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Mac Mini as music computer
December 30, 2013 | 4:27 pm

Mac Mini is low cost alternative to iMacs or Mac Pro and it is fast enough for normal DAW

The past two years I have used a Mac Book Pro early 2011 model with i7 quad core, upgraded with 8 GB RAM and harddisk upgraded to 1 TB

A few months ago the computer started having trouble with the graphics chip causing more and more video problems and at the end it was impossible to work with.

I did not feel like buying a new Macbook because you cannot upgrade RAM on the new ones. And harddisk and battery are glued. Stupid.
The old Mac Pro had gone out of sale. The iMac is also hard to upgrade and I have already invested in a 27 inch monitor.

So I have been dragging things and waited for the Mac Pro. When it finally went for sale right before Christmas the delivery time was February. I had no intention to wait another 2 months and the laptop would not last. So I decided to give the Mac Mini a chance.

I bought the standard i7 quad core model. It comes with 1 TB and 4 GB RAM which I quickly upgraded to 16 GB.

Moving over was not as easy and it should be. I used the migration assistant. But many plugins for Logic required additional magic and reactivations.
But the worst sucker is the Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate which is a bundle of more than 30 virtual instruments and effects. The service center app from NI would not show any as installed. And the only way to fix that is to install all 350 GB of software from scratch. Followed by a manual upgrade of each and every plugin one by one. It took an entire day from morning till evening to reinstall the Native Instruments stuff. Shame on you Native Instruments.

So how is the Mac Mini running with Logic?
Compared to my 2011 Macbook Pro it is doing very well. CPU is much less loaded in comparison.

The Mac Mini has a sucky graphics processing unit (GPU) compared to all other models. This means that for gaming and video editing the computer is a bit slow. But Logic Pro and most DAWs do not use the graphics processor. So for music the GPU is not important. What you need is lots of CPU and lots of RAM and lots of harddisk space. I see no graphics issue running Logic Pro on the mini.

I have seen high peaks using U-he Diva which is a known CPU eater. But when you put it in multicore mode it runs fine on the mini. So does Omnisphere.

I think I may have to bounce tracks to audio if I create a project with 30-40 CPU intensive virtual instruments. But nothing I have done the past 2 years would have a problem on the Mini.

The Macbook Pro made quite a lot of noise when it got warm and the fans spin up. The Mac Mini has not ever been making noise even when I load the CPU heavily.

I still think about buying a Mac Pro. But it cost quite a lot of money. Now I have the Mini I think I may run with that the next year or so.

The Mac Mini is a cost effective solution. You get a small pretty computer. It is silent. Easy to upgrade with RAM (no tools needed). Harddisk takes a bit of disassembly to be upgraded.

You must select the i7 quad core model. I got the standard i7 because it was on stock.
But I recommend buying the slightly faster i7 and if you use a lot of sample instruments I think the 1 TB fusion drive which should make loading more snappy. But a standard 1 TB is quite OK and that is standard with the i7 models.

The only problem I have seen is that the combination Logic 10.0.5 and Melodyne 2.0.2 crashes constantly. I had more than 10 crashes in two working days. It is probably Melodyne that has the problem but why does Logic crash when a plugin fails? Twice the Maverick operating system rebooted when Logic crashed. That should never happen. I will not be the fanboy that says Apple is stable and just works. I have not seen Windows reboot like this for years. I think this is a Logic 10.0.5 and/or Melodyne 2.0.2 problem. I did not see crashes on the project before I added Melodyne.

I hope all this information is of use for those of you about to get a new computer.

Happy new year

Comments

Artist

Aamp's artist icon
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Happy New Year and thanks for the comments Kenneth! I think that mini should do you fine for a while. After it's done as a DAW, they make great little systems to put on the T.V. or for surfing the net.

In comparison, 80% of my music I made this year was made on 5 year old Mac minis, and I do most of my post production on them too. It's nothing to brag about, I know, smiley but they work.

I'd love for one of mine to evolve into that i7 one, or just to be able to run one through the paces. My tunes are usually simplistic enough that I don't go above the 4gb cap or need any more than my 2 cores, actually, if I get the low memory or cpu message, that's usually my excuse to get lazy and end the song haha.

This is my mini here if you want a laugh. I didn't get this years model, I think it's the 1984 model smiley
Last edited 3 years ago.
Latest Song: Spectre
Artist Page Send Message December 30, 2013 | 11:22 pm
Artist

JonCSebastian's artist icon
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Everything I do is on the mini, Being a smart tech and running the mini with respect reaps great rewards! I have no had the first slow down with the 2012 i5 maxed 16gb ram. I use lots of plugins and logic is a dream! I can't say how fast it sends my finished pieces to itunes. It's all amazing! I would never use anything else! Jon Sebastian
Latest Song: Broken
Artist Page Send Message December 31, 2013 | 7:42 pm
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Bent_Axis's artist icon
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Mac minis are great! With a separate audio in and out, no interface is needed. I run vocals, keys and guitars straight in and use Guitar Rig for effects on Garageband. A preamp can also be used if multiple instrument recording is required. The new mini's don't come with a cd burner built in, it's additional. The i5 has worked great with 16gb ram running multiple keyboard, drum, vocal, guitar and mastering track(s).
Latest Song: Thrown Under
Artist Page Send Message January 2, 2014 | 4:06 am
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KennethLavrsen's artist icon
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A small update on the crashing of my Mini

I experienced a few more but less frequent crashes with Logic without Melodyne but with other memory hungry plugins.

So I started suspecting the RAM that I used for upgrading to 16 GB. I found some Crusual ram which was certified or specified specially for Mac. Normally in a PC the BIOS reads the config parameters for the RAM from a small memory area on the RAM and adjusts the CPU timing. But it seems a Mac is less flexible. When I replaced the Corsair value RAM with Crusial Mac certified RAM the crashing stopped.

The Mac certified RAM that I bought in an internet store was actually slightly lower priced than the value ram I found in my local computer store.

So the short message to all that want to upgrade the default RAM in a Mini without paying the high price from Apple is to buy quality RAM specified for the Macbook and the Mini. Corsair also has RAM specified as compatible with Mac but I chose to buy the Crusual as this has a good reputation from Mac users on the net and I can now join the choir.

So now I can again focus on my music instead of setting up computer.
Last edited 3 years ago.
Artist Page Send Message January 4, 2014 | 8:31 pm
Artist

videoscore's artist icon
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thanks Kenneth! My iMac is aging and I am wondering what to do...
Latest Song: Incantations
Artist Page Send Message January 8, 2014 | 3:26 am
Artist

jrahn's artist icon
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Mac mini here!😀 That's how I got started.
Being a drummer,I was always interested in
Learning how mix, and record music
So I started fiddling with the garage band
Program.
I've never had a crash,but in the last year and a
Half,I've been pushing my tracks to the limit
Resulting in ram lag.
My mini is about 7 years old,I'm about ready
For a new one😀
The only issues I've ever had was with gaming
Thanks for the topic Kenneth🌞
Latest Song: ColdSweat
Artist Page Send Message January 12, 2014 | 12:03 am

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