December 26, 2005

And now we return to our regularly programmed schedule...

by Chris Randall

Back from Christmas With The Rednecks, and right in to it. Over the break, I got a letter from Michael Liero, who pondered the following:

Over the last
few years I have been running ableton live and reason on a very outdated
800mhz P3 gateway which I've owned for over five years. Im finally ready to purchase a new computer and was looking at an iMac, due to the fact that I am on a limited budget. I was goin to run ableton and reason on it with a presonus firebox, do you think that an iMac would be sufficient for a [computer just used as a] DAW?

Well, speaking strictly from a dollars to power ratio, I think buying a PC would be a wiser choice, if you can't afford one of the big gun Macs. For a grand, you can build/buy a pretty powerful PC, whereas the cheapest iMac is gonna set you back $1299, and is a long way from anything that could be described as a "powerhouse." Plus you'll need to get an external 7200 RPM FW drive. Your plugin and track counts in Live are gonna be on the low side, as well. The iMac isn't a computer very well-suited to production chores, in my humble opinion.

From a usability standpoint, it's strictly a matter of taste. I personally use a (quite powerful) PC for music because Nuendo is Nuendo, so who cares? I just want to use a shitload of plugins and not spend $4000 doing it. However, I vastly prefer OSX for my email, web surfing, iChat, iTunes, etc., and I am, in fact, writing this on my trusty iBook, which has been beat to hell, and still works fine. So, what does everyone else think? Let's keep this from degenerating in to a platform flame-fest. From a strictly professional viewpoint, should Michael spend $1299 on the new iMac, or put that same money in to a more powerful but less friendly PC?



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Dec.27.2005 @ 1:47 PM
D' MacKinnon
I'd say "follow the software". If Mac only has the software you need go there, otherwise it's cheaper to use a PC. Mac's are like BMW's of computers. They are expensive and really nice to use but a cheap PC can do the same job.

You'll have to do some slight system tweaking on your PC but any of the pro audio msg boards out there can tell you how to do this. There really isn't the big performance gap that there used to be between macs and PCs for audio production.


Dec.27.2005 @ 2:28 PM
wow, i didn't know that Ableton wasn't interested in tweaking for Apple processors. Sorta seems like the kind of thing that would behoove a software developer...y'know, optimising your product for the consumer. Do they think it's a waste of time?


Dec.27.2005 @ 2:51 PM
Chris Randall
Speaking as a developer, it is really difficult, approaching impossible, to keep up with Apple. They change their mind a lot. If we started developing in 1999, we would have had to write our plugs for what is for all intents and purposes 14 different operating systems, almost none of which are compatible with each other except at the most basic level. Just setting the cut-off at 10.3.9 like we do, we will still have to compile for two very different systems within the next three months. However, when working with Windows, stuff that was optimized for Windows ME will work with almost no changes in XP SP2.

Spending a lot of time optimizing a particular program for G4/G5 is, at this point in the game, really a waste of time, as the platform will cease to exist in less than a year. I fully understand Ableton making that decision. I bet you their Apple dev guys are working on the Intel dev machines getting everything sorted for that change.



Dec.27.2005 @ 2:57 PM

the Live/Altivec thing has a long history with Gerhard weighing at various times. i suggest browsing the ableton forums if you are really interested.

my impression is that it would take a massive re-write and that they don't know if it really worth it. most of the improvements would be in the form of better performing Live native plugins, rather than the core app itself. it would have no real effect on third party plugins.

so i wouldn't say they are not interested in doing it, but it seems they don't believe the cost/benefit of doing so is worth it. i can respect that since they are a in a much better position to know if that is the case.


Dec.27.2005 @ 3:59 PM
Yeah, I get it now. Not being a programmer I wasn't aware that all the iterations of OSX thus far have required completely different codings, though i knew that AU plugins were a pain in the developer's ass. Why does Apple rewrite the book everytime?

OK, well maybe I'll wait for the Intel Imac....oh but then can't get the first generation.....

Also IMHO, Ableton's native plugs and Reason are hella efficient on my old ass G4-400 upgraded Beige G3-233 and i really appreciate that!


Dec.28.2005 @ 8:55 AM
I cant speak for Live/Reason, but I can speak for the 20" iMac and Presonus Firebox.

First of all there is a screen spanning hack to enable dual monitors on an iMac at link []">link [] I'm using a 19" LCD as a second screen as I write this.

About the Firebox, I just got it the other day and whereas it is plug and play and seems to work fine, using it with a firewire hub seems to cause the system processes to eat up alot of CPU. I have to use a hub due to an ill behaved external burner that I need to keep going.

As for the performance of this computer, I can only say that in Logic Express, I had no problems mixing a project in Logic Express with 20 audio tracks and 10 software instrument tracks with a variety of plugins on most tracks. Your milage may vary.


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