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PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Julian Walker » Tue Jun 26, 2012 4:31 pm

Hello Folks

Yes I know this question has probably been asked thousands of times and there are arguments for both. I have an old Toshiba laptop that I use for everything, work, photos, music etc I am running Reason 4 on it together with Cubase and it's struggling with certain things plus getting v slow, bless it.

What i'd like to get is a dedicated laptop purely for doing my recording on. I use a M audio Keystation as my keys and I have a Zoom R24 which I do some recording on and use as an audio interface when I need one.

Can anyone offer some advice as to whether i'm better off with a Mac or PC and which model would fair best? Budgets about £400 to £500 and i'm quite open to the idea of getting something secondhand. I'm au fait with both mac and pc so am open to either.

Bless you all in anticipation of oracle like advice :)
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Kwackman » Tue Jun 26, 2012 4:56 pm

Cubase and Reason run on either, so you're not tied down.
However, I suspect your budget might not get you a reasonably modern Mac laptop, even second hand.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Thomas. » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:19 pm

The big advantage of a Mac desktop is that the drivers work, since the hardware choices are severely limited compared to a Windows desktop machine. However, laptops are a more even playing field: when you buy a laptop, the hardware is pretty much fixed, so provided you use the manufacturer's updates, it should always work. Then it is down to price and preference. MacBooks tend to be a little more expensive than comparable Windows machines, and a lot more expensive than the budget lines. If you are happy with Windows, and your preferred DAW runs under it, you can save some money following that route. Certainly you won't find a MacBook for the sort of money you are suggesting, but there are plenty of Windows machines that you can buy.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby johnny h » Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:56 am

Thomas. wrote:The big advantage of a Mac desktop is that the drivers work, since the hardware choices are severely limited compared to a Windows desktop machine. However, laptops are a more even playing field: when you buy a laptop, the hardware is pretty much fixed, so provided you use the manufacturer's updates, it should always work. Then it is down to price and preference. MacBooks tend to be a little more expensive than comparable Windows machines, and a lot more expensive than the budget lines. If you are happy with Windows, and your preferred DAW runs under it, you can save some money following that route. Certainly you won't find a MacBook for the sort of money you are suggesting, but there are plenty of Windows machines that you can buy.

I find the opposite to be true. With desktop computers you can pick high quality components which work and give good performance. With laptops you are taking a gamble on whether it will work and quite often suffer from incurable glitches and dropouts. MacBooks are by far the best option.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby tomdot » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:25 am

I have done both of these things and found that the only difference is working method given that you choose the correct components.

I have always built quality PC's that have lasted for years to run a PT rig, but I am now using an old 2007 MacBook to run GarageBand and it is comparable in performance/ability.

If the only issue is money, then I would suggest sourcing the parts and building a PC dedicated to music only. If you wanted to switch to Mac then there's nothing to stop you buying a refurbished MacBook which will knock about £100 off of it making it about £700-800.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby SecretSam » Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:37 pm

Hang on while I fetch the beer and a slice of pizza. This thread could take a while.

These days, both Mac and PC work well enough. You are sure to get something working without fuss on a Mac, and have a good but not 100% chance of getting something working first time on a PC. If you have a little time and knowledge to read about drivers and hardware specs, you will get more bang for your buck with a PC.

If you consider a Mac, make sure the existing plugins you use will work on either platform. dBlue Glitch is a popular one that doesn't.

Your budget is tight. A PC laptop at that price will need careful research into chipsets and so on. You won't get a Mac lappie, but you could think of a Mac Mini.

I would personally avoid a secondhand laptop of any sort. They take a lot of hammering compared with a desktop, are full of other people's snot and dropped food, and cost a lot to upgrade and repair.

You do see secondhand iMacs from the design community, and a two-year-old one will still have a decent spec.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby The Red Bladder » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:15 pm


I bought a Medion two-and-a-half years ago for £500 from Aldi in a rush to get some CD covers done, when two PCs went belly-up at the same time and I am now using it to edit audio! Totally reliable and well thought out.

