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How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Trevor Johnson » Sat Jun 06, 2020 10:57 am

Another question: we can run external hard drives and graphics cards and UA cards, so why not Ram?

Latency, measured in nanoseconds, is the reason that RAM is situated as close to the CPU as possible. Putting it further away, even without the associated connection issues, is not viable on today's fast computer configurations.

Once upon a time, though, you could run RAM on a PCI card, although it acted as a RAM disk, rather than RAM. But the ability to put 64/128Gb of RAM onto many modern motherboards, NVMEs, SSDs, rendered that obsolete.

Incidentally, I put together an Intel NUC last year, (16Gb/i5), and installing the RAM and NVME took under 5 minutes, using only a Phillips screwdriver and an ant-static wrist strap. Apple could easily engineer the Mac Mini to be easily accessible, but that would dent their profitability by selling over-priced RAM and SSDs/NVMEs!
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sat Jun 06, 2020 10:57 am

it's just a lot more complex under the hood than you probably realise.

No, I appreciate its complexity. As Arthur C said "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". That's me. I don't even understand how radios work, never mind Apple Macs.

The best you can do on a running system is look at "how much RAM am I using now?" - but even that is not straightforward, as you'll see with the OS reports

You're telling me. This is kind of where we came in. My mac tells me a Logic project is using 2.6gb of RAM but everyone else is saying that a total of 8gb isn't enough to run Logic and OS simultaneously.

I guess the proof of the pudding will be in the recording. I'm tempted to get an 8gb ram unit and see if it copes but if I get it on 24 months interest free, 16gb is only another £8 a month if you look at it like that.

Confused of Cambridge. :D
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby desmond » Sat Jun 06, 2020 11:14 am

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:My mac tells me a Logic project is using 2.6gb of RAM but everyone else is saying that a total of 8gb isn't enough to run Logic and OS simultaneously.

I didn't did it isn't enough to run Logic, I said "I don't recommend it", for the reasons outlined.

Yes, Logic is "using" that amount of RAM, but that doesn't mean that amount of RAM is actual RAM. If the system is low on available RAM resource, it will swap to disk. As far as Logic is concerned, it has "2.6GB of stuff it's stored" but it doesn't necessarily know *where* that data is. The system *might* have written the entire thing to disk, and might need to read bits of it from disk every time Logic access or changes some data... Or it might have written some *other* system/app memory to disk, to make space for Logic's RAM requests.

The system is designed to not enforce arbitrary limits. You can potentially run a program and have it request more RAM than is actually physically there on your system - the system will then mange a large swap file on disk that behaves as if it's (slow) RAM. Things will still work, but they'll get slow and your computer will start to feel bogged down.

Let's have a look at Activity Monitor on my (16GB) MBP, which has recently rebooted. I only have Safari (with this web page) and Activity Monitor open (but I do also have quite a few utilities running that I always have).

Physical Memory: 16GB. Cool.

Memory used: 9.5GB (whoa - with just the system running, and Safari and a few running utilities, I've already used *more* than the 8GB that people are suggested is fine... And I haven't even run a big app and starting working in it...)

Swap used: 0 bytes (My system hasn't swapped anything to disk, so it's all operating from RAM).

Now - those memory figures are *guidelines* as things are more complex, but you can take them as a general picture of what's going on memory-wise. If you're running 8GB now, it's worth monitoring this when you boot up and as you're working to get an idea of how much resources you typically need to get your tasks done.

For me, the idea that I can start my hypothetical (8GB) system, and before it's even done anything, is *already* on the edge of running out of breathing space and having to resort to swapping to just keep going is not a good start for a complicated, real-time performance and resource heavy application like a DAW to run in - imo.

Anyway, that's my recommendation, and has been for a while now... ymmv
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sat Jun 06, 2020 11:47 am

So I do the same thing, just Safari. Physical memory is 16gb, memory used is 6.63gb, swap used is 273mb. So just running the OS and Safari it's still swapping even when the memory usage is nowhere near my 16gb capacity. So why is it swapping?
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby desmond » Sat Jun 06, 2020 11:52 am

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:So I do the same thing, just Safari. Physical memory is 16gb, memory used is 6.63gb, swap used is 273mb. So just running the OS and Safari it's still swapping even when the memory usage is nowhere near my 16gb capacity. So why is it swapping?

