Can't Decide... iMac or MacBook Pro for Music Production

Discussion in 'iMac' started by LionheartAKB, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. LionheartAKB macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2010
    I'm ready to buy my first Mac. After years of frustration with Windows drivers and incompatibility, I need a change. I have been waiting on an iMac refresh, but now I'm starting to second guess myself. I dont know which will suit my needs better... an iMac, or a MacBook Pro.

    I plan to use the computer mostly for music recording, mixing, and production. The software I'll be using is Pro Tools LE, Logic Studio, Reason, and FL Studio (running in bootcamp). The thing is, I have no idea how intensive these programs are. Will I need a powerful system to run them efficiently? Can they even take advange of a multi-core processor, more than 4GB of RAM, and use them to their full potential?

    Besides music, I will also be doing internet surfing, photo editing with iphoto or Photoshop CS3, basic home movie editing with iMovie, and possibly casual gaming (Steam, WOW).

    Now, I'm not a professional, but music production is a very serious hobby of mine.

    I originally planned on getting a 27" iMac i7 as soon as they are refreshed. The computer will mostly sit on my desk connected to guitars, mics, and a mixer. I figured the iMac components are more powerful than a laptop, and the large screen real estate would be useful since I'll have so many plug-ins and mixer windows open. But do I really need all this power for the programs I'll be using? Would I really see a big difference compared to a 15" i7 MacBook Pro? Also, do I really need to spend for the i7, or would a lesser set-up do the job equally well?

    The main reason I ask is because... If a MacBook Pro would run equally well, then I could still hook up an external monitor when needed. The benefit is that when I'm tired of sitting at my desk and need to relax and mix on the couch, I have the option. Who knows when I might need to take the laptop out for the occasional trip/vacation.

    BTW, I tried searching the forums for advise and looked for benchmarks for this software, but really cant find anything useful.

    Any advice, especially from professionals or users of this software, is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! :)
  2. vrockob macrumors newbie

    Jan 21, 2010
    Orange County CA,
    I own both, although my macbook pro 17" is a powerfull enough computer for tracking and even mixing I find that my imac is able to run a lot more VI's. The benefits of a macbook pro are that its portable(obviously), and that it has an express card slot to run plug ins like UAD. If I were to choose between one or the other I would choose the imac. Keep in mind 90% of my usage is in music production. Its hard to pass up the power and the price of the imac compared to the macbook pro.
  3. SmilesLots macrumors regular


    Apr 30, 2010
    SW Virginia
    You might also want to check these two sites if you have not done so already:

    I am looking for such a solution as well. I have looked at the same 27 in i7, a beautiful machine, a 2010 Mac Mini server, and a 17 in Mac Book Pro. I lean more to the Mac Book Pro at this time for the portability and lower power requirements. I have 7 UPS's and would need another if I got the iMac. With the Mini I could raid the two internal hard drives. And with either the Mini or the Mac Book Pro, there would be less room heating. Good during this heat wave we have been having. MHO's. BTW worth about $0.02.
  4. rgarjr macrumors 603


    Apr 2, 2009
    Southern California
    if the machine is mainly going to be used at home, then a desktop would be a good choice.
  5. skiltrip macrumors 68030

    May 6, 2010
    New York
    I used to record on a PC desktop that I built. Very powerful machine. But since I got my MacBook Pro, that's all I use. There's something about being mobile that just trumps being anchored to a desk. Though you can anchor yourself to the desk with the MacBook Pro if you want. But you can then mix wherever you happen to be. Library, school, work, dining room table. Wherever. I'll probably never go back to a desktop again after having the freedom of the laptop.
  6. Music_Producer macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    i7 iMac - trust me. When you start improving on the production/mixing end you'll be introducing more virtual plug-ins, effects, etc - I can bring my iMac down to a halt if a production is intensive enough.

    If you're going to be running Reason, etc with Pro Tools an iMac is a no brainer. Plus it gets annoying working on anything less than 27" screen lol (try 64 tracks with effects routings everywhere, aux tracks, ahhhh)

    Edit - Btw, the proper answer should be - depends on what you intend to produce. If there are a lot of plugins, virtual instruments, a mbp should be ok (add an SSD at the very least) Some people produce stuff which has 12-16 tracks - mbp does just fine. I work with 60+ Track projects so for me the imac is a must.
  7. bprice macrumors member

    May 28, 2007
    LA, Ca.
    The MBP is going to give you portability and an express card slot...thats about it...besides costing more ;) I don't see the advantage over a iMaci7.

    Both could run everything you mentioned the imac i7 more efficiently.That's a load of apps for a hobbyist.Do you already have them or are going to get them?....

    the latest upgrade of Logic 9 is 64 bits(you can run it 32 bits also) so is unlimited in its ram usage.The imac can take 16 gb ram..the mbp can't.That is very helpful with sample library apps.The VI's and FX are more CPU intensive.

    L9 is also multicore with hyperthreading L9 shows 8 cores.Almost any new machine can run these programs.theimaci7 also has turbo power which can overclock(up to 3.3 I beleive) when not using all the cores.

    overall it ultimately depends on the engineer how smoothly and effectively.I'm sure a better engineer than me (i.e.... more patience) could record and mix an 80 track session on my MM.

    IMO the iMac i7 is the best Mac home studio computer out there.

