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Updated : How to Optimize a Mac for Audio
Old 12th May 2010
  #1
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
Updated : How to Optimize a Mac for Audio

Hello All.


I've just migrated back to using Macs. I'm now in the process of setting up a MacBookPro for audio. I'm still running a PC system so no PC/Mac bashing in this thread. But after searching high and low here I believe it's well overdue for an updated thread on Optimizing a Mac for Audio. Hopefully this could be made into a sticky.

Some of the only Mac optimizing threads I could find on GS were hopelessly out of date (OS9 .. Seriously ). All of the few links I could find, were broken. While I admire the wonderful work of the mods and techs at Digi, The Digi/Avid forums are a painful experience to navigate through, particularly at the moment because of the "corporate merger". The Mac forums also tend to have tons of unrelated posts.

So .. If we could discuss the general state of play at the moment ...

What OS are people currently using to run their DAW's? I've spoken with some people who are still adamant about staying on either 10.4 or 10.5 for their DAW and won't go to 10.6 yet. Others are using and enjoying 10.6, but it sounds like a bumpy, buggy ride at the moment with both Logic and ProTools. That's even before you get to those Mac users who are running Cubase/Nuendo, DP, etc ...

One of the big questions I'd like to pose relates to partitioning the system drive into 2, 3 or possibly 4 partitions on a MacBook, in the way that you would run separate system/audio drives on a MacPro. I've seen this recommended by different people. Has anyone done this on their MacBook? Can they report generally as to the level of improvement with track/plugin counts, CPU speed, etc with either PT, Logic or another DAW? Can anyone report how they set up separate drives on their MacPro desktop machine?

What are some good 3rd party programs for disk partitioning? Are there any simple ways to walk someone through the steps of this process? Are there general updates worth reporting for Mac audio at this time? Are there any tips or suggestions on Benchmarking system performance and software to do this?

By way of example, this is the spec on the 15" MacBookPro I've just bought :

MacBookPro3,1 2008 Santa Rosa 2.4MHz Intel Core 2 Duo. 4GB RAM. Cache: 4 MB. Bus Speed: 800 MHz. Drive 320 GB 7200RPM. FW 400/800. OSX 10.6.2 (Snow Leopard). (Held off the 10.6.3 update for now)

I'm considering partitioning the drive with 2 or 3 smaller OS partitions but I'm open to advice here. The idea is to run :

Snow Leopard 10.6 : Safari/Skype/Word/iLife .. yada yada .. and/or
Either 10.4 or 10.5 : ProTools LE 8/ Logic 9/ plug ins (AU, VST)
XP on either BootCamp/Parallels/VMWare : Nuendo/ plug ins (VST)
Large Drive Partition : Projects/ Files/ Users ..

If I can get general help setting this up, I'll happily post my experiences and updates here. Perhaps some of the other posts here on GS about general Mac tweaks for audio can be consolidated as well.

Installing or transfering iLok authorizations. And other REALLY BIG HEADACHES .. General tips on dealing with this ..

If you're currently having a problem with updates, bugfixes, drivers perhaps you could post here as well, but please (!!) .. None of these posts SCREAMING about how "I can't get ProTools to work !!!! Digi Suck .. yadayada". Let's TRY to keep the tone positive and instructive .. Hopefully we can help each other.

If I missed basic things, then be kind. I haven't been in MacWorld for a while (It feels nice to be back though). Please help a fellow slut.


Regards RAy
Old 12th May 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 
zephonic's Avatar
 
14 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
The way to optimize a Mac for audio is simply turning the power on. Sorry, don't mean to be a d--che, but there's nothing more to it.
Old 12th May 2010 | Show parent
  #3
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
yeah, you don't really find OSX optimize for audio pages out there 'cause there ain't much to do. i looked around once and gave up. OSX just does its thing
Old 12th May 2010 | Show parent
  #4
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
if you use end up using pro tools visit the DUC website .. one of their stickies is a guide to setting up your mac .. peace, jeremy
Old 12th May 2010 | Show parent
  #5
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
Zephonic. I would never think you were a d**che.

