Mac Pro vs iMac?

Hope I don't start annoying anyone with my barrage of newbie technology Qs.  I've been saving $ to buy a desktop with Logic Pro X.  Now that the new Mac Pro is out, I'm wondering if it'd be best to get it or stay with the choice of a 27" iMac (16GB, i7 processor)?  My goal is to get my foot in the door as a professional composer--needing a good computer & DAW is my starting point (toward quality sounds/recording).  

Any composers wanna chime in on whether the Mac Pro is worth the extra $--as a big enough jump ahead of a iMac?  My thoughts are to buy the fastest, biggest machine I can afford.  And hope it carries me a LONG way  (trying to pay cash not credit and I am on a meager teacher salary, so LONG way means has to last a LONG TIME!).  I appreciate any input from the more experienced with gear. (I'm definitely going Mac not PC, though) Thank you for any advice.

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  • Thank you so much, Michael. That was SO helpful.  I've been reading & asking Qs everywhere!  Thanks for that apple link, too.

    If I got a new iMac w/internal Flash drive, could I just add ONE SSD for now to use for LPX projects?  I already have a Seagate 3T ext HD I use for backup.  Could I add a 2nd SSD LATER--when I can afford adding sample libraries?  And will this scenario be ok to run OS/apps on the internal Flash Drive?

    Thanks again!

  • Yes, I'm sure that will be fine. The external doesn't have to be SSD, it could be an ordinary HDD provided it's at least 7200 RPM. Some are 5400 RPM which is too slow for audio work but Ok just to archive/backup to. 

    I sometimes work on my laptop which has only one 500 GB HDD and 8 GB of ram. Everything runs from the one drive which is Ok for small projects with few instruments but if I wanted full orchestra, synths and FX, it would be no good. 

    You can expand as you need. I think the new iMacs have Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports so you can add drives as and when. 



    Jenny Leigh Hodgins said:

    Thank you so much, Michael. That was SO helpful.  I've been reading & asking Qs everywhere!  Thanks for that apple link, too.

    If I got a new iMac w/internal Flash drive, could I just add ONE SSD for now to use for LPX projects?  I already have a Seagate 3T ext HD I use for backup.  Could I add a 2nd SSD LATER--when I can afford adding sample libraries?  And will this scenario be ok to run OS/apps on the internal Flash Drive?

    Thanks again!

    Mac Pro vs iMac?
    Hope I don't start annoying anyone with my barrage of newbie technology Qs.  I've been saving $ to buy a desktop with Logic Pro X.  Now that the new…
  • Thank you so much! That's great!  I feel like I'm finally on to something!  Computer-speak is a tough language to learn!  I really appreciate your comments, Michael--they've been easy to follow, understand, and have taught me a lot about home music set up.  Happy New Year!

  • Hi Jenny 
    My advice would be as follows: If you want to buy a machine soon, don't buy the new Mac Pro. I would wait at least six months if not longer in order to see how the audio community takes to it. But don't buy an iMac either. A better bet right now would be the old Mac Pro that's just been discontinued – the huge metallic one with the grille on the front.

    Here's a bit of explanation. The post above is correct: the processor speed is only one of many factors that determine how well your computer performs. As a composer, running lots of samples, you have several considerations that are probably more important than processor speed:

    Number and speed of HDDs and SSDs. (This is where your samples are stored. SSDs are faster but smaller and more expensive than HDDs; a combination of both is probably a good bet.)

    Amount of RAM. (This directly determines how many samples you can load at once.)

    Number of CPU cores. (This will affect how many reverbs and other effects you can run in your sequencer.) 

    The reality of composing for orchestra on computers is that whatever you do, you will want to soup up your computer a LOT in order to do what you need to. I would say that you'll need at least 32 GB of RAM, and as you buy more sample libraries over the years you'll quickly feel the need for more. (Many media composers have two, three or more sample computers, each of which might have 64 GB of RAM!) You'll also find that in order to get the computer to run smoothly, you'll need multiple HDDs and may need to invest in SSDs in order for the computer to be able to pull the samples into RAM quickly enough without stuttering and glitching.

