iMac or Mac Pro for making music

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by kimjohnsson, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. kimjohnsson macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    #1
    The long story short: is the Quad Xeon substantially more powerful than the Quad i7, from a music making point-of-view?

    My current alternatives:
    - iMac 27" Quad i7, 16 GB, 256 GB flash, 2599 €
    - Mac Pro Quad Xeon, 12GB, 256GB flash, 2999 €

    I already have two 25" monitors and the Apple wireless keyboard + magic track pad. So I only need to buy an additional mouse if I get the MP. If I get the iMac, there's a mouse and a keyboard included in the price (from the online store), so I can sell those, as well as the monitors. That leaves me with only one monitor, but the 27" is huge and it probably fits all the stuff I need. And I really like how Macs handle the virtual Screens. Plus, I can apparently use both my iPad and my MacBook Air as external helper monitors.

    Making music the way I do (MIDI controlled synths through two FireFace 800 audio interfaces, with software realtime monitoring and effects), I need more processing power than RAM and graphics capabilities. The MP probably has just enough RAM for me, but the GPU power is clearly overkill for my needs.

    I guess I would like to hear about your experiences with computers using QC i7 vs QC Xeon processor machines for making music, and if you have moved from two physical screens to one and regretted it. And generally opinions for or against either alternative.

    Cheers,

    Kim
     
  2. CausticPuppy macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    May 1, 2012
    #2
    Yes the Xeon will be much more powerful, however from what you described the iMac should handle it just fine. You can put 32GB in the iMac.

    If you're going to run a ton of plugins (software-based synths, reverbs) and have dozens of audio tracks, then maybe you need a Mac Pro.

    Logic X just isn't going to be as demanding as editing 4K video in FCPX.

    There may be some plugins that can use GPU acceleration (OpenCL) which would give the Mac Pro a definite advantage, but I don't know of any yet.
     
  3. rouss macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2010
    #3
    If money is no object, get a Mac Pro. It should last you longer and it is more powerful.
     
  4. Polymorphic macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2010
    #4
    I make music, too (using mostly orchestral sample libraries), and just went through this buying process myself.

    The new Mac Pro Quad Xeon will use Ivy Bridge-E CPUs. While they are undoubtedly very fast, the CPU in the iMac is a Haswell i7, which is based on technology one generation newer. Haswell CPUs are capable of more instructions per clock than Ivy Bridge/Ivy Bridge-E CPUs, so if megahertz and cores are equal, the Haswell CPU will be somewhat faster. (Be sure to look not just at stock clock speed, but also the Turbo Boosted clock speed.)

    The CPU in the Mac Pro appears to be the E5-1620V2. The best CPU in the iMac appears to be the i7-4771.

    Given how close the clock speeds are on these CPUs, and the i7-4771 having higher instructions per clock, the iMac's CPU will probably be a little faster. The Mac Pro would definitely have the edge if you went up to the six-core model, but it sounds like that's out of your budget. The Mac Pro's CPUs also have far more memory bandwidth than the iMac's (quad-channel vs. dual-channel), but if you don't know whether that matters to you, it probably doesn't.

    The iMac can also drive another display, so don't sell both your monitors if you don't have to. Using an iMac doesn't limit you to a single display.

    One benefit of the Mac Pro when recording/playing audio is that you can put it out of earshot. However, the newest iMacs are extremely quiet even under load. Only you (and your hearing) can decide whether or not this is a factor in your buying decision.
     
  5. Polymorphic macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2010
    #5
    For an example of how similar these processors are in performance, check out this link.

    While the Mac Pro's CPU scores a very respectable 9,645, the i7-4770K (similar to the i7-4771 in the maximum iMac spec) is faster at 10,124.

    You have to move up to at least a six-core Xeon before they start to significantly outperform consumer i7 CPUs.
     
  6. Tanax macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    Stockholm, Sweden
    #6
    The cost of the iMac will be even lower if you get the 8GB RAM version and get 8GB additional third party RAM - which in turn will increase the price difference even further.

    If you get the 780M GPU, OpenCL will also have some more oomph and with an i7 you'll have more than enough power for music production.

    Unless you have a professional studio and working with big time artists and really need a workstation class CPU, then the Mac Pro will be a better choice. Untill then you'll be fine with an iMac.
     
  7. kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    #7
    Guys,

    excellent answers, thanks!

    (apparently I screwed up; I meant to post to the Mac Pro group. Oh well...)

    I use loads of tracks, so I definitely need the oomph, but the new iMac seems to be comparatively good for this. Apparently the extra amount of cash spent for the MP simply just doest n't me that much more. Also, making music is just my hobby, but I still want my tools to be up for the task, so I can spend all my rare music-making time enjoying it :)

    6 cores will be way beyond my budget. The 2999 € cylinder can apparently be upgraded to a 6 core version, which I guess will probably land around 3500, so that's just not going to happen.

    I'm now quite confident the iMac is sufficient. I didn't consider the Haswell upgrade, but that's obviously a factor. Also, being cheap and just buying 8 GB and adding "non-apple" RAM later is good advice.

    The height of the iMac changes my desktop layout such that another screen won't fit. Currently I have them side by side on my desk, their upper edge touching a shelf above them which I have my active monitors on. The iMac is too high, so I'd ditch the shelf and move my monitors on both sides of the iMac. Hence no place for a second screen. But with a bit of more drastic re-arranging and a new pair of monitor stands I might get that to work as well.

