What Kind Of Computer Do You Use To Run Pro Tools?
We have split the results across two charts for clarity. This means the vertical scales are different in the 2 charts.
You can get the exact data by hovering over a pair of bars, and a floating window will appear with the data for that computer.
The Mac Mini 2018, MacBook Pro 2018 and iMac Pro were not available in 2015 and so could not be included in the 2015 poll.
For those with multiple systems we asked that you chose your primary Pro Tools computer for this poll.
Apple Mac Computers Still The Most Popular Computer For Pro Tools
The overwhelming conclusion is that Apple Mac computers are still the more popular Pro Tools computer with a small increase.
Custom Computer Option
One of the most interesting outcomes from these two polls isn’t what is in the data but what is in some of the comments to the 2019 poll.
“What am I suppose to select if I built a custom PC myself?”
“Production Experts: It would have been much more accurate for me to choose an option written something like ‘Custom Build PC/DAW Server’.”
“I'm in a similar situation as you and ended up choosing ‘Other’ instead.”
Other than the additions of new Macs that were not available in 2015, we chose the same options for the 2019 poll as we did for the 2015 poll. Clearly having a custom build option wasn’t an issue back in 2015, but with more and more people wanting to choose an option, which provides an expandable, user-upgradeable computer, it is clearly much more of issue now and perhaps confirms Apple’s choices for the 2019 Mac Pro were correct, even if the price is higher than people would like.
We have covered the subject of Windows Self-Build Pro Tools computers a lot here on Pro Tools Expert. Here is a selection of our Windows Self Build articles…
Jonah Walton is a producer, artist and mix engineer based out of Kansas City, Missouri, USA. He has been a professional Pro Tools user for over 20 years. In this article, Jonah shares his experience building a Windows PC for his Pro Tools computer and explains his choices for each of the technical components used to create his ultimate workstation machine running Windows 10.
Flavio Buonerba wrote into the Pro Tools Expert podcast, telling us all about his incredible self-build cross-platform Pro Tools host computer. Flavio gave so much detail and great tips, that we decided that it would best serve the community to publish his experience in full detail, for everyone to enjoy and learn from.
Post Production Specialist Alan Sallabank looks into building a "Plan B" Pro Tools Host Computer, on a budget.
Post Production and Pro Tools Windows Specialist Alan Sallabank explores the possible pitfalls of a Hackintosh build. Is it a case of good, bad or ugly? If you are thinking of building a Hackintosh then we suggest you read this first.
It was that odd time between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, where a lot of the community's thoughts turn to what bargains they can snap up in what used to be called the January Sales. This year round though, there are quite a few more options available.
It seems that my series of articles on Windows machines has inspired a lot of our readers to have a go at building their own Windows based Pro Tools computer systems.
Alan Sallabank here, first a bit of background. My entire career has been spent using Windows, Mac and proprietary systems for audio post production, and currently I use both Windows and Mac on a regular basis, and indeed also own a MacBook Pro as a Pro Tools computer, which I bought recently. More on that later. But for now I wanted to outline why I use Pro Tools on the Windows platform as my Pro Tools computer.
Mac Pro 5,1
It is interesting to see that the percentage of people using a Mac Pro 5,1, which was discontinued in 2013, has increased, again showing that the tower form factor is still very popular and in this case, cost effective.
With the pricing of the Mac Pro 7,1, we expect the old style cheese-grater to remain a popular choice for anyone who doesn’t need Thunderbolt and maybe even some who do if they are prepared to use the workaround we discovered. The Mac Pro 5,1 is still very upgradeable as Mike and James have both benefited from.
With all the discussion about new Mac Pro coming, how good the Mac Mini 2018 is as a Pro Tools computer reminded me that a while back I had bought replacement processors for my Mac Pro 5,1 cheese-grater , which I had never got around to fitting. This article will show how to change the processor chips in a Mac Pro 5,1 (Mid 2010) cheese-grater and will show the difference this has made to my Pro Tools computer.
