Thinking about getting a 15 MBP for music making

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Empr, Jun 13, 2009.

  1. Empr macrumors member

    Apr 18, 2009
    Hi, I am looking to buy my first Mac. I'll mainly be using it for recording and writing music (probably Logic Express or Studio).

    I was going to get the 15" MBP with the 2.66 Processor. This should be plenty powerful to run my music applications, even with lots of tracks, right?

    One question I have is about the hard drive... how much better would the 7200rpm be? I will probably end up writing to an external HD via the FW 800 port, so I'm guessing it is not that important. Still, if the extra 60$ makes a big difference, I would be willing to spend it.

    I was also going to use a USB hub, since I'll use more USB equipment than there are ports (2). Will using the hub degrade the performance of anything like a USB MIDI Keyboard and external soundcard?

    Anything else I should be aware of regarding potential weaknesses the new MBP has vs. the older models? I'm aware of the FW 400 port drop and glossy screen only, but these do not concern me too much.

    Thanks for reading.
  2. Schtumple macrumors 601


    Jun 13, 2007
    If you haven't used it before, get Logic Express, pro has a hell of a learning curve.
    Go for the 7200rpm drive, it will help.
    The hub will not degrade performance.

    I use the previous, previous gen MBP, and it's fine for music making, and my model is now quite outdated compared to yours.

    What kind of music do you make out of interest?
  3. Qartin macrumors newbie

    May 4, 2009
    I would go with Logic Express, Pro has alot of un needed addons which are nice but again not needed and its too bloated.

    Learn with Logic Express first, then think about going to pro.

    And I have the previous lower end macbook pro 15" and it runs perfect all the music making programs. And I think any mac will run smoothly with it.
  4. DaveyandGoliath macrumors newbie

    Jun 8, 2009
    I purchased the new 2.66 w/ 5200rpm drive. Runs perfect with Logic Express.
    Using synth, MPC and microphone
  5. djarpit macrumors regular

    Jun 9, 2009
    i am thinking of getting the 2.5 machien.. will the 2.66 make a diff?

    i use VSTs, Reason, Rewire, Cubase... and multi track recordings thru a mic

    but yea.. form what i hear any of these 15" pro series should do the trick..
  6. mac88 macrumors 6502

    Aug 7, 2008
    Boston, MA.
    Awesome advice. Doesn't hurt to practice and hone your skill on Express. If you find out the program is not for you, then you just saved some money by not purchasing the expensive version.
  7. Empr thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 18, 2009
    Thanks for the replies. I will likely go with Express, since I can upgrade later if I feel limited.

    Does anybody know if the L2 cache 3MB vs 6MB will make much of a difference for recording?

    I'm a bit dissappointed about the supposed SATA downgrade, since I might want to switch to SSD in a couple years (hoping for this laptop to last about 5 years).

    I kind of do a mix of styles, so am looking for something versatile which I hear Logic is.
  8. TXBDan macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2008
    Boston, MA
    Any Macbook Pro made in the last 3 years will perform awesome, don't worry about. I run all sorts of crap on my early '08 and it runs like a champ.

    I'd def recommend firewire over USB for an audio interface, though if you're recording real instruments. If you're using only MIDI, then USB is probably fine, but still can be finicky.

    I use a Presonus FireBox. its an analog 4x6 plus a digital 2x2 with MIDI and two mic pres. Works great.
  9. Empr thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 18, 2009
    I was going to use firewire for an external hard drive. Do you think it would be better to run a firewire interface and a USB hard drive?
  10. TXBDan macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2008
    Boston, MA
    You can daisy chain firewire devices. Most all have two ports so that you can do this. You can plug your interface into your HD's 2nd port or vise versa.

