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Advice on a new computer (Mac) for home recording

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Inconnu, Jan 17, 2017.

  1. Hi!

    Music is a serious hobby for me, but a hobby still... Recording is part of it. I record small personal projects for myself and I record my band (in our rehearsal space, which is the drummer's basement). Plugged into my computer is a Tascam US-1800, which allows me to record the whole band live, with different trances for each instruments (multiple tracks for drums). Bass is usually recorded with a SansAmp RBI, I have an extra preamp for vocals (plus bandmates have extra gear.

    I'm currently using an 8 year old basic (read "entry level") MacBook and GarageBand. I've never needed more then GarageBand for the type of projects I'm doing and it never failed, really (some "disk too slow" situations in the past and more recently, GarageBand froze in a recording session, but nothing too serious and no regular problems).

    But, well, the computer is getting old so I'm thinking of getting a new one. I can't update softwares anymore with mine, I don't have the minimum requirements anymore!

    I like Macs, and I plan on using GarageBand, and on moving around.

    My question, considering everything works well (except for small issues, which I suspect will not get better with time) , would a basic MacBook Air do the trick?

    Also, are my old GarageBand projects work with the new version?
  2. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    The biggest bang for your buck in the Mac world is the Mini. You'll need to buy a mouse, keyboard and monitor screen, but you still come out lower than other Mac models in terms of horsepower per dollar. They can't compete with higher end iMac or Mac Pro models, but they'll more than suffice for your needs. There's an update to the Mini expected at Apple's upcoming March even, so hold off until then. You'll be able to buy a new 2017 model Mini at that point, or you could buy the previous late-2014 models for a reduced price (compared to now) since they won't be the freshest model in the lineup anymore.

    Your old sessions should work just fine.
    Gideon352, mark beem and Bodeanly like this.
  3. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    I've been using a Mini for a portable CAD machine for a little over a year and agree it's a whole lot of bang for the buck. Good idea to wait for the 2017 to be available.The only thing I'd caution about the Mini is that it's basically a MacBook with no screen and not especially upgradable so if you're going to use it for other things and can afford to buy it with the biggest processor and most RAM they offer you should.
  4. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Agreed. The fact that the late-2014 model doesn't allow for user upgradable RAM like the previous versions was a big disappointment for me. My mid-2012 model allowed me to upgrade the RAM to 16GB for quite a bit lower than what Apple charges off the factory floor. Biggest processor, most RAM and if possible a faster hard drive (SSD, Fusion, etc. as opposed to an HDD).
  5. Ulf_Hansson


    Apr 15, 2014
    To be honest, at this point I couldn't really recommend any new Mac. Buying the current models won't add much in terms of performance, compared to previous generations. Apple did some strange decisions on how to incorporate Intel's roadmap, which right now means they are out of sync and not really up to date. Hopefully this will be fixed with some (expected) updates in the Spring, but on the other hand some models (garbage can Mac Pro, anyone) will probably be killed.
    Just my opinion. (But a lot of pros seems to be leaving the Mac camp, tired of waiting.)
  6. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    That depends on how old your current mac is. If it's a 2008 macbook (mine still works fine), the improvement in performance will be huge. But I agree things aren't moving so fast with Apple at the moment. Perhaps part of the reason for that is that for 99.9% of users speed and performance have not really been an issue for the past few years. My main mac is a 2012 iMac which i use for audio, video, animation and general design and apart from a Ram upgrade early on, I've not felt much of a need to upgrade.

    The problems seem to come from the OS, with Apple introducing some weird bugs with basic things like wifi, Mail and Safari, and seemingly spending all their time making improvements to cheesy stuff no professional users care about (photos, notification center, home movies etc).

    Apple stuff was well worth the extra money not long ago, and it may still be the best choice for creatives, but they're on a definite downward turn at the moment. Curious what the next few years will bring.
    Bodeanly likes this.
  7. Bodeanly


    Mar 20, 2015
    Consider buying used. Macs that are two or three years old still kick muchos assos.
  8. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    The advantage of a portable is that you can use it anywhere. I moved from MacPro's to MacBook Pro's and never looked back. A portable is especially useful when you are working off line, editing for instance.

