I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Post Reply
tobimusic
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:22 am

I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by tobimusic » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:01 am

Hi!
I want to make music with live and some other virtual instruments. Because my budget is rather tight, I really need to think twice before I buy something, but if it's worth it I wouldn't have a problem to go over my budget :mrgreen: My question: Has the cheapest MacBook Pro enough power to run Live together with instruments and plugins? These are the specs: 2,3 GHz Dual-Core, Intel Core i5, 4 GB 1333 MHz RAM, Intel HD Graphics 3000 Grafics. If I need better specs, would it be enough to just upgrade the RAM to 8GB? At home I have an external audio interface. Do I need this for on the road or can I just plug my headphones/speaker directly into the MacBook?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Khazul
Posts: 3185
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Reading, UK

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by Khazul » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:59 am

Depends what you want to do with it.

intel grpahics slows down Live alot relative relative to the AMD/ATI GPU in the other MBPs - enough to make quite a difference on m MBP17, but that could be that the intel GPU struggles mjore with a 19200x1200 display - so maybe for the 13" model its less of a loss.
dual core i5 - well of course thats going to be slower for multiple tracks than a similar speed i7.
External audio interface with decent drivers also improves performance of Live.
Memory is more of a works or doesnt type thing - depends on the set sizes, instruments you use etc. Can allways upgrade later.
For me, the screen size/resolution is the mos cripppling, but could be fine for you.
HD speed really only affects boot time, application and instrument loading, set start up etc - doesnt really make that much difference to use of Live unless you compare vastly different HDs (6Gbps SATA 3 OWC SSD with the crappy stock seagate mechanical HDs) or are mxing alot of audio tracks.

Important thing right now is CPU choice and base model choice - not memory or HD as both can be fixed later. More than likely you will eventually want 8GB RAM.

That machine will be about 1/3rd the speed of the top end MBP 17 with the 2.3Ghz CPU if that helps place it. Ie still a decent machine and on par with (or better than?) even a high end 2010 model - perhaps even the best spec'd 2010 MBP17.

I dobt if you would get that much of an improvement between the two 13" models CPU options. OTOH a jump up to the 15 model will yield quite a jump in performance, but at quite a jump in price too.
Nothing to see here - move along!

tobimusic
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:22 am

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by tobimusic » Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:58 pm

Thanks for your reply! I think I will get the cheapest 13" then and maybe update to 8 GB RAM if needed. You are completely right - the 15" models bring more performance but are also much more pricey, too much for me.

Rave
Posts: 6152
Joined: Mon Oct 03, 2005 9:26 am

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by Rave » Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:38 pm

Get a Mac mini. I used to use one before I got my i7 iMac.

Khazul
Posts: 3185
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Reading, UK

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by Khazul » Tue Jul 05, 2011 6:10 pm

They should be due a refresh soon as well?
Nothing to see here - move along!

abluesky
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:08 pm

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by abluesky » Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:44 pm

Refresh is sometime next year, if my little birds know what they're talking about.

I just got the top-of-the-line MBP 15". 2.3 quad core i7 with 8g Ram and SSD. I'm lucky - I got this computer for free, hence loading up with options. I certainly could not afford this computer otherwise.

HOWEVER

Prior to this MBP, I used a $600 Toshiba Satellite. Prior to that, the very first intel Coreduo MBP!

THE POINT

IMHO, low end MBP's are NOT WORTH IT from a DSP performance perspective. If you are thinking about getting the most bang for your buck, I would take the money the 13" MBP costs and spec out the best PC alternative you can find. Software wise, most progs are dual platform, even more so for plugins.

BUT, IMHO, PC's can have other problems that were absent on my old MBP. For example: glitches present during rendering, graphical issues, strange processor performance (how come a set that previously maxed and 25% CPU now gltiches out over 100%?)

