Best Macbook for recording music?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by justaphase094, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. justaphase094 macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2008
    I am about to purchase a new Macbook, and the main use of the computer will be to record and produce music. I have a limited budget so would it be better for me to get the 2.0 GHz with 4 GB of memory or the 2.4 GHz with only 2GB of memory?
  2. Schtumple macrumors 601


    Jun 13, 2007
    Go for the faster one, the ram can be upgraded cheaply in a about a years time, once it's not the highest spec anymore.

    Do you use Garageband or Logic Express/Pro?
  3. ziggyonice macrumors 68020


    Mar 12, 2006
    Rural America
    Yes, definitely get the higher processor speed (2.4GHz). The RAM can be upgraded easily later down the line, and for less money. The processor, on the other hand, cannot.
  4. nick9191 macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2008
    Unfortunately the new Macbook is quite useless for any serious professional music production unlike its predecessor, since it lacks a Firewire port.

    I'm not sure if that affects you in any way, if not then buy buy buy.
  5. aethelbert macrumors 601

    Jun 1, 2007
    Chicago, IL, USA
    I'm gonna repeat the call for the faster computer. I cannot imagine that anything like that is extremely intensive on the memory as it would be on the CPU. If you are paging out, you could always upgrade RAM later when prices will also be lower.
    *runs away from battle which will likely ensue*
  6. mosx macrumors 65816

    Mar 3, 2007
    Don't worry about the lack of Firewire. I really don't understand how Firewire got this reputation for being a good recording interface, when the highest quality recording has always been done using desktops with PCI connected solutions.

    There are plenty of high quality USB 2.0 solutions out there like this

    But I'm sure thats WELL above what you need and other devices like this: or or
  7. lxuser macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2008
    Im just gonna throw this out there:

    recording programs run very well on 2 ghz processors, but also perform at their peak really on 7200 rpm drives. If i was you, I would purchase the 2.0 ghz, and with the savings bump both the ram to 4gbs AND purchase a bigger, AND faster 7200 rpm hdd for recording. You can get a very large hardrive (320 gb and up) for ~ 100 dollars from any of the big electronics dealers online.

    Unless you have a specific need for the faster processor, generally logic pro and express will see a far larger performance increase from a faster hdd than .4 ghz on a dual core platform.
  8. ThomasJL macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2008
    For serious and professional (i.e. more than amateur iLife projects) needs, FireWire 400 may be a necessity. Since you're on a budget, you're actaully lucky in a sense: The only MacBook with FireWire 400 is the white plastic MacBook, which is the cheapest MacBook that Apple offers. It's $300 cheaper than the second-cheapest MacBook, and it's 100GHz faster than the second-cheapest MacBook. With the $300 you'll save, you can max out the RAM to 4GB from for $43.99:

    You can also get a 320GB 7200 RPM notebook hard drive (which is the biggest capacity currently available in 7200 RPM) made by Western Digital at for $89.99:

    For the RAM and the hard drive, you'll spend a total of $133.98, and still save $166.02.
  9. Ploki macrumors 68020

    Jan 21, 2008
    mosx: sorry , but maudio and emu arent really great examples of hardware choices... id get maudio purely because of PT, but then again, i would rather go LE. :S

    i would miss lack of firewire since i already have a good FW card... that can be daisy chained with lack of outputs anytime and can be used on tower or portable.
    convenience i dont think id comfortable without.
  10. DarthTreydor macrumors 6502

    May 25, 2007
    Richmond, VA
    I hate to say it but if you want to do any serious or semiserious recording, FireWire is a necessity. I'd go with either the lowend white mb (I use mine with a presonus firestudio and logic pro with great results) or a refurb blackbook. The unibody mb's may look cooler but you don't need the better video card and firewire is an all but absolute must. Plus you can put he saving toward a better interface, mics, software, etc. It's a shame that apple is pushing audio people toward last gen tech but that's the way it is right now.
  11. marbles macrumors 68000


    Apr 30, 2008
    EU mostly
    I had a l o n g conversation with folks on here recently over which MB to get and to go USB or Firewire .

    have a read of the thread please , loads of good info + it's made me hold off buying for a while!.

