Polls are like snapshots. Like photos, they capture a moment in time. Therefore the frequency and timing of them are more relevant to the results than the actual sample size. We conducted our first poll here on Logic Pro Expert two weeks ago. Our objective was simple; we wanted to know which Mac computer Logic Pro users are currently using.
Which Mac Do You Use for Logic Pro?
Our colleagues at Pro Tool Expert conducted the same poll with Pro Tools users eight days earlier. What is interesting about the timing is the much talked about lack of development with current Apple Mac hardware. Are people hanging on to older machines longer because updating to newer machines would yield only minimal performance gains? And of course, there is the absence of ports and connectivity to deal with on more newer machines as well. All of this makes the value of upgrading questionable.
So, what are we all using?
The MacBook Pro is the Computer of Choice for Both Logic Pro and Pro Tools Users
Our Logic Pro Expert sample size was 735 votes. I’m not sure the sampling size of the Pro Tools Expert poll, but it is safe to assume it was at least slightly larger. The MacBook Pro is the most used Mac for both Logic Pro and Pro Tools users. It is the Mac of choice for 44.54% of the Logic Pro respondents and 30.37% of the Pro Tools poll participants. Two things are significant about this.
First, the fact that a laptop is the tool of choice over the traditionally more powerful desktop Macs. I think this can be explained by two factors:
1. The general increase in power of MacBook Pros over the past several years.
2. The growing choice of small or portable high-end audio interfaces.
The second significant aspect is that the number of Logic Pro users using Macbook Pros is almost 50% higher than Macbook Pro based Pro Tools users. Pro Tools traditionally is used in bigger studios and audio post production houses, which are more inclined to desktop based installations. Logic Pro traditionally is used by musicians who may or may not be working remotely and are “on the go.”
I suspect this is the primary factor that explains the differentiation.
Second Choice - The iMac
The second most popular machines for Logic Pro users are iMacs, with 22.27% of the poll responders choosing it. The older generation Mac Pro “Cheese Grater” style towers were the second choice among Pro Tools users, with 29.99% of those polled choosing it.
This discrepancy in choice, I believe, has two simple explanations.
First, each new version of Logic Pro requires a progressively newer version of the Mac operating system. And the older cheese grater Macs are either orphaned or crippled (to varying degrees) when running newer versions of Mac OS, which leads to the second reason: iMacs have had their processors updated significantly since the days of the cheese grater towers. Simply put, they are way more powerful.
A large part of Logic Pro’s appeal is software instruments, which are very demanding and benefit from the most computing power possible. I replaced my old cheese grater for a newer iMac two years ago for the simple reason that it runs the newer operating systems better, and has more power for software instruments. Pro Tools users, on the other hand, can often be more inclined to stick with older versions and postpone upgrading their software for a variety of reasons (price, compatibility, etc.). Plus, Avid are generally slower to certify newer machines and newer operating systems for compatibility than Apple are.
Add to this the abundance of connectivity on the Mac cheese grater chassis plus the fact that a certain demographic of Pro Tools users expand their systems with various hardware devices (cards that require the PCIe slots found in the older Macs). It is often much more costly for them to upgrade to new Macs with different connectivity options than Logic Pro users, who don’t generally have as much physical expansion in aging formats to contend with.
Third Choice - Mac Pro Cheese Grater
Not surprisingly, the Mac Pro "Cheese Grater" was the third choice for Logic Pro users at 16.74%. The iMac came in third in the Pro Tools poll results at 17.49%. I say 'not surprising' because, for Logic Pro users who aren’t concerned about running the absolute latest Logic Pro updates, the cheese graters are still fantastic machines. Ram and hard drives are easily upgradeable. Performance is perfectly satisfactory if you are content to stay a version or two behind the latest operating system and Logic Pro version, and can hold off on the shiny new third-party plug-ins that are released almost every other day.
And for Pro Tools users, there is a growing user base who, like Logic Pro users, are primarily concerned with making music and don’t have the same needs as those invested in hardware based Pro Tools systems. So for them, the new iMacs are a significant speed bump regarding managing both quantity and quality software instruments. They make a lot of sense for Pro Tools users focused on music and who don’t require the physical expansion larger hardware based Pro Tools rigs demand.
Fourth Choice - The Mighty Mac Mini
The Mac Mini was fourth on the list for 10.31% of the Logic Pro users, and 10.86% of the Pro Tools users who participated in the poll. Mac Minis are great machines and deliver great bang for the buck. You can recycle old monitors and peripherals. Purchasing them isn’t as expensive as the other options. And they still offer some good zing compared to older systems. They are relatively portable and snappy. Not every Logic Pro or Pro Tools user needs tons of computing power for the projects/sessions they run. Add an external hard drive or two, and it is a very cost-effective way to get into the game of digital music production.
Mac Minis are fairly upgradeable in terms of RAM and OS compatibility. It’s hard to go wrong with them. Plus, they make great slave systems for users running apps like Vienna Ensemble Pro. You can farm out demanding third party software instruments to one or more of them, while still running your DAW on your main computer. It’s a fantastic way for both Logic Pro and Pro Tools users to expand their systems. And the Mac Mini can be particularly useful if you're running large orchestral sample libraries.
Fifth Choice - The Late 2013 Mac Pro "Trash Can"
The late 2013 Mac Pro "Trash Can" came in fifth on the list for 4.93% of Logic Pro users, and 10.67% of Pro Tools users. Ironically, these are the most powerful Macs available. So, why are they second to last? There are a few reasons.
First, the Mac Pro "Trash Can" hasn’t been updated in years. Everyone is waiting for the (hopefully) pending update to it. Tim Cook has hinted that Apple hasn’t abandoned them and that we will see some developments. Although when exactly, is anybody’s guess. Secondly, they are bloody expensive. Yes, they are powerful, but they come with absolutely no expansion. So a lot of additional hardware is required. Everything from hard drives, drive chassis, to monitors hubs and adapters. For a significant savings in cost, the newest iMacs, with their available processor upgrades, are only slightly less adept at running our favorite software instruments. It made little sense to purchase a Mac Pro ‘Trash Can' as it was two years ago, and even less so today.
Sixth Choice - MacBook
It’s not surprising that Macbooks are the least used Apple computers for both Logic Pro and Pro Tools users. They are the machine of choice for only 1.2% of Logic Pro users, and 0.62% of Pro Tools users. It’s not surprising because they are not designed for use with these types of powerful DAWs. They are designed for portability and their entry level price point.
Sure, MacBooks will get you up and running, and you can happily run modest projects and sessions. But for any kind of serious audio production work, Macbooks just don’t have the grunt. Add to this their limited upgradability and complete absence of connectivity, and they make a poor choice for DAW use. But hey, if you have one already for other reasons, and are interested in making music, why not use them to start out with as you explore the powerful and complex world of either Logic Pro and Pro Tools!
Thanks everyone for participating!