Recently, I have been suffering some screen re-draw issues on my Mid 2010 Mac Pro which had an ATI Radeon HD5770 1024MB graphics card in it. So I had a chat with Rich at Create Pro to see if upgrading my graphics card might help and he recommended an AMD R9 280X 3GB card.
In part 2, I am going to share how I installed my Angelbird SSD wrk for Mac Pro drive into my Mid 2010 Mac Pro and how I followed the advice from Rich at Create Pro to create a clean install and appropriate backups.
In this video James is back with Rich from UK Mac upgrade company Create Pro. Just how far can you upgrade a 2009 / 2010 Mac Pro (Cheese Grater)? This time Rich shows the upgrade process from a single processor to a dual processor. In this case giving 12 cores at 3.46GHz. Rich and James then push the Pro Tools computer to its limit running the PTE Mac Power Test Session. They also install a USB3 card to give the old Mac Pro so new life when it comes to connectivity. Just how many tracks of Boom can you run at 64 samples with 12 cores? The numbers will amaze you and the performance will make you think twice before forking out for a new machine. Watch and find out.
In this video James shows you just how far he can now push his Pro Tools computer a Mac Pro 2010 that was upgraded to 2015 (6.1) specification by Richard at Create Pro. Using Russ' Mac Power Test session James finds out how many times he can run Boom and how many tracks of audio he can run along side VIs to create a vast session. Will 128 tracks of audio be to much. Will 90 Boom drum machines be an 808 to far. Watch to find out.
In the first video James meets Richard Rogers from Create Pro and discussed upgrading James’ old ‘cheese grater’ 5,1 Mac Pro to new ‘Trash can’ 6,1 specification.
As part of me getting ready for Pro Tools 11, I needed to go up from Lion - 10.7.5 to Mountain Lion 10.8.3, as Pro Tools 11 isn’t officially supported on Lion, and so I have finally decided to go for a SSD drive for my boot drive for my 2010 Mac Pro.
Mac Pro 6,1 Trash Can
As we can see from the results of the two polls, the percentage of those using a Mac Pro 6,1 ‘Trash Can’ has doubled from 5.4% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2019. Although many Pro Tools users, like Mike stuck with the Mac Pro 5,1 cheese-grater, there have been a growing number of Pro Tools users that have either needed a more modern machine or a machine that had Thunderbolt, and until recently the Trash Can even with its drawbacks has arguably been the only game in town. Check the image above which is part of a rack from Deluxe in Hollywood with no less than 50 Mac Pro trash can Pro Tools computers.
Even so, the Mac Pro 6,1 trash can has come in for a lot of stick throughout its life. Apple in a rare admission they missed the mark, Apple's Craig Federighi said this…
I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialise to fit that as broadly as we hoped.
Back in 2017 just a couple of week’s before the revelations from Apple, Russ said this…
“My test of anything pro is how it performs on real jobs for real clients, in other words in the real world. Every day I walk into my studio turn on my Mac Pro and work for sometimes 12 hours if it's a quiet day. There's never a day when I think to myself; I wish I owned a different computer or used a different OS. In years since I owned it, my 'overpriced' Mac Pro Late 2013 has paid for itself over 250 times; it is the rock that powers my business. In fact, it is such a rock that I rarely realise it is there; it just keeps doing the job, quietly humming on the shelf.”
We have produced a number of articles covering the Mac Pro 6,1 trash can…
I'm puzzled if people are so happy with the computer they own then why they feel the need to criticise other people's choices at the first opportunity. In a recent article I spoke about why I love my Macs, it made no comparisons to other machines and other people's choices, in fact, I suggested that if your choice was different to mine, then I'm happy for you.
No sooner had Apple announced a rethink of the Mac Pro than I was reading comments by (as always) people who don't own one, suggesting that those of us who had invested in a Mac Pro Late 2013 "Trash-can" has been at best fooled and at worst ripped off. Some even asked me if I regretted buying a Mac Pro Trash-Can?
