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Mac Mini vs Mac Pro
Old 22nd December 2010
  #1
Gear Head
 
ivankilowatt's Avatar
 

Mac Mini vs Mac Pro

Ok Gearslutz, chew on this...
I'm looking to purchase a Mac for recording a maximum of 16 channels of 44.1kHz digital audio live, and likely mixing the sum of 30 or less tracks down to stereo.
I have been told by many the mac pro is the machine to have.
I've used 'em, they're gr8! However $2500+US is WAY out of my budget.
In our current economy, I make more as a high-end studio tech than a tracking/mix engineer.
I see the new Mac Mini's going for $699+ Promising!
I've been told the only big difference, will be the amount of plugins I'll be capable of using, without bogging down the machine.
Why No Plugins? -> I already have the real gear the plugins are made to emulate. (you know, the gear that keeps your control room nice n toasty warm, without the furnace running) So the tracks will go the the A/D ready to mix.
My questions...
a) can I use the onboard firewire port same as the PCI slot type with any A/D?
b) what A/D's do you gearslutz reccomend (on my po-boi-budget)
I don't plan to sell any of my front-end, cuz well, you would rather the real thing instead of a plugin right? And I'll always be able to purchase new digital equipment, unlike the cool stuff they don't make anymore.
Helpful Advice... Anyone?
Tkx, Ivan
(I know about vintage gear, not computer stuff, however after owning two PC's DEFINATELY know better than to go that route ever again
Old 22nd December 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 

a mac mini maxed on ram will do very well with just audio and not many plugins. mine doesn't start acting slow until about 40 channels at 44.1 with eq and comp on every channel and some reverbs, etc..... and mine is 2 years old with a ceiling of 2gb ram.

virtual instruments are another story. after about 4 instances of kontakt, plus other stuff, it gets almost unusable. but I have an 8core mac pro on the way!

N
Old 22nd December 2010
  #3
Deleted User
Guest
this is a bit beyond the audio but I tried a mini for a heavy graphic ap and it did not work ..video card toooo slow.. that is not saying it won't do audio.. I used an older version mini for audio (with an external drive for the files to get the track count up ..using Logic ) .. it was workable but with the pro I can have a large track count with a lot of plugs and some fairly hungry plugs on the mix buss with no probs.. but ithe pro was a bit more $$... I personally feel that the hardware is far past software development at this moment.. ( I am still waiting for everything to become 64 bit ) so I feel like the dual quad pro I bought in 2009 will be viable for quite a while .. if you can afford a pro .. do it
Old 22nd December 2010
  #4
Gear Head
 
ivankilowatt's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nnajar View Post
a mac mini maxed on ram will do very well with just audio and not many plugins. mine doesn't start acting slow until about 40 channels at 44.1 with eq and comp on every channel and some reverbs, etc..... and mine is 2 years old with a ceiling of 2gb ram.

virtual instruments are another story. after about 4 instances of kontakt, plus other stuff, it gets almost unusable. but I have an 8core mac pro on the way!

N
That sounds like WAY more than i need!
+++the new mac mini comes with what u have and can handle up to 8GB RAM
What A/D setup do you use?
Tkx! i believe i am on the right track for my needs?
Old 22nd December 2010
  #5
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T'Mershi Duween's Avatar
 

Man, the Mac Mini coupled with a Steinberg MR816 is the best little combo you could get for a budget system that will be able to record pretty much anything that's worth hearing!

Keep it simple. Treat the Mini Mac/DAW like a multi-track. Limit the track count and don't use a ton of crap plug ins that you are better off not using anyway.

Invest in hi-fidelity hardware.

The computer is just crunching numbers at this point in history anyway...

You will have a recording system that is light years ahead of what most people could even dream of a few years ago.


Old 22nd December 2010
  #6
Gear Maniac
I own a one year old mac mini with 4 gigs of ram and a 500g HD with a 1.5T external drive.. all together less than $1200. I use logic as my main daw. I've done up to 30 tracks before with 2 or more plugs on each channel and never really had any issues. Sometimes the disk too slow error pops up when **** get's heavy but that happens few and far between. I also use a presonus firestudio as my ad/da interface. The only regret I have with the mac mini is the lack of a PCI slot... so no UAD plug in's for me.

