Here are some recommendations about the Apple computer that I’m using:
- Get a Macbook Pro
Being able to travel with the Eigenharp Pico is an amazing experience, sit in the train, on the plane, in the airport … and play music without requiring space and without disturbing anyone. The portability factor is what will certainly make me continue to use the Pico even after I get an Alpha.
- Get a lot of RAM
Sampler and software instruments can consume a lot of memory, I have 4GB on my Mac and am very happy I did.
- Get an internal SSD drive
I was very reluctant to do so, but now I’m still amazed at fact this makes your day-to-day experience. I’m still using Macbook Pros from previous generations also and even though the rest of their specifications aren’t that far off from my main computer, the hard drive makes those machines feels like turtles. Since I started using SSD I have this feeling that at last, after 25 years of computing, I don’t have to wait for the machine anymore!
- Get an external Firewire hard drive
Once you start collecting sample-based instruments, do recordings, … your hard drive space will fill up very quickly! I offload everything that I don’t use constantly to an external hard drive. Additionally, I strongly suggest that you make daily backups. This is even more important than when you used the computer before since all your music creativity is now stored on it! I use the Glyph Portagig for storing external data when I’m on the move and am very happy with it, but if I would buy one now I’d get a G-Drive Mini since you can get a larger size while still being bus-powered. While I rely on MacOSX’s built-in time machine software for historical backups, I also use SuperDuper to create bootable perfect copies of my computer’s hard disk. The latter allows me to reboot into another working environment when any kind of problem occurs, and I have a safety backup. For full safety you really need both: historical and bootable backups. The hard drive I use for backups is the Glyph GT-050Q and I’ve mounted it in a rack that also contains my other audio gear. This means that I always have my backups with me when I do a gig.
Here are some recommendations about other gear that I’m constantly using:
- Get good earphones
The built-in speakers of the recent Macbook Pros are not bad, but nothing compared to the experience you’ll get out of using good earphones. I have been using Etymotic Research earphones for many years and since I bought their ER-4P model, I’ve been using them for everything. From listening to music, to playing music, to mixing, to in-ear monitoring.
If you don’t like putting things in your ears, then get headphones. The downside is that good ones are not really portable and don’t isolate you or your surroundings from what you’re listening to. There are many good headphones, I can recommend the Sony MDR-7509 HD and the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro.
- Get an external audio interface
The built-in sound card of Macs is not bad, but it’s drastically inferior to a dedicated firewire sound card. You have a lot of options, but I would NOT recommend the Apogee Duet. I have one and I find it isn’t worth its price compared to what else is out there. There are driver stability and compatibility issues and each time I get in contact with an audio software vendor they first check if I’m not using the Duet. I even uninstalled the driver for it and am not using it anymore.
However, if you can spare the money, get a Metric Halo device! I started with a 2882, loved it so much that I got an ULN-2 for its amazing pre-amps and then got the ULN-8 since they offered existing customers a deal that I couldn’t pass up. I use all of these constantly and they have replaced any outboard gear I had! I use them to record in the studio, to rehearse with my band, to play live, to mix, to master, to use the Pico, …. The built-in DSP is world-class and the sheer amount of possibilities in their virtual mixer and recording panel is yet to be surpassed by anything else in this domain. You’ll also love the Metric Halo customer support and the user community. I have learned more about digital audio theory and practice on the Metric Halo mailing list than from the books I’ve read! Since the ULN-8 was released, second hand 2882 and ULN-2 devices are more frequent than before. I strongly recommend to get one of these if you’re on a tighter budget than to go for a new unit of another brand. Note that Metric Halo only works on Macs.
Hope this helps you getting up and running with the Eigenharp Pico. Most of my setup was grown over the last year and a half when I decided to go fully digital for my guitar sounds and when our band’s mixing board broke down. I gradually built up this collection of gear which is extremely portable and extremely stable. I have no problems playing live gigs and I’m using a lot of digital audio processing since I also use my guitar as a MIDI controller.