I'm going to be terribly unfashionable and tell you why I still love my Apple Mac and why I'm sticking with Apple.
Yes I know it's not the done thing to defend Apple right now, that I should berate them for not listening and for abandoning me, because after all as a creative if it weren't for me Apple wouldn't have a business, would they? I know I should be joining the people queuing around the block at the Microsoft Store to get their latest computer, but I haven't got a clue where to find one. Perhaps had they not disguised them to look like Apple Stores it would have made the job of finding one easier.
When the Mac Pro 6,1 'Trashcan' appeared on the market it was seen by many as a closed system and therefore some were not sure about its suitability as a Pro Tools computer. Mac users were used to the nice aluminium tower which was easy to add extra memory, drives and 3rd party cards to - so the idea of hanging most of the peripherals off cables left many Pro Tools users cold and unimpressed - sticking to the 'better the devil you know' thinking of the older Mac Pro.
The requests keep coming in to run further power tests on Macs with a copy of Pro Tools native. So far we’ve taken the latest Macbook Pro Retina 15” for a spin and also a Mac Mini i5 Late 2012. We’ve been asked to run the same test on a new Mac Pro (Trash Can), so we’ve run this test on a Mac Pro 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 3.5 GHz. This is the basic test, just the Mac Pro, internal soundcard and internal drive, it’s just you, your Mac, an iLok, headphones and a USB micro keyboard.
The MacBook Pro was knocked off the top slot from the 2015 poll and pushed into second place by the Mac Pro cheese-grater. We suspect that may well be that as both the requirements for the macOS and because Pro tools continues to be more demanding, that the 4-core limit in the MacBook Pro became an increasing limiting factor. So the release of the 6-core MacBook Pro and the much more recent release of an 8-core MacBook Pro makes the MacBook Pro a much more appealing option for Pro Tools users, especially for those who need a laptop solution either as their main or secondary Pro Tools computer. For example…
This is a typical example of someone who has a MacBook Pro as a 2nd Pro Tools computer. He often uses it when he is away from his dubbing theatre Point1Post.
I know that Adam uses a MacBook Pro 2018, he was an early adopter of the 2018 MacBook Pro as it gave him the power he was missing, from previous laptops.
I have witnessed his laptop handling some sizeable Dolby Atmos sessions when he was demoing at the recent AES show in Dublin earlier this year.
There was also the issue with the 2018 MacBook Pro suffering from throttling due to overheating.
Check out these articles for more information…
Following the extended article on Is There A Problem With The New 2018 MacBook Pro? Check Out Our Initial Analysis Now and our article I Might Be Buying A New Apple MacBook Pro As My Pro Tools Computer Soon we wanted to try and establish what, if any, problems the overheating that have been experienced by video users would show up when using Pro Tools.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as a number of airlines have banned any Apple MacBook Pro laptops that are subject to an Apple recall for batteries that could be a fire risk. The consequence is that if you turn up to fly with an affected laptop, you will have to choose to fly without it or not fly. In this article, we look at the ban in detail and offer advice on how to check if your laptop is being recalled and what to do to make sure you can fly with your laptop.
Back in February 2019 well respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted there were to be a raft of Pro related Apple products due to be released during 2019. He advised us to watch out for the new Mac Pro, with companion 31.6” 6K screen and an ‘all-new’ 16-inch MacBook Pro. The first two have been announced and it looks like the all new 16” MacBook Pro will be announced in September or October 2019. In this article we will outline what we know so far about this latest MacBook Pro.
In more announcements ahead of the upcoming WWDC, Apple has made several repair and fix announcements, including repair programs for the MacBook Pro Butterfly keyboard and one to address the backlight issues in the 13” MacBook Pro laptops dubbed ‘Flexgate’. In addition Apple has released an update to fix issues with the T2 chip in some MacBook Pro computers.
