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Mac Mini vs MacBook Pro for sample-heavy orchestral music - running Logic Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 26th February 2019
  #1
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Mac Mini vs MacBook Pro for sample-heavy orchestral music - running Logic

Hi guys,

I'm looking to update my studio computer, a 2015 MacBook Pro quad core. I run Logic as my primary DAW, and my projects consist of reasonably RAM-demanding sample libraries like Spitfire, to produce orchestral music primarily.

One of my reasons for upgrading is that I have been regularly hitting the 16GB RAM limit of my MacBook Pro. I've also found that some projects running lots of samples along with processor-heavy instruments like Omnisphere have really pushed my MacBook... think lots of fan noise and extreme heat.

I'm looking at two options:

Mac Mini (current model)
3.2GHz six core (Core i7, 8th gen), Turbo boost up to 4.1GHz
32GB RAM (2666MHz, DDR4)
1TB SSD

OR

MacBook Pro 15" (current model)
2.9GHz six core (Core i9, 8th gen), Turbo boost up to 4.8GHz
32GB RAM (2400MHz, DDR4)
1TB SSD

My criteria are:
- Need enough RAM to support fairly big projects
- Need to be able to run demanding plug-ins and virtual synths
- Need to run plug-ins like Superior Drummer 3 at low sample latency (ideally 32 samples) - will the slightly faster RAM on the Mac Mini make a difference here, or not really?
- Quiet operation (within reason)
- Portability would be nice, but isn't crucial if the performance of the MacBook would be significantly lower than the Mac Mini.

I'd be really keen to hear from anyone who has used both, or can vouch for one or the other in terms of performance differences!

Thanks guys!
Mike
Old 26th February 2019
  #2
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I can't answer the question directly on which of the two options you should go for (although a fully specced new Mac Mini is extremely pricey!), but something you might want to be aware of if your audio interface is USB powered:

Apple's latest Macs have a serious audio glitching bug - CDM Create Digital Music

I don't have a recent Mac, so can't comment from personal experience on the issue.
Old 28th February 2019
  #3
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If you can wait a bit Apple is supposedly doing new Mac Pros this year.
Old 28th February 2019
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by faeflora View Post
If you can wait a bit Apple is supposedly doing new Mac Pros this year.
I'd love to... but I'm expecting they will be more costly than both the MacBook Pro and the Mac Minis...
Old 28th February 2019
  #5
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It looks to me like the Mac Mini build would be about $1000 less than the MacBook Pro build. It sounds like a USB 3 hub may solve any USB port glitches. I’m not sure what the fascination with laptops is as they are great if you actually need portability but they are not competitive with desktops as far as bang for the buck.

Another option is finding a great deal on a used 2013 Mac Pro but they are over fiver years old now. The Mac Mini is not a Pro level computer like the Mac Pro or the iMac Pro despite the space gray paint job but it will be supported by Apple for much longer.
Old 28th February 2019
  #6
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A useful test of the latest Mac Mini perhaps. Also, they don't report having problems with the audio interface.

Production Expert | Apple Mac mini 2018 Tested For Audio Production Work - Is This The Next Computer You Should Buy For Your Studio?
Old 3rd March 2019
  #7
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The fan noise on the i9 MBP is nothing nice. You'll be struggling to hear your delicate string passages.

The power is great however.
Old 4th March 2019
  #8
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I need to revise and reserve my opinion about the fan noise. I just bounced out 40 Kontakt tracks and I was astonished that my i9 mbp was whisper quiet. The CPU was chillin'.

I just updated to LPX 10.4.4. That probably had something to do with it.
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Mac Mini vs MacBook Pro for sample-heavy orchestral music - running Logic-screen-shot-2019-03-04-1.34.52-pm.jpg  
Old 7th March 2019
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloop View Post
I'd love to... but I'm expecting they will be more costly than both the MacBook Pro and the Mac Minis...
iMacs should be due soon also and those are kickass for the price BUT they aren't so portable.
Old 15th March 2019
  #10
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I recently updated from a 2012 2 core i5 Mac mini with 16GB of ram to the new Mac mini.

New Mac mini is 6 core i7 with 32gb ram. I use a decent amount of virtual instruments, output, EW stuff and have barely scratched the cpu meter. It’s a beast for sure.

That being said I had A LOT of teething issues with this new Mac. It was a pain to get set up and running smoothly. First time I had to call apple care tbh.... lots of bugs with logic, random errors, playback crackles. Over time it seemed to have worked it self out, lots of restarts lol...

I was using a usb audio interface which I ditched for a UA thunderbolt interface which seemed to have fixed a lot of the playback issues.

I’m sure apple will stabilize and fix a lot of the issues in the next few months, but as long as you stay away from the built in usb a type ports you should be ok.
Old 19th March 2019
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heretolearn View Post
iMacs should be due soon also and those are kickass for the price BUT they aren't so portable.
There appears to be new iMacs on the Apple site now.

