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Music, Audio, and Podcasting Do you use your Mac to create music? This is the place for discussions on creating and editing music on the Mac!

Running Logic Studio, Macbook Or iMac ???


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musicmad

 
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Hi

I'm a desktop based PC musician, Ive got a Macbook 10.5 running GarageBand. However I'm looking to upgrade to apples iMac and run Logic Studio, but I'm thinking do I really need the iMac? Can I not just install Logic Studio on to my Macbook and go from there? I can't think of any other advantage I would gain from the iMac apart from more HDD and a bigger monitor screen. So would producing music on my Macbook, running Logic Studio, be any better on an iMac?
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Chud

 
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The biggest differences are the speed of processor that you can get in an iMac as opposed to the Macbook Pro and the amount of memory expandability of both.

Standard on the iMac is 3.06 Ghz and you can go up to a 2.66 Ghz quad core. Best speed on a MBP is a 2.8 Ghz. How much that translates to better processing at the straight dual core option is probably negligible, but the quad core would probably run circles around the dual core on processor hungry tasks.

The MBP maxes out at 8gb of ram while the iMac can handle 16gb. I speak from experience of running Cubase 5 on a previous generation MBP that 4gb doesn't quite cut it when running more than a few virtual instruments and plug-ins. I'm upping to 6gb to hopefully alleviate at least some of that issue, and have already done the 7200 rpm 500gb HD which helps a lot as well.

So it really comes down to how much actual work you expect the computer to be able to handle, and whether you prefer to be mobile. If you are doing mainly live tracks with not a lot of plug-in power required, a MBP will be good. If you are doing lots of tracks, lots of plug-ins, etc...well, you get the point.

I am willing to sacrifice a little performance for the time being in order to not be tethered to a desk. I can bring my rig to the gig, to the musicians, or just out into the living room if I feel like it. My current project is running at about 12 tracks (~20 by the time it's done) with multiple tracks of plug-ins and three virtual instruments right now. The processor is binging out during heavy use, but not so bad that I can't listen back.

Hopefully that all helps a bit without being too much to wade through. I thought it would help having some perspective on a current project to relate to. I doubt there's too much difference between the processing demands of the different major programs.
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Chud

 
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I just noticed that it looks like you are running a regular Macbook and not a pro (at least from your post). That may inform your decision as well, since the processors there are not clocking the same speed as even my previous generation MBP, and memory expansion is even more limited.
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musicmad

 
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Yes thats correct, I'm running a Macbook not the MBP. however with regard to music creation i never work with audio only MIDI.

My Macbook specs...


Mac OS-X 10.5.6

Intel Core 2 Duo, CPU 2 GHz.

Memory 2 GB 1067 MHz DDR3.

Macintosh HD 150 GB.

NVIDIA GeForce 9400

Intel High Definition Audio.
(But will be buying a better high end external audio interface)

So is this efficiant enough to run Logic Studio on ?
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Chud

 
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If you are going to use virtual instruments via midi I would recommend definitely at least maxing out your ram, as they are very processor hungry. Getting a big 7200 rpm drive is always a good move as well.

Another consideration which may be feasible and may not be, is designating your music computer as music only. I try as much as possible to not have other apps and things taking up space on my music computer (though it doesn't always work that way) and to only use it for recording. Again, this may or may not be feasible and my compromise was to upgrade the hard drive to the biggest and fastest that I could. I now use the old internal drive as an external when I want to use the MBP for anything other than music. Everything gets targeted and saved onto there rather than my music drive.
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Zoolook

 
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I run Logic Studio 8 (full version) on a 2006 MacBook, and it runs fine. Aside from using an external faster HDD for samples, it works very well.

Quite honestly, anyone who 'needs' a 3 ghz Core2Duo or more for using Logic or more than 2 or 4GBs of RAM, probably has a lazy and inefficient workflow. I've said this many times on this forum... in fact, this is something I said a year ago:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoolook
I think in many ways, high CPU power results in poor workflow practices, especially where Logic and Live are concerned. I attend the Mac Audio Trainer meetups in NYC, and see a lot of people who insist on having multi-track, multi-soft synth "live" mixes... simply because they have the CPU horsepower to do it. Just because you CAN do something, doesn't necessarily mean you should. So, don't reply right now, I already hear you say "but it's better to have the flexibility... I might NEED 7 space designers on each of my drum instruments...". Er... no you don't. I've seen orbital so a live set with two Nord Leads and two Macbook Pros, without so much as a glitch.

The reason doing this is poor practice, even if you can, is that people tend to rush their workflow to get "instant" results, and then never actually spend any time/effort or thinking about the mixing. As anyone on the pro or semi pro side know, the mixing is the next most important factor after the composition. In my experience, people who consistently crave more CPU power, are poor mixers and don't balance their music well.

There are people who insist their photography is not as good as it could be, because they "only" have a Rebel XT rather than a 1D - it's the same issue, IMO.

