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Is it Time to Go Mac Yet?
Tweak's Ongoing Blog on Going Mac
by Rich the Tweak
Jan 2002- Mar 2009
OK, the Tweak breaks new ground, thinking of the possibility of building a Mac Based OS X DAW for, you guessed it, Emagic Logic Audio. I've only been on the Mac a short while, so don't hit me with a lot of questions, but I am quickly getting grounded thanks to many of our knowledgeable members.
Why Go Mac?
However, as of November 2003, the questions are finally being answered. New hardware and software has arrived for the Mac platform that has great potential. Its an exciting time for Mac users with the release of the new Mac G5s and a new OS (10.3.1) called Panther. The industry is racing to keep up and doing quite well at it as you will see below. I know there is a lot of confusion regarding which interfaces work with the new stuff, so I did a bit of research to figure that out. Tweak: See my little comments in the right sidebar. If you are considering going G5 I am going to lay it all out for you in simple language.
What follows is a chronology of where things are at regarding switching. I'm keeping these old "journal entries" here so you know what the issues were, so you can better get an idea of where they now are.
The Idea to Switch
Having been on the PC platform since the days of the '486 processor, working with many music composition and sequencing programs all these years, it's a little strange to consider going Mac. Before coming the the PC, I was on the Atari platform and I had a wealth of MIDI applications. It took several years for the PC platform to catch up to where I was, technologically, on my Atari. But then, I had no choice. The Atari platform died, and the software makers bolted off to the PC. I swore to myself then I would never go with an underdog computer again. But here I am, following my application of choice, Logic Audio, to the brink of the ocean separating PCs from Macs. I know many a PC Logic User is with me. Here we are, victims of a corporate strategy and casualties of a larger platform war. As PC Logicians look to the Mac side of things, there is much uncertainty, much hope, yet few answers to dispel the doubts over Apples intentions for Logic.
Should I Wait?
Part of me hates waiting for anything technology wise, perhaps because change occurs so quickly. That part of me just wants to go out and "get it over with". But the air is still too cloudy I think. Also some Mac users have chimed in and advised that I wait till OS9 is done with and OS X applications are real. Logic's OS X version of 5.2 has not been released yet. You could not run Logic on OS X today if you wanted to. It does not make sense to upgrade from OS9 to OS X after a month or so. The situation has similarities to what we just went through on the Windows platform, going from 98se and ME to XP. There are still many unresolved questions regarding audio applications and OSX. The main one: Will Mac software makers develop OS X versions of their products and when will this occur? I am beginning to piece that together below.
Another good argument is that if it takes another 6 months for OS X audio applications to get real, by then there will be another generation of Macs out with faster processors. The prices, one guesses, will be about the same, so in this case it may pay off to wait. Verdict spring 2002: Wait
The Propellerheads implemented OS X functionality in Reason 2.0. The Ableton Live is ready. Bias, the makers of Deck, Peak and V-Box have said their software is now OS X ready. A look at the MOTU website shows that there are now OS X drivers in "public beta", which generally means they are almost done. The folks at Native Instruments estimate that they will start to roll out OS X versions of their products starting in Feb 2003 and hope to be done by December of 2003. According to Steinberg the planned release date for Cubase SX has been set for the beginning of the fourth quarter, 2002. Digital Performer is expected to be out in the 2nd half of 2002
As you see, given Native's timetable, it may be good to wait this one out? Also, Logic 5.2 for OSX is now downloadable at the emagic website for registered users.
The Mac G5's Arrive
Good things come to those that wait. And the good are coming soon. Apple has announced the new G5 series, which is bound to make a stir with even the most jaded PC logician. Finally, Apple has a 2ghz processor. Go read about it: http://www.apple.com/powermac/. Get the detailed developer notes. Basically there are 3 versions of the G5. On the low end is a 1.60 gHz single processor for just under $2,000. a 1.8 gHz single processor for under $2,400 and the 2.0 gHz Dual processor for just under $3,000. Which has my eye? The 2.0ghz one. I can think of no better platform for running Logic.
I believe the time is approaching rapidly now. The dual processor G5s are now out in the mainstream USA and I await the 1st verdicts. Native Instruments now has many of its plugin synths OS X and AU compatible. Good news for Logicians. So finally, the lack of OS X software is a non-issue. That Logic will not run VSTi's remains an issue. Don't expect change here though. That's the way they appear to want it. Waves has also crossed over to AU land. More good news.
