Which MacBook should I buy?

anyone using the latest macbook pro in critical live audio environments?

if so - are you using a thunderbolt 3 hub to avoid the T2/USB sound glitch problem?

hoping to upgrade to the latest specs while keeping a trusty and relatively new MOTU ultralight (as well as various usb midi controllers) in play…

thanks :slight_smile:

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I believe the T2 sound problem has been fixed in recent OS updates. However I can recommend the Caldigit hub which completely circumvents the issue.

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oh that’s good news!

also, i just read a rumor that a new model with a better keyboard will be announced tomorrow…

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Yeah! I was about to say hold off a month. The rumor mill is strongly suggesting October as the release of a fully updated 16" MacBook Pro without the problematic butterfly keyboard. Some people think that it will be revealed tomorrow, but I’m not sure if they’d put that into the iPhone event.

The perennial question is what new bugs will arrive with it :joy:

I’ve decided to ignore the current lineup and the rumours and went with a used 2015 MBP 13"
Very happy with it.

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I got one of the new i9 machines and it runs a babyface pro via a thunderbolt/usb cable perfectly with no pops or glitches at all, a real pleasure actually. The keyboard is pretty nice too. I have one of the shit early butterfly ones at work and keys are always sticking, but the newer model has a slightly softer spring to it… I like!
Not used a laptop for gigging in some years now, so cant really comment on a live situation.
I would say it does get noticeably HOT, more so than previous machines I’ve owned… So not sure how that would translate to a hot/sweaty environment…

Currently considering an upgrade from my mid-2014 MB Pro not out of necessity, but due to actually being financially comfortable right now, it might be a great time for that investment.

I’m currently considering the 15-inch with the 8 core i9 processor (I am holding off for a bit in case a new model is announced). The thing is, I know enough about computers to understand the what behind specs for RAM, CPU, etc., but not so much how it affects performance and if it would be a noticeable improvement over my current computer.

The biggest thing I’m looking for is improvement when doing video work, whether that’s editing/rendering in Final Cut Pro, or working on shaders and Max/Jitter stuff. Also apps like Bitwig or combinations of something like Ableton Live and Anytune (time stretching/pitch shifting software I use to slow down songs to practice on guitar) really rev up the fan, and sometimes my battery starts to drain even when I’m plugged in to the wall.

Would I actually see noticeable improvement in performance with a new 15-inch (or potentially incoming newer model) over my current computer? I don’t have much of a baseline to work with, since my current MB Pro is the only computer I’ve done this stuff with, so I don’t want to set my expectations too high in my head

I have a 2014 loaded MBP 13” and use a loaded 2019 MBP 15” for work. I don’t use the GPU a lot, and that can in some specific cases make a big difference in workload performance, but only if you’re entire processing flow is GPU optimized. If it’s not (e.g you use some film plugins that are not fully accelerated on your hardware, and some that are) you won’t necessarily see as significant a boost because you lose a lot translating to the GPU and back.

My notes are that I don’t feel incredibly tempted to upgrade personally just yet. The per core speeds are almost half, so despite having four times as many cores, you don’t see anywhere near even double the actual performance for most workloads. Even highly parallel software compilations (quite processor demanding) don’t feel like night and day to me.

That said, I haven’t done any side by side comparison, so I can’t say how much different it really is and I don’t use them for identical workflows. But just from my gut feeling, I’m not rushing out to buy a new mac for at least one or maybe two more hardware generations. If, though, I was being paid to work faster and my workflow did benefit from the GPU in specific, I think those have improved significantly more than the CPU and memory bandwidth internally alone have and it may make a lot of sense commercially speaking.

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What do you think about the MacBook Pro 16 inches in its 1TO, core i9 2.3, 16gb configuration for music production ?

(Logic X, Kontakt, Falcon, Ableton, Ozone, Max etc) + (occasional 3D with Blender, video editing, Fusion, Eagle. )

Would you buy it as your main computer/central piece of the homestudio ? A trusty piece of hardware ? (something that hopefully might last at least 5 years or more ? :smirk:)

If so, would you change the basic configuration, RAM, GPU ram ? All the reviews on internet mention Video editing, Resolve etc but this is not something I often do. Or maybe this MBP 16 is just « too much » for music production I don’t know :man_shrugging: and you would get something more « reasonable »

My main computer (iMac 27 2012, i7 quad core 3.4 8gb) cannot be repaired and I’m now struggling to find its replacement. I’m thinking I could get a MacBook Pro 16 inches (i9 8 cores 2.3 16GB 1To) instead of buying another iMac. My question is more « should I buy a MacBook or stick with the IMac ? » I hope it’s ok to ask in this thread :smiley:

The specs are attracting and 16 inches display is not the 27 I was used to but theres always the « external monitor » option for displaying a large Logic session. But I’m afraid of the (fan) noise the computer might produce in my humble homestudio. that’s my main concern actually, the noise of the fans, overheat etc

Apple seems to have improved the cooling system on this laptop but it’s hard to know if a « normal » DAW session with a few cpu hungry vst instruments or Max will overheat the computer… I know it’s a very recent machine but maybe some of you have already bought one…

On top of that, at some point I might have to get an external monitor and I’m wondering if his kind of setup produce even more heat and noise.

