Ready to Buy - Want MBA, not sure if it can handle Music Production needs

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Matumeak, Jan 1, 2011.

  1. Matumeak macrumors member

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    Anchorage, Alaska
    #1
    Hi,

    I currently use a 24" iMac that I have been travelling with, checking it in as luggage. I love my 24" iMac, yet I'm wanting her to stay at home as a desktop and I am ready and have the resources to buy a laptop.

    I've been doing a lot of research and I still have lots of questions. I'm happy to find this forum, as I am hoping to get positive and helpful comments and buying advice.

    My 24" has 1T of hard drive space, and I use it for music production primarily. I use Abelton 8, Reason 5, and Record 1.5. I also write plays, and I enjoy using Pages as my word processor. I do edit some short movies using the old iMovie application (version 5.02) and I also work on my own webpages using iWeb.

    I am very attracted to the Mac Book Air because it is so sexy and also I tend to travel a LOT. I've owned two MacBook Pro's before, the 17" was stolen, the 15" had a liquid accident, so I got the 24" iMac so that I could appreciate the laptop once again and always have a great desktop. I'm ready for my laptop.

    My heart is set on the air. I'm not sure if it can handle my live performance needs - I perform with video, sound and also Ableton 8. I also would need to plug in my Novation Launchpad into the Air for live performance. I do know that the air will help me with the writing of my plays, as the lightness and size will inspire me to take it everywhere and work more while on the road.

    Yet, I found out that for about a $100 more, I can get a 15" MacBook Pro 4gig memory, 500gig 7200rpm harddrive. I already have a great case for the Pro, and that is the machine my peers tend to use to handle the music and video production software. Eventually, I'd like to get Adobe CS5 and FinalCutPro, yet that is about a year away. It be great if the Air could also handle those programs.

    Any power users out there who have truly put their wonderful Airs to the test? It would be great to hear from someone who performs live - using Abelton Live and Reason.

    If I do get the Air, I'm torn on the size. I found a SD card to Firewire adapter that would be great for me - one of my Audio interfaces needs firewire - so I'm more drawn to the fully loaded 13" Air over the fully loaded 11" Air.

    At any rate, either the Pro or the Air will be a lot lighter than lugging my 24" iMac around, which I have been doing for over a year now.

    Thanks in advance! I'm looking forward to your thoughts on Air vs. Pro - I'm ready to buy now.
     
  2. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

    Staff Member

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    Dec 10, 2008
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    Finland
    #2
    IMO MBP is better for you. Looks like you can really use the CPU power and having more internal storage shouldn't hurt either. MBA would likely be sufficient but it might be too limited for you and like I said, more CPU power will be good
     
  3. newdeal macrumors 68020

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  4. wordoflife macrumors 604

    wordoflife

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2009
    #4
    You should get the highest spec'ed machine you can afford (go with the i5)
    The Air is cool and all, but it is lacking for your needs.


    Btw, what was your experience checking in the iMac. Did it ever break ?
     
  5. Matumeak thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 1, 2011
    Location:
    Anchorage, Alaska
    #5
    travelling with 24" iMac

    I'm still torn between the Air and the Pro. The thing is, I can always travel with my 24", and use my Air on the plane and keep the desktop in my hotel room and other places I arrive when I travel. I'm used to travelling with my 24" iMac.

    The 24" iMac travels great. The only hard part is the extreme stress experienced waiting at the luggage area - hoping that she will emerge safely and not get snagged. It's been lost luggage a few times. The case was $650, so it works, and it is light.

    I actually travelled with the iMac in the original flimsy box for about 5 months, in intense conditions - on a snowmachine in 40 degrees below weather in the Arctic, and the iMac is an amazing travel machine. She is sturdy and wonderful and it is great to have all the comfort and screen when you get settled in to your new home for the next week or so...

    Yet, I need a laptop for my bus/subway/train rides on the road, and airplane rides and coffeeshop visits and mobile performing. It would be a second computer, cause my 24" iMac is a workhorse that I love.

    When I found out I could get a MacBookPro for just a little bit more, I'm tempted. It's what the pro's use, after all - and I know it could handle my intense music production needs on the fly...

