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Mac Mini for audio?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by StrokeMidnight, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. macrumors member

    Hey, so I need to upgrade my computer pretty soon (this ones just dying) and I want to buy one that I can use for Logic Express 8, Sibelius 5/6 (if I upgrade) and Final Cut Express. I make scores for movies so I need to be able to run sound libraries (like EWQLSO) without any glitches while streaming HD video. I also need to record my band and multi-track in logic. I know a Mac Mini isn't ideal, but I'm not even in college yet and money is tight. I have max $1,050 to spend because I know that I could get a Mac Mini with a 2.66 GHz processor and 4 GB of RAM for that price. Will that be good enough?

    It's that or I have to switch over to Sonar and a PC :(.

    What do you guys think?
  2. macrumors 601


    i'd be interested to know if it could handle all that. i'd think the limiting factors would be the hard drive speed (get an external) and the video card, for streaming the HD you talked about.

    but i'm more of an audio guy than video, so maybe the latter won't be a problem?
  3. macrumors 603



    Buy the base unit as stripped as possible. Upgrade the RAM from third party for like $60 to 4GB of RAM.

    Replace the hard drive with a 7200RPM drive from Western Digital (Scorpio Black) or Seagate (7200.4)

    Forget getting the faster processor. Macworld.com two weeks ago tested a batch of minis. They had the base 2Ghz and the 2.26Ghz and a modified (RAM upgrade, HDD upgrade) 2Ghz and the upgraded 2Ghz was faster and cheaper.

    You have to keep in mind that the difference between 2Ghz and 2.26Ghz is smaller in performance than jumping from a 5400rpm drive with 55 megabytes per second throughput to something like the Seagate drive which has lower latency and throughputs 100 Megabytes per second. That makes up for the %10 difference in CPU clockspeed.

    Later you could do another upgrade and replace the internal 7200rpm drive with a much faster SSD drive and take the internal drive and put it in a case for external storage.
  4. macrumors member

    Wait, but I thought you can't upgrade Mac Minis?

    EDIT: Wait is it possible to buy a completely stripped down Mac Pro with just the processor so I could install Mac OS X, but get the RAM and other components from somewhere else?
  5. macrumors 603


    U can't upgrade the processor so the base config for $599 and then do the RAM and HDD upgrades via 3rd party product.
  6. macrumors member

    But won't that void the warranty and I could ruin it because I have to pry it open?
  7. macrumors 603


    No...Apple's policy is pretty much "don't break anything" and we won't fight your warranty. I've pulled my mini apart a few times and after the first time where you will be glacial ..the next time (if there is a next time) it takes about a third of the time.
  8. macrumors G4

    Apple has said many times that adding RAM and a disk drive do not effect the warranty.

    The mini will do fine for any of those tasks (Logic, FInal Cut Express and so on) but don't try and run them all at the same time.

    you WILL need some external disk drives. Final Cut needs a scratch disk to hold the media and same goes for recording audio. And then you want to run Time Machine and you need some disks to rotate through an off site backup
  9. macrumors member

    I have 2 external hard drives, 500 GB each. Are you sure the mini will be able to run Sibelius 5 and EWQLSO and stream the video for the score at the same time? Or EWQLSO, Logic, and stream the video? Of course when I'm scoring I probably won't be editing with HD video, I'll make it worse quality, but I will be able to edit HD video right?

    Here's the specs for EWQLSO: http://www.soundsonline.com/product.php?productid=EW-177

    My main concern is the CPU being too slow. Can I get anymore than 4GB RAM?

    Also, if I saved up a little for an iMac, would that be easier to upgrade?

    Thanks everyone!
  10. macrumors 65816


    I think a Mac Mini will be a bit borderline for what you are asking of it. An iMac would certainly fair rather better. 1, because they all have faster CPU's. 2, They use full size (usually faster), rather than small laptop style HD's. And 3, they can take more ram. Plus they come with a pretty nice screen :)
    But iMacs are not especially any more upgradeable than a MacMini really. Ram & HD, and thats essentially it.
  11. macrumors 603


    $1050 budget.

