MacBook/Pro for musician/student

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by RobJonesxx, Jan 27, 2007.

  1. RobJonesxx macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2007
    Location:
    Liverpool, UK
    #1
    Hello.

    I was at an open evening for a college last night, and the music tech teacher was showing me round the equipment. He was pretty enthusiastic about the macs they had recently acquired, and I've got to say I was quite impressed. I had tried using ACID for Windows and it drove me to the brink of sanity, yet the Garageband/Logic Express combination seemed to work flawlessly and we actually recorded a song there and then.

    I'll be needing a laptop soon anyway, and I was gonna just buy a generic Windows laptop. I'm pretty set on getting a Mac laptop now, and getting the necessary sound tech gear to go with it.

    Here is where I need you help, I have no idea about Macs.

    The laptop would be used for
    • Schoolwork (MS Word, Powerpoint, Publisher, Autograph.)
    • Recording (Home studio software)
    • Photos (Photofiltre, photo organisation software)
    • Music (iPod, 120gb music collection)
    • Movies (Quite a lot of ripped tv series, divx usually. I like using VLC)
    • MSN Messenger, with webcam
    • Some other little bits of stuff, like Excel for tournament systems at my fencing club and that.

    I'm not really into video games, and if I ever get tempted I could just use the pc at home.

    I have two seperate enquiries really.

    1) Would I lose any functionality with a Mac?

    2) What sort of system would I be looking at, how much would I be expecting to pay and where is the best place to buy it?

    Thanks,
    Rob
     
  2. iW00t macrumors 68040

    iW00t

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    #2
    From your needs (and how you have a PC for games) why not consider the black Macbook?
     
  3. holamiamigos macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 10, 2006
    #3
    go for the mbp cause you'll need more power and space for the music and its just an all around fast machine
     
  4. polevault139 macrumors 6502

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    Sep 24, 2006
    Location:
    Illinois
    #4
    The MBP is overkill for what you need, For what you have listed there is no reason to need a dedicated graphics chip. The Macbook with an external hard drive seems like your best option since you have so much music and TV shows. I'll be purchasing a Macbook for college soon, and I could not decide between the two but the best decision was to go for a Macbook with an external hard drive.
     
  5. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    Jan 21, 2007
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    CT
    #5
    i'm a musician and have done recording both at home and in the studio.

    can you give us an idea of your budget? and if you are going to be multi-tracking and/or recording multiple instruments at one time?

    if you're going to be doing either (and can afford it) go with the MBP. handling the graphics on a dedicated card will free up both RAM and CPU cycles for recording. this will help you add more effects if needed, more tracks if needed with less latency overall (which as you know the less latency, the better). if you are NOT going to do multiple tracks or won't be using much in the way of effects plug-ins, then a MB would certainly be a good alternative, just load it up with ram and get the fastest CPU you can.

    if you want to record with mulitple instruments at once, then i recommend the Presonus Firepod. it's mac compatible, it works great, uses firewire, is rackmountable, comes with built in mic pre's and phantom power and gives very good quality (not studio, but darn close). take that with a laptop and you have mobile recording studio.



    • you can use iwork for both word processing and powerpoint presentations (and i think publishing) or you can get office for mac and have everything you need.

      you have your choice here: garage band for light stuff or scratch/demo tracks, audacity (both of those are free) or if you have access to logic, then you can definitely use that.


      again you have a choice. the macs come with iphoto, but if you need more, then there are lot of free or shareware options.


      itunes (comes with the mac, of course) will prolly be your best choice here.

      don't know much about the movie's part of it, but VLC is available for the mac and seems to be the most used media player besides quicktime. it plays anything. there is quite a bit of software for ripping and reencoding DVDs. mactheripper and streamclip are the 2 that spring to mind right away.
      sorry, but i think you're out of luck here. there may be a 3rd party software that will let you, but i don't know of any since i don't do much chatting. maybe someone else can chime in...

    again, microsoft office for mac might be your best choice. of course, there's talk a spreadsheet program might come with iwork 07.


    in my experience, you would not lose much for what you want to do except spyware, adware and viruses. with the intel macs, you can always use bootcamp and load windows now and do what you might need that a mac can't. but i think you'll be able to do it all on a mac with less hassles. there are a lot less conflicts with software on macs than pc's (so less chances of crashing during a recording session).

    check the online apple store, or a local apple store and see what you can do with either your student discount or the refurbished products. if you have a local store, do check into their "refreshed" products in store. you can actually look at them and make sure nothing is wrong with them before buying so you greatly increase your chances of getting a great system without defects. but the refurb prices and student discounts amount to darn near the same thing.

    anyhow, best of luck and hope that helps you some.
     