Medion web page
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby unifaun » Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:17 pm

Hi

after many years of troubleful working on Windows I have recently decided to switch to Mac.

I bought a used early 2011 MBP, OS X is Snow Leopard 10.6.8 and I work with Cuabse 6.5.

I am very satisfied, no problems so far and I am running just one device for all, no more file chaos on several pc's, no driver problems with my 2 Focusrite interfaces.

And when I'm going home from work by train I can already work on my latest songs even with the in-built Apple core-audio driver and headphones.

Ok, a MBP is a bit more expensive than a Windows notebook but in my case it's worth it.

I would switch to Mac again.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby SecretSam » Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:33 pm

Just a thought: if you or a close family member are in fulltime education, Apple stores often do very aggressive educational discounts: 20% or 30%. That works out here in Sartheffrika anyway.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:18 pm

SecretSam wrote:Hang on while I fetch the beer and a slice of pizza. This thread could take a while.

:D


SecretSam wrote:
I would personally avoid a secondhand laptop of any sort. They take a lot of hammering compared with a desktop, are full of other people's snot and dropped food,

And that's how you get ants....
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby daedalus » Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:35 pm

SecretSam wrote:
I would personally avoid a secondhand laptop of any sort. They take a lot of hammering compared with a desktop, are full of other people's snot and dropped food,

And that's how you get ants.... [/quote]

When I first saw that pic I gasped out loud! Then I realized it was a Dell and not a Macbook... Whew. :smirk:
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Jun 28, 2012 2:39 pm

clisma wrote:
SecretSam wrote:
I would personally avoid a secondhand laptop of any sort. They take a lot of hammering compared with a desktop, are full of other people's snot and dropped food,

And that's how you get ants....

When I first saw that pic I gasped out loud! Then I realized it was a Dell and not a Macbook... Whew. :smirk: [/quote]

Yup. Even ants have SOME standards! :-)
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You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby SecretSam » Thu Jun 28, 2012 2:49 pm

Those are not ants. They are the special, tiny goblins that do the sums in a Dell, and have just come out for some fresh air.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Will_m » Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:16 pm

SecretSam wrote:Just a thought: if you or a close family member are in fulltime education, Apple stores often do very aggressive educational discounts: 20% or 30%. That works out here in Sartheffrika anyway.

Education discount is 15%, not even staff discount is 30%.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby trailmixxx » Thu Jun 28, 2012 8:24 pm

According to dawbench.com, you get more channels or effects at lower latency on windows vs osx, on the same hardware.

http://www.dawbench.com/win7-v-osx-6.htm

Too each their own. If you are running a dedicated system, you should be fine in any case. But when specing a Wintel laptop...you need to be a bit more picky depending on your audio interface. Not all controller chipsets are equal.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby johnny h » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:08 am

You don't even need a dedicated music computer. Most writer / producers I know (actually nearly all of them) use a MacBook pro for everything, including gigs.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby molecular » Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:44 pm

My better half just bought a 6 month old white MacBook from a comet seconds store for £270. Totally capable laptop.

I wouldn't get one off eBay, but comet or apple refurb auctions definitely worth trying.

Also, my apple education discount was 10% as a freelancer, although you get a third off AppleCare which was well worth it
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Jimmy T » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:33 pm

I've bought a Dell Studio 1535, 1555 and 1558 and a mac book pro revision 4 and years back a Toshiba Satelite all through ebay. I have never had a problem.

The Dells where all immaculate and work to this day very well.

So I would say a Dell Studio core 3 duo 1557/8 would be £300 or less in near mint condition.

Typing this on a MacBook Pro rev 4 2.5 GHZ core 2 duo 512 GPU, 250 gig drive. £500. Near mint, medium battery.