    4GB of RAM should be workable but i've got a hunch that the latest Mini may take 8GB though the 4GB chips have to become more affordable (625 bucks is the cheapest kit I found for 8GB)
  12. macrumors member

    I mean, I could try to save up more money to get an iMac or (I doubt it) a Mac Pro. It just depends on how realistic it is for me to get that much money. I just hope it won't end up with a switch to Windows :(.
  13. macrumors 603


    Nah you don't have to switch to windows. The key to building a proper mini system is to take the weaker areas of the computer (HDD and RAM) and bump them. Audio applications don't require discrete graphics even though the 9400m is a capable performer.

    I like being able to scout out the best monitor deal. I've got a 28" LCD on my mini and that's larger (although not qualitatively better) than Apple's largest monitor.
  14. macrumors member

    The thing I'm really worried about is just the processor. I have 1.83 GHz now and my computer is from 2006. 2.0 Ghz is not much of an improvement.
  15. macrumors 68000


    I'll go ahead and drop in my ubiquitous Hackintosh vote. You can get a core2quad rig with 4gb ddr3 for under $700.
  16. macrumors member

    ...How could I go about doing that?
  17. macrumors 601


    but the chips are different, yes? straight up clock measurement isn't necessarily a good indicator of difference in real world speed. not to mention improvements in bus speeds, video redrawing, faster RAM, etc...
  18. macrumors 603



    Refurb iMac then. 2.4Ghz right now for 849 and a 2.66Ghz for 999. Refurb Macs come with full warranty and you can also add Applecare at anytime during the original warranty.
  19. macrumors member

    Hmmm, I'd assume the chips are different.

    That refurbished idea doesn't seem too bad. What parts would be refurbished? Would the hard drive be completely wiped or maybe have a new one? One of the reasons I'm getting a new mac is because my hard drive is unorganized beyond repair (I can't find anything), and it's just running way too slow (booting firefox just took 7 minutes, no joke), so I don't want that to happen.

    I like that Hackintosh idea a lot actually. It just depends whether it's feasible for someone like me (I have no programming experience at all).
  20. macrumors 603


    Hackintosh means no support. The minute you have a problem you realize you're on your own. Plus imagine every software update for the OS you're going to be thinking "is this going to break my Hackintosh?"

    The Apple Refurbs are packaged so good you may not realize that they are in fact refurbs. Full warranty ...drive comes as clean as any setup. I'd buy one in a heart beat.
  21. macrumors 6502

    A hackintosh is a great idea, if you enjoy tinkering and accept the fact that some of your time will be spent messing around trying to get things to work. I have an efix hackintosh and it's fantastic, but I'm under no illusions that if something goes wrong it's up to me to sort it out, which I'm willing, and the geek in me is quite eager to do.

    But if you've never really messed around with building a computer and you're on a low budget I wouldn't consider a hackintosh, as you could end up with a pile of useless components, a steep bill, and a feeling deep down that you should have just gone for a real mac which includes support.
  22. macrumors 68020


    Apple sells amazing refurbished computers. They have too to keep their image. Plus its under warranty, which you won't get with hackintosh. Nuckinfutz found a great computer, you would just need to buy 2 more GB ram from someone other than Apple.
    They also have a refurbed mini but at 2GHz. Link to refurbs

  23. macrumors member

  24. macrumors 603


    The video card is fine unless you plan on doing heavy gaming. It supports OpenCL Apple's new Snow Leopard framework for using the GPU to do general purpose calculations so it's "future proof" to an extent.

    You may not want to blow the budget going for the 2.93 Gigahertz model. With audio you can't go faster than realtime in many cases.
  25. macrumors member

    I would be willing to go overboard if the 2.93 Ghz makes a real difference. This is my parents money, and although they don't want to spend that much (and I don't want them to spend that much!) they said they would since this is for an educational purpose (I'm planning to be a music major and I need all the experience I can get). I have to work off the money anyway and pay them back so it would be a question of how much I need to work off, $400 vs. $600 (I have $900). If the 2.93 makes a big difference it would save me from having to buy a whole new computer in the future so I'd rather be safe than sorry if it does make a difference.

    EDIT: The two I'm debating between are these: http://store.apple.com/us/product/FB419LL/A?fnode=Njc4MjQzOQ&mco=NjgwMDIxOA

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