Considering desktop to laptop switch for audio production.


macrumors regular
Original poster
With the release of the 17" Powerbook I find myself seriously considering getting rid of my desktop computer.

I use my Dual 800 (first dual Quicksilver) mostly for audio and music production in my homestudio. But would love to have a machine which makes less noise and that I could take with me.

So I was wondering if anybody here was using the "older" Powerbook G4's for audioproduction and could tell me about things like latency in VST instruments, harddisk performance with multiple audiotracks with just 4200rpm (I use SCSI U160 and 8MB cache IDE drives at the moment). And things like that.

Will I be missing my second processor much if I get the 17" 1Ghz Powerbook? Will I experience a great negative difference in speed coming from my dual 800Mhz? Will I like the Motu 828 which will be replacing my M-Audio Delta 1010 when it comes to it.

Some firsthand experience from people using (for example) the 1Ghz Powerbook 15" for audio and MIDI would be greatly appreciated.



macrumors 68000
Nov 27, 2001
here (for now)
me three...

im about to purchase a powerbook for, an "away from the studio" (re) mixing, and live permance machine (i use a PM dual 450 and omni i/o)

the slower HD kida scare me, and the smaller interface will be hard to get used to.

i think i will get a 15. i would love a 17, but i think it might be too big?

if the twelve inch had L3 and wasn't so hot, i would definetly buy one right now.


macrumors 603
Feb 2, 2002
well on most things, you should notice a pretty comparable speed, but on multiple complex tasks it will be slower. i don't know much about audio editing, but it can't be as processor intensive as video editing, and i understand the 17" can handle that reasonably well... keep in mind, this thing is so big it's not the most portable thing in the world-- you won't be climbing mountains with it i don't think. but it works well for carrying between work and home, and that size is nice...



Moderator emeritus
Jan 19, 2003
London, England
I've run a Ti 400 for two years, before that a G3 (pizmo I think), both of which handled ProTools and Logic Platinum plus Reason and ReCycle and a host of VST instrument and FX plug-ins.

The main difference is in the hardware, simply put, no PCI slots, so you can't run any ProTools other than the "free" 8-track, I use a magma PCI expander into the card slot, and then a digi 001 in a small rack with some pre-amps and dynamics control for out and about, and I use an HD 3 system in the studio, I had to buy a 2nc PCI card, one for the PB and one for the G4 towers in the studio. The Magma is expensive though.

The problem with latency disappears under any decent hardware interface, and is noticably better under OSX with the core audio, plus any hardware input worth it's salt sounds better that the unbalanced minijack input.

You can use a USB box (eMagics EMI 2/6 is very nice, as is the Digidesign M-box) but it tends to limit you on input numbers, I'll take a Mackie 8-bus desk for remote work and throw everything through the 001 box, in fact anything will be better than the macs own input for anything remotely serious.

The downside to USB is the latency, it WILL affect you, and there's nothing you can do except monitor from source and don't listen to the mac's recording till your finished, which is OK for complete performances, but makes dropping in a joke.

The other hit you take is system bus speed, you simply don't get the horsepower in a portable as compared to a desktop, especially the DP's, now this isn't a problem with raw audio, but the moment you start playing with heavy signal processing, your in a rut. I can run a couple of Altiverb plug-ins before the processor chokes on the Ti, sure its better on the 1Ghz, but it's never going to be as good as a desktop, this means you do spend time bouncing FX laden tracks down to audio to free up the processor, (Logic 6 has a neat freeze function that converts this stuff into an audio track on the fly, very nice).

The Ti handles VST instruments well, I run NI absynth, the PPG emulation, the Hammond B4 and a few others as well as the ES1 and 2 synths and the EXS 24 sampler from Logic, I don't recall ever having a problem, but I'm audio mainly not too much MIDI.

I've had 34 raw audio tracks running from the 400's internal drive, I get more form the 80 gig 7200 firewire drive, but not too many.

The 4200 disc is not a problem, as paul said it's not as intensive as video, but you need as much RAM as you can get.

It really depends on what you want to achieve, and how easy you want it to be. I've recorded and mixed albums from my Ti, into stereo and 5.1 surround, but you will need the hardware in and outputs to be comfortable.

Firewire interfaces are great, I'm currently looking at a Mark of the Unicorn 828 i've borrowed, there's a new version with more I/Os, but I'll try this for a while, no Magma to lug around, just straight to the mac.

I don't think you'd have a problem, a lot depends on how well you know audio, and how flexible you are. I'll never go back to a desktop, in fact my 17" AluBook should be here very soon...:D

My biggest concern is audio quality, I'll run some very strange rigs to get the sound right, but most users now want a good MIDI impementation with some audio and mixing, if this is you then go get Logic Platinum and have a ball.

Take your time and budget for the interface.