Pro musician/engineer - MB or MBP? old or new?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Feiao, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. Feiao macrumors newbie

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    Oct 17, 2008
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    Toronto
    #1
    Hey all

    Since my beloved iBook bit the dust last month, I have been anxiously waiting for the new updates, and was all but set on buying a new MacBook, except.... no firewire! Gasp!

    I am a pro musician/engineer/producer and use my computer mostly for multi-track recording sessions in pro tools. (I also use it for live performance with a variety of software synths.) Since my audio interface (and every decent interface that doesn't use PCI) is firewire-only, the new macbook is no longer an option for me.


    Should I
    a) dish out twice the $$ for a MBP, and enjoy the awesome yet somewhat unnecessary spoils? ($2150 CDN + 400 ext. applecare)
    b) swallow my new-tech-excitement and go with a refurb black MB for almost half the price? ($1200 CDN + 300 ext. applecare)
    c) another option I haven't thought of

    The most important thing for me is processor power and ram, as my sessions can get pretty intense when running multiple plugins and such, so would the faster ram and processor busses on the new MBP make a big difference for me?

    Also, with all this talk of Snow Leopard, am I better off investing in the future and getting something that will keep up with whatever Apple throws at me?

    Or should I save my money so that I can supplement my MB with a desktop machine in the future that will be able to answer any of my graphics-based needs that arise in the future? (gaming, video editing, and other fun things that aren't critical to my profession)

    Ideas? Suggestions? Anybody here have experience with the older MBs in professional audio recording situations?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. kanpachi macrumors regular

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    Mar 1, 2005
    #2
    It sounds like your best bet is to go with an MBP given the power and additional screen real estate, but given that the new one is Rev A (and thereby likely to have issues) and the older revisions have the defective NVIDIA 8600M cards, perhaps you're better off going with a souped up BlackBook. I imagine that Pro Tools is mainly processor and RAM dependent so the BlackBook should serve you just fine and save you some green at the same time unless screen real estate is a major need for you.
     
  3. Feiao thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    Thanks for the reply kanpachi.

    Screen real estate isn't a big issue since I'm pretty handy with expose and command-tildeing... Though that reminds me of another question: do the blackbooks support a second monitor? It sure would be a bonus to be able to put the mixer screen on a second monitor when I'm mixing sessions at my home studio.
     
  4. ptjh macrumors regular

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    Mar 14, 2008
    #4
    I take it you use logic and therefore need a mac (unless you want a hackintosh)
    Get the new MB pro with 7200 HD option. I'm interested to know what processor option you went for actually - do you use alot of softsynths or plugins? I'm not sure whether I will need the 2.8 or not.
     
  5. mrnabo macrumors newbie

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    Aug 24, 2008
    #5
    Feiao,

    I'm a pro musician as well (running Logic Studio). I went through the same questioning when purchasing my system and can recommend the MBP purely because it has an expresscard slot which gives you much more flexibility.

    I run a 750gig Lacie D2 eSATA hard drive of my expresscard slot (you need an eSATA expresscard for that of course) and it makes life a lot easier - particularly if you have a firewire-based soundcard like me as it frees up your fw port for other uses.

    Also, you have an additional fw800 port on the newer MBPs (mine's an old version so it only has the one fw400 port). Running your hard drives off the expresscard slot also means you can use the fw800 port to its full potential - it's not widely known, but using your fw400 and fw800 ports simultaneously brings the speed of your fw800 down to that of the fw400. In other words, you don't get two fw400 ports when you do this.

    Anyway, something to think about. I always believe you get what you pay for in most things in life, this is an example of one of those cases in my opinion.

    Good luck!
     
  6. d-fi macrumors member

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    Calgary, Canada
    #6
    if you have been using an ibook for your production needs until now. A blackbook will more than meet your needs.

    i'm also a musician/engineer and in the same boat as you. (except i have a old 12" powerbook G4) I was planning on buying a new macbook but when i found out about no firewire that was a deal killer.

    I'm currently looking into option 3 building a hackintosh ... we'll see if i end up with that or option 1 or 2 :confused:
     
  7. Compile 'em all macrumors 601

    Compile 'em all

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  8. Feiao thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #8
    Thanks guys.

    My iBook had been serving me pretty well for my production needs. It had no problem recording 16 tracks simultaneously.... I only ran into problems when running multiple plugins, which would give me processor errors.

    mrnabo, what do you mean about using both firewire ports simultaneously? Doesn't the new MBP only come with one FW 800 port? I would be expecting to do what I've done in the past - daisy-chaining my hard drive and audio interface into the one firewire port, only I figure now I'll need an adapter, right?

