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Is Mac Pro the step up your audio setup needs?

When the latest generation of Mac Pro was released in 2019, it came with a host of impressive stats – but also some key questions. Yes, there was room for up to six HDX cards, but would it actually work with Pro Tools? Was it really more suited to picture than to sound? 18 months on, we’re taking a second look at Mac Pro, with help from some of our audio customers…

 
First, the big question: Is it Pro Tools compatible?

Yes. Because the original Mac Pros shipped with macOS Catalina, which was entirely 64-bit and therefore incompatible with some common plug-ins, there was a lot of discussion around its ability to work with Pro Tools. Happily, they’re now sorted. As of Pro Tools 2021.3, which Avid released in March, Pro Tools supports macOS Mojave and macOS Big Sur with up to three HDX cards. As long as you’re running the latest version of Pro Tools, you’re good to go.

 

Does this mean you should upgrade Pro Tools simply to use Mac Pro?

No. Pro Tools 2021.3 has a range of fantastic features that you’re going to want to get your hands on, particularly if you’re working with Dolby Atmos mixes. Highlights from the latest set of upgrades include:

·     Easier setup of stereo objects Automatically create stereo mapped objects based on the input configuration of your renderer.

·     Bed/object fold down Beds are now included in the fold down path, so you can monitor a rough mix without having to render it through a Dolby Atmos renderer.

·     Always fold down You can always enable the channel-based fold down path for a Dolby Atmos mix. This is useful for generating rough headphone mixes and monitoring for non-mission-critical tasks.

·     Faster ADM bounces to network storage A new preference has been added, called “Use Local Cache When Bouncing to Network Volume”. This automatically bounces to a local cache location when pointing the Bounce Mix window to a network volume. When the bounce completes, the cached file is immediately copied to the network location, and then the cache is cleared.

 
Why are we recommending Mac Pro for Dolby Atmos workflows?

Well, it’s partly because of those initial numbers. With up to 28 cores of processing power, a huge amount of on-board memory, eight PCIe slots and support for three HDX cards and counting, Mac Pro has the power and voice count you need to handle a Dolby mix – whether you’re in the studio or have relocated to a home or remote recording setup.

 

What should you pair with Mac Pro?

During the 2020 lockdown, many of our audio customers had to decamp from city studios to smaller, remote setups in garages and bedrooms. While different workflows and projects require different solutions, one did become particularly popular: the emergency Mac Pro flight kit.

By putting together a flight case containing a Mac Pro, Avid MTRX and various bits of glue hardware, engineers could give their home studios the extra muscle needed to get to work on large-scale projects, without too much setup or disruption. (More about that here.)

However, if you’re looking for an even smaller setup, try Avid Carbon.

 
Why choose Avid Carbon?

Carbon combines the power of your native CPU with eight onboard HDX DSPs to deliver real time audio processing with zero audible latency (the actual figure is just under one millisecond). This means you can deliver perfectly synced cue mixes to everyone in your studio, track with zero latency and record lag-free.

This is great for sessions of any size, but having that extra HDX hardware means that the compact Carbon can handle surprisingly hefty mixes: it supports 25x35 simultaneous I/O, and its eight DSPs combine to perform 22.4 billion operations per second.

On top of this, Avid’s Hybrid Engine (developed specifically for Carbon) speeds things up even further by enabling realtime switching between AAX plug-ins and their native counterparts, while 64-bit float double precision processing and a custom designed FGPA (field programmable gate array) mean that Carbon routes audio with blazing speed and precision.

 
What do the professionals have to say about Mac Pro?

It’s all well and good us telling you that Mac Pro is fantastic for pro audio – we have something of a vested interest in getting you to buy Apple hardware. However, our points are echoed by real-world users, such as Syncbox director Rich Evans.

“The new Mac Pro has changed the way I work,” he told us. “When I’m working with Pro Tools Ultimate the track count is unbelievable. I can now have a huge session running hundreds of tracks, each stacked with plug-ins, and my Mac Pro’s not even getting near its capacity. The most I’ve had it running at is 32% capacity.”

Over on the sound for picture side of things, Red Facilities’ Max Howarth has found that “video rendering and grading have really sped up, as well as large audio project exports.”

He adds: “The Mac Pros are rock solid, run virtually silently and are a thing of architectural beauty inside and out. It’s just a shame they sit in a cabinet under the desk!”

Composer Dominik Scherrer and his team at Crimson Noise swear to its suitability for home studios, too. “I updated to the 2019 Mac Pro [in the Spring of 2020] and have been working from home ever since. All recording is happening remotely, and I have audio coming in from ten places. The extra power of the new Mac Pro really comes in handy, as all the external outboard and analogue synths are at the studio. Everything is processed in the box, so the workstation has to handle more.”

 
Ready to try Mac Pro out?

Great! Our Soho demo room is now open for business, and you can book a session with Mac Pro and the latest audio release, or a sound for picture demo. Alternatively, if you’re already sold, get in touch with the team to talk about potential configs – all Mac Pros are built to order, and as an Apple Authorised Enterprise Reseller and Avid Elite Partner, there’s no-one better qualified to help you take your Pro Tools setup to the next level.

 

Ready to book your demo? Just fill out the form below. Alternatively, get in touch with the team on 03332 409 210 or audio@Jigsaw24.com. For the latest news, follow us on on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

Want to know more about Mac Pro?

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