In a surprise move, Apple announce they are replacing the 1.8 single processor G5 with a 1.8 dual processor G5. Rumor is they cannot make the 2ghz chips to meet current demand. This is great news, as many power users feel that a single processor G5 is not enough of an advantage over a G4 to take the plunge. Has me thinking that the savings is almost enough to get a nice 17" Mac display.
In the meantime I have spent considerable time on the Mac platform the last few weeks, running Logic 6.3.1 in Panther on a Powerbook G4, with an emagic Emi 2-6. The system works very well, no glitching, however, I would not call the emi 2-6 a great Mac solution for professional work. Mine has more than its share of clock noise. Fine for a hotel room or demo-ing around. I think the M-audio FW410 and the Digidesign Digi 002 rackmount may be the ways to go. Over at the Digidesign forums there is positive excitement on how well the dual 2ghz G5 is working in Pro Tools LE. I am impressed on how well the OS X drivers work for my emagic Unitor 8 and AMT MIDI interfaces. Solid, solid, solid! Just tried the demo of Peak (14 day trial) and though it crashed once in Panther, I really like it. Not quite up to spec with my favorite PC editor Sound Forge 7, but it will definitely be fun. Has full SCSI sampler support.
Finally, i got an ILOK key which allows me to move my Waves authorizations from my PC to the Mac and back. Just a USB key that stores the authorization. Plug it in and all your Waves software comes to life with no fuss. Where to get an ILOK? I got mine at www.digidesign.com for $40 and $13 shipping and tax. Yes the AU versions of Waves Platinum are working beautifully here.
Digidesign just announced Mac OS 10.3.1/G5 compatibility with its Pro Tools TDM and LE systems, this means you guys with eh digi 002 can get on board with a G5 and Panther. Details at Check out their drivers. They have also announced and upgrade for those with delta interfaces to replace their old 5 volt PCI card with one that uses the Mac G5 3.3 v design. Details. This is awesome news for delta 1010, 66,44 1010LT and audiophile 2496 owners. If you bought your card after Aug 1 2003 the upgrade is free. Darn good support!
Finally we get to MOTU, who has announced G5 and Panther compatibility. Details on Panther Compatibility. As with M-audio, MOTU is offering a trade-in program for those with MOTU products with older PCI cards. This affects those with the 2408mk3 core system, the 24 I/O core system and the HD192 core system. Details.
Your reward for waiting is that you didn't have to go through the teething pains of Mac OS X. Those days are just about over. But not totally over. Things are just starting to settle down, and I anticipate a nice long steady period of development and innovation ahead. Is now the time? Yes. Yet on the horizon are rumors of a 3ghz Mac, but there will always be more powerful machines on the horizon. Yet for right now, the issue is no longer cpu horsepower, but a matter of using these gains in processing power. So now is an excellent time to go Mac.
And I did. My G5 has arrived and I have jumped ship.
New Year's Update 2004:
Things are so much better now, especially with Native Instruments bringing forth their AU versions of most of their lines. In OS X Panther Kontakt is working great as is Kompakt, Reaktor session, Absynth is passable, Battery works but not so hot. The G5 is one awesome sequencing machine. It runs with stately grace, even crashes with grace and it will burn through audio, plugins, softsynths with total ease. So once again, its a great time to switch. There's a few little niggles and crap-outs here and there, but on the whole, the door has opened to great musical possibilities on the mac.
February 2004 Update:
Namm is over and we now realize Logic is changing--and for the better. As I write Logic Pro 6 is announced and just a short while from release and it will be an easy upgrade for current Logic Users who have Platinum 6.3. With Logic Pro6 you get all the emagic plugins and softsynths. So if you are planning to upgrade, don't get any more emagic softsynths now. I just got the FXPansion VST to AU shell so i can run some of my VSTs that have not been released as Audio Units. Works well.
January 2005 Update:
As predicted, everything is pretty stable in Mac Land, at least as far as G5/OS X integration with music software and technology. Logic is a V7 and Cubase SX 3 is released, which is also a workable, great sounding solution. Digital Performer has moved up a notch to 4.5. You can even run Windows on the G5 now. In case you get nostalgic for the old days of worms and viruses.