    Yet, I love the sexy sleek Airs! :)
     
  6. ZenErik, Jan 1, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2011

    ZenErik macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2007
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    #6
    Do you only use USB interfaces as opposed to FireWire? The only reason I don't own a MBA is because both of my audio interfaces are FireWire.

    Edit: Just saw your mention of an SD slot to FW adaptor. Not sure that that would be sufficient, but I have never even heard of those. I believe the SD slot IS USB... So I'm guessing not sufficient.
     
  7. Mac Composer macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    #7
    Get the MBP.

    Buy a computer that does what you need it to do. Period.
    Don't buy a computer because it's sexy and will impress strangers at Starbucks.
     
  8. oakie macrumors 6502

    oakie

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2008
    Location:
    seattle
    #8
    yup.

    and i dont know how many times everyone on here has to reiterate this, but hey... it's your money, and if your mind is made up, which it is despite anything you say to the contrary, then why bother asking anyone?
     
  9. sunrisemusic macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    #9
    I just got an 11" air to do portable travelling stuff as well as have the option to be able to run basic Pro Tools sessions and play around with garageband for ideas and even Logic. I LOVE this baby's portability. I did as much research as I could beforehand and it seems that as long as you're not running tons of plugs you can get a reasonable track count, and decent usage with an air, (even an 11, but in your case I"d recommend a 13").

    I've not used Live or Reason so I can't say particularly for those. However I recommend googling "Macbook Air and Logic Pro / Pro Tools / Ableton / Reason, Cubase etc etc" and you'll likely find user reports using those systems to give you an idea. I don't have the link anymore, but I found someone did a Logic test and got a lot of tracks tested with some big 'verbs (thus recommending you search for it yourself), and others on the DUC reported being happy running pro tools (minus thousands of plugs and VIs.
    I found this vid on the web, someone running pro tools with plugs - worth checking out to get an idea, though again, no idea of the degree of CPU you're needing compared to what this guys is using, but it might be helpful for you. http://video.filestube.com/watch,0a12c29a911eea8f03ea/ProTools-9-on-MacBook-Air-11inch.html
    Maybe worth posting on a couple of those pro audio forums, (including Abelton, but also Logic users, Pro Tools forums, etc etc cos people using these programs often use Live/Reason as well, or at least would have an idea of how they might fit.

    My own audio needs on the Air are going to be reasonably light, so for me it's a no brainer to get the air cos I travel a lot, if you do go for a 13" air make sure you get the extra RAM.

    If you're not in a mega-hurry it might also be well worthwhile waiting a few months for new macbook pros to come out, (supposedly around April or so), they're likely to be pretty good and of course you could put SSD in a pro and make it lighter (and faster) that way too. I guess it's about weighing up having something lighter that may not meet all your portable needs and thus still lugging the iMac, or getting something portable that will meet all your audio needs (macbook pro).

    Personally my 2007 white macbook still meets all my audio needs, but I'm not a heavy-duty plug user and am not working with too many tracks very often.

    Good luck and if you get an Air let us know how it fares with your audio needs!
     
  10. wordoflife macrumors 604

    wordoflife

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2009
    #10
    They make cases for iMacs? :D Sweet! Would you have a picture of it by any chance?

    I honestly think you should get the 15" MBP. It's a great computer and that way you wouldn't need to carry your iMac with you. Of course you can go with the Air, but you'd be giving up a lot and spending almost the same money. With the Pro, you'll get a bigger screen, much faster processor, and longer battery life which would benefit your music production and your visits on the train, coffee shop, etc. Sure, its not as thin, but its not terrible. It will also be a workhorse, except mobile.
     
  11. Matumeak thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Location:
    Anchorage, Alaska
    #11
    http://www.sqrsolutions.com/Product...ire-1-x-4pin-IEEE-1394a-FireWirePlugin-Module

    I use a USB interface primarily, to control Abelton Live. I do have a firewire interface that I haven't found a need to travel with yet. I've been using USB microphones, which work for most purposes.

    My mind is not made up. That is why I am here. I'm also hoping to connect with people who use Macs for audio production - specifically the programs that I use - Reason, Abelton Live and Record - so that I can get more specific feedback and make a better informed decision. Of course I understand it is my money. I have a unique situation, as I am able to travel with my 24" iMac (with the fancy case) if needed, so an Air might make sense for me, as I really will appreciate the portability factor.