Ahead of the WWDC on June 3rd Apple is choosing to make a number of announcements covering their hardware. It is now possible for the first time to buy an 8-core 15-inch MacBook Pro and Apple have also given their MacBook Pro range a speed bump with 8th and 9th-generation Intel Core processors. We have the details.
As well as the Apple Special Event from the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York on October 30, 2018, Apple has also announced new MacBook Pro graphics options that will bring powerful Radeon Pro Vega graphics to MacBook Pro for the first time.
9to5Mac released a story based on a post on Reddit suggesting that the CPU slowdown experienced with the 2018 MacBook Pro is not caused by thermal throttling of the processor itself, but rather by power throttling of the voltage regulator module (VRM). Then Apple acknowledge the issue and release a fix.
Following the unexpected announcement from Apple announcing their new 2018 MacBook Pro laptops with support for i9 6 core processors and up to 32GB of RAM, things were, at last, looking interesting for Pro Tools Users. However, two articles have come to light already which suggest that maybe all isn't as rosy in the Apple laptop world...
The Mac Mini has always been Apple’s entry point low cost computer, but it was unloved for a long time, and although there was a 4-core server version for a while, which made a very cost effective Pro Tools computer, Apple chose to discontinue that model and we were left with 2-core Mac Minis for a number of years until Apple announced the Mac Mini 2018.
Although the percentage of users with a Mac Mini as a Pro Tools computer has dropped from 2015 to 2019, probably reflecting the lack of a 4-core Mac Mini, when you look at the number of people already using the Mac Mini 2018, that more than makes up for the shortfall in Mac Mini users from 2015 to 2019. As we have shown the Mac Mini 2018, makes a very convenient and comparatively Pro Tools computer. Check out our articles below…
With the impending release of the new Mac Pro 7,1 new-style cheese-grater with a starting price of around $6k, we ask is there an alternative to the new new Apple Mac tower that most users will be more than adequate and provide what a lot of us, looking at a new Apple Mac computer, need at a more affordable price?
We've been asked by many people to take a look at the Mac mini 2018 to see if the claims of it being 'awesome' on the one hand or that the 'USB2 audio is broken' are true. There's some merit in other reviews and also in anecdotal evidence from forums and social media, but to be frank, the only way to get to the facts is to test it ourselves. Not only have we tested this Mac mini 2018 on its own but benchmarked it against a Mac Pro Late 2013 to give you a sense of the power under the hood of the Mac mini 2018.
It is fairly well known that Apple would always rather you buy a computer from them as a completed system. However, this is not always the most cost effective approach for us the computer buying public. Thanks, in part of Apple making the RAM of the new Mac Mini a user serviceable upgrade you can now take advantage of after market RAM and give your machine top spec without the top spec price tag. The team at OWC show you how to upgrade the RAM in your 2018 Mac Mini.
There is some debate about how easy it is to replace the RAM in the new Mac Mini 2018. iFixIt say it is easy, ZDNet say it’s not easy. Watch the video or read the step-by-step iFixIt guide and decide for yourself.
Today at the Apple Special Event from the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York on October 30, 2018, Apple announced a new Mac mini with a more pro feature set, as predicted by us in a recent article. The new 2018 MacBook mini, described by Apple as the biggest update ever.
Following on from our article The New Apple Mac Mini 2018 Is Described As Awesome But Is It A Good Pro Tools Machine? in which we looked at the suitability of the new Mac mini as a Pro Tools computer, we asked community member Simon Nakra to share his experiences.
