Buying a Mac laptop for max/msp
Hi all. I am buying a Mac laptop computer specifically to run max/msp and other music applications. I would like advice on which Mac to buy, and any other specifics that will help the software to run with the highest performance and lowest latency.
I want to use max/msp as a real time effects processor and MIDI controller. The project will run a string quartet plus a few other inputs through max/msp. Each instrument will have its own channel that will allow it to run different effects for each instrument.
Ideally the output can be used in a surround sound configuration, or even something as simple as quadraphonic sound like the 1970′s hi-fi’s had.
Would a single or dual processor be better?
How much memory should I get?
What kind of external sound card would do the best job?
Thanks for responding!
If there’s no budget, get everything top of the line:
MacBookPro(15" or 17")
2GB at the least of RAM
For breakout audio interfaces look at firewire interfaces like MOTU Ultralite or Digi002, etc. (I notice a severe drop in CPU usage when using my Ultralite as opposed to using the built-in CoreAudio with Max/MSP, i love it(and I used to have a Digi002(actually I still have it) but I like the convenience of the MOTU(no power supply necessary)). But there’s so many options, definitely look into others as well.
If you have budget concerns, then try something just slightly less like a regular MacBook(that’s what i use) but still amp up the RAM to at least 2GB.
Enjoy your search, it’s always exciting to buy new gear!
If you are not so interested in video, then a MacBook Pro may not be necessary over a normal MacBook (the biggest difference is higher end graphics card on the Pro). The Pros are very nice, I really like mine. So it depends on your budget.
Get the faster harddrive (7200 rpm) for working with large media files and general performance.
At least 2 GB RAM. RAM will limit how many programs and samples you can use at once. You could always upgrade later. Speaking of RAM, Apple ridiculously overpriced all their RAM. I highly recommend you get the minimum RAM, then head over to crucial.com and search for your computer model and buy the rest there. It will save you hundreds of dollars. Installing the RAM is very easy, but you need the *very* small size #00 Phillips screwdriver which I could not find at any local hardware stores (one guy didn’t know they came that small). Finally found it at RadioShack.
The faster processor will mean you can do a little more in real time, but I don’t know if it’s really worth the extra money. This usually seems like a good place to cut the cost a bit. I have a 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo and it can handle a very reasonable load. I think I would definitely lean toward a dual processor, and I think all MacBooks come with dual processors now anyway.
I’ll leave it to other people to recommend audio interface.
> For breakout audio interfaces look at firewire interfaces like MOTU
> Ultralite or Digi002, etc.
I can not recommend any Dizzydesign products for live work or for Max in
general. They require stable allimentation, which is not garantied live.
I had 3 Digi 002 all (yes all 3) fail during a concert. If you ever need
to play a ProTools session, dump it out to single files and play it with
Max (that saved that evening, I hacked a player in Max to play the
ProTools stuff which was fortunately already on complete files for each
track and played it through an old Motu 828 Mk I…)
Digi drivers for other programs than ProTools simply suck by
(Digi)design. If you need ProTools, you should get an additional
interface to be able to work comfortably and then you can also run both
applications at the same time…
> If you have budget concerns, then try something just slightly less
> like a regular MacBook(that’s what i use) but still amp up the RAM to
> at least 2GB.
