View Full Version : Dedicated music production MAC

8th June 2009, 02:32 AM
Hello there.

Apologies in advance for what might be to many avid users on here a generic question. But.

I'll be buying a MAC soon, it will be exclusivly for music production. I have done alot of reading and research around what I should look for in a MAC for this purpose but I'd value everybodys opinion on this.

Ok so..

Ill be, most likely using Logic.

I'll be making electronic/dance music in the vein of, for ease, Daft Punk, Justice, Fake Blood e.t.c.

I'll be using little hardware, focusing more on using VSTS and samples.

I'll also be using the program for recording and composing things from a different side of the music spectrum. Tunes for my punk rock/ska band. So i'll be recording live guitar into it (Is Logic ok for this?)

And thats basically it. Using a lot of Midi inputs and VSTS for the dance music. Needing capabilities to record live guitar vocals e.t.c. (all live elements) for the 'band'

I don't need anything more than 'basic' (or even just 'useable') graphics wise,
i'll never be playing any games on this, again, exclusivly for music production.

I'm pretty lost as to how much processor power, and RAM i need for something like this. Im just not knowledge enough about this side of things and would apprecaite anybodys input :)



8th June 2009, 01:36 PM
Logic Studio is a beast, so you're going to need sufficient grunt to do it justice. You won't need a Mac Pro supertower unless you plan on running thirty synths, a dozen effects and 24 tracks of realtime audio into it, so in your shoes I would look at an iMac, or if you have any plans about performing or recording your music live (on-stage) then a MacBook Pro.

An iMac would give you Core 2 Duo goodness, the ability to use a high-capacity 3.5" drive internally, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 for your audio interface and extra storage if needed, and USB for your control-surface. You also have a second video port so you can extend your working desktop to another screen -- very handy as DAW programs gobble screen real-estate like nobody's business. A MacBook Pro gives you almost the same degree of power and feature-set -- you lose the ability for large internal storage, but you gain an ExpressCard slot and portability.

OSX loves RAM. VSTs and AUs love CPU-grunt and RAM. Whichever machine you choose, you are going to want the maximum amount of RAM that your choice of machine will take. Instead of buying extra memory and high capacity drives at the Apple Store (and paying their incredibly insane AppleTax pricing), order your machine with the minimum, then add your own choice of drive and quality RAM once it gets to your home. Obviously the higher the CPU speed the better, but the higher you go the more of a premium you pay. You can save a considerable amount by not choosing top-of-the-line.

Choosing an audio interface is just as important as choosing your computer -- you want something flexible, capable, and clean, without being too complex or too expensive. You want something that is FireWire-based, has at least two channels of audio in and out (four is better), have at least one balanced XLR microphone input, and can also do MIDI. For my money, it's pretty hard to beat the MOTU Ultralite, and a very very close second choice is the Mackie Onyx Satellite. Both units are around A$600.

Working with softsynths without a control surface is extremely painful, so you should factor one into your budget; thankfully, there are a lot of choices here to meet almost any budget, ranging from the Korg nanoKONTROL for around the hundred dollar mark, through to the Behringer CF fader consoles for $300-ish, the Novation ReMOTE for $500 to $1,000 (depends if you want a keyboard as well, and if so, how many octaves) up to the giant Mackie Universal Control (which looks like a large mixing-desk) for a couple grand. For dance music, I highly recommend the Novation ReMOTE 25 SL (around $700) as a do-everything MIDI controller, or if you already have a MIDI keyboard you like, the ReMOTE Zero (around $450). The ReMOTE's intelligent automapping and fast patch control, coupled with a large number of controllers, are definitely worth the extra money -- anything which keeps your mind on the music and away from the computer is worth its weight in gold, trust me.

8th June 2009, 02:13 PM
I'll be buying a MAC soon

Great. When you do, remember it's a Mac not a MAC ;)

8th June 2009, 04:55 PM
to be honest Daft Punk's first album in particular had nothing to do with computers, it was some old roland gear into a 4 track and similar ... a real bedroom album. Even Justice is a minimal sound.

if you want the current generation of tech, you will pay a lot. But doof has been made for years on much less powerful machines than today's latest generation of machines and software. Mylo's 2004 album was made on a g3 imac, so hunt around and find something to get started and just make some music. :) Good luck.

8th June 2009, 09:27 PM
You might also want to check out Ableton Live for your primary DAW. I use both it and Logic Studio, and while i personally prefer Logic for most of my work, Live certainly has it's areas of complete domination over the other more conventional DAWs when used in the right situation.

