Today’s Apple announcement brought forth the usual advancements that I was looking forward to: faster processors, better GPUs, and so on.
But Apple has this hyperfocus on making The Best Laptops Possible, which is a little puzzling when the entire focus of today’s update was on creative studio uses, especially on music.
I don’t know what musicians they work with, but I’ve always found laptops to be rather cumbersome and difficult to integrate into a studio, just because of the physical shape of them. I don’t want or need a really good built-in keyboard or display, I need something that’ll fit in with my equipment and give me the ability to flexibly place a display or two, and hook up my recording interface and so on.
It’s also bizarre to me that they care so much about improving the built-in microphones and speakers in a laptop, when that’s completely irrelevant to a recording studio setup, where you’re going to be using an external audio interface. No matter how good the built-in mics are, there’s no way to hook them up to a multichannel condenser mic setup or the line outputs of a bunch of synthesizers or so on.
I can see these devices being really good for on-the-go movie producers and folk musicians and so on, but I can’t take them seriously when they’re expecting everything to be built-in to the singular computer.
I’ve been looking to upgrade my recording studio setup; currently I’m running a MacBook Pro from 2016, with a bunch of external storage added on, and what I was really hoping for was either a 27" iMac or a Mini with added Thunderbolt ports. In my office I’m using an M1 Mini and having only two Thunderbolt ports makes it pretty limited for my needs. And spending extra on that really nice display doesn’t really make any sense for a machine that’s going to be tethered to my desk and equipment rack.
It’s also worth noting that Apple being Apple means that these laptops don’t have any real storage expansion. You have to pay up-front to have them upgraded with the amount of storage you need. The minimum configuration for what I need (32GB RAM, 2TB SSD, M1 Pro CPU) is $2900. That’s a lot of money for a hobby computer, and even with that much space I’d still probably need some additional external storage, using an enclosure which will be annoying when using it as a laptop.
I feel like for now I’m just better off sticking with my old MacBook pro. It’s a bit slow but it’s still Fast Enough for my musicmaking, and having it permanently sitting in my basement makes it not so annoying to have a bunch of external storage dangling off of it. I was really hoping for something that would make it feasible to have a much larger screen, though. The 15" built-in display is a drag to use in a situation where I’ll be several feet away most of the time, and possibly supporting multiple people recording at once.
I could also maybe make a 13" MacBook pro (or even an air) work out for me, but it’s not ideal.
Really I just need to wait for them to update the 27" iMac or the Mini, or release the rumored “Mini Pro” or something.
Either that or I need to wean myself off of Logic and find some music software which works the way I want it to that can run on Linux (ideally) or Windows, with full multichannel audio support. Logic is literally the only thing that keeps me on Mac these days. It’d be nice to not be stuck with it forever.