Over the past few weeks we have been looking at What Apple Mac users are going to do for the next Pro Tools machine. In Podcast 255, Dan, Peter and Mike discussed what Mac we currently have and what our plans for the future are. I think it has to be said that the jury is out so we thought it might be helpful to extend the discussion to the whole community. In the first of series of articles and polls we would like to ask Mac users in the Pro Tools Expert community what Apple Mac are you currently using? But first, here is what we own and why....
Mike Thornton - Mid 2010 Mac Pro 'Cheese-grater'
I currently have a Mac Pro Cheese-grater - 2 x 2.4GHz Quad-core Intel Xeon. It is a Mid 2010 Mac Pro which I bought in December 2011 when I went HDX as my previous machine would not support HDX cards. You can read my story about how I came to choose this system here in the story My Pro Tools 10 HD2 To HDX Upgrade Story. So as you can see my machine already doesn't really owe me anything. Since then I have undertaken a number of upgrades...
In April 2013 I added an SSD drive in this machine. I installed a Crucial M4 512GB SSD on a special Akasa SSD & HDD Adapter bracket. You can read all about it in my story Mike Installs SSD Into His Mac Pro.
In February 2014 I upgraded the RAM and another 8GB to bring it up to 24GB.
In January 2016 I replaced the Crucial SSD drive with an Angelbird drive after I had researched the issue of the TRIM command and that in a Mac world not all SSD drives are the same. You can read more about the research in the story Review Of Angelbird SSD Drives - Part 1 - Introduction and then how I went about the upgrade process in the story Review Of Angelbird - Part 2 - SSD Wrk For Mac Pro Drive.
In February 2016 I upgraded the RAM in my Mac Pro to bring it up to 32GB.
In April 2016 I upgraded the video card which you can read about in Installing A New Graphics Card In My Mac Pro. So all in all I have a fairly pimped Mac Pro Cheese-grater.
Dan Cooper - Mid 2010 Mac Pro 'Cheese-grater'
I have the same machine as Mike that I upgraded in 2013 with 32GB RAM and SSD drives. It's starting to show signs of ageing as I'm having problems with Wi-Fi and occasional power off problems. I know the day of replacing this machine is coming ever closer. I know that I will not invest in this machine in terms of repair or upgrades anymore as it has certainly served me well over the last six years.
Peter Barter - Late 2013 iMac 27"
I am currently running a late 2013, 3.5GHz Intel Quad Core i7 iMac with 512GB SSD which I bought in mid 2014 and I’ve upgraded the RAM to 32GB since purchase. I invested quite a bit in Thunderbolt interfaces and peripherals at the same time as well so I’m currently not experiencing too many ‘bottlenecks’ with connectivity speeds etc. My only concern right now is that I’m reluctant to upgrade beyond OS X Yosemite due to compatibility with my older Adobe CS6 suite of programs – everything is currently running smoothly so no need to swallow that expensive pill just yet.
My machine currently takes everything Pro Tools can throw at it and has comfortably ran medium sized post and music sessions from external drives containing 90 - 100 tracks without skipping a beat.
James Ivey - Early 2009 Mac Pro 'Cheese-grater'
I am running 2 different Macs at the moment. My main studio machine is a early 2009 Mac Pro Cheese-grater, which originally shipped as a single quad core machine but about 18 months ago with the help of the guys at Create Pro it was upgraded to 2 x 3.46GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon processors and 32Gb of RAM. It is fully loaded with 3 x 4Tb Western Digital Black drives for media and a 1Tb Crucial SSD for the OS.
The other major addition to this machine was a second DVD / Blu-Ray burner to allow me to back-up very large amounts of data and audio in one go (Up to 24GB on a single sided Blu-Ray).
This machine has been rock solid since I got if from the Apple Refurbished store and it has never skipped a beat during a session however lately the USB ports on the back are at becoming picky at best about what I connect them to so I installed a USB-3 PCIe card to get around this issue.
My other studio and live Mac is a mid 2012 MacBook Pro 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 with 16 GB of RAM running OS 10.12.3 (Sierra). This is my Pro Tools machine for live events and using on the road and also gets used in the studio when I need a second Pro Tools system if I'd recording a voice over for a tutorial or review video. You can read more about how this machine was recently saved by Apple.
Russ Hughes - Mac Pro 'Trash-Can'
Sometimes maligned, ridiculed and criticised, my studio computer is a Mac Pro Late 2013 'Trash-can.' It replaced a 12 Core Mac Pro 'Cheese-grater' fully loaded with hard drives, an Avid Pro Tools HDX card, and a UAD Octo card.
It is a 6-Core and Dual GPU, 3.5GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 32GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory, Dual AMD FirePro D500 with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM each and 256GB PCIe-based flash storage. Other storage is sitting offline.