Who is using a laptop + external 4K display in the music studio ? Is this a viable solution ?

I know there is always the « refurbished » Mac solution, that was my first thought but the warranty lasts only 6 months and machines (the notorious 2015 for example) with good specs are not so cheap (around 2000€), the gap between a full spec machine from 2015 and a new one is « relatively small » and I know the repairs can cost a lot when/if the machine simply can be repaired… :-(((

In the case I buy one of these new Mac I’ll also have to upgrade to Live 10 because they come with Catalina and Live 9 doesn’t work with Catalina. Also the cost of the adapters or Thunderbolt dock… Arghh, I don’t like this situation…

After many years of exclusive MBP use (ever since the first intel powerbook), I’ve moved away from these computers. The last was a max spec 2015. This configuration was insufficient for running my 4k monitor and realtime audio processing. The performance was there (barely) but the cooling was not. The fans get loud under even normal demands, despite reapplication of thermal paste and tuning. The 16 looks like the best MBP yet, but the cooling is the same old story. I’ve already moved on to a SFF 9700k hackintosh and couldn’t be happier.

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Anyone who couldn’t figure out what to do with that weird tiny iPhone screen on their Macbook Pro, here’s a good idea.

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Lots here, I’ll unpack what I can answer. I use (heavily) MBP 15", 13", iMac (Retina 5K) for audio, video, and professional software development.

The 16" look amazing. I haven’t used one, but they’re the exact upgrades I’ve been looking for from the current 15" for the past three years. I’d get one in a heartbeat. They’re extremely performant and you’ll be able to easily run a normal session on them (I do on a much lower spec MBP13, and use a quad core i7 in my studio as my main workhorse). Of course, one person’s normal session is another’s nightmare, so this must be taken with a grain of salt, but my professional opinion is that yes, these are very well performing machines that take good advantage of the excellent hardware inside them (better, in my experience, than Windows machines have, and far easier to use/administer on a day to day basis).

The reason people go on and on about video editing is that it’s a zillion times more intensive than audio processing and as a result it’s a generally observed phenomenon that if a system can do pretty solid video editing it’ll do stonking great audio work (despite the fact that most audio work is CPU bound and video is more GPU, video uses a LOT of CPU too, and both audio and video are far more I/O and RAM bound in general, especially as the number of streams/tracks increases). So it’s a valid comparison, in that if it’s a good video performer you can have pretty high confidence it’ll be even that much better at audio.

They run external displays like a champ - I have a 4K 27" connected all the time to my 15" (early 2019 model) and run both displays at full resolution. The unit has never throttled on me on account of the display setup and there’s no noticeable performance difference in terms of overall system performance between the display connected and not connected.

Also: you’ll never “overheat” a mac - they’ll just slow down (a little bit, usually not noticeably) and turn the fans up if they get really hot. The fans are almost never audible even in a dead-quiet room, unless I’m pushing it super hard though, and they try to turn off as soon as possible. In my experience they’re as good as it gets in terms of both not running unless they need to, and not being obnoxiously loud even when they do.

Live 10 is totally worth the upgrade and I’d strongly suggest you do it no matter what machine you’re on, so IMO that’s a benefit. Catalina does not suck - though the 15.0 release was buggy and people had to wait for their software to be compatible, 15.1 seems to be more or less as good as any other Mac OS (that is to say, quite excellent though somebody will find something to gripe about) and most software by now is fully compatible.

If I were in your situation I’d be hop-skipping to the Apple store to get a 16", frankly. These are beasts of professional grade laptops, not little dinky systems. Even the 13" can do a LOT.

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I’d also like to gently remind people that this thread is to support Mac-interested folks, not to suggest they choose other platforms.

I personally don’t feel that pointing people towards “hackintoshes” is very helpful either, as those are a royal pain to update, are technically unsupported, and often require breaking the security of the OS in order to even install or make functional.

