Best Mac for Music Recording

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Oskar1921, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2010
    I'm planning on setting up a music studio and am looking for the best Mac (outside of the Mac Pro) for recording music. I would like to be able to record at least six tracks simultaneously without the system bogging down. I would think the 3.03 GHz iMac with 4GB of memory would do the trick, but am curious what others have experienced and are currently using. Thanks.
  2. macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2006
    Probably any current Mac with 4GB and fire wire will do. A Mac Mini would even be okay, and may be the better choice if it would free up money you could spend on other gear like the audio interface and mics.
  3. macrumors newbie

    Jan 28, 2010
    You would want a 7200rpm hard drive if you want to record simultaneous tracks.

    I currently use a PC with a single core AMD 3200+ processor with 2GB of RAM and a 5400rpm hard drive. It is ok, but I only record one track at a time. (I only have 2 hands).

    Processor speed is only required if you use lots of processor hungry plugins across lots of tracks at the same time and only if you do not want to "freeze" your tracks. My system struggles if I have too many plugins running at the same time.

    Also +1 to spending money on a good recording interface and good monitors.
  4. macrumors 6502


    Nov 2, 2007
    Western Mass.
    Any current mac will do fine (or older--look at what people were doing on G4s back when (though software bloat/system requirements would inhibit using modern versions on older machines).

    I agree you'll want a 7200rpm recording drive (use a different drive than your primary disk). You'll want to put money into a decent external audio interface for simultaneous recording and input/output options.

    You didn't specify whether this was a personal studio or a more commercial venture with associated fees. If you're going commercial there are distinct considerations to be made as well.
  5. macrumors newbie

    May 1, 2008
    Any modern Mac with 4GB RAM is able to accommodate multi-track recording. There are many other aspects that might impact on your decision to choose from iMac, Mac mini or MacBook Pro and require throwing money on extra devices:
    1. External audio interface. Firewire-based one is better, because it provides a constantly-rated stream. Personally, I use Edirol FA-101 – it is 10-channel device with excellent sound. Note that new iMacs, Mac minis have FW800 interface only, so you’ll need a converter FW800-to-FW400 to plug in audio-interfaces having just FW400. I’d refrain from using USB-based audio-interfaces for multi-track recording, but the other’s opinions might vary.
    2. HDD. For the first time, internal large-sized HDD (say, 1-2TB, if we are talking about iMac) might be sufficient, but the information grows fast and eats up all the space, yet the reliability of modern disks is so-so. I’d recommend thinking about external drives for storing your projects and backups before the thunder comes in town. If for backups only, then any disk having USB2.0 or FW800 connector will fit. If you prefer to record to external drives, you’ll need to pay more money to get RAID-based ones connected via FW800. With the last option, you might want to consider a MacBook Pro as a mobile alternative to iMac. Personally, I use MacBook Pro for the most of time (moved from old iMac).
    3. UPS. Having a lot of disk space powered on along with your computer must be protected on power line – use uninterruptible power supplies. This is very important.
    4. One of the programs doing multi-track recording. Logic, ProTools, Live, Cubase, etc, it doesn’t matter. The level of your confidence and personal preference only matters. The mentioned programs take a lot of RAM when loading large projects, so the more memory you have, the better.
  6. macrumors 6502


    Nov 2, 2007
    Western Mass.
    astrosonic's points are all good. The only thing I'd add is that the new machines are not only FW800 ports (easily rectifiable by an adapter or cheap 800-400 cable from, but there's only one port on them. You'll need to either daisy-chain devices (I've seen reported problems using audio interfaces with this method) or buy a splitter box ($75 or so).
  7. macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2005
    I'm using a 17" uMBP, but my brother is still using his 3 year old C2D white Macbook (only 1 Gig'o'RAM) for recording up to 8 tracks simultaneously. Just make sure you get Firewire and a fast HDD, everything else is just icing on the cake :D

    [EDIT] Regarding the HDD: I always record to the built-in (yes, vanilla 5400rpm) drive without any trouble - but backups are a must, as with any computer data. But I am very happy with just one FW800, having either the Onyx or my external HDD hooked to the book.

    You might be experiencing performance issues with larger projects and many effects. I always use playbacks as mixdowns when recording, so the effect chains don't eat up CPU / RAM
  8. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2010
    Appreciate the great responses. I have all the other stuff - Firepod, logic pro, mics, instruments (and a little bit of talent ;) ). Do the new iMacs come with 7200rpm HD or is that something I'll have to invest in. Was considering the mac mini, but not entirely convinced it would have the horses to do the job.
  9. macrumors 603

    Feb 20, 2009
    "Was considering the mac mini, but not entirely convinced it would have the horses to do the job."

    Unless you have the $$$ to go "Mac Pro", I think a large-screen iMac would be a better choice - even if you already have a monitor.

    You could pick up either a 27" (new or refurbished) or a 24" (refurbished) iMac. The 24" models come up [in small quantities] at:

    ... and - insofar as iMacs are concerned - represent some of the best values to be had.

    The iMacs will already have 7200 rpm internal drives. It _is_ possible to record with only one drive - I do this on my own iMac without a stutter or glitch. The _secret_ is to partition the internal drive, and to create one or more small "work partitions" for your audio projects. The OS and applications are relegated to their own boot partition. Keeping the project partitions small minimizes the work the hard drive has to do in the heat of recording. And it makes defragging and optimizing your work partitions much easier, too.

    Another reason a large-screen iMac helps is because in audio work, you are primarily concerned with horizontal scrolling in your audio timeline, and either a 24" or 27" display makes this easy. And for even _more_ scrolling, hook up your current external display to the video-out port on the iMac.
  10. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2010
    Then it will be the iMac. Looking at the 21" w/ 1TB HD and the better graphics. Just can't justify spending more money for the larger screen. Appreciate the responses. Most helpful.
  11. macrumors member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Would having a discreet video card like the ATI 4670 help?
  12. macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2010
    The more RAM the better. Also depending on the software you are using, it def helps to have a 2nd monitor. I use reason 4 for alot of my production and its great to be able to have my vst's on one screen and drag the playlist into a 2nd screen. Much less clutter.
  13. macrumors newbie


    Dec 31, 2009
    Mac mini 2.53Ghz

    I actually use the late 2009 2.53Ghz Mac mini with a 23" Apple Cinema Display and it's fine (even with the slower HDD I don't experience any problems). I've used higher end macs in the past, but this little thing works a treat.

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