2015 Mac Options

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SpencerMartin
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2015 Mac Options

Post by SpencerMartin » Sun May 31, 2015 6:35 am

I'm considering a new computer purchase this year and would definitely stick with a Mac / Pro Tools combo (I don't want to start a never-ending Mac vs PC debate!). I understand it's possible to custom build a more powerful PC for less and that Macs are relatively overpriced, pre-optimized machines for people that don't have an in-depth level of computer knowledge... Which is why Macs are perfect for me!

So Mac considerations only, please.

That being said, there's a fine line between the level of specs that are absolutely fantastic for running highly CPU intensive Pro Tools sessions and the type of specs that are simply overkill and mostly only necessary for video work. The options I'm considering are:

1. Mostly or fully maxed out MacBook Pro.

2. Mostly or fully maxed out 21" iMac. (Limited desk space)

3. Entry level Mac Pro tower.

So far, my gut instinct is option 2. What do you guys think? Your collective input is always incredibly helpful, informed, and so very much appreciated. Thanks!

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Post by kslight » Sun May 31, 2015 8:41 am

Budget? What kind of sessions do you run (sample rate, size, plugin use, etc)? Do you use dsp accelerated plugins?

I don't really like any of the new Mac options, personally, being mostly non-upgrade able/builtin screens/etc bugs me. And I like Macs. I just don't feel like you can buy the same Mac you used to be able to for the money. because they've locked it all up.

If it was me I'd look at a refurbished entry level Mac Pro, or even a topped out used last gen Mac Pro tower (one with thunderbolt) instead of trash can model.

I have been running a 2010 Mac Pro 2.8ghz quad core w 16gb of ram since...2010...still runs PT12, every session at 96khz, all native plugins/etc. I'm going to put some new internal hard drives in it as they are pushing the end of their expected life, and I had added a FireWire card to keep all my devices on their own bus. I wish it had thunderbolt. That would be my only complaint.

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Post by tjcasey1 » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:15 am

I use an iMac with a second monitor and I like it. I think a Macbook Pro's screen size would be irritating.

A Mac tower would be cool, though. They seem to be much more powerful than iMacs.

Other World Computing sells refurbished Macs now, and they're tested and guaranteed. I've bought maybe four or five from them so far for family members. I had to return two of them and it was hassle-free. (One was defective, and the other hadn't been wiped clean! I couldn't log on, but I could boot it up in target mode and see all the stuff belonging to the previous owner...)

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Apple_Sy ... nd_Tablets

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Post by mrpicholas » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:20 am

I've also purchased my last two Macs from OWC. One nice thing is that they'll custom-configure even a used Mac to your specs. I went with a 2012 MBPro with 16gigs RAM and their "Data Doubler" to add a 2nd internal drive (SSD) where the DVD drive usually goes. It's a monster for recording (with a 2nd monitor) and even tricked out it was significantly cheaper than a new MBPro.
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Post by apropos of nothing » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:02 am

I'm pretty pissed at Apple for ditching the one thing I care about on the MBP. We're an all-Windows household. Despite this the wife has the MacBook Pro. The reason for this is magsafe, which is the mechanism by which Apple *formerly* made it non-problematic to trip over your power-cord. They decided to ditch this on the newer Macbooks, and well, that was the thing we were interested in. Losing a laptop to crap design (shitty wall wart connector) is frustrating.

I like the wife's machine. Has an Nvidia graphics card with 1.5 gig video memory. Runs Adobe suite and everything else like a champ.

Recommendation from this quarter is therefore a non-Retina MBP with Thunderbolt.

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Post by kslight » Tue Jun 02, 2015 9:50 am

apropos of nothing wrote:I'm pretty pissed at Apple for ditching the one thing I care about on the MBP. We're an all-Windows household. Despite this the wife has the MacBook Pro. The reason for this is magsafe, which is the mechanism by which Apple *formerly* made it non-problematic to trip over your power-cord. They decided to ditch this on the newer Macbooks, and well, that was the thing we were interested in. Losing a laptop to crap design (shitty wall wart connector) is frustrating.

I like the wife's machine. Has an Nvidia graphics card with 1.5 gig video memory. Runs Adobe suite and everything else like a champ.

Recommendation from this quarter is therefore a non-Retina MBP with Thunderbolt.
The 2015 MBP and Air currently still bear the MagSafe connector, or were you only talking about the straight Macbook?

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Post by jhharvest » Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:20 am

I use a 27" iMac. It's for me at the lower limit where I don't need a second screen. Rubbish connectivity in the new models but I don't have much outboard.

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Post by ott0bot » Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:21 pm

One item of note, on the new 21.5 iMacs (and Mac Mini) you can't upgrade the RAM yourself. You have to pay the Apple price for the memory. I kind of hate that.

I need a upgrade bad. My 2006 iMac is maxed out at 3 GB of RAM and no lightning bolt connection. Running UAD and pro tools 10/11 is challenging to say the least once the track count exceeds 20 tracks, FireWire external drives are almost unusable due to the UAD bandwidth.

At this point it's either a last gen Mac Mini (2012) with an upgraded fusion drive and maxed out ram so I can run Mountain Lion and therefore keep PT 10 and my beloved RTAS plugs.

But I might just make the jump to the new iMac and move to PT 11, then use my old machine if I need to revisit older projects. It'll be a better investment long term.

But if I had the $$ I'd get the new Mac Pro trashcan. They run smooth and quiet, and fast as Hermes. Personally, I dig the design.

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Post by SpencerMartin » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:31 am

Thanks, guys! There is some great advice here.

