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Mac Mini Warnings

Discussion in 'Recording' started by artgug, Feb 11, 2005.

  1. artgug

    artgug Guest

    I have seen a lot of recent posts about people looking to the MacMini for audio production.

    Does anyone realize that it comes with 256 mb of ram, and has to be upgraded by Apple to add more, which they charge a premium for?

    Once you add everything to make the mac mini anything of a decent computer, you are well over $1000.

    Use it for your email, people, but PLEASE reconsider before you realize the thing is a absolute dog for any real work.
  2. andrew269

    andrew269 Guest

    just wanted to mention that the computer is supposed to give pc users a machine with a low price point and no monitor/keyboard package to switch to. it's designed as a purely consumer e-mail, web, word processing, etc. unit. it is in no way shape or form intended for professional applications.
  3. composer11

    composer11 Guest

    Ok, well I just posted in another thread....about having a AMD64, and XP, but, you can upgrade to 1 GB for $160, and the HD to a Hitachi 7200 RPM, this puts it on PAR, if not beyond the powerbook to some extent no?

    The only thing I am concerned about (and am still looking into) is the mini's FSB of 166 vs 533/600 for the other machines.

    What is the FSB of the powerbook?

    If you can get Powerbook performance, do the upgrades yourself, that puts you in the 1.42 ghz performace with A MAC which =titles (program) and Logic Express, as well as get your feet wet with pro-tools for mac, at a far less cost than a powerbook, plus, you can unplug it and carry it to different desitinations...all you need is keyboard, mouse and display and these days every home has one...

    still looking though
  4. artgug

    artgug Guest

    One of the biggest problems is you cant do the upgrades yourself. They make the case so you need a special tool to open it, and is meant to be done at an apple store, or the factory, that way they charge you a premium. The powerbooks are actually more open ended than the MacMini.

    There are some site on the web already about opening the case by yourself, but there is a high risk factor in really messing up the case.

    Anyway, are you going to try to run Logic express, Final Cut, etc with 256mb of ram. If so, good luck. Try to upgrade that memory to a reasonable amount, and let me know how much the MacMini costs now.

    BTW, you might want a monitor, mouse and keyboard for your computer also. All for horrible performance. Not sure if Powerbook performance is what you should be after, anyway. The higher end ones serve their purpose for mobile production, but search these boards, you will find many people who base their day to day production work around a powerbook have issues also.

    In the end, I guess it depends what your expectation levels are. If running a DAW based software, and you add 1 RTAS plugin to your mix, then your computer starts begging for help, you might not be so happy with your purchase.

    If that is someones budget, you can get Dell's in that price range that will give you more than twice the performance.

    Personally I like MAC's for content creation, unfortunately, Apple charges you a premium to do it efficiently.

    And in response to the previous post, thats EXACTLY who will buy the MacMini. People that have a pc, with monitor, keyboard, etc. they do some word processing, internet, and email, are tired of spyware and viruses, so they buy a mac mini. Bam, for $499, they are back up and running, with none of the PC hassles. But, they dont try to edit Ben-Hur or re-record Sgt Pepper with the thing.

    Apple marketing sure is starting to work, people are getting ready to suck these things up, just wonder how many of them will really be happy. If you do production work, Audio or video, the iMac should be considered a minimum starting point.

    This is coming from experience. I have a dual 2.0, sitting next to a P4 3.0 PC, and the Mac is half as fast, and cost me twice as much. I do it because I like the software, but it is by no means leaving any tire tracks on the road, and this is a higher end mac. (There is only one faster one available.)
  5. composer11

    composer11 Guest

    Thanks. well, I agree, the PC (AMD64 @ 2.8 Blazes past the Dual 2.5 (running Audio Nuendo Benchmark file) I am at 62% CPU load vs Dual G5 2.5 at 85% CPU, so, overhead, I understand. In fact, this 2.8 beats the highest end P4 3.8 @MB cache and FX55, but and it's a small but really, I just want to get a MAC to interface more often with a composer I started working with.

    Sure I could build a G4, or maybe a G5, but, it's not really worth it, the other program that interests me quite a bit is a program called "Titles" if I'm not mistaken, anyway, this program is great for FX, similar to After FX and Premerie, but has lots of nice presets....not sure how CPU intensive it is.

