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Buying a Used or Refurbished Apple Computer for MainStage

I often see posts in Facebook forums concerning which Apple computers could work well for Apple’s MainStage software for live music performance. More specifically, which Apple computers could function well if purchased used or refurbished.

This is a tricky proposition as there are a number of things to consider. First, you’ll need to consider whether you plan to run 3rd party plugins. Generally, I’d advise against it when using an older computer unless you can find something already loaded with 16GB of RAM. As the recent models don’t allow for RAM upgrades, you’re stuck with what you get unless you purchae something several years old. But then you run the risk of getting a processor that’s too slow, or running into hardware issues if it’s a used unit and not factory refurbished.

If you plan to run MainStage without any 3rd party plugins, you should be fine with a Quad-Core machine and 8GB RAM. Just don’t get too hopeful about running all of your favorite Native Instruments libraries. You’ll want to stick to EXS24 and other formats native to MainStage and you’ll need to optimize your programming to put as little strain on your processor as possible. You’ll do this by using aliases as much as possible, limiting the use of processor intentive plugins like convolution reverbs, and using aux busses for your effects. You might even be able to get away with running Synthogy Ivory Grands too depending upon your programming.

A great option for MainStage is Apple MacBook Pro MD104LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop (Intel Core i7 2.6GHz, 8GB Memory, 750GB HDD, Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion, 2012 Model), Silver. Something with a Quad-Core processor, 8GB RAM (which is an absolute bare minimum), and an SSD drive would work great. If you’re looking for something for your personal home rig, you’ll want to look for similar specs in an iMac. Although it’s best to find something with an SSD drive, you’ll be find with a mechanical drive for home use. And if you find a great deal on a MacBook Pro model without an SSD drive, you could always purchase a DIY kit to remove the optical drive and replace it with an SSD. I’ve done it myself and it’s fairly straightforward.

While purchasing a used Apple computer for MainStage isn’t necessarily ideal, it can be a fantastic way to complete your live rig without having to lug around a $3,000 machine. And if you already own a $3,000 machine, a used computer can be an excellent way to keep a backup on hand just in case you need it.

If you have any additional questions, you can contact me anytime at:

jeff@mardermusic.com

+1.917.338.7427

 

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Can I Use A Windows Computer For Music Production?

I’m often asked whether it’s absolutely necessary to use an Apple computer for music production. This question is certainly understandable given how much Apple products tend to be associated with creative professions and the tendency for content creators to gravitate toward the Apple ecosystem. However, I would argue that the answer to this question is a resounding “no” – it’s not necessary at all to use an Apple computer for music production and there are many great software options that exist for Windows based systems.

Why do so many music professionals use Apple computers? Originally most of the software created for music production was only available on the Apple OS, so many people simply started with Apple and never considered alternatives. Then when their friends, students, and colleagues were ready to purchase computers, they simply bought what they were familiar with. This makes perfect sense as I always advise people to use the same software and hardware as their friends and colleagues so that they have a network of peers who can help them with tech issues. A strong community built around a piece of software can be extremely beneficial to all of its members.

But what if you primarily use software that’s also available on the Windows OS? Is there any reason to use Apple products? I say not necessarily. Though there tend to be subtle differences between the Apple and Windows versions of the same software, the functionality is essentially the same between the two. Therefore, there’s no reason to limit yourself to just one brand of computer. Also, Windows based computers¬†are often much more customizable, are available with much more variety, and can often be upgraded post purchase. And if your needs are very easy on CPU, it’s easy to find many inexpensive Windows based options.

It should be mentioned that an Apple computer and a Windows computer with the exact same specifications tend to cost exactly the same amount of money, so when comparing “apples to apples”, there’s no savings in purchasing a fully spec’ed Windows machine, so cost is only a factor if you don’t need an extremely powerful machine.

Several advantages to purchasing a budget Windows computer¬†for music would be if you need something for music notation. Unless you’re using large sound libraries for playback, software such as Finale and Sibelius don’t require much processing power, so for this purpose a Windows machine is perfectly suitable. A budget Windows machine can also be excellent for travel so that you don’t need to be too concerned about loss, theft, or damage to your brand new top of the line MacBook Pro.

There are also many excellent digital audio recording software options available for Windows, such as Pro Tools, Cubase, Nuendo, Ableton, and much more. And for live performance, a fantastic alternative to Apple’s MainStage software is Brainspawn’s Forte. In fact, for someone with very basic audio production or editing needs, a Windows computer can be a great money saving option. Many musicians don’t necessarily need a DAW for producing albums, but rather just to make occassional edits to audio they’ll be using in other situations. I would argue that for these types of users, there’s absolutely no reason to spend a lot of money on a top of the line Apple computer when a perfectly suitable Windows computer can be purchased for a fraction of the price. That said, should the user’s needs become more complex, the cost benefits become less apparent.

So it’s not quite so clear cut. That said, I would still argue that for the right user with a certain set of needs, a budget Windows computer can be an excellent option for music production.

Feel free to contact me anytime with questions at:

jeff@mardermusic.com

+1.917.338.7427