Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Psychoactive_Music
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Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by Psychoactive_Music » Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:12 pm

I'm looking into buying a macbook pro to use for music production,engineering and mastering with ableton live and pro tools 11
I'd like to future proof my computational power for at least 3 years, but I don't want to spend money unnecessarily on extra processor power or ram unless it will benefit audio production specifically

Needless to say I've spent a lot of time researching the haswell processor, the up coming broadwell, how much ram is available with each spec ect and comparisons on youtube between models and how they compare in raw number crunching tests.

But , specifically for audio production , it's difficult to find out information on what spec is going to benefit most for the money.

For example, I learnt that upgrading the processor clock speed might be money wasted for certain applications because that will only benefit programs that utilize single threads, and won't help much with multi threaded applications
Pro tools websites recommends 8 gig ram , but not much other help is available there

So, Any opinions or information you might have to share will be greatly appreciated,Thank you.

savyurrecords
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by savyurrecords » Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:33 pm

It is hard to balance the things that you want to. Sure you can read spec sheets, reviews, etc. but no one is going to know how well your system is going to perform with your workflow. The simple answer is buy the best that you can afford. If you are budget conscious than you need to stay away from any technology brand new as that will always carry a premium for the early adopters.

The biggest problem with your question is you have left out the most important factor. How will you be using Live/Pro Tools?

Only EDM production?
Recording acoustic sounds?
Bedroom production or professional?

A simple Macbook can make beautiful music but will you be able to run 10 instances of Kontakt simultaneously? Do you need to?

Help us help you.

Psychoactive_Music
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by Psychoactive_Music » Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:49 pm

Thanks for you're response.

I plan to upgrade to Ableton 9 and protools 11 ,with an apollo twin duo interface to record a wide range of instruments like guitar, bass, violin and percussion

I like to make Electronic sounds and productions to blend with these recordings, and often use soft synths such as massive, Fm8 and Ableton's stock synths, as well as a lot of Ableton packs that can be quite hungry on the cpu

I work clean, I keep my projects simple to concentrate on the music, but sometimes when I'm 'In the zone' I can have many midi tracks playing simultaneously and a lot of audio tracks, which with my current set up (2.6 intel duo i5, 6 Gig ram, 5200rpm HDD Ableton 9) can cause audio drop outs from the HDD struggling to steam samples, the CPU trips, and 6 gig of ram is below the recommended amount for Ableton running in 64 bit.

But I'm trying not to spend too much on computational power which might go unused , so that I can have more money to spend on a decent pair of monitors!

Also, I was reluctant at first, but I am also thinking about imac as an option to get a better spec for a smaller amount of cash.

jlgrimes
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by jlgrimes » Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:42 am

Keep in mind that people are complaining about how Live looks on the Retina display. That said about any i7 should be great for audio production. With freezing and Bouncing, you can get by with weaker processors. Your processor is only really going to matter if you intend on using the modern Super accurate VA synths such as Diva, Monark, Synth Squad. The big factors are Ram, and HD space.

I would max out the ram or get at least 16 gigs if you plan on using lots of large sample libraries such as Kontakt.

Consider going Solid State drives (not sure if new MBPs still use mechanical drives).

If you don't mind using an external Hard drive for external samples and recording, you can perfectly get by with 256 GB. For a more stationary studio this would save you some cash.

If you are primarily just recording audio, you can get by with a lower end MBP. Most low end MBPs anyway tend to be pretty powerful.


I got a MacBook Air coming in in a few days (for on the go production).

jimfowler
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by jimfowler » Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:51 am

i was in the same boat as you a year or so ago. i ended up going with the fastest processor and regular amount of ram (i don't use big libraries). i couldn't be happier. i can upgrade the ram and hd if i want (no longer an option on the retina machines, i think). i consider myself pretty good to go for the next few years.

studiojohnny
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by studiojohnny » Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:18 am

CPU is the most important thing. Max out the CPU.

