MBA Rev B as a Logic Pro Studio machine - My review

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by McGilli, Nov 13, 2008.

  1. McGilli macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2008
    Hello, this is pretty long, but hopefully it will help someone doing research in the future. I searched the forums and haven't seen a review specific to Logic Pro, so I thought I would contribute this mini review.

    I bought the Macbook Air for one reason. Portable audio studio for mixing and recording vocals. I record all my live and software instruments in Garageband and then finalize my recordings and production in Logic 8 Pro. In the past I have done all of my audio performing and recording using an iMac desktop - but I wanted the Air for 3 reasons :

    1. When I am at my day job I will be able to break it out at lunch to continue mastering/tweaking my music.
    2. I can't always get a vocalist to my place - so along with an iMic I can now take the studio to the vocalist.
    3. Light weight. Going to work or a vocalist's house - can mean rollerblading or even walking for me, so the less weight I carry the better.

    After reading this you might just say "Why not just get a MB or a MBP?". Because I wanted a MBA. This is the answer. Sure I maybe paid 'more for less' as people say - but I love my MBA.

    What follows is my experience with the new 1.86ghz, 128gb SSD model of the Macbook Air (MBA) and the MBA Superdrive.

    Once arrived - after a fresh install of OSX - my first task was to install Logic 8 pro. Now, if you have ever installed the full suite - you know it is 8 dvd's. on my desktop iMac it took about 3 full hours to install all the dvd's. For that reason - I purchased a MBA Superdrive. There is no way I want to install 8 DVD's (about 60gb worth of files) over my wireless G or N network.

    So once the install was started - the installer was saying it wanted about 17 hours to install the program. Hmmmm.... After an hour (still on disc 1) - it stops and says it is unable to read disc 1. Well, these are original discs - and they have installed before on my iMac.

    I setup the remote disc from my iMac and re-started the install. No disc errors when reading Disc 1 from the iMac - and when i transfer from iMac to Air at wireless N speed the install time said 3 and a half hours. Much Better. This was the ONLY reason I bought the Superdrive - for this one big install. It will be returned promptly. Seems like the Superdrive is a slow piece of .... or mine is just all around defective.

    *Since writing this I have used the Superdrive to install a few other pieces of software like Adobe CS3 from DVD and while it is very, very slow I have not had any more read errors.

    I read alot of posts in forums asking if the MBA will run various programs well. I mean, maybe you do some web surfing, maybe a little iPhoto, maybe a bit of Photoshop etc and you are worried the MBA will not perform? Trust me - it will work great. I have Photoshop CS3 installed also and it works quickly. Nothing too fancy - but I tested some of my RAW images - using about 4 layers in the image, effects like blur etc on 2 of them, a mask here and there and no issues. But Photoshop is a 'click and wait' type of program. Even with a slow computer you can get your work done - just more slowly.

    A program like Logic is a real time program. When I have a song running that has - let's say 10 tracks running concurrent - 2 or 3 guitars I have laid down, some live bass, a few software drum tracks, some vocals and then on top of that I have automation on many tracks, and real time effects applied to most individual tracks and the final output signal - AND I am now trying to lay down some solos: That is real time. If the computer can't keep up with the work load, I am hooped; none of this sitting and waiting for a minute (like Photoshop etc). I need it all working together, now.

    After Logic intalled - I loaded it up - and loaded a session that I want to lay down some vocals. I started playing the track - not doing vocals yet... just playing the song - and after 1 minute I got an error :

    SYSTEM OVERLOAD - Logic is unable to play all data that is required for playback.

    I had not restarted my MBA since installing Logic so I did. I then started Logic again, and have had no problems since. Activity monitor shows that Logic is using about 90% cpu when it is playing back one of the tracks. This is compared to my iMac (2.0ghz and 3gb RAM) which uses about 65%. As long as it runs I am happy.

    The MBA is not a typical recording studio machine - but after reading the specs I was convinced it would be fine. I skipped the first generation MBA based on mostly threads on this site with regards to the core shutdowns. Plus, I wasn't too sure about the PATA interface - I decided to wait.

    If you want to know if a MBA will run Photoshop etc - the answer is yes. Almost any computer will run photoshop. You might have to wait an extra 30 seconds for your effects to apply etc, but all current computers will run Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture etc. Those are not real-time programs. You tell it what to do and it will do it. Sometime. In the future.

    In case anyone is wondering - it also handles Garageband without problem. My tracks have about 10 components in each : 4 or 5 software instruments along with about 5 real instrument tracks.