    To return to the new Mac Pro. There are various uncertainties about its performance as an audio machine:

    1) Since the new Mac Pro has very limited space for internal storage, you will need to buy external HDDs/SSDs (i.e. ones that come in a nice portable casing) or a chassis that can take multiple drives. These will be more expensive than internal drives. By contrast, the old Mac Pro has room inside for four HDDs or SSDs. The same applies to audio cards: they will need to be external rather than internal, and will be more expensive (whereas the old Mac Pro can hold several of them inside). The prices should eventually come down as more options become available, but at first it'll definitely be a problem.

    2) The new Mac Pro is very expensive, and one of the major reasons is that it has high-performance dedicated graphics chips (GPUs). These are aimed squarely at visual artists and aren't of any immediate use to musicians, and while it may be that they can be cleverly repurposed for use by audio applications, it's going to take months or years for that to become a reality. 

    3) The new Mac Pro only has four RAM slots, and RAM, as I mentioned, is something you will need a lot of. The old 8- and 12-core Mac Pros have eight slots, which is both more convenient and likely to be more cost-effective. Right now 64 GB costs about $800 if you have eight slots and $900 if you have four.

    Generally these limitations apply equally to the iMac.
    So right now I would say your best bet would be to get one of the older Mac Pros rather than the new one or an iMac. I expect we will be seeing a lot of audio pros buying older Mac Pros in the coming months because they are a much safer bet than the alternatives. If you can afford it, I would recommend the 8-core or 12-core from either 2010 or 2012. I must confess I'm not certain about how you would buy one right now, but there are probably plenty on eBay or from sellers of refurbished computers like MacMall. (Refurbished Macs are a GREAT way to save some money without risking anything.)
    But if you're happy to wait, say, a year, then the new Mac Pro might be perfect. By then all the extras that you'll need should have come down in price and Logic might have introduced a nifty way of utilizing the GPUs to run reverbs etc.
    I hope all that makes sense. I know it's all a bit daunting at first, but gradually you'll become quite the expert on all of it!
  • I wouldn't argue with your points in principal. However, an 8 or 12 core refurbed MP with lots of RAM and a few large internal HDDs will still cost several thousands of dollars. Personally I'd never buy such a machine from ebay!

    I have been in need of an upgrade for 18 months or so and have been advised that I could even stick an 8 core processor  some SSDs and more RAM into my old 2006 MP. But I don't want to put money into old hardware. 

    The good thing about Logic/Mac setup is that the same company make the hardware,operating system and software so any potential issues of compatibility will be with 3rd party plug-ins and interfaces. 

    I'm sure Jenny can get a new iMac preloaded with Logic X, enough RAM and internal flash storage to start making music 5 minutes after unboxing. As she adds sample libs she can add USB3 or TB external drives when needed.

    My sample libs live on a Firewire 800 Lacie  HDD external drive and when I get my new Mac I'll just hook it up with a Firewire to Thunderbolt or USB adapter. 

  • Yes, THANK YOU, Chris, that explanation is very helpful!  It also confirms the direction I am going now--toward getting an older MP and loading it with RAM, plus a SSD internal and eventually an additional external HD (I already have a 3T Seagate ext HD).  I'm still saving cash, so in the next few months, I wonder if the scenario will change dramatically from this direction (i.e., will the new MP be more useful & less expensive, will there BE any old MPs available to me, etc).  I'm definitely NOT planning on an iMac though…  The RAM seems to be the biggest focal point of getting a new desktop.  

    Thanks so much for your educational post!

    Happy New Year!

  • Oh, boy, Michael T, your post has me back to pondering the iMac!  Especially since I'm NEW to using samplers, and my primary compositional approach is for solo piano or vocal/piano or piano-based instrumentals (with some exceptions--i.e., strings or small ensembles), I'm wondering if I'll be the kind of composer that EVER needs the power that other composers seem to think is necessary for film composing.  Of course, it may well be that over the years as I get accustomed to using the samplers, I'd start adding more of them, and that would certainly lend itself to needing more RAM and HDs.  But for NOW, Michael's idea of the new iMac with extra RAM, flash storage and an ext SSD (along with my 3T Seagate HD) sounds like an 'easier' way for a newbie such as myself to at least get crackin' at the composing!  