I agree completely, just get any Mac, and put as much memory in as you
can afford, though I am still happily running my patches on a 12" PPC
Powerbook with only 768 MB of RAM… The advantage of running a Mac is
also, in case you’re masochistic enough to run Windows, it will smoothly
work on MacBooks. But put XP on it, there seems to be not a single
advantage with using Vista, but a bunch of disadvantages…
"I can not recommend any Dizzydesign products for live work or for Max in
…Digi drivers for other programs than ProTools simply suck"
Actually, I would have to agree. Digi products always seemed to be geared towards forcing you to become totally dependent on their product line only, until recently when they finally caved in and created MBox and other such solutions to compete with other companies’ integrated/interchangeable digital audio workstation systems. Also, my Digi002 stopped functioning after only 2 years of ownership from a "failed power-harness"(and I never moved it from my editing desk so it just happened quite easily, actually) and this, apparently is known to happen to many Digi002 owners(digidesign support knew right away what was wrong from a mere email to them describing a very obscure problem with the sample-rate LED and the sound output switching off entirely, and i’ve spoken to three other people who had the same problem happen to their hardware). In addition, I heard it directly from a seminar lecture given by a well-known author of a large "computer-music" textbook/"tutorial"(i will keep his name unmentioned here), that many digidesign plug-ins introduce unwanted DC offset(he recommended thorough analysis of output before using them… this, however was back in 1999 so things may have changed). 2 years ago, I moved completely over to MOTU ultralite(no problems so far) and Logic Studio(proven to be well worth the investment).
I really shouldn’t have listed Digicrap in my previous post, sorry about that.
and just in case the wrong people see this, this is just my opinion and does not represent the views of anyone but myself ;)
I’ve found the best latency for me is simply with my built-in coreaudio line-in/out…. I’ve got an Event EZBus USB audio interface/MIDI interface as well as a Yamaha i88x firewire 8channel interface and both have latency…
in fact I was running into issues with both of them where the latency would build up after time while I was using Max/MSP as a simple FX unit…. finally I just tried the built in sound (from the suggestion of someone on this board) and it works great.
I would like to use an 8 channel interface with live processing in Max/MSP, but I just about gave up on that… is the MOTU really that good?
PS. I’m running an iMac OS 10.4.11 on a 1.8GHz PowerPC G5 with 1GB ram
Also, I’ve been wondering about heat issues with laptops… my iMac gets pretty hot when I’m working it alot, and a friend of mine has a MacBook that overheats a lot and causes crashes…
has anyone had any problems due to overheating?
"I would like to use an 8 channel interface with live processing in Max/MSP, but I just about gave up on that… is the MOTU really that good?"
I’ve had no problems with it and, although I haven’t tested the latency, it seems to be negligible for me. I use Eric Lyon’s FFT objects in real-time with live input and there is the same very small but audible delay i get when using core-audio-built-in sound(FFT-analysis/resynthesis does this to begin with). I guess I’ve always drifted towards firewire interfaces as opposed to USB because they are faster(but granted, they are more expensive). The newer MOTU ultralite comes with built-in effects, too, which I wish I could’ve waited to get because both versions run in standalone mode and can be used as a mixer (newer ones with built-in effects) and i think that’s pretty sweet, too(extremely versatile). Long ago, I had an old MOTU 828(lent it out to a friend so I guess I still "have" it) and it never died(running on 8 years now) so I have had a really good experience with MOTU equipment.
As for your question about overheating, my MacBook died twice in 5 months and I’m guessing from overheating(this is my guess since I used it so much, applecare didn’t really say much, just replaced the hard-drive and then the RAM). I hear, though, that if you get a 17" MacBookPro, the larger frame serves as a better heat-sink so the heat dissipates better.
I’ve had a motu 828mkII for years and years. Its never given me a single problem. I run signals in and out of it all the time and have had negligible latency problems. two thumbs up! I’m guessing the ultralite is similar.
I use Max/MSP (and a few other music programs like Reaper) on a non-pro black MacBook (the former 2.0 GHz version, that weights 2.4kg, with the 2GB RAM option) and on a Windows XP Shuttle PC (Pentium 4 – 2.4GHz, with 1GB of RAM) from 2002.
The audio interface is always a RME Fireface 400.
Btw I have used some Digidesign hardware with Max at work: when it works, it’s, say, "OK" (but really not exceptionnal), but it’s so complicated to find the drivers, to make it run, and so on … not even mentionning the price of these devices. Digidesign is good for Pro Tools only, and I don’t use Pro Tools at all.
