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Bring in the Noise
Mac Audio Column
By Mark Fasset
Sept. 29th, 2003
I've been a Mac music maker ever since I switched from my beloved Atari Falcon many many years ago to a dual processor 9500 180MP. For the uninitiated, the Atari Falcon was a computer that featured eight built in audio channels, for eight track recording right out of the box... provided you had the right software. That software was Cubase Audio Falcon (there was a version of Notator for the Falcon, but it was quickly abandoned). It was a bit slow (wave overviews took forever to compute), but it worked, I was productive, and I was the first individual I know who had a working DAW at home.
Once I decided to move to the Mac, I quickly purchased the latest version of Cubase Audio (I think it was 4.0) and my files transferred over from the Atari with little incident, thanks to multiple dos-formatted Jaz drive cartridges. Cross platform file compatibility was one of the reasons I chose Cubase. It was still good.
Several generations of Cubase, Apple OS, and one computer later (current G4 533), OSX has now come of age, and I'm in the process of making the switch from Cubase 5 to Cubase SX on OSX. Many of you have already made the switch. But for my busy audio studio, the bleeding edge is not a place I want to spend a lot of time.
Just a quick note on living on the bleeding edge:
Hardware and software upgrades are a necessary evil in the world of serious audio recording. However, just because the latest and greatest exists, doesn't mean it's time for YOU to upgrade. Here are my top reasons to stay in OS9:
Bring yer Wallet
I also have a Pro Tools LE/Digi 001 card in my Mac, which I have not yet upgraded for OSX compatibility. That's another $75.
For the record, there are some programs I've decided NOT to upgrade. Unity and Retro from Bitheadz made that list. If there are programs that get in the way of your creativity, consider NOT upgrading them.
As you can see, it has not been an inexpensive switch. It could be even more inexpensive for you, if you're stuck with one of the number of audio interfaces that will never be OSX compatible (Seasound, Korg, etc). Fortunately, my RME card works fine under OSX.
Oh, and don't forget Panther is on the horizon. Add $129.
So How's the Water?
OS9 MIDI was most reliably accomplished by serial interfaces (though USB is also available). In my case, I used an Opcode Studio 64XTC via a Griffin G4port, which added a serial port to the modem slot of my G4. Opcode, of course, was purchased by Gibson and subsequently shelved for all practical purposes, so for OSX I'd need a new solution. For serial MIDI in OSX, GeeThree has released a beta product, which I've heard works well if you're using their serial port modem adapter. I'm not. I tried it, it doesn't work. (Note: See below for a reader's reply on some tips for the GeeThree.-Mike)
I purchased a Steinberg MIDEX 8 MIDI interface for use in OSX. But here lies the rub... unless you want to repatch all your MIDI gear each time you boot into another OS, you MUST make a commitment to go with USB MIDI, or purchase the GeeThree product.
There are lots of parameters that do not transfer when opening VST 5 projects in SX. All in all, though, I've been surprised how well things actually DO transfer. Sure, if you're in the final stages of a song, you don't want to convert it over, because you'll need to rewrite your automation moves, reselect plugins, MIDI outputs, etc. If you're in the middle of the project, it's actually fairly painless.
One thing I haven't tried yet is converting over a song with a complex drum map. That will be a big test.
This is one of those things that you must really analyze for yourself. If you work with a ton of tracks, a bunch of plugins, VST instruments, etc, then you will probably notice a slowdown when moving to OSX. I certainly have noticed I can't be quite as liberal with plugins and instruments under OSX.
That said, it isn't as bad as I thought it would be for my little G4 533.
You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much CPU power
However, there is a catch... upgrading to OSX means I really should upgrade to a faster CPU to be able to get similar performance. Luckily, there are options. I'm currently considering a Gigadesigns CPU upgrade, available from XLR8yourmac site sponsor Other World Computing. Cost is $440 at press time for a 1.25 ghz model. (I'm testing their latest 1.2GHz (7455B) model now, and it seems to have quite a bit of headroom.-Mike) Oh, and I'll probably want to upgrade my RAM with another 512 meg stick.
The Bottom Line
"The geethree interface will work under osx. To recap, Mark writes:
Mark (author of this article) later wrote:
"Thanks .... that's great info. Unfortunately for me, I have a Studio 64XTC and not a Studio 5. Mine doesn't have the "compatibility setup" in the pulldown.
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