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What is the MINIMUM MacBook Pro for DAW use? DAW Software
Old 4th March 2014
  #1
What is the MINIMUM MacBook Pro for DAW use?

I was a Mac user from the old SE/30 all the way through the Blue & White G3 and Mac OS 9. I jumped ship for Windows in the early 2000s and have been completely out of the Mac loop since then.

I'm curious to test the Apple waters to see whether that would be a good environment for me in the next couple of years. Rather than go all in with the latest/greatest MBP, I'd like to pick up a used model and a known-solid OS version to see how I like the current Mac way of doing things. I'd like to spend as little as possible, but not get something so cheap/outdated it's not representative of the current Mac experience.

But since I know literally nothing about Apple hardware or the various requirements for DAW use on Macs, I don't know what model/specs to look for- or even which OS to use (I hear Mavericks is still a bit rocky for example?).

Anyway- any recommendations on specific models or OS versions I should try to snag when evaluating Apple as a future DAW platform? I am a current user of Live 9 and Cubase 7.5 with no current plans to switch DAWs. Most of the plugins and all of the interfaces I own are also Mac/Win compatible.
Old 4th March 2014
  #2
Gear Head
 

I've been looking into MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs lately as an upgrade from my 2009 Core2Duo MBP. I can say that the MBA is out of the running for me due to the fact that they only get about 17 tracks in Logic before they hit their limit (according to the benchmark thread).

The real choice is between i5 or i7 in the MBPs. More cores = better performance, CPU speed doesn't really matter as much. RAM is now attached to the logic board and so you should go for as much as you can afford because it can't be upgraded. For these reasons I'd hold out for an i7 with at least 8GB of RAM. It all depends on what your needs are though.
Old 4th March 2014
  #3
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donato's Avatar
He said he's looking for a used older model...
Old 4th March 2014
  #4
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Lojik's Avatar
 

Running on early 2011 13" MBP with stock RAM with no problems here. You could run Logic on a Core 2 Duo from 2009/2010 but it would probably be worth spending a bit more and getting a 2010 i5 which I believe benchmarks quite alot higher. You'd obviously be more limited with how many synths and FX you could run on a machine that old.

10.6.8 is regarded as a stable version of OSX to run on, and has support for older plugins which may be useful, but for what it's worth I'm running Mavericks which works fine for me.
Old 4th March 2014
  #5
I hadn't really thought about it until now but most laptops (at least in the PC world) really show their age after 3 years. My wife punishes her laptops to the point where parts are literally falling off. I think I'll stick with 2011/2012, just to increase my chances of getting one that's still performing as designed.

Is 4GB adequate for basic use? (My Windows laptop is 4GB, I believe, and it's fine for Ableton Live 8.)

I see you can still buy Snow Leopard discs on Amazon and eBay. Is there anything I need to be aware of, there, license-wise? On Windows you have to look out for people selling install-only discs with no product keys, or used OSes with exhausted activations...
Old 4th March 2014
  #6
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donato's Avatar
I also am using Mavericks with zero issues and lots of different plug-ins from many different manufacturers. I haven't heard of many having issues with Mavericks.
Old 4th March 2014
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by donato View Post
I also am using Mavericks with zero issues and lots of different plug-ins from many different manufacturers. I haven't heard of many having issues with Mavericks.
There were several HW/SW issues reported here when it was first released, but it looks like those threads have died down. Does sound like it's probably safe now.
Old 4th March 2014
  #8
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I think we're on the cusp of seeing a lot of support for non-64 bit compliant Macs dropped by both Apple and 3rd parties and along with that, Snow Leopard. Lion was a bit transitional so you're looking for something that will support ML or Mavericks, so pretty much anything from 2008 onwards to be safe. Earlier machines will run earlier software, but if you want the latest AUs in 64-bit with the latest bug fixes, I think that support will dry up in the next 12 months.

Having said that, you could run Logic Pro 7 on a G4 with 512MB!
Old 4th March 2014
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UltimateOutsider View Post
I hadn't really thought about it until now but most laptops (at least in the PC world) really show their age after 3 years. My wife punishes her laptops to the point where parts are literally falling off. I think I'll stick with 2011/2012, just to increase my chances of getting one that's still performing as designed.

Is 4GB adequate for basic use? (My Windows laptop is 4GB, I believe, and it's fine for Ableton Live 8.)

I see you can still buy Snow Leopard discs on Amazon and eBay. Is there anything I need to be aware of, there, license-wise? On Windows you have to look out for people selling install-only discs with no product keys, or used OSes with exhausted activations...
I'm using a 2011 2GHz quad i7 MBP, never have come close to running out of CPU power, with my current projects.