    I'm not to happy about using USB as an interface on the 2008 macbook nor am I keen on using the lucent agere 's (or however you spell it!) poor firewire chip in the new MBP and to get the white one is not a good idea imo as they'll probably kill it off very soon so its value will drop like a rock! losing me money .

    maybe the new mini will be 'all that 'and give the Mac line what is currently missing for music folks ?
    * one can hope .

  12. mosx macrumors 65816

    Mar 3, 2007
    Wow. I dare the people in this thread to go over to Hydrogen Audio and try to convince them that M-Audio and E-MU don't make some of the best.

    Just try it.

    Also, as others have pointed out, the MacBooks and Pros with Firewire have issues with the current Firewire controller chips due to the fact that they're of significantly lower quality than in the past, making the already irrelevant port even more irrelevant.

    Plus the white plastic MacBook is NOT faster, processor wise, than the aluminum MacBook. Yes it runs at 2.1GHz and the other runs at 2GHz, but the plastic MacBook has DD2 memory running at 667MHz on an 800MHz FSB. The aluminum MacBook uses DDR3 RAM running at 1066MHz on a 1066MHz FSB.

    Anyone here who thinks Firewire is a necessity for recording needs to head over to Hydrogen Audio and tell them that.
  13. jonbravo77 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 20, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    I guess I will ask this question. What kind of music will you be producing? Full band? What software are you looking at to use to produce? Firewire would be a great advantage since it is more stable in the bandwidth then USB but as far as processor and those things I think you would be good with a Whitebook, A co-worker used to use a powerbook with a fire-pod interface to record talking heads from multiple rooms and there were absolutely no issues.
  14. Ploki macrumors 68020

    Jan 21, 2008
    mosx: opinions differ...
    i have an Echo Audiofire that comes only in firewire (or PCI) and smokes.
    i dont want to make the stupid comparison again, but why do the makers with wellknown reputation of great sound cards (for their quality) like RME use firewire instead of USB?
    apogee duet, the mobile card uses FW by default, and its known to be one of rare companies to be directly compatible with Pro Tools. :)

    wonder why. because they dont want their users to complain?!
    not to mention the FW ability of direct daisy chaining. do that with USB.

    and, what are your cons USB over firewire if i my ask? dont point me to a forum... tell me why should usb be enough or better over firewire?
  15. mosx macrumors 65816

    Mar 3, 2007
    Since when have M-Audio and E-MU not been considered high quality?

    You have people over at Head-Fi and Hydrogen Audio spending ridiculous amounts of cash on M-Audio and E-MU stuff JUST for music playback. The USB E-MU 0404 is one of the most recommended "Cards" at Head-FI for its playback capabilities.

    You know that USB supports 127 devices on a single port, right?

    Well, in the real world, USB 2 is every bit as good as Firewire. The only time it isn't is when discussing Mac OS X USB support. It's been proven in benchmarks and one can experience it themselves, OS X moves data over USB significantly slower than Windows does. As I said earlier, when I sync my iPods or move files to them or other external drives, it takes significantly longer in OS X than it does in Windows.

    I don't mean to be a jerk here and I'm not "flaming" anyone, but the problem with the Firewire supporting crowd is that they simply don't keep up on things. They seem to be stuck in the past when all of these things they say about Firewire were true. But those things haven't been true for more than half a decade now. Outside of OS X, USB 2.0 provides as much real world bandwidth as Firewire does. eSATA provides more. USB 2.0 recording interfaces are every bit as good as FIrewire as long as the manufacturer makes them as such. High quality video cameras are USB 2.0 based these days. There really is no point in Firewire at all.

    And like I said, if someone is into audio recording on a professional level, a Mac is out of the question entirely. You can build a PC faster than a Mac Pro for less than half the price and have access to a much larger variety of hardware.

    It's just like with the Windows bashers around here. Most of them bring up things that haven't been true in 10 years or were never true, just FUD spread by Apple.
  16. Ploki macrumors 68020

    Jan 21, 2008
    and since when have RME and Apogee not been considered high quality?
    EMU and M-audio are great, but hardly professional.
    sole reason why protools come M powered is: AVID owns Maudio.
    thats also the sole reason why PT8 support Sibelius(it is owned by AVID.)
    But hey, protools HD natively supports Apogee converters, although theyre known to be an "apple" company? thats because they have great sounding interfaces.

