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Macs and DAW


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I posted this in the recording forum but received no responses, so I'm trying here.

 

I've been contemplating updating my computer for my Pro Tools LE 7.3 rig, currently I use a Dell Dimension that I bought new 3 years ago, single 2.53 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM, XP home. My use is just as a hobbyist, I use my rig for recording my own projects, my two bands, and also for song writing.

 

I use a lot of plugins, some of which are very tasking on the system.

 

I was looking at the various new PC options but came across some comments about Macs that peaked my curiosity. Can someone clarity if a PC and a Mac each have 8 GB of RAM, does each have the ability to allocate all available and not needed RAM by the OS to use for Pro Tools or are do they cap Pro Tools at a fixed amount, like 2GB or something regardless of the amount of RAM? My DAW doesn't see the internet. What other advantages/disadvantages are there to consider for Macs? I know about the stability issues of Macs and that PC's only come with Vista now (which I'm not really interested in), what other factors are there? I'm curious if I really can justify the price of a Mac as they appear to be much higher than a PC. I'm really just looking at desktop computers, not laptops.

 

I'm not planning on making a purchase in 2008, not really sure when, just looking at options at this point. My brother-in-law is very familiar with Macs but not from the DAW perspective.

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Windows XP computers can only have 4GB of RAM, and anything over 3GB is a bit of a sticking point... you can "get back" some of it, but the maximum that will normally be available is around 3.2 - 3.4 GB, depending on what hardware you have installed on the machine.

 

I'm not sure what the current Mac RAM limitations are under OS 10.5. :idk: I would imagine that, like Vista 64 bit versions, it's higher though.

 

I have 4 GB of RAM on my dual core Athlon 64 PC / PT 7.4 HD 2 Accel system. I did see some improvements when I bumped up from 2GB to 4GB, but mostly in terms of elastic audio performance and stability. In terms of max simultaneous native plugins, the best thing I ever did was to go to a dual core CPU. That made a BIG difference. If you use a lot of simultaneous VSTi's or RTAS-i's (virtual instruments) that have high RAM usage, 4 GB is highly recommended.

 

IMO, a fairly fast dual core CPU and 4 GB of RAM (on either a Mac or PC) should be sufficiently powerful to provide a good 2-3 years of service life, even for users who place fairly high demands on their system.

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Hey this can be a touchy subject. First of all I have used both to some extent. I started out on a PC I built to Digi's specs several years ago. I later bought a Mac Mini to give it a try. Since then I bought a PowerMac G5 and recently bought a Macbook Pro.

 

So I have obviously made the switch. The main reason for me was simply the ease of optimization for a Mac. You make a few clicks and you're done. There's a few little things you do on occasion to keep things flowing. But the PC I built seemed to always have be a bit buggy. Of course I did build it. So keep that in mind too.

 

As far as the RAM addressing goes my understanding is this. 32-bit systems can address up to 4GB of Ram. 64 bit systems can address a much greater amount. Just googled it. A true 64-bit memory limitation is 17.2 billion GB. WOW!!!

 

Anyways PT for Windows only works on 32-bit versions of Windows. So even if you can install more your computer will only use 4 under a 32-bit OS. Mac OSX is 64-bit capable with the right system. Which is any G5 PPC Mac and Intel Macs, except the early models with the Core Duo Processors. The Core 2 Duo is 64-bit. So that seems to be an advantage, but it's not as big as it may seem. Pro Tools itself is only 32-bit. So it itself can only use 4GB. However other programs, such as VI's and maybe plugs, can access ram other than what Pro Tools itself uses. I have 6.5 GB in my PowerMac and with Strike's content size set to no limit, Activity Monitor shows all of my RAM to be allocated.

 

So IMO it's more what you feel comfortable with. If you've never given a Mac a try you might. It convinced me.

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My brother-in-law just showed me his Mac, a dual quad core (8 cores theoretically) 3.2GHz with way too much RAM for a normal person. For his works (digital photo editing, some video editing) it's justifiable, has both OS 10.5 and XP on it. Not that I'm going to get that carried away, but would all of that really be able to be used by Pro Tools 7.3 LE or 8?