But What OS are you guys currently running on??

Also .. Advice on Disk Partitioning?? ..
Old 12th May 2010 | Show parent
  #6
Registered User
 
🎧 10 years
But dont use tiger! leopard is so much better and if you're gonna use logic you might as well use snow leopard! Snow leopard is extremely stable! Can't speak for pro tools though, if you are a protools user you might wanna go the leopard route. I would even stick with 7.4, damm is 8 glitchy! At least running 10.6.3
Old 12th May 2010 | Show parent
  #7
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks to all so far. How's "Springtime for Jeremy in Germany"? New Rekid? heh
Old 12th May 2010 | Show parent
  #8
Lives for gear
 
zephonic's Avatar
 
14 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I got my Mac in 2007 with Tiger. Upgraded to Leopard 18 months ago, and installed Snow Leopard today. Never any real hiccups. Upgraded from Cubase 4.5.2 to 5.1.1 because it is supposed to run better under SL. My first impression is positive.
I'm serious about just turning the power on. I guess the reason why there's so little info about audio optimalization for OSX is that there really isn't much to optimize. YMMV.
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #9
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
"I'm serious about just turning the power on. I guess the reason why there's so little info about audio optimalization for OSX is that there really isn't much to optimize. YMMV."

I'm thinking you could be on to something there
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #10
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic ➑️
Zephonic. I would never think you were a d**che.

But What OS are you guys currently running on??

Also .. Advice on Disk Partitioning?? ..
Partitioning, No need unless you're going to use boot camp.

I'm still on 10.5.8

Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #11
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
Which I intend to do ... But do you create partitions from within disk utility? From what I understood, you needed a 3rd party program .. ??
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
zephonic's Avatar
 
14 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
No, Bootcamp assistant takes care of everything. It will ask you how large you want the Windows partition to be, and whether you want to use NTFS or FAT.
And for normal disk partitioning you can use OSX' own disk utilities.
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #13
Registered User
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by zephonic ➑️
turning the power on.
basically
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #14
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
i'm using 10.5.8 with pro tools 8.

i just turn it on and everything is fine.
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #15
Registered User
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by zephonic ➑️
The way to optimize a Mac for audio is simply turning the power on.
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #16
Moderator
 
psycho_monkey's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by zephonic ➑️
I got my Mac in 2007 with Tiger. Upgraded to Leopard 18 months ago, and installed Snow Leopard today. Never any real hiccups. Upgraded from Cubase 4.5.2 to 5.1.1 because it is supposed to run better under SL. My first impression is positive.
I'm serious about just turning the power on. I guess the reason why there's so little info about audio optimalization for OSX is that there really isn't much to optimize. YMMV.
Clock set to 24hr, energy saver settings...um yep, that's about it for PT. Disable the function keys (remap expose etc) - not strictly necessary just for performance.

But that's about it.
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #17
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
Hello,
Also, disable automatic Software Updates. Including going through various Apple software such as iTunes and others and turning auto updates off.
Turn off automatic Date and Time update.
Turn off automatic MobileMe syncing.
Turn off automatic mounting of your iDisk.
Select to display servers on the desktop so you know if you've connected to one and can unmount it before recording.
Turn bluetooth off during recording if not needed by a keyboard or mouse.
Turn off screen saver when recording.
Turn off Speakable Items (probably already off).
Turn off file sharing, printer sharing, and screen sharing unless needed.

That's a quick list off the bottom of my head, as you see it's mainly about not letting the Mac wander off and do something else during a critical multitrack recording. Not all above items are critical.

As far as partitioning, it's certainly possible and I used to do it every OS install. I can say from experience that it's easy to accomplish but a pain to manage once it's running but if you feel the tradeoff is worth it then go ahead. The OS install DVD will allow you to partition the drive, which wipes it. If you partition, keep your users on the same partition as your OS for ease of software installs. Personally I gave up partitioning for separate OS, data, and audio drives a while back and it's been great.

