MBA 13 for DJing?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by macdud, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. macdud macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2011
    I am considering the purchase of a 13 inch MBA for professional DJing needs.

    The software i use is Serato Scratch Live and Traktor.
    I've tried these apps at the store and they were really snappy on the 1,86 4gb MBA so no problems there..

    The problem lies in that my entire music library is huge ( about 2 TB ) and therefore i will need to often swap files since i can only afford the 128gb ssd...

    I've read in another thread that the stock SSD's on the MBA do not use sandforce or TRIM and therefore strong performance degradation is to be expected.

    I want this laptop to perform well for at the very least 2 to 3 years, but i will be putting it to heavy daily use ( 4 to 6 hours of DJing ).

    From what i also understand, ssd degradation is worst with small files, and DJing software is constantly putting to use small mp3 files, writing cue points and tag information and such..

    I've also heard that OWC is launching SSD drives for the MBA using sandforce
    ( ) but these will probably be costly..

    of course the alternative is a MBP, with a third party sandforce SSD , or maybe even a MBA + USB flash drive for music combo..
  2. Canadiandad macrumors newbie

    Jan 17, 2011
    My 2 cents

    I have the MBA 13" and absolutely loveit. It is the BEST Apple product I have ever bought and I have been a customer of theirs since 1986. My thoughts on your questions above are:

    1. Could you not load your iTunes librariy on an external portable hugh capacity drive and not have to worry about transfer of files back and forth for each DJ event?

    2. One downside of the MBA that might seriously affect you is that there is not way to secure the MBA with something like a Kensington cable lock so you might run a high risk of having the MBA "walk away" mysteriously when you go on a break or something. This might be a deal breaker for you. If it is you can't go wrong with a nice MBP in 15" and aluminium shell.

    You would want to get a nice case for the MBA as I am not sure that it would be rugged enough for all your setups and takedowns. It might get abused. However on the pro side the MBA is extreemely light! Make sure you get the 4GB RAM though at least with whichever model you settle on.
  3. 2IS macrumors 68030

    Jan 9, 2011
    I've read that performance degradation is much closer the "myth" end of the spectrum then anything.
  4. wngraham macrumors regular

    Jun 8, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    I was about to post the same thing.

    In an environment like DJing, the ability to lock your laptop down is huge.

    Go for the 15" MBP. Yes it's more expensive, but it can alleviate almost all of your concerns and isn't that much heavier than the Air.
  5. macdud, Jan 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2011

    macdud thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2011
    Actually having a cable lock port is really not a big concern of mine, my DJ booth is secure, and my laptop is always connected through audio cables to the mixer, so even if someone were to attempt to steal it while i'm on a break or something, well the music would stop playing which would alert the staff immediately ( kind of like a reverse alarm system ! ).

    Thanks for your concerns though, i see how that could be a very valid point in other situations !

    What could be a deal breaker is the unlit keyboard, DJ booths are often dim places, however i currently manage ok using my 2007 black macbook, so i dunno..

    the 15" MBP weighs 2,54 kg, that is more than double the weight of the 13" air, i consider that a major weight difference... especially when you are lugging across town audio interfaces, hdd's, cd's, vinyl, cables...etc also the bigger size makes it a little bit harder to fit in the already crammed DJ booth.. 13" is really the ideal size for me.. lets face it the main argument for me in getting the air is definitely it's size and weight.

    What it boils down to is the SSD's ... awesome for the snappiness...but very bad storage size / price ratio, and i have concerns upon getting a non TRIM / sandforce drive such as the stock one from apple, especially when it will be difficult if not impossible to upgrade it ( owc it seems is actually having some legal problems with apple to release their mercury ssd mentioned earlier )
  6. janitorC7 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 10, 2006
    North Hollywood, CA

    DJ as well...

    I don't know what apple was thinking by not giving us a lit keyboard... I mean I usually use an external one anyway (when in the booth.... nice and elevated next to my mixer) but I can't really get over this major design flaw..

  7. MacQuest, Jan 18, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2011

    MacQuest macrumors 6502a

    Jan 18, 2003
    You See Dead People...
    23 year turntablist here...

    16 year analog audio turntablist ['87], 7 year digital audio turntablist ['03] with the last 4 of those years being a digital visual turntablist ['07].

    Digital audio, digital visual, or both, use a 7200rpm or faster external HDD.

    I agree that "lockdown" is unnecessary, but if possible, why not? [I've never done it].

    Backlit keyboard has never been an issue for me.

    The BIG question I would take into consideration if I were you, is whether or not you think that you'll go visual [e.g., Video-SL] in the near future or anytime within the upcoming 4-6 year [average] lifespan of your upcoming Mac purchase.

