Mac Mini for Audio Production

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Matt McHeck, Oct 26, 2012.

  1. Matt McHeck macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2012
    So I finally feel the need to upgrade from my Late 2008 15" MBP, 2,53 C2D, 8GB RAM that I have been very happy with for the last four years. I mainly use Pro Tools and occasionally Sequoia.

    The mid Mac Mini with the i7 2,6 seems to be the choice to go for. I would add an SSD as a second drive with a kit like the one by iFixit and 8, maybe 16 GB of RAM. iMacs are no real option, because I already have an external screen and I am very afraid of the lack of user serviceability. Also the i5 CPUs bother me a little, even if they come as desktop models instead of the laptop models the Mac Minis come with (is that correct anyway? And would there be a difference performance wise?). And of course there is the money issue - the Mac Mini would be approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the price of the iMac I would otherwise go for.
    I would keep my laptop for mobile recording. It still is perfectly fine for that purpose, so a new MBP also doesn't seem to be the right choice in terms of economy.

    The main concern I have would be heat issues. My Mixes can get quite packed with plugins that need a lot of CPU power - 2 to 5 instances of Drumagog are normal, as well as 2 or 3 reverb plugins and same ammount of Melodyne plugins. Next to the normal use of EQ and dynamics, obviously. I realize my old MBP can get quite hot and the fans go up to maximum speed quite regularly when under this sort of CPU load, so what should I be expecting from a Mac Mini?

    Any thoughts are very welcome!
  2. tablatom macrumors member

    Oct 8, 2009
    No offence intended but the 2012 2.6 quad mini will blow your 2008 mbp into the weeds.
    I run a 2012 2.3ghz quad core mbp with 5400rpm 4 gigs of ram and i would estimate it to about 4 times more powerful than your 2008 mbp.
    So the 2.6ghz mini will be even better.
    With any of the projects you have been running in Logic, will be a breeze for the 2012 quad cores.
    I am ditching my mbp and getting the same mini as you.
    You are going to love it.
  3. TrollToddington macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2011
    I'm not trying to answer your question but I guess if you replace the internal hard drive with SSD and use the stock drive as an external drive (instead of adding a new drive inside) it might decrease the heat inside the computer. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Besides, as I have stated in other threads, there aren't significantly faster processors than the i7 @ 2.3GHz in the present mac lineup, so the processor in the mid-level mini is as fast as it gets. It is almost safe to assume if the i7 @ 2.3GHz can't support the load no other processor will.

    Last but not least, you've got 14 days window when you can return your computer to Apple. So try and see if the mini will be fit for your intended tasks. If I were you, I wouldn't worry at all.
  4. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Hi there,

    I too am a protools user... will be ditching 2009 MP quad for Mini 2012

    1) i7 quad at 2.6, don't even think twice about this. Shows as 8 virtual cores in ProTools and is WAY better than 4 (i5).
    2) Max out the RAM ($100 for 16G OWC or other)
    3) FWIW.. my take on hard drives is to go with the Apple built 256G SSD. Use for all your programs. Then add whatever you like off of USB3 or if you are "flush" TB. USB3 will support R/W > 200MB/s. Plenty fast for lots of audio and VI's!

    Why the internal from apple --- cost is ~$125 more than lets say 256G Samsung830 -- call it an installation fee for keeping your mini in easy Applecare compliance. The external USB3 drives are a no hassle way to add pretty darned quick storage and workspace (TB even faster). Some time from now you can always internalize an SSD or two if you want.

    I am thinking it through but will either hang 2 256G SSD's or one 512G off of the USB3 bus for samples and audio recording. 2X256 ~$400 and 1X512 ~ $550.

    Last thought: if you get the fans on the Mini to go to max it is not a great sound. I also plan to leave the bottom cover off and make a small holder that will have a nice low rpm big Silenx Fan and filter blowing into the mini all the time. Hopefully the internal fan will never spin up!
  5. thestickman macrumors regular

    Nov 21, 2010
    Jacksonville, FL
    My new Mini was purchased specifically to make music with. Will be upping the ram this weekend and will gradually move to USB 3.0 drives & hubs in addition to a ssd internal upgrade.

    Plan on running Logic, Studio One & Pro Tools 9. This Mac will ONLY be for making music. Can't wait to work with it ASAP :)
  6. hugodrax macrumors 6502a

    Jul 15, 2007
    Plus you can purchase the Avid HD Native thunderbolt interface. You dont need the PCIe anymore.
  7. Liquidstate macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Pacific Northwest
    I just went through this with my pro audio people. Their advice for the best sound improvement was to improve my outboard gear and wait to see what Apple offers for the new MP. The pro guys said, if I can continue the PT work-arounds and get the job done, a faster computer won't noticeably improve my immediate situation.

    That said, I do analog recording through mic's and pre's and all that. And use my iMac mostly for mixing. So purely digital musicians will obviously encounter other issues.

    So I'm going to take their advice and wait it out for the new MP. Then I can decide whether to do a new MP, MM or iMac. Waiting is no fun, but I think Apple may be up to something with the MP, and I think the new PT plug-in format might be a hint of some kind.

    Does anyone have a better idea of what Avid is up to?
  8. propower, Oct 26, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2012

    propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Your advisors are correct... no computer will improve your sound. This includes any new Mac Pro!

    Todays MacMini is as powerful as an entry level 2010 MacPro and could easily be used with HD|Native for very large mixing and recording projects. But of course some people NEED HDX systems... films, and hi end recording rooms demanding the best of everything and 100% guaranteed latency performance. Your needs will dictate what machine is enough computer! I have seen 64tracks HD|N run flawlessly on a Macbook Air! Most likely the new MacPro will be another top end powerhouse with 12++ cores and if that is what one needs then absolutely that is what one should have... till then the current 12Core is a beast...

