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Which Apple Mac computer should I get for my music production? (2012)
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adleina
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#1
19th July 2012
Old 19th July 2012
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Which Apple Mac computer should I get for my music production? (2012)

Hi. I've been reading the forum from time to time over the last few years - just joined

This has been asked quite a lot around the net (I've searched a lot) but there hasn't been much information on the specifics I have to ask about.

I'm upgrading from my (personal) Macbook Pro. I've had it for 2 years now. I've used this to play a couple of piano samples and sing/write. I use Logic Pro. Now I'm starting to create a little more of a small studio set-up, and I'd like to know what to upgrade to. I don't think I'll want to go to the new Macbook Pro (with Retina) - it's either an iMac, Mac Pro, or perhaps a mini server.

I would consider a Mac Pro - but it seems a little outdated perhaps. I wish Apple spent more time on their professional stuff, rather than concentrating all their time on creating Garageband for iPad. That, and leaving Logic 9 hanging without a 10 (or X) has left me quite disappointed in them!

But anyway. I assume that my needs are a little simpler than most people. I don't think I'd use more than 10 tracks. A lot less, by the looks of it. I've read the forum for quite a while - and I always see a large number of tracks being mentioned, and I'm wondering if I'm doing anything wrong with my music making

If it helps - also - my stuff is usually not all recorded in the same one take together. And I would probably just be recording:

- piano (usually really good samples I've invested in/midi), or mic-ed up acoustic piano in the future.
- vocals (probably just the one or two tracks) - in the future I would expect to do some harmonies (2 more tracks?)
- acoustic guitar

There may be times:

- one track for bass
- drums (samples from Native Instruments/Abbey Roads)
- an additional instrument probably from Komplete/Native Instruments. I know this one varies. But a rough idea would be like Session Strings, an organ, some sort of extra padding or effect.

So that's around 8-10 tracks? I'm not sure how to add up drums, or just add it as one since it uses 1 track in the sampler. I know this is probably a bad way to make an estimate, but I expect my projects to be either the above, or a lot less. (With plugins.)

My budget for the computer (and any additional memory upgrades) would probably be maximum £2,500... around $3,900. I've set more of my savings for new recording equipment, plugins, tracking stuff, monitors, etc. But I already have a lot of this stuff ready to use.

The room I record in is good, so there aren't really any recording environment factors. Musicians are also top quality. I also plan on getting Komplete 8 Ultimate/run samples. There should be enough memory to use what I want from the pack, since I won't be installing the whole 250+GB of instruments! Just 1 or 2 instruments, and effects.

I currently have an Apogee Duet 2 - and I would expect to be upgrading to record more tracks.

This whole thing is to get some nice music recorded, mainly for my music marketing/youtube/facebook - to get the ball rolling for my music career. I'm 23, I've played piano/been singing for 15 years, but haven't recorded it all and put it out for the world to see. I think it's time I actually start

Thank you so much for reading this, I hope you can help me make a decision on this. I don't know much about CPU's, memory, etc. and I'm sure you guys do I hope I can also follow up on your ideas!

To sum up - which Mac computer do you think I should invest in? And, if required, do you think I should upgrade any memory, or add external memories/HD?

Best regards,

Adleina
#2
19th July 2012
Old 19th July 2012
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Honestly, a new mac mini would be more then enough for what your describing. hell, an Ipad would almost work. Just get a mac mini and get some Ram from OWC (apple ram is expensive for no reason). and a raid hard drive for backups, then spend the rest of your money on fun stuff like mics and preamps.

I use a mac mini and I've never come close to running out of power, granted I don't do a lot of soft synths, samples, but routinely doing 30+ tracks with tons of plugins. and It's smooth sailing.
Jus
#3
20th July 2012
Old 20th July 2012
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Yes, as the previous post says, your description refers to very minor CPU needs. Thus Mac Mini would be enough. However, as users of plugins have a tendency to use more plugins... I would recommend getting a Mac Mini Server (2011 model, i.e. quadcore i7), as the price difference is not very remarkable. Or, if you prefer an iMac, a quadcore iMac.

+ More RAM (not from Apple, as that is expensive) is always good. 8 gb would work nicely for you I guess. Depends slightly on what VSTs - like drum software - you like to use (how heavy sample load, how fast do you want your computer to react etc). 16 gb is always even better, of course.
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adleina
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20th July 2012
Old 20th July 2012
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Hi
Thanks for the replies

My current Macbook Pro is slowly burning out - so I'm going to just use it for more personal/internet stuff... while getting some higher tech just for music production.

My Macbook pro is:

Processor: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 4 GB 1067 MHz DDR3

Currently about 30 GB of 250 GB left. I'd say most of that is taken by Logic and Samples.

I'll probably go for the iMac or Mini Server.

