Upgrade to Apple Mac Studio ·
Should you upgrade to the new Apple Mac Studio? Here’s my first-hand experience unboxing, installing, and setting up a brand new Mac Studio as a replacement for my 2015 iMac 5k from 2015. Will there be any incompatibility issues? Did my software migrate correctly? Keep reading to find out…
Apple’s Mac Studio
In March 2022, we saw Apple introduce the new mac studio. The design is simple: a Mac mini with a “mezzanine level”. Although the case is small, this little box has been built for performance from the ground.
As its name suggests, the Mac Studio is for creatives use professional applications to music, chartand video montage. Of course, this also means that he wears that pro equipment price tag.
When purchasing, you have the choice between two configurable models: the M1 Max and the M1 Ultra. Unfortunately, with the pursuit flea crisismanufacturing and supply chain delays affect deadlines, even at Apple. This means machines configured to order could only happen mid-late August 2022 if you order today.
As seen on various forums and test reports, the M1 Max is quite sufficient for a recording studio computer. We know that choosing the Max on the Ultra does not offer the same performance levelbut you save on finance.
The new brain of my studio
Although my late 2015 iMac 5k with his Intel i7 4.0GHz CPU, 32 GB RAMand 1TB SSD still works pretty well, I needed something faster. I often use bigger instrument library plugins (fire eaterSpectrasonics and others) and extensive effects, as well as software testing I do.
The configuration I chose: mac studio max with 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU and 16 Core Neural Engine, 64 GB of shared RAM and 1TB SSD storage as well as an Apple keyboard including Touch ID (finally!). Waiting time: several weeks. Shame.
So, with my new Mac Studio on the way, I realized an important fact: I had Nope filter! With my iMac on the verge of extinction, I would need a suitable replacement – and hopefully something cheaper than the Apple Display either.
While researching the best displays for music production, I settled on the LG 32UL950-W (here on Amazon). My choice was mainly due to the size and resolution not being too far from my old iMac 5k. It worked very well in the end.
Connectivity: No more old
Going from a 2015 system to a 2022 system means there will be changes. Thunderbolt 2 becomes Thunderbolt 4 (including four USB-C and two USB-C ports as well as an SD card slot on the front) and instead of four USB-A inputsthere are only two available.
Dealing with this even requires more adapters and different cables, which can be tricky. One of my Universal Audio Apollo interfaces, for example, now requires a 2 meter cable to connect to the Mac Studio.
The price of a 2 meter Thunderbolt 4 cable is steep, so luckily I saved some money here with the TB2 to TB4 adapters I bought for the Apollos and my TB2 external drives.
Meanwhile, before making the switch, I had to wait for the release of AU compatible drivers and software for Apollo. These arrived on March 30, 2022 and ran no problem on the new macOS as well as with Mac M1.
Installation: general operation
Next comes the installation. Due to the large number of plug-ins, sound libraries, music projects and other software I had to install, I decided to use the Migration Assistant via Ethernet (after a successful update from macOS).
This process was relatively quick – a little less two o’clock (for about 1 TB). The new system then restarted and was immediately operational! I logged back into iCloud, application installation rights verified (especially for the Apollo), and launches Ableton Live 11.
Here I noticed some holes in the migration. Only the “Intel” versions had been transferred, rather than the required versions native M1 compatible software.
So I started working manually on my list of apps and pluginsupdating the incompatible software. It can be tedious, but luckily reboot the Mac Studio only takes 1-2 seconds. Hope everything is back to normal now!
Once I launched Ableton Live 11 (M1 version) I noticed that not all plug-in manufacturers had yet provided compatible updates for this system. A lot of effects and instruments in my library (out of nearly 1500 plug-ins) were not indexed.
There is a positive side to this, in the sense that I can finally find my favorite tools and instrumentsas they are already optimized. My workflow feels more streamlined now, after this forced spring cleaning.
Configuring Mac Studio for Audio
Now I faced the following problem. Live’s CPU performance counter goes back and forth between 10 and 30% at a rapid pace. Moreover, the performance looked more like my iMac. It’s not supposed to be like that, is it?
For testing purposes, I changed the 48 kHz to 96 kHz sample rate and the buffer size from 512 to 128. These are values that would not have worked with my iMac without “sizzling”. And here it is, the CPU counter calmed down and was fixed at 4% (my default layout comes with preset plugins and routings). That’s very good news!
This was one of the main reasons for my upgrade: Lower latency and better audio quality. However, my external analyzer (TC Clarity M) no longer works, which is my next problem.
To solve this problem, I could set up a small HDMI monitor and connect it as second screen or run stand-alone analysis software. Either way, the M1 Max can easily multi-task.
Also, with a much larger screen, I now have a much better overview of the project for DAW work. In Ableton Live, upgrading is now seamless.
The Mac Studio can do more than audio
My studio work also includes diffusion for my Twitch channel. For this purpose I was previously using a MacBook Pro M1 to run Obs and Co. as well as my iMac studio, sharing its screen via Ethernet. With this setup, I could use my iMac at (almost) full performance during the stream, which was a plus.
However, once I tested my new Mac Studio system, I discovered that I could now run all from one system, and with even best performance. Connected Sony Cam (via an HDMI to USB converter), Elgato Stream Deck, a second webcam and a custom audio setup for OBS are a breeze for this system. Otherwise, final cut, Movement, photoshopand other smaller applications also benefit from the vast performance increase.
As already known from some testers and forums, you can hear the Mac Studio fan in a quiet recording studio. It is said to emit a very unpleasant high frequency resonant sound. Fortunately, it is not my model . My Mac Studio, which actually sits 50cm from my head on the studio table, doesn’t even “ring” under maximum load, which is really, really hard to achieve.
Every system upgrade in a media studio is a complex process involving several hours of installation work. This includes a bit of cable spaghetti management when you connect your peripherals, and the software setting too.
So if you are upgrade planningplan accordingly to ensure you have as little downtime as possible. To speed things up, make a list of all the cable types and lengths you need, the adaptersand of course the compatible software drivers.
I’m very happy with this update so far, especially after the optimization frenzy. The Mac Studio easily handles multiple applications performing tasks with great less load on the processor.
On the studio side, I have significantly higher audio quality and lower latencies. The system is a huge improvement, especially for multitasking processes such as video assembly and chart.
For me the upgrade was a success and I will definitely do it again. The M1 Max is perfectly sufficient for my work, hopefully the next seven to eight years.
Price and availability
The Apple Mac Studio in the Apple Store starts at $1999. My setup costs $3452 (without cables, screen, keyboard and trackpad). A power cable is included in the package.
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Originally posted on Gearnews.de by Marcus Schmahl.