It may look like a cross between a rubbish bin and R2D2 but the new Mac Pro put an end to the excruciatingly long wait from Apple for an update to their aging ‘Pro’ line. So now that is has been available for a few months how does it stack up as the centerpiece for your music studio?
It’s still very early days but Logic Pro and every other DAW still has yet to be optimized to take advantage of OpenCL or OpenGL – the additional graphical GPU power of these machines. In fact, no music software or sample library can really take advantage of the Mac Pros additional power. That’s not to say this isn’t a powerful beast, it is the most powerful machine on the market with 4, 6, 8 or 12 core Xeon processors and turbo boost speeds of up to 3.9 GHz. There’s no more reliance upon moving parts either, the new Mac Pro exclusively features PCI-e flash based storage that are ten times as fast as your current desktop hard drives.
There are other benefits too – this machine is whisper quiet and will garner envy from anyone that walks in to your studio. Thunderbolt 2 ports will enable daisy chaining of up to 36 devices so expandability is there for those willing to invest in some adapters.
The reality is that if you are in the market for a new high-end machine you have two choices; either the new Mac Pro or the most recent superseded model. It’s a tough choice because the previous model can house 4 3TB hard drives and features firewire and USB ports. It’s also plenty powerful and can be found cheaper. However, this is Apple, and it’s only a matter of time before Logic Pro and most other music making software and plugs take advantage of OpenCL. When that happens these machines will be several times faster that the previous generations and by that time, PCI-e flash based storage will be much cheaper.
My advice is to wait it out until next gen, but if you’ve made up your mind to buy then make sure you understand how the turbo boost works. In the case of these machines more cores is not necessarily better. For music production the six core machine seems to be the most appropriate one. Remember that a quad core machine runs at 3.7GHz where as the 12 core CPU speed is limited to 2.7 GHz. Unless your doing things like ray tracing or scene rendering it makes sense to opt for less cores and more CPU speed. I’d suggest opting for the base model and upgrading to six cores and 16 GB of memory which will bring your purchase price in at just over 4.5K Australian.
Naturally if you’re a film composer and need to run a few 4K displays from one machine then your only option is the new Mac Pro.