New MacBook Pros are more desirable than ever. Just make sure to budget for enough RAM when you purchase - and get ready to embrace SSD internal storage and external drives for everything else. Image courtesy Apple. Also... wait... I suddenly have a desire to either go camping or eat sushi. This image is telling me something.

New MacBook Pros are more desirable than ever. Just make sure to budget for enough RAM when you purchase – and get ready to embrace SSD internal storage and external drives for everything else. Image courtesy Apple. Also… wait… I suddenly have a desire to either go camping or eat sushi. This image is telling me something.

To the rest of the world, Apple’s event today was about new iPads.

To most people reading this site, it’s probably more along the lines of, “can I finally stop putting off buying the new MacBook I need?”

Answer: yes. But let’s quickly review what was announced that’s relative to music makers and live visualists:

  • A new GarageBand, in line with Logic Pro X, for iOS and OS X
  • MacBook Pro line that now has updated Intel graphics and chips, better performance and battery life (good) but completes the march to non-upgradeable memory, glossy displays, and SSD-only storage (bad, for some)
  • The US$2999 Mac Pro – for those looking for a studio workstation for video or audio, now you know the price.
  • New iPads, of course, and continued advances in mobile performance that will expand what they can do.

I’ve enjoyed Twitter and Facebook banter about the significance here perhaps more than usual – it was great to talk to people who use this stuff seriously in their work about what it means. (So, no, this isn’t about being a fanboy.) PC users, yes, you can still choose big machines at lower prices that have matte displays. (Though, if you want slim, light, and long battery life, you’re beginning to look at machines that resemble Apple’s in pricing, design, and functionality.)

For the Apple side, though, here are some reflections:

The Software Picture

1. Apple remains committed to their creative apps. On the Pro side, Aperture, Final Cut, and Logic got nods as the apps that couple with the Mac Pro hardware. Aperture and Final Cut were specifically described as recoded for the Mac Pro. Logic Pro X was not explicitly described as such, but Apple told CDM way back in summer that we could expect an update of Logic to take advantage of the new hardware. And GarageBand got a big center-stage demo from Xander Soren for the first time since 2011’s Back to the Mac event.

2. GarageBand being free is a big deal. GarageBand is now standard on iOS as well as the Mac. And it includes a lot of the same design cues and functionality (the automatic Drummer) that Logic does. That means for Apple-centric users, it will likely be the lingua franca in music making.

3. We’ll want to watch Mavericks compatibility. Music developers, fail to test Mavericks, the new OS X, at your own risk. Free upgrades mean that a whole lot of Mac users will be upgrading on day one. On the other hand, I think that agile developers could benefit from this in the long haul, as it will mean less need to support old OSes. And in particular, Apple is not only making upgrades free but offering them to lots of old OS versions. The bottom line: just as on iOS, Mac users are likely to largely be running the latest-and-greatest, and anyone not wanting support headaches will want to keep that in mind.

The Hardware Picture

4. The Mac Pro at US$2999 is an impressive workstation. Look, the Mac Pro isn’t for everyone. But for someone wanting a serious workstation or doing video editing, the Thunderbolt workflow and its mess of ports may actually appeal. It will continue to annoy those who prefer internal storage or who have an investment in internal expansion cards. But I think those who do have three grand burning a whole in their pocket may well take a hard look at this very high-end machine.

Of course, for the majority, the real focus will be on MacBook Pro…

5. For music, the MacBook Pro 13″ is a clear sweet spot. The good news is, Apple now includes the latest Intel chipsets across the whole line. Combined with OS X Mavericks, that means improvements to battery life and use of integrated graphics (for visual work and OpenCL computing) that come from both the OS and the hardware. And the prices seem not unreasonable for high-end features, a design lots of people really love, and an OS that for many is worth a premium.

6. But get the specs you need right away – and forget about conventional storage. The bad news is largely to do with upgradeability. Expect to splurge on the US$1499 model, for 256 GB internal SSDs and the full 8 GB of RAM. (If you can live with a small SSD, you can upgrade the entry level to 8 GB for a total of US$1399.)

The SSDs are a whole lot faster and more reliable than conventional drives. But it means you will need to tote around a USB drive for extra storage for things like sample libraries.

