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Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

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Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby james090 » Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:18 pm

After years of a  (now old) desktop iMac, and with the advent of the new M1 Macbook Pro's, I am seriously thinking of going down the 'mobile' Macbook Pro M1 route, whether its this current 16Gb version or any MBP that come in the following months.

I just wanted to ask any mobile / Macbook based studios here, how do you cope with the limited usb ports etc?

I am considering this as I see many users now running just a Macbook Pro, especially with the M1 are now certainly powerful enough, but I was thinking of 2 x usb-c SSD portable Samsung Drives (1 for Kontakt Libraries & Samples, 1 for Recording & Projects)
but I also have a USB Keyboard controller, USB Audio interface, USB QWERTY keyboard etc.

I mainly only use internal plug ins and samples, so dont need to worry about outside recording, pre-amps, mics etc, I am now really ITB but scared to take the leap :headbang:

I don't really have any experience of the newer MBP's and USB -C but is there a good reliable USB hub that travelling musicians use or is there a simpler way to do this, ie: can USB-C portable Samsung drives maybe (daisy chain using 1 usb-c port maybe?) to each other? and I could obviously drop the USB QWERTY obviously and use the laptop keyboard. 

But in general, it was how people scaled down to a powerful portable rig that you could in theory move around easily, with the processing power available today, and the wafer thin SSD drives of 1TB, 2TB, 4TB etc 

Also lastly, anyone with a M1 Macbook, does the Headphone output still operate as Optical Digital output when plugged in with the correct cable? I know Apple dropped this some time ago, but can you believe Apple didn't know when I asked them!

Thank you
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby Guido3 » Sun Apr 11, 2021 10:42 pm

I currently have a very portable rig. My MBP has 4 x TB3/USB C ports. I has an internal 512GB SSD. All my samples are kept on an external 1TB Samsung T5 SSD drive. My audio interface is currently a UAD Arrow. Which is a buss powered TB3 interface (I will be upgrading this to a Apollo X as I need ADAT to pipe in my external keys. I daisy chain a UAD Satallite Octo which gives me loads of external
Processing for my UAD plugins. All this still leaves me 2 x TB3/USB C ports free. There are plenty of cheap docks available to increase the capacity of these. I use an Anker hub which gives me 3 x USB A ports and a USB C port for power.

I have a small pair of Genelec Monitors which I can set up anywhere and if needs be a fairly decent pair of phones (I do need some better ones though)

I do have plans to build a proper studio/tracking room but this setup sounds great and fits in 3 bags.

I would add though that a mobile rig is great but you really can’t beat a fixed setup. Creative juices can be stifled when you have to set your gear up first.
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby fruitcake » Mon Apr 12, 2021 3:46 am

I’ve been trying to get a M1 Mini up and running for audio. It works sporadically. I’m using a MOTU 828es interface connected thru AVB. It will work for awhile then stops working. I haven’t tracked down why yet. The other puzzler is MIDI. I have a MPK mini plugged into USB. It shows up in the AudioMIDI setup app about half the time. It’s supposed to be class compliant so I’m not sure what is going on. My MOTU MIDI interface has never shown up.
Oh, and my M1 crashes often.
Edit: when it is working, I’m getting an occasional sound issue. It’s like a comb filter fades in leaving only a high frequency metallic version of the audio. It goes away after 20 seconds or so.
I don’t think the lack of ports will be the biggest hindrance. It’s the bugginess and lack of 3rd party hardware and software. It will eventually come around though.

And an important note for anyone getting an M1 Mac: if you try to do a clean install and erase the HD, the only way to reinstall the OS is with a second Mac running Configurator.
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby BobTheDog » Mon Apr 12, 2021 9:00 am

The MOTU 828 problems sound like driver issues, along with the mac M1 crashing.

The comb filtering type issue sound like there is a problem with the clock getting out of sync between the M1 and the 828, another driver issue I would think.

Have you tried contacting MOTU about it, their tech support is usually pretty good.
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby RichardT » Mon Apr 12, 2021 9:03 am

What’s your reasoning for wanting two external drives? I have a MBP with one external drive, which I couldn’t avoid because I was running out of space. I would be much happier if I could have everything on the internal drive. It would make moving the rig less hassle, plus from time to time the drive becomes accidentally unplugged.