Other than that it works like a charm, especially if you're on a budget.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #7
Lives for gear
dont doubt the mac mini, i have the old 1.83 and i filled protools to all 48 tracks with plugins everywhere and was still tracking with no issues ever.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #8
Lives for gear
 
T'Mershi Duween's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Killah_Trakz View Post
dont doubt the mac mini.


Well said brother. thumbsup



Quote:
Originally Posted by Killah_Trakz View Post
i have the old 1.83 and i filled protools to all 48 tracks with plugins everywhere and was still tracking with no issues ever.



It's amazing all the affordable technological tools we have to create music with now.



Old 23rd December 2010
  #9
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theproduca's Avatar
 

Cool

Man, the Mac Mini coupled with a Steinberg MR816 is the best little combo you could get for a budget system that will be able to record pretty much anything that's worth hearing!
Old 23rd December 2010
  #10
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
I've have 2 mac mini's, currently have 2 mac pro's and a couple of G5's, mac laptop, couple of imacs, and an uncountable slew of macs in the computer graveyard.....

Personally, processing power & ram aside, I would not find the mac mini up for the task long term. I just don't think they are built to take the heavy lifting audio puts on them. that's my well informed $.02. thumbsup
Old 23rd December 2010
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I would not find the mac mini up for the task long term. I just don't think they are built to take the heavy lifting audio puts on them. that's my well informed $.02. thumbsup
Like all small form factor computers the Mac Mini is designed to be idle most of the time and its basically a disposable product. A Mac Pro is a true workstation class system designed to be under heavy loads 24/7 with potentially a much longer life span.

However, at the end of the day a regular user wont notice the difference anyway so it comes down to what you are doing and if your not running a big load on it then you will be fine in the short-mid term and you replace it in 3 years.

With all that said it sounds like the Mini would fit the OP current needs, so it comes down to price (dont get fooled by the base price) and how much are your needs are going to grow. The technology in a mac mini is old and may prevent the natural growth you later find you need, or it may not only time will tell.


Personally I wish Apple would produce a mid range product ... but thats another thread
Old 23rd December 2010
  #12
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cyrano's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aussie_techie View Post
Like all small form factor computers the Mac Mini is designed to be idle most of the time and its basically a disposable product. A Mac Pro is a true workstation class system designed to be under heavy loads 24/7 with potentially a much longer life span.
I have 64 mini's in the data center. Some of them run heavy loads 24/7. No problem. I doubt the Mac Pro would do better. We used to have G5's. Their lifespan in the DC was much shorter...
Old 23rd December 2010
  #13
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Buy a used MacPro, 2007 2.66 Dual Processors, like I have, can be had for 1000.00. Most likely, it will already have upgraded RAM as well.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #14
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barryjohns's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by T'Mershi Duween View Post
Man, the Mac Mini coupled with a Steinberg MR816 is the best little combo you could get for a budget system that will be able to record pretty much anything that's worth hearing!

Keep it simple. Treat the Mini Mac/DAW like a multi-track. Limit the track count and don't use a ton of crap plug ins that you are better off not using anyway.

Invest in hi-fidelity hardware.

The computer is just crunching numbers at this point in history anyway...

You will have a recording system that is light years ahead of what most people could even dream of a few years ago.


Dude, please loose the signature, it takes up way too much space when going through these threads......
Old 24th December 2010
  #15
Gear Head
 
ivankilowatt's Avatar
 

Angry Learning

!!YIKES!!
ok, i've learned this:
Half the people who comment on a posting don't read the entire question, or even the question at all, just the title.

Let's clear this up:
I did't wat to sound like i was bragging about my outboard gear, so i (tried to make) made a little joke about keeping your control room warm in the winter without a furnace. (i think 60% of u missed it)
I've got the BADDEST **** ALL YOU SLUTZ WANT, Ampex, API, Collins, DBX, Focusrite, Gates, Meyer, Neve, Orban, Pultec, RCA, Studer, Sony, UREI, UTC, Valley, White n i'm, sure there's names missin, but i'm not gonna go thru everything. O.K.? (i go thru my storage n it's like Christmas all over again- get it?)
I'm NOT investing in anymore outboard gear (at least nor trying to)!
I've got enough! Enough to put an extremely hi-end pre/EQ/comp on everyone.
This is WHY i ask about a SIMPLE computer with NO PLUGINS!
MY ORIGINAL Q's AGAIN...
a) can I use the onboard firewire port same as the PCI slot type with any A/D?
b) what A/D's do you gearslutz reccomend (on my po-boi-budget)?
PLEASE TRY TO RESPOND TO THE QUESTIONS AND NOT THE SUBJECT THIS TIME....
Old 24th December 2010
  #16
Lives for gear
 