  6. steve_hill4 macrumors 68000

    steve_hill4

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    NG9, England
    #6
    Three options as far as this. First you could get either a MBP with either 17" display, (160GB, but will leave you with little space for much else), or any MB/MBP and BTO a larger drive in there. Second, any model and get a solid, maybe every portable external drive just for music and such, (have seen I think 160GB USB powered for about £100/$150). Finally, import all music into iTunes and transfer across to iPod, set iPod to manually manage, then wipe from HD. Whenever you want to listen to music, you will have to connect your iPod up, (of course, this is assuming you have an 80GB model and can sacrifice up to 40GB of iTunes content you currently have).
     
  7. aquajet macrumors 68020

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    VA
    #7
    I believe you might be overstating the differences here. Outside of 3d rendering, there isn't a huge difference in terms of processing power between the two. Certainly not what you seem to be implying with this statement.
     
  8. iW00t macrumors 68040

    iW00t

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    #8
    Bingo.

    Simply put, if you are dealing with so many tracks that your Macbook can't handle it, you might as well spend that money on a Mac Pro instead (btw a MBP costs the same as a MP, to put it into perspective). That extra 64mb of memory and 333mhz is not going to make a difference in the slightest.
     
  9. notwist macrumors regular

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    Dec 29, 2006
    Location:
    New Brunswick, NJ
    #9
    On my free time I like to write music on my MacBook. I primarily use a Novation Remote controller, some guitars, Presonus Firepod, and a couple software synths (ie. Reaktor 5, Battery 2, Kontakt). I use Cubase sx3 as my DAW (Logic is out of my price range atm :/). I guess it depends what type of recording you plan on doing.
     
  10. isleofjib macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Location:
    CT
    #10
    aquajet, no offense, but this is not correct. music recording, especially multi-tracking with effects of any kind, is very dependent on processor and RAM to get the maximum tracks, maximum effects and low latency. latency is a big problem for recording and the more available resources you have to devote to the recording process, the better off you will be. effects especially are resource intensive and all you need is one hiccup during a session to throw an entire track off and cause a lot of work to resynch it or re-record it. it isn't that you need the graphics to do the work, but you need the CPU and RAM free to do the recording. a subtle but very distinct difference. and take it from me, it matters!

    also, i leave it up to the OP to determine his needs and base my advice for which one would be appropriate based on his needs and my experience doing this professionally and for fun.

    @ iWOOT, since the OP didn't state exactly what kind of recording he's going to do, it's pretty poor advice to say a MB would do. it might very well do if he's going to do a few tracks at a time and not a lot of effects. but if he's going to try to record a full band at once either in the studio or for a gig (which can easily run to 20+ simultaneous tracks), or try to use a lot synth instruments, or do lots of layering, or do anything orchestral, the extra RAM and CPU could well make a big difference. these computers should pretty well handle 24-36 tracks, but this varies a lot based on a lot of variables neither you nor i know. i tried to cover all bases. neither you nor i know if thats all he needs. so a one size fits all answer just seems lacking. and the OP specifically states he's looking for laptop, so the suggestion to get a MP just doesnt' fit his needs.


    edited for a little clarity and more info.
     
  11. phungy macrumors 68020

    phungy

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    Location:
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    #11
    I would recommend this too :D .

    The biggest HD you can place in the MB/MBP is 200GB so if you have 120GB of music that leaves maybe ~60GB depending on if you do a clean install of OSX. Seeing as you have alot of ripped movies, I'd suggest placing your music and movie files on an external HD.

    If you are going to buy a Macbook, buy from Amazon as it is actually cheaper (After rebate $100 cheaper for Blackbook) than Apple with Edu. discount.

    I was a bit afraid that ordering from Amazon, my MB would have been built in '06 since they need to be stocked up but to my surprise (I placed an order on the 25th of Jan) the MB was built in '07 week 3!
     
  12. eXan macrumors 601

    eXan

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2005
    Location:
    Russia
    #12
    Nonsense. The graphics is handled by GMA950, not the CPU. It has it's own processing core, just lacks it own memory, thats why it takes 64 megabytes from system RAM. OS X is so good at RAM management, that I promise you wont notice the "absense" of those 64 MBs if you have more than 1 gig.

    In many benchmarks, MacBook even slightly beats MacBook Pro in CPU-intensive applications (with the same CPU type/clock speed).
     
