Music Production DAW

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by NiroNavro, Jul 22, 2011.


For my only DAW I would buy...

  1. MBA 11

    0 vote(s)
  2. MBA 13

    8 vote(s)
  3. MBP

    8 vote(s)
  1. NiroNavro macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2008
    Hello, I would like to purchase a new Macbook Air. I hope to begin producing music via Garageband and work my way up to a better DAW. I'm only a beginner and I plan to have this as my sole workstation. My heart leans toward a maxed MBA 11 but I suppose for $100 more I can purchase the more logical maxed MBA 13. I don't plan on using an external display at this time, so maybe I've answered my own question. What are your thoughts? Is the 11" a viable contender for long term music production or should I just go with "logic" on this one? ;-P


    PS- I included a poll for fun, take part if you want.
  2. sjrogers macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2011
    You aren't going to find much on here; I've asked a couple questions about music production and haven't gotten many answers. That being said, I use Ableton Live pretty regularly to make mashups, and I'm going to be going with the 13" MBA.
  3. guvna macrumors newbie

    Jun 11, 2011
    Logic and Ableton take up a lot of space on your harddrive. You will probably buy other software which will also take up a lot of gig. I would probably go with the Pro unless you want to rely on an external hard drive
  4. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Storage space will be the killer on the Air. The max you can get is 256g whereas on a MacBook Pro you can easily outfit it with 2 2.5" drives which yields, 2 terabytes at current drive capacity levels. 8x the storage of the Air. Now, if you didn't mind carrying an external drive for your storage needs the Air would be fine. But, that somehow defeats the purpose to me.
  5. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    I'd go with a pro. Having the HDD space is nice, the processing power will undoubtedly become important too. The 11" will probably do the job for a while if you're just starting out but I'm pretty sure you'll top it out. Also, consider that you can't upgrade anything on the MBA, in two years time, upgrading the ram in the pro won't cost much (<100$), you can even put a better HDD (even remove the DVD and put a second HDD in there).

    It also depends on what type of music you will want to make. If it's recorded stuff, usually you don't have a lot synths or effects, the RAM and hdd will be what that get you stuck. If you do more electronic stuff with lots of synths and effects, the CPU will get you stuck. Either way the pro will be better, if you're doing recorded stuff, you'll run out of disk space and will probably have to use an external HDD all the time. If you're doing electronic stuff, the pro has a much better processor.

    Also, if you consider using your computer live, you might want to consider getting a 15" as a 13" computer doesn't display much stuff.
  6. nebulos macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    i plan on buying a new MBA, probably the 13, the main motivation being as a music computer.

    each machine represents different sacrifices.

    13 MBP has low resolution (a dealbreaker for me) and is heavy (relatively), but is very upgrade-able, has or allows for (much) more storage, and i believe has better battery life.

    the MBAs have less storage, but are so much more portable, are now comparably fast CPU-wise, and come with speedy SSDs. the storage space is less, so you may not be able to keep ALL your projects on your drive, but 256GB is a LOT of space for music production. the displays on the MBAs are MUCH better, which is huge for me personally. while the 11 is extremely tempting, i don't travel much, so i will probably go with the 13 as the screen real estate will be greatly appreciated.

    ... as far as the display goes, remember to consider the resolutions, not just the screen sizes. this is not just about crisp text and pretty pictures, each element in a program like garageband takes up a certain number of pixels (some things can be resized, others can't). so you can see a lot more of what you're working on on the 13 MBA than on the 13 MBP.

    all three machines are great, so you can't go wrong. go in and play with them, opening up garageband on each. google screenshots of logic and ableton so you can see what those programs would look like.

    by the way, i'm most likely going with 128GB. apps won't take that much space and projects aren't huge either, but when i have to dump to an external, no problem. for me, the jump in price is not worth it.

    good luck! keep up posted. ;)
  7. blipmusic macrumors regular

    Feb 4, 2011
    Personally, I'll use Reason/Record (well, just Reason come end of summer) and I'll go with the 11". Though, I have a bit of a "mobility first" syndrome so I'm not sure any vote of mine (for the 11") would actually do any good. :p

    Does Ableton work in Lion yet, by the way? Reason seems to work ok this far.