    As far as Avid goes I think we know quite well where they are at. HDX for the hi end (PCIe slots or expansion chassis required), HD|N (PCIe OR thunderbolt!!) for the Mid and Mbox for the low. AAX plugin format is here to stay and the current line up of Macbook Pros, Minis and IMacs all make excellent ProTools machines (even seen posts of HDX running in an expansion chassis off of a MBP_Retina!).

    My 2 cents... If you have specific questions I am happy to discuss. The 2012 MacMini is replacing a 2009 MacPro for me and should boast a 40% reduction in CPU load!!! But I only record 16 tracks or less and Mix less than 60. In my experience with HD running on a Native (Metric Halo) system I never hit more than 25% CPU load!!
  9. Liquidstate macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks propower!

    Best post I've seen on music production issues and the new Macs. I think you're right about the Avid levels. It's either way up there, up there, or entry. No middle anymore. And I guess that makes sense, since that's where the markets ended up.

    I'm in a middle zone that no longer exists, heading for a Black Lion 002 Rack rebuild running PT 10. That should give me the transitional system I need. Then I'll probably go with an i7 MM with maxed ram that will give me a quiet system for recording, and enough power so I won't have to do the workarounds. The MM's TB will give me the FW I need for the Apogee converter and clock and the 002, so that's a relief.

    Like I said in my earlier post, I'll probably wait for the new MP and then decide. But I think you are right that the next MP is going to be designed for serious high-end use, especially since the MM's now offer mid-level performance.

    I think the only remaining question for me is whether an i7 MM is going to heat up under processor load in that little metal box, with the resulting fan noise. So I'll just follow Mac Rumors and see if that becomes an issue. If I have specific questions, I'll let you know.

    Enjoy your 2012 MM!

    And thanks again for the informative post.
  10. henchman macrumors 6502a

    Dec 28, 2004
    I am staying with my Mac mini 2011 quad core i7 server for pro-tools, because you CAN install snow leopard on it. And it has 2 7200 rpm drives in it.

    Save yourself the extra cash. Get a Mac mini 2011 server.
  11. Matt McHeck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2012
    Wow, this is becoming a very nice thread! Thank you all for contributing!

    Honestly I just don't see the point in bying a €4k 12 core computer for audio. This is because I see three main types of usage:
    1. Analogue mixing. The DAW would serve as a tape machine only. No need for high end processing power.
    2. Mixing in the box with a native system. This seems to be the only application where one needs raw CPU power, for all the plugins would need to be dealt with. However, most native systems are somewhat restrained, so people who would max that out may be better off with a DSP based system with less limitations and more expandability. So if my old MBP still deals with most of my tasks quite well and the Mac Mini would blow me away (no offense taken btw! ;)), why would I need a 12 core?
    3. Mixing / processing with DSP systems. The DSPs would take over most tasks and leave the processor free to deal with "normal" tasks. So no need for a high end device also.

    Of course this is a very rough outline of usage and a little bit on purpose to fuel further discussion :rolleyes: :D
  12. MetzoPaino macrumors member

    Oct 24, 2012
    As someone going back and forth on what computer to buy for audio usage, seems like for raw power you go with a top Mac mini, or a top 27" iMac.

    The 21.5" iMac doesn't seem to offer much that the mini doesn't, unless you like the all in one design. You will have a slightly better CPU, but maybe not a noticeably better one, The GPU would be better too, but that is a side benefit.

    Any thoughts?

    I'm a Logic 9 and Native Instruments user and my early 2008 Macbook Pro takes forever to load in large sample libraries, lots of synths cause CPU Overloads, and slow write speeds halt playback. Live recording isn't really important for me.
  13. henchman macrumors 6502a

    Dec 28, 2004
    Instead of wasting money on a 12 core machine, I'd use that money to buy UAD varda and logins.
    I already have a UAD quadcore Sattelite.
  14. Matt McHeck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2012
    I got my new Mac Mini yesterday. What can I say. If the computer is fully booted even before your display shows, I guess you can call it "fast" :D
    Migration Assistent (from SL) worked quite well, only plug-ins with hardware based authorisations needed re-installing.

    However it seems that I finally won't be able to get my MBox 2 working. Under my short Lion "tryout" there were no problems at all, even though it isn't officially supported. With ML it gets recognised only when connected before booting and basically at some point in time it will be "ejected". No chance on getting it recognised after that, or when plugging it in when already booted.
    Any suggestions on maybe still getting it to work?

    Other than that: This Mini is a beast! Love it! :)
  15. hruiznicolau macrumors newbie

    Feb 14, 2013
    Hey! How's the mac mini working for you?
    Does the vent go on very often when you have large numbers of tracks and plugins?
    I'm thinking about getting a Mac mini... my only concern is the fan noise, cause I'll be recording stuff near the computer...
    Thank you
  16. Pie Chips Salad macrumors member

    Sep 28, 2012
    Never heard it on even my biggest projects do not worry! Ive got top spec 2012 mac mini server with ssd
  17. Matt McHeck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2012
    Same with me. With a typical project, CPU load on my old MBP would go up to 70 to 90%. I compared one of such a projects, it takes about 12-14% on my mini. The only time the fan went up and got hearable was when I was playing CoD4 at full specs. The fan went up after about half an hour playing.

    I also have the Apple SSD, plus 500GB@7200rpm, but no FD config.

    I solved the problem with my interface: There seems to be an issue with USB3. So I hooked it up with my USB2 hub and everything is fine. Maybe someone else will find this info useful. I haven't checked on updated drivers yet, could be that everything is solved by now...

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