7. High-end visuals will cost you, too. The 15″ MacBook Pro starts at US$1999, but for dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics and 16 GB of RAM, you’ll need the US$2599 model. At that price, I imagine even some deep-pocketed users would consider spending their money on the Mac Pro instead, with much greater performance and connectivity.

8. It’s glossy Retinas or nothin’. Matte display options are, perhaps as expected, evidently a thing of the past – even on the high-end MacBook Pro. 15″ non-Retina is gone, too.

9. iPad will continue to dominate. I’ll leave it to someone else to cover tablets, but while there’s a lot of promise on the Windows side, iPad is for now still where the action is. It’s desirable, and it’s what consumers actually use. So not only does it have the back catalog of creative apps, but it will continue to get them.

And one more reflection on GarageBand…

10. Logic isn’t looking more like GarageBand. GarageBand is looking more like Logic.

Images from Apple of the Mac version:




  • SomeDude

    2 surprises for me :
    – MacPro cheaper than I expected
    – New MacBook 15″ more expensive than I hoped for

    • angus_fx

      Entry level model is 4 cores – $2999 is a lot of money for a quad (not necessarily bad value if you need those GPUs, or if you just have $3K to spend and love the design). For those who value CPU over GPU, it’s not great value.

      The 6-core model is $4k, and 8 and 12 core models more still. Though bear in mind the chip alone for the 12-core system costs over $2500 so it’s not exactly Apple’s fault.

      Shame in a way they’re no longer offering dual-socket, but I guess the market for $8,000, 24-core, 48-thread monsters is rather small. Although in inflation-adjusted dollars, that’s less than a Mac II & way less than a IIfx.

    • Peter Freeman

      Hey, is that you Angus @ FXPansion? Whatup man :) Wanted to add one other perspective here – For my part, the small size of the new Mac Pro actually means that it can effectively replace not only my 2009 Mac Pro in studio but also my laptop in live performance. Just toss it in a Pelican case with a monitor and a few peripherals. This alleviates the old problem of severely CPU-limited laptops (compared to the Mac Pro) severely restricting one’s live workflow compared to the way one can work on a desktop machine, e.g. lots of instruments/effects/tracks at all times. Yes, expensive at the outset, but not when you consider that it replaces two machines with a single, much more powerful one. I wouldn’t even mind having to drag around an expansion chassis and one interface if it meant having full PT functionality onstage. Still less annoying than the worries and constraints imposed by laptops with (comparatively) paltry performance.

    • IRS4

      Yes – having tote-ability for your configured dreadnaut machine is going to be cool. And when flexible, roll-up 27 inch AMOLEDS come out, well, done deal! I’d love to walk into a studio, plug in two Tbolt cables, and be ready to go with MY machine.

    • a

      Yeah, this is an interesting idea. Mac Pro with iPad as touch screen monitor?!

      If you use Logic you can do a lot just with the remote control app and no display. Or use Lemur or TouchOSC.

      The Mac Pro is still a bit expensive for my uses, but it’s going to be potentially killer when it filters down to the mac mini line. I expect we’ll see multi-colored versions with less graphics power.

      I do like the battery power available on laptops though, handy if the power goes and it can also help to solve some ground issues.

      Having just upgraded to mavericks the integration of “Back to My Mac” is new to me. Seem like a pretty compelling service for transferring files, screen sharing, etc.

      Makes me feel more like just running my 2010 macbook until it croaks.

  • JJY

    finally made up my mind to go for the new Mac Book Pro 13″ !

  • Fabio Neves

    I’m sticking to my mid-2011 i7 Macbook pro, thankyouverymuch. I upgraded it to 16gb of RAM and two SSDs. Not only it’s fast enough for me, but I can upgrade it even further whenever I want. The lack of upgradeability/reparability of the new MBPs is disappointing, but I guess everybody saw that coming.

    • gLOW-x

      It is a general trend for Apple for sure. It started with their iDevices. iPad 1 : 2.5 years later, it is obsolete (i sold mine and never bought a new one). Ppl who bought the first Mac Air early 2008 can’t use Mavericks.
      Apple realized ppl accept to pay big bucks for all their products and just resell/buy a new one. Why they should include upgrade/repair options when most of their customers don’t care about it ? Trouble is on customer side 😀
      That’s why i’m not an Apple customer anymore…hackintosh all the way.
      Next step is an iMac (so included display) with soldered processor, soldered RAM and glued SSD 😉 Disposable big bucks technology…a capitalist dream.

