MAC Questions

Which Mac for MIDI?   Which Mac for Audio?  RealTime Effects  Sad Mac Error Codes

Blue & White G3 /iMac


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Q: Which Macs work for MIDI?
A: While any Mac will work for MIDI (except the Powerbook 100, too many serial port problems), there are some that won't run the latest version of some MIDI software. They are, of course the older Macs; 128, 512, Plus, SE, Classic, Original Portable, Mac II and others that use the original 68000 or 68020 processors. The software requirements will tell what system version (Mac OS 7.6 and higher won't run on 68030, 68020 or 68000 processors); how much ram (68000 processors are limited to 4 megs) and give idea of what level Mac. Using older Macs with older MIDI only programs works better for MIDI than trying to use an older Mac with a new program that has auidio recording. The system requirements are the key. Never use the mimuim hardware system for a software program. Most software is designed to use the current hardware at the time the program was released. The MIDIGUY recommends using a G4 processor Mac with 128 megs of ram for the latest software as a barebones MIDI only system. Given the current pricing of Power Macs and that most software now is using the Power PC processor, using a newer Mac makes a lot of sense. Renember the new Macs have only USB ports for MIDI unless you use a modem to serial adaptor from Griffen Systems for a Desktop computer like a G4/5. However it more sense to use USB interfaces unless you're in love with your old Studio 4, 5 or MIDITime Piece I or II! The MIDI Timing under OSX is better than serial MIDI was under OS9.
If you have an older Mac, ie Plus, Mac II, and already own software that works for you, then you're ok. If you are planning to buy a used Mac for MIDI, be careful. If it has an old version of a MIDI program, make sure to get the manual for it cause the manufacturer won't sell you one ( they only support registered users and now have started to support only the last two versions of the software, ie Logic Pro 6 and 7.0). If it doesn't come with MIDI software, you may not be able to buy new software that works on it or new old versions (like Performer 6.0). There are lots of used older versions that are unsupported that can be found via the Internet, User Groups, etc. Just make sure to get that manual!
Q: Which Mac work for Audio?
A: Any Mac that has 16 bit audio inputs can be used to record audio. They started with the AV Quadras (tho the current CPU effects aren't available since they aren't Power Macs) and include all Power Macs. Before Apple built in the audio, there were few audio options, Digidesign more or less cornered the market on audio cards for the Mac. The reason for this was they were the first Pro manfucturer that got third party support for their card/audio system called Sound Tools. This Nubus card (there was also a PD Slot version for the SE30 and a Audiomedia LC for the LC) found support from Opcode's Studiovision first and quickly got support from the other MIDI sequencers. By the time Pro Tools arrived, Digidesign had the market pull to kill support for MOTU Waveboard and Mediavision's Sound Tools 16 (tho Mediavision's bankruptcy may have more to do with it). The advent of built in audio and PCI slots have reversed this. There are more cards available now than most people can consider. It's gotten confusing! But it's also now more affordable!
While there's lots of Digidesign Nubus hardware avilable for the older Macs (7100, 8100, Quadras, Centris and Mac II series but not 610 Quadra, 6100 or other short slot Macs, Digidesign's cards are full sized). Digidesign has stopped support on the Sound Tools I and II, Audiomedia, Audiomedia LC and Orginal Pro Tools hardware and software. This doesn't mean you can use the old softeware with that hardware if they do the job you need to have done. There are still current third party programs that can use this hardware. Lucent Technologies has a Nubus short slot digital I/O that is also supported. Digidesign has also stopped support for all PCI cards except for HD systems. You do have software for OSX with Mix cards and 001 but only with older versions of Pro Tools and Pro Tools LE. Also DIgidesign's older PCI cards don't work in G5 PCI slots, only the HD cards. As usual with Digidesign, check their site for the latest info on what works and doesn't. Since they test their stuff, it either works or they tell you it's not tested and good luck.......try it if you dare.
The MIDIGUY recommends a PCI Power Mac G5 since most of them are dual processors which give you lots of CPU power for all those software synths and efxs you want to use now. Older PCI Power Macs can be used for audio as well but they will have CPU overload problems unless they have a G4 processor and should be a dual processor like a 450 or better. Even then you will have to be careful about how use you use the latest software. Older G3 PCI Macs are even more difficult to use for audio if you are looking for lots of power while they have an upgradeable processor option their days are numbered for OS9 and most can't be used in OSX. These are 7300,7500, 7600,8500, 8600, 9500, 9600 from Apple, C500, C600, J700, S900 from UMAX, Power Tower Pro from Power Computing. For the latest software you then should have at least 512megs of ram, a dual 533mhz G4 or faster,(dual 1gHz is better and G5 is best), SCSI/firewire 120gig HD, 17" monitor and an audio card that suits your needs (The MIDIGUY uses Creamware's Scope cards under OS9 and M-Audio or Tascam for OSX).
Q: How many Realtime Effects will I get on my Mac?
A: This isn't an easy answer. It depends on several factors and how you use the software. If you're using Digidesign's TDM/HD Pro Tools, the answer is a lot easier, Digidesign has a resource meter that shows how much effect power you have left in your DSP Farm Cards. If you don't have enough effects, buy another DSP Farm to get more. While all the CPU based effect software also have that type of meter, the throughput of the computer sets the amount of effects and tracks you can playback. The throughput of a computer is based on the entire computer's ability to process data from input to output. Since the CPU is doing the audio processing, running the sequencer, etc, there isn't way to guarrentee what you usage you'll get. Some of the latest soft synths like Recktor and Scpulture can drain a dual 533mHz G4 to the point where it can't run anything else. Guitar Amp Pro and Space Designer in Logic Pro 7 and Altiverb can use up most of a single 1gHz G4. Most new programs like Logic Pro 7 have a feature called Freeze Tracks which makes a temporary audio file of the audio track with the efx included which then frees up the processor to do more tracks since the track is no longer processed just played from the hard disk. It also works with software synths where it makes an audio file of the synth with all it's efxs. So that Scpulture track will no longer use up the dual 533mHz G4, so you can add some track audio or soft synth tracks.
Older computers have even more problems, for example a 603e processor @ 180hMz running Cubase 3.5 won't be able to use Wave's TrueVerb at all. A G3 processor @250 with 1 meg of backside cache will but TrueVerb will use about 2/3 of the CPU's processing power for effects for just that one effect. Using the built in reverb effects of older programs like Logic 4.8 or Cubase 3.5 will use about 1/8 to 1/4 of the CPU's processing power depending on the throughput of the computer and the program you're using. (Emagic has a quality parameter for EQ and reverb so you can choose from 1-4 qualitites depending on the number of tracks you want reverb on as well as how many different kinds of reverb you want and your computer's ability to process them. 1 is the lowest quality and uses the least amount of CPU processing power while 4 is the highest and sounds the best)
Another thing to remember is whether or not you have tracks that run the length of the song. If you have several tracks starting all at once at the bridge, it can cause a CPU overload because of the buffering the CPU does in order to start playing that many tracks. On newer faster computers like the G5 and hard drives this problem goes away if you're using a reasonable number of tracks say 24 to 32 and not over using efxs and soft synths. Yes it's true you can even overload the latest computers! You can't run 10 Sculptures each with it's own Space Designer reverb with 16 tracks of audio and their efxs on a dual G5 2.7gHz unlesss you freeze tracks.


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