    I would bet on "yes". I have always been an early adopter of digital dj artist technology, usually minimally 2-3 years ahead of the mainstream. While I've been a visual turntablist for 4 years now, it wasn't until the past year that I've watched other crew friends and even my own crew partners go visual as well. There were only a few people who were exceptions to this and jumped on visual turntablism within a year or two after me.

    The reason I bring this up is quite simple: if you're going to be an audio only dj, the 1.86 GHz 13" MBA with even only 2GB of ram will be fine. Of course upgrading to 4GB of ram and/or upgrading to the 2.16GHz processor would be nice, but not necessary. For example, Serato's minimum system requirement for processing power is only a 1GHz G4 PowerPC processor. That means that even the low end 11" MBA with a 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo will be MUCH better and will EASILY handle digital audio performances.

    However, if you think that you'll be moving towards visual performances as many now are starting to do, then ANY Mac without a dedicated graphics card is out of the question. You'll need at least the low end 15" MBP that will then easily handle both audio and visual dj artist performances. I've been performing visually exclusively for 4 years now using my almost 5 year old 1st generation MacBook Pro Core Duo - not even a Core 2 Duo - with only 2 GB's of DDR2 SDRAM, an 80GB 5200rpm HDD [dual 1TB external mirrored raid for all a/v content] and an ATI x1600 128MB graphics card. No hardware problems [audio latency, visual delays, etc.] at all during hundreds of visual performances in all that time in many different, demanding settings.

    Just something to think about. Good luck and have fun! ;)


    VT ConQuest [Visual Turntablist] of visuALL-PROductions

  8. macdud thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2011
    Thanks for the input Quest, cool to have a fellow Mac DJ around!

    I have to admit though that this whole " Visual DJ " is still kind of a mystery to me, i mean i know of VJing, thats been around for years... but it seems like Video-SL has taken things to a next level... I actually just purchased the Rane TTM 57SL, so i know video-sl is an option, but i kind of doubt i will ever get into that seriously..

    I am not a turntablist or scratch DJ, although like many that's what got me into DJing back in the 90's, when people like Q-Bert & the X-Ecutioners were my gods... but then i got into techno & house, and well my love is just with mixing music these days... i think VJing is really cool, but it's another form of expression, it's visual, and although audio and video can compliment each other, i just don't see the need to switch over happening, at least in my scene. I can definitely see how in turntabilism, which is also a whole seperate dimension from regular mix DJ's, Visual DJing could become next level..

    Anyways to get back to the mac, well i don't really understand why you say the MBA wouldn't be good for your visual performance needs?? the current MBA's have a dedicated gpu, it is actually the exact same one found in the 13" MBP's, the 256mb Nvidia 320M ! If you are OK with your 1st gen MBP, then i think the current MBA would blow that one out of the water, especially with DDR3 ram and lightning fast SSD!
  9. akdj macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2008
    Hi MacDud

    I'm also a Mac DJ:) We did (wife and I) 103 weddings in 2010 (just putting our taxes together), as well as 17 corporate "Holiday parties" and a half dozen a well as several unrelated events.

    For those types of events without the need to beatmatch or perfom any crazy mixing (typical weddings) we also use both Serato SL and new program I just picked up for my wife, due it's availability on the iPad as well; DJay for Mac.

    I picked up my wife an 11" MBA this past week and installed both SSl and Djay on her new Air. I'm in the same boat as library is about 1.75 TB in total. We use iMacs as our primary performance computers at the gigs, however, we also both carry a MBP as a backup, just in case. My frustrations with the older (non i3 iMacs) iMacs is the "speed" manipulating my iTunes library which is exclusively used with dJay for access to my files. Obviously, with the library size, we use externals for the laptops...but one thing I've noticed, and I haven't run real world tests yet....the new MacBook Air 11" seems "Faster" accessing files from an external 7200 rpm drive vs the current access times on my newer i3 iMac with an internal 2TB drive just recently installed (and 85% full:)). Long story short, I think the rumors you've heard about the lack of TRIM is BS! In my tests, the new MBA very well may replace our iMacs in some situations. Also, having DJay for iPad available...and the ability to put a couple thousand songs ON the makes an excellent back up device in case of a catastrophic crash on the MBA or iMac! Pretty cool...and the discreteness of the iPad makes for doing the ceremony part of our weddings a very nice keep the gear out of pictures, etc.

    Don't think you can go wrong with one of the new Airs...I couldn't be happier with mine and am considering adding two more (we run 4 different systems a night)

    Good Luck

  10. Cerano macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2010
    its the entire opposite

    sandforce, indilinx and intel controllers have very high rates of performance degradation without TRIM however the toshiba controller does not.
    Furthermore uncompressed media read/write is faster on the MBA's SSD than most SF ssds

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