barryjohns's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ivankilowatt View Post
!!YIKES!!
ok, i've learned this:
Half the people who comment on a posting don't read the entire question, or even the question at all, just the title.

Let's clear this up:
I did't wat to sound like i was bragging about my outboard gear, so i (tried to make) made a little joke about keeping your control room warm in the winter without a furnace. (i think 60% of u missed it)
I've got the BADDEST **** ALL YOU SLUTZ WANT, Ampex, API, Collins, DBX, Focusrite, Gates, Meyer, Neve, Orban, Pultec, RCA, Studer, Sony, UREI, UTC, Valley, White n i'm, sure there's names missin, but i'm not gonna go thru everything. O.K.? (i go thru my storage n it's like Christmas all over again- get it?)
I'm NOT investing in anymore outboard gear (at least nor trying to)!
I've got enough! Enough to put an extremely hi-end pre/EQ/comp on everyone.
This is WHY i ask about a SIMPLE computer with NO PLUGINS!
MY ORIGINAL Q's AGAIN...
a) can I use the onboard firewire port same as the PCI slot type with any A/D?
b) what A/D's do you gearslutz reccomend (on my po-boi-budget)?
PLEASE TRY TO RESPOND TO THE QUESTIONS AND NOT THE SUBJECT THIS TIME....
Wow, Merry Christmas
Old 24th December 2010
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
ktodac3298's Avatar
 

get the mini load it up with ram and get that steinberg or a comprable focusrite or motu or something and be done with it
Old 24th December 2010
  #18
Lives for gear
 
kilon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerbrain View Post
this is a bit beyond the audio but I tried a mini for a heavy graphic ap and it did not work ..video card toooo slow.. that is not saying it won't do audio.. I used an older version mini for audio (with an external drive for the files to get the track count up ..using Logic ) .. it was workable but with the pro I can have a large track count with a lot of plugs and some fairly hungry plugs on the mix buss with no probs.. but ithe pro was a bit more $$... I personally feel that the hardware is far past software development at this moment.. ( I am still waiting for everything to become 64 bit ) so I feel like the dual quad pro I bought in 2009 will be viable for quite a while .. if you can afford a pro .. do it
The issue here is the software.

For example even with a damn slow graphic card like the one that you have with your mini you can make super pro graphics.

The issue here is that mini is core duo which is a very powerful processor and many graphics applications rely still heavily on software rendering and that means that trow most of the load on the cpu. On the other hand there is software that relies heavily on hardware acceleration. Even in that case the issue is not that the graphic card is slow rather than it may implement very lously opengl , and it may be slower with hardware accelaration than it would be with software.

Yesterday my brother complaint that photoshop was too slow on his macbook pro and that the processor was to blame. I thougth he had a memory issue as when any app runs out of physical memory it tends to crawl since the hard disk used for virtual memory is alot slower and even crash the app. Both we were wrong , Cpu was at worst at 50% and memory was not even an issues as he was consuming only 170 mbs uncompressed.

So slowness with graphics is extremely complicated issue.

ANSWERING TO OP:

On sound however things are alot easier because sound applications tend to either use CPU or memory. If you intend to do alot of audio recording then CPU power will not matter at all and it is most likely that mac mini will be an overkill for you. I remember on my old Pentium 1Ghz single core in Ableton live a dry audio track was not cosuming more than 1% of the CPU. On a core duo on mac mini I will assume that will use 1/4th of that.

So in that respect of CPU mac mini will be a nuclear house for you. CPU will become an issue only when you start using ALOT!!!! of VST plugin instuments/effects, which tend to use mainly CPU.