    Maximum ram and a solid state drive are important.
  9. I've been looking around in stores around here. There's a few new MacBook Pro's that seem to be from a generation behind (coming with the OSx Yosemite) that seem to be nice, specs-wise. Regular hard drive, not flash. Interesting or I should pass?

    That said, I don't think I'd go anywhere else then with a new Mac. Too many projects with GarageBand going on, I wouldn't want to start over. No PC for me... Not that there's anything wrong with PCs...

    Should I just be patient and wait for new products from Apple?
  10. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    The new MacBook Pro came out before Christmas. It has a small touch sensitive display above the keyboard so it is easy to identify. The previous model, which is at least a couple of years old was available with a solid state disk drive. Those disks really help the system fly.

    Whatever model you get, try to get a current one. They run faster and have better input/output capability.

    BTW, if you decide to upgrade to Logic, the GarageBand files can be imported.
  11. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    I've been using my 2010 macbook pro since 2010 for pro tools and logic without a problem(32 inputs). You just need to find a middle ground for your buffers and plug-ins.

    Of course, more ram and a newer proc will definitely help.

    I'll admit it's also my only apple device so I don't keep up with them like the others here do.
  12. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    That's always a tough call since they tend to keep new launches under wraps. This site is as good of a buying guide as I've ever seen for Apple products: iPhone, iPad, Mac Buyer's Guide: Know When to Buy

    Select the Mac tab and see how long a product has been in service, and reference that to the next Apple event (there's one in March). If you wait for a potential release and it turns out you were right, then you'll find a newer product at roughly the same price point as what's available currently, or you'll find the current products at lower prices to make way for the newer generation. Either way it's a win-win. For a Mini, I'd wait until March.
  13. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Now that my 2011 MacBook Pro is starting to act up, I picked up a used iMac 27" and it's similar processor and ram specs (2013 model) for a very decent price. I chose used so I could deploy my FireWire based presonus mixer. Very happy with my choice....
  14. I'll probably do that one day... Nice to know!
    beans-on-toast likes this.
  15. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    When a MacBook Pro starts to act up, I open it up and clean our the dust. This has always brought it back. Dust in the case can cause all sorts of issues.

    There are a set of fasteners on the back, the screwdriver is available by googling in the net. These machines have some power fans that can really suck in the dirt. It's amazing how much can accumulate in there. Remove the screws and the back comes off revealing dust everywhere. I use a shaving brush to gently remove the dust. You can blow on it to dislodge some of the dust. You don't want to use compressed air unless you know what you are doing. With too much force, the dust can lodge into tight areas and cause problems.

    Same applies to the Mac Pro and any other computer with a cooling system.
  16. By the way, you guys are being very helpful, thanks!:)
  17. Keep in mind with newer Macbooks, they've changed the i/o ports, on some models reducing you to one. Look at the stuff you're using and at least be aware that you might have to get a third party hub to regain all your connectivity. It's the one thing keeping me from jumping back to the Apple camp.
  18. Ulf_Hansson


    Apr 15, 2014
    Yes, the new MacBook Pro's are nice computers, the fingerprint scanner is a nice touch and the touch bar has potential. But it is seriously overpriced and the keyboard is crap. Which means that if you replace the keyboard with an external one you can't enjoy the touchbar (if/when it is put to better use).

    Compare that to similarly priced PC laptops that provide similar build quality (i.e. really high) but also faster CPUs upgradeable memory and touch screens. When you start using a DAW or mix surface on a touch screen, you don't want to go back...
    Alixinchains likes this.
  19. Ulf_Hansson


    Apr 15, 2014
    SSD makes a huge difference for speed, so I'd say you should have a large enough (internal) SSD to store the system, any current projects as well as the most used plugs/sample libs. Get a huge external (conventional) disk for everything else. (And don't forget a backup solution for both.)
  20. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    I'm not a fan of a PC for music production, been down that road and would never go back. The new MBPro keyboard is different, the keys are larger and the touch is not the same. I figure that this is something that you'd get used to. I downloaded a new version of Logic today. They added support for the touch bar. It will be interesting to see how it is used. No question that touch screens are a good way to work.

    No question that cost for a high end model is factor. When I look at the price of a system, I keep in mind that I use the computer all day, every day for my work. Work tools are expensive but necessary.
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