My opinions only.
Hugh
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #18
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks to all who have replied and posted so far. Keep them coming ..

Any special tweaks that you know?
Old 13th May 2010 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
DistortingJack's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I'm quickly going to quote Lagerfeldt here from the sticky thread, because everything is spot-on:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt ➑️
Mac OS X
-No journaling on your audio disk (use the Disk Utility). Up to 20% more speed if you're lucky.
-Set processor for max power, set hard disks and screens to don't sleep (only applies to some Macs)
-Don't use screen savers.
-Clean up your desktop, don't fill it with icons. Each icon on the desktop is treated differently in the system than a regular icon.
-Get matched RAM pairs (up to 5% increase in speed).
-Minimum of 10% (preferably more) free hard disk space. I.e a 100 Gb hard disk should have at least 10 Gb of free space at all times.
-Don't activate Widgets (Dashboard). Once activated it'll use resources in the background until you log out or restart your Mac.
-Open iCal and turn off alarms when iCal isn't open (in preferences).
-Disable AirPort.
-Don't install shit you don't really need. Especially nothing that works in the background such as MSN, Skype, etc.
I think this is a really good set of recommendations as well:
Quote:
Originally Posted by HughH ➑️
Hello,
Also, disable automatic Software Updates. Including going through various Apple software such as iTunes and others and turning auto updates off.
Turn off automatic Date and Time update.
Turn off automatic MobileMe syncing.
Turn off automatic mounting of your iDisk.
Select to display servers on the desktop so you know if you've connected to one and can unmount it before recording.
Turn bluetooth off during recording if not needed by a keyboard or mouse.
Turn off screen saver when recording.
Turn off Speakable Items (probably already off).
Turn off file sharing, printer sharing, and screen sharing unless needed.
I have a couple of extra ones:
-Get the biggest internal hard drive you can afford. 500+ GB in the newer laptops are easy to fit and do make the machine run faster. Remember, bigger capacity = more density = faster.
-Check your RAM needs with Activity Monitor on a very busy session; if RAM is more than 3/4 full then you should definitely add more of it. I have 6 GB on my MBP and it runs marvellously, with Logic, Reason and Kontakt Memory Server loaded up. More RAM is better than matched pairs, I've done the tests.

Other very useful things to do, but not necessary (ymmv):
-If using the computer for anything else than audio, try to have 2 different users, one specifically for audio, with only audio apps in the dock. This is more about being productive than actual speed, but it does make me focus more into audio than wandering off on a google search that goes nowhere or some pointless photo editing.
It's also good if you need to troubleshoot any problems, because if the other user doesn't have the issue then it's easy to create a new user and just use that one. Sharing documents can get a bit fiddly though, unless you:
-Partition the internal hard drive in two: System and Documents. It works awfully well and you can do a full software install and still keep your documents! It's also cleaner when backing up. By the way, Mac OS X can partition your drive without erasing even when the computer is on, as long as the space hasn't already been used. This is done via Disk Utility and it only takes a few seconds.
-This is not a Mac-only thing, but do try to use an external drive for your audio sessions (FW800 is better than 400 is better than USB is better than internal), even with an audio interface attached to it. I have my external hard drive partitioned in two as well: Audio and Samples.
The reasoning behind this is that hard drives have a search time if going into opposite parts of the drive, and this is minimised if you keep all those projects tightly together for easy read-write. Also, samples are loaded into RAM, so that (huge, hopefully!) portion of the drive is not required after the project loads.
-Get a GOOD backup system going. I have a 1TB hard drive partitioned in 5, with a full clone of my 4 virtual drives every month, plus an image of my Snow Leopard DVD for fast boot. The disk utility in this DVD is perfectly capable of making perfectly bootable clones, no need for a 3rd party app.
I also have a 1TB Time Capsule which I leave on every other night, obviously set to off unless triggered manually. If my system drive fails, it takes a couple of hours to get a new internal drive, copy the bootable image from last month, and then run Time Machine to get the latest files. I prefer to do it this way instead of relying solely on Time Machine, because it's not 100% reliable and lightning can strike twice. I've seen it happen.

