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New Mac Laptops: As Apple Expands I/O Flexibility, Just About Any Model Great for Music

MacBook Air, now starting at US$999 and with USB3 and Thunderbolt onboard. Photo courtesy Apple. Apple, of course, rolled out new Mac laptops yesterday. The most desirable of these – new MacBook Pro laptops with ultra-high-resolution Retina Displays – will require a significant budget, with pricing beginning at US$2199. And it could be worth it for those who can afford them: while Apple has quietly eliminated its 17″ machines, the high-density displays should nonetheless make the 15″ real estate ideal for fitting pro app UIs on the go. But the most important thing to say about Apple’s machines from a …

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Slap Your Laptop: Open Source Tool Lets You Play MacBook By Hitting It

Come on – you know that occasionally you want technology to respond when you slap it. As my sister watched an episode of the television show Quantum Leap, I thoroughly enjoyed watch Dean Stockwell’s character Al give his pocket computer, looking for all the world like a 7″ tablet, little helpful smacks. SmackTop does that for music. Yes, we hear, ad infinitum, the complaint that laptop musicians simply stare inertly at blue glowing laptops as if checking their email. Now they get to put a little skin in the game, literally. And a version 0.3 update makes this humorous novelty …

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Hands-on: Universal Audio’s UAD-2 Satellite, a DSP Box for Macs and MacBook Pros

With all the horsepower computers are now packing, you might be surprised at the idea of adding on dedicated hardware for sound processing. Or, you can look at it another way: with computers more powerful than ever, with digital processing sounding more convincing both as emulation of traditional gear and in imagining never-before-possible sounds, the digital studio in a backpack is even closer. Into that picture, enter the Universal Audio UAD-2 Satellite. Enclosed in a metal housing about the size of a large-ish external hard drive, the Satellite could absolutely fit into the side pocket of a computer backpack or …

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Native Instruments Updates Make 64-bit Macs Happier

MacBook Pros, 64-bit, all. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Benjamin Nagel. I’m not one to post every single minor software update, but with the latest handful of free upgrades for Native Instruments software, I think it’s safe to say the 64-bit age has come to the Mac musician. Windows developer Cakewalk heralded just this sort of advance for years on the PC side, with largely little company (even beyond the music world), but today, the technology is finally a reality for average users. 64-bit computing means a marginal performance boost on capable machines and more flexible memory usage. The 32-bit Mac has had …

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MacBook Pro Revision Updates GPU, adds Thunderbolt, but No New Display Dongles (Phew)

Photo (CC-BY) DeclanTM. Let’s cut right to the chase on the “speed bump” revision of the MacBook Pro line today: The 13″ model still gets the short end of the stick as far as graphics; it’s actually a small step backward in raw pipeline performance from the previous model. The payoff is in overall system performance, however, which is improved by a larger margin. 15″ and 17″ models are back with AMD (nee ATI) in place of NVIDIA. Apple promises a 3x speed boost. FW800 isn’t going away, even with the addition of a new-fangled LightPeak port – now Thunderbolt …

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FireWire800, ExpressCard Survive MacBook Pro Revision, So You Can Relax; Thunderbolt Audio Hardware Coming

Photo courtesy of Apple. Those of you in the market for a new MacBook Pro are no doubt already tuned into the product news. So let’s talk about what isn’t changed on the new MacBook line, because it’s a good thing. You still get FireWire 800 ports on all models, including the entry-level 13″ machine. ExpressCard is still standard on the 17″ MacBook Pro. Your dongles for video adapters still work. I’m researching implications for audio of the new Thunderbolt connection. My guess is it’s a little too early to say; 10 GBps storage sounds fantastic, but it’s far beyond …

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With Mobility Rising, MacBooks Looming, Don’t Assume Optical Discs for Distribution

Endangered species? Maybe. Worth double-checking you can do online distribution, if you haven’t already? Definitely. Photo (CC-BY) Adam Jackson. Memo to music software developers, artists and labels distributing music, and anyone else who uses optical drives: stop assuming they’ll always be there, because they won’t. Talking points: Netbooks and tablets already lack optical drives. With more mobile devices, they’re unlikely to be alone. Next up: laptops. Many laptops over the years have put optical drives in removable drive bays or shipped as external options to shed weight and bulk. HP Envy models recently came with external drives. And now, it’s …

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DSP Goodies on New Macs, as Universal Audio Does Firewire

It’s difficult to describe Universal Audio’s plug-ins until you’ve tried them. It’s a bit like having chocolate sauce at your disposal, sonically speaking. Whatever your higher-level brain may have to say, somewhere deep in your mammalian brain, you hear only … mmmmmm. Chocolate. It’s the word I get from UA users, and I’ll also have an interview with UA to post next week in which we get deep into the philosophy of sound, software design, and modeling, a conversation that transcends any one product. They’re not for everyone – they demand a price premium, to be sure, versus rival CPU-native …

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Apple Refreshes MacBook Pro; About Those New GPUs, Visualist Advice

As you probably know, Apple refreshed their MacBook Pro line, upgrading the 13″, 15″, and 17″ models to new NVIDIA GPUs and the 15″ and 17″ units to Core i5 and i7 CPUs. It’s a nice refresh for Mac fans, though a relatively modest one. Anyone hoping for a big leap in multi-core processing or top-of-range GPUs, that’s still largely the domain of the PC market. (In fairness, that also means you can buy PC laptops that sap batteries quickly and heat up to waffle-making temperatures.) And if you wanted a significant price break or value-for-price change, you’ll be disappointed …

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Apple Refreshes MacBook Pro Line; Models Compared

Apple today refreshed its MacBook Pro line in a long-awaited update, moving the Apple laptops in line with recent advancements in Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs. There are some caveats when you pull apart the line, however – the 13″ models miss out on the new CPUs in this lineup, at least – and you’ll pay to get some of the better improvements. Of course, a Mac is a Mac; for many readers, it’s the reliability of the combination with the Mac OS that is likely to be the deciding factor. The best news is, the 15″ and 17″ models …

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