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Exact model that I bought this week to finally upgrade my 2-core 13" 2013 MBP. Here’s the best deal I found on it: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1520435-REG/apple_mvvk2ll_a_16_macbook_pro_late.html ($200 off + no tax).

It is more than enough for most audio work. Mine arrives tomorrow or Monday, but I have a slightly slower i9 in an Alienware laptop and it doesn’t break a sweat on anything. 16GB RAM is plenty unless you are loading large orchestral sample libraries. The video card is enough to drive two external monitors or an ultrawide without issue.

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Thank you @GrantB, @studiodc and @trickyflemming very much for your answers, I really appreciate !

I’ve heard about the Hackintosh before but I have to admit that switching from an iMac 27 in favor of a MacBook is mainly because I’d like to be more « modular/flexible », use the same machine on my desktop and outside, that’s why buying a « big » computer is not really my goal at the moment, although I’d appreciate some « flexibility » when it comes to replace a broken component or add some RAM to the computer :smiley: *

It’s reassuring knowing that you think the MBP16 is a good machine you’d like to buy (or already bought). Looking at the specs and test benches it can sometimes compete with a 2019 iMac for some audio tasks, nobody replied « no, get the iMac! » yet. I’m not really worried about the performances as long as the machine doesn’t make too much noise, I never had issues with my good old iMac quad core 8gb from 2012 so… I’ve compared both CPU and I might expect 2.3x better performances with the 2.3 I9, even the I5 would be enough that’s true.

I have now two different opinions regarding the noise of the fans and thermal throttling issues, perhaps they might have disappeared with the most recent (post 2015) MBP line ? I guess we’ll see… :wink:

I know I’ve asked many things on a single post so it’s hard to answer :slight_smile: You’re right it’s hard to determine what a « normal DAW session » looks like, it could be 25 Kontakt tracks with Spitfire Audio libraries or 5 Alchemy tracks and 60 audio tracks or a single heavy Falcon track (Falcon doesn’t use multi core unfortunately.) I’ve read somewhere that some audio apps also rely on the GPU sometimes :face_with_raised_eyebrow: does this mean that I should upgrade the Radeon 550 GPU memory to 8gb ?

About the DDR4 RAM, do you think I should go with the 32GB option ? On one hand I never had issues with 8gb, on another hand some people say that future apps will « eat » more RAM and it’s not DIY upgradeable nowadays (wow, it’s a 480€ extra for an extra 16gb RAM)

The specs you chose @trickyflemming seem reasonable, I might go with that too unless someone thinks 32 go is the way to go, that would save some money for a nice external display and one cool Thunderbolt dock and the ableton Live update hehe. There’s a 10% discount of the MBP16 in France until tomorrow so I’ve got to act quickly :slight_smile:

——

*I’m replacing the IMac 2012 because the Thunderbolt ports were broken, also the screen and/or the GPU, and the « lab » that was supposed to repair the computer has ended up breaking something else while replacing the faulty parts on the motherboard haha.

Yes clearly hackintosh is not for everyone. It took me several days to learn and configure and I don’t think most mac users would want to do that. It was a gratifying experience in the end which taught me more than I ever thought I’d know about the osx/hardware interface.
The hackintosh experience has perhaps changed somewhat since you looked into it, particularly as we are moving to OpenCore. It provides a much more vanilla environment, working more like a real mac does on the boot. It’s a different philosophy from the Clover style which pushes the user toward learning how all the parts work and configuring things manually. It’s more of an investment to set up but that pays off when it’s time to update, and also addresses many potential security issues. You might check OpenCore out if you’re interested.
It should be clear from my post that I’m not trying to push anyone toward this approach, just to share my experience as a longtime MBP user and why I chose a different path for my new system.

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The Macbook Pro-s I’ve had all ended up knackered because I stressed them by asking what the computer originally promised and then some more - external 4k display, hours of cpu pegged at 90%+, isochronous periphery on the fastest bus, suboptimal ambient temperatures, etc.

Mixed results, though each one lasted more than a few years. With the 16" I’d think twice too, unless these new fans are really good. My eye opener moment was when I launched the same OS on an actual desktop computer. That was nothing like the laptop I had. ymmv

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As Apple go towards features based on their own custom hardware, notably the T2 chip, beyond dsmos, into hardware jpeg decoding etc, and knowing how they do “snug fit” drivers (where things crash if their dependencies aren’t met), I’m hesitant to look at Hackintosh again. I’d love pointers to in-depth research on this, beyond “what motherboard + gpu should I pick”.

Short answer: this approach is viable in the now. Who knows what will happen when a new OS requires T2, or when they move to ARM? This is getting off topic so we should probably discuss in a new thread.

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