  • tobr

    Garageband and Logic are really confusingly similar now, and share perhaps more functionality than ever. This is strange. I think Garageband would be a much better app if it completely embraced its “beginner friendliness”. There are so many ways that you could make music making easier to grok for beginners if you let go of the old, stale studio metaphor.

    Well, I guess that’s what iOS Garageband is for.

    • Henry

      I don’t agree. Initially, GarageBand still has the same simplicity and accessibility as it always had. There is no doubt that the iOS version may be even more beginner friendly, but I don’t think that the new GarageBand makes it more difficult to get started and record a track than before.

    • tobr

      That’s probably true, I haven’t had a chance to try the new version yet. My point was more that if anything, they should differentiate it from Logic, and try to seek a different direction for the app, because pros and beginners have such very different needs.

  • Bobby A

    It’s nice to hear you say that about the 13″ vs the 15″ but no mention of dual-core vs quad? I’ve been agonizing over that difference when considering my busy Ableton sessions, Maschine, lots of AUs, etc. Thoughts?

    • Peter Kirn

      The 15″ hardware is definitely faster, but I think in terms of real-world audio needs, the 13″ should handle just about any session. We should see some benchmarks from my friends over at Macworld soon on these specific models, but – either machine here should handle what you’re doing, I think.

    • Bobby A

      I might update with my results as well. I went ahead and ordered the new 13″ pumped up pretty nice with the top 2.8 cpu, 16GB, 512 SSD. As long as I don’t end up missing those extra cores, this thing should be a beast!

  • Freeks

    Gotta pass. Would love to have 13″ but , can’t live without 16GB ram and 256SSD for OS + 750GB for samples and projects. Add USB drive and it’s not laptop anymore.

    In studio we have been long time tower mac users. G4, G5 and Mac Pros. $3000 for basemodel in 2013 is simply way too much for 90% of the ppl in AV business. It is sexy machine, but it’s either hackintosh or iMac when the upgrade time comes.

    • HoraceClownsAndSalmon

      my laptop specs exactly. fearful of the day when it dies, because the data doubler setup is really perfect for my needs.

    • Lexor

      I have a 1TB SSD in my MacBook Pro. Upgraded from the 256GB it came with.

  • Alan Gregory

    I already bought GB for ipad. Does that mean that you qualify for the in-app purchase content free with the upgrade, or do I have to fork out more $ for the new stuff? I suspect the latter.

    • Daniel McKittrick Ramirez

      Why would you qualify for the content? You bought the app, not the content.

    • Alan Gregory

      Hypothetical situation: A week/month ago, “John” decided to finally buy a music app for his ipad. He decided GB was the best option. He purchased it and installed it only to discover today that the app is now free. John feels p##sed off when the money he just spent could have been used for the extra content in the new version.

    • Henry

      That is the old and ever recurring discussion about grace periods and upgrade paths that are handled differently by any software manufacturer. Someone will always be disappointed.
      I remember this discussion from basically any Reason update that Propellerheads ever released, and as much as I can understand the complaint in a situation like you described, I still believe it is worthless moaning, because it won’t change anything.
      Btw, GarageBand on iOS was extremely cheap already before, so the investment is rather limited…

      Actually, to me it looks like a logical step from Apple to make all those apps free of charge now. Most of them where very cheap already, and making them free only lowers the threshold for moving people to your hardware platform (i.e. iPads, iPhones) or keeping them there.

    • Alan Gregory

      Just did the update. The icon looks great. I don’t even know where to do the in-app purchases. I guess I’ll have to skip my Grande no-foam trim soy double shot vanilla latte frappucino today in order to afford the in-app purchase….when I find where it is buried in the app that is. Sacrifices, sacrifices.

  • Pinkman

    Thanks god! Better cpu performance for the ipad mini: my favorite ios device! It’s my multisynth!!!

  • Frank

    I remember days when I could afford to pay for a new iMac (and the new stuff keeps it’s price, I see no problem to pay for quality) but I could’t afford the pro software (Logic, Final Cut….). I think we should’t complain today

  • gLOW-x

    Between new Macbook Pro and new Mac Pro, i smell hackintosh and second hand market miles away…

  • pinta_vodki

    Wow, that GarageBand. At first I was like “why did they put Logic into the image instead of GarageBand?”

