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Mac Studio M1 Max Review


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1 hour ago, KuruPrionz said:

I have too many plugins and this may help in getting rid of some of them.

 

 

That's one nice thing about starting with fresh installs of everything on the new computer vs using Time Machine or copying everything over from your previous Mac. It gives you the opportunity to get rid of (or more accurately, choose not to reinstall) everything that you don't use and that's just been taking up space on your drive and crowding your plugin list. :) 

 

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For the most part, I track without plugins if possible - mostly it is possible. 

Tracking is where low latency shines brightly, for mixing I can just ramp up a long latency and mix without every noticing it. 

 

 

Low latency / low buffer settings seems to be where the Mac Studio prefers to run. I don't really see any huge improvements with larger buffer settings, and in some cases, the performance seems to be worse. I leave it at 32 samples. I never really feel the need to change it. Everything just "works" at that setting. 

 

While the lack of significant CPU/SoC performance improvement at higher buffer settings is a bit perplexing, being able to leave it at the lowest available setting is a huge plus. It beats the heck out of having to juggle the settings as the project grows. It also beats losing the ability to do low latency tracking late in the production process because you have so many tracks and plugins that you can't use the low buffer setting anymore. While that wouldn't be an issue for me anyway (since I have Carbon and HDX DSP/plugins for low-latency tracking), I've done enough testing now without DSP running to understand that even with 100 tracks and a bunch of plugins, it's still no problem to record multiple additional tracks, and to do so with such a low buffer setting that DSP just isn't necessary. 

 

Yes, it would appear that the days of DSP are numbered. I can still see their usefulness for some people and situations, and I'm certainly glad to have it, but it's just not necessary for the vast majority of small and mid-sized studios anymore. The Mac Studio is proof positive that computers are fast enough to easily handle a lot of tracks, plugins, and VIs, and still have enough power left so you can lay down a whole rhythm section's worth of new tracks on top of all of that without having to worry about latency.

 

It's pretty impressive. And as a longtime computer audio geek, I must say it's about damn time!  

 

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I'm also considering changing DAWs and I probably need need to flip my Steinberg UR22 Mk II to a happy Windows user that can keep it running for years. 

I'll be testing further this evening but the Steinberg no longer records from my current DAW, although it will play back. 

I'll double-check - confirm by firing up Garage Band and seeing what happens then. That hopefully will provide information I can use to pinpoint the problem. 

 

The only thing that never changes is that everything always changes!!!!

 

So true! 

 

Interfaces (audio and MIDI) are going to need new drivers to run on Monterey. I know the old Mbox interfaces (1, 2, and 3) won't work with Monterey. My old MIDISport 4x4 USB interface wouldn't work, and it wasn't looking like M-Audio was going to release any drivers for it, but I found an open source / third-party driver (https://github.com/leighsmith/midisport-macos) that's working for me. That's probably more the exception than the rule in terms of a lot of the older non-plug and play audio/midi hardware, unfortunately. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Philip OKeefe said:

Great information, thank you!

 

 

I got GarageBand up and running. Looks pretty good, especially for free. And, it told me to go to System Preferences > Microphone and allow a microphone for GarageBand. I recently shut off as many Preferences as possible, I knew I was going to have a process of elimination. Looks like I found it. 

The fewer processes the better is what I understand, anything you can shut off should go dark. 

The Stteinberg interface can be run until it truly goes belly-up, hopefully that's off a good bit. 

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On 4/27/2022 at 7:37 AM, Steve Force said:

Hi Phil,

 

As briefly mentioned before, I am looking to upgrade my computer arsenal, which I do every 4-5 years or so. As a 45 year IT professional, I am keenly aware of MTBF (mean time before failure) and to mitigate this, look for the most vulnerable and weakest link in the chain--mechanical.

 

I am at this point now for my trusty iMac. I did mitigate one potential weak link by replacing the spinning 1TB hard disk  with a 1TB SSD a year or so ago--what a huge improvement! Also, for completeness, I upgraded the default RAM from the original RAM to the max 32GB.