Any new Mac will run Logic just fine, and you should be able to mix to any professional quality, even with the lowliest MacBook. My 3 year old MacBook runs Logic 8 Studio just fine, without any hint of struggling, and if like me you'e been doing this since the Atari ST days, you'll have more power than you'll ever know what to do with.
MacBook is fine, you don't need a new machine. But, of course, if you WANT a new machine... you should get it.

Only caveat is that I know some MacBooks don't have a separate Audio In plug or Firewire, which will be a handicap. If you don't have these, some things (like audio recording and using external drives) will be tricky. USB2 isn't great for that purpose.

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livingtoolate

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicmad View Post
Yes thats correct, I'm running a Macbook not the MBP. however with regard to music creation i never work with audio only MIDI.

My Macbook specs...


Mac OS-X 10.5.6

Intel Core 2 Duo, CPU 2 GHz.

Memory 2 GB 1067 MHz DDR3.

Macintosh HD 150 GB.

NVIDIA GeForce 9400

Intel High Definition Audio.
(But will be buying a better high end external audio interface)

So is this efficiant enough to run Logic Studio on ?

I've got the same setup, except 10.6.2 and Logic Studio works fine on my Macbook. The only thing I would recommend (though it's not a necessity) is a faster @7200 RPM hard drive - I got some noticeable extra speed from that.

I record mainly with soft-synths too though do record some 'real' audio, never noticed any problems running it at all. Haven't even bothered upgrading to 4GB RAM yet.

In my opinion that's more than enough to do what you want. I'm not a professional and don't run a studio but have a couple of small indie releases - for a serious hobbyist who wants 'releasable' quality tracks you should be good to go.
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Chud

 
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Not to threadjack, but this pertains directly to the topic of interest by the OP.

Zoolook - Interested in your thoughts on improving workflow, though I am running Cubase 5 not Logic on a 2008 MBP.

So you are saying that without upping my ram, that I can somehow moderate how busy my processor is through more efficient use of some workflow processes. Please elaborate on this a little if you will, as it seems kind of vague and nebulous to just pin it all to a "lazy and inefficient workflow."

With a 2.5ghz processor, 4gb of ram, and a 500gb 7200rpm drive I run into processor spikes at 24bit 96k while using one drum program (Kontakt player), one synth track (Sampletank), (at current) 4 audio tracks with VSTi's inserted (Amplitude), a few other tracks w/o plug-ins, and EQ's on a few of the channels.

Not saying that everything doesn't function and I can't mix or listen back, but it does max out the processor at times, and runs normally around 65-75% of processor capability with all instruments on and running.

If there is a workflow fix to be done here I would love to know what it is.

Cheers
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Zoolook

 
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Chud - I actually just wrote out what I thought was a very well thought out and considered reply, hit submit and got 'this page cannot be displayed'. Maybe I need an upgrade...

First of all, my post was not supposed to be antagonistic, although I can see that it will be. However it's not a personal attack on anyone, so apologies if that's how it came across.

Your example is interesting, because you imply that you're only asking very reasonable things of your set up, but still get spikes. Now I haven't used Cubase since version 4 and only briefly, but I did use 3.x (up to 3.7) for almost 4 years, but there is no reason why 4 tracks of anything should tax a modern system, even in Cubase.

First of all, I don't think 24-bit/96khz is necessary for scratchpad composing, or even putting together a track, you can use much lower fidelity. Unless you're using that exact set up live, initial composition should stick to 16-bit/48khz if you're trying to keep CPU use to a minimum. It also saves RAM and HDD bandwidth if your samples are using this quality as well.

Your two intruments are really glorified samplers, and should barely get CPU use into double figure % points, unless you're using multiple fxs per sample. During the compose stage, this should not really be necessary, although I know a lot of people who have only ever made music using DAWs do this, because they think individual sounds muct be perfecting during composition. They don't and in fact you'll run into problems later on, if your building blocks are laden with effects right from the start (phase and possibly compression issues later on).

Once you have the basic sound/melody/drum pattern on a soft synth you can work with, I'd just bounce it down to an audio track (I assume this is easy in Cubase) and work with that. If you added fx, they get bounced too, so you're literally playing back 16-bit audio in AIFF format... your CPU won't even get warm until you hit 30 or 40 tracks! Obviously as things firm up, you can go back to the original track and bounce it ata much higher sample rate (your 24-bit/96khz) and start adding EQ, compression, limiters or whatever else you need.

Yes this is more work, there is more to manage, but in my opinion you'll get better results anyway in a final mix, because you won't find yourself limited to what your CPU can do at any one time, AND you might be more careful about liberal use of samples prior to mixing.

And yes, this is only my opinion - there is no right or wrong here.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is stoned to death.
- Joan D. Vinge

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Chud

 
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Zoolook - No worries, I didn't take your response as antagonistic - just consisting of some vagueries that required definition. Thank you for clarifying your statements, and for the thoroughness of the response.