I'm on a prior release (2017?) MBP, 2.8GHz i7, 16GB. My projects are getting big enough to push my machine a bit (relying on way more virtual instruments than I anticipated), so I've been considering an upgrade.

I was looking at the lower end iMac Pros which would be way more than enough for my needs. My concerns are:

They're 1 1/2 years old, would I be future proofing as much as I think?
A maxed Mac Mini might be enough for me, and cheaper.
Now with new iMacs released, maxing out one of those may also be enough, and cheaper.
Old 20th March 2019
  #12
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A maxed mac mini gives you the most flexibility. Lots of swappable parts - not so the iMac.
Old 20th March 2019
  #13
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I'm still 'getting by' with my MacBook Pro (Mid-2014, 16GB, 2.8GHz i7, 1TB SSD) even running a fair number of demanding sample libraries, VIs and plugins. It occasionally hits its limit, but I usually have no problem dealing with those situations.

But what I wanted to mention being valuable to me is the portability the MBP provides. I cannot tell you how many times now I've had to be remote where the MBP has been wonderful and easy to use in situations when I have to be away from my main studio. I don't have the benefit of a nice monitoring system, larger display, full-sized keyboard/controller, etc etc. But I've adapted my workflow accordingly and made it work in order to keep creating/producing material using LPX without interruption. I realize everybody is different with varying needs and preferences. But for me, I get tremendous value in the MBP's portability and being able to work any time, any place. In fact, I'm remote right now and just about to fire up LPX to work on my next rock track...

Good luck, Mike, with whatever you decide...!
Old 27th March 2019
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck.dallas View Post
I'm still 'getting by' with my MacBook Pro (Mid-2014, 16GB, 2.8GHz i7, 1TB SSD) even running a fair number of demanding sample libraries, VIs and plugins. It occasionally hits its limit, but I usually have no problem dealing with those situations.

But what I wanted to mention being valuable to me is the portability the MBP provides. I cannot tell you how many times now I've had to be remote where the MBP has been wonderful and easy to use in situations when I have to be away from my main studio. I don't have the benefit of a nice monitoring system, larger display, full-sized keyboard/controller, etc etc. But I've adapted my workflow accordingly and made it work in order to keep creating/producing material using LPX without interruption. I realize everybody is different with varying needs and preferences. But for me, I get tremendous value in the MBP's portability and being able to work any time, any place. In fact, I'm remote right now and just about to fire up LPX to work on my next rock track...

Good luck, Mike, with whatever you decide...!
Great advice. I think I am landing in the same camp... that portability really is a valuable bonus. We may be recording offsite this year so I feel this is the way to go.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Cheers
Mike
Old 27th March 2019
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d.dot View Post
I need to revise and reserve my opinion about the fan noise. I just bounced out 40 Kontakt tracks and I was astonished that my i9 mbp was whisper quiet. The CPU was chillin'.

I just updated to LPX 10.4.4. That probably had something to do with it.
Thanks for sharing - yep, I had heard early reports that the i9 was loud. But I’d also heard that a firmware update had made a big difference.
In any case, it’s great to know that big projects don’t send the fan over the edge any more!

Cheers
Mike
Old 1st April 2019
  #16
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Hey Mike, forgot to mention earlier... are you aware of the MBP's reported keyboard issues? Just saw another report today... may not be a reason to hold off, but just wanted to make sure you knew.
Old 1st April 2019
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck.dallas View Post
Hey Mike, forgot to mention earlier... are you aware of the MBP's reported keyboard issues? Just saw another report today... may not be a reason to hold off, but just wanted to make sure you knew.
Good point!
It looked like the issues were confined to Fen 1 and 2 of the new style keyboard, but the most recent reports suggest that the current (gen 3G keyboards may be having issues too!
Not great for a music studio workhorse computer.
Old 2nd April 2019
  #18
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FWIW, I've never had any laptop that I'd choose as my "studio workhorse".
Whatever the generation, a machine that doesn't have to cram everything
into a sleek portable package, and manage the heat, always seems to win
out on performance and cost. It might even be upgradable.

A DAW isn't really the most CPU-demanding software. Big sample libraries
call for having enough RAM. 16GB is not enough. But it's not like video editing.
The video editor's amazing GPUs still aren't used for much in the DAW world.

I've seen the disappointment of DAW users who have spent a lot of money to
get only "some improvement". Apple products are like cars, with a big initial
depreciation. You've probably factored in all of this, but it bears repeating.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
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Hi Yeloop i'm in the exact situation as you are, i produce a lot of orchestral stuff but also record some quiet acoustic
I've been using the macbook pro you mentioned for 1 week now and it's extremely fluent and powerful. However with big sessions and lot of plugs, the fans can be really noisy and very annoying to record quiet stuff. I'm thinking about returning it and picking up a mac mini. Which one did u finally take?
Thx

Eric
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