I have a few questions:

- When your adding RAM - is it a process of just adding it to the computer myself, or do I have to get this serviced? Can RAM be added to the largest iMac?

- When using a hard-drive - is this through USB? And should I record my songs directly to the hard drive? I heard something about recording externally to reduce impact.

- Is it a "new thing" to set up servers on the Mini? Or, is it just like using my MBP?

At the moment I am more towards the iMac, since I'd be getting a great screen. If I can add RAM and add a harddrive to the iMac - I will probably go for it.

I'd like something that I can enjoy just generally playing into as well. When I play heavier samples on my MBP (even just one of these instruments like a piano) - the sound cuts off, or stops playing in Logic. Which is why I question whether the mini/iMac would be enough. But you guys make it sound like it is, and I'm worrying for no reason. Recording without cutting off is the main thing.

Ah - and I would use an iPad, but I've never liked it I like bigger, solid machines.
#5
20th July 2012
Old 20th July 2012
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I would suggest a different route. Keep your macbook pro, add more RAM, you can go up to 8MB. Take your samples and move them to an external hard drive. Will not cost much and you will have better performance. A new hard drive and more memory will be about a $300 upgrade. Just my $.02.
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20th July 2012
Old 20th July 2012
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Adding ram to a mac mini is easy, youtube it and see. Firewire harddrives are better then USB drives for the way they handle their data streams.

iMac's scare me because there's a lot to go wrong in a single box. plus it's not user serviceable. so you're stuck buying the apple ram.
#7
20th July 2012
Old 20th July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GREENFENDR View Post
iMac's scare me because there's a lot to go wrong in a single box. plus it's not user serviceable. so you're stuck buying the apple ram.
Not true. Just unscrew 3 screws at the bottom and the memory is easily accessible from there.
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20th July 2012
Old 20th July 2012
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Thanks so much for the replies.

pathdoc - I would add to my current Macbook Pro - but I'd rather have something separate since I'm going to be using it for personal use, and the studio computer will be stationed in a separate place

Adleina
#9
21st July 2012
Old 21st July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GREENFENDR View Post
Adding ram to a mac mini is easy, youtube it and see. Firewire harddrives are better then USB drives for the way they handle their data streams.

iMac's scare me because there's a lot to go wrong in a single box. plus it's not user serviceable. so you're stuck buying the apple ram.

I just did this two weeks ago and it was a breeze...just watch the You Tube video on how to do it and keep your work area clean and organized (there are a lot of small screws involved).


Cost me $50 or so and took a half hour from start to finish.
#10
21st July 2012
Old 21st July 2012
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It was quicker for me. Unscrew 3 screws, push rams sticks in and screw again. Really easy...
#11
21st July 2012
Old 21st July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GREENFENDR View Post
Adding ram to a mac mini is easy, youtube it and see. Firewire harddrives are better then USB drives for the way they handle their data streams.

iMac's scare me because there's a lot to go wrong in a single box. plus it's not user serviceable. so you're stuck buying the apple ram.
I thought this until I broke one a few weeks ago.
Turns out they are very easy to work at.
I couldn't believe the glass just comes out with one of those little glass suckers that holds your sat-nav in place!!

I had to replace the screen, and I'm glad I did, because now I'll definitely be doing my own HDD upgrades in future.

Replacing ram is designed to be user friendly. On my model there is one screw in the base, and a little cover that pops off to reveal the ram.
#12
22nd July 2012
Old 22nd July 2012
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imacs are great, but just be careful not to let them get too hot or you can have screen problems.
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#13
22nd July 2012
Old 22nd July 2012
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I was waiting for the new mac pro but since that didn't happen, I ended buying a macmini server i7 and a 27" display which I think is the best option right now

it haves 2 internal hard drives which is a big plus.
You can expand it to 16gb(even that apple says just 8gb)

Also if you later want to upgrade to a new model you just upgrade your cpu and not the entire cpu/display
#14
21st January 2013
Old 21st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GREENFENDR View Post
Adding ram to a mac mini is easy, youtube it and see. Firewire harddrives are better then USB drives for the way they handle their data streams.