    [EDIT: As others have stated, as long as the resolution is lower on the 13" MBP I wouldn't consider it, if you're not ready to go 15", that is.]
  8. Trinatek macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2011
    Minnesota, USA
    Say, are there any ports on the MBA you can connect a basic microphone?
  9. Sanderr macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2007
    No matter which option you take, I strongly suggest hooking up a external monitor at home. With your choices the highest resolution you're gonna get is 1440 x 900, which is still pretty cramped for any DAW other than garageband. As an example, in Logic I use my macbook screen for the mixer window and a 1920 x 1080 screen for the arrange window and I would still love more workspace.

    CPU-wise you should be fine with an air, unless you will be running very big and complicated projects. However, as stated before, storage is going to be an issue. Even basic projects can easily run about 2-3 gb each. And next to that you'll also want to store samples etc. If you don't have a problem hooking up an external drive it doesn't really matter though. I would suggest that anyway for backing up all your projects.
  10. sporadicMotion macrumors 65816


    Oct 18, 2008
    Your girlfriends place
    I use Logic for production and in the past, I have used it extensively on MacBook Pro's. That in mind, I sold my i5 MacBook Pro to pick up a base 13" Air and when the 27" displays become available, I will be picking one of those up for the hub. I found that when a firewire interface is plugged into the new MacBook Pro's, the cpu idle temp would jump to ~ 65c from 45c and then while under load, it was hitting 95c with the fans absolutely blaring. The fan noise became a problem as it was getting picked up by my condensers. When the FW interface was not plugged in, the issue was far less prominent.

    I'm HOPING that with the firewire interface being taken care of in a hub will offset this otherwise, I'll have to rely on (one of the soon to be released) Mac Pro's.

    Just one opinion.

  11. NiroNavro thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2008
    Wow, such great feedback! I'm really appreciating all the different view points. Gives me different perspectives on this area of thought. I still haven't decided, I'd like to see if we can't keep this discussion going a little bit. Get some more ideas floating around.

    The 13" Macbook Air does seem to be a hit for this use, especially with it's hi-res screen. Outside of the Macbook Airs, I would consider a 15" Macbook Pro. No surprise to see people suggest that model. For what I would pay for the max MBA 13" I could get a really nice quad-core 15" Macbook Pro with 500gb. Except...I just love how thin, light, and fast the Air is (I mean damn!).

    I ask to those who have mentioned storage, is 250gb really not enough? I'm so new to music production that I really have no idea what to expect. I'm aware of the programs you guys are discussing and they have large installs that can span many gigs. What can I realistically expect when I get further into the craft? Could I work with 250gb?
  12. Sanderr macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2007
    Yes you could. But sooner or later you will start to run out of disk space and need to use some other way of storage. The problem/issue with having older projects saved on an external drive for me is that there is just one copy of it. If you can keep the project on the computer disk you can also have a back-up. Then if your computer or external disk fails, you can get everything back. If you save everything on your external and that fails, it's gone forever. Something to think about ;).
  13. ummagawd macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2011
    I'm in the same boat as you are, but I have a few years of music production experience on an 07 MBP.

    First I'll throw in some feedback, and then pose some questions that will help us both decide...

    As for storage space... don't let anyone fool you... storage space is any creative producers best friend. You can never have too many sounds or synths and all of that takes space. For instance, I have a folder of nothing but different drum sounds (kicks, hi hats, snares, etc...) that take up 8gb of space. And that could make up 3-4 layers on my project. Then I have another 10gb of just samples. I have 1 VST/synth that has 3gb of its own sound library. And this is just for Ableton! I also use rewire to patch in Reason (and I have reason refills which take up about 20gb of its own sounds). This is in addition to the install footprint of these DAWs.

    With that being said, it's usually best practice to store the media sounds to an external. So depending on how many "sounds" you want to have... an external is pretty much a must.

    Now here's the part that makes the decision hard for me, and is something you should consider yourself... interfaces!

    If you want the best possible sound (and you should if you're producing/mastering) you'll want an audio interface. The MBA does NOT have firewire... and firewire is hands down the most common audio interface port today. The audio interface will allow you to reproduce the "truest" sound you're creating (assuming you have decent studio monitors) and will also allow you to record inputs (ie - a guitar, mic, or other sound source).