You'll be able to try it without limitation for 14 days, just download it off the Ableton website.

For the record, i use Logic Studio and Ableton Live, on a 2.4GHz MacBook Pro with 4GB RAM, using both an Apogee Duet (excellent 2 channel interface) and an M-Audio ProFire 2626 (great 8 channel interface). I am yet to run into any problems caused by a lack of processing grunt from the computer... however, be wary of your HDD choice - a WD MyStudio FW800 i own caused massive headaches for months due to not streaming data fast enough to record multiple channels at once.

9th June 2009, 11:59 AM
Thanks everybody for their help and information.

Basically what I'm primarily asking is for what I want to use it for, how much ram & ghz would be overkill. Im on a budget, and I don't want to shirk and buy something that isn't going to do what I need it too, but at the same time need to try budget things down a bit.

I was looking at the 2-" imac. As its 2.66GHZ for $2000. 2GBRAM Where as any
Or..Mac Book Pro..

$2400 - 13" 2.4ghz - 4GB memorey

I just really need to know what NOT to go above..like what will be over kill, from what I said I'd use it for.

I'd love to keep talking, cheers guys.

9th June 2009, 07:56 PM
There's no 'upper limit' when it comes to CPU gruntability or RAM when it comes to DAWs -- the more you have of both, the smoother everything runs, the more synths and effects you can use at once, and the more samples you can have in memory. I know people who do crankin' live sets from a basic C2D lappy running Live and a cheapo MIDI knob-box without things crunching or chugging, I know people with fully-decked Mac Pro rigs who are always bumping up against the performance ceiling. It isn't what you have that's important, it's how it's used.

A budget is important: don't say "I need x and y and q, I want to spend roughly $4,000", you say "I have $4,000, I need x and y and as much q as I can get with what's left."

I'll assume you have some decent monitors or a quality amp-and-speakers setup already. If you don't, then this is where you spend your money first. Alesis A1 Mk II actives still reign as most popular home studio speakers, but if you can afford to spend more, look at Mackies. If you can't justify the $800-odd for the A1's, the Behringer Truths are an acceptable fallback. The less you spend on speakers, the less you will be able to trust your mixes.

Start with the interface, figure out how many channels you want in & out, then look at what FireWire based ones are around. This will be more important to you than the computer itself, so you cannot afford to stint on quality -- be thorough in your research, talk to musos, ask questions here or in other audio-centric forums, read reviews, weigh the pros & cons. Next is a control surface / MIDI controller. If you get that Korg nanoKONTROL I mentioned, you get a decent discount voucher towards a copy of Ableton Live. Next up will be your choice of DAW, and the prices here won't be all that flexible. Take the figures gathered so far off your total budget to get a final figure that is what you have to spend on your computer.

10th June 2009, 05:15 AM
You talk alot of sense Brains. Thanks for being so real about this. Cheers :) Im just eager to get some new gear (my computer really sucks right now) and get going. Im just excited, ya know :)

Im looked at the brand new Mac Books today. $2400 Aus dollers gets me a
13" 2.53ghz 4GBRAM. I think that looks pretty attractive.

10th June 2009, 05:22 AM
I've looked at a few monitors. What do you think about these 2, and the prices.

KRK RP6 G2 White Studio Monitors $750
Behringer B303A TRUTH $520

Theres alot of various TRUTH models out there. Could you shed some light on the differences between the different TRUTH models and what i should be looking at..they range from $220 right up $570

Thanks man, really do appreciate all the help :)

10th June 2009, 09:52 AM
Monitors are very personal and you should really listen to anything you are looking at buying with music you know well.

The Truths are cheap and probably reasonable value, the cheaper ones are usually passive (need an external amp) rather than active (have an internal amp). The Rokit series (I have the 5s) sound good but are not a neutral monitor (hyped low end) so your mixes can sound a little gutless on other systems. You can learn to adjust to any monitor but it is easier to work with the better ones.

I have heard that the new MAudio DSM (http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/StudiophileDSM1.html) series out in the next month or so will start at around $1000 are very good. They have digital & analog input which is the way monitors seem to be going. Another worth a look are the Alesis M1 Mark2 (http://www.turramusic.com.au/Pages/CatalogueItem.aspx?CIID=119), I have not heard them but folks here seem to love em.

Have a listen to Dynaudio, Adam and Genelec monitors if you get a chance to hear what you get for over $1500, there is a big difference.

I've looked at a few monitors. What do you think about these 2, and the prices.