    Or get a firewire hub.
  11. Empr thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 18, 2009
    Cool, thanks, I will definitely look into that.
  12. mike1123 macrumors 6502


    Sep 19, 2007
    Okay, I'm going to differ from what others have said and say that you should spring for Logic Studio (Pro). Here's why. Logic Express and Logic Pro have the same UI, so learning the functions of one won't be much different from learning the functions of the other. Secondly, I don't know if you're a student, but if you are, you can get Logic Studio for a mere $149 (granted, you aren't eligible for upgrades, but at this price, who cares?) Logic Studio may come with a lot of stuff you don't need, but it does come with a TON of great software instruments and loops, which are so nice to have when you're looking for inspiration.

    I started with Garageband on my Mac, so if you don't want to spring for Logic Studio yet, learn the ropes with Garageband first. Garageband is a very simplified version of Logic; if you like the way Garageband works, chances are you'll like Logic as well. Garageband comes free with your Mac, so give it a try before you buy anything else. Logic Express is Logic Pro stripped of it's content, and if you're a student, it's worth getting Logic Studio. If you aren't, that's your call, because $500 is a big chunk of cash, but if you know you love to make music, which I did, it's well worth it, IMO.

    As for the drive, I'm currently debating that in my potential MBP as well. Normally, it would be a no-brainer to go for the 7200 RPM drive, but if you are getting the 500GB upgrade, or even the 320GB drive, it is questionable at this time if the 7200 drives Apple supplies run faster than the 5400 RPM drives, mainly due to large manufacturer discrepancies. I'll probably go for the 7200 just to be safe.

    Regarding USB power, the MIDI keyboard will function properly as long as it has enough power to turn on - the keyboard is only sending data, not sound. Same goes for the external soundcard -- for this though, you will probably need to give it its own port unless you get a powered USB hub. Oh, and I use a USB interface; it works great. If you're going external for your HDD, use FW800 for the HDD and USB for the audio interface.

    Other issues... hrm. I don't really want to go there, but just for clarity's sake, the L2 cache is 3MB on the 2.66 (probably not too important), the storage interfaces as of now look like they are SATA I (1.5 Gb/sec), which is only important if you are planning on using an SSD, which you're not. The Expresscard slot is now gone, which had potential to be used for more USB ports, Firewire ports, etc....

    Hey, it will work out just fine whatever you buy; the latest Macs are extremely capable machines no matter which way you spin it (haha, spin). So to sum up the software thing, try Garageband for a couple of months, and if you like it, look at your next steps. If you plan on using mostly software instruments instead of live recording, get Logic Studio; it is a FANTASTIC package, even for $500 and especially for $150, if you qualify. It contains the first five Garageband Jam Packs (software instruments) that retail for a total of $500, as well as so much other stuff, so don't buy them separately. You will learn fast; it took me about a week to get used to it after having used Garageband for a while. Oh, and I highly suggest getting this book:
    It is a great resource and really lowers the learning curve.
  13. Ploki macrumors 68030

    Jan 21, 2008
    i disagree with you. i never used express in my life and jumped from PC directly to Logic Pro and knew my way around it in 2 weeks. thats a steep learning curve.
    but i think the thing about DAW is what kind of person you are and what kind of workflow feels more natural to you! chemistry. ;D

    creator is versatile, logic is merely a tool that allows that (so any other decent daw ;) )
    you can always use USB Hard Drive for storage and record to your internal drive! i believe Firewire interfaces are better than usb.
    also take in account that any hub will work as fast as the slowest of devices work.
    firewire 400 is fast enough for plethora of tracks (hard drive), and even usb2.0 is.

    you got some good advices in this thread
  14. djarpit macrumors regular

    Jun 9, 2009
    so here is my dilemma...
    2.53 vs. 2.66.
    does it make a diff.. i keep asking this questions.. no one answers it:(
  15. kaamio macrumors newbie