    Maybe I will look at the iMAC, or Emac, or maybe just a G4. I know, from experience, that $2500 for a dual G5 or POWERbook is a huge waste of money, but spending $499 for me to get into TITLES? is worth it, not to mention the ability to open this other composers files.....

    will keep you posted..

    Anyone here yet, try a mini and see what type of track count, plugins they get? I can't believe though how "raped" the FSB is (166) and the lack of 800 FW. Whatever. Oh, well, I suppose in time, we'll see.
  6. fubar1217

    fubar1217 Guest

    Glad you guys posted this. I was just about to head out and pick up a Mac mini because my guitarist writes and records in DP and I figured I would run a similar setup at home so I can record either live drums or from my electronics to provide him with the drum tracks instead of him using his keyboard. I know I can build a PC system for much cheaper, but don't know of any programs on PC that will convert to the format DP uses. Any ideas? I guess I'll make a real post on the main forum too....

    TIA for any suggestions.
  7. artgug

    artgug Guest

    Oh, boy, "Titles" as you call it, is actually called "Motion", and that thing REQUIRES a g5. That will not even boot on a mac Mini. (It requires the nvidia or ATI video card that comes with the g5's.)

    Everything tries to run in realtime, and it does that with the CPU, RAM, and OpenGl Videocard.

    I run motion here on my dual g5, and the thing is a BEAST. You might want to check out the minimum requirements for that program, and look at the Motion discussion forums.

    Hehehehehhehhee, "Motion" is no little program, its the most CPU intensive program that Apple makes. Machines that run Logic, Final Cut, even Shake fairly easily run away crying when you try to put Motion on it. Do some research here, if Motion is in the cards, your in for ALOT of money, and Apple doesnt deny the system requirements. (There are people on the motion discussion boards with lower end g5's, that cant even get the machine to allow them to start Motion.)

    Recommended system (from Apple):
    dual 2.0 ghz
    2 gigs of ram (Yes i said 2 GIGS)

    One of the following graphics cards is REQUIRED (if it doesnt detect one, it doesnt start. This is not a "Your performance will suffer", its a true requirement: (Not in the Mac mini):

    ATI Radeon 9800 XT
    ATI Radeon 9800 Pro
    ATI Radeon 9700 Pro
    ATI Radeon 9600 XT
    ATI Radeon 9600 Pro
    ATI Mobility Radeon 9700
    ATI Mobility Radeon 9600
    NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra
    NVIDIA GeForceFX Go 5200
    NVIDIA GeForceFX 5200 Ultra

    Directly off the Apple website:
    Motion takes advantage of the Power Mac G5 to deliver highly interactive, real-time performance. Some systems provide greater interactivity than others, and it is important to choose the right system for your needs. Performance depends on the processor speed, the amount of RAM and the graphics subsystem.
  8. artgug

    artgug Guest

    Humm, Mark of the Unicorn doesnt run on windows, but you can get a Pro Tools system, because DP does convert pro tools sessions, although you might want to ask around to people using DP regularly, to find out how well it works.

    I believe that would be the quickest solutions without 8000 run arounds to get done what you need.
  9. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Distinguished Member

    Mar 19, 2003
    Kirkland WA
    Home Page:
    You can upgrade the RAM yourself. Special tool= a putty knife.

  10. composer11

    composer11 Guest

    Thanks, will check that out, my other system 2.8 AMD64, blazes past dual G5 2.5 in audio bench tests (Nuendo), was just looking at the mini as another tool to throw in the mix so I can read my partners finale files, surely this is good enough, may just pick up a single G5 1.8 though and route the GIGA/EWQLSO out the PC into Pro-Tools or DP.
  11. sereth

    sereth Guest


    well I just went and ordered a mac mini for recording. (and found these threads after) I am fortunate enough to get one through work so I got the high end one with 512 Ram plus wireless for $646. The thing is I'm not so sure it was a bad choice for what I am going to use it for. I have a tascam us122 , A line-6 spyder II amp. I used my wifes ibook to try out garageband 2 and I have to say everything sounded great. I used the standard drum loops that come in garage band and my multiple guitar tracks went on fine. I even used my guitar to do the bass lines. (just knocked the pitch down an octave and you have a bass.) I have a nice dell laptop from work with 1 gig ram 1.7 centrino processor and the Tascam us122 drivers killed my poor laptop. I had to do a complete rebuild of the OS. I think that was mostly my fault and I'm going to try again with a much cleaner build. I'm not looking to make the next hit album and I doubt I will ever be recording more than 2 instruments live. I'll post later on how it works out. I was lookin for a cheap mac for home anyways.... I'm very very new to the home recording thing and I still don't know half the terminolgy but its something i've been wanting to do lately so we'll see.
  12. composer11

    composer11 Guest

    Look what someone just typed at the Nuendo forum...makes you think a little bit.....


