Focusrite 18i20: A quick review

Yesterday my other big hardware upgrade arrived, a Focusrite 18i20 for my Mac mini in the studio, to upgrade the 18i8 I had before (which is now on the Mac Studio in the office).

The tl;dr: for most people the 18i8 is just fine and the 18i20 doesn’t really add anything. Consider the 18i20 only if you have a couple of fussy needs.

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Mac Studio: a quick review

I got my Mac Studio yesterday, to replace the Mac mini in my office (the mini now replacing the 13" MacBook Pro in my recording studio, the MacBook Pro replacing the frustrating Lenovo laptop in the living room), and I have all my stuff set up on it. I went with the 10-core M1 Max model (with the upgraded GPU) and 2TB of RAM, sticking to the stock 32GB of RAM.

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Newish RTX 2080Ti

Because of the cryptocurrency market crash, GPUs have really come down in price. They probably have a further ways to go but I decided that I’d waited long enough to finally upgrade my GTX 1050Ti, and picked up a supposedly-barely-used refurbished eVGA RTX 2080Ti Black Edition off eBay. The seller claimed it was bought from eVGA’s refurb department and used for only two weeks in a gaming rig. I’m not sure sure I believe that, but I figured it was a worthwhile risk to take. The total cost was $550 after tax and shipping, which happened to be almost exactly what I’d earned by participating in the itch.io queer games bundle, so that worked out nicely.

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macOS 12 SSD issue update

Going through a few rounds of troubleshooting with folks on the macOS community forum as well as Apple tech support regarding the SSD overheat issue has helped me determine the following things:

  • Whatever this problem is, it’s uncommon; nobody else seems to have experienced it
  • The enclosure itself isn’t to blame; it happens on both my Plugable USB 3.1gen2 and on my Sabrent dual-slot Thunderbolt enclosure
  • The overheating is only happening on the Crucial 2TB NVMe stick (that normally lives in the USB enclosure); having just the PNY stick (which lives in the Thunderbolt enclosure) doesn’t overheat, moving the PNY stick to the USB enclosure doesn’t overheat, and the Thunderbolt enclosure only overheats if I have both the PNY and the Crucial stick in it
  • The overheating stops if I unmount the drive but leave it electrically-connected
  • Mounting the drive even under macOS Recovery causes the overheat to occur just as quickly

For now I’ve moved my most critical files from the Crucial stick to my older SATA drive (which isn’t having trouble) so I can continue to work on the things that I normally do on my desktop, and my studio laptop seems to be okay with the PNY+Thunderbolt combination so I don’t think Novembeat is at risk because of that, at least.

This does mean I won’t be able to work on music from my desktop computer in the meantime, and video editing will have to be direct to NAS, which is doable, just not ideal.

Hopefully this all gets sorted out in a macOS update.

The unfortunate reality of Apple’s product focus

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.

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Vaccine cache

Today I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Whew. I’m expecting the next few days to really suck with side-effects so I stocked up on a bunch of easy-to-make food. My dining room is still a bit of a disaster though, and right now it’s even worse because I took delivery of my new TV console today and the box is like… in the dining room. And a bunch of other boxes and stuff are on the table. Oops.

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Mac mini updates

First off, I am a dummy and completely failed to notice that there are in fact two USB-A ports on the Mini itself. The dock was completely unncessary for my initial setup. Oops!

Also, I just played some test content in HDR and holy heck it looks pretty amazing. Conveniently enough, Safari supports HDR in YouTube while Firefox doesn’t, so I was able to play some videos side-by-side to see the difference, and it was pretty immense, especially in the extremes. Which is, of course, the whole point to HDR.

I’ll probably keep using Firefox for usual video stuff, though, because I’m not a fan of not having a decent ad blocker. Hopefully Firefox adds HDR support soon!

EDIT: Oh yeah, I ended up force-quitting the NI installer so that I could finish installing some system updates and the Wacom driver and so on. What’s really cool is that even though the Wacom driver is still x86, Rosetta still emulates it. Holy cow. Also the Silicon Macs use a new driver signing thing that’s a little onerous but also exposes a nicer way of going into the startup disk selector (now you just hold down the power button while booting, no need to remember an awkward keyboard combination that doesn’t always map right to whatever weird keyboard you’re using at the time).

Also, I had meant to do some disk speed tests as well. See below!

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My ever-increasing storage pool

I remember around 15 years ago being impressed with the fact that the total amount of hard drives in my home had crossed the 1TB threshold.

Nowadays I have around 25TB worth of spare hard drives just sitting in a box. And quite a lot of capacity actually in use, too. Jeeze.

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