    I'm looking forward to some positive and encouraging comments that help me to weigh all the factors before the final purchase. I'm curious if anyone has used the sd to firewire converter before. I'd also like to really hear any comments from people who are used to having a MacBook Pro or a Mac Tower and have compared that experience to using the Air with applications such as Live, Reason, Record or CS5. Thanks again in advance!

    It's taking a lot of restraint to wait and shake the pan one more time to see if there is a gold nugget before I cash in. I'm excited either way!
     
  12. Matumeak thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 1, 2011
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    Anchorage, Alaska
    #12
    http://www.google.com/products/cata...og_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDIQ8wIwAw#

    The above is a link for the 27" iMac case. I love the case that I have for my iMac, yet it is heavy and I tend to stuff it with clothes for my trips. Thanks for the kind words about getting a 15" MBP. I've been oscillating, as I have been a Pro user and I already have an expensive bag that will fit a 15" pro perfectly. The longer battery life is a big draw. Also, knowing that it could handle anything I throw at it without blinking is another plus.

    I am still tempted with the Ultimate 13" Air, only because of my scriptwriting tendencies and the fact that I travel about 80 percent of the year. I've waited two years since the "spill" that took out my last MacBook Pro to get a laptop again, and I'm taking my time to make sure it will be the one that will last for at least two years with me.

    Thanks again! I'll definately post my final decision here.
     
  13. Mac Composer macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    #13
    I use ProTols and Logic. I run lots of tracks using virtual instruments, writing for film, full size symphony orchestra. That takes a lot of processing power and lots of RAM. A maxed out MBP is what I need to use to get the job done.

    I don't use the programs you mention, can't help you there. What type of audio production do you do? Do you find yourself running low on resources with your iMac, or do you have power to spare? If you do get an Air, I'd suggest getting the 13" Ultimate. That's $1800. Then compare that to a $1800 MBP and decide what will work better for you.
     
  14. Matumeak thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Location:
    Anchorage, Alaska
    #14
    Thanks so much for this response! I don't want to wait for the new MacBook Pro's to come out - my money might go to other bills/equipment if I wait, so I need to buy while the planets are aligned, which is now. I don't use a lot of plug-ins, actually - right now I'm plug-in free. I understand VST plug ins and what not, yet I haven't invested into them. I've been doing research on the sites where audio production people tend to hang out - and it seems like DJ's and music makers have been having a blast running my Abelton Live program on 2006 MacBooks, not Pro's, just MacBooks. So, my intuition says that it is more than possible that it would work.

    It would be different if I didn't have a 24" at home that is in such good shape, with 1T harddrive that I love. There are some bigger performance jobs where I would probably want to take my iMac along in my luggage, yet most of my gigs are pre-programmed tracks with short multi-media videos - and I end up using my iPhone on airplane mode for a lot of my gigs, as I am a rapper, so I just need the beats to perform (video is ideal to have too).

    It's hard to get as excited spending $2000 on a Pro that will probably get updated within the next 6 months or so. And, I also write a lot - and the uber-portability will be handy for my writing needs.

    I'll continue to search for some more feedback from folks who use Reason and Abelton Live. Thanks again for the comments, they really help!
     
  15. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2006
    Location:
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    #15
    FYI:
    The link you provided is for a "Cardbus" card, not a SD card slot. There are no current Mac notebooks which can utilize this interface card type. You might find a similar I/O card for a "ExpressCard/34" slot which the 17" notebooks could use.

    -howard
     
  16. Matumeak thread starter macrumors member

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    Anchorage, Alaska
    #16
    I'm trained on ProTools, but I use Abelton Live 8 instead, which I like better. I don't need a lot of tracks - not on the go, or on the fly... My iMac always has power to spare. Even with my most intensive Audio needs, I can only imagine needing a maximum of four vocal tracks, which I can track on my iMac.

    The thing is - if I do leave my iMac at home and go to another country for three weeks to work and perform - will I wish that I checked the iMac as luggage, or will the Air make do? I'm guessing that if I am smart with space and if I set it up so that my iMac can communicate with my Air while I'm on the road - I'll be fine. I did find a thread that mentioned Reason, and they say that it barely uses any cpu power at all, and most of my time-intensive work is making a beat in Reason, getting it ready for the vocals.

    Thanks!
     