I did not get any heating problem with the MacBook (nor some other Internet-reported problems like the random shutdown). Sometimes, the cooling fan starts making more noise but you have to play several videos at the same time for it, or to run some "special" programs that have a problem with the fan. For instance, the OS X version of Scilab, and also Digital Performer sometimes, will start the fan for sure. Reaper and Max/MSP are really better for this. For example, a Max/MSP polyphonic sampler that uses 50% of the CPU (told by Max) don’t make the fan switch to noisy mode.
Audio performance is OK, but please remember that a laptop is almot always less performant than a desktop. For me, the advantage of a laptop is that you can carry it everywhere (especially for recording as this is a silent machine).
But the 2002 Shuttle, for instance, is really better when it comes to pure performance.
I am a PC guy at first (Windows and Linux), but I choosed this Mac because of
- the compact size (and now, this model is 0.4kg lighter)
- the 6-in Firewire connector
- the (almost-)silent fan
- the possibility to run both Mac OS X and Windows XP
- the price / performance ratio (at that time)
I didn’t want a MacBook Pro because of: price, size, heating (at least at that time) hence a very noisy fan, and relatively limited audio performance (only slightly better than a non-Pro MacBook, but crappy compared to almost any desktop).
VERY IMPORTANT: if you want an audio laptop, better try it with your usual audio interface before buying !
This whole thing is an issue I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately.
I love my 12" G4 Powerbook but it’s starting to show signs of age. Also, it really gets pushed to the limit when I try to run my Max 4 patches in Max 5. It seems like time to move on.
I’d like to get the most high-performance Mac laptop possible but – as far as I can see – the huge price jump between the Macbooks and the Macbook Pros seems to relate less to improved performance than to additional bells and whistles (illuminated keyboard, anyone?)
So, does anyone want to have a go at giving a definitive answer to either (or both) of these questions:
1. How high up the current product range do you have to go to get the best possible Mac for live audio performance with Max/MSP (without spending any more than necessary)?
2. Is the massive price jump between non-Pros and Pros justified by the improved performance of the Pros?
If I were you, I’d wait until Tuesday of this week to buy a mac laptop. There’s supposed to be an announcement of big changes to apple’s laptop line, including possible price reductions…
Actually, I was going to ask if anyone new when the next new line of Pros was due. Hopefully, this announcement will do something to reduce the ridiculous price differential between the Macbooks and Pros or – better still – introduce Pros that really are worth the extra coin.
What? You think a $1000 for a GPU is a little steep? PSHAH!
What was I thinking?! The back-lit keyboard alone has to be worth an extra grand or two!!
BTW, one of the latest rumours is that the new generation of Mac laptops will not feature firewire posts. This would be an absolute deal-breaker for me. I’m not buying anything I can’t plug my MOTU Ultralite into!
only the Macbooks, the macbook pros will still have firewire
Quote: connect_icut wrote on Mon, 13 October 2008 18:01
> BTW, one of the latest rumours is that the new generation of Mac laptops will not feature firewire posts. This would be an absolute deal-breaker for me. I’m not buying anything I can’t plug my MOTU Ultralite into!
The new line is available at Apple’s online store, and the rumor is true for some of the MacBooks. If you drill into one of the MacBook products, and then click "Compare" in the lower half of the screen, and then "Complete Specs" you can find all the info you need.
It says the white MacBook has a FireWire 400 port, but the other MacBooks have no FireWire. Huh?? Color choice affects whether we get FireWire or not? That seems stupid…
The 15" MacBook Pro has one FireWire 800 port, and the 17" has one FW 800 and one FW 400. The old 15" MBPs used to come with both, so that’s kind of disappointing. If you have a FW 400 device, you would need a 400-to-800 adapter. But the MBPs also have an ExpressCard/34, and I believe you can get an adapter to FireWire for that card slot, so it should still be possible to have two firewire devices on a 15" MBP.
fyi, even though the older MBP had dual fw400 & 800, it is still only
ONE fw buss, so if you hook up a fw400 device to the fw400 slot it
drops the fw800 performance down to fw400. i use an expressbus slot
fw adapter to get around this issue and it works fine – i’m sure it
will on the new ones.
