Wanting to Upgrading to a Mac Pro

As has been pointed out, though, the transition to ARM processors being very near is the only thing that makes me hesitate. Good thing is I don’t nearly have the money yet, so I’ll have to see where this goes anyway :grin:

I would argue though that even for a half-serious music producer this is an interesting investment. I have done pro soundtracks with a (at the time) massively specced laptop but man I have been waiting for this Mac Pro for YEARS. Can’t wait to put all my music libraries on a Pegasus R4i and have Ableton Live purring like a cat.

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I don’t think the more powerful desktop machines will be equalled for another three years, but it looks like we will see the first ARM-based Macs next year, according to the latest Mark Gurman scoop today:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-23/apple-aims-to-sell-macs-with-its-own-chips-starting-in-2021

"The transition to in-house Apple processor designs would likely begin with a new laptop because the company’s first custom Mac chips won’t be able to rival the performance Intel provides for high-end MacBook Pros, iMacs and the Mac Pro desktop computer."

I have been predicting for years that when this happens it will be a dual-boot advice, giving Apple a sales step-up by letting people choose between (ARM-based) macOS and iOS apps on the same hardware, and the new Magic Keyboard case only dovetails with that possibility.

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Yep. This is what I miss most from moving from my old original Mac Pro … now, both at the office and at home I have a smaller mac with a bunch of drives hanging off it. None is loud, but collectively the fan noise isn’t nothing.

One solution I’ve seen to the noise problem, and am experimenting with, is moving all that storage remotely, to a NAS. But a NAS is not without its own problems; running and keeping another OS patched is a chore, 10 GBe switches are expensive / another device to manage, and as I can’t run new cable to my cellar, networking the NAS for highest speeds is a bit of a moving target.

For anyone wondering, in my latest tests with my Mac Mini to various storage pools (vs. 9to5 Mac’s Pegasus tests):

  • TB3 to a (local, loud) 8 drive hardware RAID 6 is 6% faster R/W than the Pegasus
  • TB3 to a (local, loud) 8 bay Drobo is 4% faster read but 65% slower write
  • 5 Gbe to a Synology over Cat 5e cable is about half as fast r/w
  • 10 Gbe to a Synology over Cat 5e cable is 25% slower write but the same speed read

For my office set up, which is a macbook pro 2017 connected to a couple of Akitio drive boxes, all RAID 5’d together using SoftRAID:

  • TB3 to 8 drive software RAID is only 2/3’s as fast write, but 60% faster read

The bummer with those Promise Pegasus modules is the pre-installed drives and the mark-up involved with them. But perhaps complaining about “mark-up” in a post about a Mac Pro is a little rich.

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Thanks for those studies on storage pools, very interesting!
For music workflows: I guess you could move sample libraries to some extent on a NAS, but this is going to be a pain when previewing sounds… for Kontakt libraries and such virtual instruments, it’s a no-go. You need this to go FAST for working realtime. At the moment I have a big 6 Tb TB2 drive that is fast and reliable enough but boy this thing is almost unbearably loud all day long.

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Well, read times (10 gbe) for the NAS are the same as for an internal Pegasus in a Mac Pro, so if the Pegasus works, the NAS might as well.

But that being said, I’m not sure a NAS is worth it for just sound mitigation, and I value sound mitigation a lot.

At any given moment I have two drives hanging off my iMac. Fanless. :sweat_smile: I’m so sensitive to fan noise that I chose the Retina iMac with i5 processor instead of i7 because of reports that the i7 was spinning up the fan when people scrolled, and Intel poo-poohed complaints on its Windows-centric forum boards while acknowledging it and claiming it was “normal”, resulting in a furore.

In 2.5 years I’m not sure I’ve really ever heard the fan on my i5 iMac, so it ended up being the right choice for me.

At the time neither Lightroom nor Ableton supported hyperthreading, so I didn’t need the i7 processor. These days both apps do, and I’ll undoubtedly get some upcoming iMac with an i9 processor, as the current i9 iMacs appear to be pretty quiet.

I bought my Mini as a wait-and-see for what comes next; I expect an iMac will also be in my future, combined with getting-to-be comfortable enough with remote storage schemes.

Quiet spaces are a treasure.

