is mac mini enough for DAW

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is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby I AM » 14:51, 7 February 2010

is mac mini enough for DAW? deciding to purchase one with 2GB ram and Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26 Ghz CPU? wanna use it mostly for midi sequencing and audio mastering... also wanna use Ableton LIVE for live gigs... and in this case wanna use some samples for playback... will it be possible to playback like 10 or 15 stereo samples simultaneously with some midi clips?

one more question.. is Logic ( or maybe other DAW soft ) included when i buy mac mini? and does this soft have all midi editing, like Sonar LE? or any free or not expencive soft with full midi editing and nice user interface?

and the last one... is it ok to use regular PC display with mac mini? it's also important as it's much easier to include the display in tech rider ( these displays are not that rare thing) than to carry it with me to the show....

thanx for your replies!!
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby Artemiy » 15:01, 7 February 2010

I AM, you are on the right path ;-)

Mac Mini is a wonderful system.

Modern Mac Mini is well enough even for serious music tasks. A few years ago Depeche Mode used two Mac Minis as their backstage DAW/sync machines, which does tell something, doesn't it?

I have a 1.83 GHz Core Duo iMac with 2 GB RAM and it can run about 20 audio tracks and 10 software instrument tracks along with about 40-50 effect plugins without a problem. Mac Mini is more powerful than my current system and will give you at least as much power.

As standard, Macs come with GarageBand which is a simple version of Logic. It doesn't have as much detailed editing or mixdown, and as much bundled plugins, and it cannot work with MIDI (only audio tracks and software instruments) however it's 100% the same superb engine inside. So you get up to 255 MIDI and 255 audio tracks. Per track, you get an EQ with analyzer and up to 4 effect plugins (including any instrument/effect plugins you can buy or download for free). So if you imagine the standard 16 track configuration, you have 16 EQ's and 64 effect plugins with them, but even more is possible.

For MIDI tracks you'll need to get either Logic Express or Ableton Live. I myself do not like Live but it does make sense for what it's name stands for - live work. In studio I prefer GarageBand or Logic because they are much more easy to use for composition and post-production.

Finally, yes, any regular monitor with a VGA cable will work. Just buy a Samsung or LG etc. which you like, I'd only recommend you a widescreen one. Also you really should get an Apple keyboard (it's absolutely magic) - by any means do NOT get a PC-type keyboard because you will hate it, you will not be able to work normally with Mac software which expects you to have certain special buttons (including all audio software). You should also consider Apple's Magic Mouse, this will improve your experience even more.
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby I AM » 16:00, 7 February 2010

thanx Artemiy!!!
that's what i wanted to buy... mac mini with mac keyboard and mouse ( both with wires as wireles mouse or keyboard may have interference with audio) and a philips 19' widescreen monitor... i just like philips and i think it really doesn't matter that much which monitor to use.... and yes, widescreen is MUCH better for me...

if garageband doesn't have midi outs it's not for me and logic express is $199...
one more question... does logic express has all midi features that logic pro has? ( i looked at apple website and there's not much info about that) or is there any other not expencive soft that has full midi support... like Sonar LE... i like this soft because it HAS all midi features i need... full midi editing, overdub rec, multiple takes, midi effects velocity ( i use them) and controller curves... Sonar LE even can transform midi cc# data into curves... that's really handy... does Logic has those bezier curves for controllers ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9zier_curve )?

Ableton is very good for composition... it has a feature similar to RPS ( maybe even better then RPS in Fantoms) and with this it's much easier(for me) to build up the whole track from prases in realtime and then finetune this in Sonar.... still can't build the 5 minute track in linear sequencer... i always loose the feeling of song when i have to stop playback... and in Ableton it is even possible to playback several clips with a single event...

and one more question... is there any soft similar to SoundForge for Mac

thanx again!
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby Artemiy » 16:11, 7 February 2010

I AM, yes you're getting the right config, that's cool.

As of Logic Express, yes in terms of editing it does have all the Logic Pro features. The only difference, as I recall, is that Logic Pro has surround mixing and more bundled plugins and sounds.