May 2005 Update:
Mac OS 10.4 "Tiger" is now released and i have had it on my G5 a few weeks now. Overall I give the upgrade a hi score. My G5 is faster graphically now and one can actually feel the power under the hood. I just updated my PC to a Athlon 3400+ so now I have two fast computers. But ask me which I like to use. The Mac is front and center and the PC is on the side. The new Mac OS is beautiful. The high end G5's are now up to 2.7 gHZ CPU-wise. I usually wait for a doubling of power before I upgrade so I am halfway there with my 1.8 Dual. Just to give you an idea of the power, my last song had 30 EXS sampler instruments all from the Advanced Orchestra collection (a huge library with long samples), 8 audio tracks, 2 convolution reverbs, Logic's multipressor and Wave's L3 and a dozen or so Logic and Waves plugins. Such intensity and not a glitch. I have to congratulate Apple on fine work. To balance the enthusiasm though, keep in mind that "Tiger" is "new" and you should all know that new is not always good. Some soundcards have not yet released 10.4 drivers yet so watch out for that. MOTU had them the 1st day Tiger was released, but others, like M-Audio, have not released them as of this writing. I am confident they will and when they do, my Delta 1010 will be in my G5 along with my 828mk2. Multiple soundcards? You bet, Tiger can do it given they can sync to a common timebase with word clock. I'll let you know how it goes, next time.
Intel Macs Arrive
The new line of iMacs, MacBook Pros and Mac Mini now tout the Intel Duo processors. This is a big event, now particularly with the news that the MacBook Pro, through use of Apple's Bootstrap software, can run Microsoft Windows as well as Mac OS 10.4. These machines are great for those getting started in the land of MacIntosh. The MacBook Pro is looking like a serious platform for a DAW in itself. However, for the die hard pro desktop user, it is making sense to wait for the desktops with the Intel Duo that are assumed to be somewhere in the pipeline. The promise? Imagine Apple finally making another earnest stab on the "world's fastest" computer, and one that could run OSX and Windows simultaneously. Of course everyone has their own upgrade plan for their studio, but I can tell you for me, I am going to keep my G5 1.8 Dual running till the new machines are released.
The Mac Pro has arrived and is shipping, ahead of schedule. In fact, so far ahead that not all 3rd party software is ready for it. To run natively on an Intel based Mac, software should be in Universal Binary form, or else it has to run through Rosetta, a software emulator which will subtract performance. If you are in the market for a high end Mac desktop, this is a great time to be reading forums and getting the early adopters' experience with the software and hardware you have or intend to run. The software industry will be catching up soon. My guesstimate for my own upgrade plan is that December-January might be a great time to go Mac pro.
While I still have not upgraded to the Mac Pro I know it can't be that far off. The only thing holding me back now is the actual pain of transferring all my software licenses to the new machine, and reinstalling those massive sound libraries which will take a nice big block of time. Nearly all the software is now ready, except for a few stalwarts from Spectrasonics. Native Instruments Komplete 4 is good to go. OSX 10.5 is around the corner too. And Logic 8...perhaps the best will come to those who wait a little longer.
OSX 10.5 Leopard
As I write OSX 10.5 is exactly 6 days and 17 hours away. It is rumored that a new Mac Pro is coming along soon too, with a faster processor. Right now the Current Mac Pro is one of the oldest products in the Mac catalog. Guess what, I am going to wait it out. Logic Pro 8 is out in the new Logic Studio bundle.
It is excellent. Its working great on my G5 and it will even be greater on my next Mac Pro. If you are wanting to go Mac Pro I say pull up a chair with me and wait it out. If You are going with a MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac or Mac Mini, wait another few days for OSX 10.5. This means very soon a good time to switch to Mac will be at hand. We'll see how many audio interface drivers break with 10.5. We'll get posts on the forums next week on this. My hunch is it may turn out to be a non-issue. As always, it is good to stay with interfaces that are 'known" to be solid Mac performers. MOTU, Apogee, RME at the top rung and below that Tascam, M-audio.
The new Mac Pros are finally out, now sporting 8 cores, out of the box. OSX10.5 is out of course. Macworld has passed and we know what is happening. The iPhone and ipods are cooling and it is time for Apple to put the focus on the Mac. Leopard has been out long enough that audio interface makers should be just about done tweaking the drivers if they needed to. This is the time to go Mac or to upgrade from an older Mac. We are heading into a long period of stability. I expect to get a new Mac Pro within a this year. The time is nigh!
The time is still at hand.
Some say the time has passed and the new Intel CPUs will be faster and are due in Q1 2009. I have still not sprung but for me the time is near.
The Time is NOW!
The new Mac pros are out using the new Intel i7 processors. Tweak says: The time is now! The only thing that will change tomorrow is that you will be older.
Tweak now has a Mac pro 2.66 8 core as of March 21, 2009