Retina MBP for Music Production

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Psyflow, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. Psyflow macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2014
    Hey there,

    I currently own a 2008 13" white Macbook with 2GB RAM and 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. This thing is on it's last leg and has had a good run, but after 6 years I really need an upgrade. It is a daily user for me for basic email, web browsing, video streaming. But on top of this I also use my computer for music production, DJ software, and recording. This computer can no longer handle the tasks or programs that I need it for and I am looking into a new Retina MBP.

    I want this computer to last as long as it can, so I would like to "future proof" it as much as possible without going too overboard. Lasting 4-5+ years would be fantastic. I don't really want to go over the $2k mark, and likely won't be buying until about July. I am open to looking refurbished also. I am pretty content with the 13" size I have now so I don't really want to stray from that, as I do like the portability. I am pretty set on 16GB RAM and 512 GB hard-drive right now for whichever computer I do buy.

    The main questions I have are this:

    Do you think that I will need a quad-core 15" MBP to handle larger projects in programs like Logic and Ableton?

    If I can get away with a 13" dual core, should I be going with an i5 or i7 processor? And is there a large difference between these two for my computer uses?

    I am open to any and all suggestions :)
  2. howareyoukk macrumors regular

    Apr 1, 2013
    I think you should consider mid-high end of 15 inch retina macbook pro since you want to use a laptop for creative art production. 13 inch macbook is for the general public but the 15 inch is for the artist :)
  3. Tomr182, Apr 23, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2014

    Tomr182 macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2014
    Funny you ask, as I asked almost exactly the same question last night on here also hah similar macbook, want a new one to last a long time, music etc etc

    For me, and possibly for you, it comes down to how serious your music production is. Are you using it for professional recording, or just in the bedroom with a couple of mates and wanting something a bit polished? Having looked in detail lately, the 13" would do especially if you had the ram and SSD you mention.

    The processor is one I'm thinking about, but i5 or i7 most people say you won't notice a huge difference. You might notice a difference if your doing huge rendering with video in which case the move to 15" quad core will be a massive step up.

    On balance, at the moment, I'm looking at 13" with 8gb RAM and 256gb SSD. I have 4gb in my macbook and struggle to max that out, and with more efficient OSX, even with new music/photo software, I don think 8gb will be a bottle neck anytime soon - if 4gb is still good after 6 years and RAM usage isn't increasing much anyway, then 8gb should be more than ample (plus the 16gb is very very expensive!). SSD is kind of personal pref, much better read/write than the 128gb, and a bit less speed for writing than 512gb the 256 gives fast read and solid write and again based on price, and not minding having an external drive for archive photos etc I'm going to plump for the 256gb.

    It's also easy to get drawn into maxing out the spec, because, well, why wouldn't you want too? The reality is, do you really need too?

    My long 2 cents but hopefully it helps

    <edit> having looked at the USA prices, if your budget is $2k and you want to spend that, then I'd get the 15" basic (if you can call it basic given the cost and spec) but it won't give you the max ram and SSD you want.

    Either that, or the top end 13" with the extra ram gets you to $2k but isn't quad core

    All in all, I'd still go with 13" and either the Middle or top end spec. I could afford the top end spec and get the extra ram but I just can't justify it.
  4. Psyflow thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2014
    Nice to know I'm not the only one struggling with this lol. I really wish I could get a quad-core 13" so I could get the best of both worlds. I'm still leaning towards the 13" with mid-high range specs, as I jump up $500 just looking at the 15"s.

    Do we have any producers on here that use either that could offer me insight? I don't see myself using or having to render more than 40 tracks (I am not even close to that point yet). And is hyperthreadding something relevant to my needs or is that mainly helpful for video based projects?
  5. Macforcollege macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2013
    Its a bit over your budget but it has everything you need
  6. joebingo macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2014
    The thing which people often overlook when recommending processors for music production is the amount of online effects which are being dealt with. For this reason alone, the i7 is certainly worth it. It will also allow you to record and run more tracks at higher sample and bit rates which will add clarity to your recorded tracks and any effects you run on them.

    I went for the 15" 2.3GHz 16GB dGPU model for use with pro tools 11 (and a bit of gaming in windows :rolleyes:), and I have a fair bit of headroom on projects at the moment. In a few years I'll be maxing it out I think but it will certainly last me longer than any of the lower end models.

    Logic is quite well optimized, but third party software (ableton, any third party plug ins you might be using) will be a fair amount more taxing on your processor.

    The 13" I would definitely not recommend unless you're doing very light duty stuff.
  7. Psyflow thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2014
    Ooh that is a nice looking refurb...wishing I was ready to pull the trigger now because that's a good price.

    Joebingo thank you for the insight there. That does make sense, I wouldn't want to feel like I'm cut short on my projects after a few years. After taking a hard look at my 13" now I suppose it does seem a little small at times. A bigger screen could be a nice change.
  8. Marty62 macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2010
    Berlin formerly London
    I went for the i7 quad 2,4 in 2012 - that last MBP before Retina.

    I use it as a "Mobile" writing / production tool with Logic / Protools & Reason 6.5.

    It will run as much as my 3,1 8 core machine !

    For my use, it's able to run many AU Instruments / FX and pretty much do a full
    production on ... well almost ! :)

    I would recommend that you get a "Quad core i7" and try to "future proof" yourself
    a little.
    I guarantee that you will regret saving a few bucks to find that you're either
    compromising or just struggling to do what you need with your system, down the road.