 

 

Yes, you did mention that - my apologies for forgetting. :blush:

 

How are you doing with that 32GB of RAM? Do you end up with stuff in a swap file a lot, or is that 32GB plenty for you? 

 

I don't think there's a lot in terms of moving parts in the Mac Studio to be concerned about outside of the fans, and they run at the lower end of their speed range, so I doubt very many of them will die early. The thing that I worry about a bit is SSD longevity, but I use redundant drives and multiple backups, so I feel fairly safe, especially now that I know the SSDs on the Mac Studio are socketed. I might not be able to expand the onboard storage, but I figure Apple has to be able to swap them out if they die. I have Apple Care, so if it dies in the next three years, it's on them. 

 

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This is the rig I need to replace, which is why I am following this tread with keen interest. 

 

Basically, I am looking for my next 5 year cycle platform to support my needs:

1. heavy programming (Docker-based) - RAM and CPU heavy at times

2. DAW - Cubase and Logic Pro

3. Video production - Final Cut Pro

4. Photoshop Subscription Suite

5. (it seems) 100 Safari and Chrome tabs open at a time.. ;)

6. support multiple cutting edge video monitors

7. etc,

 

 

 

One big plus for you is the fact that all of your main programs are M1 native. I suspect you'd see a considerable performance improvement compared to your current iMac, regardless of which model and specifications you went with.

 

I think one of the main considerations for someone who does serious video editing is going to be whether to get the Ultra or the Max. The Ultra is definitely faster, but the base model is twice as expensive as the base model M1 Max Mac Studio. Then again, you not only get the top of the line SoC with the Ultra (with 20 cores vs. 10 on the Max), but you also get 64GB of RAM and 48 GPU cores vs. the baseline Max's 32GB / 24 GPU cores. The base model SSD size is different, too - 512GB vs. 1TB. Going to 64GB of RAM on the Max costs an extra $400, and the 1TB SSD adds $200 to its price tag, so bringing those to parity does narrow the Max/Ultra price difference down to $1,400, but for that amount of money, you can get an Apple refurbished M1 MacBook Air with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD to go along with your Mac Studio. Which is what I ended up doing. :rocker:

 

While Max Tech, Linus, and other YouTube Mac video folks have shown the M1 Max performing surprisingly close to the M1 Ultra in several real-world and stress tests, the Ultra is still faster, comes with more RAM, and can be upgraded to way more RAM. If you need a ton of RAM, you are probably well aware of that fact. If you're currently hitting the wall with 32GB, spending the extra money for 64GB on the Max might be a good option for the sake of future-proofing. I was doing fine with 32GB on Windows, so I figured 32GB would be fine for my needs on the Mac Studio, and so far, that's definitely been the case. If you need more than 64GB of RAM (and again, even 32GB does surprisingly well on Apple Silicon), then the Ultra is your only option. But I think that for the vast majority of folks (even professional audio engineers, studio owners, and other content creators), the M1 Max Mac Studio with a 1-2TB SSD and 32-64GB of RAM is going to provide plenty of power for their needs for at least the next 4-5 years, if not more. 

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18 hours ago, KuruPrionz said:

I got GarageBand up and running. Looks pretty good, especially for free. And, it told me to go to System Preferences > Microphone and allow a microphone for GarageBand.

 

I don't recall which one it was, but I had an application ask me to do the same the other day when I installed it on my M1 MacBook Air.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, Philip OKeefe said:

 

I don't recall which one it was, but I had an application ask me to do the same the other day when I installed it on my M1 MacBook Air.

 

 

I failed to mention that I then added a microphone for Waveform Pro 12 and it is recording fine too. Problem solved for now.

WhenI installed Monterey it warned me that a bit of software from Yamaha (Steinberg) would be unusable in a future update. 

When it did't record I thought it might be done. Now it seems I have some time to sell it and buy a more modern small interface. 