I connect my AI directly to the MBP, and have keyboard, mouse and dongle on a small hub.
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby james090 » Mon Apr 12, 2021 9:31 am

BobTheDog wrote:The MOTU 828 problems sound like driver issues, along with the mac M1 crashing.

The comb filtering type issue sound like there is a problem with the clock getting out of sync between the M1 and the 828, another driver issue I would think.

Have you tried contacting MOTU about it, their tech support is usually pretty good.

Yes I think I'd have to agree here that it sounds like a MOTU issue messing up your system, as I'm not sure how old the 828 is now?

RichardT wrote:What’s your reasoning for wanting two external drives?.

I wanted my Kontakt and other sample (streaming libraries) on 1 SSD Ext Drive, another 2-4TB Ext SSD for general recording, audio etc, and the internal for projects/programs/general Mac software etc was my thinking.
Just so I had everything covered over the 2 ext SSD's and whatever size int SSD the M1 Mac comes with?
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby RichardT » Mon Apr 12, 2021 1:02 pm

james090 wrote:
BobTheDog wrote:The MOTU 828 problems sound like driver issues, along with the mac M1 crashing.

The comb filtering type issue sound like there is a problem with the clock getting out of sync between the M1 and the 828, another driver issue I would think.

Have you tried contacting MOTU about it, their tech support is usually pretty good.

Yes I think I'd have to agree here that it sounds like a MOTU issue messing up your system, as I'm not sure how old the 828 is now?

RichardT wrote:What’s your reasoning for wanting two external drives?.

I wanted my Kontakt and other sample (streaming libraries) on 1 SSD Ext Drive, another 2-4TB Ext SSD for general recording, audio etc, and the internal for projects/programs/general Mac software etc was my thinking.
Just so I had everything covered over the 2 ext SSD's and whatever size int SSD the M1 Mac comes with?

You can get up to 2TB internally on the M1 MacBook pro. My experience is that having crucial stuff on external drives can be a real pain if you need mobility - if not, it’s not such a big deal of course.
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby fruitcake » Mon Apr 12, 2021 1:42 pm

BobTheDog wrote:The MOTU 828 problems sound like driver issues, along with the mac M1 crashing.

The comb filtering type issue sound like there is a problem with the clock getting out of sync between the M1 and the 828, another driver issue I would think.

Have you tried contacting MOTU about it, their tech support is usually pretty good.

I believe a lot of the issues have to do with the 828es. Although MOTU just released a new driver that’s supposed to be Apple Silicon and Big Sur compatible. When I have more time I plan on trying either TB3 or USB to connect instead of AVB to see if that resolves some issues. I’ve had the sample rate change in the AVB configuration app from 48k to 192k by itself. The frustrating aspect is that various things will work and then not work for no apparent reason. It doesn’t make sense that a class compliant MIDI keyboard would not show up for instance.
There is this app juggling that has to happen between the AVB Configuration, MOTU driver, The Mac AudioMIDI setup, and MOTU’s ProAudio that I haven’t figured out. No plug and play here.
When I have more time I’ll get in touch with MOTU tech support.
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Apr 12, 2021 2:36 pm

MacBook Air M1 here. Not using it for music as I am not the main user. It is a sometimes flaky machine for email but it mostly works well. A few minutes ago I ordered a CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock through the apple site. Expensive but I can connect to an older apple Cinema Display, mouse, keyboard, external drives, Ethernet and it has card readers for the loading in photos from cameras. And it also charges the laptop. I might be forgetting some of the other ports it has.
I wish I could get my hands on it to try music, but I may have to wait until somebody is sleeping!
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby Howdy Doody Time » Tue Apr 20, 2021 1:55 pm

I found some of the same issues mentioned above, but with an Intel MBP which uses 4 USBC ports. It is difficult to pin down the problems - especially when things work, and then don't work, then do work again.

I'm convinced it is a power usage thing. you have to balance the power hungry devices by sharing them evenly among the four ports.