    That's my 2c's

  9. joebingo macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2014
    No worries man, and you'll be blown away by the screen. Doing music work on it at the 1920x1200 scaled res is awesome!

    I like to buy the best I can afford at the time of purchase to get as much usage as possible - y'know, buy cheap buy twice and all that. I bought a macbook 1,1 in 2006 and managed to egg it along until I upgraded to the rMBP last month, by which time it was relegated to running cubase sx 3 in windows xp to gain any useful mileage out of the thing.
  10. Tomr182 macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2014
    Marty and joe

    What kind of music production are you doing?

    I can get upto 12 tracks, all with effects on a 5 min song in GarageBand on my whitebook and that's only 70% of processor running 2.2ghz c2d with 4gb RAM and HDD not sure what bit rate that is on though - can't remember

    Intrigued as I'll use any new rMBP that I buy for music production but probably push the tracks up as I am starting to experiment more and use more tracks
  11. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    Just wanted to remind you that while the i5 desktop CPUs don't support hyperthreading, the i5 mobile CPUs do support hyperthreading. That is why it is in general not necessary to upgrade the 13'' rMBP to i7.
  12. joebingo, Apr 24, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014

    joebingo macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2014
    Pro tools hasn't seen anything too strenuous yet, but some of the cubase projects are 60+ tracks and however many busses I need, all with effects including some amp simulators/processor heavy synths and large sample libraries for drums and instruments etc (firewire 800 drive). The biggest one I can think of hits around 60% on the processor.

    I run cubase in bootcamp due to some old plug ins.

    I was genuinely surprised that a laptop could run some of the projects tbh.
  13. Tomr182 macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2014
    Ah okay, that adds some useful context thanks

    I'm still on tho page that a hobbyist would still do well for 4+ years with the 2.4ghz and 8gb RAM

    Main thing for me is I want 13" for portability as I have other screens I can use if I want to go big

    I feel quite comfortable now that the spec will do the job I want for as long as I want
  14. joebingo macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2014
    If you do go that route, I'd definitely still upgrade to 16GB RAM.
  15. Marty62 macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2010
    Berlin formerly London
    Anything from just a few 24bit acoustic tracks/voices up to 50+ Audio tracks
    and 30+ AU Instruments - not always all at the same moment though !!
    I use lots of processor hungry plugins for the Pop/Dance stuff.

    This Quad i7 is quite capable but under pressure it won't keep up with a
    desktop machine of course. ( It's the 15in MBP )

    Perfect for a mobile situation though :)
  16. Tomr182 macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2014
    Wow hah that's some serious recording

    I still think that on balance what I've spec'd out will do me as it's nowhere near your needs lol
  17. Marty62 macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2010
    Berlin formerly London
    :) No worries, it's what I do for a living ... most of the time anyway !

    My Last MBP was a 2008 2,4 core 2 duo and it was quite OK for a while.
    This one with the extra ram / SSD and external recording drive is about
    4 x the power in real terms, Geek Benches @ around 11,000

  18. Tomr182 macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2014

    My white book is about 3200 I think? And mid level rMBP Is more than double
  19. Marty62 macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2010
    Berlin formerly London
    I think that a mid level dual core would be at least double that figure.
    My old 2008 MBP scored about the same, 3,000 or so.

    The newer quads will score more than mine, perhaps 12-13,000 which is
    serious power :)

  20. VI™ macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2010
    Shepherdsturd, WV
    Unless Logic's overhead has gotten just rediculous, you don't need a top of the line MBP. When I was recording, I was using a 2.2ghz C2d MBP with 4GB of RAM. I was recording up to 10 inputs at a time on project with 50+ tracks from different edits, takes etc... and faced no latency issue.
  21. Smeaton1724 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 14, 2011
    Leeds, UK
    If you have the space to set up a desk a good way to go is:

    Mac Mini 2.3 Quad Core
    rMBP 13. Base Processor, 8GB Ram, 128GB SSD.

    It's basically the same cost as a single 15" rMBP. I managed to pick up 16GB RAM for the mini and threw in a 256GB Samsung SSD and also kept the 1TB internal in the second bay. So I have a 'work horse' that geekbenches at near 12,000 and a portable at around 6,600.

    Mac Mini Quads seem to be cheap right now and offer great CPU performance.

    For portability and productivity it's the best of both worlds, although on the graphics side I am slightly weak being Intel only, but so far it's not made massive problems for what I use and I don't do gaming on the Macs, I do that on the PS4/PS3.
  22. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Just a thought here, may not be of any use to you, but...

    If your music production work is going to be in "one location" (that is to say, just in a home studio, etc.), have you considered an i7 Mac Mini ? You can get the Apple-refurbished late 2012 2.3ghz i7 for around $680 or so, then add a 27" display (I use a Viewsonic 2770) for around $250 (and up). You can toss in some RAM and an SSD, and you'll STILL be barely over the $1,000 mark.

    Then, take the -other- $1,000 in your budget, and put it towards a new Macbook for "toting around" with you.

    The MacBook may not be as snazzy as a $2k retina, but it will still do a good job, and you may even be able to do some "on the go" audio work with it, as well!
  23. Marty62 macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2010
    Berlin formerly London
    It's not that Logic's overhead has changed so much but all the developers want
    to take advantage of improved CPU performance.
    So many of my "go to" AU devices are really bloated and CPU hungry !

    Once you get just a few of those running ... well you get my drift :)


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