I hope to get two to three more years out of it.

With the new models out there should be plenty of used ones on the market.

Old 4th March 2014
  #10
Tui
Gear Guru
 
Tui's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by UltimateOutsider View Post

I see you can still buy Snow Leopard discs on Amazon and eBay. Is there anything I need to be aware of, there, license-wise? On Windows you have to look out for people selling install-only discs with no product keys, or used OSes with exhausted activations...
You can buy it from Apple, too:

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard - Apple Store (U.S.)
Old 4th March 2014
  #11
I just got a MacBook Air, not Pro, Air. The faster 13" model, I added some RAM to make it 8GB, and thus far it is devouring anything I throw at it. 40 plus channels of virtual samplers, heavy plugin instruments like Diva, and some audio recorded from hardware. I use tons of 3rd party processing like Soundtoys, Slate, FabFilter, and Softube. It does WAY better than I thought it would.

Of course just need to work smart. If there are options to work in draft mode do it, reserve oversampling, HQ modes and things like that for bouncing only.

I generally seperate the tracking/arrangement phase from the mixing, and then mastering phases which helps me reserve EQing and compression for later. Then I can really crank things up when mastering.

But overall, I didn't buy this Mac for music but it is more than capable.
Old 4th March 2014
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by UltimateOutsider View Post
I hadn't really thought about it until now but most laptops (at least in the PC world) really show their age after 3 years. My wife punishes her laptops to the point where parts are literally falling off. I think I'll stick with 2011/2012, just to increase my chances of getting one that's still performing as designed.

Is 4GB adequate for basic use? (My Windows laptop is 4GB, I believe, and it's fine for Ableton Live 8.)

I see you can still buy Snow Leopard discs on Amazon and eBay. Is there anything I need to be aware of, there, license-wise? On Windows you have to look out for people selling install-only discs with no product keys, or used OSes with exhausted activations...
I bought a Snow Leopard install disc and just installed on a late 2007 MBP and late 2007 MP. I had a bit of a fright when the MBP wouldn't take the disc but I put Snow Leopard on USB and it all worked (then combo updater to 10.6.8).

My MBP is a 2007 2.2ghz core2 duo with 4GB ram. It can run large Logic sessions but it is clunky. It isn't smooth with big track counts and lots of plug ins. As hinted above, the 2007-8 MBPs will go to Maverick but it doesn't seem likely there will be an upgrade path after that. If you can pick up a 2010-11 model with maxed out RAM it would be a contender...
Old 6th March 2014
  #13
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by donato View Post
He said he's looking for a used older model...
I missed that, sorry.

My reply still works though, just ignore the part about RAM and storage being soldered to the board if you're looking for an older model.

As a 2009 Core2Duo MBP owner, I can tell you that my machine works for mixing a lot better than it does for writing. If most of the tracks are audio only, and I'm not using any intensive 3rd party plugs (VCC on all tracks and VTM on busses is fine though) I don't have much trouble. When it comes to software instruments though I'm pretty much at the limit with one instance of Diva, or Razor, or Amplitube. A software drum instrument track and a 3rd party synth will cause crackle and frustration. This is what is driving my urge to upgrade right now.

If you can find something in your price range with an i5 or i7, and preferably 4 cores then you're in good shape.
Old 6th March 2014
  #14
Lives for gear
 

What's your budget?

I'd definitely recommend going for i7 quad core over core 2. RAM is relatively cheap and very easy to install, so if you find a model with a good powerful CPU but minimal RAM, don't be put off, as you can upgrade. Storage is the other thing - you can upgrade to SSD if you want (again, it's not a difficult job to do at home), or go for a 7200 rpm HD.

Personally, I run Logic on a 2011 MBP 15", i7 Quad Core 2.2Ghz with 16Gb RAM and a 7200rpm 500Gb drive. I run quite a lot of plug-ins and VIs, and it seems to cope pretty well, although if I'm planning on having a lot of plugs on a track, I will split it (ie set the ouput to a bus, and use that as input for an aux channel where you put half the plugs), as this lets the processing load be spread across two cores. Using Mavericks and it's fine - no problems at all.
Old 6th March 2014
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by littleeden View Post
What's your budget?
Since this is just an exploratory effort, the current budget's around $800. If I end up falling in love, I'd actually probably get a new desktop Mac Pro.

EDIT: Also, I appreciate all the input I've gotten here. I'm probably going to go for a 2011 13" or 15" MBP. I'll revive this thread once I've had some time to get familiar with it. Thanks all!
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