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Which MacBook should I get


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Hi,

Thinking about a MacBook for audio recording. Won't be a power user, so don't need a Ferrari.

Would appreciate some advice as to which model to get.

 

Thanks

 

Darren

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BMus (Hons) Jazz Piano.

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Hi Darren,

 

I have a late 2015 MacBook Air with 8GB RAM and an 128GB SSD. I chose the cheapest possible configuration cause I mainly use it as an office computer/internet machine. I did start to run Sibelius on it and recorded eight audio tracks occasionally. No problems here. I don't do mixing/plugins on it, but for audio recording, it has proven to be just fine.

It's not a clone, it's a Suzuki.
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I have a late-2013 model and it has plenty of juice to do what I need - multitrack audio and live gigging with a 128 buffer and multiple VIs. Not bad for an almost 7-year-old computer. I think there's an urge to believe you need the latest & greatest (perhaps fueled by a few folk right here!). I also think there's some psychology at play when just knowing there are newer & more powerful computers gives one an "inferiority complex" that keeps them from considering an older - and perfectly workable â alternative.

 

The advantage to a newer model is that it may last you longer, given that software updates can sometimes obsolete a computer before its time. I think Apple has been pretty good in that regard though. MacBook Pros from 2012 can run the lastest MacOS â Catalina, a system I'm likely to hold off on updating to for a while since 32-bit software is no longer supported there.

 

Bottom line is to decide on your budget first, then look around to see what that can buy you. As long as it's any MacBook Pro in the last 5 years you should be completely fine, given your description of "not a power user" and "not needing a Ferrari." Keep in mind that newer Macs can not upgrade ram - and the latest ones can't upgrade the hard drive either. I don't know what kinds of apps you'll be running or how involved your projects will be but I would probably try for something beyond the base config, at least for hard drives (if the MBP you look at doesn't have a user-replaceable one). I've done OK with my 8GB of ram.

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Thanks for that info.

 

In terms of longevity, what about a tricked out new MacBook Air with 16 GB ram and 1TB SSD?

 

Yes of course. The fast and large storage and 16gb of RAM is preferable on any modern mac. If you go for the previous models - like the 2015 MacBook Pro - I would definitely go to 16gb RAM and an SSD 500gb and up. If you are comfortable opening it up and following a how-to you can save some money.

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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In terms of longevity, what about a tricked out new MacBook Air with 16 GB ram and 1TB SSD?

Thumbs up on the MacBook Airs. I have two in my studio (2011 and 2013) and they still work great for recording, performing, photo editing, graphics work, video editing and some gaming. I've been expecting them to need replacement and I've got money set aside "just in case" - but they've been all over the world with me and don't show any signs of quitting.

 

If I needed to buy a new Mac - I'd definitely go for a MacBook Air again, they are a good bang for the buck. Definitely go for the 16GB ram and 1TB SSD.

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Still enjoying my late-2012 15 inch MacBook Pro with 16GB Ram and 25GB ssd but I"m waiting for a refresh of the 16 inch later this year with the latest v10 Intel processors and 32GB (or even 64GB) Ram. Or a new 14 inch by year"s end, as this week"s 13 inch refresh missed the mark.

That"ll surely cope with EastWest and SpitfireAudio libraries for years to come.

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I have a 500G SSD. It's great! I'm not sure why 8G of RAM isn't enough for audio recording. The largest project I've done was with 31 tracks and had no issues.

 

 

It's enough for audio recording. it's adequate for a few virtual instruments but it's inadequate for longevity. The Mac OS will require more with each update, and if you are really using the computer and need to run multiple apps at once you'll want to know why your modern mac struggles. Without a doubt the difference between a spinning HD and SSD is significant in real time performance, and I would say with each passing month the difference between 8gb and 16gb of RAM will become obvious.

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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If you are going to be typing on it as a laptop and not set up stationary with mouse/keyboard: I'd personally avoid the 2016-ish to 2018-ish macbook pros--those dates are not exact obviously, you'd have to see when they changed their keyboard. At the least try one if you can because some people (raises hand) absolutely can't stand the butterfly keyboard they went to. The trackpad also is a problem, it's so huge that my hands bump it all the time which moves the mouse who knows where. The biggest worry would be keys going out, I have a "b" key that double-enters most of the time. I still use mine but with an external mouse and keyboard so it's all good.

 

They also are usb-c only (meaning no power connector, ethernet, video out, or old-school usb) which is fine by me but it's a bit of a hassle if you have a bunch of older usb stuff. Need to get adapters/usb c hubs.

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When I gig or do audio projects at home I know not to be running a bunch of other apps at the same time. Having "only" 8GB has never been an issue for me. Having more ram is never a bad thing but 8GB will get the job done.

