Imac vs MBP for semi-serious music recording

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mdww, Jun 24, 2009.

  1. mdww macrumors newbie

    Jun 7, 2004
    Have finally got some cash to throw in the direction of a Mac, and join the cool kids. Budget is around $1,500.

    As a musician, I would definately be putting the new machine to use with plenty of recording and writing - probably starting off with GB or Logic Express, and moving on to Logic Pro if needed. I'm sure I'll get carried away with number of effect/tracks sometimes.

    My wife also has visions of using the Mac to edit the hours of family home movies we have lying unwatched on mini dv tapes.

    We were all set to buy a midrange Imac since at the time they offered the most bang-for-the buck. However, just as we were about to pull the trigger, the new MBPs came out. Now, the cost/specs advantage don't seem so obvious.

    Any advice on which road we should head down for our uses? Imac or MBP? And for Music recording/light editing what are the best specs to focus on?
  2. xcreet macrumors newbie

    Sep 15, 2008
    Melbourne, Victoria
    I was making the same decision about 3 years ago. It was my first Mac and I didn't know if I wanted to go iMac or MBP.
    I ended up going iMac for the following reasons:

    1 - cost, I would have to pay $1000 more for an equivalent spec MBP. Plus, that $1000 extra could be spent on a nice mic, interface or Logic...

    2 - I didn't really need portability. Most times I would be working in my study. For the 1-2 times a year when I record on location (i.e. not at home) the iMac is easy enough to carry. I would also always drive to where I would be recording so I wasn't needing something that I could throw in a bag and carry on my back, though there are iLugger bags available now... =/

    3 - Screen size. I LOVE the big screen. I can see more tracks when mixing, more of the song when recording... Plus, if you're going to do video editing, it'd be great for that too.

    4 - HDD speed. The iMacs use a 7200RPM HDD which means faster data read/write speeds. I know you can put a 7200RPM drive into a MBP but the drives cost more and the capacity isn't as large. Though all that being said, I have a dedicated audio HDD (2x500GB RAID FW800).

    Anyway, I hope that helps you a little. I love my iMac still. I've been tempted too by the new MBP's but I'll wait till SN comes out and till they update the iMacs so I can do a similar comparison.

    Good Luck!

  3. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    I would buy base 13" MBP and put 4GB RAM + buy external monitor. That gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

    Base 13" MBP - 1199$
    Apple wireless MM and keyboard - 79$ + 69$ = 148$ (You can buy 3rd party as well)
    Stand for MBP - ~50$
    24" monitor - 250$

    Total: 1647$

    Then you have both, desktop and laptop
  4. DarthTreydor macrumors 6502

    May 25, 2007
    Richmond, VA
    I'd go with an iMac. When I bought my first mac for recording, I went for the mbp because I liked the idea of recording on the go. However, once I had it for a while, I realized that it never really left my desk so I sold it to buy a mac pro. It should also be noted that editing audio on a 13" or even a 15" screen is absolute torture so you'll want to factor the cost of a monitor into your decision.

    In my opinion, you should go for the low end iMac then spend the rest on gear. Good mics and rack effects will take you farther than either a faster or more portable computer any day of the week. The professional recording studio I intern at still uses power mac g4s for editing and even has a few g3 iMacs being used for tracking. :eek:
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    RE: Imac vs MBP for semi-serious music recording

    I'd like to add my voice to the others who are recommending the iMac over the MacBook Pro.

    If you're going to be using GarageBand or Logic (or any other music production app), you're going to want SCREEN REAL ESTATE (shouting intentional). That means a lot of [mostly horizontal] space for editing your audio timeline. The 24" iMac screen will be just right.

    Also, the iMac has a faster internal drive. Some will state that you can't do audio tracking on an iMac with only the internal drive, but I do that all the time. This works without problems, so long as you 1) partition the drive to separate your system files from your audio files, and 2) limit the number of tracks that you record at once (I just do two, but I could probably do a couple more).

    Unless you absolutely _must_ have portability, the iMac is the way to go.

    Before you spend extra $$$ for the "mid-level" iMac, you should consider whether the entry-level model has the processing horsepower you need, and consider adding more RAM yourself if you need it, and using the money saved for your audio interface and perhaps an external hard drive for backup and audio storage.

    And before you buy Logic (unless you can get it for a big discount), you might consider Cubase LE 4 for your digital audio application. It comes "bundled in" with numerous interfaces out there, and it may just do all that you need. I haven't seen any other DAW app that makes editing (adjusting volume levels within clips, moving audio, cutting and pasting audio) easier than does Cubase.

    Also, when it's time to pick up an interface, get one that is firewire-based. Much smoother than USB...

    - John
  6. mdww thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 7, 2004
    this is all very useful, thank you guys. what a great site!!

    Reading around the forum, i guess there is a lot of debate over whether now is a good time to buy an imac.

    I'm a little worried now that I'm going to hand over the cash, and get a machine that will be more quickly outdated. I don't particularly want to wait any longer, but would waiting until the next updates make much of a difference to what we want to use the machine for? If waiting a few more months means getting a much better machine then maybe it's worth thinking about.....unless it won't make much difference for what we want to use it for.

    I know it's a tough call since i guess no one really knows what the next round of updates will consist of or when they well be. However, since I'm not in position to upgrade machines that frequently, i want to try and get something that will last a good amount of time for what we need.

    I know it's a novice question, so forgive me, but I'm new to all of this mac malarky!
  7. xcreet macrumors newbie

    Sep 15, 2008
    Melbourne, Victoria
    If you are still looking.... To be honest - my 3 year old iMac is still just fine working with 20-30 track songs in Logic with lots of FX. If you buy a a standard iMac (current model or referb) it should still be giving you great service for at LEAST 4 years. If you are doing video editing, it might be beneficial to get a dedicated GFX card.

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