What specs to look for in a used Mac?

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

User avatar
mechanicalmastering
takin' a dinner break
Posts: 173
Joined: Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:39 pm
Contact:

What specs to look for in a used Mac?

Post by mechanicalmastering » Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:10 am

About to search for a used macintosh in the $1k-or-less range and need some info regarding which year/model/features to be on the lookout for. Which specs should I be looking at? Fast processor and lot's of internal memory? Desktop or laptop? What types of in's/out's would be desirable? Running Logic and lot's of plugins.

Andy Peters
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 602
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2007 8:45 pm
Location: Sunny Tucson

Re: What specs to look for in a used Mac?

Post by Andy Peters » Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:00 pm

mechanicalmastering wrote:About to search for a used macintosh in the $1k-or-less range and need some info regarding which year/model/features to be on the lookout for. Which specs should I be looking at? Fast processor and lot's of internal memory? Desktop or laptop? What types of in's/out's would be desirable? Running Logic and lot's of plugins.
For a grand, get a brand new Mac mini and max out its memory. This assumes you're not going to use PCI/PCIe cards.

-a
"On the internet, nobody can hear you mix a band."

User avatar
mechanicalmastering
takin' a dinner break
Posts: 173
Joined: Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:39 pm
Contact:

Post by mechanicalmastering » Sun Apr 22, 2012 9:34 pm

For a grand, get a brand new Mac mini and max out its memory.
For real!?! Yowza, hadn't really thought about that one.

User avatar
tjcasey1
takin' a dinner break
Posts: 164
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:10 am
Location: Boston
Contact:

Post by tjcasey1 » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:47 pm

To be truthful, once you hit the $1000 range, just go buy a new Mac. The used ones aren't really that much of a bargain unless you're really hurting for cash.

Go to the Apple store online an scroll down all the way on the left. Hit the "special deals" button. You may be able to get a refurbished current Mac for about $100-$200 cheaper, if they have any in stock. (This includes the Mac mini.) It comes with a full warranty.

kslight
moves faders with mind
Posts: 2732
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:40 pm

Post by kslight » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:55 pm

I got a refurb Mac Pro for about $300 off instead of buying a brand new one... I think though that if you look around you might find a good deal on something used if you find someone in financial hurt, especially if you buy something that has Applecare left on it. I would look for current specs more or less... Intel i5 or i7 or 4+ core Xeon (with all the cores on one chip, not 2 dual cores)...depending on what model you want.

rwc
resurrected
Posts: 2333
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2007 8:21 pm
Location: Bed Stuy, Brooklyn

Post by rwc » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:27 pm

Build a PC and put OSX on it. If you do a really bang up job on component choices, it'll even run a retail OSX disc.

Go Intel. I'd rather try and run a session on my Android phone than use an antiquated PPC processor.

a) Core i7 processor
b) lots of memory
c) a solid state drive

will make the biggest differences. the SSD will change your life, even if you get some 4 year old machine, put an SSD in it. SSDs are what make computers feel fast and instant. I'll never go back.
Real friends stab you in the front.

Oscar Wilde

Failed audio engineer & pro studio tech turned Component level motherboard repair store in New York

User avatar
Jeff White
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3258
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 6:15 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Contact:

Post by Jeff White » Tue May 01, 2012 8:15 am

I'm just going to put my $.02 in here and say...

? Make sure that you go Intel
? Make sure that you have a newer Mac (iMac or Mac mini is fine!) so that you'll be able to update your system a few times for at least the next 2-3 years
? Make sure that it has Firewire. I can't say this enough. USB 2.0 is fine for some things, but it gets crazy slow with medium track counts and becomes increasingly unstable. If the computer only has a single FW port, no problem. Just make sure that the external drive (you know, the one that you are recording to!) is between the interface and the computer.

Someone mentioned the Apple refurb store. YES YES YES. I just bought my MacBook Pro there a week after the little speed bump that Apple released for the MBPs in the fall. I got a 17" MBP with a 2.3 GHz Quad i7 and 8GB of RAM (it was advertised with 4 GB btw!) and a 7200 RPM drive for like $2199, plus a $99 printer with a rebate for $99 so that was free. Way over your budget (mine is for my day gig as well), but just saying. It's like getting a previously owned car at the dealer with 4000 miles on it for like $5K less or whatever. It's definitely the way to go. The difference in power between my old Dual 1.8 GHz G5 tower and my MBP is just stupid. I can't believe that I waited so long to upgrade.

I'd say buy a brand new Mac Mini via the refurb store and don't look back. Totally killer little computer for really cheap. It has FW800 and also Thunderbolt, which is the future.

Go with the Quad core: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/s ... ini/select
But wait and buy it from here: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/s ... c/mac_mini

Also, expansion? This is the only expansion that you'll need: http://www.uaudio.com/uad-plug-ins.html#satellite

Daisy-chaining via FW800 is your friend.

