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Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? #3012191 10/13/19 07:42 PM
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Anderton Offline OP
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The days are numbered for my beloved cheese grater desktop Mac, which is now as endangered a species as the snow leopard for which its operating system is named. I could likely hack it to run 64-bit software, but the odds of it running Catalina are probably remote, and most of the software that's on it is "obsolete" anyway. (Well not really, the software and computer still work fine. Maybe a more apt description is "abandoned, and left on the sidewalk to die.")

My circa 2012 MacBook Pro is still great, and will still run Catalina. But to me, a laptop isn't a studio computer. And the new MacBook Pros suck, so I'm going to keep running this one as long as I can.

I don't want an all-in-one, and can't afford the new Mac Pro desktop. (Besides, if I was going to spend that much money, I'd get a tricked-out Windows machine that could probably do interstellar time travel.) So that leaves a Mac Mini. Its base price is inexpensive, although expanding it to pro standards isn't cheap...but it's a lot less than a Mac Pro.

So, is anyone out there using a Mac Mini for music production? How much did you expand it? Are you happy with your decision? Any words of wisdom for someone who's thinking of taking the plunge?

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3012207 10/13/19 09:58 PM
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I did have a 2011 Mini Server version (two HDs), i7 quad, updated to 16RAM, 1 500g SSD; which was used for both experimentation/learning the OS and for music. No problems with it. I wound up donating to my church for their music/video use; and still have my 2011 Macbook Pro - similar specifications. Don't have experience with the new version.


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Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3012220 10/13/19 11:55 PM
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Craig, I have been a Mac guy for a long time, so the Mac Mini idea has hung around in the wings as a smart Maybe. The newest model is such a powerhouse that I'm tempted again. I stay mostly instrument-safe by having a huge EXS library that's easily transferred. I also trust AAS & G-Media, for example; they make upgrades largely painless. I'd have to shop for a monitor that doesn't cost 2 limbs like Apple's own, as nice as they are. I can also run the Mini through my Focusrite interface for audio purposes. I'd sure like to go SSD, too. From the reading I've done, the Mini finally feels fully mature. I'm in no real need of a major overhaul yet, but do I have a kitty jar set up for it. I have to pay 25 cents every time I cuss a politician on TV, so I figure I'll be sniffing the specs of a new one by March. Python


"Its like catching an evangelist in a whore house. That was the best Christmas ever." ~ "Futurama"
Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3012310 10/14/19 06:11 PM
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I ran the Mini (and currently run the MBP) into a 32" Samsung HDTV using an HDMI adapter. Bought a couple of the refurb Samsungs through Walmart for about $130 each IIRC. 1080p resolution, the MBP works great driving both internal screen and the TV. Probably a 4K HDTV would be scannable at the normal Mac 2560 resolution, although I haven't checked, since what I've got is doing the job.


Howard Grand|Hamm SK1-73|Kurz PC2|PC2X|PC3|PC3X|PC361; QSC K10's
HP DAW|Epi Les Paul & LP 5-str bass|iPad mini2
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
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Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3012387 10/15/19 03:29 AM
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A timely question as I just researched this for a friend of mine and wound up recommending a used 2012 Mini with the 2.3Ghz quad-core i7. He has legacy gear and this one is the last with firewire, first with USB3, ram & ssd upgradeable, and can be updated all the way to the most recent MacOSes. I expect it will serve him well.

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Reezekeys] #3012480 10/15/19 06:59 PM
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Anderton Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Reezekeys
A timely question as I just researched this for a friend of mine and wound up recommending a used 2012 Mini with the 2.3Ghz quad-core i7. He has legacy gear and this one is the last with firewire, first with USB3, ram & ssd upgradeable, and can be updated all the way to the most recent MacOSes. I expect it will serve him well.


Helpful info, to say the least. Where did you find the 2012 Mac Mini? And do you think Apple will support it for a few more years (.e.g, not do an OS update that kills it)?