All very good. I could have bought a new MBP but I needed the expresss34 slot and the MBP 15" now has SD card slot.

So I would say you can get a good laptop for £300 pc or £500 MBP
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Mr Spanky » Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:55 am

Really, I'd pony up the extra and get the entry level macbook pro. It'll be a more worthwhile investment.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby OneWorld » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:50 am

I use both Macs and PCs at work, and a PC at home, I don't think Macs are the silver bullet that some people seem to think and there are some at work that find the Macs irritating, on the other hand there are the devoted Macophiles who would rather stick hot needles in their eyes than be seen anywhere near a PC

The PC crew seem to get things done even without uber-expensive Mac gear, and more being the open system architecture, and a vast amount of freeware, the PC user can experiment more, get under the hood so to speak.

It's like posing the question which is better - coffee or tea, ale or lager. It all depends what scratches your itch.

Things like Reason, Ableton? Cubase (except for the Atari Cubase) began life on a PC
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby OneWorld » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:56 am

Julian Walker wrote:Hello Folks



What i'd like to get is a dedicated laptop purely for doing my recording on. I use a M audio Keystation as my keys and I have a Zoom R24 which I do some recording on and use as an audio interface when I need one.


As a slight aside, how you finding the Zoom R24, I have seen a company selling refurbished ones on eBay at £249.00 and am really considering one
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:07 pm

OneWorld wrote:The PC crew seem to get things done even without uber-expensive Mac gear, and more being the open system architecture, and a vast amount of freeware, the PC user can experiment more, get under the hood so to speak.

Yeah. By the time my Mac friends have told me how much better they'd do it, I've already done it. Twice.

But it isn't because they're Mac and I'm PC. It's because I'm better at computer stuff than they are. Not boasting, just stating a fact. (And, although I'm way above the median, there are plenty better than me.)

I can probably make ANY piano sound better than most of you can. Many of you can make ANY guitar sound enormously better than I can. As we must keep reminding ourselves as we read the front pages of SOS, "It isn't about the gear - it's knowing how to use it!"

There's still a feeling among some musicians that the computer is merely an unfortunate necessity. They want an "easy" computer, an "easy" program. But the computer is now more and more a part of the music creation process (in fact, for many people it is their ONLY "instrument".) We should embrace the complexities and the possibilities of our computer "instruments" as we do of our purely musical ones.
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You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Folderol » Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:04 pm

Just to throw something into the ring...

I've got a Linux DAW setup that I've had for over 4 years now. So far, I've only hit the buffers a couple of times when running multiple channels of an insanely complex (but delicious sounding) synth.

I notice that these days there seems to be a sort of competition to see who can run the greatest number of tracks at the same time. I don't believe 'more' is necessarily better.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby johnny h » Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:06 pm

Macbook Pros are built so well, they really are superb machines and for the price. The trackpad is amazing, the aluminum case is extremely solid, battery life is great, screen is perfect. In terms of the whole package, nothing comes close.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby OneWorld » Sun Jul 15, 2012 6:02 pm

Folderol wrote:Just to throw something into the ring...

I've got a Linux DAW setup that I've had for over 4 years now. So far, I've only hit the buffers a couple of times when running multiple channels of an insanely complex (but delicious sounding) synth.

I notice that these days there seems to be a sort of competition to see who can run the greatest number of tracks at the same time. I don't believe 'more' is necessarily better.

I tried LINUX a few times as at the time I had a Delta 1010 so I knew there were drivers. But I could not for the life of me work out that JACK palava, LINUX identified my card but when I tried to get it to work all I got was some convoluted message about "not finding the JACK Server" or words to that effect, what's Jack's Server when it's about? Seems the LINUX community want t make everything as perplexing as they can. Reminds of those folk that keep a sophisticated old banger on the road just so they can get off on adjusting the fuel/air mix or tweak the ignition timing when travelling >259 feet above sea-level

When all we want is switch on, install drivers, start the DAW and then start plinka-plonkin
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Wiseau » Sun Jul 15, 2012 7:10 pm

I think this should have been posted in the pc forum.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Jul 15, 2012 7:41 pm

Folderol wrote:Just to throw something into the ring...