  13. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    Jan 21, 2007
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    CT
    #13
    i just don't think you guys understand a recording environment. it is much different than doing other types of work on a computer. ok, so the onbard graphics on the MB have their own CPU and just use the RAM, it doesn't change much. if you don't have enough RAM for most tasks on a computer, it just takes longer to accomplish. if you don't have enough RAM for a recording session, you either work crippled with less tracks or effects or you don't work at all. not enough RAM means latency and even 5-10ms (yes, MILLIseconds) additional latency can mean the difference between a nice recording session and an excercise in futility. you can't record correctly or mix correctly if the latency is too high. this isn't a case where it just takes longer to complete the task.

    the black MB which has been recommended several times comes with 1GB of RAM:
    the graphics card will take up to 64MB, the OS will take around 512MB (more is even better)-these 2 things will get priority on the system for available RAM. the OP said he might be working with logic express, MINIMUM RAM for this program is 512MB (more is always highly recommended as it is with OSX).

    start to see the problem? already we are short of RAM for the OP. in audio recording THIS IS A PROBLEM. it might mean not being able to record what you need to record. if you want to record a full band live (like at a gig) and you need 20 tracks but only have the resources available to record 16 without noticible latency, you're screwed. you don't have the luxury of waiting a few extra seconds or minutes for the task to finish like you do in 3d rendering.

    the MBP, in addition to having 64MB more RAM available to it (all other things being equal), also comes with the option to upgrade to 3GB vs the MB's 2GB. it has a faster processor. and it has more firewire ports and and fw 800 port so there is faster thru put for whatever recording interface he chooses to use (all of which can help reduce latency).

    benchmarks?? recording isn't about how fast the computer can complete a task. it's in large part about latency and how many tasks a computer can run simultaneously. show me a benchmark using a recording app that shows where a MB can record more tracks simultaneously and/or use more effects simultaneously than a comparable MBP and i'll gladly admit i'm in error and change my recommendation for which computer is best for multitrack recording. until then, i stick by my original post.
     
  14. eXan macrumors 601

    eXan

    Joined:
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    Russia
    #14
    Benchmarks show how fast the computer is compared to other systems under equal conditions. If the computer is faster, it can do more tasks simultaneously. No? Both MB and MBP have the same OS, the same CPUs, the same number of CPU cores, so it makes them equal at multitasking.

    I know that in audio recording the number of tracks you can record at once without noticable latency counts. MBP isnt that much different than MB in RAM capacity - sure, you can install 3 gigs in it, but raises the cost even more, to the prices of good equipped Mac Pros. Yes, MBPs have slightly more MHz, but its not a huge difference and definately not worth the price difference between the two. It may not be an issue to a pro who needs to record outside his studio, but it is an issue for OP, the college student.
     
  15. emotion macrumors 68040

    emotion

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    Mar 29, 2004
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    Manchester, UK
    #15
    Black Rev B macbook bought with edu discount here. My main application is Ableton Live 6. Even with the current config of 1GB memory this thing is as smooth as you like.

    If you're super-rich go with a mbp (potentially more memory but 2GB sticks are silly expensive). I don't think it's necessary though.

    For music discrete graphics are not necessary.
     
  16. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    Jan 21, 2007
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    CT
    #16
    the OP asked for recommendations for which computer would work best for him given what he wants to do with it and how much it might cost. he didnt say he had a limited budget (tho it might be a safe guess). i gave my recommendations based on his stated needs.

    a MBP if he/she plans on doing a lot of multitrack recording or using a lot of effects in recording.

    a MB if they weren't. but still add some RAM.

    please don't tell me the differences aren't noticable for recording. they ARE. my ex-gf and myself both noticed some performance differences between our MB and MBP in everyday use. if it's noticable in day to day use, it's certainly going to impact audio recording. what's "not huge" to you may be "huge" to someone else. maybe it's not enough to make a difference to the OP (or maybe it is), but that's his decision to make not mine or yours.

    and you're really going to say that an extra GB of RAM isn't that much of a difference?? it certainly is, especially in this type of situation. you can say adding 3GB of RAM takes a MBP into MP territory in cost. but that isn't the issue being addressed. the OP wants a LAPTOP. i'm giving tehm options based on what they want. and the ability to upgrade the extra RAM if he needs/wants/might ever need it is something to be mindful of in the decision making process. it is a difference between the 2 systems that might have a significant impact for the OP based on what he/she says they might use it for.

    i'm not going to get into a pi$$ing match over this. you can disagree with me all you want, but it doesn't change anything. it's the OP's decision to factor in their needs, wants and budget and make any necessary concessions. not ours. i gave the OP my opinions based on use of both machines and experience as a recording musician and explained why. end of discussion for me.
     