Now with audio tracks will consume loads of memory , for example with some very raw math we know that at 44.1/16bit 700 mb are around 70 minutes of recorded audio that equals to 10 tracks of 7 minutes or 20 tracks of 3.5 minutes. Of course you will have to count as well the memory consumed by the OS to estimate how much memory you will need.

Now you could further decrease the memory consumption by spliting your audio. One rule you should remember is that silence is very expensive , it will consume memory, if you track has silence split it and delete any silent part .

MACPRO will be an overkill for your needs , because essentially you will be spending money for things you never use. Money that could spent buying other stuff that you will actually use or just using the money to go a nice trip with your girfried searching for new inspiration.
Old 23rd January 2011
  #19
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ORyan87's Avatar
All hail the mac mini........
Old 23rd January 2011
  #20
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theproduca's Avatar
 

Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by O'Ryan View Post
All hail the mac mini........
POWWWWWWW!!!!!!
Old 23rd January 2011
  #21
Lives for gear
 
theproduca's Avatar
 

Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by T'Mershi Duween View Post
Man, the Mac Mini coupled with a Steinberg MR816 is the best little combo you could get for a budget system that will be able to record pretty much anything that's worth hearing!

Keep it simple. Treat the Mini Mac/DAW like a multi-track. Limit the track count and don't use a ton of crap plug ins that you are better off not using anyway.

Invest in hi-fidelity hardware.

The computer is just crunching numbers at this point in history anyway...

You will have a recording system that is light years ahead of what most people could even dream of a few years ago.


Thats my SETUP!!!! Beautiful sounding for about $1500. Mini maxed at ram 4GB. MR816X sounds like.... creamy clean juicy luv....LOL Buss the eq's and verbs to 2 channel stereo for BG's and you'll be good.
Old 24th January 2011
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ivankilowatt View Post
!!YIKES!!
ok, i've learned this:
Half the people who comment on a posting don't read the entire question, or even the question at all, just the title.

Let's clear this up:
I did't wat to sound like i was bragging about my outboard gear, so i (tried to make) made a little joke about keeping your control room warm in the winter without a furnace. (i think 60% of u missed it)
I've got the BADDEST **** ALL YOU SLUTZ WANT, Ampex, API, Collins, DBX, Focusrite, Gates, Meyer, Neve, Orban, Pultec, RCA, Studer, Sony, UREI, UTC, Valley, White n i'm, sure there's names missin, but i'm not gonna go thru everything. O.K.? (i go thru my storage n it's like Christmas all over again- get it?)
I'm NOT investing in anymore outboard gear (at least nor trying to)!
I've got enough! Enough to put an extremely hi-end pre/EQ/comp on everyone.
This is WHY i ask about a SIMPLE computer with NO PLUGINS!
MY ORIGINAL Q's AGAIN...
a) can I use the onboard firewire port same as the PCI slot type with any A/D?
b) what A/D's do you gearslutz reccomend (on my po-boi-budget)?
PLEASE TRY TO RESPOND TO THE QUESTIONS AND NOT THE SUBJECT THIS TIME....
So you've got all that pro gear, then are skimping on the computer to run it, trying to (effectively) use a home entertainment computer to run a professional system?

but to answer your questions:

1 - you can use any FW interface (or USB for that matter). You may need to daisy chain any FW harddrives due to a lack of ports (I think the mac pro has 5). You can't use any PCIe cards of course - so any PCIe interface is out. Strictly speaking, an AD/DA converter doesn't have a FW port - it converts analogue to digital, and so outputs AES, SPDIF, ADAT etc. As soon as you add FW output it requires drivers and so becomes an interface (which has AD/DA converters). So....with a mac mini you can use any interface that has FW or USB. With a Mac Pro you can also do this, but you can also use an PCIe interface.

A practical example - with a Mac Mini, you could use a lynx aurora with the FW option. With a mac pro, you could connect the aurora (with no FW option) to the lynx pcie card, and run several auroras from the same system, and leave the FW buss for hard drives (which is significant - after all, you can't install a 2nd internal drive for audio on the mac mini). Your mac mini is limited to running (pretty much) a single interface, the mac pro is expandable - it's a pro machine after all.

So..doesn't matter how much hardware you have, with a Mac mini a realistic output is 16 channels, so you're going to need to run some plugins, so you're going to need a fast machine...get where this is headed?