Now, if you are the tinkering type - which I am not - then you could try to debug and streamline the Windows OS and troubleshoot and eliminate the problem. I know many that have tight PC workstations (Hans Zimmer uses PC's). With Mac, I personally have had much less issues.

Now, using my old MBP for so long, and then a cheap Toshiba PC laptop had an amazing advantage when it came to producing - I learned how to maximize my resources using the minimal amount of CPU intensive applications. By this I mean that I couldn't slap plugin after plugin and layer synth after synth or what-have-you. I also ended up learning Live in a deep way, much deeper than my friends who have 12 core workstations (not to say there music suffers because of it).

I used to envy my friends multicore workstations and top of the line software and gear. But over the years I learned HOW to produce using LIMITED resources and learned how to make anything SOUND GOOD.

I believe that before getting too into 3rd party plugins, focus on Live and Live's plugins ESPECIALLY the eq, compressor, and reverb. Understand all of Live's possibilities and limitations vis a vis session view, arrangement, editing, etc. Really understand how to maximize Live's eq8, compressor types, and reverb. After that, move on the the autofilter and delay - none of which are essential if you take the time to learn Live and the eq, comp, and reverb. And don't forget the utility plug. Really helps for proper gain staging, essential for ITB digital mixes, as well as manipulating your stereo field.

As far as instruments go, take your time to pick one synth that you WILL MASTER, and a sampler. I can't recommend Ableton's Sampler enough. It should just come bundled with Live.

Everything that I just talked about, you can do with the 13"MBP, and you can do it well, even with room to spare for a nice dynamics processor when your ready, or a "higher end" reverb.

However, if you want to be able to run crazy Reaktor ensembles, huge Kontakt libraries, softsynths live U-He ACE or DCAM Synthsquad, you may want to look at the PC laptop.

memes_33
Posts: 867
Joined: Fri May 25, 2007 6:19 pm
Location: San Francisco, CA
Contact:

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by memes_33 » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:15 pm

^ probably the most unbiased mac v. pc info i've ever seen on this forum!
Hip-Hop, Breakbeat, Glitch, IDM, Dub, & Mashups! Go to:
http://memes.bandcamp.com
http://www.soundcloud.com/memes_33

vrt
Posts: 13
Joined: Sun Dec 05, 2010 5:39 pm

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by vrt » Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:04 am

I have an MBP, 13", base model with 2.4 Ghz processor, purchased last November, which works fine running Live Suite. I do not use any plugins or other software. My process involves 6 tracks which I improvise on the fly, nothing prerecorded. Two of these are audio, guitar and vocals. The other four are midi, two percussion involving Session Drums and two Operator synths. I run loopers on the audio tracks and clips for the midi. I apply maybe a dozen different effects, delay, compression, eq, phasing, amp & cab, and overdrive among the various tracks. My CPU runs at about 25%. My audio interface is a Focusrite USB 6, the cheapy.

To me, the lack of malware, beauty of the machine, and user experience justify the extra cost of an MBP. I've worked on PC's for almost 20 years as tech in large organizations, and I will never go back to to Windows for my personal systems. YMMV.

best regards,
Sal
abluesky wrote:Refresh is sometime next year, if my little birds know what they're talking about.

I just got the top-of-the-line MBP 15". 2.3 quad core i7 with 8g Ram and SSD. I'm lucky - I got this computer for free, hence loading up with options. I certainly could not afford this computer otherwise.

HOWEVER

Prior to this MBP, I used a $600 Toshiba Satellite. Prior to that, the very first intel Coreduo MBP!

THE POINT

IMHO, low end MBP's are NOT WORTH IT from a DSP performance perspective. If you are thinking about getting the most bang for your buck, I would take the money the 13" MBP costs and spec out the best PC alternative you can find. Software wise, most progs are dual platform, even more so for plugins.

BUT, IMHO, PC's can have other problems that were absent on my old MBP. For example: glitches present during rendering, graphical issues, strange processor performance (how come a set that previously maxed and 25% CPU now gltiches out over 100%?)

