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MacBook + Mac mini VS high-spec MacBook, for studio / live?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Addict
 
Sequentialist's Avatar
 

MacBook + Mac mini VS high-spec MacBook, for studio / live?

Hi guys

We've just built a small studio at home and I'm updating our computer. I'd love your thoughts on which way I should go:

- Buy a Mac mini (64GB RAM, 6-core processor) for the studio, and a low/mid-spec MacBook Pro (i5, 16GB RAM) for live gigging (Ableton Live, MainStage),

OR...

- Buy a really well-specced 16" MacBook Pro for everything (64GB RAM, 8-core processor).

Total cost for either option is similar, so it's really about which solution is best. Here are my thoughts on pros and cons, but I would really love to hear your experience and which option is better:

Mac mini and basic MacBook Pro

Pros:
- Mac mini runs very quietly and efficiently in the studio. Low fan noise.
- Studio computer (Mac mini) isn't taken out of the studio and won't be subject to wear and tear or potential damage.
- If MacBook is damaged while gigging, studio doesn't have downtime.
- Using screen mirroring, the MacBook can be used anywhere in the studio to control our DAW remotely (eg recording at the acoustic piano, which is not near the mixing desk - if I'm recording my own music, I can easily control Logic without running back to the desk where the main computer is)

Cons:
- Keeping plug-ins / sample libraries / software versions the same across two computers is complex and takes time (... there's nothing worse than setting up for a gig, only to find that the MainStage set you prepared on the studio computer isn't loading correctly on the laptop, due to a setup conflict or missed software update)

16" high-spec MacBook Pro only

Pros:
- One computer to manage for studio work and live. Prepare and rehearse a Live set or MainStage projects in the studio, then take the laptop live without needing to ensure compatibility with a separate laptop.
- Easy to work anywhere on RAM-demanding projects, without hitting the limit of a lower-spec MacBook in the two computers scenario.

Cons:
- Taking the main studio computer out of the studio for gigging seems risky - possibility of loss or theft, or damage. Even wear and tear would increase (in dusty environments, etc)
- No backup computer if the MacBook fails during a recording session.

I'm really keen to hear what people think about these points, and especially about taking the main studio MacBook out to venues for gigging. Is this considered a risky approach these days? Is it safer to have a main desktop computer that never leaves the studio? And on the flip side - if you're someone who records in your studio but also uses Live / MainStage (etc) for gigs, do you use the same computer for both, to keep things simple?

Thanks guys - value your feedback, as always!

Cheers,
Mike
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
ilikefruit's Avatar
You forgot to mention all the hooking up with the single computer setup.

I’m on the dual computer side, but then I don’t have the need for a live rig. I used to have a single laptop but changed a few years ago to an iMac.
What I really love is that everything is ready to go once I am there. To control my setup I use an iPad or my iPhone when tracking and running back and forth isn’t an option.

I have an older MacBook Air which I have used to record on location.
But then I am not on location that often, which means I prepare the session every time in advance.

Sometimes I also bring my iMac.
I suppose a Mac mini might be easier to move when needed, but again, it depends on the session needs if I do that.

But the new 16” is a really nice computer. You will need to decide if you’re more on the road than in the studio and which setup you prefer.
I think you did a good job identifying the pros and cons with both setups. Which is best is highly subjective.

Good luck!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 

I just transitioned from a 2012 quad i7 Mini, to 6-core i7 Mini.

It handles all of my session with ease.

The only time I've heard the fans was when running the Logic benchmark tests, otherwise it's silent.

Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 

My personal opinion is that your studio rig should be focused on studio work and your live rig should be 'disposable'.

As you mentioned above, putting your eggs in one basket is risky. If you have 2 systems that are mirrored then you are safe on the road, only risking hardware and not your IP.

I'm sure there will be some minor headaches keeping both machines fully functional and updated but consider the fact that you'll basically have a backup if you lose the laptop on tour or have a fire in the studio when you are away.

Are you insured and would you be covered if you are using a single machine for both purposes? If you have a solid backup routine and are insured you could be safe with 1 but that seems more annoying and risky to me, personally.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sequentialist View Post

I'm really keen to hear what people think about these points, and especially about taking the main studio MacBook out to venues for gigging. Is this considered a risky approach these days? Is it safer to have a main desktop computer that never leaves the studio? And on the flip side - if you're someone who records in your studio but also uses Live / MainStage (etc) for gigs, do you use the same computer for both, to keep things simple?

Thanks guys - value your feedback, as always!

Cheers,
Mike
Valid concerns. I say option 1.

For gigging I would go with a cheaper setup you don't have to worry about too much. Even if it doesn't get smashed up do you really want to think about it? Do you really want techs touching your $6k machine??

If you mainly work at home or in a single studio/space it's not a big drama if your portable setup isn't quite as powerful.
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