Mac laptop or Mac Mini M1 for recording?

yoshiii

Member
Messages
1,127
Hello,

Which should I buy for recording a Mac M1 Macbook Air, a Macbook Pro M1 Pro, or a Mac Mini M1?

I will buy a laptop and desktop both but right now can only get one. I want to have a separate computer for music and graphic design.

I have only space for one right now. The computer will be used for music recording.
 

mastercaster

Member
Messages
408
Looking also. I flip flop as there are plus and minus for each. For the price of MacBook you can double ram and storage in Mac mini, more ports also.
I could list attributes for the MacBook Air also. You decide, I can’t.
I have a iPad for portability, need a bus powered interface.
Let me know what you decide.
 

MorphineNoir

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
809
I had a Mac Pro 7,1 and a MacBook Air 13"

Sold them both, bought the MBP M1 Max with 4TB and never looked back

Note: I do have an external 32" monitor to connect the MBP to when I want more screen area
 

Horsimus

Member
Messages
32
I have the MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro and it sails through multitrack stuff (In Garageband, because I'm a complete amateur) where my old Intel one would chug and hate life.

I also bought a Dell monitor with USB-C power delivery and quite a few ports. The audio interface plugs in there, as does the MIDI controller. So it's a case of plugging one cord into the MacBook and having a Mac Mini-esque desktop computer, and if I need to go anywhere, I just take it with. Your application (and indeed mileage) will vary, but the portability to just go somewhere else – into another room or interstate – and still have all my stuff was worth it for me.

Also, if funds mean you need to buy one thing at a time – I can relate – you get a screen and a laptop included this way, and can add peripherals along the way.
 

Madguitrst

Member
Messages
2,953
I think @mastercaster is spot on, so I vote for the Mac Mini for the better/best price vs performance ratio (definitely get 16gb of ram and at least 1TB SSD).
 

mastercaster

Member
Messages
408
I have the MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro and it sails through multitrack stuff (In Garageband, because I'm a complete amateur) where my old Intel one would chug and hate life.

I also bought a Dell monitor with USB-C power delivery and quite a few ports. The audio interface plugs in there, as does the MIDI controller. So it's a case of plugging one cord into the MacBook and having a Mac Mini-esque desktop computer, and if I need to go anywhere, I just take it with. Your application (and indeed mileage) will vary, but the portability to just go somewhere else – into another room or interstate – and still have all my stuff was worth it for me.

Also, if funds mean you need to buy one thing at a time – I can relate – you get a screen and a laptop included this way, and can add peripherals along the way.
Which Dell monitor? Thanks.
 

Kennyscrown

Member
Messages
2,869
I had this dilemma last year, and eventually bought a MacBook Air with 16gb ram and a 1TB SSD. I also needed a small hub, but am using my work monitor as an additional screen.

I have to say it incredibly fast, and hasn't struggled at all with recording or anything else I can throw at it. I am not really a power user, but I have songs with 20+ tracks, with 2-3 plugins on each, and it has never skipped a beat.

It is great having a laptop, as by simply removing 1 USB C lead, I'm completely portable.

One thing I would say, whichever computer you go for try the Apple Refurbished/Clearance section of their website. My MacBook Air was £1,400 against £1,649 retail, and it was basically brand new - not a mark on it.
 

Horsimus

Member
Messages
32
Which Dell monitor? Thanks.
It was the 27-inch Ultrasharp... U2720Q was the model code. I got it a little while (maybe a year or two) after getting my old MacBook, and then replaced the laptop maybe two years after that.

I can't go past the versatility of plugging one USB-C cord in for charging, display and peripherals, then unplugging and getting a full laptop wherever I need. Kennyscrown has clearly had the same idea!
 

eclecto-acoustic

Serial tree-hugger
Messages
11,186
I bought the M1 Mac Mini and it's been great. I disagree with buying a ton of internal storage though...Apple overcharges on basically everything, but that's especially true for storage. I got 16 gigs of RAM and 256 gigs of storage, and am using two 500 gig Samsung T7 drives for project/file storage and sample libraries. That decision basically paid for the RAM upgrade.

As for how it's performing, I was able to keep it at 48kHz/128 sample buffer size with about 20 instances of various Spitfire instruments before I noticed any loss of performance. At that point it's easy enough to freeze a few tracks and/or increase the buffer anyhow, so it's hardly an issue. I can play guitar into it (via Babyface Pro) using NDSP plugins or S-Gear at the same settings or with a lower buffer size no problem.

I opted to use HDMI for my display just to keep the more versatile USB-C ports open, which is what allowed me to use two external drives without also buying a dock.

Honestly, if you're gonna choose a machine to be a production tool, choose the one that's not gonna be limited by power or thermals. The laptops thus far are great for burst workloads (MBP being something of an exception, but that depends), but you're paying a premium for portability while leaving performance on the table. This is ESPECIALLY true for the new M2 versions, which drop in a more powerful chip but do nothing to address cooling performance. Apple is obsessed with thin and light design, and that comes with compromises.
 

Stokely

Member
Messages
1,987
I might have a similar decision once my 2016 MBP is phased out. It really comes down to one main question: do you need to be portable? If so, then the laptop. Obviously a mini can be easily moved but you need keyboard, mouse and monitor. That's a question that's a bit hard to answer for me; 95% of the time my MBP is closed on my desk, I use an external monitor. Once in a while though I bring it over to a friend's or use it to record shows for my band (our mixer forces you to record with a daw).


