I get a regular stream of Q&A in my inbox, so as a new feature on CDM I’ll be answering selected questions for all our readers. Today, we’ve got a new Mac switcher wondering if an iMac will suit his needs, and a reader who wonders why he hasn’t been able to find any of those Novation keyboards I keep raving about.

iMac: Sufficient for Music?

Michael writes: “I have been running Ableton Live and “[Propellerhead] Reason on a very outdated 800MHz [Pentium III] Gateway which I’ve owned for over five years. I’m finally ready to purchase a new computer and was looking at an iMac, due to the fact that I am on a limited budget. I was going to run Ableton and Reason on it with a PreSonus FIREBOX; do you think that an iMac would be sufficient?

The short answer is, yes, you should be quite happy with a new iMac G5. The current models pack 1.9G and 2.1G G5 processors, reasonably fast RAM, fast hard drives, and plenty of I/O. I’ve been very happy running Reason and Live on a new 1.5 GHz PowerBook G4, but if mobility isn’t an issue, the iMac G5 is significantly faster. Your other option would be to try to get a deal on a Power Mac G5; if you don’t mind the higher power consumption and bigger size, and can get a deal on a cheap LCD, it might be worth finding a fast refurb dual-processor tower. But with the 17″ iMac going for just $1299 (less if you’re a student/educator with the academic discount), I think it’s absolutely the perfect budget choice. And, incidentally, the overall value proposition compares very favorably with the PC at that price point. (Not having to deal with Windows: priceless.)

You’re also going right choosing the FIREBOX interface; they’re a terrific choice. Speaking of PreSonus, they’ve posted a decent computer recording basics page with some nice hookup diagrams. (No plug for CDM, sadly, but I’ll set them straight!)

Novation Keyboards, Where Are You?

Spiro writes: I read your review of the Novation ReMOTE 61 LE MIDI Controller on CDM. Do you know where in the US I can order one of these. I read that they have been available since September, but I don’t see them on Sweetwater’s Website, MacMidiMusic.com, Audiomidi.com, etc. I do see them available via British Online vendors (example), but I’d like to avoid the high shipping, customs, and credit card foreign currency transaction fees.

Before I answer this question, let’s first be clear about the different Novation keyboards, many of which are available from US stores like AudioMIDI.com. The existing model line, as shipping currently, includes the ReMOTE and X-Station in 25-, 49-, and 61-key varities. The ReMOTE is a controller only; the X-Station adds an audio interface and a superb built-in virtual analog synth (which integrates nicely with your software). Both include extended templates for software, plenty of buttons and knobs, a pitch/mod joystick, X-Y touchpad, and aftertouch. I tested an X-Station and it’s a superb keyboard with a great feel, well worth the price premium over some cheaper keyboards.

Novation has two new models to add to this line: the ReMOTE LE and SL. The LE model, which is the one I think you’re asking about, is a “light” version of the existing ReMOTE keyboards. It has fewer knobs and faders (meaning it’s also more compact), and lacks aftertouch, but otherwise has everything I love about the ReMOTE keyboards at a lower price. The SL is the one I’m most excited about; it has new features for automatically mapping to your soft synths. (below)

Product pages with more info:

Novation ReMOTE SL

Novation ReMOTE LE

CDM sometimes gets a bit ahead of the curve; the 25-key LE and SL keyboards were shown at AES, but weren’t shipping at the time. Novation told me that they’d have 39 or 49- and 61-key version of each, but that’s basically a CDM exclusive — no formal announcement yet. Why wait at all? You might like the cheaper LE or the soft synth integration features of the SL.

What’s shipping when: So far, only the 25-key LE is shipping; for more keys or an SL model, you’ll simply have to wait. Signs point to availability in January or February, though sometimes the US shipments get delayed. (In fact, for our European readers, as far as I know they’re not widely available even in the UK; check your local reseller for details.) We should know more at NAMM next month; I’ll be there talking to Novation / Focusrite so watch for news here.

For the record, European readers can check directly with Novation for availability; North America should look to our distributor American Music and Sound.

Below: Novation ReMOTE LE

See, these seemingly basic questions often have complex answers. If you want to try to stump me, send your questions, and maybe we’ll run yours in the next edition! Until then, Happy New Year!