    Also, in response to some of the other questions... I don't use logic studio. I'd be interested in trying it out, but I'm fairly reliant on pro tools, but for familiarity, and compatibility with other studios I work with. Having said that, I want a mac simply because I am a life-long mac user - switching is out of the question. Finally, I'm fairly wary of the hackintosh options since pro tools is so incredibly picky with its requirements.

    Still undecided at this point. I realize that I'll get what I pay for, and that the MBP will be a wonderful step up from a blackbook... My main argument for the latter is that I will be able to save my money for a second computer, and that way I won't have to put so much wear and tear on my portable machine. My iBook lasted just over three years, since I used it for *everything*, and I can't afford to have a doubly expensive computer wear out in the same time frame.

    Thanks for the help so far... if I am not more decided, I am at least more knowledgable. Any other thoughts?
     
  9. mrnabo macrumors newbie

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    Aug 24, 2008
    #9
    Hi Feiao,

    I've just taken a look at the new MBP - sorry, I didn't realise it only has one fw port (that's strange logic from Apple, not sure why they did that other than they've changed from intel boards to nvidia I believe). Not sure about this, but I think you can get a fw800-to-fw400 cable which might solve the problem of backward compatibility...

    Based on that new bit of info about one fw800 port, I expect you won't see a performance drop. However, I'm wary of daisy-chaining (although many people tell me it's fine), particularly if my soundcard is in that chain because I prefer to have a single input for recording audio.

    I still think the expresscard is an absolute must though as you can extend your ports whether it be eSATA, FW 400/800 or USB. I also use an expresscard to read my digital cameras SD cards, so it offers more options than one might expect. What kind of music do you make? If it's recording lots of audio tracks simultaneously, I always opt for the fast I/O on my hard drive which is currently via SATA connections.

    Having said all that, I understand the 3-year dilemma and overspending on a new model for it to become obsolete the following day. I'm coming up to my third year now and I'm getting itchy feet to upgrade so I can keep up to speed with the latest most demanding plugs etc. But I always see buying a cheap Mac mini on ebay as an option and slaving it to my host sequencer as a solution to that - I do it with an old PC I have here and it works great - eases up the processor load.

    Decisions, decisions. Land a good one-off music job and maybe you can treat yourself? :)
     
  10. Feiao thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Toronto
    #10
    Yeah, upon checking out the pro tools support pages, while eSata isn't technically supported, that is only due to it not being tested and that thus far no problems have been reported. Maybe I would make use of the expresscard slot after all.

    Argh... decisions decision indeed! :) I would need a pretty serious one-off gig to offset the cost of a MBP.

    The music I make is fairly multi-track dependent. Jazz, classical, lots of different stuff, but often lots of different instruments. The live side of things is just for being able to make lots of great sounds in a funk band I play in, I don't need to run any heavily sequenced one-man-band type things. (Though I wouldn't mind being able to.)

    I'm going to go to the apple store today to check out the new ones to see if I fall in love with the new ones or not. That may decide the matter. Thanks again.

    What to do... what to do...
     
  11. crazy88s macrumors newbie

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    Jul 9, 2008
    #11
    I am having a similar dilemma, but I can't afford the latest MBP and the older one has the nvidia issue, so I would have to resort to dealing w/ the older MBP or get a last gen MB and of course upgrade either of their ram myself.

    I plan on running Logic Studio with a Apogee Duet and a external HD. But all engineers tell me Firewire is the best option for a HD due to the steadier large data streams and the Duet requires FW.

    Do any other engineers know if usb 2.0 or someother option is available to me to write my audio onto an external HD? Thanks!
     
  12. Feiao thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #12
    Hey crazy 88s. In your case I would recommend getting a FW HD that has two firewire ports (most of them do) and connect your duet to it, and it to the computer.

    I have been daisychaining my M-Audio FW1814 with a LaCie drive through one port up to now and have never had problems. My understanding is that digidesign's position on this states that daisy-chaining is ok, but the interface should be the last thing on the chain. i.e. Computer - drive - interface. I don't know what Apogee says, but digidesign is notoriously stringent with its requirements. I think that you'd be ok. And yes, firewire is much better than usb for multitrack audio.
     
  13. CalumC macrumors regular

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    Oct 15, 2008
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    Leeds, UK
    #13
    Thats where the expresscard 34 would come in, extra firewire and USB. You can attach an eSATA (external SATA drive, 7200rpm, which you need for pro audio) hard drive via the, esata slot, or some have firewire/usb2 esata.

    I'm adding myself to this little list of musician/techies that cant decide what to buy. Tough choice.
     
  14. firecrasher macrumors member

    firecrasher

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    Location:
    Baltimore
    #14
    My friend and I are both weighing this issue; neither of us want a notebook the size or weight of a MBP.

