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

For current or would-be users of Apple Mac computers, with answers to many FAQs.

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

Postby ConcertinaChap » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:12 am

Interesting discussion but I don't think anyone's mentioned future proofing yet. You will have noticed that the RAM requirements of software never decreases over time. In general it increases. Assuming you'll be wanting any computer you get to last a good few years then it should either be easy to upgrade the RAM or you should incorporate extra RAM for future need. Or so I think.

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

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Jun 08, 2020 1:15 pm

good point. it seems we get to enough RAM to run existing software and plugins and then the next generation requires more RAM.
Is it sloppy or inefficient coding? Is it the nature of the beast because cool new features require more RAM?
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby desmond » Mon Jun 08, 2020 1:21 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:Is it sloppy or inefficient coding? Is it the nature of the beast because cool new features require more RAM?

It's mostly because people keep demanding new features, and new features help sell new copies or updates. If you're adding code, adding graphics, adding new libraries to do new things, you have bigger apps, more features than require working memory and so on...

In the 80s, it was possible to have commercial software that was 50K for the application. These days, the *icon* for the application is many time that size... ;)
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby John Willett » Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:01 pm

ConcertinaChap wrote:Interesting discussion but I don't think anyone's mentioned future proofing yet. You will have noticed that the RAM requirements of software never decreases over time. In general it increases. Assuming you'll be wanting any computer you get to last a good few years then it should either be easy to upgrade the RAM or you should incorporate extra RAM for future need. Or so I think.

Agreed - when I buy a new Mac, I always get the fastest processor option and have the maximum RAM possible. :thumbup:
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:17 pm

That would get you 768gb of RAM and a 28 core Xeon W processor boosted to 4.4ghz. With a 1TB ssd that would come to just £37,899. (inc VAT). I'm sure we all wish we had your money John! :D
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:18 pm

so perhaps we have an interesting parallel with the 80’s in ipad apps?
Tiny and to my non-programmers mind, remarkable in what some of them can achieve, although there are many that are just ok.
Of course, latest generation computing power doesn’t hurt. The current lack of expanding RAM may be a hindrance in the future but who knows what Apple has up it’s sleeve.

Will I end up with a fully loaded Mac mini linked to numerous iPads giving me more power than my current tower? (and saving me from finding $15k (re-edit $37k) for a new tower)
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:32 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:That would get you 768gb of RAM and a 28 core Xeon W processor boosted to 4.4ghz. With a 1TB ssd that would come to just £37,899. (inc VAT). I'm sure we all wish we had your money John! :D

Has that got wheels? :D
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby John Willett » Mon Jun 08, 2020 3:05 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:That would get you 768gb of RAM and a 28 core Xeon W processor boosted to 4.4ghz. With a 1TB ssd that would come to just £37,899. (inc VAT). I'm sure we all wish we had your money John! :D

:lol:

I use a MacBook Pro - my current one, bought in 2018, is a 13" and has a 2.7 GHz QuadCore Intel Core i7 and 16 GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3. It cost around the £2k mark if I remember correctly. :thumbup:
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jun 08, 2020 3:21 pm

I bought my 2008 Mac Pro off a mate a few years ago when he upgraded to a new iMac Pro (he's a video graphics bod). He showed me the invoice when he bought it new, including the software it came to £13,000 :shock:
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Mon Jun 08, 2020 3:32 pm

Has that got wheels? :D

Don't be silly, this is Apple we're talking about! It's another £400 for wheels apparently...

https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/buy-mac/mac-pro/tower#
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jun 08, 2020 3:51 pm

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

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:17 pm

am I missing something or is there a reason this has not migrated to ye olde Mac forum ???
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby zenguitar » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:34 pm

Good point SSG, consider it done.

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

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:49 pm

I posted in the recording forum because it's an issue that is by no means mac exclusive, of course. But you da bosses.
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Re: How much RAM do I really need in a Mac for music production?

Postby AlasdairEaston » Fri Jun 12, 2020 12:22 pm

Hi folks. A PC interloper here but hopefully I can offer some relevant experience.

First up, Desmond is correct all the way. The memory question is complicated on so many levels. In fact, I think that getting computers to the point they've reached now is one of the human race's towering achievements. If the ordinary person on the street knew how much complexity is hidden behind the simple act of reading the newspaper on their iPad they'd be staggered. The fact that it almost always works is equally amazing!

But anyway, back to the question. Aside from the technicalities of the potential answers, the question itself has a problem (no criticism intended to Dr Huge). The thing is "music production" covers such a broad range. To illustrate: I was in a similar situation a few months ago, buying a PC. I was trying to decide not only how much memory to spec but also whether to buy one that was ultimately limited to 64Gb max or one that could go to 128Gb.

In many situations (like yours Dr. Huge) that seems crazy. We both do music production but our needs seem really different. I wanted to be able to run Spitfire Audio's BBC Symphony Orchestra. In an email I got from Spitfire Audio, they told me that to load up the whole orchestra with all articulations and only one mic signal it would take approx 50Gb RAM. Ooft! Just for that one plug-in. Nevermind everything else that I'd need to be running on the PC. (Later releases have made it more efficient but still...)

In the end I had to accept I couldn't afford the bigger machine, and in fact I don't need it. I don't see myself ever needing to load an entire orchestra as individual instruments. I'm getting by with 32Gb RAM on a machine that can take 64. I'm able to use BBC SO and it does sound tremendous. If it helps set real-world expectations, I've run, say, 10 or 20 tracks of audio, 3 or 4 soft synths, sample-based percussion tracks, 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, celli and basses, brass, horns, etc. all with the usual FX plugins you'd expect (EQ compressors, reverb, etc). I haven't hit a limit yet although I know I could if I tried. I'm not making any claims for the musical quality of the results, mind you!

If you're not using massive sample libraries or virtual instruments based on huge sample sets then your memory needs are much less.

As I understand things, it's broadly like this (feel free to keep me right Desmond, et al):
- Memory use: recording and basic manipulating of audio does not require massive memory use. Using large sample-based virtual instruments or large sample libraries does.

- CPU use: similarly, recording and basic manipulation of audio does not require massive CPU power, especially if you can accept longer latency. If however you want to be able to do complex manipulation on many tracks with low latency then that will require lots of CPU. Using heavyweight soft-synths (e.g. Diva or Massive X) does require lots of CPU but not huge memory.

The trouble is, it's all "lots" or "huge" or "small" or "modest". Putting exact numbers on is impossible since everyone's situation is different.

Your best weapon in this battle is probably understanding how much resources you're using at the moment (CPU/RAM/Disk). Then arming yourself with some knowledge about where you want to go and where that would stress your machine. Exact numbers after that are always going to be an informed guess I think.

Having said all that (is anyone still reading?) I will say 8Gb seems a bit light to be truly future proof.

I hope that's some help.

Cheers,
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