KRK RP6 G2 White Studio Monitors $750
Behringer B303A TRUTH $520

Theres alot of various TRUTH models out there. Could you shed some light on the differences between the different TRUTH models and what i should be looking at..they range from $220 right up $570

Thanks man, really do appreciate all the help :)

10th June 2009, 05:04 PM
Again, thank you for eveybodys help ! Been having a good look at monitors today.

I have another question. Just want peoples 2 cents on this.

I've read that apple seem to charge alot for their RAM.

Heres 2 systems Im looking at...

#1 13-inch: 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB Memory $1900
#2 13-inch: 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Intel Core 2 Duo 4GB Memory $2400

For what i've explained what i'll be using it for.

Do you guys think it'd be more beneficial to buy system #1 and then buy an extra 2gb RAM seperatly..

Or is worth the extra $500 for an extra 0.25 ghz and 2gb ram.

Just wondering simply because I just read that apple's ram costs alot.


as it only looks like its going to cost me $38 to go from 2GB to 4GB if i get the cheaper version. So to that end, is jumping from 2.26ghz to 2.53ghz worth $500 ? Will i see much difference in what I'm using it for.

10th June 2009, 06:49 PM
Get whatever you can afford -- the more clock cycles you have, the better, obviously, but the faster the machine, the higher the premium becomes.

12th June 2009, 12:14 AM
I've just spent a while reading about Snow Leopard. Coming with All Macs past September 2009 right?

A couple of questions.

#1 Will the new Mac Book Pro's prices remain what they are untill September 2009 if I want to buy one that will come with Snow Leopard.

#2 For what I want to use the machine for. (Purely Music Production - Logic - VSTS (not much hardware) - ABELTON LIVE . Will waiting untill Snow Leopard affect my experience at all ? I read through everything about it on here and on the Apple website and there doesn't really seem to be anything specific to my purposes?

I don't know. I just want everybodys 2 cents I supposse about what Snow Leopard will mean.

Thanks again all :)


15th June 2009, 12:37 PM
I'm a ProTools guy, so won't get involved here, but Brains' machine info is on the money.

Re: monitors - I'd definitely go the KRKs over the Truths (I have the Truths). Coloured or not, the KRKs specs are siginificantly better IMO.

15th June 2009, 08:27 PM
Hello... only just saw this thread.

Monitor wise, the KRK's are good, and better IMO than the Behringer B2031A (8 inch) and B2030A (6 inch) models.

However, Behringer upgraded the Truths; for $100 AUD more for the 6 or 8 inch model, check out the B3030A (6 inch ribbon) or B3031A (8 inch ribbon). These i've listened to quite a bit lately, more the 6's... and I'd go either over the KRKs personally, and they are cheaper. You must listen to the yourself however, it's a personal thing. Listen to commercial music and/or music you know extremely well. You're looking for an accurate idea of the song, not hyped, extra detail but not exagerated.

Money being no object, and not getting into silly territory (eg $5k +) I'd go Adam A7's, without a doubt. 5 yr warranty, made in germany by a company who only makes monitors and they make some up to $100k a pair for big studio mains.

Anyway, the Behringer's with the ribbon tweeter and redesigned woofers sound shockingly more close to the Adams than most other things, and they're cheap.


OK, down to logic.
Logic has a massive amount of plugs/instruments. It has a decent synth/sample based drum machine, and all sorts of goodies. It's massively deep and when on the PC cost about $8k if you bought all the optional bits (the main program, Logic Platinum, was $2200, with only basic plugins; Space Designer was $1699 alone as an addon) Apple snapped up the company that made it, aborted the PC version (much to my chargin at the time) dropped it to $1500 for the whole set, incredible value, except it's improved and expanded over the years and it's not $649... nuts! Just get it.

Audio interface wise, be aware that yes, you do want an external... but try to get something 'class compliant' this means it's driverless, and will work on Leopard, Snow Leopard, Sloth, or whatever OS apple comes up with next. If you want pristine audio, get an Apogee Duet, there is nothing better without spending $2k +, they're mac only and about $700 AUD. Not class compliant though, but great drivers.

Now, ram can be added later. Get the best system you can. My point is that it's easy to pop ram in. Yes you want 4GB, but 2GB will work, I use logic studio on a 13" unibody 2GB ram and it's fine. Get a big HD if it's a laptop, logic will chew ~42GB of drive space on installation.

Now, don't fret about not getting a Mac Pro! It's not needed. Logic doesn't (yet) really thrash other cores anyway. Sure a Pro is faster, but it's not essential.