  17. Matumeak thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 1, 2011
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    Anchorage, Alaska
    #17
    Thanks for pointing this out! I did find some ExpressCard converters. Are you sure there are no SD to firewire card converters that would work with the Air? I was really hoping to have it as a back-up for any firewire needs.
     
  18. Mr. Savage macrumors regular

    Mr. Savage

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    Toronto
    #18
    I don't use ableton or reason but a quick check of their respective system requirements indicates that they are both well within the Air's capabilities.
     
  19. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

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    #19
    I am unaware of any SD card interfaces other that some SD memory cards with built-in WiFi. The SD card format is pretty small and fragile, so having anything attached to one (especially with cables) would probably exert too much leverage and either break off or easily unplug the card. ExpressCard would be the way to go, but that is only available on the 17" sized MB Pro.

    -howard
     
  20. drxcm macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2010
    #20
    If you need your firewire interface, then you need the MBP.
    Even without it, I'd still recommend the MBP for what your needs are. You could most likely ditch the iMac altogether for some trips that way.
     
  21. emotion macrumors 68040

    emotion

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    Manchester, UK
    #21
    11.6 1.6/4G/128 here running Live 8.2.1. Mainly for djing so lighter use than production but 3-4 tracks with a few plugs works well for me.

    I swapped out my Echo Audiofire2 for a NI Audio 2 DJ/CME midi combo.

    I was using a 2.2GHz 2007 MBP 15" but the Air is much quicker.
     
  22. mixvio macrumors 6502

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    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #22
    I have Reason 4, although I'll be upgrading to 5 shortly. I also use CS5. I also do game development in Unity, using their OSX toolkit, and I also do modelling in Maya.

    I think people are really quick to dismiss the Air as anything but a secondary machine or incapable of heavyweight tasks or something you just take out at Starbucks to impress people, forgetting that this is a better GPU than was in other Apple laptops until recently, and essentially the same CPU as was in Apple laptops until recently.

    At any rate, I have not had any problems with the Air and my needs. I don't do music on a pro level anymore, but I've been able to run Reason on a simple netbook in the past so it's not that much of a stretch.

    I live in Australia now but I'm from the US originally. I fly a lot, much of it internationally. I can't imagine taking an iMac with me in my luggage, but I took my Air along for the first time when I flew from Sydney to Perth this past week. I have a larger Windows desktop at home and another beefier Windows laptop that I primarily keep there and I wasn't sure if the Air would be good enough coming from a 15" i7 MBP. The only thing I really find to be a downside is how small the HD on the Air is compared to what I have on my other machines. 256 gigs fills up fast and I would've loved a 512 gig option.

    Anyway, I love mine. It's more than fast enough, light and cool. I have the 13" 2.13 GHz version with 4 gigs of RAM, I bought the highest spec'd one I could get.

    Just make sure your peripherals will work. It only has two USB ports. There's no SD card to Firewire conversion, you're thinking of something else.
     
  23. foiden macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2008
    #23
    Music Production is precisely why I still kept my 13" MBP even after getting a 13" MBA Ultimate.

    You'll love yourself just for the future ability to upgrade your internal harddrive, anytime you want to. The future for Drives is only getting brighter, and with the MBP, you don't have to buy anything else for years outside of buying that new harddrive for an upgrade.

    Anyway, I actually drive a full orchestra worth of audio through Logic Pro on the MBP, and that's no small feat. Remember, these audio channels are also being piped through realtime effects as well. The extra CPU power of the MBP can only but help ensure you can do this kind of stuff.

    Though the 13" MBA Ultimate is the most capable of the Airs in doing it, MBPs all have faster CPUs and a little more oopmh for the money. Now if you especially don't plan on *finishing* your work on the Air, then I'd say the Air can suit just nicely, as long as you don't need beyond USB devices.
     
  24. peapody macrumors 68040

    peapody

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    baltimore, md
    #24
    Sounds like you are doing everything you can to justify the purchase of a MBA when it clearly isn't conducive to your needs. :eek:

    You'd go as far as to continue TRAVELING with your iMac? Even though the macbook pro is perfect for your needs? :confused: NO matter how many of the forum members say the MBP is for you...sounds like you have already made up your mind. Is using a macbook air on a flight really that much worth it? :confused:
     
  25. SidBala macrumors 6502a

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