I've read a bit on using an ipad as a monitor and maybe even a touchscreen for another mac; if that works reliably then perhaps that would take care of my portable uses.
 

eclecto-acoustic

Serial tree-hugger
Messages
11,186
I might have a similar decision once my 2016 MBP is phased out. It really comes down to one main question: do you need to be portable? If so, then the laptop. Obviously a mini can be easily moved but you need keyboard, mouse and monitor. That's a question that's a bit hard to answer for me; 95% of the time my MBP is closed on my desk, I use an external monitor. Once in a while though I bring it over to a friend's or use it to record shows for my band (our mixer forces you to record with a daw).


I've read a bit on using an ipad as a monitor and maybe even a touchscreen for another mac; if that works reliably then perhaps that would take care of my portable uses.
When I was working on ideas for a live computer rig, a racked Mac Mini with an iPad to get everything rolling was a top-tier option. Especially with M1, it's such a performant machine for the money that it's tough to ignore.
 

yoshiii

Member
Messages
1,127
I had this dilemma last year, and eventually bought a MacBook Air with 16gb ram and a 1TB SSD. I also needed a small hub, but am using my work monitor as an additional screen.

I have to say it incredibly fast, and hasn't struggled at all with recording or anything else I can throw at it. I am not really a power user, but I have songs with 20+ tracks, with 2-3 plugins on each, and it has never skipped a beat.

It is great having a laptop, as by simply removing 1 USB C lead, I'm completely portable.

One thing I would say, whichever computer you go for try the Apple Refurbished/Clearance section of their website. My MacBook Air was £1,400 against £1,649 retail, and it was basically brand new - not a mark on it.

I bought the M1 Mac Mini and it's been great. I disagree with buying a ton of internal storage though...Apple overcharges on basically everything, but that's especially true for storage. I got 16 gigs of RAM and 256 gigs of storage, and am using two 500 gig Samsung T7 drives for project/file storage and sample libraries. That decision basically paid for the RAM upgrade.

As for how it's performing, I was able to keep it at 48kHz/128 sample buffer size with about 20 instances of various Spitfire instruments before I noticed any loss of performance. At that point it's easy enough to freeze a few tracks and/or increase the buffer anyhow, so it's hardly an issue. I can play guitar into it (via Babyface Pro) using NDSP plugins or S-Gear at the same settings or with a lower buffer size no problem.

I opted to use HDMI for my display just to keep the more versatile USB-C ports open, which is what allowed me to use two external drives without also buying a dock.

Honestly, if you're gonna choose a machine to be a production tool, choose the one that's not gonna be limited by power or thermals. The laptops thus far are great for burst workloads (MBP being something of an exception, but that depends), but you're paying a premium for portability while leaving performance on the table. This is ESPECIALLY true for the new M2 versions, which drop in a more powerful chip but do nothing to address cooling performance. Apple is obsessed with thin and light design, and that comes with compromises.
Thanks everyone

I can go and buy a base model Mac Mini M1 now but I dont know if getting only 8gigs of ram is good or not. I think 16 is better but it puts the price at close to 1000 dollars.
 

eclecto-acoustic

Serial tree-hugger
Messages
11,186
Given that you will not be able to upgrade down the road, I think 16 gigs is prudent. If this was a machine for my grandparents to surf the web, different story.
 

alex1fly

Member
Messages
268
Just went through the exact same decision process and landed on a Mac Mini that arrived on my doorstep last Friday.

Really it comes down to: do you want a portable device or a semi-portable device. Macbook is portable. Mac Mini is more portable than a regular desktop or iMac.

I got 16 GB of ram and 1 TB of storage. When my music projects are routinely 500 MB, and the OS itself takes up 50 GB, 256 GB is gonna go quickly. And I've had external drives die on me but never an internal one.

Monitors, keyboards, and mice are cheaply found on whatever used marketplace - Craigslist, Facebook, etc.

Another consideration. You can get older Mac Minis for much less than $1000. Anything 2015 and newer can hang with large projects pretty dang well.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
37,156
I have a M1 Mini 8g plus external hub for extra storage, dual monitors.
Works well for my relatively minor needs.
But I WANT a desktop, set up with a full keyboard and mouse.
 

gw247

Member
Messages
159
This MAC MOST youtube link is about choosing one of Apple's products. I bought a cheap, ($850), new 2015 mac air 11". The 128 SS is overloaded with OS updates and I doubt if I'll buy another iPad, for similar reasons. I did buy an iPhone se 3 over a month ago. I haven't heard much about the iPhone being an important tool in recording. I remember how pro studios put out hits and not so much today's small home studios, so I think of my recordings as pre-recording, before laying out the cash for going to a pro studio.
 

Chandyland

Supporting Member
Messages
2,534
I remember how pro studios put out hits and not so much today's small home studios, so I think of my recordings as pre-recording, before laying out the cash for going to a pro studio.

Maybe for mastering or if you’re recording big sessions or a ton of acoustic instruments, but I definitely don’t agree with this notion for everyone anymore.

You have to remember this guy won like 5 Grammies with this setup:
Finn_01-zGStj66Fk_65Gn.mTFXmNtpxEjCQtCoU.jpg
 

Billinder33

Member
Messages
2,376
Maybe for mastering or if you’re recording big sessions or a ton of acoustic instruments, but I definitely don’t agree with this notion for everyone anymore.

You have to remember this guy won like 5 Grammies with this setup:
Finn_01-zGStj66Fk_65Gn.mTFXmNtpxEjCQtCoU.jpg

He neither mixed nor mastered with that setup. He sent the home-recorded tracks to professionals for all the mix and master work.
 




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