I've got a Linux DAW setup that I've had for over 4 years now. So far, I've only hit the buffers a couple of times when running multiple channels of an insanely complex (but delicious sounding) synth.

I notice that these days there seems to be a sort of competition to see who can run the greatest number of tracks at the same time. I don't believe 'more' is necessarily better.

Interesting. Which distro/applications? Is Linux for a DAW "ready" now? I've given it a try a few times over the years, but so far always found it disappointingly at a pre-beta test stage :-(
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You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby johnny h » Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:22 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
Folderol wrote:Just to throw something into the ring...

I've got a Linux DAW setup that I've had for over 4 years now. So far, I've only hit the buffers a couple of times when running multiple channels of an insanely complex (but delicious sounding) synth.

I notice that these days there seems to be a sort of competition to see who can run the greatest number of tracks at the same time. I don't believe 'more' is necessarily better.

Interesting. Which distro/applications? Is Linux for a DAW "ready" now? I've given it a try a few times over the years, but so far always found it disappointingly at a pre-beta test stage :-(

Linux for music production? Some people have far too much time on their hands...
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby Folderol » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:46 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
Folderol wrote:Just to throw something into the ring...

I've got a Linux DAW setup that I've had for over 4 years now. So far, I've only hit the buffers a couple of times when running multiple channels of an insanely complex (but delicious sounding) synth.

I notice that these days there seems to be a sort of competition to see who can run the greatest number of tracks at the same time. I don't believe 'more' is necessarily better.

Interesting. Which distro/applications? Is Linux for a DAW "ready" now? I've given it a try a few times over the years, but so far always found it disappointingly at a pre-beta test stage :-(
I'm fairly experienced with Linux so I can probably get a system setup for whatever, faster than most people. My own DAW is based on debian, but a very simple install with none of the usual office stuff to get in the way.

As I'm mostly a pure electronic musician, the mainstay of my work is the Rosegarden sequencer and Yoshimi soft-synth. I also use Qsynth for 'real instrument' soundfonts and occasionally Jackrack for effects plugins. Very rarely Hydrogen drum machine (I'm crap at percussion).

In the last year or so I've picked up guitar again, and for that I use the Rakarrak effects app. (I also sometimes loop synth sounds through it too). I usually use Timemachine for audio recording. It's simple, direct and has a 10sec. pre-record. I have Ardour, but it's vastly over spec for what I need, so I do any audio editing in Audacity (but keep the source files).

As Rosegarden can play audio as well as MIDI, I often have it set up to run the whole kaboodle at once, which means I can play and mix a full recording in one pass. Jammin is a useful compressor/equaliser/limiter, and I sometimes use it for overall results, sometimes routing just an individual track through a separate instance.

If you're using a package managed system like debian, the trick is to install Ardour first. This will drag in almost everything any other sound app will need and will also kindly set up jack for you.
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Re: PC or Mac for a dedicated music computer??

Postby RWNorman » Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:27 pm

Julian, you need to step back away from the computer if you're going to invoke a deity's help for the poor thing! <g>

Well then, off and to the question. First off, you can't ask the question. It's been asked so much without a definitive answer that it should be in the book of records. Obviously the only unanswerable question in the universe.

Secondly, you already have the level of equipment you need and if you buy a Mac now, you're already one step behind on the interfi (thunderbolt), unless you buy the top end Mac. You already know the arguments for/against the PC.

Thirdly, the apps that you currently feel comfortable with should be your guideline. In the profession, Pro Tools reigns, and probably 98% Mac. Then the question becomes are you thinking of going pro?

So your choice is ---- the same choice you had before.

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