One of the big advantages to anything that isn't Pro Tools, is that you can render (mix down) your project at whatever speed your CPU can handle. Meaning, you have a 5 min track with so much stuff in it that your computer can't play it back. In Pro Tools, you're stuffed, you have to remove things and simplify your track to get it to bounce. Logic would just take longer than 5 mins to bounce, but it would work. Or more normally, as you're cpu isn't being maxed out, a 5 min track might bounce in 2 mins.

Logic was first to introduce 'Freeze' functionality. Suppose you have a big mix and you add a softsynth track and pop a convolution reverb on it (should be done as a send, not an insert, but i'm using this example) anyway you have a track that results in playback hickuping. There is a snowflake icon on each track, called freeze. Press it, and hit play; nearly instantly logic will render that track to audio. It will then play fine, but you can't edited it. Instead of the data triggering the audio and running the effects in real time on your CPU, it's now just playing back a boring audio file, a recording of the track that uses basicly no CPU. If you want to edit, click the snow flake again and it's now running on the CPU and you can edit and refreeze when needed.

This gives you limitless power, essentially... and is one of the great things about logic. Other software (DP, Cubase, Sonar) has this now, but I enjoyed it in Logic first and prefer their implementation.

So don't worry about CPU power, any of the systems you're considering are fine.

The big benefit to logic over the other guys is the included instruments and effects, loops, and power.

The downside to logic though, is old, clumsy time stretching options. This is only important for remixing work, at which point you should investigate Ableton Live. You can run Live as a rewire plugin inside logic though, and have the best of both worlds: Live comes with very rudimentary / horrid instruments, but great effects.

rtc on the road
15th June 2009, 09:53 PM
Like these guys say, spend your money on your monitors (and amp!!), then interface, then computer last.

With your computer allocation, direct your bucks toward processor spec instead of RAM or disk space... these (RAM/storage) can be added later for a fraction of the apple cost.

I'm personally stuck on some old-ish technology myself, which is more than enough for my needs. I use a once-crappy (now souped) dual 2.0 PPC G5 with only 1.5gb of RAM, and can run logic, live, reason or traktor without too much in the way of hiccups. Sometimes reason can chug a bit with heaps of samples and effects loaded or a complex song, but like someone said earlier you can work with tracks that your computer can't play by exporting them. Less convenient but do-able. I have even been known to run garageband into reason through rewire just to get some notes on the page in a hurry, and that seems to work fine too. For the record I use a M-Audio Delta 1010 PCI card interface and a Roland PC-200II.

16th June 2009, 12:42 AM
Logic and Live is a killer combo that you're going to spend the next year learning what it can do . Add to that the every growing number of free Mac AUs and VSTs and other nifty audiowares, and you stand a chance of being overwhelmed with choice. A good place to find free Mac audiostuffs is over at StudioToolz (http://www.studiotoolz.net/), the free OSX audiosofts tracker. Then there's the 320+ free Mac plugins and apps listed over at KVR Audio (http://www.kvraudio.com/get.php?mode=results&st=adv&soft%5B%5D=i&soft%5B%5D=e&soft%5B%5D=h&soft%5B%5D=d&type%5B%5D=0&f%5B%5D=au&f%5B%5D=rtas&f%5B%5D=vst&osx=1&free=1&sf=0&receptor=&de=0&sort=1&rpp=15&compact=1).

And there's another hidden bit of magic only available to Mac users -- Plasq WormHole (http://code.google.com/p/wormhole2/), now free, which lets you link two VST or AU hosts together as one larger virtual instrument via networking. Designed as a cross platform system for transfering VSTlink and AU data via ethernet, it also works suprisingly well with most VST and AU hosts if you run WormHole inside a Windows-based host on a virtual machine, such as VMware Fusion. This comes in really handy as you can use a simple VST host such as Cantabile Lite (http://www.cantabilesoftware.com/features/lite.html) to hang one of the hundreds of free WIndows-only VSTs in, and then pipe them back over to a VST host under MacOS. Very cool.

(I wonder if Cantabile + Wormhole - or something like that - can run in Crossover? A small x86-only app that could run Win32 VSTs and dump them out as Core AUs, like one of those DX-to-VST wrapper programs Windows users endure ... that'd be so cool.)

Thanks to the diversity of plugin instruments and effects available today, it is very very easy to get all packrat-ish, and get and install stuff into your host just because you can. This is a Bad Idea. By all means, nab new plug-ins and try them out, but find a small set that you can get to know really really well and stick to them. The more intuitive you can drive your plugins, and the further you can push their limits, the better you will sound.

Snow Leopard
19th June 2009, 10:21 PM
You talk alot of sense Brains.

that is why he is called brains :D