    Also, I think in-app purchases are a big takeaway from the GarageBand update. You can now buy new Drummers on Mac OS. I wonder when we’ll see a store with Logic plugins à la Reason.

  • heinrichz

    Is 1TB Internal SSD for the 15 MacBook Pro not enough for you ?

  • Scott

    You’d have to be pretty retarded to buy this for pro music work, for numerous obvious reasons.


    • Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte

      Which were you talking about? And what were the reasons?

    • Peter Kirn

      Isn’t is obvious?

      Uh… actually, no, suppose not. No idea. I don’t know what it is about Apple days that make people so … mad.

    • just passing

      It’s not just Apple. People who are neither terribly bright nor notably well socialised seem to think that loudly and obnoxiously splashing their way against any trickle gives them instant credibility.

      More and more I miss the days when getting Internet access was a rationality test in itself.

    • Henry

      Don’t feed the troll.

    • Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte

      I actually was just honestly curious what he was talking about

    • Henry

      Well, I guess that time and energy is better used being happy about your new MacBook Pro and making music with it. :)

    • just passing

      Nice use of bigotry there. Really helps to sell your point of view as credible and serious.

    • Greg Lőrincz

      Cryptic and arrogant.

  • Andy Cartridge

    i have a 2009 macbook pro that still runs just like when i got it… it feels ABIT long in the tooth with some vst/Audiounits but otherwise .. pah works fine …

    but i have THAT urge

    between my macbook/ipad/iphone i have gigs and portability sorted

  • Random Chance

    Looking forward to the Mac Pro and the new iPad. The iPad 4 was still too big and too light for my tastes while I wouldn’t want to work (emphasis on this word) with a smaller screen. Now if Apple could only offer decent support for writing on the iPad (with a stylus; I guess now that Steve Jobs is dead and gone perhaps Apple could rethink wether it’s really true that nobody uses a stylus or would have use for one).

  • Petter Wiik

    It will be a Mac Pro for me in my home studio….and the best part is that I can put it under my desk and tell my wife it´s just a $10 waste bin;). At 5 kg it is also very convenient for transportation.

  • Jason Duerr

    with the Mac Pro have a rackmount kit? I THINK NOT

    • Henry

      Does the current Mac Pro have a rack mount kit?

    • IRS4

      I’m going to build a HAT mount kit for mine, and be the Abe Lincoln of Audio!

  • Andy Cartridge

    i’m sure you all know this but ableton live 9 does NOT work well with mavericks, infact i cant get it to run at all… live 9.1 DOES seem to work fine but its a beta
    its the same situation with live 8 apparently..

  • anerandros

    On Mavericks compatibility and Pro Tools:

    Avid does NOT recommend upgrading, I did nonetheless and PT 10 works fine.

    my 2c

  • Marco Raaphorst

    probably the last laptop I will ever buy. after that it will be a tablet + monitor I guess :) I probably go for 13″ this time because that one is super compact. adding a monitor and I’m done I guess.

  • RichardL

    Don’t overlook the iMacs if you don’t need portability. The memory is upgradeable, and they are a much better value (about half the cost of a similarly powered MacBook Pro).

  • RichardL

    iPad = Netbook 2.0

    iPad sales have stalled (Apple actually sold fewer iPads in the past two quarters this year than they did in the same two quarters last year). You can chalk up the drop in the most recent quarter as consumers waiting for the refresh, but the sales drop in the previous quarter can’t be dismissed so easily.

    The disturbing trend with the new iPads is that by upping the performance it accelerates obsolescence of the installed base. I can appreciate that iOS music apps can benefit from enhanced performance, but I don’t think accelerated performance expands or broadens the platform. Instead it moves the entire iPad ecosystem into the high performance strata leaving 175 million devices behind the curve. And the installed base is not going to be able upgrade fast enough at $650 ASPs to keep up with the fast moving platform. iPads are mostly bought by consumers not businesses. So the platform doesn’t have the advantage of business depreciation to feed the upgrade/obsolescence churn.

    Apple is terrified that Microsoft will gain traction with tablets as a productivity device and so Apple is reacting by upping the horsepower and putting out free, dumbed down versions of their productivity suite.

  • perkele

    ssd’s more reliable in mac books hm, i’ve had several friends with macbook airs complaining that theirs died rather quickly.