    "Imagine being able to record in New York and effortless edit your screen sessions while on the plane to Los Angeles...Powerbook 4 G4 computers all feature PowerPC G4 processos cabalable of crunching through audio and video with ease.....a powerful virtiual rig synth on stage,....."

    "Composing, sequencing tracking, editing, mixing even scoring to video....-iBook:

    MOBILE MUSICIANS KIT - Powerbook, Powercore TC External DSP, Logic Express, Ozone controller, Toast, cables, Headphones - $3699 (Powerbook 1.3)

    PORTABLE PRODUCTION PACKAGE- This system contains everything you need to record on the run, Whether you need to lay down some overdubs away from your main ProTools HD rig, you'll find Digi's M-box, with PT LE up to the task. The iBook G4 delivers enough computing power to handle plenty of track count and plug-in instances, ibook 1.2ghz, Mbox, HD280 mike, Toast- PRICE? $2539.

    ALL THE ABOVE from Sweetwater catalog pages 7, 8, and 63

    After reading the above, can't see why an external Powercore wouldn't help, and the mini has a faster PowerPC G4, so if the mini is trash, so aren't the ibooks and powerbooks which cost up to 4X as much, software NOT included.
  13. artgug

    artgug Guest

    Like it was said before, it depends what your ultimately expecting.

    Many people use the powerbook on location to get a guitar track, a vocal track, or something recorded, then import it into their full system back at home or the studio.

    The problem will be around mixdown. Sure, you can boot the software, record a couple tracks, but what happens when you want to mix it down to an actual song?

    If 4 tracks with barely any processing is what your after, then yes, the mac mini might suffice. If you use Protools or something with any regularity, you will outgrow the capabilities real quick. Then you have spent almost $1000 on an insufficient computer that you really cant upgrade anymore, when you could have applied that money to a much better solution.

    If the computer is coming to you free through work, well, I guess you'll make do.

    Unfortunately, you really will not understand the negatives until you try it for yourself, I just hope at that point, its not too late.
  14. sereth

    sereth Guest

    I actually have an ibook G4 (specs compare to minimac)..Just got it a little after christmas and I already took it for a little spin. It worked fine and to be honest the recording I've done with it so far is 10 times better than anything I ever recorded in a studio. Now don't get me wrong I know there are tons of reasons why my past stuff came out bad, I am fully aware of that.

    I compared the costs of the all in one recording units and they are still close to $1000. I could build a PC for the same amount $600 and change but then I have to buy software and drum samples etc.

    the mac mini seemed a nice bridge for now. Yes I understand its limited but I'm also talking 4 instruments and not much on the crazy factor. I would much rather learn on a $600 machine with some software and then when I know what I want and need I can make a future purchase that will fit the bill. for me to drop $1500 on stuff and find I don't like doing it or its too much of a pain in the ass well...at least the mac mini can still be used for other things. (I was going to use it in the kitchen as a recipe database) haha It's going to be a few weeks before it comes in but I'll post some stuff once I have it done. I understand Artgug's points on its limits and I do realize this is a Pro forum...but from a beginners point of view ...is it really going that wrong? We'll see! For professional stuff ..yea I don't see why you would use the mini..for a guitarist who writes 3 chord rock to drum loops? Doesn't seem a bad deal..
  15. composer11

    composer11 Guest

    Well, it's interesting to say the least and to get in on a powerbook level is a good deal, especially if you want to try out logic express or DP.

    Personally, I have a AMD64 that runs Giga, and EWQLSO, and another PC (XP2800) that via FXteleport, I can use VST plug-ins. So I have plenty of power, with room to spare.

    For me, it would be seeing how well the VST wrapper work for say DP, or Pro-Tools, or even Logic as I have thousands of dollars worth of VST plug-ins and it appears that the mini might make a good test bed, seeing how if it worked, I could get a G5 1.8 for $1400+ or so.