I like having something I can pack in and take elsewhere, that's what is happening now, without the small interface recording would be much less simple. 

2 channels, I'll keep an eye out. 

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On 5/16/2022 at 7:44 PM, KuruPrionz said:

I failed to mention that I then added a microphone for Waveform Pro 12 and it is recording fine too. Problem solved for now.

WhenI installed Monterey it warned me that a bit of software from Yamaha (Steinberg) would be unusable in a future update. 

When it did't record I thought it might be done. Now it seems I have some time to sell it and buy a more modern small interface. 

I like having something I can pack in and take elsewhere, that's what is happening now, without the small interface recording would be much less simple. 

2 channels, I'll keep an eye out. 

 

 

Was there a trick to getting it to work, despite the error message? 

 

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32 minutes ago, Philip OKeefe said:

 

 

Was there a trick to getting it to work, despite the error message? 

 

No, once I assigned the microphones, which Garage Band informed me on, it all fired up pretty.

Kinda got me thinking about going to Logic Pro and using all Apple plugins. I bet it's fast and friendly by now, Keyboard Corner posted about Monterey 1.4, with many bug fixes. Just came out, I'll install this week. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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On 5/16/2022 at 9:44 PM, KuruPrionz said:

When I installed Monterey it warned me that a bit of software from Yamaha (Steinberg) would be unusable in a future update.

 

I got the same message on my MacBook Pro concerning various Microsoft programs. They worked fine...for a while. Fortunately, I subscribe to Office, and it lets me use it on several computers, so I installed the latest version of Office and all was well. However, the warning wasn't kidding.

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15 minutes ago, Anderton said:

 

I got the same message on my MacBook Pro concerning various Microsoft programs. They worked fine...for a while. Fortunately, I subscribe to Office, and it lets me use it on several computers, so I installed the latest version of Office and all was well. However, the warning wasn't kidding.

Right, the link shows that Steinberg is testing the UR22 MkII for Apple Silicon compatibility. Obviously it works with Rosetta 2. 

https://helpcenter.steinberg.de/hc/en-us/articles/4407350661266-macOS-Monterey-product-compatibility

 

I think they'll do it, still only USB 2 but should be plenty fast once it's updated. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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On 5/16/2022 at 9:12 PM, Philip OKeefe said:

The thing that I worry about a bit is SSD longevity, but I use redundant drives and multiple backups, so I feel fairly safe, especially now that I know the SSDs on the Mac Studio are socketed.

 

Backing up is even more important (although it can never not be important!) with SSDs, because you get zero warning before they go. There are several ways to tell when hard drives are starting to get flaky, and many times you can get away with doing that one last image. I'm still using a mix of SSDs and hard drives. 

 

I'm seriously looking at a Seagate Exos X18 18TB Enterprise HDD for $329. 18TB would pretty much hold everything I have, and buying a second one for remote storage wouldn't be out of the question. However, this drive is designed for network-attached storage, so it's slow (7200 RPM) and not exactly known for blazing performance. The upside is it's designed to kind of last forever, and has a 2.5 million-hour MTBF. 

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FYI, if you want a Mac, now is not the best time to order from Apple...they're pushing delivery for a lot of computers, including the Studio, out to August. So if you need something now, you're probably better off with a reseller.

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4 minutes ago, Anderton said:

FYI, if you want a Mac, now is not the best time to order from Apple...they're pushing delivery for a lot of computers, including the Studio, out to August. So if you need something now, you're probably better off with a reseller.

It's not a bad idea to check the Apple Refurbishhed Macs either. 

If it's on the screen, it's in stock. Not for the slow or the meek, if you see it and want it you'll need to pull the trigger. 

Probably a better inspection than an off-the-line Mac and Apple Care is available for long term use. 

 

That's where I got my Mac Mini. Not a bad way to go about it. 

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1 hour ago, Anderton said:

Excellent point. Not sure how many refurbished Studios there are, given their recent introduction, but certainly worth a try.