Jeff
I record, mix, and master in my Philly-based home studio, the Spacement. http://jeffwhiteaudio.com/

kinger
steve albini likes it
Posts: 382
Joined: Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:34 pm
Location: Vancouver Island

Post by kinger » Tue May 01, 2012 6:10 pm

Just to chime in, I just picked up a refurbed Mac Mini Server with the 2 GHz quad-core i7 (Thunderbolt, dual internal hard drives...) from the Apple store for $850CAN; it comes with the full Apple warranty.

User avatar
CraigS63
steve albini likes it
Posts: 321
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 3:38 pm
Location: Napertucky, IL
Contact:

Post by CraigS63 » Fri May 11, 2012 8:46 pm

I got a Mac Book Pro a few months ago at MicroCenter, it seems like it was several hundred dollars cheaper than even the 'refurb' stuff on the Apple site. I believe they were/are pushing the early 2011 stuff out to make way for the newer and shinier stuff.

User avatar
ghaines
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2003 11:44 am
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Contact:

SSD

Post by ghaines » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:38 pm

You can put your OS on the SSD, but I wouldn't have any working data or swap files on one. Current thinking is our frequent read/writes will destroy a SSD.

Booting to an SSD is killer killer killer, though.
Senior Contributor, Tape Op
Chief Mastering Engineer, Treelady Studios - Pittsburgh, PA

www.treelady.com Treelady Mastering, Pittsburgh, PA

User avatar
Marc Alan Goodman
george martin
Posts: 1400
Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2003 7:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:47 am

rwc wrote:Build a PC and put OSX on it. If you do a really bang up job on component choices, it'll even run a retail OSX disc.
I've personally thought considerably about building a hackintosh. The problem is that you'll get absolutely 0 support from any manufacturers. It's only really an option if you truly understand the inner workings of the computer and can troubleshoot yourself.

People have pretty much nailed everything else I could think of: Definitely go intel, refurb store at apple is fantastic (I've bought all of my computers from there for the last 12 years or so), if you don't need PCI slots macminis are a steal, just remember you'll still need a monitor. Putting an OS on SSD is a great idea while tracking to one is less of a great idea.

User avatar
ghaines
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2003 11:44 am
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Contact:

Post by ghaines » Sat Jun 16, 2012 9:13 am

We buy used macs from mac of all trades in Florida. Good experiences with them. http://www.macofalltrades.com/

In my room, I just switched to a PC Audio Labs rack mount computer. http://www.pcaudiolabs.com/ Since I have to use PC for Sequoia, I believe I have to buy an audio-built PC. Got an i5 witha motherboard that will let me drop an i7 in down the line.

Long ago, I had a $3500 Dell and when it had issues with audio related things, the Dell people were at a loss. So, 3 months ago, we bought the fastest Lenovo available, but had every kind of ASIO / multi-core / video card issue and couldn't make it happen. Took a bath when we sold it...

So, if you're going to do billable/livelihood work on a PC, I urge you to buy a PC from an audio-PC building company. If you're going to use a Mac, I say buy a refurb or used with warranty one. The new ones are too much money.

The PC Audio Labs boxes start at $999.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with either company, nor am I compensated for any comments!

Best wishes,
GH
Senior Contributor, Tape Op
Chief Mastering Engineer, Treelady Studios - Pittsburgh, PA

www.treelady.com Treelady Mastering, Pittsburgh, PA

User avatar
fossiltooth
carpal tunnel
Posts: 1734
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 3:03 pm
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Contact:

Post by fossiltooth » Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:14 pm

Mac Minis are a great deal, but the iMacs are considerably faster. For just a bit over $1100 you can get a quad core (as opposed to the mini's dual core) with a really nice screen, keyboard, camera and twice the memory, all stock.

A refurbished iMac is likely to come in just under your $1000 target, and you'll still get manufacturer's support and a brand new OS and up-to-date connectivity. It would likely last you for years to come. If you have up to $1000 to spend, this is definitely the way to go.

Frost
gimme a little kick & snare
Posts: 98
Joined: Thu Jul 24, 2003 9:45 pm
Location: Chicago

Post by Frost » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:04 pm

I would buy a mac pro 3,1 or 4,1. Youll get 64 bit support and a pretty badass machine for around a grand. I am using a 1,1 machine upgraded with 8 core processors making it a 2,1 and it screams with everything audio I throw at it.

User avatar
ghaines
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2003 11:44 am
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Contact:

Post by ghaines » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:33 pm

It's going to be interesting to see what Thunderbolt does. If it's stable, things are going to get interesting. One school of thought is Towers will go away... People like me who use MADI and AES PCIe cards are going to have to pay to buy thunderbolt goezintas and goesoutaz.... ugh...
Senior Contributor, Tape Op
Chief Mastering Engineer, Treelady Studios - Pittsburgh, PA

www.treelady.com Treelady Mastering, Pittsburgh, PA

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: vvv and 61 guests