Now, if you are the tinkering type - which I am not - then you could try to debug and streamline the Windows OS and troubleshoot and eliminate the problem. I know many that have tight PC workstations (Hans Zimmer uses PC's). With Mac, I personally have had much less issues.

Now, using my old MBP for so long, and then a cheap Toshiba PC laptop had an amazing advantage when it came to producing - I learned how to maximize my resources using the minimal amount of CPU intensive applications. By this I mean that I couldn't slap plugin after plugin and layer synth after synth or what-have-you. I also ended up learning Live in a deep way, much deeper than my friends who have 12 core workstations (not to say there music suffers because of it).

I used to envy my friends multicore workstations and top of the line software and gear. But over the years I learned HOW to produce using LIMITED resources and learned how to make anything SOUND GOOD.

I believe that before getting too into 3rd party plugins, focus on Live and Live's plugins ESPECIALLY the eq, compressor, and reverb. Understand all of Live's possibilities and limitations vis a vis session view, arrangement, editing, etc. Really understand how to maximize Live's eq8, compressor types, and reverb. After that, move on the the autofilter and delay - none of which are essential if you take the time to learn Live and the eq, comp, and reverb. And don't forget the utility plug. Really helps for proper gain staging, essential for ITB digital mixes, as well as manipulating your stereo field.

As far as instruments go, take your time to pick one synth that you WILL MASTER, and a sampler. I can't recommend Ableton's Sampler enough. It should just come bundled with Live.

Everything that I just talked about, you can do with the 13"MBP, and you can do it well, even with room to spare for a nice dynamics processor when your ready, or a "higher end" reverb.

However, if you want to be able to run crazy Reaktor ensembles, huge Kontakt libraries, softsynths live U-He ACE or DCAM Synthsquad, you may want to look at the PC laptop.

ze2be
Posts: 3463
Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Europe

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by ze2be » Wed Jul 06, 2011 3:07 am

Are people still using macs? =)

hacktheplanet
Posts: 2846
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 6:37 am
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by hacktheplanet » Wed Jul 06, 2011 5:46 pm

I'd recommend the MBP, simply for the case. The aluminum is way better than the horrible plastic.
Image

rosti
Posts: 280
Joined: Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:23 pm
Location: HELLsinki

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by rosti » Wed Jul 06, 2011 6:52 pm

Rave wrote:Get a Mac mini. I used to use one before I got my i7 iMac.
The current mini is a total ripoff. 2.4ghz core^2 is way old for the price.. I would pay 300€ for that model :D

13" macbook pro is decent for Live. Unless you are going to use tons and tons of hi-end plugins. I have 4 years old 2.2ghz core^2 MBP with 4gb of RAM and its still usable for my productions...

abluesky
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:08 pm

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by abluesky » Wed Jul 06, 2011 7:14 pm

vrt wrote:I have an MBP, 13", base model with 2.4 Ghz processor, purchased last November, which works fine running Live Suite. I do not use any plugins or other software. My process involves 6 tracks which I improvise on the fly, nothing prerecorded. Two of these are audio, guitar and vocals. The other four are midi, two percussion involving Session Drums and two Operator synths. I run loopers on the audio tracks and clips for the midi. I apply maybe a dozen different effects, delay, compression, eq, phasing, amp & cab, and overdrive among the various tracks. My CPU runs at about 25%. My audio interface is a Focusrite USB 6, the cheapy.

To me, the lack of malware, beauty of the machine, and user experience justify the extra cost of an MBP. I've worked on PC's for almost 20 years as tech in large organizations, and I will never go back to to Windows for my personal systems. YMMV.

best regards,
Sal
abluesky wrote:Refresh is sometime next year, if my little birds know what they're talking about.

I just got the top-of-the-line MBP 15". 2.3 quad core i7 with 8g Ram and SSD. I'm lucky - I got this computer for free, hence loading up with options. I certainly could not afford this computer otherwise.