  17. tshakey macrumors member

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    Jan 27, 2007
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    England
    #17
    im lukin for a blackbook wen i go off 2 uni, luks awesome and runs fast.
    i'm not going to loose any functionality from my sony vaio cos i'll be running xp on it too
    i don't know an awful lot about music production, but i do know that if you're looking for a lot of storage, you'll get much better value for money from an external hard drive than from upgrading your macbook's internal drive
     
  18. RobJonesxx thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Liverpool, UK
    #18

    regarding budget, no matter what it is I'll be taking it on finance so I don't mind being up to my collarbones in debt. I'd just like to keep it reasonable, so I know where to aim for.

    Recording would just be for personal use, and to work on my music tech course stuff at home. It will probably be used to record and master live recording. It definitely has to be a notebook though.

    I've done a bit of research with the replies to this thread in mind, and will probably opt for a 2ghz MacBook, upgraded with 200gb HD and 2gb ram. Prices Apple are giving me are about £1200, which is more than I would usually spend, but this isn't really just for schoolwork so I'm happy to cough up.


    Last question, how is Apple's customer support in the UK? I've heard good and bad, is it worth me buying the Applecare for £199?
     
  19. emotion macrumors 68040

    emotion

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    #19
    That 200GB is a 4200 rpm drive. I wouldn't recommend that for recording audio (ok, it's a perpedicular drive but even so). I'd say go for the 160GB option which is 5400rpm (a 7200rpm drive would be best but they don't come in large capacities just yet).

    As for warranty, with the UK campus HE agreement you'll get a machine basically the price without VAT and with 3 years (return to base) warranty included.

    My stock black macbook was £858 and which would work out as £1200 for non-edu (Applecare included in both prices.)
     
  20. RobJonesxx thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #20
    Drive speed completely slipped my mind, only ever bought for a desktop PC.

    I could just leave a lot of my media stuff on the home PC. Once I get the macbook the home pc will be relinquished to the family but I'm sure they won't mind keeping my music/film on there. Or I could even move the pc downstairs and leave an external hard drive on my desk with the recording gear.

    With an edu discount I appear to still only save about £100. I could buy the system through my Dad's business and save the VAT I suppose.
     
  21. isleofjib macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
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    CT
    #21
    sweet. yeah, if you're not going to do anything major with it, then certainly the MB is a great choice. especially with the upgraded RAM. it might be cheaper for you if you add the RAM afterwards. Apple RAM isn't cheap but if you're financing it, it won't make much of a difference in payments to have them do it either. :)

    about the HD-yes, it's a slower speed, but the one review i saw of it, it was actually faster than a smaller 5400 HD. i have no personal experience with it so i cant say for sure one way or the other. but you may want to do a little research on that drive to make sure it meets your needs.

    unfortunately, i don't know how applecare is in the UK, but in america, i've been VERY happy with them. very prompt, very friendly and always taken care of me. and i highly recommend the applecare for a laptop. better safe than sorry.

    best of luck to you and i'm sure you'll love it. they're great machines.
     
  22. RobJonesxx thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #22
    Thanks, pretty much made my mind up on a 13" White MacBook with 2gb RAM, 160gb HD and if I can ever afford it Logic.

    Going to ask my Dad to take the finance out when Leopard is released, that way I don't get my shins broken if I miss a payment and I wont need to upgrade. I make a rule of earning everything I have, but I don't wanna take too many risks.
     
  23. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #23
    You've been missing on big point for recording:
    The MacBook has no interfacing other than USB and the single Firewire controller.

    The MacBook Pro has the ExpressCard/34 socket, which can take a Firewire or SATA interface card. This is big for doing intense multitrack work, because you don't want to have your hard drive data stream contending with your digital audio data stream on the same Firewire bus if you can help it.

    Using an external hard drive interfaced through the ExpressCard slot avoids that backup.
     
  24. SimonTheSoundMa macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 6, 2006
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    #24
    We use a higher white book for location recording. Stock it is happy to do 24 channels into Logic Pro.I would at least upgrade to 1GB or more of RAM.

    HE prices are cheap, £750 inc. VAT for a black book with 3 years parts and labour at my institution. You can get Logic at crazy prices. Buy your software from the USA, it's more than half price!
     
  25. NewSc2 macrumors 65816

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    Jun 4, 2005
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    Orange County, CA
    #25
    I'm just like you. I use Logic Pro, went from a Powerbook 17" to a Macbook and now to a 15" MBP.

    If you can get the MBP, go for it. The additional screen real estate is great for working with recordings, and overall usage.

    Otherwise, a Macbook with maxed out RAM and an external monitor would be good, but personally going from the Macbook to the 15" MBP felt great. Working in Logic with a 13" is difficult.
     

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