Anybody working with Mac Minis? I need your advice.
I'm thinking of adding a Mac Mini to my studio. I have six computers here -- a Mac G5 running Pro Tools, connected by MidiOverLAN to three PCs and one MacPro, each hosting orchestral sample libraries via Kontakt (EWQLSO, VSL Horizon, etc). The remaining PC is hosting TC Electronic System 6000. I'd like to add a Mac Mini specifically for instrument libraries that require their own players and won't run via Kontakt -- in my case, that means VSL Special Edition Brass.
My chief concern is the choice of the audio interface. I need word clock, since I'll be syncing this mini up to a lucid GENx192. I'd prefer a BNC connection, but I also have AES available on the lucid. Since the mini only has one FW connection, I'm going to have to daisychain the external HD containing the VSL library, and the possible performance loss is also a concern to me.
Anyone working successfully with Mac Minis? If so, how did you overcome the issues I mentioned?
Yes I have a Mac Mini with an M Audio Profire Lightbridge (wordclock is BNC.) Very solid combination but I couldn't really stream my VSL off the external drive without crackles. What you can do is stream off the internal system drive so it should be 7200 rpm and big enough for VSL. The problem is that the FW has to handle both the streaming and audio from the external so using the internal for streaming seems to alleviate that conflict.
I only have 2 gigs (max on the core duo 1.83) so I use it for my percussion only using Kontakt 2.
I'm thinking of selling both pieces actually but I think you would want a mini with more ram. I think 4 gigs is the max now?
Thanks for the great advice, dpc. Yes, I think you're right about the 4 gigs of ram. Regarding the streaming -- I've always thought that you can't run Kontakt on the same hard drive where you store your samples, or you'll face performance issues -- so I've never actually tried that before. If it's working for you I'll certainly give it a try, since I'd love to save the expense (and studio footprint) of another external HD. I'm assuming that I'll have to replace the factory drive with one that runs at the 7200rpm, so I'm hoping that modifying the mini isn't too much of a hassle. How did that go for you? And while I'm at it, how are you handling MIDI with the mini? I'll probably attempt to hook the mini into my MIDIOverLAN setup, so I'm hoping that it will work agreeably with that.
I stand corrected: Kontakt's library is on my external. I don't know if you can put it all on the system or not (I bet you can.) Pretty sure a friend of mine does that. (I moved VSL from the external to the system drive when I had the pops etc., so I thought I had everything streaming off the system but not true.)
If you are ordering the mini I would get the faster internal if you are not customizing the order you can experiment with the drive it comes with and it may indeed work.
Thanks for the info, Dave -- this is -really- helping. So you use a FW external drive daisychained through the Profire Lightbridge, except for VSL, which you have installed in the 7200rpm internal drive that you had installed custom. Is there a good place to order a customized Mac Mini? I'd just assumed I was going to have to do the custom install work myself -- which I was not looking forward to doing! It would be great to order the Mini with its custom parts already installed.
It's helping me too because I'm finding out how I actually set it up. I connect to the external using USB2 and to the Profire with FW. That's how I solved the pops: by not combining the audio and sample streaming over the FW (not daisychaining.) It really works very well but as I say, I'm not streaming a ton of samples as in VSL. You should probably research at some other sites how people are setting up their minis for intensive streaming.
At the Apple store if you select one of the two offered minis it takes you to a configure mini page where you can select various components (though limited with the mini.) Of the two drives they offer, one may be faster the the other but I don't know. Also it may be far cheaper to by the smaller Apple drive option and stick a drive in there yourself (purchased from OWC or something.)
Thanks Dave. I'm looking at the Apple store now. It doesn't look like they offer any advanced flavors in the hard drive other than the capacity -- I don't see anything about rpm differences. I went over to OWC and watched their instructional video on how to install a new hard drive into the mini, and it looked darned scary to me. I've installed PCI cards and hard drives before, but I never needed a putty knife, and I wasn't removing a whole bunch of tape. It seems like there are a plethora of ways to screw the process up. Here's the link to that video: http://www.123macmini.com/videos/video/141.html
I think for my purposes USB isn't going to work -- the speed difference will be a real problem. You mentioned that I should check out some other sites to see how people are setting up their minis for intensive streaming... do you know of any sites specifically that I should visit? That would be great!
I would expect you will get prompted by some to go with a 64 bit PC and load way more ram (I run VSL on 2 64 PC's with 8 gigs ram each.) Bigger bang for buck type of thing. Obviously you know your needs but you might consider even a used PC with (P4 processor) with sound card already installed because with the 3 gigabyte switch you will load same or more as mini.
Good luck - hope things work out. Happy to try an answer more questions if you have any.