If you like Ableton, you should of course go for it. It has an Intro version which costs $99 and although it has limitations (unlimited audio/MIDI tracks but up to 12 software instruments and 18 effect plugins) I think it's great value anyway:
http://www.ableton.com/pages/shop/intro

The full version is $449 though which is kind of expensive as to me, considering that Logic Express is $199. I would go for Logic any day due to it's simplicity and accessible power, but then I do not need those features of Live that you talk about.
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby I AM » 16:23, 7 February 2010

... and what about "SoundForge" for Mac? ))) joking)) but is there something similar to soundforge for mac? i use SF for sampleediting...
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby Artemiy » 16:31, 7 February 2010

Oh yes, I recommend you this one, Wave Editor:
http://www.audiofile-engineering.com/waveeditor/ ($79)

Very powerful and simple tool, supports lots of formats, as well as processing with VST/AU plugins, multiple channels and layers, editable fades. I use it myself and rely on it heavily.

There are also Peak and DSP-Quattro but they have horrible and counter-productive interfaces, in my opinion. Other stuff may be cheap but not as flexible as you need (will not support metadata such as loop points and original keys etc.).
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby I AM » 16:40, 7 February 2010

Thanx alot, Artemiy!
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby dbijoux » 20:22, 7 February 2010

One shortcoming of the mini for DAW is the harddrive speed(5400rpm). Since you can't upgrade it's also probably a good idea to get most RAM possible too.
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby Artemiy » 20:45, 7 February 2010

Good point, dbijoux. But I think with moderate audio track use the DAW would not stream off the drive, but load all into RAM (was always wondering if there is any threshold for total or average audio track size for the DAW to start streaming audio).
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby I AM » 21:20, 7 February 2010

i thought DAWs in most cases steam audio from drive....

and how many tracks is possible to steam with 5400 drive?

.... and i agree that more ram is better....

and what do you think, is there a big difference in 2.26 and 2.53 CPU speed?
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby Artemiy » 21:23, 7 February 2010

I AM, I think you should ask this question at Apple's forums, or maybe I can ask it, it's a very interesting question for me as well. I thought that there is a certain maximum of audio size that the DAW will load into RAM wholly, and only if there is more of that it would stream it... but I am not sure.

Here is the GarageBand forum:
http://discussions.apple.com/category.jspa?categoryID=127

And for Logic:
http://discussions.apple.com/forum.jspa?forumID=1201

Better yet, here is the great Mac OS X Audio forum:
http://www.macosxaudio.com/forums/
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby I AM » 21:36, 7 February 2010

i'm pretty sure that on PC most multitracking soft steam audio from HDD.... not sure about sampler soft...

Art, what is your imac's hdd speed... you said you can playback 20 audio tracks... if they're stereo tracks at least 44100\24 bit, then it's enough for me
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby Artemiy » 21:48, 7 February 2010

My hard drive is 7200 rpm. BTW I recall I read a test with an external 7200 rpm drive and a Mac Mini would handle something like 80-100 audio tracks, so I think with your config you will easily have 40-50 tracks at least. In any case you should not worry as DAWs have latency compensation and you will never hear an unexpected delay or something not going in sync. They pre-cache all what's needed for playback, also keeping in mind processing times of effect plugins... it works really perfectly even on the limit.
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby I AM » 22:04, 7 February 2010

Fine ))) last thing i have to decide is should i buy 2.26 or 2.53 CPU ? price difference cover mouse, keyboard and monitor and i'm kinda limited in money.... f******* greed... i want more and pay less)))
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Re: is mac mini enough for DAW

Postby Artemiy » 22:26, 7 February 2010

Well, the processor speed difference is not that big, 12% to be exact - however, you also get 4 GB RAM and 320 GB hard drive instead of 2 GB and 160 GB in the basic model. So it's up to you. If processor speed is the only question then no it's not worth it, in my opinion. But if you consider this as a long-term investment, I'd go for the one with more RAM and storage. Trust me, this will pay off over time as you'll have way more pleasure making music than before, and the Mini will serve you for many years.
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