Jesiah

Mac Specs Question

15 posts in this topic

Hi all, thanks in advance to any help I get here, so appreciated.

I'm going to be purchasing a Mac. I have 2 options and I'm just very unfamiliar with computer specs and was hoping I could get some help.

The first Mac has these specs:

21.5-inch iMac 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

-8 GB Memory
-1 TB Hard Drive
-NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memory

My second option:

27 inch iMac 3.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5


-16 GB Memory
-1 TB Fusion Drive
-NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M graphics processor with 1 GB of GDDR5 memory

My main focus is going to be recording and producing hip hop. I use programs like FL Studio (although likely switching to pro tools), Battery 4, Nectar Production Suite, Nexus, Massive. Use an Audiobox for my amp and different condenser mics.

Basically I have to be able to make music with no lag/skipping. That's the main reason why I'm getting a new computer.

The first Mac is cheaper by a significant amount, and I'm wondering if these specs are good enough to make music super smooth with no lag and no problems, no matter how many programs are open/ I'm using simultaneously.

The second one is more expensive, but if I'm going to have even slight problems with the first option I'll dish out the money for the second one.

Thank you so much, and if anyone feels like going over any of this stuff in detail feel free, I'd appreciate that. Like difference between a normal hard drive and Fusion Drive? Difference between graphics processors? Only 5M, is that a lot?

I'm nooby with this stuff.

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From personal experience, I'd say you want more than 8GB of memory nowadays. Especially when using a lot of sample libraries (e.g. Kontakt). By your description you might not be using a lot of sample libraries though. If memory serves me well, iMacs can still all be upgraded with more memory, so you could do that later.

Graphics card shouldn't really matter for music production, but processor makes more of a difference. Depending on how many channels you are going to use and how CPU intensive some of these plugins are, I'd personally go for an i7 over an i5.

I never used a Fusion drive, but I do run full SSD and the speed difference is massive. Once you tried it you will never want to go back. But if you haven't used SSD before it might not be too bad ;)

Lastly there's the thing about screen size, which is also something to think about. Sure, you can make music on a laptop screen just fine, but once you really start getting into it, having a bigger screen is a big plus, especially when dealing with a big mix or lots of plugins. Also depends on your setup, the available space and whatnot, but definitely take it into account.

From the 2 options you listed, it's a tough choice. I think either would do just fine. Personally I think I would lean towards the 27" iMac because of the extra memory and the faster hard disk, unless money or time was tight; then I'd go for the 21" iMac now and upgrade the memory later.

Hope this helps.

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Jorito, 

Thank you so much man, this definitely helps. If I can ask a few questions though..

Screen size yes I do take that into account, thanks. Def want a bigger screen.

So aside from the screen, basically it comes down to the extra memory, faster hard drive of the 27" vs. the i7 processor of the 21"?

So could you break down for me what each of these are important for when it comes to making music? Processor, hard drive and memory. Sorry I'm clueless

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Sure, I'll give it a shot.

- Processor: typically the i7 can handle higher workloads than the i5, and depending on how you work and what kind of genre you're interested in that can be good to take into account. For music making, if you have big projects with lots of tracks (50-60 tracks is pretty common for me) or use (a lot of) resource intensive plugins (like Diva or Serum for example), you'd probably want to go for the i7. Same if you were composing orchestral music, then you'd typically have quite a lot of tracks as well as a lot of samples from the orchestral libraries, then you'd also rather have a bit more processor power. I never created a hip hop track, but I'm guessing you'd typically not have so many tracks nor will be running intensive plugins if I read your list.

- Hard drive: a faster hard drive makes your computer more enjoyable to use, regardless if you use it for music or for the Internet or anything else. Also, if you were to use big sample libraries (like the orchestral example above), it means you can load the samples faster (so you don't have to wait 10 mins for a project to load) and it also means the computer can load the samples quicker and doesn't have to keep as much data in its memory. If you record and process a lot of audio simultaneously, it's probably also nicer to have a faster hard drive, but I never do that myself so I can't really help you there.

- Memory: again, mostly if you were to use those big sample libraries. I used a Macbook Pro with 8GB of memory before my iMac, and at times it would slow down immensely and have problems playing back my projects because I ran out of memory. I'm not sure how efficient OSX is nowadays, but the operating system itself also needs quite a bit of memory to work smoothly and 8GB might be a bit on the low side in a year or 2.

Anyway, with iMacs you can essentially only upgrade the memory easily, a hard drive upgrade is quite hard to do. And since you don't have a lot of upgrade options after you bought it, I'd typically suggest to get the best processor and hard drive that you can so you can enjoy your computer for years to come.

 

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That was the perfect answer man, thank you. I think I'm all set but if I have any questions I'm gonna come back to this haha. Thanks for the promptness and such well thought out replies, really helped me. :)

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@Jesiah, I completely and wholeheartedly agree with @Jorito's response and if mine adds weight, I'd like to share my thoughts. I have a mac with pretty much exactly the same specs as you described in option 1. And though it's a brilliant piece of equipment, I'd have bought the more powerful one in hindsight. A couple reasons prevented me at the time, budget and requirements (this was about 2/3 years ago). And to be totally fair the one I bought was a dream. It's easily good enough for moderate to advanced tasks, curving downards in performance just a smidge for the really intensive ones. or when running multiple programs heavily.