    Will like to hear more from the other poster that just got a mini.
  16. composer11

    composer11 Guest

    Art, I belive you, I really do. I'm not expecting a SAW DAW from the mini meaning high VST count, powerhouse, Final Cut pro, but a G5 1.8 even dual, might be another option down the road, it just appears that if the Powerbook and Ibook (differences really the FW800) can produce decent work using lite versions, 1GB of DDR and maybe a little pro-tools LE, it doesn't hurt to invest in this, it's not much money and it can be used as a Internet, or 3rd/4th PC for the fiance' when she comes over to hog my PC's (haha).

    I really think they should G5 the whole lot though and offer the mini with FW800. There is some rumor that the powerbooks will come out with G5, but there is also a rumor they run to hot, so we'll have to wait and see.

    I've used both before, the both have pro's and cons, they both crash, and they both are now industry standards, especially since many need PC for Giga 3, although that is changing a tad bit each day due to NI interfaces, still, that has it's share of problems too.
  17. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Distinguished Member

    Mar 19, 2003
    Kirkland WA
    Home Page:
    I'm currently using a 1GHz Powerbook, with Logic7.

    Most of my sessions consist of 32-48 stereo tracks, soft synts exclusively.

    If cpu gets near 50%, I freeze tracks to free up cpu cycles.

    The Mac mini outspecs my powerbook, so I would expect it to have a little more juice.

  18. elektro80

    elektro80 Guest

    I have tested the mac mini for a week now, and it is far better than I expected. However, it is important to understand what it really is and what it can do. It makes a decent home for your MP3s and you digital pix. It is a great little box for email and surfing.
    It can run DP or SX for simple tasks and it is excellent for sequencing and stuff like that. I imagine it will find its way into many racks both for studio and live use. The slow bus and the slow disk is of course a let down. It is excellent for simple stuff using Live and for the Clavia G-2 editor. The M-Tron runs fine, but I wouldn´t recommend even thinking about using it for those new huge sample based virtual instruments.
    That said, I am actually more impressed by the mac mini than by the G5 iMac. The dual 1.8 is a far more sensible choice for musicians than the new iMac.

    The only really sad thing about the mac mini is that Apple didn´t choose to put in the FW800 interface.

    There are many complaints about the mac mini. Serverheads are still raising hell over why it was not designed for being powered 24/7. In theory the mac mini could be an excellent little webserver, but I think it is unreasonble to expect xserve G4 build quality from a product like this.

    The bottom line is that the mac mini is not a bad product. You might buy it for the wrong reasons, but that is a completely different issue.

    BTW: Cynthia has already made mac mini module!
  19. composer11

    composer11 Guest

    32-48? Would you elaborate on soft synths count? I have EWQLSO Platinium, Absynth, BFD Drums, Waves Diamond, Groove Agent, Reason, Ableton Live, Stylus RMX, Trilogy, Atmosphere and BFD drums puts a huge load on the system, although I believe it's a driver issue, as the latest drivers resolved some of the CPU overhead.

    Of course, I'm not a fool and wouldn't expect this mini to match the AMD64 2.8, which only has 63% CPU with an AUDIO test that puts the DUAL G5 at 85% CPU usage (384 DMA settings).

    None the less, I'm wondering if Logic Express (dable back into it or DP) with Finale would be ok, and maybe a quicktime movie to score to. Then export out of DP, import into PC/Nuendo for comping/mock ups and the larger samples.

    How would it handle a small sample set such as GPO?

    thanks again.
  20. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Distinguished Member

    Mar 19, 2003
    Kirkland WA
    Home Page:
    I'm not sure about the plugs you mentioned, but Live4 is on my hard drive, from my understanding it's not altivec optimized, so it's a slug.

    I do own Vapor, and Nu Jointz that are based on the NI Kompackt, and I also have a couple of the Plugsound instruments.

    The biggest CPU hog I have is Crystal.

    I mostly use the instruments in Logic and the Garage Band instruments that are based on EXS format. and lots of RX2 files.

    Most of the credit must go to the freeze function, for the extra millage I get.

    I do my basic tracks and only freeze during the mixdown if I have to
    I also have all audio and samples residing on a Pacific Pro Audio firewire drive.

    The drive is certified for Pro Tools, and definately helps with track count.

    Once the tracks are rendered to audio the drive has no problem playing back 60+ 24bit stereo tracks.

    Without freeze I couldn't get it done.

    Also from my experience Logic is the most cpu friendly DAW on the Mac. I also own DP4 it's a close second, sold my SX2 license because SX's performance on Mac SuX big time.


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