    great, playback is great. recording is another story. you hardly stream more than 6 channels (5.1, and thats most of the time COMPRESSED) when playing back. and 44.1/16bit CD stereo. rarely you playback 96/24, right? mostly you RECORD 96/24 bit more than 2 or 6 tracks

    USB 2.0: 480Mbit/s
    FW800: 786.432 Mbit/s full-duplex

    you do the math.
    BUT i will be fair and compare it to first gen fw (400mbps).
    it has sustained throughput that is faster than USB's, you can get that info anywhere on the 'net..
    and when you record multitrack you WANT that.

    yeah. but high quality video cameras rarely stream realtime.
    on the other hand, high quality audio interfaces still use firewire. :)
    Prism sound orpheus, RME Fireface, and i could go on. if you dont come up with something better than m-audio and emu...

    and what variety of hardware do you need? you need a good CPU good HD fast RAM and a graphic card. as far as AUDIO hardware goes, mac supports everything that windows does. :)
    and to be honest, ive seen as much "Mac" professionals as ive seen "PC" professionals...
    but the thing is most "PC" professionals were RME/Nuendo.
    oh. and by the way, i was to record on an RME/Nuendo system a week or two ago, and the studio was Down. because of a virus. ;)
  17. mosx macrumors 65816

    Mar 3, 2007
    Nobody said they weren't.

    Says who?

    I know of bands that have recorded albums on M-Audio equipment, and others who do individual recording on E-MU.

    This plays right into what I was saying about Firewire supporters simply not knowing what they're talking about.

    I guess you missed this didn't you? Even on the product page it shows USB being faster than Firewire ;)

    Oh and back in... 2003 I think it was, there were already USB 2.0 soundcards that were pushing 8 channel 24/96 playback over USB 2.0. Thats uncompressed. You realize that uncompressed PCM, even 24/96, takes very little space, right? I mean, if USB 2.0 was so bad about bandwidth, blu-ray with 6 channels of uncompressed PCM plus 45Mbps video would be impossible over USB 2.0.

    And show me a MacBook and iBook with Firewire 800 please.

    In fact, show me any computer other than a Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, or iMac with Firewire 800. Better yet, let's look at all of the computers that have DROPPED Firewire in the last year. You know that HP, the largest manufacturer of computers in the world, dropped Firewire from ALL of their consumer notebooks and most of their consumer desktops, right?

    Which is all the MacBook HAD anyway.

    Oh and if Apple is as confident in Firewire as the users are, why don't they include more ports? I mean the MacBook Pro only has the one port now, and you need an adapter to use Firewire 400 with it. The Mac Pro has 2 Firewire 800 and 2 Firewire 400, yet it has 7 USB ports. The iMac has one of each, plus 3 USB ports on the computer and two on the keyboard. Even Apple's displays, which work as hubs, have multiple USB ports but Firewire is nowhere to be found!

    Uh actually, no, Firewire doesn't. As I've explained, in Mac OS, Firewire received (obviously) better support than USB 2.0. Anyone with an Intel Mac can experience this for themselves. Install Windows and then copy files over USB. You'll see it takes significantly longer in OS X than it does in Windows. I mean, just syncing my 80GB 5.5G iPod takes longer in OS X. A good 5 minutes longer.

    Actually, the best use internal devices ;) But you see, Apple can't use those. Why? Because the Mac Pro is the ONLY system they have with internal expandability. But guess what? It only has 2 PCIe 4x slots! It doesn't support any of the other PCI variations out there!

    Uh huh. You claim to have a Mac Pro in your sig. Pop the side off and count the PCI slots. Not PCIe, PCI. Oh whats that? It doesn't have any? Then how can it support everything Windows does!? You know that nearly every internal audio device is still PCI, right? And the very few PCIe audio devices that do exist are generally just PCI cards with a chip that converts them to PCIe.

    Not only is there no hardware support for everything Windows supports, but the driver support isn't there either! OS X has very basic driver support for the usual USB cards. But even with a Mac Pro you can't take something like this a card regarded as one of the best for playback and throw it in. OS X just won't support it and neither will the hardware.

    Hell, I can't even take my old Chaintech AV-710, another card regarded as one of the best for playback, and throw it in a Mac Pro just because there is no hardware or software support.

    Even funnier, the MacBook Pro can't even support as much audio hardware as a $600 HP because it doesn't have a full size ExpressCard slot AND OS X wouldn't have the driver support anyway.