On Oct 14, 2008, at 2:25 PM, Adam Murray wrote:
> Quote: connect_icut wrote on Mon, 13 October 2008 18:01
>> BTW, one of the latest rumours is that the new generation of Mac
>> laptops will not feature firewire posts. This would be an absolute
>> deal-breaker for me. I’m not buying anything I can’t plug my MOTU
>> Ultralite into!
> The new line is available at Apple’s online store, and the rumor is
> true for some of the MacBooks. If you drill into one of the MacBook
> products, and then click "Compare" in the lower half of the screen,
> and then "Complete Specs" you can find all the info you need.
> It says the white MacBook has a FireWire 400 port, but the other
> MacBooks have no FireWire. Huh?? Color choice affects whether we
> get FireWire or not? That seems stupid…
> The 15" MacBook Pro has one FireWire 800 port, and the 17" has one
> FW 800 and one FW 400. The old 15" MBPs used to come with both, so
> that’s kind of disappointing. If you have a FW 400 device, you
> would need a 400-to-800 adapter. But the MBPs also have an
> ExpressCard/34, and I believe you can get an adapter to FireWire
> for that card slot, so it should still be possible to have two
> firewire devices on a 15" MBP.
> Adam Murray
"Reality is whatever refuses to go away when I stop believing in it.."
Philip K. Dick
I have been reading and keeping tabs of this post for a bit now, and feel i have to make some contribution to it with my own idea.
I read someone saying that the lower versions of the Macbooks will NOT have firewire ports at all.
In all essence, i dont see too much of a problem with that myself. The only reason being is that to run something in firewire anyhow, means that you need a good speed of a computer to be running whatever is sending info too it.
I plan to be getting a Macbook Pro myself very soon. Only because that the MBP is much better at handling bigger tasks.
Macbooks are more for people in meetings and that sort of thing, but for music making a MBP is the olny way in all honesty.
It is basically the same power as a desktop Mac. Of which take pretty good beating everyday from music makers alike, plus artists.
Plus as well. I do own a MOTU 828mk3, and only want to have a much powerful computer handling the big tasks i am feeding both the 828 and the Mac.
I have seen a few people try to use just the normal macbook with many music programs, but end up getting frustrated with the speed and sometimes lagging.
Then they may say under there breath, ‘wish i saved up for one more month’
I am holding out for the time being until the new MBP’s come out. As soon as they come out and i have some cash spare i will get the best one, then go to my local computer store and upgrade the RAM straight away.
This is just my 2 and a half cents on this situation. You can ignore it mind :)
I have had a look at the new MB and MBP, and i can say i like them.
Sleek, slick, clean, basic but still professional
I feel having a ‘shiny’ screen is a bit annoying.
This is coming from a person who does have a new iMac. I love this thing, it’s great, but the screen can bother me sometimes if there is light in the background and i am trying to concentrate on seeing something.
I think this will prove somewhat annoying to people performing onstage, with lights flickering everywhere and that sort of thing. Which, is probably the most of this Max/MSP/Jitter list.
I’m all for ‘saving the planet’. But shiny displays can get annoying sometimes, not always, but sometimes.
In hand though the display is a hell of a lot brighter mind, without using as much energy :)
But i will still get one and then just cope with that problem…
I was hoping Apple would give us more power for less coin. I suppose one out of two ain’t bad. When you look at the new 15" Pro with all the extra power options, it’s a exactly the uber-Mac laptop I’ve been waiting for. But can I really spend $3,800 on a new computer? Probably not. I’ll just have to wait, hope my G4 hold up and the price drops.
BTW, the Firewire thing seems to have been a non-issue for the MBP. Firewire is there, all present and correct.
My only concern, other than the price, is the amount of glass. Aside from potential durability issues, the glossy screen could be a problem and what’s up with that crazy trackpad? Not sure that would work too well for live performance.
Quote: Lewis G. Edwards wrote on Tue, 14 October 2008 13:09
> I plan to be getting a Macbook Pro myself very soon. Only because that the MBP is much better at handling bigger tasks.