    I've heard from so many sources, though, that the old MPs are better for film composing due to how much RAM & all the extra HDs that can be added--primarily for all the samplers and plugins.

    It's hard for me to see myself THAT far ahead, as I'm primarily a composer of piano/instrumentals and songs, so all the plugins, effects, mixing and mastering are already HUGE techie challenges I'm learning now.  I don't know if realistically I would NEED the MP for my particular composing approach.

    Having said that, my GOAL is to make a living composing for music libraries, film/TV, theatre, so anything I must do to get my music recordings up to broadcast quality, I am willing to do.  So my remaining question is; which is the better scenario for me--iMac or old MP?

    I'm now already teetering back toward the new iMac!

    Nothing like being fickle! ^_^

  • That's what I figured Jenny. It's very easy to be wowed and overwhelmed by reading about huge rigs of Hollywood pros.

    There is so much to learn that it really is better to start simple. There is nothing worse than having loads of stuff that you only half know what it's doing because if you get any problems you'll be at a loss.

    Each bit of hardware or software has it's own learning curve and it's too daunting to try and get to grips with everything simultaneously.

    If you want to start small I'd get as fully loaded an iMac as you can afford. Get to work on Logic X using only it's (many hundreds of) own instruments and plug-ins. It has decent enough pianos for any project. 

    The only initial sticking point would be an audio interface and microphone.  If you want to get a good recording of piano and vocals, get a good mic and a good interface that has good pre-amps. Or a good interface and a separate pre-amp for the mic. Get to know your system really well and then when you start to want a more realistic string sound for example you can research which of the many sample libraries you can get etc. Logic's strings are far from useless anyway.

    As Ray is always pointing out, these are all tools and having the biggest, shiniest and most expensive screwdriver will not make you a good carpenter. I just lean towards a new machine over a second hand one as it will be more future proof, for longer. 

    I'm still weighing up these options myself and part of my reasoning and leaning towards the nMP is to impress clients who come to record in my studio- tee hee what a shallow pretentious fool I am!

  • Ha ha! You're funny, Michael!  LOL.  Your most recent post is the MOST in sync with where I am--technically and musically--right now.  (to get the new iMac & just START with Logic, etc--NOT getting the nMP to impress clients. tee hee)  Also, I realize cheaper is great, but being so new to techie stuff, I'm leery of buying used, unless it's through a macsales or apple refurbished company--where I can trust the warranty.  I also agree with you that NEW is better in terms of lasting LONGER before I have to spend more cash to upgrade again!

    I've been researching this techie stuff for months and I'm just ready to compose music.  It's SO much more enjoyable for me than all the spec talk!  Thanks again, Michael--your input really helps.  Perhaps in a few years, I will be more able to launch into the nMP and sampler talk with the great composers out here.  But for now, I like the idea of KISS (keepin' it simple, silly)!

    Well, I need to go practice my carpentry!

  • Hello, my answer to your question is that you buy the more powerful your economic and financial potential will allow Mac . Simple .

    Now, that does not siginfica you need the most powerful Mac you can get to make music with midi , audio and virtual instruments . I have an iMac 21 " 2.5 Ghz i5 , 8 Gb RAM, and make music with it. Using virtual instruments , samplers, etc. .

    Purchasing a iMac 27 ' i7 have an excellent team for a long time. And if you buy a new Mac Pro , much more ....

    Now if you tell me you want to have 64 tracks with Kontakt library that together and requires at least 32 GB RAM , if you tell me then you end audio mixing 84 tracks with 3 or 4 channel Waves plugins , etc .... the iMac will not be enough , I think ;-)

    Finally , I assume I live in a developing country ( Argentina ) but I know many musicians that make up professional jobs in their iMac without problems. And if you can afford a Mac Pro , bingo !

    Good luck with your purchase!

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