When the Mac mini 2018 was announced some Pro Tools users were quick to ask if it would be a good Pro Tools machine for those who want to stick with the macOS. There are Windows PC alternatives but this article is not about that, it’s comparing Apples with Apples so to speak. What do we think?
iMac And iMac Pro
The figures for the iMac have stayed pretty stable. Although the figures for the regular iMac dropped from 13.4% to 10.7%, when you add in the figures for the iMac Pro of 1.9% from the 2019 survey, the overall percentage for Apple’s all-in-one desktop computer are 12.6%. The iMac is the type of computer you love or you hate. One of its biggest advantages is having a built in screen, is also one of its drawbacks. But for those for whom the all-in-one form factor is appealing it’s a great Pro Tools computer solution for you.
The iMac Pro will still be the most suitable Pro Tools computer, for some, because it combines processor power with the all-in-one form factor, but at a price and with precious little user upgradability. Here are some of our articles covering the iMac and iMac Pro computers…
Yesterday Apple announced new iPads and today they release the latest iteration of the iMac. There are updates for both the 21.5” and 27” iMacs with options for i9 6-Core processors and Radeon Pro 580X Series graphics cards with 8GB of GDDR5 memory driving a 5K retina screen on the 27” model.
In this video for Pro Tools Expert, Technical Edit James Ivey leaves the comfort of his home studio for a trip into central London to the Soho HQ of UK pro audio reseller Jigsaw24. They arranged for James to run the Pro Tools Expert Power Test session on a brand new, fresh out of the box Apple iMac Pro. Watch and see how this new machine fares and see if James could push it to the limit.
Our friends at OWC have chosen to celebrate the launch of the iMac Pro with a teardown video. Watch as Mike and Matt from OWC teardown one of the fastest Macs ever made and reveal a look into what makes it work and the upgrade possibilities.
Apple has shown off the iMac Pro and space grey accessories at the recent Final Cut Pro X Creative Summit where visitors were able to get close up to an iMac Pro and take pictures. But what about the pricing of the iMac Pro. Apple has said the base model will be $5000, but it would appear that the top-of-the-range model could be $17,000!
Apple has today announced the new iMac Pro, they claim is their most powerful Mac ever made.
Apple decided to face the challenge of building a professional level computer inside the iMac design and they've really gone for broke.
Apple has today announced a new iMac range with features aimed at those wanting to use professional applications.
Apple has already announced that there will be new iMacs released later this year, but rumours are now circulating that towards the end of 2017 Apple will also release an iMac with ‘server-grade’ components and the upgrades to the existing iMacs Now expected in September 2017.
Windows Off The Shelf Computers
Although they aren’t as well known about, as the Apple Mac range, there are approved Windows Pro Tools computers. like the HP Z840. Not so long ago, James made the decision to switch from a Mac Pro 5,1 cheese-grater to an off-the-shelf Windows computer. James explains…
“I was missing was Thunderbolt. Sadly there is just no such thing as a Thunderbolt PCI card. In my work with Production Expert I was seeing more and more Thunderbolt devices heading my way and the only machine I could run them with was a 2012 MacBook Pro, also not a new machine by any stretch.
The final nail in the Mac Pro coffin for me was the amount of video I was working on. 10 streams of 1080p video is a vast amount of data to be working with. I did update the graphics card in the pimped 2009 Mac Pro to one with quite a bit of GPU power but it was still not cutting it. Also looking to the future, and starting to think about editing 4K video, I knew the Mac Pro’s days were numbered. I could have probably thrown another £1000 at the old machine to get some more use out of it, but when hardware like the USB ports start to fail, you eventually have to call time on any more upgrades. It was time to look for other options.”
You can learn more about James’ journey from Mac to Windows in these articles…
As I’m sure many of you are aware, back in March 2017 I shut down my fully pimped 12 core “Cheese Grater” Mac Pro for potentially the final time. I was making the move to what, at the time, I referred to as “The Dark Side.” I was swapping out my 2009 Mac Pro for a brand new HP Z840 Workstation running Windows 10. This is the story of why I switched.
In this Pro Tools Expert video, forming part 3 of the From Mac To Windows series, Technical Editor James Ivey talks to Richard "Rich" Rogers from Workstation Pros about all things Windows, in particular, James' WSP HPZ840 Windows 10 machine.