 

Replacing an SSD on an older MacBook Pro is not hard if you can handle a screwdriver and don't walk across a carpeted floor before you put your hands inside the machine. I believe mid-2015 models are the last ones you can do that with â the later models use soldered ram. I replaced my 256GB drive with an Intel 660 1TB NVMe drive using the Sintech adapter sled. It takes about ten minutes, is much less expensive than an "Apple-compatible" SSD and doubles your transfer speeds to boot. I paid less than $100 for the 1TB drive.

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The 13' MacBook Pro was just updated yesterday. The two lower priced models got a new keyboard with keys that actually aren"t horrible to type on, plus more storage. The higher end models got new processors also.
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2014 MacBook Pro refurb here. 16 gigs of RAM and 512k SSD drive.

 

I'm using Thunderbolt 2 into a Presonus Quantum. The Quantum has 2 Thunderbolt 2 sockets (it's the version 1 Quantum, v2 is Tbolt 3 with one socket).

I've got a LaCie portable drive running off the second socket, dedicated recording drive.

 

It has been working great for me, latency is very low.

 

I did a remix with 66 tracks and I had to turn the latency down a bit to stop crackles etc. but I wasn't tracking so it didn't matter at all.

 

Get the most hard drive and RAM you can from the get-go, adding more later is a PITA so go big early.

You'll never know if you need it until you know that you need it. Cheers, Kuru

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Recently Apple has been hinting that they will be moving MacBooks to a new home-grown (non-Intel) chipset. This leads me to think that some of my current software and hardware may not be ported to that new MacBook.

 

Given that, maybe wait. Or buy a much cheaper used one. The idea of buying a new high-end model that will last eight years may be unrealistic.

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I'd be in the "used one" camp. This thread confirms that people are still perfectly happy with their older Macbooks. I'd prefer a non-current model, where you can still run (or periodically boot into) older-than-Catalina OS versions for compatibility with older software, and where the lack of reliance on USB-C could reduce the likelihood of a cable octopus with a myriad of adapters. And no one seems to care much about the touchbar. Probably anything with an internal SSD, 16 GB RAM, and USB 3.0 will be a satisfying platform.

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I'd prefer a good condition older model that is higher end. If you go old enough, you can still upgrade RAM and drive (and replace battery). My Macbook Pro is a 2011 with quad core i7 processor, 16gb RAM, and a 1TB SSD. I found one on eBay that Apple had just replaced most of the insides due to a graphics card problem that wasn't under normal warranty, but there was so much trouble they replaced even out of normal warranty. So, I would up with used screen, used keyboard/trackpad, new motherboard, new battery, and new power connection board.

 

My Macbook Air is a 2015, with dual core i5, 4GB RAM, and 128GB SSD. It has a broken screen, and belonged to my granddaughter. Someone sat on it and broke the screen. Even though I can change the screen, the cost (and time involved) is about as much as it is worth. Her mother bought a newer used one with i5, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD for about what I could get a new screen. So, I transferred all of her stuff to the replacement, and was given the old one. It sits in my shop, connected to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse (so the lid can be closed to force the external monitor). Not a great machine, but good enough to do some Mac only things like format a drive.

 

On any of the more recent Macs, buy with as much RAM and SSD as you can, because you can't change them later, they are soldered to the computer (or special proprietary connection). As others mentioned, there was a period where the Pro model had a rather poor keyboard, designed for thinness instead of usability. They recently went back to a decent keyboard.

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Recently Apple has been hinting that they will be moving MacBooks to a new home-grown (non-Intel) chipset. This leads me to think that some of my current software and hardware may not be ported to that new MacBook.

 

Given that, maybe wait. Or buy a much cheaper used one. The idea of buying a new high-end model that will last eight years may be unrealistic.

Moving to ARM, yes. The problem for me at least is that it"s probably going to be a massive shift like going from PowerPC to Intel was. I myself am going to be needing a laptop by the end of summer, and obviously can"t go buy another one with the new processors in a year or two, given the price of the MacBooks now. If not done right, Apple might create a disaster. All the stuff I use is Intel-based and I have over a thousand in software, so I need something that will run that, and the new ones might not when they do switch to ARM. That"s supposed to start this year gradually across lines.

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Apple's (virtual, this year) World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC) starts on June 22nd. If they are going to be moving to ARM within a year, it will probably be announced at this conference. I've been holding off buying some software wondering when the shift to ARM will start, and that's also partly the reason I went with an iPad Pro rather than a MacBook Pro when I last bought. If history is a guide, it seems likely Apple would give six months to a year of warning before any processor transition began, and the transition would probably start with the thinnest and lightest laptops, something to replace the old 12" MacBook. I think it'll be two or three years before MacBook Pros without Intel chips are available, and even longer than that for some versions of the iMac and the Mac Pro.