But my horizons (and therefore my requirements) were broadened. Nowadays... though it's still a brilliant machine, and I still love it like a brother (Don't you diss my Mac!) , I wish I'd waited and saved a little longer. But at the time, I didn't have time to wait. Swings and roundabouts. In short, when thinking of one's profession, Always buy the most expensive (read advanced) equipment you can afford. Option one will do what you need it to do, option two will laugh while it's doing it.

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Excellent point indeed. In my experience, a Mac can last you for years, and as your wants and needs grows, you might run into limitations or at least a bit of discomfort if you didn't take this into account. Similar to Odai, back when I bought my Macbook Pro, I skimped on memory, thinking 8GB would suffice. Fast forward a few years and considering that you can't upgrade anything about the MBPs, it wasn't maybe the best choice. It still works like a charm, and if I keep the amount of memory in mind and stick with simpler instruments or bounce to audio, it's great. But if I knew I'd still be using it 5 years later, I probably would have sprung for the extra memory right away.

Choices, choices...

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I noticed you mentioned you use FL Studio. I'm sure you're already aware, but you can't properly run FL on a Mac without installing Windows on the thing anyways. If you're okay with the learning curve for a new piece of software, see what else is out there -- Pro Tools really isn't going to help you as much as you think it is, unless you *MUST* work with others who also use it -- try Logic or Ableton instead, perhaps. They'll even save you money in the long run, and have better plugin support, since they don't use a proprietary, Pro Tools-only plugin type. 

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Odai, thank you for your input. 

Question guys, is the processor for option 2 stronger than the processor in option 1? I'm confused because the processor in the 1st option is i7 which seems better than the second option which has i5. But the second processor is 3.2 GHz while the 1st option is only 3.1. 

Flexstyle, thanks for your input. I'm going with pro tools because every studio I've ever gone to to record, they all use pro tools. It's the industry standard and I just want to be able to get on the same page as everyone. 

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That 100Mhz shouldn't make much of a difference. Both are quad core, too, so essentially the choice is between i5 or i7. I7 gives you more cache (which translates to better performance) and hyperthreading (which enables you to use 8 core in stead of 4, whether or not that is helpful for music production I don't know). But I'm no expert on processors, so $0.02.

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Just going to chime in as a MacBook Pro user who happens to use FL Studio (I use the virtual machine Parallels to run Windows & FL Studio). Purchased mine from student loan disbursement a couple years back, have a 2.2GHz i7 processor with 16GB in memory. Of course this was before I knew I was going to get back into music, but I haven't really had any issues. I'd definitely recommend going for the i7 if you are able to. Run some beast of programs (Adobe Creative Suite, Maya 3D, VM + FL Studio) without suffering too much in performance.

Just be aware if you do opt for the MacBook + virtual machine + FL Studio route that some synths do not work through a VM. Discovered this when trying a demo for Sylenth1.

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6 hours ago, Jesiah said:

Question guys, is the processor for option 2 stronger than the processor in option 1? I'm confused because the processor in the 1st option is i7 which seems better than the second option which has i5. But the second processor is 3.2 GHz while the 1st option is only 3.1. 

Flexstyle, thanks for your input. I'm going with pro tools because every studio I've ever gone to to record, they all use pro tools. It's the industry standard and I just want to be able to get on the same page as everyone. 

1: The RAM is probably going to be more of a deciding factor than the processor for most of your use case. Do you happen to have actual model numbers of those iMacs? Sometimes the processors on the 21" iMacs are lower tier than the ones on the 27" iMacs. You're right that the i7 will probably give you more processing power (assuming it's the same tier of processor), but the i5 is also no slouch, and will actually handle certain tasks better due to the slightly higher speed.

2: I usually caution users against ProTools if they have no other contact with people who use it on a regular basis, because it's really not fun to work with as an individual composer/producer, and a lot of folks go for it because "herp derp, the pros use it!" However, if you're working on a regular basis with other people/studios who have it as their mainstay, then absolutely, go for what'll make that interaction easier.

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Hmmm ok thanks again guys, although I'm still confused, maybe even more so now.

It seems there's no clear answer. Maybe I should find a Mac that is better in all areas. It seems I'm having to choose between which processor might be better here. I feel like if I don't know solidly which is going to perform better, then these machines run the risk of not being powerful enough for what I'm looking for.

I need it to be able to record vocals while playing music, and be able to make music and edit it with no lag or skipping. 

I'm gonna look for an even more powerful Mac. I'll keep you guys updated. Any more info you guys have or whoever feels like sharing, I read all responses and thank you all!

 

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You could make your own PC and kill any Mac, if you don't use any Mac specific software. Maybe you don't like the Windows environment, I dunno, but I'd consider it if you need more horsepower. But it's ok to prefer the Mac OS, I guess. That's what we see people use in movies so it must be better.

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