    The audio interface is the dillemma for me (i'm already accustomed to storing files on an external). For me... this means I either:

    Plan A
    - sell my firewire interface and buy a USB interface (about 350 for the specs I need personally)
    - buy the thunderbolt/mini display adapter (so I can utilize my external monitor... and yes you will want screen real estate if you make anything with more than 4 layers/tracks)

    Plan B
    - Buy the new thunderbolt Apple Cinema Display/Docking solution (it's also a hub that includes firewire, USB, etc...) but it's also $1000!!!
    (I personally think this is my wet dream ideal solution as it makes docking and undocking so much easier considering I'm also a laptop DJ)

    Plan C
    - give up the sexiness and buy an MBP 15 (don't bother with the MBP 13" as you'll eventually hate the screen resolution)
    - get the optibay kit and throw in an SSD as main drive, move the original HDD into the ODD location (and now no need for an external HD)

    Or... get the MBA and wait for who knows how long for companies to start making thunderbolt hubs/peripherals...

    Which leads to my question (I hope you don't mind me posing this question as it might relate to you as well)...

    Anyone know who/how long before someone makes a thunderbolt hub that allows you to connect an external monitor, firewire, and a couple of USB devices?
  14. Geetarpicker, Jul 28, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011

    Geetarpicker macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2011
    I do quite a bit of music production, and just bought my first MAC a 13" Air, Ultimate spec. My main DAW is one I built last year or so running a 920 series Intel I7, GIGABYTE MB, Windows 7 64bit, 6gig of 1600mhz ram, and 2.5TB of 7200rpm HD space. I'll be doing a bunch of different tasks with my Air for my business, but I'll definately be exploring it's DAW potential in the next few weeks.

    On my desktop i7 I run Reaper, Sonar, and Pro Tools 9 with a 10 in, 10 out RME FF800 interface (ADAT connected to an Apogee Rosetta 800 AD/DA for 8 more channels, plus an API A2D on spdif for the last 2 channels) and I have one UAD2 PCIe effects card installed and some WAVE plugins. Lately I've really been prefering Reaper out of my 3 DAW programs. It's lean and mean, quite resource efficient, and dirt cheap too. I've never tried it on MAC OS so that will be new.

    That all said my prior laptop before my new air was a meager little HP Netbook that I upgraded the dead slow SSD to a much quicker Runcore SSD 32gig. The stock SSD was too slow for pop/click free audio but the SSD upgrade did the trick. At that point I was able to do some basic tracking and editing on the little Netbook in both Reaper and Sonar using an M-Audio fast track Ultra, but I would of course do most of my work on the desktop i7 machine. The Netbook was very limited in what it could handle plug in wise and could only handle the most meager of soft synths, but it at least gave me some means to record about 6 simultaneous tracks on a location gig up to 96k 24bit. I could also do some editing work on the road.

    I plan to try some more serious DAW work on my Air, probably not much with Soft Synths but definately some plug ins, live tracking, and editing. If I could get Sonar and Reaper running on my little Atom CPU Netbook I sure the AIR will be quite the step up. I'm sure I'll have to watch hard drive space but usually for me a full album project runs only about 20-30gig when recording at 24 bit 44.1 so my 256gig SSD should be fine as long as I backup periodically. In my experience a DAW will work with only one drive (OS and wav data) as long as it's fast enough. The AIR ssd should be 2 to 3 times faster at least compared to my Netbook Runcore SSD so it should work very well. However I'm sure if one is really into soft synths and drum packages (I have BFD2 on my desktop PC DAW but haven't used it much) they might feel limited on just a 256gig drive because of all the sample data they may want on hand. I guess you could easily run an external drive on one USB port, leaving you with the 2nd USB port for your audio interface.

    I'll also be interested in the latency of the AIR when running soft synths, though that is also driver and interface dependent.

    I'll report back in a week or two about running the Reaper DAW program on my Air. Screen wise I'm really glad I went with the 13" as for DAW use the 11" would surely be tight. I now have mine boot camped and will test it with Reaper both on Lion and Win 7.

    Down the road I'm looking forward to a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter that will hopefully be affordable that I could then interface my firewire equiped RME FF800 to my Air. I guess the new Thunderbolt screen would also do the firewire trick too!

    Pardon my rambling but I hope that helps some.

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