-John

Mané Diaz
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by Mané Diaz » Sun Jun 22, 2014 6:58 am

I use a 15 inch non Retina MBP 2012 2.3 GHZ 16 GB RAM, Replaced the 5400 Drive with a Samsung 128GB Drive and I record on to a Lacie 7200 Rugged HDD.

All of my packs except for my core library are stored on my External Drive.

I keep my internal HDD at least half empty at all times.

I don't run huge projects, but I generally have a combination of Midi and Audio as well as recording audio in and experience no problems.

I've worked doing sales for Apple corporate for 4 years, for businesses and individuals, many people I help are musicians/studio owners.

The main thing that I've noticed is that people generally have no idea how to manage their resources and wind up with machines underperforming very quickly.

I know the internal PCI Flash Storage drives are super fast, but I still recommend at least having some sort of knowledge of data management, read and write, in and out flow of how each element of your DAW impacts your system.

From my experience, heavy Midi will tax the shit out of a processor. Midi, while simple in function, can become complex and heavy in application. The computer must receive the input, interpret it, and then use that interpretation to communicate with Ableton's built in instruments or external plugins to create sound that is then created and sent out through your specified audio output. If you add in live performance and alteration to that, you are dealing with something super fucking heavy.

Imagine communicating with an interpreter in english, who then has to go back and communicate your message to 5 different people speaking 5 different languages, receive their answer back, and then reproduce their message back to you with every minute detail, inflection, dialect etc, all the while you could be on the other end constantly changing your mind. :)

This is largely handled by the CPU as the CPU is the brain of the computer. It makes sense to have the smartest person you can hire for this job, and if you can clone them, that's not such a bad idea either. I hope I did not just confuse the shit out of everyone :)

Psychoactive_Music
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by Psychoactive_Music » Sun Jun 22, 2014 6:09 pm

Thank you Mané Diazu , studiojohnny , jim fowler, jlgrimes, savyurrecords

Mané that is really helpful, and you're analogies are great
Can you suggest a website to help me learn about memory management,read and write, in and out ect?

Also, how painless is the process of installing packs onto a seperate hdd? do you simply choose the destination to save to and ableton will find them ?

mikb
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by mikb » Sun Jun 22, 2014 8:52 pm

Psychoactive_Music wrote:I'm looking into buying a macbook pro to use for music production,engineering and mastering with ableton live and pro tools 11
I'd like to future proof my computational power for at least 3 years, but I don't want to spend money unnecessarily on extra processor power or ram unless it will benefit audio production specifically
Max out RAM as it's locked. No future upgrades possible. There's no such thing as too much RAM.

Recent information makes the i7 more attractive as it has more cores, which Live according to Ableton — openly and in private conversations —  does use effectively. It's possible there will come new MacBooks with even more effective processors in the near future, but this is always the case.

Also, get an audio interface with reliable low latency drivers for the OS X version you plan to use. like RME (very important not to skimp on this).
Basic gear info: Macbook Pro with macOS 10.12, Ableton Live Suite version 9 (64bit) with Ozone, Push and APC20 as controllers.

Harmonic Progression
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by Harmonic Progression » Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:15 am

Another vote here for the i7 processor, lots of memory, and a fast SSD.

Also, keep in mind that sample-based libraries can be huge, and it can take several seconds to load patches into a sampler such as Kontakt or the Ableton sampler; purely because it takes time to read these samples off of the hard drive where they're stored. Ample fast internal storage is nice for these because it takes less time to load them into memory.

I have a laptop (not listed in my signature) that has 2 TB of internal storage (fast 7200 RPM hard drives because at the time nobody made SSDs bigger than 512 GB), with room for a third drive. About 75% of these laptop drives are already used up by my sample libraries.