In this 2nd part of a series of articles for Pro Tools Expert, Technical Editor James Ivey talks about the build and installation process when his new WorkStation Pros HP Z840 Windows PC arrived.
To say that there has been a great deal of talk about the upgrade limitations that Mac Pro 5.1 users are facing could be the understatement of the century. In this article, Pro Tools Expert Technical Editor James Ivey talks about some of the reasons he has changed his main studio machine to a new HP Z840 Windows workstation and how that machine has been configured.
Specialist Audio Desktop Computers
There are a number of brands that have put together specialist audio desktop computers. Two brands that have come across our radar (pun intended), are Scan Computers based in the UK and iZ Technology, the company behind the Radar DAW platform. 2 years ago Alan Sallabank was looking for a new Windows based Pro Tools computer. Alan explains…
Since my Is 2017 The Year Of The Windows Self Build? article earlier this year, the challenge has been on to build a Windows equivalent to an Apple Mac Pro, at a competitive price, but with a killer specification.
This is where Scan Computers and their professional computer division their 3XS FWX299 - Digital Audio Workstation come into the equation. With their help I've put together an incredible DAW host system, brimming with all the latest greatest tech.
In the third and final part of this review series, we took the Scan Computers 3XS FWX99 PowerDAW PC and attempted to replace a Mac Pro in a working system, by fitting a pair of Avid HDX cards and a Thunderbolt chassis.
In Part Two of this review series, we put the Scan 3XS FWX99 PowerDAW PC through a series of real world stress tests against two other machines - another Windows PC and a Mac Book Pro.
Are you facing an uncertain future with Apple hardware? Would you like to be able to take full advantage of the latest tech, but don't want to have to lay out £6000, just to get future proofing like USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 and M2? Alan Sallabank checks out the custom build Windows DAW PC's available from Scan Computers.
IZ Technology Corp, the makers of Radar, are announcing the forthcoming release of a new DAW software. iZ Session, is a new DAW software offering the chance to have the same performance and ease of use people have come to expect from Radar.
The RADAR recording and playback system is well known as a tool for commercial audio, creative composing and recording, scoring stages, sound editing, post-production, video game sound design, and mix down. Now iZ Technology want to make RADAR the system of choice for live event capture and multi-channel playback as well.
In this video for Pro Tools Expert James Ivey opens up a fully specified iZ Technologies Radar Studio system and strips it back to the basic Radar Platform hyper PC in about 4 minutes. Nothing like working fast.
Off The Shelf Laptop PC
Alan Sallabank had been using a MacBook Pro for his second machine on the road as well as giving him access to macOS only applications. However, his Apple laptop was starting to show its age, despite him pimping it with an SSD etc. Alan takes up the story…
“The day finally came. I was running a particularly graphics intensive plug-in on my 2011 MacBook Pro, then suddenly it went into a reboot loop, never to return properly. It seems that the GPU overheated for the last time and gave up the ghost. So the hunt was on for a replacement. I needed it to have at least an i7 processor, at least 16GB of RAM, Thunderbolt, USB3 and a 15" screen. After a brief affair with a 17" desktop replacement (not really a laptop due to it being 4kg and huge) I settled on the Dell Inspiron 15 7577, which retails on Dell's own website for £1349, but which I picked up for £1249, off-the-shelf, same day, from a "high street" retailer . This to me ticked all the boxes, plus being a gaming laptop had performance where I needed it for post-production.”
You can read the full story in Alan’s review…
Windows and Post-Production Specialist Alan Sallabank takes a look at the Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Windows Thunderbolt 3 Gaming Laptop to replace his MacBook Pro 2011 and sees how it performs for Post Production.
There you have it. What has been your experiences of choosing and using your current Pro Tools computer? What are your plans with regard to your next Pro Tools computer? Which style of computer will you be going for? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below…