  8. R94N macrumors 68020


    May 30, 2010
    +1 there's not much point to a laptop if you're just going to use it in the same place at home.
  9. LionheartAKB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2010
    Thanks everyone for all your input. I've decided on the iMac. Worst case scenario is that I end up really needing a laptop. I can always save up again for a cheaper 13" for more basic tasks, but I'll still have the beast of an i7 iMac at home. Now let's just hope it gets refreshed today when the Apple store goes live again.
  10. LionheartAKB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2010
    I ordered a new 27" i7 iMac yesterday. Upgraded to a 2TB HD (cant afford SSD), and plan to upgrade the RAM down the road if needed. The only thing is, I'm already starting to have buyers remorse...

    As great as a 27" screen is, I think I'm really going to miss the portability. Sometimes it's nice to mix songs and edit photos on the couch or over at a friends place. Also, I'm starting college in a month and figure I may need to bring a laptop to a study group or to class. I guess my point is... Do I really need the power of an i7 desktop iMac?? I dont know how intensive Pro Tools, Logic, and Reason are. If they would run equally well on an i5/i7 15" MacBook Pro, then maybe I should change my order before it ships. After all, I can always hook up an external monitor while at home. Also, even still, would I have been ok with an i3 or i5 iMac? Basically, even though I have the money to spend, I dont want to be wasteful and pay for a machine so powerful that I dont even make full use of it. Besides music production, I will only be using iphoto and imovie. I dont know of much else software on a Mac that I'd really want... or that would need such a powerful machine.

    I tried browsing the net and forums for benchmarks comparing the i5 iMac to the i5 MacBook. Are the iMac parts really that much faster? Or are they about the same?
  11. HLdan macrumors 603


    Aug 22, 2007
    In the computing world you really can't have too much power, it's only going to further your use for the computer down the line so that's a silly argument about having too much power, but in your case power doesn't really matter as you've stated that portability is more important. You've listed quite a few reasons why, so cancel your order and get the MBP i7. Opinions here are going to help you, if you prefer portability then go for the Macbook.
  12. mlts22 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    It really boils down to one question:

    How often will the Mac be hauled around?

    If the Mac stays in one place, get an iMac. The performance will be better (especially with the i7), you have a bigger hard disk, more RAM, better video (and Grand Central can use the GPUs), and a bigger screen.

    If the computer is moved around often, get a MBP. iMacs are portable, but they are not meant to be taken around from gig to gig. A MBP is not as fast as an iMac, but it will get the job done.

    Ideally, you might consider both: An iMac at the home/studio, and a MBP that you can take from gig to gig.
  13. LionheartAKB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2010
    If my financial situation allowed it, this is what I'd do. Keep the iMac hooked up to all the gear at home, and then have a very portable 13" MacBook Pro for the road. Hmmm... Perhaps I will keep the iMac order and try to save for a lower end 13". That way I'd still have something to take to college and preform lighter tasks on. I suppose I could even port my save files over and do some mixing on the road. I would just hope that the MacBook wouldnt make using my iMac obsolete.
  14. LionheartAKB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2010
    Not to troll my own thread... but I am getting really excited. This will be my first Mac and I'm ready to see what it can do. Comming from Windows, besides all my music programs, I really dont know what else to try on the Mac. It's main purpose will be for music production, but its such a nice system that I'd really like to do more with it. I plan to work on photos with iphoto, and home movies with imovie... but what are some other fun/cool/interesting programs out there for the Mac? As a first time Mac owner, I have no idea where to start and what's availble. Any suggestions on nessessary software or unique programs?

    Thanks again!
  15. Man-Droid macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2009
    Tampa, Fl
    I have been having some fun with iDrum. It is a virtual drum machine. If you enjoy creating beats it's not bad for the price.

    I change my icons all the time with an app called Candy Bar. You can change the look of the dock, trash can and system folders etc.
  16. bprice macrumors member

    May 28, 2007
    LA, Ca.
    Its not whether its the programs bring it to its knees( Logic is the most efficient on a Mac though) it's what you use in the program (V- Soft synths,samplers,FX etc..) THESE will bring it to it's knees depending on how many and what.If its over 20 tracks most dual cores start to struggle (it could be sooner or a little later again..depending).

    I do this for a living and I DON"T like a lot of work arounds.You may not.If portability is HIGH on your list your best bet for efficiency is the MBP i7.The fact is you will not know what your preference is until you do it.Personaly I don't even want to think about the computer should just do it's job and not break a sweat.When it does... I do..YMMV

  17. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
  18. mlts22 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    One of the best purchases I made during my student career was the 2008 unibody MacBook, which the 13" MBP would be a direct descendant of. It was small enough to stick in a backpack, but yet decent enough to do most tasks.

    The iMac will be good, because you can do the work that needs the heavy lifting at home on a desktop grade machine.

    Stuff I found useful for starters:

    VMWare Fusion. For anything non-game, this is a great item to have on hand to run those Windows-only programs.

    Time Capsule. Time Machine is a must because it is easy to set up and backs the computer up in the background.

    Mozy. If you lose both your computer and external HDD, Mozy is good for keeping files safe.

    iWork. If there isn't a need for Word or Excel proper, might as well use iWork because it is a nice, polished tool for writing papers with. The only thing it doesn't do which Word does is allow one to create a database of references for the papers that need APA and MLA citations.

    Little Snitch (to see what is trying to phone home and where.)

    Logic Studio if you don't have a music program already. Logic by itself is why a number of musicians have Macs. It is a best of breed program, and doesn't require a license dongle like Cubase does. (Lose the dongle, Steinberg will not replace it, and you either have to find a crack, or re-purchase all your software and VST plugins.)

    A Kensington MicroSaver DS lock for both systems. The key is better than the average round keys so people can't pick it open with a Bic pen.

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