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James Shuttleworth
Head of Academic Studies
Manchester
Last Update: 25.03.15
The Mac or Audio PC Dilemma
SSR Manchester - James Shuttleworth, Head of Academic Studies

POSTED ON – 25.03.15

The Mac or Audio PC Dilemma


Recently I decided that it was time to upgrade my computer system - I had been using a 24” iMac for a number of years and it was starting to get long past its sell-by-date, and struggling to keep up with the demands of newer and more powerful software and sample libraries.

I have used Apple systems for the last 10-15 years and hugely value their simplicity, ergonomic design and above all the smoothness of their OSX operating system. Very little seems to go wrong with software, and consequently hardware, when using the Apple platform.

I put together a relatively generous budget (by selling some guitars and older audio equipment) and started to survey the available options. I was looking for a machine that would be future proof and last me for a good while, and would preferably use OSX and Logic… so that’d be a Mac. As far as options were concerned, the front runners were a 27” Retina iMac, a Mac Mini, a Mac Pro, a Macbook Pro but I did also consider the option of purchasing an Audio PC. I also had a ballpark idea of the features that I would require – I wanted a Quad-Core processor at least, a minimum of 16GB of RAM with room for expandability, and as much Solid State (flash) hard drive space as possible, for speedy loading of samples and storage.

To help me make a choice, I developed a framework for comparison whereby I identified aspects of the technology that were of most interest to me as a consumer (on an academic note – I would always recommend developing a framework if you are researching with a view to comparing and contrasting a topic or concept).

I analysed the information using a key. I marked any deal-breaking restrictions in red (including anything that was over-budget), any concerning limitations in orange, and any distinct advantages in bold green.





Costs for all systems based on stated models with 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM with maximum available processor speed.

The Mac Pro and Audio PC configurations are based on a 6 Core 3.3GHz Intel Processor using a Gigabyte X99UD motherboard for the PC.

Ultimately, I made the brave decision to go with an Audio PC as I felt that it was the best option for the budget, and gives the option to upgrade components incrementally, along with giving a much higher specification for the cost. Because the machine came in under-budget I managed to purchase a number of extras; including an additional 500GB SSD (so I have 2), 2 LED monitors and Native Instruments Komplete 10. All of this for less than any of the Mac prices shown, except the Mac Mini.

Since purchasing my Audio PC and setting it up 3 days ago, I have spent longer trying to solve software and hardware issues than I have making any music. I have been having some seriously frustrating issues with the audio drivers for my interface and I also forgot how bad the graphical quality of non-Apple systems can be. If I can get everything to work as it should, then I still maintain that I have achieved great value for money against a Mac system, but I’m not fully convinced as yet.

I’m trying to work out whether you can actually put a price on dependability and ease of use; I do miss OSX with a passion… 

If you have purchased a new computer or have any thoughts or opinions about the suitability of Macs and PCs for recording and mixing then it would be great to hear your views. Please do leave a comment in the section below.

For those interested in the full specs of the computer I ultimately chose;

Intel 5820K Haswell-E 3.3GHz 6 Core 12 Threads
16GB DDR4 (2x8GB) 2133MHz (upgradeable to 64GB)
HD5450 ATI Graphics Card
1TB SSD SATA III
500GB SSD SATA III
Deep Silence 2 Case
Gigabyte X99UD Motherboard

Thanks for reading!
James

James Shuttleworth
Posts

POSTED ON – 25.03.15

The Mac or Audio PC Dilemma

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Graduation Day

Biography
Having graduating from De Montfort University with a BA Hons (in Music Technology), James went into postgraduate study and has an MSc in Entrepreneurial Business.

In the meantime James has produced a number of successful recordings for independent labels, and is an active multi-instrumentalist, most notably having performed at both the Bridgewater Hall and Palace Theatre.