> Macbooks are more for people in meetings and that sort of thing, but for music making a MBP is the olny way in all honesty.
Sorry, this is just not true, unless by music you mean Video/Graphics.
The differences between the MacBooks and MBPs is/are the GPU or lack thereof, the express card and now FW support. Otherwise the MB and MBP have the CPUs, chipsets, and bus speeds.
However, given the fact that most people running OSX prolly have FW audio interfaces, what you say is maybe more true than it was yesterday.
People ask this question on various music boards and I continue to say, the cost benefit to getting a MBP over a MB is still totally dependent on whether or not you are doing Video/GFX stuff, though the whole firewire thing is a bit of monkey wrench as hardware compatibility now extends beyond "do you currently own an expresscard?", and now encompasses "do you have a FW audio interface or HD?" which is a much higher percentage of computer music people…
Granted you can still get the old white plastic MB which still has the FW port, but has a much crappier integrated graphics solution, and is still on the 667Mhz bus.
Anyway, I felt like this an important distinction to make (IE the MBP doesnt offer any audio performance advantage short of the integrated GPU using a small amount of system RAM) because that seesm to be the crux of the question most people ask…
Sorry for being so long winded.
Good luck to all,
Quote: jonnyfive wrote on Tue, 14 October 2008 14:21
> The differences between the MacBooks and MBPs is/are the GPU or > lack thereof, the express card and now FW support. Otherwise the > MB and MBP have the CPUs, chipsets, and bus speeds.
..have the SAME CPUs…
The biggest thing for me is the screen size. 13" is just too small. If they made a 15" macbook, I’d probably get that. Unfortunately, MBP is the only one with 15"+ screens.
I’m going to go take a look at them at the local Apple store tonight…
Triple Post! BOOSH!
Ok, i know its frowned upon but I had to add one more thing, which I glossed over before, but I feel slightly excused because I’m trying to veer back on topic to help the OP.*
The one thing that is worth considering is that the lack of FW support on the MB pretty much excludes you from using the high-end portable audio interfaces. Metric Halo, RME, and Apogee afaik do not make USB audio devices (neither does Presonus for that matter and MOTU only makes one, the 828 USB, which after doing almost no research seems to be the only USB interface I would actually purchase.)
So maybe what Lewis said is more true than I initially gave him credit for…
*I guess that’s what you get when asking questions like this before an imminent apple hardware refresh! :P
Some other good things, now the new 15inch MBP uses DDR 3 Ram, 4 times faster than the old dd2, and a 1066 FSB which should help a lot. I was hoping for a eSATA port to use as an audio drive or maybe option for 2 drives in the case…
Quote: jonnyfive wrote on Tue, 14 October 2008 14:21
> "The differences between the MacBooks and MBPs is/are the GPU or lack thereof, the express card and now FW support. Otherwise the MB and MBP have the CPUs, chipsets, and bus speeds."
I don’t think this is true anymore, with the new product range. If you get the Pro and trick it out to the max, you’re looking at a significantly more powerful machine than the regular Macbook.
Quote: connect_icut wrote on Tue, 14 October 2008 14:58
> Quote: jonnyfive wrote on Tue, 14 October 2008 14:21
> > "The differences between the MacBooks and MBPs is/are the GPU or lack thereof, the express card and now FW support. Otherwise the MB and MBP have the CPUs, chipsets, and bus speeds."
> I don’t think this is true anymore, with the new product range. If you get the Pro and trick it out to the max, you’re looking at a significantly more powerful machine than the regular Macbook.
Yeah but at what cost? I mean I agree, I have an MBP myself moslty for the GPU, and that was worth it for me. But I guess I figure most people who ask these questions have budgetary concerns and/or don’t really know their hardware needs or what the various models provide, or they’d do just that (go full out for a $4K laptop).
My point is, is that if you write some crazy Max/MSP patch (no Jitter) it will perform identically on a straight out of the box
MB and MBP.
