First time Apple purchase for audio production; advice?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by Eonwe, Aug 6, 2004.

  1. Eonwe macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2004
    Hi all. I've been using Windows (and DOS, egads) machines for quite a long time. This past year I found myself working at an OSX.3 machine doing some simple audio production (teaching a music technology course in public school).

    I've been thinking of buying a laptop for audio production (portable for live recording), and I've been up in the air about whether or not to go with an OSX machine or a Windows XP machine. After some recent frustrations with Windows, I think I've decided to go OSX, but I really have no concept of what the Apple specs I'll want are as compared to the windows ones. I've been poking around the forums and some people seem to feel that the powerbooks are just too slow, while others couldn't be happier. So, I guess I'm just looking for advice; am I truly going to be happy with a powerbook? At what mHz will I be happy? I'm trying to be on a budget, so I'm not going to jump on a 1.33 17"; I just can't afford it. Help this n00bie (sorry) get his bearings in this new realm.

    Also, in a slight tangent, so the G4s are motorola chips, and the G5s are IBMs? So, is Apple phasing out Motorola from their computers completely, or are they going to run two separate lines of processors?
  2. Eonwe thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2004
    Oh, and a related point. Aparently the G5s have a different architecture (64 bit processing?); the last new computer I bought was about six years ago, and while I might not go quite as long with this new purchase, I'd like it to have some real staying power. Will a G4 give me that, or will I be jumping on board the Apple-train right before a colossal change in speed/power?
  3. Hansomatic macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2004
    Mac for Audion


    As you probably know, Macs have been the pioneering tool for audio and video. But these days, PCs have all the eprocessor and bus speed required to run the most demanding audio applications. That being said, you may still run into situations where the applications you want to run are only made for one platform or the other. Pro Tools is now available for PC but in recent years was Mac-only. Digital Performer, on the other hand, has gone from both platforms to Mac-only. Finding the right application for your needs is a great place to start.

    You'll need an interface for your laptop. Yes, you could plug mics directly into your soundcard, but YUCK! You need to make sure that your input is line-level or get an external preamp to accomplish line-level signal. Even then, the A/D conversion of a standard soundcard sucks. It might, however, be good enough for teaching basic concepts.

    If you were to run a basic Pro Tools set-up, you'd need PCI slots for the required farm cards. If you run Pro Tools LE, a native application, no farm cards are required - making a laptop a great choice. Native solutions use the computers processors instead of PCI-based processor (aka farm) cards. Native systems can be bumped up with external hardware processors like the TC PowerCore Firewire or internally with processors like the PCI-based Mackie UAD-1. FireWire solutions keep your laptop option viable. Once again, your A/D Interface/converter is something to consider. DigiDesign M-Box or MOTU 828 might be worth looking into for your needs. They are the lowest level for pro audio.

    Ask yourself, what is the highest track count required. If the answer is 24 or less running 16 bit sound at 44.1KHZ, a Mac PowerBook laptop will work great. If you crank up your bit resolution to 24 bits, your tracks will get much bigger in size, that might make it so you need a dual processor computer - eliminating the laptop (for now, anyway). You could keep the laptop but you might have to lower your track count.

    Top end native systems will typically be based around a G5 Dual 2.5Ghz Mac with around 2GB of RAM or more. That system will probably have a dual channel SCSI PCI card with a Raid 0 configuration on two Seagate cheetah X15s. But that is for a full blown pro-level project studio. If you go this far, run an external word clock of the highest affordable quality and top-end converters. Apogee is the best (my personal opinion).

    Bottom line. Pro Tools is the industry standard for audio - like it or not. They are owned by Avid, the industry leader in broadcast systems. Their systems are the best way to learn the way Digital Audio is done. If you know Pro Tools, you can figure out everything else - for the most part.

    If I were you, I'd get a ProTools LE system with a Digi002 interface or Logic Pro and an Apogee Rosetta 800 96k interface w/ firewire. Pro Tools LE will work on either platform but Logic is the heavyweight solution - Mac only. If you need additional horsepower, a FireWire DSP like the PowerCore will add a great deal of umph. For a nominal price, you'll have the toys of the big boys, most of the same functionality, and a small footprint for travel. This setup is more than many garage bands could ever dream of.

    Give it hell.

  4. Eonwe thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2004

    My experience with the Mac has been on Digital Performer, while my PC experience was on Pro Tools LE (which I found very frustrating, but that was in part because I was on a very underpowered system, and because I had become skilled on DP first).

    I am probably not going to need more than 24 tracks in the foreseeable future; this is currently a hobby with which I occasionally make some money, and not a cash-cow business by any means.
  5. Bruce Lee, PhD macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2004
    i'd mostly like to second hansomatic's recommendations; i was going to respond but he's pretty much given you the lay of the land.

    having used logic and protools, i find logic to be a very difficult program to use. i think that's sort of the general feeling; logic is extremely powerful, but hard to learn. i'd go with a protools system unless you're doing a ton of elaborate MIDI work (logic has impressive MIDI support; i think logic is quite popular with electronic music folks).

    as far as whether you're getting old technology with a g4 laptop, the answer is unfortunately yes, but that's not really so bad as it might seem. i know pros who do sessions with older g4 hardware and it still works well. the g4's altivec unit shines in applications like signal processing, so audio is one place where you get more power than the clock speed might suggest. i think a new powerbook ought to last a few years for what you're doing. it seems unlikely that the first g5 powerbooks will be out before next year, and with all the heat issues, i'd wait for rev 2 before buying a g5 powerbook anyway.
  6. kanker macrumors 6502

    Nov 13, 2003
    Last but not least,, where all your Mac audio questions can be answered, no matter how big or small.
  7. Bhennies macrumors 6502

    Mar 20, 2004
    NYC & Baltimore
    I agree with most of what you said, except for the part about the laptop not being enough power. I have a POwerbook g4 1.33 powerbook, and the latest Pro TOols session I worked on was 36 tracks (4 disabled), with about 20 plugs (waves), at 24 bit, 44.1k. My CPU meter was just under half.

    THe powerbook will do very well...Pro Tools is not yet optimized for OSX, so it won't run nearly as efficiently as say Logic or DP. Basically, if the Powerbook can handle a big session in Pro Tools, then it can handle just about anything.

    A powerbook with a digi 002rack (a rosetta as well would be nice, but the 002 converters and pres are probably fine if it's just a hobby at this point) plus a FW hard drive (MAKE SURE IT HAS AN OXFORD CHIPSET!!!!) will be a great setup that will last you a couple years.

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