What I anticipate doing is buying a refurbished, newest last generation Westmere style Mac Pro. I'll then install additional RAM and solid state system/storage drives myself. It seems to me that going with that approach would get the most bang for the buck. I'm also assuming that it should run pretty quietly with SSDs.

I'm so pumped! I knew it was time when I opened a PT project from two years ago to investigate mix settings and my computer couldn't even begin to play it back. Instant CPU error message.

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Post by apropos of nothing » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:53 am

kslight wrote:
apropos of nothing wrote:I'm pretty pissed at Apple for ditching the one thing I care about on the MBP.
The 2015 MBP and Air currently still bear the MagSafe connector, or were you only talking about the straight Macbook?
There was much discussion around March and April. I had been under the impression that the transition was going to be through the line, but it is, as you point out, limited to the new Macbook Airs, which as one article mentions may be too light for magsafe to function effectively.

I maybe overreacting, being a little jaded from Apple's previous attempts to ditch SCSI and Firewire without adequate data connectivity replacements available.

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Post by John Jeffers » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:59 am

Couple of thoughts from a long-time Mac user.

The current Apple lineup kind of sucks. There's no ideal solution for pro audio users. Everything is one compromise or another.

Prior to it being discontinued, I would have said without hesitation that the old Mac Pro tower (aka "Cheese Grater") was the no-brainer, if you could afford it, and you didn't need Thunderbolt. But now, even if you have the money, I don't really feel the Mac Pro "trash can" is a great choice. No internal expansion means everything you add has to be external, which means even more money for expansion chassis, and a rat's nest of cables. Plus, you're paying for dual video cards whether you need it or not. That sucks.

Moving on...forget about the new Macbook. The processor is anemic, and the port count is...essentially zero. It's a glorified iPad, and isn't meant for what we do.

I would not recommend a Macbook Pro, either, for one simple reason: fan noise. I have a 2014 MBP w/ 2.5 i7 & 16GB RAM, and while it's perfectly capable of running just about any session I throw at it, it's way too noisy when it's doing anything that gets the processor going.

When my 2008 cheese grater Mac Pro died last year, I was in this exact situation, and I opted for a 2012 Mac Mini with an i7. I bought it with stock RAM and a 256 GB SSD, then bought a 16 GB RAM upgrade and 2nd 480 GB SSD from OWC. I'm not going to lie -- installing the 2nd SSD yourself is not for the faint of heart. But that little computer has served me well for a while now.

The 2012 Minis are the last ones worth having for audio, IMO. The new ones are dual-core only.

If I were to buy right now, I'd probably go with an iMac, because that's going to get you the most bang for the buck. But, given that it's not expandable either, you better make sure you buy it with what you need, 'cause you are stuck with it. You'll find yourself in the same situation as the Mac Pro trash can with regard to external-only expansion, but at least you get a nice monitor included for the price, and you're not paying for dual video cards.

Like I said, everything in the current Apple lineup is a compromise. It's hard to defend being a Mac user these days. *sigh*
Last edited by John Jeffers on Fri Jun 05, 2015 7:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by John Jeffers » Fri Jun 05, 2015 7:01 am

SpencerMartin wrote:Thanks, guys! There is some great advice here.

What I anticipate doing is buying a refurbished, newest last generation Westmere style Mac Pro. I'll then install additional RAM and solid state system/storage drives myself. It seems to me that going with that approach would get the most bang for the buck. I'm also assuming that it should run pretty quietly with SSDs.

I'm so pumped! I knew it was time when I opened a PT project from two years ago to investigate mix settings and my computer couldn't even begin to play it back. Instant CPU error message.
You understand that with this choice you can never have Thunderbolt? It can't be added on later, because the old Xeon processors are incompatible.

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Post by mrc » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:14 am

I have a MacBook Air 11 inch, and MagSafe works just fine. I bought it to use with the UAD Twin. I use it with VSL Pro 5 to run soft synths and the ensemble on an 8 core Amd PC I already had. With VSL and UAD plugs, the I5 Air is plenty of processor and has the Thunderbolt required.

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Post by SpencerMartin » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:08 pm

John Jeffers wrote:You understand that with this choice you can never have Thunderbolt? It can't be added on later, because the old Xeon processors are incompatible.
Damn, I did not realize that! As it is now, I don't run any thunderbolt devices and don't see that being a huge issue. I also never run more than 12 simultaneous tracks of input. What I mostly need is more power for mixing. What do you think the greatest drawbacks of thunderbolt incompatibility would be?

Also, what's the processer speed of your 2012 Mac Mini and how many cores does it have? Would you recommend going that route instead if I could find a refurbished one?

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Post by John Jeffers » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:43 pm

SpencerMartin wrote:What do you think the greatest drawbacks of thunderbolt incompatibility would be?
Hard to say. You might find you get by without Thunderbolt just fine. There are certainly plenty of USB interfaces, and as long as you get a decent USB3 card for high-speed external disks, you might not miss Thunderbolt. Or, something new might come out in a year and you'll be bummed you can't use it.
Also, what's the processer speed of your 2012 Mac Mini and how many cores does it have? Would you recommend going that route instead if I could find a refurbished one?
I bought one with a 2.6 GHz quad-core i7, stock RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. That was $1100. Then I upgraded the RAM to 16 GB and added a 2nd 480 GB SSD. I bought the upgrades from OWC (macsales.com) for an additional $400-ish. The total cost was around $1500.

You might get more processing horsepower out of the Mac Pro route -- depending on which processor configuration you're looking at. I mean, a single i7 can't compete with dual 8-core Xeons, but the Mini I have does the job for me, at a pretty reasonable cost.

Good luck. I know it's a tough decision, 'cause I had to make the same choice last year.

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