    I recorded a video of my MBA beside my 2.0ghz iMac - and I have both machines powered down. I then press the power button on both at the same time. It takes 10 seconds for the Air and iMac to do its POST routine. It then took 17 seconds for the Air to load OSX and have my icons on the desktop. It took my iMac 28 seconds. Granted, the iMac is near a year old and has a bit more software, and has a bigger User folder.


    I do not have the horizontal line issue mentioned in some other threads in various forums.

    My MBA was produced in week 44 of 2008.

    I do not have any trackpad/button issues.

    My battery takes 8 and 1/2 hours to fully charge.

    MBA arrived with a 'nick' in the aluminum on the lcd edge - like it bumped a machine at some point during its creation.

    The fan on mine is almost whisper quiet even when it stats to really come on. The CPU seems to run idle at about 40C/104F. When using Logic it goes to 70C/158F. (per iStat Pro)

    So, the MBA won't be the choice of many musicians: The lack of being able to burn your audio cd's (to an integrated drive), missing an audio input jack, lack of multiple USB ports, lack of Firewire. These are all things that are almost needed for musicians and their laptops.

    However if you like to buy the newest of new, and only have limited needs like me - then the MBA is a great machine. It feels very solid. I ordered a Matias Aluminum armor briefcase for when I take it on longer road trips - but otherwise I just use a Tucano second skin slipcase and just put it in my back pack.

    I've only had it for less than a week now - but its light weight, solid feel and zippy performance is exactly what I had hoped for.
  2. Hippie54 macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2008
    Very nice to see someone using logic 8 on their Air. I work as a sound designer for web,tv and film and is about to buy the Air. Ive read the reviews and heard all the comments and while i agree its not the best value computer around. I really dont care=)

    Its so damn sexy. nothing more nothing less.

    If they would have kept the firewire port on the macbook i would have bought that prob so i could use the awsome Apogee Duet but removing it made it just a boring ipod kind of computer.

    Lets face it it sucks when everyone around you has an iphone when u have one. Very few has the air. I like that.

    Well back to topic. I will use the air for editing dialog. Laying down ideas for jingles and stuff and when i get back home ill use my 2,8ghz 24inch love of my life Imac. so the air will fit me perfectly i belive!

    BTW any tips for a good ubs interface to use with the Air. need 2 good quality pres and good drivers for osx/logic?

    whats an "IMic" that u mention?

    Also the biggest problem i have right now is finding a good bag for it, what do you use?
  3. StingerT125 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 3, 2008
    Dutchess County New York
  4. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Also interested in hearing people's opinions of a usb audio interface... Mbox? M-audio?
  5. akm3 macrumors 68020

    Nov 15, 2007
    Is the superdrive is slow because it is meant to be very low power? Or is it just cheap?
  6. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    I had an extra license for 8 Studio, and I installed everything on my 1.6/80 MBA. Everything works fine, but I cannot be bothered to use it for much more than very basic tasks. I would certainly not recommend an MBA as the only computer you run Logic on, and a new Macbook would likely be a much better choice.

    I did not do a full install of the audio either. With my boot camp partition, there would not have been enough room. LOL.
  7. McGilli thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2008

    I guess that is what I would like to know! I haven't tried burning any cd's or dvd's yet - but I don't see many other people ever reporting their superdrive to be really slow... but maybe most people aren't installing HUGE software suites...

    Will update after some more use....
  8. McGilli thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2008
    I ordered a Matias Aluminum armor briefcase for when I take it on longer road trips - but otherwise I just use a Tucano second skin slipcase and just put it in my back pack. The aluminum briefcase defeats the whole purpose of getting a light laptop (the case is 5lbs) - but for the protection i think it will be worth it. The briefcase hasn't arrived yet - so just the slipcase so far....

    Ya the iMic does the job for right now. It's a great computer for taking to record ideas etc...
  9. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    I had a v1 MBA with the Air SuperDrive. I would say mine was fast. At least as nearly normal as my new MB at installing software. I installed CS3, Office, Windows and etc and all were fine.

    I somehow think perhaps yours is not operating properly.

    Maybe you should take it in and have it checked.

    Nice post, I enjoyed reading it. I sold my Air v1 and Pro v2,2 and bought a new MB. Now, I am seriously considering going back to the Air and having it as my only Mac I would use. I am a consultant and writer. Then, I would keep my new MB and use it for any Windows stuff I need in Boot Camp. Once per month I have a client program I have to run for a day or two. And that is the only thing I need it for...