I want to buy a rMBP someday, but the built-in SSDs seem to be pretty small so it's difficult to justify any MBP that actually has LESS available storage and to make matters worse, it CANNOT be upgraded! At least I had the ability to replace the factory drives in the aforementioned laptop above. It was a hassle packing and keeping track of 2 to 4 external drives everytime I wanted to go someplace with my laptop.
Desktop: Intel i7 hex-core, 64 GB ram, several SSDs, Focusrite Liquid 56, UAD-2.
Laptop: Alienware Area 51: Intel i9, 32 GB RAM, several more SSDs, UAD Apollo Twin.
Software: Win 10, Cubase, Live+Push2, Maschine, and more.

mikb
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by mikb » Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:51 am

Harmonic Progression wrote:Another vote here for the i7 processor, lots of memory, and a fast SSD.
I want to buy a rMBP someday, but the built-in SSDs seem to be pretty small
I forgot to get into storage so thank you. I'm contemplating the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.6 15" (Late 2013) with 1TB PCIe and 16GB myself. 1TB is available for the 15-inch models and the faster 13-inch model. The latter MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.8 13" (Late 2013) with 16gb/1tb being a smaller and a little cheaper alternative. Seems very attractive.

If you can make do with 512GB, then you could also test drive the Macbook air with i7, but storage maxes out with 512GB and I'm not sure about performance. I'm currently on 1tb, so can't see myself going back really.
Basic gear info: Macbook Pro with macOS 10.12, Ableton Live Suite version 9 (64bit) with Ozone, Push and APC20 as controllers.

estibi
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by estibi » Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:47 pm

Psychoactive_Music wrote:I'm looking into buying a macbook pro to use for music production,engineering and mastering with ableton live and pro tools 11
I'd like to future proof my computational power for at least 3 years, but I don't want to spend money unnecessarily on extra processor power or ram unless it will benefit audio production specifically
...
So, Any opinions or information you might have to share will be greatly appreciated,Thank you.
I would suggest avoid MBP with a dedicated graphic card. It tends to overheat very quickly.
I have a MBP 2011 with 2.2 i7 (4 cores) and 8GB of RAM.
From my perspective you will need a SSD drive and a fast i7 CPU, however keep in mind while i7 is a fast CPU you will probably don't use it's potential on a mobile machine because of overheating (unless they figured out how to cool CPU more efficient in current models). I would do a CPU stress tests in an ambient temperature before a buy.

People tend to say you need a lot of ram. Well, it's good to have more ram then you need and with a current not upgradeable models I would go with 16GB. That being said, Ableton itself don't need that amount and will not use that anyway unless you use memory hungry plugins and other apps and 64bit version of Live.

Mané Diaz
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by Mané Diaz » Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:18 pm

Psychoactive_Music wrote:Thank you Mané Diazu , studiojohnny , jim fowler, jlgrimes, savyurrecords

Mané that is really helpful, and you're analogies are great
Can you suggest a website to help me learn about memory management,read and write, in and out ect?

Also, how painless is the process of installing packs onto a seperate hdd? do you simply choose the destination to save to and ableton will find them ?
No problem bro. I like sharing my experiences.

The website I've learned the most on is www.macperformanceguide.com.. They are mostly focused on photography, but I found a lot of information there that I was able to apply to audio. I no longer have a separate HDD dedicated for my home folder, but I've found a lot of good information there.

It's very easy to install packs on a separate HDD. I believe it's actually in the general Ableton Settings. I created a folder called Ableton Packs on my external HDD and point to it there. When it's unplugged they are greyed out, when I plug in the external, it finds them automatically. It seems like the only thing I have to tell it to find is my Live 8 Library. Not sure why that is.

One thing that's very important to keep in mind as well is the difference between USB and Firewire/Thunderbolt. I stick with Firewire for my drives instead of USB. I don't understand every technical detail, but firewire/thunderbolt have a more direct way of sending and receiving information, where as USB's path is more complex, and that path can often come at the expense of other computer resources, basically bogging things down a bit.

