Let me start by saying this post is not a pissing war between PC (Windows machines) and Macs. Windows boxes are flat out better if you have business to do or games to play. End of story.
But this blog is about music and for music don’t waste your time; Go Mac.
I’ve been a PC user since the first time Windows had a tiled interface. That was back in ’85. I love Windows boxes for all the reason PC lovers love theirs; ease of expansion, customizability, lower cost, tons and tons and tons more software. Back in ’08 I got a Mac. With the help of Parallels, a program which allowed me to run Windows natively alongside the Mac OS I was jamming.
Over the past 5 years though, with upgrades, bloatware, etc… my old Mac was chugging and puffing like a fat guy racing for the last donut in the box. Not wanting to spend $2000 on a new Mac. I decided I would switch to a super-fast HP i7 box I have. I got everything installed and updated and connected. Having a native Firewire port on the PC made it a snap. I even found a pile of VSTi plug-ins that weren’t available for the Mac. Suddenly I had a dozen new synthesizers!
Now you might recall my setup from earlier posts. My Mac had an external monitor and was connected to my Oxygen 49 keyboard and Mackie Onyx 1220i mixer. Both devices plugged in and worked seamlessly from the get-go and have ever since.
I set up the PC with my 2 Samsung PX2370 monitors and loaded the drivers for my gear. This step was un-necessary with the Mac. You just plug it in. The mixer seemed to be ok but I was getting various MIDI error messages from my DAW Reaper. I spent hours searching the web and trying to resolve 2 issues; Horrible latency when playing the keyboard and the inability to get my control surface working with Reaper. I managed to resolve the first issue but never got the second one fixed. I could have, however, the solution involved hours of work.
Next was the Mackie. When plugged into the Mac all the I/O for the mixer was pretty much handled automatically. The PC required manual mapping of ports and didn’t seem to give the amount of flexibility as the Mac. I only spent time getting things barely working and even that took a long time.
Then there were sound card issues. When working with Reaper I’d have sound. Then I’d fire up iTunes. The sound would go away. Sometimes. Then I’d reboot. Then I’d utter a string of curses.
But the machine was fast! So my dilemma continued. I had a super-fast machine for no additional cash outlay but my DAW and all it’s great new add-ins sucked. But I didn’t want to spend $2K on a new Mac.
Then inspiration hit me! Actually it was given to me by Trevor from Fromager Music in Owen Sound; The Mac Mini. This little beauty is compact, elegant and inexpensive (for an Apple product). Using an adapter in the Thunderbolt port plus the built-in HDMI port I’m able to connect my 2 monitors. The Mini is also the only current Apple product which has a Firewire port built in. My Mackie gear is Firewire so…. yay! I ordered the unit with 4GB of RAM because it’s the least expensive Apple offers. Then I went up the street to the local PC warehouse and bought 2 8GB DIMMS for $65. This is a $200 option if you go with Apple. Performing the RAM upgrade for the Mac Mini is astoundingly easy.
I used Apple’s migration utility to slurp the old Mac onto the new Mac and voila! Back in business with a TON of horsepower.
When Trevor suggested the Mac Mini I still wasn’t off the PC fence but then he made a comment that really hit home; “I just can’t afford the down-time”. I thought about how much time I had wasted with the problems I was experiencing. How many reboots. How many work-arounds. How much time spent wandering forums looking for people experiencing similar nightmares. The answer was obvious. Ditch the PC platform and return to the tried and true Mac.
So I’m back to a Mac (with Windows running on Parallels). The box is a tiny technical marvel. It takes up almost no space, runs silently, fast and is semi-reasonably priced. Best of all, my hardware devices all work again (not to mention the sound not cutting out).
If you’re doing music I can’t recommend anything else.
Now to start saving to buy an Apple notebook for mobility. Talk about over-priced : (