Also the MB and MBP actually do have the same CPU chipset and bus speed, though I will admit upon further consideration the lack of FW support *is* a deal breaker for me.
Quote: jonnyfive wrote on Tue, 14 October 2008 15:16
"> Also the MB and MBP actually do have the same CPU chipset and bus speed, though I will admit upon further consideration the lack of FW support *is* a deal breaker for me."
Well the MBP CPUs now go up to 2.8GhZ, as opossed to 2.4 on the Macbook, which seems significant to me. Plus you get 4GB of RAM as standard on the MBP. Among other performance enhancers. But, yeah, the price differential has just gotten more ridiculous. I, for one, won’t be biting.
Quote: jonnyfive wrote on Tue, 14 October 2008 13:55
> The one thing that is worth considering is that the lack of FW support on the MB pretty much excludes you from using the high-end portable audio interfaces.
Right! Which is why it makes no sense that there is still one MacBook that comes with FW and it’s the lowest end option with slower RAM and a slower processor. Don’t they realize people who want better specs probably also want FW?
Similarly the 17" MBP has some questionable things about it specs. Unless you really really want the bigger screen, I don’t think now is a good time to get a new 17".
It seems like Apple is trying to get rid of the older surplus hardware as they phase in the latest and greatest.
heheheh its like our own personal IRC channel.
I see what you mean re the CPU speeds available per model, I was just emphasizing they’re both the same architecture, its not like the MB has a some 16bit AMD knock off…
But yeah the more I think about it the more I think apple is pulling some "shrewd" (emphasis on the rude) ploy to get us audio types (who would have bought MBs) to buy more expensive computers.
WTF Apple? Where’s the MacBook Prosumer? geez…
It would be nice to see some equivalent of the old 12" G4 Powerbook (which is what I have now), offering MBP performance at a more tempting price. I could certainly do without some of the cool design elements if it meant I could get a 2.8GhZ CPU at a reasonable price.
as an aside, of VERY big importance for my patching is screen res.
Unfortunately, due to the "fantastic new" LED screens and bigger better
gfx processors it’s apparently mandatory to have the screen res on a
3Kusd machine at 1440*900 max!
To me that kind of low-fi just won’t do… especially not for the kind
of video work that massive graphics system encourages!
The problem is that Apple always seems to have been aiming the MBPs at people with more money than sense, rather than folks who actually need a real high-end machine. It would be nice to see a third stream to the product range, aimed at keeping Apple’s core audience happy. Macbook Artisan, anyone?
Lewis G. Edwards schrieb:
> The only reason being is that to run something in firewire anyhow,
> means that you need a good speed of a computer to be running whatever
> is sending info too it.
Hey, I was happily running Max with a firewire interface on a G3 running
at the stunning speed of 500 MHz PPC. That time you wouldn’t even think
of using an USB interface for Audio.
> I have seen a few people try to use just the normal macbook with many
> music programs, but end up getting frustrated with the speed and
> sometimes lagging. Then they may say under there breath, ‘wish i
> saved up for one more month’
For me and many others it would be more like save up for 20 more months.
(Still need something for just surviving…;-)
The people who need a Mac for meetings could probably afford the price
difference within days. In terms of power they should be fine with an
Sam Macklin schrieb:
> It would be nice to see some equivalent of the old 12" G4 Powerbook
> (which is what I have now), offering MBP performance at a more
> tempting price. I could certainly do without some of the cool design
> elements if it meant I could get a 2.8GhZ CPU at a reasonable price.
I’d go to the bank and get a loan for that (which I’d most likely won’t
get… ;-) the smaller size in combination with some power would make
the deal for me. Plus FW 400 and a mic input. The need for disc speed is
not as crucial, at least for audio. The FW 400 speed was never an issue
for me, but for getting a bit more into Jitter I wouldn’t mind a real GPU…
As for Sam, my 12" is about to die, and I love the size factor, 13"
seems a bit big (priorities can be very different… ;-)
> Macbook Artisan, anyone?
I call myself an Artison, I agree completely…