-Last thing, DON'T waste your time with 3rd party apps that "clean up the system", defragmenters, or anything else of the sort. I've done lots of tests and all of them combined gave me about a 2% boost and a couple of weeks of my life gone forever.
Once you've done everything in the list, you can be pretty much sure your Mac is as good as it can possibly be. If it's not fast enough, then it's time for a new machine. A thing many people don't take into account when buying a Mac is the very high resale value; you can get a good portion of the price of a new one by selling you current one! I use gumtree in the UK because unlike eBay it is free, but this might not apply in your country and city. In Paris I use websites like mac4ever and macgeneration.

I hope this helps!
Old 2nd June 2013
  #20
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I been pretty regimental about sticking to pc's for 15 years. however I borrowed a mac book pro for a month whilst my mate was on holiday in exchange for replacing the screen for him.

Whilst i really don't like a lot of apples policys as a company i will most definatly be saving my pennies for a MBP.

Just can' bellive how much better they are for audio everything just works straight away with such little effort.

All that time wasted pissing about with drivers and system optimisation, Not to mention regimental reinstalltion of windows every three months. just to get it to work well.

Had to use dcp checker and turn of all the drivers i was not using to stop audio glitch.

Time wasted that should of been well spent on making music. I have seen the light. The expense has always put me off as an i.t expert i have always built and repaired laptops/desktops.

But i now realize as music creation happens to be one of the most important aspects of my life, Paying for the best tool for the job seems the only way forward. I wish i had realised this sooner
Old 2nd June 2013
  #21
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Don't think I would disable journaling, Kontakt, and Logic rely on Spotlight to locate audio samples.

Old 2nd June 2013 | Show parent
  #22
Lives for gear
 
DistortingJack's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by HipBonanza ➑️
I been pretty regimental about sticking to pc's for 15 years. however I borrowed a mac book pro for a month whilst my mate was on holiday in exchange for replacing the screen for him.

Whilst i really don't like a lot of apples policys as a company i will most definatly be saving my pennies for a MBP.

Just can' bellive how much better they are for audio everything just works straight away with such little effort.

All that time wasted pissing about with drivers and system optimisation, Not to mention regimental reinstalltion of windows every three months. just to get it to work well.

Had to use dcp checker and turn of all the drivers i was not using to stop audio glitch.

Time wasted that should of been well spent on making music. I have seen the light. The expense has always put me off as an i.t expert i have always built and repaired laptops/desktops.

But i now realize as music creation happens to be one of the most important aspects of my life, Paying for the best tool for the job seems the only way forward. I wish i had realised this sooner
Haha I was kind of forced to buy a mac to uni and the same thing happened to me.
It's not to say that they can't be buggy or that you can't optimise them at all, but when you turn them on they just work, you know! After years of learning all there is to know about Firewire chipsets and motherboard drivers I realised on a mac you really just press record...
Old 2nd June 2013 | Show parent
  #23
TNM
Lives for gear
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gdoubleyou ➑️
Don't think I would disable journaling, Kontakt, and Logic rely on Spotlight to locate audio samples.

Absolutely right 100%

Disabling that is really bad advice.
Old 2nd June 2013
  #24
Lives for gear
 
DAW PLUS's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by HipBonanza ➑️
I been pretty regimental about sticking to pc's for 15 years. however I borrowed a mac book pro for a month whilst my mate was on holiday in exchange for replacing the screen for him.

Whilst i really don't like a lot of apples policys as a company i will most definatly be saving my pennies for a MBP.

Just can' bellive how much better they are for audio everything just works straight away with such little effort.

All that time wasted pissing about with drivers and system optimisation, Not to mention regimental reinstalltion of windows every three months. just to get it to work well.