Like I say, this is complex. There are all kinds of things that are going on under the hood, and I can't answer a specific example like that. There are all kinds of caching systems that come into play then get released, might be required later, might not be. The system is designed to manage this in ways that will results in the best performance and experience for the user, and you can generally leave it to get on with it.

You just need to monitor over time to get a feel for your resource usage and how your system behaves.
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Johnsy » Sat Jun 06, 2020 12:42 pm

From the perspective of the CPU, even RAM is slow.

For an intuitive perspective on memory speed, you might want to look at the animation shown around 19 minutes in to this presentation by C++ guru, Scott Myers,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDIkqP4JbkE

and note his comment:

'From a speed perspective, the total amount of memory in your system is the total amount of cache.'
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:47 pm

Sorry I am super late to this discussion, but my experience may be relevant:

I have a 2012 Mac Mini with 16GB RAM and a 500 GB SSD. I store project audio and DAW data on an external 2TB optical hard drive.

I am running Catalina and the latest version of Logic Pro X.

This system can handle all but the most insane projects. Example: the current project I am mixing is over 13 minutes long, over 100 tracks, with a maximum of about 30 playing simultaneously. I have about 40 aux buses in my mix template and 2-5 plugins strapped across all of them, most commonly the standard EQ and a Waves api 2500 compressor. But I am also running a ton of gain plugins, saturation, multiple reverbs, etc. And CPU meter on this project is just about ticking at 40%.

There is a SLIGHT delay sometimes when pressing play from a dead stop but aside from that it runs just fine.

I hope this information is helpful!
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:52 pm

Thanks Ben, what processor does the Mini have? How many cores etc?

Are any of your tracks using sample-based instruments? These seem to be the things that really eat up the RAM.
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:55 pm

I am on my PC at the moment, when I fire up the project later today, I will let you know!

I am a 99% hardware synth user, I rarely use soft synths, amp sims, etc and when I do, once I have a sound I like I Bounce In Place immediately. (Commit lol)
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby desmond » Sat Jun 06, 2020 2:01 pm

Ben Asaro wrote:This system can handle all but the most insane projects. Example: the current project I am mixing is over 13 minutes long, over 100 tracks, with a maximum of about 30 playing simultaneously.

The situation changes pretty quickly if you're primarily using software instruments though. Audio tracks are very light compared to eg playing a fat chord with overlapping notes in Diva or Omnisphere or something...

You end up doing a lot of freezing/bouncing which slows the workflow down (depending on how you work, etc).
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sat Jun 06, 2020 2:34 pm

desmond wrote:
Ben Asaro wrote:This system can handle all but the most insane projects. Example: the current project I am mixing is over 13 minutes long, over 100 tracks, with a maximum of about 30 playing simultaneously.

The situation changes quickly quickly if you're primarily using software instruments though. Audio tracks are very light compared to eg playing a fat chord with overlapping notes in Diva or Omnisphere or something...

You end up doing a lot of freezing/bouncing which slows the workflow down (depending on how you work, etc).
Understood, and I agree, hence why I said it may be relevant and I hope it helps! :)

My Mac's stats:
Mac Mini (Late 2012)
Processor: 2.5 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5
Memory: 16GB 1333 MHz DDR3
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:16 pm

Yeah that's a similar system to mine. Drop some Alchemy tracks with Space Designer and it'll soon fall over. :D
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:19 pm

This is interesting, Mac Mini on a Logic stress test, not really samples-heavy though...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74oo4yz7pcY&t=9s&frags=pl%2Cwn

Love to see what various forum members get on this test, you can download it. You just see how many tracks you can run before it crashes. I could do six or seven at a push.
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:29 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:Yeah that's a similar system to mine. Drop some Alchemy tracks with Space Designer and it'll soon fall over. :D
LOL no doubt! But switching to a SSD definitely made things a lot smoother!
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby wireman » Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:55 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:Another question: we can run external hard drives and graphics cards and UA cards, so why not Ram?

The further you go the longer it takes to access, be that withiin 'cpu', package, to another package's memory, over PCI etc. Not sure if you count it as 'external' but I once purchased a VME extension memory board with a few (8?) MB of RAM in it for a few thousand pounds.

But why bother, you can buy servers with huge amounts (tens of TB) of RAM but likely not with a price, noise or power requirement that you will want in a studio. The memory configurations we see for Macs are those that Apple think there is a market for.
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