iMac's scare me because there's a lot to go wrong in a single box. plus it's not user serviceable. so you're stuck buying the apple ram.
I'm planning to upgrade from a shitty HP Laptop for music production myself. I'm ignorant when it comes to computer specs and what is important for music production. One thing I can say is that my songs tend to have roughly 30-40 tracks and I tend to use a lot of plugins. Pretty much I need something that's always going to run smoothly and not completely glitch out or crash as I add more plugins and tracks as I go along. Do you think a mac mini server would actually be enough? i'm not trying to just make simple demos, I'm actually trying to produce high quality music from home, it just happens to be the computer knowledge part of music production I lack.
#15
21st January 2013
Old 21st January 2013
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If you top off the Mac Mini in terms of CPU and RAM, it will suffice you plenty. Additionally, a Mac Mini is modular, so when the Mac Mini breaks down, you can just get a new Mac Mini and keep your screen, keyboard, etc. If you want a nice screen, there is always the Apple Thunderbolt display, which is a thousand dollars and will outlast your computer.
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#16
21st January 2013
Old 21st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji View Post
If you top off the Mac Mini in terms of CPU and RAM, it will suffice you plenty. Additionally, a Mac Mini is modular, so when the Mac Mini breaks down, you can just get a new Mac Mini and keep your screen, keyboard, etc. If you want a nice screen, there is always the Apple Thunderbolt display, which is a thousand dollars and will outlast your computer.
that is a very valid point. i think you've convinced me that the mac mini is the best route for me. thanks!
#17
21st January 2013
Old 21st January 2013
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BTW memory is CHEAP now. I just picked up 4GB from Amazon for under 30 bucks. What the hell was I waiting for? Put it in myself in under 10 minutes. I think it was Kingston. Makes a world of difference.
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#18
21st January 2013
Old 21st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boneman View Post
BTW memory is CHEAP now. I just picked up 4GB from Amazon for under 30 bucks. What the hell was I waiting for? Put it in myself in under 10 minutes. I think it was Kingston. Makes a world of difference.
wow, that's awesome. i'm definitely gonna go this route then.
#19
24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OolalavSuperfukk View Post
wow, that's awesome. i'm definitely gonna go this route then.
Get addtional MAC hardware upgrades from here
Performance Upgrades; FireWire USB SATA Storage; Memory, more at OWC

OWC was the only place that had 16GB of RAM sticks that I got for my Mac Mini Server, plus they specialize in MAC hardware.

I'll be upgrading my older MacBook Pro and iMac to 6GB and a internal SSD drive later this month.
Make sure to read carefully at that site to order the right hardware for your MAC. They have all the info you need, you just need to read carefully.

Oh, and this Mac Mini Server was a great purchase for me.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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OWC's RAM prices are a little higher than Crucial.com which is owned by Micron Technologies. For example OWC sells a Mac mini 16Gb RAM upgrade for $115, while Crucial has it for $90. (Both have lifetime warranties.)

Both are excellent sources for RAM, but right now Crucial has the price edge.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Does crucial sell 16GB RAM modules? I didn't know that.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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I bought the Kingston HyperX 16GB kit. I guess it doesn't matter much though.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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How would any of the new Mac Mini models compare to my 2008 Mac Pro Harpertown (2.8)....would they be faster?

TH
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Bear in mind that if you're going to work with demanding projects that the mini will be noisy because of the fans kicking in and might overheat a bit. Even though people talk about the thickness of the iMac it might be a better choice and will allow more RAM too.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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You have to be careful with imacs, don't push them past 50% CPU or you might bugger up the screen. Get SMC fan control (free app) installed to monitor the temperature. Keep it below 40°C. A mac mini would be safer from that point of view. The problem with imacs is you have a heat source behind the screen. If it gets too hot it sucks shit into the screen. However the i5 and i7s are probably ok as they are more efficient, but then again you might use more plugins, so follow the rules I just mentioned.
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24th January 2013
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But the difference is that the whole frame of the iMac serves as a passive cooler and the Mac Mini has even less space inside it and the frame is way smaller too.
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25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks View Post
How would any of the new Mac Mini models compare to my 2008 Mac Pro Harpertown (2.8)....would they be faster

MACWORLD's composite Speedmark score consists of 15 individual tests boiled down to a single number, consisting of speed tests in the Finder, iMovie, Cinebench, Handbrake, VMware Fusion, Photoshop, Aperture, iPhoto, Mathermatica and Portal. (NOTE: The test evolved over time so a Speedmark8 score of 100 is equal to a Speedmark5 score of 264)

Depending on the RAM configuration, your Harpertown scores a Speedmark-5 score of either a 301 or 319.
The new Build-To-Order Mac mini/2.6GHz quad-core Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive posted a Speedmark-8 score of 249.
The stock 2.3GHz Mac mini/2.3GHz quad-core i7, 4GB RAM 1TB HDD got a Speedmark-8 score of 164

Comparing Speedmark-5 results to Speedmark-8 results, that makes the BTO Mac mini roughly twice as fast as the 2008 Harpertown Mac Pro (249 x 2.64 = 657), and the stock mini around 50% faster than the Harpertown (164 x 2.64 = 433) This is an overall score and may not apply directly to speediness in DAWs.

You can see more results info in the links below.

Mac Performance Stats from MacWorld - How fast is your Mac?
Measure Mac performance with Speedmark 8 | Macworld
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