New vs old iMac for recording music

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Mj2sL, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. Mj2sL macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2009
    I've been looking at buying a Mac for some time now and recently decided the iMac was the way to go. Now I'm not sure whether the new model suits my needs better than the old, so I was wondering if somebody could give me some advice on this.

    What I'm going to do with it:
    - record audio with an external audio interface
    - use Cubase or Logic
    - use an external full-hd monitor (dvi and hdmi inputs)
    - use an external FW800 harddisk
    - playing or editing hd-video (editing is not important, but it would be nice)

    A few questions:
    Does DDR3 and higher memory bandwidth give me any advantage? I think recording audio isn't that hard on the memory, besides using samples (which I won't besides some drum-sampling instrument like ezdrummer or addictive drums).

    Does the shared video memory affect overall performance? Or is it just like having less RAM?

    I know the old model has an FW400 and a FW800 port, but are they on the same bus? I heard someone say something like that, which would mean that my external harddisk would run on 400 when I connect a FW400 interface to the 400 port.

    I tried my best to read as much as I could about Macs and specs over the past few months, but I feel like I know too little about above mentioned issues to decide on the new versus the old iMac.

    One more thing ;), money does count. I really prefer my new iMac to stay as cheap as possible (and the new model increased the entry level mac with 100 euro), so it's really about the low-end models.
  2. Azure Feast macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    There should be no big difference...

    I have been sitting down with the same question as you for a different reason. I bought a 20' 2,66GHz iMac a few weeks ago and I was wondering if I had made a bad decision. My conclusion is that it probably does not make any meaningful difference:

    - The main change is the different (integrated) graphic card. As you know the graphic performance is fundamentally a non-issue for DAW applications. A separate card has always been advised because it unloads the CPU but also because it avoids sharing the memory.

    - In the new architecture the memory is being shared but (I assume) the bus is faster... so we can hope that it compensates. If you refer to articles in Sound-On-Sound you will see that memory speed does make a difference for a DAW. (Although indeed mainly for samples...but don't underestimate how big samples can be these days.)

    - The memory hit itself is probably not a big issue if you put 4GB of memory.

    - I am working with an external FW drive. With a FW800 it is my understanding that the maximum disk throughput is reached long before you reach the FW limit. To increase throughput you could chain a second external disk... but I don't expect to ever reach that limit. It should be well above any of my needs. Which also means that FW400 should be perfectly fine. (Another issue is noise. I first bought an external drive that was too noisy to my taste. I now changed to a WD one ... much quieter).

    Now if you have serious video needs that's another story. The new machine might be a better choice then. Especially if you intend to attach an external large screen. For DAW uses, I am happy with a 20' screen. It seems like a perfect fit for me. (Using Logic Studio and Ableton Live).


  3. TwoBytes macrumors 68030


    Jun 2, 2008
    how's your 2.66 for playing back lots of audio with a hell of a load of plugs?
    i'm thinking of a 2.66 new imac... i was hoping for quads but alas...
  4. Drumerdude macrumors member

    Feb 15, 2009
    I would get one of the new imacs. They record the same, but you can get better hardware and a bigger screen for a cheaper price.
  5. meegers macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    Firewire :-(

    I had been hoping to get a new iMac to replace my 17" MBP as my recording/mixing workhorse, but it looks like the single firewire bus and inability to add a second will be a problem, because I use a FW400 interface and the Focusrite LiquidMix. I had to buy a PCMCIA card to add a second firewire bus to the MBP to get the Focusrite to play nice with the Interaface (MOTU 828MKII).

    I have all my (Logic) projects on external drives, so that meant interface+drive on the built-in bus, and Focusrite on the PCMCIA bus....

    Something tells me that if I get the new iMac and try to run the interface and the Focusrite (forgetting about external drives) off the 800 bus, I'll have dropouts and freeze-ups all over the shop and end up crying bitter tears of regret.....

    I'm sure I'm not the only person with at least a FW interface + FW drives for audio - most people I know here in Dublin in the industry are using FW drives for projects and FW interfaces as backups for when they can't beg/steal/borrow/have clients pay for a protools rig....

  6. cmcbridejr macrumors 6502a


    Sep 28, 2007
    Alpharetta, GA
    I've got the 2008 aluminum iMac (3.06 GHz).

    Either model will be more than adequate for your needs. Hell, I used to have a iMac G5 before my current iMac and it ran ProTools, Reason, Ableton Live, Recycle, Traktor, and Final Cut Studio just dandy.

    I knew the iMac would accomplish what i want to do when I saw DJ Sasha playing live on an iMac G5 with Ableton Live and no hiccups during 4 hour sets.
  7. Azure Feast macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    Performance on a 2,66GHz iMac seems to be pretty solid...

    I have it for just a few weeks, but so far performance seems to be very solid. I have been running the Ableton Live benchmark and it is pulling the maximum number of tracks/plugins at 40% CPU Load.

    I have been pilling up quite a few plug-in and virtual synth and it was working fine both in Live and Logic Studio. Even using both in Rewire seems acceptable, but if that is your preferred scenario you should probably go for a faster machine. The same is true if you expect to be using all the latest/newest/heaviest plug-ins that are going to come out in the future.

    But if you are reasonable or that your music is using more samples than VA models it is a very strong machine for the next 5 years... Especially as Freezing tracks is now very easy in all DAWs.

    Best regards,


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