My Studio Setup: 1 Laptop/3 Configurations + Akai APC40 Eye Candy


Revised 7-3-2009, changes are in red.

For over two years I've been completely laptop based and loving it. Here are some notes on the three configurations I run with my latpop.

First, I'm running an HP DV6500T running Vista, Ableton Live 8 Suite, and various vsts (Alchemy,Sylenth1,NI
Massive/Absynth 4,Gladiator 2,Dimension Pro, Morphine…)

I run in one of the following states:

1 – Laptop Only – Laptop alone with Ableton Live +  VSTs. I use the qwerty keyboard and touch pad and do composition and sound-design on the go (or from the couch).

2 – Laptop + Korg Nano – Sometimes I want more control or want to user velocity sensitive keys when I'm on the go. I then add a Korg nanoKey or nanoKontrol to config #1.

3 – Laptop Docked – Last year, my awesome wife and kids re-vamped my studio space as a birthday gift. Besides painting and swanky new furniture, they created stand to hold all my gear by cleverly using the old Ultimate Support Apex column I used to gig with and attached two permanent shelves (painted black and attached with brackets). Shelves are  15 3/4"x 47 3/4" and I believe were from home depot. The footprint for this rig is 26" wide from the wall to the outside edge of the bottom shelf, and 47 3/4" wide. Underneath all this is a dock with tons of USB ports that all the gear plugs in to. The laptop is sitting on a mesh filing box turned upside-down that I picked up from Target (see last picture in post). This setup is pictured below. All I have to do is plug the laptop into the doc and the following comes online:

  • HP Notebook Quickdock
  • External Monitor – Samsung SyncMaster 930b
  • Novation Nio USB sound card
  • M-Audio Studiophile SP-5B reference monitors
  • Bamboo Touch Pad
  • Wireless Logitech diNovo Edge keyboard with built-in touch pad
  • Akai APC40
  • Novation Remote SL 25
  • M-Audio Trigger Finger (Still lovin it after all these years. After touch on drum pads and seamless integration with Ableton drum racks are great).
  • Rode NT-1A on an a broadcaster's boom which is fed into Behringer UB802 Eurorack which is routed to the Nio. I mostly use this for voice overs, recording voice related samples, and vocoding. I also record video tutorials through this mic.
  • Sometimes a Korg TR via USB is added to the mix when I want that "triton" sound or want to play a controller with more keys on it.

For me this strategy is simple, elegant, has a small footprint yet is extremely powerful and flexible. With Ableton Live and VSTs accessible in every configuration I can jump in and out of projects in any configuration. I find the combination of the APC40, Remote SL and Trigger Finger to be perfect for just about everything I do.

The APC40 has made this a dream setup really and has almost completely eliminated mousing for me. I'll close with a few photos of the APC40  in my studio setup.

Just a fun shot in a dark room.


The  APC40, Remote SL 25, and a Trigger Finger fit perfectly on the bottom tier.


Using the APC40 as a Lite Brite – "M" plus pretty colors :^).


Picture of laptop docked.

Mark Mosher

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Hi, this is Mark Mosher. Welcome to my blog. I’m a synthesist, Composer, Producer, and Visualist living in Boulder CO. I’m also the founder of the Rocky Mountain Synth Meet and Synth Patrol.

I’ve been blogging wince 2005 and this blog is a mix of posts on artistic news as well as synth tech & technique posts under the category Modulate This!

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8 responses to “My Studio Setup: 1 Laptop/3 Configurations + Akai APC40 Eye Candy”

  1. Your welcome. By the way, I just upgraded my laptop. I went from a dv6500t to a Vista, HP DV6 Pavilion Laptop w/Core2 Duo P8700 @ 2.53 GHZ. The doc is the same so it plugs right into the same rig.
    In both cases I record straight to the HD via a Novation NIO on both systems. My old laptop only had a 5400 RPM drive but I had no issues with drop out on recording 2 channel audio.
    Bumping up to a 7400 RPM on the new system means Live loads faster and I think with larger sets there will be no dropout on playback, although I had almost no issue with this even at 5400 RPM.
    Let me know how it goes with your setup.


  2. Thanks for sharing your setup Mark! Do you record audio directly to your laptop’s main drive or are you using an external drive for that? I have a similar HP laptop to yours and you’ve inspired me to try and emulate your awesome setup!


  3. Adam,
    I’ve revised the post with a picture of the laptop docked. Shelves are 15 3/4″x 47 3/4″ and I believe were from home depot. The footprint for this rig is 26″ wide from the wall to the outside edge of the bottom shelf, and 47 3/4″ wide


  4. Nice man! I’m moving soon and am going to need to downsize and consolidate a bit. I have roughly the same amount of gear as yourself and would like a similar setup. What would you say are the rough dimensions of the area your setup takes up (from the wall, width, etc)?
    I don’t think I see your laptop in the pics, or is it that very slim thing on top at left of the keyboard?
    Thanks for sharing.


  5. LOL. Yeah, I’m pretty psyched with the settup.
    I actually like vista and have very little trouble with it.I hear good things about windows 7. Maybe you should give the beta a go.


  6. I’m sending you some drool from Costa Rica – please let me know when it arrives.
    Also – I loathe Vista. Have had it since October with my new laptop and have reformatted it twice already. XP64 is not an option due to lack of drivers. I’m seriously thinking of virtualizing XP64 in Linux and jsut moving on from Vista.


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