Replace a 2011 MMS with a maxed out 2013 MBA (for Logic)?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by vladobizik, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. vladobizik, Sep 4, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013

    vladobizik macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2012
    Location:
    Slovakia
    #1
    I am a prosumer musician (I do fairly professional music production, but not for a living) and for about the last 2 years, I have been using a quad-core Mac mini (server) for running Logic. It's a very potent computer for my needs, but I don't enjoy having to use a different computer when traveling and/or performing live (I have an older MBP for this). I would like to buy a good laptop to replace these two and decided that this year is the year.

    The Mac mini is no performance demon, but for running Logic Pro X and various pretty demanding plug-ins (Kontakt, Omnisphere, Ozone 5, etc.) it is just about perfect (it chokes occasionally, but it's never a big deal). Therefore, my only criterion for the new laptop is that its performance has to be at least equal to the i7-2635QM powering my current machine.

    I have been looking into to top of the line BTO MacBook Air with an i7-4650U. It's only a dual core machine with a relatively low clock speed. However, according to the CPUBoss comparison, it scores to just about break even compared to my current quad core:

    http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core-i7-4650U-vs-Intel-Core-i7-2635QM

    Not to mention the awesome SSD speed versus my clunky old hard drive(s).

    Do you think this machine will be alright for me and will power Logic and various plugins just fine or is it a terrible idea? My other option is obviously to wait for a MBP refresh which is just around the corner and then pick a machine that I can afford and suits my needs. A 13-inch MBP (ideally a rMBP) with the top CPU choice, albeit a dual core, will most likely fit the bill, then.
     
  2. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #2
    I run Logic, Final Cut Pro and other programs on my 2013 11" i7/8gb/512gb MBA without problems. They also ran fine on my 2011 13" i5/4gb/256gb MBA, but performance is better on the new machine.

    But my use of Logic is really basic - recording 4 tracks of live music with microphones. Using the 4 channel USB2 Akai EIE Pro interface I get 9ms roundtrip latency on the new machine and the old machine showed about 13ms latency with the same settings. Not sure, but I suspect the big difference is the 512gb SSD on the 2013 MBA - it's very speedy. :)
     
  3. vladobizik thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2012
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    Slovakia
    #3
    Thanks a lot for sharing your experience.
    Just realized there's a new argument against getting the MBA and that is that I have a FireWire audio interface AND a Cinema (not Thunderbolt) display. If I want to have them hooked up at the same time, I'd either have to get the Belkin Thunderbolt hub (hundreds of bucks), or a new USB audio interface or of course a TB Display. Either way, my transition would warrant substantial additional costs and would also cost me a lot of convenience. The rMBP has two TB ports, I'd just get a FW/TB adapter cable and I'm good to go.
    I will still think about it (and consider what anybody has to say on this matter), but I am starting to think waiting for a new 13-inch MBP would be the most sensible thing to do, heck, it may even cost me less in the end.
     
  4. Liquidstate macrumors member

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    Jun 11, 2012
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    Pacific Northwest
    #4
    A few issues to keep in mind. First of all, the next MBP's will most likely not have a FW port. Apple has clearly moved from FW to TB. Secondly, the next Haswell MBP's (like the current MBA's) will slightly favor battery life over CPU performance. The pervading rumor is that Mavericks will offer software efficiencies that will help restore the balance etc. But who knows what this means with intensive apps like Logic. Probably not much of an issue, but it might be worthwhile to wait out the release and see if any issues emerge.

    Another significant factor. TB2 is scheduled to arrive in spring 2014.

    In the here and now, there are some conflicting reports in audio over FW/TB adaptors regarding latency and stability. As I understand it, TB is a signal aggregator, and I don't know how this would affect legacy FW gear (which I have). FWIW, the Belkin Thunderbolt hub would not be a piece of equipment I'd put into a serious audio rig. It's consumer level, where small artifacts don't matter.

    As far as I know, TB is still an unproven protocol for pro audio. And TB is not new. It's been out there for 2 years. I don't know of anyone doing serious audio (except UA Apollo owners where TB is native) who use anything except FW to FW. That probably will change, of necessity, after the launch of the nMP. But again, who knows what the further issues might be with TB2.

    As of now, in audio, there isn't much TB gear or info out there. So I'd suggest focusing on FW to TB issues before you make a leap. And if you can, wait for TB2.
     
  5. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #5
    Yeah, I had to replace my M-audio firewire interface with USB when I got my MBA in 2011. Not a big deal for me, it was really old and only two channels. I also use an old 23" Apple Cinema display with a miniDisplayPort to DVI adaptor.

    I got a Seagate Thunderbolt dock that works with their desktop Backup Plus drives - paid $130 for it at Best Buy without a drive (they cost ~$100-150 depending on size). It has a Thunderbolt pass-through port so I connect my Cinema Display there and it works great. But there's only one spare port, so you couldn't connect both a monitor and a firewire adaptor.
     
  6. vladobizik thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Slovakia
    #6
    Thanks a lot for your detailed insight into the TB/FW issues. I've been hunting for some feedback regarding the use of FireFace 400 which is my audio interface with the adapter cable and people seem to have no issues, other than that the interface isn't bus powered in such a setup and you have to use the power supply (I hope I can find it somewhere in my house if and when I buy a Mac without a native FW port). But I do realize and will bear in mind that using a "real" FireWire port is the best way to go. Seems like every option I have now comes with a compromise, I just have to figure out which compromise is the smallest one.

    Or I might just buy an USB interface like you did and be done. FireFace 400's resale value seems to be pretty neat these days, if I manage to sell it, I can easily buy say an Apogee Duet - which doesn't seem like a step down in audio quality whatsoever - and still be easily in the black.
     
  7. Liquidstate macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2012
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    #7
    I have an MP rig, so I haven't used anything portable. That said, I have a Apogee converter, and it's really good at what it does. As I understand it, the Duet also has excellent converters and a good clock. Not exciting, but important for quality audio. And it has great reviews. It's USB2, but Apogee states on their website that USB3 doesn't improve latency for audio.

    You could also consider an RME Babyface. It's another high quality small footprint USB2 audio interface. Here's the URL:

    http://www.rme-audio.de/en_products_babyface.php

    If you can, stay away from the other stuff. It's much better to buy lower end gear from a quality pro audio company than top of the line gear from a consumer company.
     
  8. vladobizik thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2012
    Location:
    Slovakia
    #8
    You're absolutely true. BabyFace is another option I have been looking into all along. Sticking with RME is also a sensible thing to do, since I am a long-time happy user of FF400.

    The discussion is however straying away from my original problem - whether or not a MBA is a good music production machine. My current understanding is that it is not. I think it carries too many compromises and if I want to be 100% mobile and have a good audio powerhouse, a MBP is certainly the way to go.

    I will wait until MBPs are refreshed and then decide between a rMBP or a cMBP, depending on the options that will be available and if cMBP will be refreshed at all.
     

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