    However, I want to wait until January at least to ensure they do not upgrade the following:
    glass trackpad
    glass display (yes to this) - super mirror black bezel (prefer not to do this though)
    2 GHz CPU - at 45 nm it would be perfect.
    4 GB Memory - no reason not to offer this on high end model.
    Potentially larger SSD.

    I think this revision 2 Air is awesome compared to my first version. Awesome enough to run all of my Mac programs. If the hard drive was twice as big, I would even boot camp Windows on it. But that will have to wait for the 256MB SSD probably a year or so away. Anyways, I at least will wait til January for this chance at an upgrade. Until then, it's the MB. I hope I can make myself wait that long. Oh yes, and I will plug it into my new 24" Led Apple Cinema Display ordered already!

    You guys and your MBA v2 are making me jealous. I love the portability of that awesome Notebook! Maybe Jobs will surprise all of us and deliver more updates to the Air in January... Please, that's all I want for Christmas. At least the glass trackpad. I am addicted to this thing already. At first I didn't like it...

    Gosh, I was all over the place. Like daydreaming there.

    Best wishes.
  10. phoneorpda macrumors regular

    Sep 7, 2005
    All around the world.
    logic and MBA update.

    So i ended up getting the Macbook Air, a rev B.,1.86 128 SSD.

    i mainly got it as a really portable playback machine in order to use it live on stage.

    Out of curiosity i wanted to check the stability of this system, using a fairly complex session i was working on with my MBP 2.8.

    Not that i will ever use the MBA that way, but the results were interesting to the point that i might have to return it.

    I left the session running for 15 minutes, and , as the machine was getting warmer, i started getting overload messages, until the system became unstable.
    the same happened with Ableton Live.

    So it appears that as the processor heats up, the system chokes the speed, in order to protect it.

    I will need to test it in a real world environment (at rehearsals) with a different soundcard (i was running the built in audio, but i would run a Native Instruments Kontrol 1, live) and with a full 45 minute set, which includes one stereo track with sequences (no effects) and another mono audio track for the drummer's click.

    This session is a LOT lighter than the one that i tested it with, so i am fairly sure it'll be ok, but if it chokes, i'll have to return it....

    hope this helps!
  11. McGilli thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2008
    That is interesting.... I have used mine for 3 hours straight - that is the most so far - but all in Logic - recording parts - then stop to playback - record again etc - then mixing and lots more playback to add effects etc....

    And it has been great.

    So interesting to read - especially since not many people will buy it for Music like this. But do post the results from a lighter session - I'd be interested. I had contemplated using Traktor/Ableton also for some testing - but I'm outta the house vibe right now....
  12. jont-fu macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2008
    I, too, have been using my 1st gen Air 1.6/80 with Logic Studio 8 and it performs surprisingly well. Though I use Coolbook to keep the cpu cool & capable and recommend it for all 1st gen owners. My projects are not particularly heavy so I've seen system overload just a few times, mostly when browsing new instruments or loops while doing playback.

    The two biggest bottlenecks for pro audio work in the Air, in my opinion:
    - lack of firewire; afaik no USB audio interfaces match the performance and stability of firewire interfaces
    - slow hard disk, probably not an issue with the SSD model

    All in all it's a nice feeling to be able to grab my "whole studio" with me in such a light and thin package.
  13. DarthTreydor macrumors 6502

    May 25, 2007
    Richmond, VA
    buying an air to run logic sounds like an absurd waste of money to me but then again buying an air at all seems like an absurd waste of money. but hey its your money not mine and you already knew people were going to say that. so enjoy it. at least it looks good while running 90% cpu playing back one track.

    my .02
  14. phoneorpda macrumors regular

    Sep 7, 2005
    All around the world.
    Your .02 is irrelevant, since everybody in this thread explained already the reasoning behind choosing the MBA.
    Also, if buying a MBA seems like a waste of money to you, why the hell are you in this thread?

    move along...

  15. hogfaninga macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2008
    Chestnut Tree Cafe
    I was thinking the same thing. I'm thinking of buying the Air which is why I'm reading as much about it as possible, but why do people come into a dedicated forum for the Air and attack it. Jealously? If you don't like the Air then fine, but don't derail a thread attacking it. Makes no sense.
  16. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    Personally I see the M-Audio interfaces as rather low end, even the M-Powered stuff. I guess the M-Box is ok, I just would never get one. IMHO unless you are importing Protools projects there is no advantage to using protools over DAWs like Logic or Cubase.

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