It would theoretically work but you need 10Gbe (which is not a given – that’s a lot of wiring to do or redo) but most importantly, you still depend on your network and the stability of the connection. With wired, it should work most of the time, but I’d still be wary…

FWIW I have a 2015 i7 iMac and YES it’s annoyingly noisy at times (prompting to whisper to the machine “what the hell are you doing?” :sweat_smile:). I don’t know if that’s been fixed in newer iterations.

Yup. 10Gbe is neither cheap nor “trouble free,” as compared to a wired connection, anyway. Internal is better yet.

FWIW I’m mostly a buy-a-Mac-Pro enabler. I like hearing/daydreaming about these machines.

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10GBe Ethernet only makes sense if you have the wiring, switch and a NAS that can serve data fast enough.
This means a NAS with a 10GBe pci card and all drives are SSD.

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I daydream about a triple-height Mac mini with a serious graphics card and easily user-replaceable drive bays: the mythical headless xMac hardware longed for by hobbyists for close to two decades and irrefutably dismissed by Apple Co,

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You and me both.

So, if you’re inviting me, let’s fantasise together…
Usecase : electronic and trailer music production (and… writing)
Configuration Wishlist:

  • 16 core (maximum core numbers before the frequencies drop too much – music software often benefit more from speed than from the number of cores, it’s the case for Live)
  • 32 Gb base RAM (will be upgraded later)
  • Base video card (Radeon 580X)
  • 4 Tb of internal SSD (for document storage and apps)
  • Pegasus R4i enclosure for projects, sample and virtual instrument libraires.
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Happy to weigh in here. Here is how my Mac Pro is currently configured (my W5700X GPU is in the mail):

I’ve also got quite a bit of storage:

I’ve got my boot SSD, and the “Archives” volume is a single SSD attached via SATA. The 5 TB Time Machine is a 2.5-inch spinning HDD. The two “Clone” drives are on PCI cards, and are updated every night via Carbon Copy Cloner.

This machine is silent under load. Even the iMac Pro would be audible when rendering 4K video or doing huge batch processing jobs for audio. That was a big part of my decision, but I really wanted options when it came to expanding it. I was using external drives and a Drobo before this, and it’s great to have everything locally on my machine, even if I am eyeballing my ever-filling SSDs.

I don’t know if I can get ten years out of it. Apple has been good about supporting hardware for a long time with macOS releases, but I can’t help but wonder if an ARM transition will shorten the time this machine gets updates. I don’t think it will, but who knows.

Until then, it’s the best Mac I’ve ever owned, and it should be, given the insane costs.

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In my tests, 10GBe with (8) 5400 rpm spinners does serve data fast as measured speeds of Promise Pegasus R4i internal RAID MPX Module:

Writing is another matter; only 33% as fast, as measured today (tomorrow, who knows?)

You and me both; you and me both.

Yummy. Only thing I might add is how/where to back up that 24TB Pegasus goodness … a tricky thing to do quietly, and I am sure you don’t want data sets on it of any size to be backed up only to Time Machine or Backblaze.

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Good point – I have a replacement NAS planned in the works as well : a fat Drobo hooked up to a 2018 Mac mini I already have. All libraries will be neatly archived there (as they already are on my NAS). :slight_smile: This will the media and backup server.

(Also – thanks @ismh for sharing your setup!)

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Cool to see this breakdown.

When I had my old 2009 Mac Pro, one of the last things I bought for it was a used PCi SSD-on-a-card. For something like $200 I had a new, fast boot drive without using one of those precious SATA connectors. Really liked the bang for buck ratio with it.

When we talk about keeping a MacPro for say a 10 year time span, one factor that might make many of the now-storage-questions moot is if SSDs really do scale up in storage size. A MacPro at year +5, in addition to whatever larger/cheaper SSDs are then available might be really smart.

But for now, all SSD storage is difficult to do when a data set to manage is more than 8 TB.

Wise words. The Mac Pro is…eeeh… a Mac Pro. Meant for people who need such a machine for their job or hobby. And perhaps a few people who are willing to spend their money on something they really don’t need.

It’s like buying a Mack truck (pun somewhat intended) for your daily commute. Of course that vehicle will get you there. And you can sleep in it in case you need to one day. And you have plenty of room for your luggage. But if it’s money well spent remains to be seen.

So unless you need the horsepower, want to show-off, or would like to get Apple’s profits even higher, you’d be better off with another machine.

Just my 2 cents of course.