The Mac Pro is connected via a Corning optical Thunderbolt cable to a Sonnet Chassis loaded with the UAD Octo card and a card that gives 3 x USB3 connections and two eSATA connections. The card enables me to connect a multitude of hard drives.
My old Mac was attached to an Avid Omni, now replaced with an Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt and an Apollo Twin that daisy chain with each other. This workflow gives me all the connectivity and power I need and is more flexible than my original HDX/Omni set-up as I can use it with more than just Pro Tools.
Like many I was somewhat concerned about the change of workflow moving to a new Mac Pro would require, but having made the necessary modifications, I can say it's the best Mac I've ever owned. It works without issue every day and often for 10-12 hours a day and powers through tasks at speed. I do a lot of video work as well as music and audio and watching the Mac Pro power through video and VFX renders is a breeze.
As I said at the outset, the Mac Pro is sometimes maligned and ridiculed, mainly by those who have never been within 10 feet of one. If owning a Mac Pro 'trash-can' makes me a fool then so be it ... whose fool are you?
Julian Rodgers - 2012 Mac Mini
We’ve said a great deal about the future computer purchasing decisions facing Mac users now Apple no longer build the kind of machines we want.
I was trying to remember exactly when my Apple experience peaked. I can remember a time when I felt that pleasant confidence (some would call it smugness) that I had settled on the correct side of a perceived divide. I think it must have been around 2007. Intel Macs running OS X 10.5 (Leopard) had been released and Windows users were faced with an ageing and insecure Windows XP or the not very fondly remembered Vista. Today Windows users have the very respectable Windows 10 and a choice of hardware ranging from the cheap and indifferent to Apple levels of design (and cost). On the other hand nowadays Apple users have a very limited range of expensive, locked down machines for which the only upgrade option is to replace the computer.
So we haven’t got here overnight and last year when it became apparent to me that I desperately needed a new computer I managed to postpone my purchasing decision because Russ was kind enough to lend me his Mac Mini - a late 2012 2.5Ghz i5 with 16GB and a 512GB SSD
I’d been of the opinion for some time that my next Mac was going to be an iMac. The brutal pricing of the Trashcan put it firmly off the table. A secondhand Mac Pro cheese-grater would have been an option but I qualify for educational discount and while the saving on a new mac isn’t huge, it is significant and Applecare is very heavily discounted making it even more of a bargain. I hadn’t really considered a Mac Mini other than the hard to find quad core i7 model but when I got hands on with Russ’ Mac mini I became increasingly resigned to the fact that I was going to have to make an offer for it.
For audio it is fast enough. I don’t think about the performance which is always a sign all is well. I don’t use it for video work at present but the biggest positives for me are the Thunderbolt port, silent operation - much better than either of my Macbook Pro machines, and the fact that it isn’t my laptop. That last point needs some explaining. I work very nomadically. Cloud sync means most of my files are available on any of my machines but the experience of sitting at a desktop computer is qualitatively different than using a laptop and this can be very useful. I spend a lot of my time using a MacBook Pro in clamshell mode with an extended keyboard, mouse and external monitor but the fact that when I’m using the Mac Mini I have to sit at a workstation and work imposes some discipline. I’m not sure I could give up the grab and go convenience of my laptop but the lack of portability of a Mini still has a place in my world.
Alan Sallabank - 2011 MacBook Pro 8.1
"Hang on a second - I thought he's the Windows guy?" I hear you say. Well, you'd be partially correct, though I still use Macs around 50% of my working time, and do actually own some Mac hardware - a reconditioned, "pimped" MacBook Pro 8.1.
My reasons for buying this were simple - I needed a good value for money laptop, that I could upgrade easily to current specs. This meant obtaining some of the last "portable" hardware that Apple made that was held together by screws, instead of glue. This has already saved my bacon, like when the logic board went mid project. I was able to easily pop the hard drive out and extract any data I needed. I've heard horror stories from people who don't have that luxury. This "updated" laptop cost me less than £900 - two thirds of the cost at least of a similar spec Windows laptop, and almost as powerful as the current MacBook Pro range at the time. It even has an optical drive, which I can replace to house a second SSD - something you definitely can't do with a current MacBook Pro.
So, you see - I'm no "Mac Hater" - I just appreciate helpful engineering. This particular example is beautifully built, very sturdy, and totally perfect for life on the move. I'd recommend this course of action to anyone.
Tell Us What You Use
So now you have read our stories, please tell us what Apple Mac you own for use with Pro Tools and please share your stories and thoughts in the comments below.
In the next article and poll we will be asking how long before you plan to replace the Apple Mac you use with Pro Tools.