HOWEVER

Prior to this MBP, I used a $600 Toshiba Satellite. Prior to that, the very first intel Coreduo MBP!

THE POINT

IMHO, low end MBP's are NOT WORTH IT from a DSP performance perspective. If you are thinking about getting the most bang for your buck, I would take the money the 13" MBP costs and spec out the best PC alternative you can find. Software wise, most progs are dual platform, even more so for plugins.

BUT, IMHO, PC's can have other problems that were absent on my old MBP. For example: glitches present during rendering, graphical issues, strange processor performance (how come a set that previously maxed and 25% CPU now gltiches out over 100%?)

Now, if you are the tinkering type - which I am not - then you could try to debug and streamline the Windows OS and troubleshoot and eliminate the problem. I know many that have tight PC workstations (Hans Zimmer uses PC's). With Mac, I personally have had much less issues.

Now, using my old MBP for so long, and then a cheap Toshiba PC laptop had an amazing advantage when it came to producing - I learned how to maximize my resources using the minimal amount of CPU intensive applications. By this I mean that I couldn't slap plugin after plugin and layer synth after synth or what-have-you. I also ended up learning Live in a deep way, much deeper than my friends who have 12 core workstations (not to say there music suffers because of it).

I used to envy my friends multicore workstations and top of the line software and gear. But over the years I learned HOW to produce using LIMITED resources and learned how to make anything SOUND GOOD.

I believe that before getting too into 3rd party plugins, focus on Live and Live's plugins ESPECIALLY the eq, compressor, and reverb. Understand all of Live's possibilities and limitations vis a vis session view, arrangement, editing, etc. Really understand how to maximize Live's eq8, compressor types, and reverb. After that, move on the the autofilter and delay - none of which are essential if you take the time to learn Live and the eq, comp, and reverb. And don't forget the utility plug. Really helps for proper gain staging, essential for ITB digital mixes, as well as manipulating your stereo field.

As far as instruments go, take your time to pick one synth that you WILL MASTER, and a sampler. I can't recommend Ableton's Sampler enough. It should just come bundled with Live.

Everything that I just talked about, you can do with the 13"MBP, and you can do it well, even with room to spare for a nice dynamics processor when your ready, or a "higher end" reverb.

However, if you want to be able to run crazy Reaktor ensembles, huge Kontakt libraries, softsynths live U-He ACE or DCAM Synthsquad, you may want to look at the PC laptop.

I think you're approach to using Live perfectly illustrates what I was trying to say in my post. You use Ableton effects and instruments exclusively and you're limiting your track count to six tracks. Within this context, the MBP experience will shine.

Akshara
Posts: 377
Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:16 pm

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by Akshara » Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:06 pm

tobimusic wrote:My question: Has the cheapest MacBook Pro enough power to run Live together with instruments and plugins?
Yes. You'll be fine.

I have an older 2.4Ghz c2d w/4GB ram, upgraded to a 7200rpm internal and connected to an external eSATA audio drive, and am able to run about two dozen stereo audio tracks of Live 8.2.2 with Suite effects and instruments, along with a few instances of Kontakt and EWQL Play at the same time.

Besides a quality audio interface, good investments (besides more ram) for maximizing performance and track count with your system would be: an external Thunderbolt or FW800 drive (if using an USB audio interface) for audio recording and/or streaming sample libraries; and/or replacing the internal hard drive with a 7200 rpm drive or an SSD.

Machinesworking
Posts: 11122
Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2004 9:30 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: I need help with choosing the right MacBook

Post by Machinesworking » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:52 am

IMO the real value right now in the macbook pro line is the 15" i7 4 core 2.0 ghz. machine.
That thing it brutally fast, under $1,800, and has all the bells and whistles that the pro line has over other laptops. Thunderbolt, FW800, backlight keyboard etc.

At some point I'm going to pick one up.... never buy RAM from Apple though, unless you're absolutely fearful of installing RAM.

Post Reply