 

Even still, Apple would likely build a translation layer into its new OS to allow software written for Intel chips to run on the new architecture.

 

FYI, the new higher-tier versions of the 13" MacBook Pro use Low Power DDR4 memory, so 32 GB is now available as a BTO option. The $1,799 model gets you all the new stuff, but the price of entry is high. The base 16" MBP is tempting at that price.

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My 2016 MBP 13" Retina has been holding up nicely. They were the first models that can't be upgraded so you planned for as much RAM and SSD as you needed when you bought it. If you're looking for a used one to expand the memory, look for models older than 2016.
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There's a guy on another forum who ordered a 13" 2020 Macbook Pro after asking the same question a few days ago. I'm sure he'll post progress reports after he gets his.

 

There's a $300 difference between the Pro and Air for the 13" size. This guy got the Pro because he's an Omnisphere lover.

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Chances are that with the new 13" Pro now out, a few used ones will hit the market for a good price.

There is NO good price for a MacBook of any kind that was built between 2016 and 2019. They're riddled with build and reliability issues; some folks love them but too many people have found them problematic. They're the last vestige of "but look how thin and light, even if stuff doesn't work.

 

Very simple rule of thumb: if it has a butterfly-switch keyboard, stay away. The new ones for this year have backtracked and added back a lot of really good design choices; I hope it's the start of a trend.

 

However, AFAIK they remain completely not user-upgradable...

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For what it's worth...

My Macbook Pro has the following specs:

 

Model Name: MacBook Pro

Model Identifier: MacBookPro14,2

Processor Name: Dual-Core Intel Core i5

Processor Speed: 3.1 GHz

Number of Processors: 1

Total Number of Cores: 2

L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB

L3 Cache: 4 MB

Hyper-Threading Technology: Enabled

Memory: 8 GB

 

Works great for live use with MainStage;

recording with Logic Pro as well as Reason 11, Renoise, and Numerology.

(to be fair, I record VERY LITTLE Audio...I mostly sequence MIDI tracks.

So take that into consideration. If you're recording a lot of audio tracks you might need something more robust....)

I'm sure the experts here will chime in and are in a position to advise you better on that...

 

Overall very satisfied. My only complaint is the keyboard sucks. I frequently have to re=type stuff. I think it's just a shitty design that I can't get used to. Other than that, I really like it.

 

If you could find a used one for a great price, grab it.

 

Just do your homework and make sure its worth it.

Sometimes we have to just buy "NEW" if not much more expensive. And I'd highly recommend AppleCare. Years ago I saved a lot of money when the motherboard went on my previous one. They gave me a brand new computer!

'

Tom

Nord Electro 5D, Modal Cobalt 8, Yamaha upright piano, numerous plug-ins...

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I have a 500G SSD. It's great! I'm not sure why 8G of RAM isn't enough for audio recording. The largest project I've done was with 31 tracks and had no issues.

 

It's enough for audio recording. it's adequate for a few virtual instruments but it's inadequate for longevity. The Mac OS will require more with each update, and if you are really using the computer and need to run multiple apps at once you'll want to know why your modern mac struggles. Without a doubt the difference between a spinning HD and SSD is significant in real time performance, and I would say with each passing month the difference between 8gb and 16gb of RAM will become obvious.

 

The OP specifically said he'll be using it for audio recording which is what I was replying to. I assume one doesn't run multiple apps while recording audio. If they are, they should stop doing that. This is not a reason to get more memory if you're looking to buy a MacBook for audio recording.

 

I get your point about longevity -- this a concern worth considering. I've yet to regret having 8G of memory but at some point that will surely change. I'm not sure that it will be during the life of my MacBook Pro, which is 5 years old, but it could matter for the OP who's looking to buy now.

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>>>> I get your point about longevity -- this a concern worth considering. I've yet to regret having 8G of memory but at some point that will surely change. I'm not sure that it will be during the life of my MacBook Pro, which is 5 years old, but it could matter for the OP who's looking to buy now. <<<

 

 

These day with Apple and now some others are starting to solder in memory and storage you really need to get as much as you can afford when you buy because upgrading is impossible. Used to be you could buy a lower spec' computer and over time add more RAM and bigger storage to make it last longer but with soldering in those components to create planned obsolescence . I remember reading a interview with someone at Apple and they were saying their view of the world is people should get a new phone every two years and a new computer every three years.

 

Again get as much RAM as you can now. Storage you can go external but with laptop having less and less ports you now looking at bus contention and bottlenecks at the port if a lot is daisy chained.

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