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3013637 10/25/19 01:46 AM
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I have used the MacMini for music in the past and it did fine. Just keep your expectations realistic. It is not going to compare to a MacBookPro. One thing to consider, if you push it too hard for too long you can run into heating problems. The box design does not allow it to dissipate heat as easily as a laptop. You can run Reason with a 1080P screen on it all day. A huge logic project while pushing a 4K monitor may give you issues. You may want to look at cooling solutions.

A few years ago I made a statement on Keyboard Corner that I would never own an iMac. It is basically a MacMini built into a screen. ... ... ... I love my 27" iMac. I bought the higher end version with the good processor and plenty of memory. It does just fine with Logic, Live and Reason. For audio I use a UAD Apollo quad. An equivalent MacMini should work the same. Just have plenty of good, fast, external HD's. Oh, and while the suggestion of the 2012 MacMini is a good suggestion for many reasons, you don't get Thunderbolt 3 on the old Mini's. That is how my Apollo is connected.

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3013813 10/26/19 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by Reezekeys
A timely question as I just researched this for a friend of mine and wound up recommending a used 2012 Mini with the 2.3Ghz quad-core i7. He has legacy gear and this one is the last with firewire, first with USB3, ram & ssd upgradeable, and can be updated all the way to the most recent MacOSes. I expect it will serve him well.


Helpful info, to say the least. Where did you find the 2012 Mac Mini? And do you think Apple will support it for a few more years (.e.g, not do an OS update that kills it)?

Sorry for the late reply. I helped my friend set up his Mac Mini and I must say I'm quite impressed with it – especially given it's a late-2012 model! I looked up the link I sent him to buy it and they're sold out, however Ebay has quite a few. He paid a little over $500 for his but there are some for $400 which you'll see if you follow my link. His has 8GB ram and a 1.5GB "fusion" drive which accounts for its increased cost.

As far as support, Apple lists it as compatible with Catalina; it just makes the cut. Not that you'd upgrade there now, of course. But if its hardware supports the latest OS I would think this might be a useful computer for quite a while, depending on one's needs. RAM and hard drives are upgradeable (as opposed to most new Macs). OWC makes a sled that lets you add a second internal HD.

I did some research on these late-2012 Minis, they are apparently very well regarded as later models lost clock speed & features. I'm talking about the high-end 2012 models with quad-core i7 processors.

Scroll to the bottom for more deals –––

https://www.ebay.com/p/129579440?iid=274047020420

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3013869 10/26/19 09:12 PM
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I still have my 2009 Mac Mini, which operates as my desktop/Sibelius/office computer. It's still on 10.6.8 – it's a little sluggish now and I would not update it to a new OS, but it does what I need it to do. I like the Mac Minis – they're built like tanks, they're the most bang-for-the-buck Apple product, and they've always worked well for me. I highly recommend them.


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Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3015232 11/07/19 07:29 PM
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I buy used Macs from macofalltrades.com all the time. My 2011 dual i5 iMac is now too long in the tooth for me, and I plan to exchange it for a Mac mini, probably a dual i7 of 2014 vintage. The new ones are monsters, but they buy a little too much into the "computer as disposable appliance" paradigm for me; the previous generation has user upgradable/replaceable RAM and hard disks, has Thunderbolt and USB 3, and pretty good on-chip graphics. I plan to use one with a double-wide LCD monitor and run Mojave on it for the foreseeable future.

BTW, Craig, my main studio computer, where I do all my actual composition and playing rather than editing and streaming, is a MacBook Pro of similar vintage to yours. I have it hooked up to an external monitor and it's an absolute tank. It feels like a proper music computer to me!

My laptop for carrying around and playing live and not crying if it gets lost is an 11" MacBook Air with 8 GB RAM, a half-TB SSD, and a dual i7. Killer little machine and it goes anywhere with me.

Last edited by Dr Mike Metlay; 11/07/19 07:29 PM.

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Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3015261 11/08/19 12:31 AM
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Anderton Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay

BTW, Craig, my main studio computer, where I do all my actual composition and playing rather than editing and streaming, is a MacBook Pro of similar vintage to yours. I have it hooked up to an external monitor and it's an absolute tank. It feels like a proper music computer to me!]