I think of it like driving vs taking a greyhound bus. Driving on your own from one city to another is direct, taking a greyhound will get you there too, but you may have to visit every fuckin bumfuck city in between 2 cities, bogging things down and by the time you get there you may be fuckin tired from the long travel lol.

Also something I have found to be invaluable is using extra RAM as RAM disks. There is an inexpensive application called iRAM disk you can get from the Mac App store that lets you use portions of your RAM as a temporary HDD.

I use these for my Ableton Temp recordings folder, and my Ableton Cache. This means that I actually record into RAM. Which is still like wayyy faster than any SSD out there.

You can even set iRAM disk to automatically backup stuff for you so you don't accidentally lose it (as RAM clears itself upon system restart. This is a great reason to get more RAM even if you run in 32 bit mode.

mikb
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by mikb » Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:34 pm

estibi wrote: would do a CPU stress tests in an ambient temperature before a buy.
Prebuy testing is vital. I wouldn't be afraid of overheating. I never overheated any MacBook Pro even though they run hot.
estibi wrote: Ableton itself don't need that amount and will not use that anyway unless you use memory hungry plugins and other apps and 64bit version of Live.
There's no reason I'm aware of to not use 64bit Live 9 as it has lower latency than the 32bit version. With 64bit you can in theory execute more code simultaneously, which may be behind this. 32bit is over as far as I'm concerned unless you are on OS X 10.6.
Basic gear info: Macbook Pro with macOS 10.12, Ableton Live Suite version 9 (64bit) with Ozone, Push and APC20 as controllers.

Psychoactive_Music
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Re: Ideal Macbook spec for audio production

Post by Psychoactive_Music » Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:24 pm

Mané Diaz wrote:
Psychoactive_Music wrote:Thank you Mané Diazu , studiojohnny , jim fowler, jlgrimes, savyurrecords

Mané that is really helpful, and you're analogies are great
Can you suggest a website to help me learn about memory management,read and write, in and out ect?

Also, how painless is the process of installing packs onto a seperate hdd? do you simply choose the destination to save to and ableton will find them ?
No problem bro. I like sharing my experiences.

The website I've learned the most on is http://www.macperformanceguide.com.. They are mostly focused on photography, but I found a lot of information there that I was able to apply to audio. I no longer have a separate HDD dedicated for my home folder, but I've found a lot of good information there.

It's very easy to install packs on a separate HDD. I believe it's actually in the general Ableton Settings. I created a folder called Ableton Packs on my external HDD and point to it there. When it's unplugged they are greyed out, when I plug in the external, it finds them automatically. It seems like the only thing I have to tell it to find is my Live 8 Library. Not sure why that is.

One thing that's very important to keep in mind as well is the difference between USB and Firewire/Thunderbolt. I stick with Firewire for my drives instead of USB. I don't understand every technical detail, but firewire/thunderbolt have a more direct way of sending and receiving information, where as USB's path is more complex, and that path can often come at the expense of other computer resources, basically bogging things down a bit.

I think of it like driving vs taking a greyhound bus. Driving on your own from one city to another is direct, taking a greyhound will get you there too, but you may have to visit every fuckin bumfuck city in between 2 cities, bogging things down and by the time you get there you may be fuckin tired from the long travel lol.

Also something I have found to be invaluable is using extra RAM as RAM disks. There is an inexpensive application called iRAM disk you can get from the Mac App store that lets you use portions of your RAM as a temporary HDD.

I use these for my Ableton Temp recordings folder, and my Ableton Cache. This means that I actually record into RAM. Which is still like wayyy faster than any SSD out there.

You can even set iRAM disk to automatically backup stuff for you so you don't accidentally lose it (as RAM clears itself upon system restart. This is a great reason to get more RAM even if you run in 32 bit mode.
Thank you for you're advice man, and another great analogy.
This is why it's great to be part of the audio community

I have some decisions to make, but now I feel much more informed and happy to invest in a mac

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