Also you really need to invest in the best Hubs you can get your hands on. Cheap Hubs go flaky early on and are not as reliable.

Don't be tempted to get an extra power supply, because although it won't harm anything, the system will only draw power from one source, - it chooses the best option. Make sure you have the strongest PSU (They come in different strengths)

Get extension leads for the ports, because hubs have very short cables which means you rapidly end up with a rats nest of hubs and cables. In addition the hubs are all handed, so the leads are on one side of the left hub and the other side of the right hub so symmetry, which means tidiness, is out the window.

Hope this helps
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby Forum Admin » Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:47 pm

james090 wrote:I don't really have any experience of the newer MBP's and USB -C but is there a good reliable USB hub that travelling musicians use or is there a simpler way to do this, ie: can USB-C portable Samsung drives maybe (daisy chain using 1 usb-c port maybe?) to each other?

For the record, you can't daisy-chain any USB devices; you need Thunderbolt for that.

I bought the CalDigit TS3 Plus hub/dock to use with my M1 MacBook Pro (16GB RAM, 1TB internal SSD), which is hooked up to my old 27" Thunderbolt Display (original model) which gives me extra USB-A ports, Firewire 800, Ethernet and one TB1 port (up to 10Gb/s x2). Faster ports and USB-C are available on the CalDigit. I had to buy a couple of adaptors to get the TB1 cable to use TB3 port on the dock, and a couple of USB-A to USB-C adaptors for my external Samsung T5 drives, depending on what else I have plugged in.

I'm running PreSonus Studio One Professional v5.2 which is working under Rosetta 2 (Intel emulator) but zooms along.

There is an internal fan in this M1 MBP but I have yet to hear it, sat right next to me on my desk, and it's super-quick at loading/opening apps and I'm very impressed with it (though you get used to the speed bump using it after a while). It's also my office/work Mac running Adobe CC (only Photoshop is M1-native at the moment but other apps run perfectly well).

Also lastly, anyone with a M1 Macbook, does the Headphone output still operate as Optical Digital output when plugged in with the correct cable?

My "About This Mac" makes no mention of the M1 MBP's audio output socket also being optical, but the CalDigit TS3 includes an S/PDIF optical output.

I use the CalDigit 85W to power the M1 so there's only one TB3 cable from it to the dock, so if you were to use one for remote recording you'd need to be able to power the dock. Maybe a bus-powered hub would be better?
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby james090 » Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:53 pm

Thank you, i shall look into all this.

Out of interest, I also have the Apple 27" Thunderbolt Display (original model), but didn't think these would be compatible with anything 'M1' due to their age? But i'm guessing I'd need the CalDigit TS to use mine also?
Or is there an Apple dongle adaptor for this Apple 27' ? (I was resigned to just selling it and starting afresh with most things when moving up to M1 Mac's)
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby Forum Admin » Tue Apr 20, 2021 5:25 pm

I thought the same as you initially then realised paying Apple's exhorbitant price for their TB2 to TB3 (USB-C) adaptor was worth it to keep my Apple TB Display going.

Amazon sell it too a bit cheaper: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Apple-Thunderbolt-USB-C-Adapter/dp/B01M72VEQR

The TB Display uses TB1/TB2 mini-Displayport-style connector, which plugs into the TB2 socket on the adaptor. Note: you cannot run DisplayPort monitors using this adaptor. The Apple Display has its own power supply, since the adaptor does not deliver any power.

All works a treat for me and still gives me a FireWire 800 connection for my legacy Iomega FW drive, just in case I ever need to reconnect it for an elusive backup/sample I have stored on it.

Gotta say, this M1 MBP is the quietest computer I have ever owned - makes my 'Trashcan' 2013 Mac Pro sound noisy!!!
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Re: Moving to a portable Macbook Pro M1 - Connectivity limitations?

Postby BobTheDog » Tue Apr 20, 2021 7:23 pm

Yeah I have a 2013 MacPro and as long as I blow the dust out every few months it is pretty quiet.

I have yet to hear the fan on my M1 mini though, even when pummelling the cpu it stays eerily quiet. I even downloaded an app to check the fan speed to make sure it was turning!
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