I'm starting to get the impression that was close to the last of the great MacBook Pros. I sure hear a lot of negativity about the recent models.

I was really close to pulling the trigger on a new Mac desktop or Mini, but now I've decided I don't want to go through the Catalina "she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not..." dance. I coped with PowerPC to Intel and Carbon/Universal Binary, but my time is limited so a new Mac has been put on the back burner until the 64-bit thing gets sorted out. Might get myself a new smokin' Windows machine in 2020...although my ancient PC Audio Labs computer not only refuses to die, it refuses not to do a great job.

Last edited by Anderton; 11/08/19 12:32 AM.
Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3015677 11/11/19 10:32 PM
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While on vacation last week I took the opportunity to test my old mid-2012 MacBook Pro. 15", I-7, 16GB, 512GB. It still does just fine with Reason and Live.

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: RABid] #3015743 11/12/19 05:27 AM
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Anderton Offline OP
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Originally Posted by RABid
While on vacation last week I took the opportunity to test my old mid-2012 MacBook Pro. 15", I-7, 16GB, 512GB. It still does just fine with Reason and Live.


As it will for the foreseeable future. Just don't update the OS smile

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3015835 11/12/19 06:14 PM
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I’m using a 2012 Mac mini Dual i5 with 16gb and ssd for music. It works ok, but I think i would like more processor capacity. I’ m not a really demanding user I think.


Rudy

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3018175 12/02/19 09:21 PM
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Dr Mike Metlay Offline
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I just pulled the trigger (damn you Cyber Monday) on a 2014-vintage i7 Mac mini with 16 GB soldered to the motherboard. I'm going to rip out the Apple 256 GB SSD and replace it with dual Samsung 1TB SSDs, and hook it up to a wide-format monitor. I will run Mojave on it and use it to replace my beloved but slowly dying pawnshop-rescue 2011 iMac. I will let folks know how it ends up working.


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Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3018184 12/02/19 10:14 PM
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Anderton Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
I just pulled the trigger (damn you Cyber Monday) on a 2014-vintage i7 Mac mini with 16 GB soldered to the motherboard. I'm going to rip out the Apple 256 GB SSD and replace it with dual Samsung 1TB SSDs, and hook it up to a wide-format monitor. I will run Mojave on it and use it to replace my beloved but slowly dying pawnshop-rescue 2011 iMac. I will let folks know how it ends up working.


Are the SSDs easily replaceable, or do you need to solder? Also, where did you buy it?

Re: Anyone Using a Mac Mini for Music Production? [Re: Anderton] #3018481 12/04/19 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
I just pulled the trigger (damn you Cyber Monday) on a 2014-vintage i7 Mac mini with 16 GB soldered to the motherboard. I'm going to rip out the Apple 256 GB SSD and replace it with dual Samsung 1TB SSDs, and hook it up to a wide-format monitor. I will run Mojave on it and use it to replace my beloved but slowly dying pawnshop-rescue 2011 iMac. I will let folks know how it ends up working.

Are the SSDs easily replaceable, or do you need to solder? Also, where did you buy it?


In that generation of Mac minis, RAM is impossible to replace, because it's soldered to the motherboard. However, storage is easily swappable, and OWC makes special cradles that can hold two spinny disks or SSDs in place of one, so you can have dual storage right in the box.

Unfortunately, it's the other way around for the new Minis: you can beef up RAM on your own (with some effort), but because they use the T2 chip for encryption, not only is the onboard SSD inaccessible because it's soldered in, but if anything happens to your Mac, the data on the drive is lost forever. Older Macs would have a handy port on the mobo that allowed you to directly connect to the drive and suck out all the data for backup; that doesn't work any more. Modern Macs must be backed up to external media religiously, because they're now bricked by a variety of occurrences that would leave older models dead but repairable.

Unless there's a case where I stumble on an incredible deal in a pawnshop (it's happened once or twice), I buy all my refurbs from Mac Of All Trades. They're affordable, extremely reliable, and have very good customer service. Since PowerMax became a faceless corporate nonentity, they're the best used Mac sales place in the country.

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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