    Would getting a USB-Firewire hub work with something like a Presonus Firebox?
     
  15. ptjh macrumors regular

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    Mar 14, 2008
    #15
    Yes music techies thread! My only dilemma is whether to go for the new mb pro 2.53 or the 2.8 for £200 more? Or I could save money and get the 2.4 MBP (with lesser graphics card) since the new MB is relatively similar in performance to the new 2.53 GHz model

    what additional benefits do better graphics cards provide other than for video and photo editing?
     
  16. Feiao thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #16
    Firecrasher: I'm not sure if that would work. My understanding is that the reason why you need a full-on firewire connection is because firewire can transmit constant two-way streams of information, where as USB is one-way-only, and uses some kind of traffic controller to control data transmission. I don't have the technical knowhow to understand it any more than that, but I would conclude that plugging something like a firebox into a firewire->usb converter of any kind would NOT work.

    PTJH: From what I've heard, the next version of OSX will be able to offload regular processor tasks to the graphics card, which would make your whole system faster. Other than that, you'd only see benefits with, as you say, image and video editing. Mostly video. (And of course, gaming.)

    Let all of us music techies celebrate in our indecisiveness together!

    Are there any pro audio users out there who have seen a significant benefit to the faster frontside and ram busses when running plugins and such? This for me I think is the real dealbreaker, because ultimately the blackbook is a huge savings in $$, which I could put toward a MacPro in a couple of years.
     
  17. crazy88s macrumors newbie

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    #17
    Yeah, I just talked to Apogee and they actually say it is preferred to run the duet through a external hard drive that is externally powered because of the more stable bus power. Thanks for the advice Feiao, I'm pretty sure that the last gen MacBook will be my choice. Now the only question is are there any differences between the black and white 2.4Ghz aside from the color? In particular processing power or ram capacity, etc.

    Thanks for the advice everyone, this is a great thread for us troubled musician/engineers!
     
  18. Feiao thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #18
    As far as I know, there isn't any real difference between the black and white macbooks except for hard drive space. For me, the black-ness of the blackbook is actually an attractive feature since I may be using it for live performances on stage.

    At this point I'm leaning towards the refurb blackbook since it will do what I need it to do. While the new MBP is droolworthy (and them some) it might make more sense for me to save my cash for an iMac next year to serve as my desktop machine for video editing and such. Also, the money I save can be used to buy a gaming console if the gaming bug bites hard.

    .... but .... how can I pass up the new MBP? So sexy... Then again, this revision was mostly cosmetic and I shouldn't let myself be swayed by such things. (Says the guy who wants the blackbook just because its black.)

    Right now I'm leaning 60% blackbook, 40% new MBP. How are you guys going with your decision making process? Myself, I'm in quite a rush because I have been without a main computer for a month now and I have a bunch of projects looming over me. I need a machine soon.

    Any more input from other?
     
  19. mugtastic macrumors regular

    mugtastic

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    Jun 22, 2006
    #19
    i'm in the same boat - but different. right now i use my 1st gen macbook (2.0 ghz) as my internet/itunes normal comp. then take it up to my studio, plug in the motu ultralite (firewire of course - with a firewire hard drive) and go to work.

    now, the macbook has developed a couple problems. the screen flickers a bit and the headphone jack messes up the audio. so i'm looking to move it up to the studio permanently and was going to get the new macbook for the "normal" stuff. but since i record i can't (psychologically) get one without firewire - hopefully the old macbook lasts for a few years, but who knows.

    i'm thinking refurb 2.4 macbook - but what about snow leopard and brand new shiny apple notebooks?

    if it was going into the studio i'd sure consider the new macbook pro - but i really think the refurb 2.4 is a great deal on an ironed out machine. i'm thinking an added monitor to the old macbooks can only show the same as the attached screen but i'd like to be told otherwise!
     
  20. Feiao thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #20
    Well, I bit the bullet and decided to buy the refurb blackbook. In the end I'm saving well over a grand which I can put towards something more powerful in a year or so. Realistically, the blackbook will serve my needs just fine... but it sure was an exercise in self-control. Maybe one day I will allow myself to splurge on the best available, but not today.

    Good luck to the rest of you wrestling with this same problem.

    Btw, mug, I think (and hope) that the macbook does support a second display (that isn't just mirrored). At least that's what a quick google search implied.
     
  21. mugtastic macrumors regular

    mugtastic

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    Jun 22, 2006
    #21
    went for the refurb white macbook 2.4 - think i'll put it in the studio and replace the "home" macbook later.
    btw - the refurb glossy screen macbook pro 15" on the canadian apple store i was considering is no longer listed, so these cheaper firewire options are disappearing!
     

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