Had to use dcp checker and turn of all the drivers i was not using to stop audio glitch.

Time wasted that should of been well spent on making music. I have seen the light. The expense has always put me off as an i.t expert i have always built and repaired laptops/desktops.

But i now realize as music creation happens to be one of the most important aspects of my life, Paying for the best tool for the job seems the only way forward. I wish i had realised this sooner
The Mac is a good turnkey solution. You cannot compare it to average Windows based office/gaming pc's and especially not self-built systems. You need to compare them to good Windows based turnkey solutions in the same price class. Then you will see, that the problems you mentioned are no problem at all.
Old 2nd June 2013
  #25
Registered User
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Then you will see, that the problems you mentioned are no problem at all.
said by the guy who builds pc's ...
I have both .... but i only entrust my scanner to windozy
Old 2nd June 2013
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Knock Knock.
Quote:
How to Optimize a Mac for Audio
Who's there? Reduce the price by 50%

Boom Boom
Old 3rd June 2013
  #27
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I have a script for snow lep if you want it. Main thing is to turn off spotlight. Pm me if you want it - tiny file. There's a lot going on in the background obviously and I'm sticking with sl for the foreseeable future. One of Steve jobs last emails was titled "it's about the consumer, not the professional anymore... That kinda says it all and why I don't think there will be real Mac Pro ever again. And why they're not going after the hacking tosh community anymore. Why bother when your the valuable company in the world.....
Old 3rd June 2013
  #28
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
I was on the very same situation a few months ago when i got my Mac Pro only for Studio use, searching like crazy, didn't find anything, opened a new thread, only two or three posts on it, so glad i found this new one now!!

Since i didn't get help at that moment, I just did what i could, installed Lion and then all of the recording SW on it, use Cubaseas a DAW, and have the Maschine package which is giving me headaches right now.

One thing I'd advice IMHO, trust on what the ppl is posting around here, stick with Snow Leopard, DON'T go with Lion, my Mac Pro quad core 2,66ghz with 16gb ram runned like an old PC under it when using Cubase and all. SL? Whole different story, stable and fast.

About partitioning, I have 3 HDD installed on my mac, one's for the system/SW, the other one's for all of the plug-ins libraries, Maschine instruments, etc, the 3rd. one is my Time Machine, and then I have two externals, one is for all of my projects, the other one is my second Time Machine (call me crazy, but it hurts when you loose all of your data, it really does!!). Hope that helps on your quest!!
Old 3rd June 2013
  #29
Registered User
 
🎧 5 years
The way to optimize a Mac for audio is simply turning the power on
Old 3rd June 2013 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Dave_Ionic's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by derneustart ➑️
I was on the very same situation a few months ago when i got my Mac Pro only for Studio use, searching like crazy, didn't find anything, opened a new thread, only two or three posts on it, so glad i found this new one now!!

Since i didn't get help at that moment, I just did what i could, installed Lion and then all of the recording SW on it, use Cubaseas a DAW, and have the Maschine package which is giving me headaches right now.

One thing I'd advice IMHO, trust on what the ppl is posting around here, stick with Snow Leopard, DON'T go with Lion, my Mac Pro quad core 2,66ghz with 16gb ram runned like an old PC under it when using Cubase and all. SL? Whole different story, stable and fast.

About partitioning, I have 3 HDD installed on my mac, one's for the system/SW, the other one's for all of the plug-ins libraries, Maschine instruments, etc, the 3rd. one is my Time Machine, and then I have two externals, one is for all of my projects, the other one is my second Time Machine (call me crazy, but it hurts when you loose all of your data, it really does!!). Hope that helps on your quest!!
Since you are running an Older Mac Pro Snow Leopard is probably a wise decision. Of course the newer Macs on Mountain Lion are no problem at all. I am running a 2012 Mac Mini 2.3 ghz Quad core i7 16GB ram on 10.8.3 with Logic 9.1.8 no problems whatsoever. It does not run like a PC I might add. LOL
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