    Well thats stupidity on the part of the user who got infected. You can't fix OS X's problems, like random crashing or becoming unstable when trying to sync various iPods one after another.
  18. kasakka macrumors 68020

    Oct 25, 2008
    There's simply a much wider range of FireWire audio interfaces available, some of them with higher quality preamps and converters than what's on the M-Audio or E-MU USB units. Even E-MU only offers a few "entry level" (which are in reality perfectly fine for lots of people) USB audio interfaces, their better stuff is PCI. There's a world of difference choosing a card/interface for playback vs choosing one for recording.

    It seems that for most recording tasks USB2 would be adequate, but the manufacturers have decided that their better devices (the ones with higher quality converters, preamps and so on) are going to be either FW or PCI for various reasons.

    Compared to FW, USB2 has limited capabilities for powering devices. Sound On Sound's review of the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra states that without external power, only the first I/O pair and S/PDIF works. By comparison my FW400 Echo AudioFire4 works 100% with just the bus power.

    For recording purposes, I think the most important factor along with the FW port is the larger screen and higher resolution of the Macbook Pro. Most recording programs are pretty cluttered so more screen estate is desirable. The price difference between the 2.4 GHz MBP and 2.4 GHz Mackbook is fairly small anyway.

    I guess the reason why Apple has dropped PCI from the Mac Pro is because now for example Digidesign (Protools), RME and Apogee have PCI-E cards available. This is of course a big bummer for those with existing PCI cards and a need for a new Mac Pro, in the same way the lack of FW in the Macbook pisses off those of us who have fine FW audio interfaces already.
  19. Ploki macrumors 68020

    Jan 21, 2008
    although i agree with some of your claims i strongly disagree with some of them.

    i dont remember anyone preferring emu/maudio over RME or Apogee. really i cant. and from my personal experience i can see why! theyre not bad cards, but everyone i know that had an emu or maudio bought something else when upgrading. i know, its purely subjective, but my experience with EMU0404 were so "great" i went with Terratec Phase22 instead. ;)

    8channels uncompressed 24/96 .. i never said it couldnt handle, i just said that playback over 7.1 card is not considered proaudio but entertainment/consumer audio.
    by the way, on every single site USB2.0 is said to have 240-280mbps sustained data rate. thats about as half lower as the specs say.
    and if the CPU is already loaded because of plugins (which could happen) you are sure to be more prone to drop outs.
    especially on a mac thats known to have worse usb2.0 support...

    so, saying that FW400 doesnt have better sustained throughput is hogwash, there have been zillion tests on win and mac confirming that for bigger files FW smokes USB on every OS.

    I KNOW My mac pro doesnt have any internal PCI slots.. and I hate it because the time i got it i was forced to get a Firewire card which im going to replace (or use as mobile) as soon as i find something more appropriate PCIe solution.
    its stupid i know. but if you have 4 expansions slots ONLY i guess its a sacrifice... after all, when first AGP Mobos came out my 3 ISA slots were doing nothing and just taking up space for PCI. longterm i can see it be alright, but yes i agree short term it stinks as hell!

    and for that matter, id probably go with the MB if it had FIrewire. but i have a firewire interface that suits me great and i was not in the mood of another usb just for the sake of it.

    Firewire has some big disadvantages! (i haven tried this with USB2.0 though maybe it acts the same):
    changing latency everytime you reboot.. (maybe a proper PCIe FW card (TI) would solve that)
    needing of a great card (on a PC mostly) to make it NOT CRASH.
    and the advantages is
    -stabilty (when you get it right :D )
    -sustained throughput (which audio in the end is)
    -daisy chaining

    i said in another thread
    in manual of my card it stated that the card handles 72 streams of audio at 96/24 on a single port. i dont think there is a single USB/FW interface with that many I/o... :)

    so bottom line, the limits we are discussing about are beyond "normal" use (you dont use fw/usb for a professional studio :D )

    and what do you mean, why is dropping firewire wise? :D
    if you come to anyone serious for audio and say "maudio smokes RME" it will laugh in your face, its a wellknown fact that RME's smoke the hell out of maudios and they stick with Firewire.
    dropping a support for firewire on CONSUMER products is reasonable: RME FF800 for example is above average consumer..
  20. CastrolSyntec macrumors newbie

    Jul 7, 2008
    Get the previous generation 2.4. its cheap, has a firewire and is INCREDIBLY durable for what it is. also very fast and runs cool with good battery life. It can be upgraded to 4GB ram.
  21. MatLane macrumors 6502a


    Sep 30, 2008
    England, United Kingdom
    I would do this too.