    Jan 2, 2008
    Not to make it any harder on you but I might to consider a prev gen MBP with EC slot. That's the only reliable way to go. USB interfaces are all total crap. Use a decent FW interface on the FW port and plug an eSATA or another FW800 in the EC slot for external HDD. There are no bottlenecks after that and you could multitrack even 192Khz/24bit. Daisy chaining FW doesn't help here since they'll run in the same buss anyway and it will give you hell if you decide to use a decent multi track interface later.
  16. Ploki macrumors 68030

    Jan 21, 2008
    yes it makes, it makes 130MHz of difference.
    whether you need it or not...
    its probably the same difference as the L2 cache

    edit: kaamio made a very good suggestion
  17. Anuba macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2005
    Not really, although audio apps tend to gobble up a lot of screen space and the 15" might be a little cramped. I know for example that one of the apps I use, Reason, doesn't get along well with 1440x900 due to the workspace layout -- you can either use it in a single window with fixed 800 pixel width (which wastes almost half your screen), or you can detach the sequencer window from the rack and put them side by side (but this requires a minimum of 1600 pixels horizontal). And Cubase... yikes... you could have a 192,000x120,000 screen the size of a building and still not be able to show all audio tracks, plugin interfaces and mixer channels at once.

    You have 78% more pixels on the 17" version, plus one more USB port, and you have an ExpressCard port which you can use for several things -- EC soundcards such as the Echo Indigo, or an additional firewire bus so that you can have one for your external audio interface (if any) and one for a firewire HDD.
  18. cube macrumors G5

    May 10, 2004
  19. Ploki macrumors 68030

    Jan 21, 2008
    echo indigo has great converters.
    and i cant imagine working in logic on a 13"er... it gets way too small way too fast :)
  20. Anuba macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2005
    Yup, and it's worth getting one even if you only listen to music but don't create any. The difference between the crappy built-in sound chip on Macs and PCs and an Indigo is astounding. You plug your headphones into an Indigo and go "hmm, weird. No hum, noise or hiss even at max volume, I wonder if the cable is broken". Then you hit play and BOOM, the audio comes at you with crystal clarity and definition. The internal sound will feel like the output from a crummy cassette tape player forever after.
  21. Ploki macrumors 68030

    Jan 21, 2008
    yeah exactly.. but the main problem with built in card is that i can hear aliasing at any volume whatsoever... i mean, try to sweep a sine on it. you hear so many aliases it hurts :D
    im 95% sure that echo indigo has the same converters as the entire Audiofire line except the AF8, and they are the same as RME FF400 (for a fraction of FF400 price)
  22. jboyzh macrumors member

    Oct 27, 2003
    For music, yes, it makes a difference, because you'll most likely reach full CPU load with software instruments and effects from time to time, even more so if you plan to set Logic at higher audio resolution such as 96khz up from 44.1. So yes, 5% more or less in CPU power does matter imo and from my experience with Logic Studio on a MBP 2.53 here, MB 2.4 unibody before.
  23. Ploki macrumors 68030

    Jan 21, 2008
    you can always disable graphic effects to gain that 5%. but yeah, than you have 5% extra on the higher model too :)

    if you wish to go higher than 96khz more drastic measures are required, such as faster disk, preferably an extra audio disk via fw800 or eSata.
    also expect to freeze your tracks alot.
  24. Empr thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 18, 2009
    Thanks for all the replies. I am a student, but only for another few months, so if that means that I can get Logic Studio for 150$, that is pretty great.

    Hmmm.... Now I am considering the 17 inch, since it has the Express port (and all around better specs). And if I get 20% off with the Student developer discount it will only be an extra $480, and I would have saved $350 from the Logic studio discount... So it's really only an extra $130 from what I was willing to spend previously.

    To the people who think that the previous gen would be better, does that also apply to the 17 inch?
  25. TXBDan macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2008
    Boston, MA
    15" or even 13" w/ a nice 24" monitor could be an ideal solution. portability plus a bigger better monitor for less than the 17".

    There's no reason to record at 96k, don't even worry about that.

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