iMac for audio recording

penny_whistle

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 3, 2017
5
1
USA
Hi folks, hoping you can help this bargain hunter out with purchasing an iMac. Currently leaning toward buying a 2015 refurb from Apple.

I'll be using it with a Universal Audio Apollo 8 Thunderbolt II interface which records up to eight analog tracks at a time.

For music production the use of plugins often dictates what kind of horsepower & RAM the computer will need to have. But I'll be using the UA plugins which run off the Apollo's internal UAD2 processor.

I don't have a handle on what kind of performance difference there might be recording audio between the 2.7, 2.9 and 3.1 processors.

Will an i5 handle live 8-track recording? Or is an i7 really necessary?

Semi-portable would be nice. I may very occasionally take it outside my place to record in bigger rooms, etc. A big screen is nice, but I'd rather haul around a 21.5" than a 27". And when I want more screen space, I was thinking a 21.5" iMac along with an external monitor might be preferable to a 27" iMac.

It looks as though the 21.5" iMacs have a maximum of 8 gig RAM. Is this a deal-breaker (compared to being able to have 16 gig of RAM) in a 27" iMac?

External SSD drives seem like the preferred way to go, though they're relatively expensive. Any love for the Fusion or other types of external hard drives?

I'd like to get something soon but it wouldn't kill me to wait a few months if major performance upgrades are around the corner.
 

Lunder89

macrumors 6502
Oct 16, 2014
392
128
Denmark
I don't know much about audio recording, but I do know something about tech specs :)

The 4k iMac 21,5" can be configured with 16 GB ram, if you need it. If you need an i5 or i7, I don't really know, the best I can do is to recommend finding some benchmarks, and see what they tell you. (Notebookcheck.net)

You can also adjust the screen resolution on the 4k iMac, so maybe one screen could be enough.

I would encourage you to go with pure SSD for the iMac, Fusion drive if the price is a big concern. Don't buy one with only classic harddrive inside, you will regret it, I promise.
 

Mikael H

macrumors 6502a
Sep 3, 2014
741
374
Hi folks, hoping you can help this bargain hunter out with purchasing an iMac. Currently leaning toward buying a 2015 refurb from Apple.

I'll be using it with a Universal Audio Apollo 8 Thunderbolt II interface which records up to eight analog tracks at a time.

For music production the use of plugins often dictates what kind of horsepower & RAM the computer will need to have. But I'll be using the UA plugins which run off the Apollo's internal UAD2 processor.

I don't have a handle on what kind of performance difference there might be recording audio between the 2.7, 2.9 and 3.1 processors.

Will an i5 handle live 8-track recording? Or is an i7 really necessary?

Semi-portable would be nice. I may very occasionally take it outside my place to record in bigger rooms, etc. A big screen is nice, but I'd rather haul around a 21.5" than a 27". And when I want more screen space, I was thinking a 21.5" iMac along with an external monitor might be preferable to a 27" iMac.

It looks as though the 21.5" iMacs have a maximum of 8 gig RAM. Is this a deal-breaker (compared to being able to have 16 gig of RAM) in a 27" iMac?

External SSD drives seem like the preferred way to go, though they're relatively expensive. Any love for the Fusion or other types of external hard drives?

I'd like to get something soon but it wouldn't kill me to wait a few months if major performance upgrades are around the corner.
To be honest, I haven't dealt with proper recording since way-back-when, but from what you write, I'd say that the most important thing to you would probably be to ensure you spec the machine up with a solid state drive with enough capacity. You'll want to push the recorded streams to multiple files simultaneously, and an SSD will cope better with that than a mechanical disk will be able to.
If you don't do more than 8 simultaneous tracks I have a hard time imagining that a half-decent 4-core CPU wouldn't cope - especially, as you say, if the effects are offloaded over TB2 to an external sound device. The only way to be sure, of course, would be to try it out, or if someone with similar needs to yours can state their opinion.
 