    You guys who work with one (iMac) screen (I'll be using primarily Logic and secondarily Ableton Live), do you ever feel you absolutely need another? Anyone switched from two screens to one without regrets?

    Cheers,

    Kim
     
  8. blanka macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2012
    #8
    Or the Mini. CPU power is almost the same as the iMac/Mac Pro (like 90% of the iMac, and I think it even beats the Pro), a LOT cheaper, easy to take on stage, and support for Firewire audio mixers if you have those.
     
  9. kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    #9
    I don't gig, but yes, the Mini is quite a nice machine. I'm using a mid 2011 Mini as a server. However, the current Quad-core i7 Mini apparently only has 2.6 GHz, which doesn't compare favourably to the iMac's 3,5 -> 3,9 GHz. That's got to make a difference...nice suggestion, though. Definitely a bang-for-the-buck alternative, given my existing infra. I'm actually almost tempted to try it :)

    Cheers,

    Kim
     
  10. kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    #10
    Would you say this is something I will really notice? I have no clue as to how OpenCL works...

    Cheers,

    Kim
     
  11. Tanax macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    Stockholm, Sweden
    #11
    Except the Mini doesn't have as good of a GPU so no OpenCL advantage there.. plus you don't have a monitor so you'll have to account for that price too.

    I really have no idea how powerful OpenCL is nor do I know how much the DAW you're using (Cubase/ProTools/Logic/etc) is taking advantage of OpenCL. But it's definitely something worth taking into considering when choosing which Mac to buy. Considering Apple focused on GPU power in their new Mac Pro, I think it's safe to say that Logic at least takes good advantage of OpenCL to use the GPU for processing power.
     
  12. blanka macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2012
    #12
    Check Geekbench. It does. The Ghz rating is giving a wrong perspective on the performance. The real world performance is more like 5-10% difference. The Mini also turbo-boosts to 3.6 Ghz on single core tasks.

    You have to buy a monitor yes, but those are so cheap nowadays, you save yourself a complete holiday abroad when buying a Mini.

    And what's the use of OpenCL for music? With music we did not go from 0.5 to 36megapixels or to 4K video. It's still 192/24 max, and we were able to deal with that multitrack for a decade.
     
  13. kimjohnsson, Oct 27, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013

    kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    #13
    I somehow understood that OpenCL enables the GPU to make any type of processing. So if the CPU is heavily busy processing audio effects, some of the processing might be delegated to the (more idle) GPU instead. Or, if not the audio processing, some other tasks the processor is working on, freeing up resources to handle more audio. So if that is the case (I'm just speculating), a more powerful GPU should theoretically get me more powerful audio handling. But even if that is the case, I suspect the benefit is only marginal.

    I'm really tempted to try out the Mini (although I really want the iMac). The FireWire 800, HDMI port plus the Thunderbolt could handle my audio interfaces and both my screens quite nicely.

    Decisions, decisions...

    Oh, I just noticed the current Mini is late 2012. I thought they just updated it. Oh well...

    Cheers,

    Kim
     
  14. kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    #14
    Hi Guys,

    I'll be ordering the iMac today. Thanks for your input & pointers.

    Cheers,

    Kim
     
  15. phaselocked macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2011
    #15
    Before you order:

    I'm an experienced and professional music producer/composer. I've been working with apple since 2010. All I want to say is, try to make sure you have an SSD. People in the creative sector should be aware how important an SSD is. Because since 2010 till now I used an iMac without SSD, and it's often a pain in the ass when you are working with large audio files. If you are mixing a track with all audio files, you harddisk tends to overload pretty easily in Logic.
    Also if you are working with samples or sample libraries it really saves you a lot of time and struggle when you do this on an SSD. And make sure you have at least 512GIG. 256 is really not much for music production. You easily get at 512.
     
  16. mangotears macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2012
    #16
    There aren't any DAW's out there I know of that utilizes OpenCL at the moment. GPU computation differs from traditional CPU computation as in it is good at performing hugely parallel, simple computations. (divide-and-conquer'esque)

    I've also read a few times that OpenCL isn't well suited for low-latency/real-time computations but who knows...

    Bottom line is... don't expect the GPU to help you out for audio work, at least not anytime in the near future.
     
  17. jessejarvi macrumors demi-god

    jessejarvi

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2012
    Location:
    Helsinki, Finland
  18. webcity macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2011
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #18
    I've been toying with the same decision. I'm in the process of setting up my music room at home and need to choose a computer to go in there. I did look at the Mac minis as the iMacs lack of upgradeability put me off somewhat (don't fancy paying apples prices for SSDs), but for me, I think the iMac is going to win.

    I just think the iMac will give a much better experience out of the box, what with the quality of the screen, etc, and anything to reduce the number of cables has got to be good right?
     
  19. kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    #19
    Absolutely. I was about to upgrade my tired and slow PC some years ago, but instead I installed an SSD (and later more), and it was like getting a completely new machine. The SSD's gave it two more years of service. SSD's are a must.
     
  20. jondunford macrumors 6502

    jondunford

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2013
    Location:
    Going for a poo Moderator
    #20
    i use for an instrument and music talent rather than manufacturing auto tune pop/dubstep on a computer.
     

Share This Page