I too am a little perplexed at the processor spikes, but in all it does total about 10 instruments/inserts/EQ's so I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as this would probably spike the processor on even the newest maxed out MBP's at this bit count/sample rate.

As to that, I do generally keep the bit count at 16 and the sample rate at 48k at the most, but this particular project requires a bit more fidelity from the start just due to the nature of its ultimate use. No FX being used at all at this point. Like I said, just a few channels w/EQ other than the instruments and inserts. I generally turn off everything I don't need on until mixing time anyway, and the Amplitude program is the main culprit that likes to hog CPU power.

I used to use SX2 on my Powerbook but was recording multiple live instruments back then, as I was freelancing for live shows and some studio work with the rig. Very little VSTi use. Had several projects end up around 30-40 tracks w/o problem, though Cubase would occasionally lose track sync when I was bringing in a bunch of live channels at the same time.

Cheers man.
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musicmad

 
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Quote:
Only caveat is that I know some MacBooks don't have a separate Audio In plug or Firewire, which will be a handicap. If you don't have these, some things (like audio recording and using external drives) will be tricky. USB2 isn't great for that purpose

My Macbook has LINE IN LINE OUT ports (Audio in/optical digital audio in port) (Audio out/optical digital audio out port) but i still intend on purchasing an external audio interface for better ports and overall better sound production. Are you saying if i connect an 7200 rpm external HD via USB2 that the USB2 isn't great for that purpose???

Quote:
Another consideration which may be feasible and may not be, is designating your music computer as music only I now use the old internal drive as an external when I want to use the MBP for anything other than music. Everything gets targeted and saved onto there rather than my music drive.

Thats exactly what i intend to do, have 2 pertitions. Use the Macs internal HD for working with all general appications plus dump data storage, but connect a seperate 7200 rpm external HD for Logic, plugins and all other music applications.
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Chud

 
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You would probably want to switch around your idea there and use an internal 7200 RPM drive for audio recording, and the old drive mounted externally for everything else. The reason being is that the bandwidth on USB2 (and even FW) just isn't enough to support the benefits of a 7200 RPM drive for operations like audio recording that require very quick write/seek times.

If you get a 7200 RPM drive you would want it to be an internal drive. Plenty of decent solutions out there, and the install is easy. Macsales offers a kit to beable to clone your old drive onto the new one before you install it, and then you can use the enclosure for your old internal drive.

Don't skimp on the size if you can afford either. As drives record out from the center of the platter, both write and seek times slow considerably. I just put a 7200 RPM Seagate 500GB drive in my MBP and it boots from off to desktop up in 32 seconds.

The only way I would recommend an external drive for any music applications would be if you used an external SATA drive from an express card slot, but the Macbook does not have an express card slot unfortunately.

Hope that helps.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicmad View Post
My Macbook has LINE IN LINE OUT ports (Audio in/optical digital audio in port) (Audio out/optical digital audio out port) but i still intend on purchasing an external audio interface for better ports and overall better sound production. Are you saying if i connect an 7200 rpm external HD via USB2 that the USB2 isn't great for that purpose???
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chud View Post
You would probably want to switch around your idea there and use an internal 7200 RPM drive for audio recording, and the old drive mounted externally for everything else. The reason being is that the bandwidth on USB2 (and even FW) just isn't enough to support the benefits of a 7200 RPM drive for operations like audio recording that require very quick write/seek times.
USB is definitely not ideal for several reasons, not least of all because it's relatively slow (even compared to FW400) and uses a lot of system resources, again relative to FW.

An external 7200rpm drive with FW800 is pretty fast, and has more than enough bandwidth to stream audio directly if absolutely necessary over several tracks. I've done it plenty of times on a live set, there is rarely any issue. Also, seek times are not really impacted by the interface, only bandwidth. If you're consuming more than 70 MBs/Second (more or less what you can get from a FW800 under real conditions), you're probably well into pro territory and have very different needs.

I agree with Chud that ideally this would be on an internal drive, but there are some disadvantages to using your primary HDD that contains your apps and OS/Swap etc for music. On a desktop, you'd have a drive dedicated to this on it's own SATA channel. On a laptop, you don't have that luxury.

To be honest, given what you've told us, a FW 800 drive for external sample storage should be fine for your needs, but the internal 7200rpm drive should be your first option.

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Chud

 
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Looking back at his posted specs, it looks like he has the unibody Macbook that doesn't have the FW400 port.

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13" (Unibody) Specs (Late 2008/Aluminum, MB466LL/A, A1278, MacBook5,1) @ EveryMac.com
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chud View Post
Looking back at his posted specs, it looks like he has the unibody Macbook that doesn't have the FW400 port.

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13" (Unibody) Specs (Late 2008/Aluminum, MB466LL/A, A1278, MacBook5,1) @ EveryMac.com
Ugh, I really don't know why Apple did that.

Internal it is then; USB for backups or cold storage of those 100 of GBs of "I might use 'em next year" samples.

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