1050792

macrumors Demi-God
Oct 2, 2016
2,515
3,989
Any computer can handle 8 track recording heck even a 10 year old computer can. I use to use an older iMac with an i5 2.7ghz for recording 15 tracks with 10 VST and it had no hiccups but I was using Logic Pro X which is supposed to be more optimized on Macs. Your priority should be to get either an SSD or a Fusion Drive it is much better for audio recording in real time when the audio is being written to the HD while you are recording, with an SSD the writing will be much faster so you won't notice any slowdows or hiccups. An i7 would only be necessary if you were going to use Lots and I mean LOTS of VST plugins in one session because i7 arr capable of hyper threading which gives you more threads (8 in total) to spread all the plugins in all cores. About the RAM I am not sure but I think you can upgrade it when you order the iMac through the Apple Store web site? If you would buy the floor model with 8GB maximum I say it's enough for live recording 8 tracks, I also use 8GB with 70+ tracks and 43 VST plugins and it's great. Personaly I wouldn't wait for the new Macs and if you need one now jusy get it. Nobody knows when they are coming and the new hardware that should come is not a deal breaker especialy for music production when you barely use all the GPU power and the CPU's on current iMacs are more than capable of anything. You should only wait if you don't need the mac right now and have an OCD with your iMac saying "Mid/Late 2015".
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
20,010
7,023
I'd suggest a refurb 27" iMac, 8gb RAM, 2tb fusion drive, m395 GPU.

These can be found for $1,700 if you shop carefully (eBay), Apple refurbs w/1-year Apple warranty, qualified for AppleCare if you want it.

One reason for getting the existing design iMac:
Since the interface is thunderbolt2, you can just plug it right in.
I believe that with thunderbolt3, you'll need to add a tb2-to-tb3 adapter, it -should- work with the Apollo but one never knows...

I would find the 21" too limiting, especially if you buy one with 8gb of RAM and then discover that you need more.

The 2tb fusion model should do you fine.
 

penny_whistle

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 3, 2017
5
1
USA
Thanks for the input so far - leaning towards a 2015 3.2 or 3.3 gHz i5 27". It has a later-gen processor than the 21.5" models and I can increase the RAM easily.

Regarding the internal hard drive - I understand that the standard 'classic' drives have slower write times. I figured I'd be recording onto an external hard drive - still important to get a faster internal hard drive?
 

Mikael H

macrumors 6502a
Sep 3, 2014
741
374
Regarding the internal hard drive - I understand that the standard 'classic' drives have slower write times. I figured I'd be recording onto an external hard drive - still important to get a faster internal hard drive?
Your future self will thank you if you do. There's a huge difference in the speed of a computer with an SSD over a mechanical drive. I don't know your level of ambition, but to begin with, it's probably cheaper to get a nice and fast internal SSD of a decent size than to get a thunderbolt cabinet in which you can grow. Also, count in the cost of at least one "large enough" backup drive (which may well be an USB3 one) unless you're OK with losing all of your data.
 

nambuccaheadsau

macrumors 68000
Oct 19, 2007
1,845
434
Nambucca Heads Australia
Penny I suggest you look for the 27" iMac with an SSD already installed. You are up to speed with the memory etc being upgradable in the 27", not the 21.5" and the CPU's. I use a Thunderbolt and a USB3 drives for my backups, but prefer the TB, but it is a matter for you.

As one can be patient doing backups, a large drive, say 2TB in a fan equipped caddy would be the go.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
20,010
7,023
OP:

Get either an internal SSD or the 2tb fusion drive (DON'T get the 1tb fusion, the SSD portion of that one is only 24gb!).

If you buy an iMac with ONLY an internal platter-based HDD, you're going to be sorry.

Consider yourself as having been "duly warned".
 
Last edited:

xb2003

macrumors 6502
Jan 18, 2016
379
164
MO
You do not by any means need to upgrade to the i7. I have an old Latitude with a Core 2 Duo that is often used to record 32 tracks through an X32 at 24bit/48kHz.

If you are not planning on running a whole bunch of VSTs or AUs, you really don't need a whole lot of ram either. For 8 tracks, 4GB would easily work, though I definitely recommend 8GB and eventually 16GB.

Your priority really should be getting an SSD.
 
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