    Get the faster one. you will be fine with 2GB, but it is easly upgradable and cheaper third party.

    To be honest i think you will be fine with anything from

    The first Unibody Macbook in the line

    But like i said, personally i would hit the faster one
  22. SuperSnake2012 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 11, 2005
    As far as the old plastic Macbooks, I have too many cracked top cases to disprove the durability... the new computers are definitely more durable.
  23. kasakka macrumors 68020

    Oct 25, 2008
    Latency shouldn't change on reboot. At least it doesn't on my PC with its built-in FW. Neither did it happen with the PCI FireWire card (VIA chip if I remember correctly) I used with my previous computer. Didn't experience any crashes either, those may be more related to drivers or other things rather than FireWire.
  24. Ploki macrumors 68020

    Jan 21, 2008
    nah, the fw chipsets are suppose to give problems.

    and the latency related problem has to be in the OSX handling firewire audio. it changes on every reboot, logicpro8 not having automatic compensation makes the cause really annoying
  25. mosx macrumors 65816

    Mar 3, 2007
    But with a PC and PCI, you get both in one neat little package. Not possible with a Mac even with Firewire ;)

    Right there you prove that its better to have a desktop PC for recording than any Mac.

    USB was always meant to be a low powered bus. I'd personally rather have a high power device have its own power supply rather than drawing from a portable computer.

    Well, if screen resolution is important then a MacBook Pro is out of the question as well, seeing as how you can get a 1680x1050 glass screen on a PC (offered months before Apple did it) plus blu-ray, faster processor, more video memory on the same GPU, etc. for just a little over half the price of the MacBook Pro.

    Ah but see, on desktop PCs with smaller cases than the Mac Pro, they too have multiple PCI and PCIe slots. In the case of Firewire, the standard is dead and there was simply no room for it on the new MacBook motherboard. However, the Mac Pro? No reason for it not to be there.

    No, you did say that USB 2 was only capable of 2 channels. Which was completely false.

    280Mbps works out to be roughly 35MB/sec, which is about the real world write speed for many notebook HDDs.

    Well, thats why you stay away from a Mac for recording. OS X wastes CPU cycles like theres no tomorrow. Similar tasks in OS X and Windows generally result in Windows using less than half as many CPU cycles. I know my first MacBook would waste up to 25% total CPU cycles when copying files over USB. That was a 2GHz Core 2 Duo on the Napa platform. At that time I had a 1.73GHz Core 2 Duo PC on the Napa platform and copying data over USB resulted in about 5% CPU time gone.

    So bad performance with a USB recording device has nothing to do with the bus itself and everything to do with OS X being horribly inefficient.

    Prove it. I'm googling right now and the ONLY benchmark I can find where USB 2.0 performs worse in the real world than Firewire is Barefeats, comparing *gasp* Macs. Funny thing is, their Firewire results are actually slower than USB 2.0 results at other sites, sustained transfer rates of around 30MB/sec, less than USB 2.0's proven 40MB/sec sustained rate (according to benchmarks at everything USB).

    You can daisy chain on USB also. Up to 127 devices per port. Its just a matter of the devices being designed to have the ports to connect to another device itself.

    Nobody said M-Audio was better. I said go to Hydrogen Audio and Head-fi, two of the most respected, if not THE most respected, audio sites on the web. And tell them that M-Audio and E-Mu are bad.

    Oh and I'd like to see someone who is buying a MacBook that can actually afford to buy the Fireface 800. Because like I said at this forum, for the vast majority of people, including musicians, a MacBook will be their most expensive computer purchase ever. Buying a $1700 interface to record their music is most likely out of the question because, like most real musicians, they have to work primary jobs and their secondary job is music. They can't afford a $1700 interface when they have to pay their housing payment, utilities, etc.

    Not everyone who buys a Mac has a lot of money ;) As I said, for nearly everyone who buys a MacBook, its the most expensive computer they have ever bought.

    Plus the newer Firewire controller chips on the recent MacBook Pros have been proven to be problematic anyway, rendering this whole argument null and void.

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