True, and if/when they appear, they will vanish quickly. 

Which is why I emphasized that point. Truly, you snooze you lose. 

 

As I shopped for my Mac Mini, stuff was disappearing right and left. Once I realized how the game was played, I did what must be done. 

Sort of like craigslist on speed!!!!!!😳

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  • 2 weeks later...

For Pro Tools users, I definitely recommend updating to the latest version (2022.5), which was just released a few days ago. It fixes a bug that caused excessive CPU use when you used aux busses. I'll post more about the specifics of some tests I've run later tonight, but the latest version results in significant performance improvements over the earlier version of the software in terms of the size of sessions I have been able to run. 

 

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9 minutes ago, Philip OKeefe said:

For Pro Tools users, I definitely recommend updating to the latest version (2022.5), which was just released a few days ago. It fixes a bug that caused excessive CPU use when you used aux busses. I'll post more about the specifics of some tests I've run later tonight, but the latest version results in significant performance improvements over the earlier version of the software in terms of the size of sessions I have been able to run. 

 

Is it still running on Rosetta 2 or have they updated to full Apple Silicon compatibility?

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Pro Tools 2022.5 is, unfortunately, still running under Rosetta 2. I know, I know... it's been quite a while since the M1 was first released and Pro Tools is the only major DAW that still doesn't have a native Apple Silicon version. Hopefully they'll have that in their next release... but, who knows? 🤷‍♂️

 

From what I've read in the release notes over on Avid's website, this release appears to be focused more on bug fixes and less on new features. I don't mind a good bug fix-oriented release if it addresses significant issues or longtime problems, and the aux buss issue that was fixed was significant. There may be other bugs that were impacting performance and that have also been fixed... However, an optimized M1 native version would lead to even further performance improvements for the Mac Studio and all of the rest of the Apple Silicon-equipped computers, too. And Avid really needs to get that happening. Okay, griping over – for now. 

 

Back to the aux bus issue that was fixed. Let me start with an example of how the system performs using a reference that is available to all current PT users. Using the previous version of PT, I was able to run the current Pro Tools demo session song (Low Roar) just fine. I was even able to double everything in the session (audio files, tracks, busses, VIs, plugins, etc.) and run that without any issues. However, I started to see errors when I tried to triplicate everything. It started to play back fine, but I started seeing "running out of CPU" error messages about halfway through the song. With the current version of Pro Tools, the Mac Studio is able to play the same session back without any errors or issues. 

 

With the session tripled, it adds up to 159 tracks, several busses, a bunch of reverbs, several amp sims, three dozen virtual instruments (36), several channel strips, and various other plugins. Again, while it couldn't get through the song (tripled) using the previous version of PT, it now runs fine. The CPU Total meter in Pro Tools maxes out at 84% at one brief point in the song, but there are zero error messages or any other issues. The response is just as speedy and fluid as when you're running the original, unaltered song.  

 

Part of that performance difference/improvement is undoubtedly due to the aux bug issue that has been fixed in PT 2022.5. Basically, aux sends were gobbling up a lot of CPU for some reason, and now they're not. More on that shortly. I want to get the links to the threads over on the DUC so that anyone else who is interested can try opening the sessions and trying things out for themselves. 

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Phillip, thanks for the comprehensive response!

 

For me, it was more of a curiousity question although probably inevitable from an actual Pro Tools user at some point. 

I suspect most of us are loyal to our dislike of learning curves more than to the DAW we've become accustomed to using. 

 

I was pondering flipping from Waveform to Logic Pro but a clean up of plugins has eliminated the problems I was haviing. Waveform went Apple Silicone with version 12, which was a while ago. My final hurdle is the Steinberg UR22 Mk II I'm using at the place I am currently staying. Firmware to update to M1 is in testing, it won't be long. 

It does run well on Rosetta 2 but I'll be glad to move forward. 

 

At home I run a Presonus Quantum and I am pretty sure they've already updated their firmware for that. Eventually I'll be back home and using that interface. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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