 

I like the desktop concept with the more power but the Macbook Pro may be the most efficient.

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I just switched form a new Dell quad core to a dual 2.4 iMac. And yes it is a touchy subject. I'm no flag waver but... I got to say, PT runs very well on a Mac. Sorry, I've been rocking PC for a long time and have always rolled my eyes at Jobs slaves. And now I'm doing the V8 head bonk thinking doh! This simple iMac kicks ass.

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IMO, a fairly fast dual core CPU and 4 GB of RAM (on either a Mac or PC) should be sufficiently powerful to provide a good 2-3 years of service life, even for users who place fairly high demands on their system.

 

Yes. Why, I've even heard of some people who have gotten 8 1/2 years of service life out of a single-processor computer!!! ;):D

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Yes. Why, I've even heard of some people who have gotten 8 1/2 years of service life out of a single-processor computer!!!

 

Yes, scientists call them "Neanderthals". ;) :poke: :D

 

Mac or PC - either is fine, both can get the job done, and FWIW, I use both computer types... including the seven year old Ti Powerbook G4 laptop I'm typing this on. :D

 

Now, to get serious for a second, and not in an effort to encourage or instigate any "platform warz", there is a legit reason why I personally prefer a PC in the studio, and summed up in a few words, it comes down to ease and speed of repair.

 

When you rely on your computer as the central hub of your studio, and you use it daily, then reliability is a must, but let's face it - any computer can die on you. Hardware breaks. Computer software issues arise (more often on the PC than on the Mac in my experience... ) and other issues come up that can take your system offline. When that happens, I want the ability to get it fixed and back in action fast.

 

Apple's customer service is actually quite good, as I recently experienced first hand when I had a kernel panic and needed some software disks. Apple got the disks to me in a matter of a few days, and were outstanding on the phone. I was seriously very impressed. But it still took a few days to get the machine back in service.

 

A good friend of mine is a musician and graphic artist / web designer. He has several Macs. In the last year or so, he's had three major hardware failures, on two separate computers. Apple Care took care of all of them. In one case, they sent him the parts to DIY the repair, and that only took a few days. In two other cases, he had to send the machines back to Apple for repair, and that took upwards of two weeks for the turn around time. Fortunately, he has other computers that he was able to use to continue working...

 

But for me, I would need a really nice Mac tower in order to run PT HD on it, and that's not exactly pocket change, so I wouldn't want to have to buy two in order to have one serve as a backup machine.

 

Of course, if you buy a pre-configured DAW PC, or a Dell or other name brand, you're probably in a similar situation insofar as support and repair... but I don't go that route either. I build my own DAW machines. Heck yes, it's more work, and requires a certain amount of effort in order to research everything and make sure it's all going to be compatible and work together, but the upside is, at least to me, quite significant: If something breaks, I can run down to the local Best Buy (or one of several other computer stores in the area), or hit newegg.com and order the parts and have them sent to me overnight. Worst case scenario - I'm down for a day or two, maximum. Oftentimes, I can get back up and running the same day the problems arise.

 

I can't afford to be shut down for any longer than necessary, and I can't really justify the cost of a backup computer. Therefore, being able to build / repair my own computers means a lot to me. YMMV. :)

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Right now, I have the best of all worlds. I have a Mac Pro with 10 gigs of RAM, that triple boots into OSX, Vista64, and XP 32. It is awesome.

 

That's one significant advantage in a new Mac's favor - another one is the ease of setup and configuration - there's little or none of the jumping through hoops that you frequently have to do with a PC, and for those who want to spend more time making music and less dinking around with their computers, that's a serious point of consideration. :)

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That's one significant advantage in a new Mac's favor - another one is the ease of setup and configuration - there's little or none of the jumping through hoops that you frequently have to do with a PC, and for those who want to spend more time making music and less dinking around with their computers, that's a serious point of consideration.
:)

 

FWIW I also have XP running on my MacBook Pro. I don't use it much but it's nice to know I have it if I do need it.

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