2 - the world is your oyster. But again, you're looking for interfaces, not AD/DA converters. Get the terminology right and it'll help you find what you're looking for. Obvious examples are RME, Apogee (ensemble), Prism (Orpheus) - you don't state a budget, but if you've got all that outboard a $300 converter is daft, and obviously the weakest link in the chain. If you're really that limited, sell a piece or 2 that's in storage and buy something you're gonna use - you're bound to have something that still has value but is depreciating (ie not hugely desirable).

Personally, I think you're mad with all that outboard trying to run anything other than a professional level mac or pc. With a mac mini, or even an iMac, a large scale project running on a FW drive with a FW interface is likely to have disk speed or buss speed errors. Not a good look in front of clients (plus I'd be a bit suspect coming into a studio where the main computer was basically a multimedia machine).

Just my opinion (coming from someone who maintains PT rigs, and frequently has to sort out slow disk errors from people running things in stupid ways).
Old 24th January 2011
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
DavePiatek's Avatar
 

I use a Mac Mini as my primary recording computer and it works great. I can tuck it in my rack and use my own computer anywhere I work. The new version does dual-monitors too.

Perhaps if you use tons of VIs, it might not have enough power, but for normal rock/metal tracking/mixing, I have NO problems. I only have 4GB of RAM, and I'm sure it would perform even better if I upped it to 8GB.

I use PT9.
Old 24th January 2011
  #24
Lives for gear
 
T'Mershi Duween's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by barryjohns View Post
Dude, please loose the signature, it takes up way too much space when going through these threads......

Nope, sorry.

And it's lose, not loose.




heh
Old 25th January 2011
  #25
JL.
Gear Nut
 
JL.'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
So you've got all that pro gear, then are skimping on the computer to run it, trying to (effectively) use a home entertainment computer to run a professional system?

but to answer your questions:

1 - you can use any FW interface (or USB for that matter). You may need to daisy chain any FW harddrives due to a lack of ports (I think the mac pro has 5). You can't use any PCIe cards of course - so any PCIe interface is out. Strictly speaking, an AD/DA converter doesn't have a FW port - it converts analogue to digital, and so outputs AES, SPDIF, ADAT etc. As soon as you add FW output it requires drivers and so becomes an interface (which has AD/DA converters). So....with a mac mini you can use any interface that has FW or USB. With a Mac Pro you can also do this, but you can also use an PCIe interface.

A practical example - with a Mac Mini, you could use a lynx aurora with the FW option. With a mac pro, you could connect the aurora (with no FW option) to the lynx pcie card, and run several auroras from the same system, and leave the FW buss for hard drives (which is significant - after all, you can't install a 2nd internal drive for audio on the mac mini). Your mac mini is limited to running (pretty much) a single interface, the mac pro is expandable - it's a pro machine after all.

So..doesn't matter how much hardware you have, with a Mac mini a realistic output is 16 channels, so you're going to need to run some plugins, so you're going to need a fast machine...get where this is headed?

2 - the world is your oyster. But again, you're looking for interfaces, not AD/DA converters. Get the terminology right and it'll help you find what you're looking for. Obvious examples are RME, Apogee (ensemble), Prism (Orpheus) - you don't state a budget, but if you've got all that outboard a $300 converter is daft, and obviously the weakest link in the chain. If you're really that limited, sell a piece or 2 that's in storage and buy something you're gonna use - you're bound to have something that still has value but is depreciating (ie not hugely desirable).

Personally, I think you're mad with all that outboard trying to run anything other than a professional level mac or pc. With a mac mini, or even an iMac, a large scale project running on a FW drive with a FW interface is likely to have disk speed or buss speed errors. Not a good look in front of clients (plus I'd be a bit suspect coming into a studio where the main computer was basically a multimedia machine).

Just my opinion (coming from someone who maintains PT rigs, and frequently has to sort out slow disk errors from people running things in stupid ways).
Right on, and all around helpful info. People search on this stuff all the time.
Old 25th January 2011
  #26
Lives for gear
 

Here's the perfect accessory for the Mini, and a solution for connectivity also.
NewerTech miniStack FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB2, and eSATA Storage Solutions with integrated hubs

It's what I use with my Mini.
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