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Macbook Pro with Mac Pro slave vs Single 12 core Mac Pro?

Dan J. B.

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Hi,

Got a few questions about slave systems and what you guys think is my best option - mostly for large orchestral templates in Cubase and/or Pro Tools.

I used to use a 2010 2.66GHz i7 8GB Macbook Pro as a single machine but a couple of years ago bought a 12 core 3.46GHz Mac Pro 5,1 which I have been using as a single machine. I have since upgraded the ram to 64GB 1333MHz DDR3 and have my largest and most used libraries on a 500GB SSD in a PCIe slot. Projects/Sessions and non lib audio samples are also on a separate HD from the OS X HD (plan on swapping that for an SSD too).

Firstly, I'm now wondering if using the MBP as a master to the Mac Pro via ethernet cable would be beneficial? In a Master - Slave setup which way around should the most powerful and weaker machine(s) be and would having the Mac Pro as slave be at all limiting, should the master not be the better computer? It obviously has a better graphics card for example with the option of 3 displays compared to the MBP's 1 output etc. I don't know if it's possible to get more displays from this MBP?

Secondly, is it necessary to have a display for the slave machine too or is everything viewed and done through VEP on the master? Would I need to do things on the slave like run VEP and insert plugs/instruments etc? I'm not sure exactly how VEP works.

Really appreciate any input on this and Happy New Year all! A little late :P

Cheers
 
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JohnG

Senior Member
Great question. You write "large orchestral templates." Do you write also with lots of FX (delays, many reverbs) and also synths (Omnisphere and so on)? Those tend to use a lot of CPU.

The best setup might depend on this. If you're writing for "modern hybrid," that includes many FX, guitars, hyped drum sounds, delays, multiple reverbs and all that, it would be good to know before making the decision.

If, by contrast, you are writing for "pure" orchestra (or mostly that), you might reach a different conclusion.
 
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Dan J. B.

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Thanks John,

For the most part I compose the modern hybrid kind of epic action stuff with some lush symphonic strings, brass, big drums, choir etc. I do also like working with audio too tho. I use Reverberate 2 on section group busses as sends and final verb and QL Spaces sometimes although I've had crash issues with it in the past (There's a thread on here about it crashing cubase and East West doing little about it). I rarely track guitars and delays are usually only on my underscore/ambient sections.

I use the odd synth here and there but nothing huge like Omnisphere. My template is mostly Kontakt instruments plus a couple of PLAY instances for HW Brass. Now and then I bounce those to audio to manipulate (time/pitch, eq etc).

My Macbook Pro struggled with it all hence the upgrade but I'm fairly confident if all it had to cope with was the DAW + plugins it should fine. Another thing I meant to ask is where plugins such as reverb, delay etc are inserted. Is VEP software that runs on the master, you load plugins in and they are then processed by the slave or do they run on the master too? Or do you just load plugs in your DAW and leave VEP do the sample library work?

Thanks again
 
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stigc56

Senior Member
Secondly, is it necessary to have a display for the slave machine too or is everything viewed and done through VEP on the master? Would I need to do things on the slave like run VEP and insert plugs/instruments etc? I'm not sure exactly how VEP works.
No you don't need a second display because you can use the built in screen sharing in OSX. It works really well.
 

Mishabou

Senior Member
Hi,

Got a few questions about slave systems and what you guys think is my best option - mostly for large orchestral templates in Cubase and/or Pro Tools.

I used to use a 2010 2.66GHz i7 8GB Macbook Pro as a single machine but a couple of years ago bought a 12 core 3.46GHz Mac Pro 5,1 which I have been using as a single machine. I have since upgraded the ram to 64GB 1333MHz DDR3 and have my largest and most used libraries on a 500GB SSD in a PCIe slot. Projects/Sessions and non lib audio samples are also on a separate HD from the OS X HD (plan on swapping that for an SSD too).

Firstly, I'm now wondering if using the MBP as a master to the Mac Pro via ethernet cable would be beneficial? In a Master - Slave setup which way around should the most powerful and weaker machine(s) be and would having the Mac Pro as slave be at all limiting, should the master not be the better computer? It obviously has a better graphics card for example with the option of 3 displays compared to the MBP's 1 output etc. I don't know if it's possible to get more displays from this MBP?

Secondly, is it necessary to have a display for the slave machine too or is everything viewed and done through VEP on the master? Would I need to do things on the slave like run VEP and insert plugs/instruments etc? I'm not sure exactly how VEP works.

Really appreciate any input on this and Happy New Year all! A little late :P

Cheers

I use a similar set up with 2 nMP 6.1. I did quite a bit of testing before settling for my current rig. Bottom line, in a Mac only set up, if you are doing strictly music then no matter what and how you write, the machine hosting the majority of your VIs should be the more powerful one.

My main DAW is on a nMP 6.1, 6 cores, 64 GB ram. I use PT HD12 and sometimes CB 9 and DP 9 to be compatible with my clients. I have exactly the same template ready to go on all three DAW. My VEP server is on a second nMP 6.1, 12 cores, 64 GB ram. I have roughly 800 patches loaded, the load is shared between 2 VEP server project, obviously the more powerful machine gets the VEP server project with the most patches. I much prefer to mix in the DAW, so no FX on the VEP side. There are about 180 audio returns coming from both VEP server project into the DAW. The nice thing about PT is that those returns feed the audio tracks directly as oppose to aux tracks before the audio tracks in CB and DP's case.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Ok -- I don't know how well Cubase distributes processing across multiple CPUs but I am having a hard time recommending what I assume most would, which is to use the laptop as the DAW and put the sample libraries on the tower.

I have never tried a Mac laptop for heavy sequencing and DAW work but here are my worries about whether it can handle the load:

1. Your CPU speed on the laptop is just not that fast.

2. Even with VE Pro -- others chime in -- in order to keep everything locked together for your final mix, I would think you are still going to have to keep some of the most CPU-intensive operations on the DAW (that is, the laptop in this case). For example, delays or any tempo-sync'd effects, including guitar patches or synths with delay effects in them (of which there can be many in the style of music you described), will keep together best if they stay inside the DAW. If you try putting that kind of thing onto a slave computer it is hard to keep it really locked together.

So in other words the tower can probably save a lot of the lifting of the raw RAM and sample handling but I wonder when you've gone to all this trouble if you're going to have a setup that really flies -- will your laptop be able to reach your ambitions.

Sadly, I would have to ask whether the fastest way to joy and happiness might be a PC slave to host your samples, keeping your tower as the DAW.

Happy to hear from others using a Mac laptop for DAWs -- maybe their under-the-hood specs are so good they can manage it?

Kind regards,

John
 
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Dan J. B.

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Thanks guys,

Screen Sharing sounds perfect I'll check it out. :)

Your setup sounds great Anhtu. I'd like to keep mixing inside the DAW too so that's great you can do that. I am only running the Pro Tools 12.7 software tho not HD if that matters.

The concept of the VEP connections still puzzles me tho (I don't own it yet), are the two machines simply connected by a gigabit ethernet cable that transfers all midi and audio back and forth or just midi to the slave? And then I'm unsure how the audio gets back to the Master/DAW to output through the audio interface (Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP). Would there be a bottle neck? following on from that, when you say there's about 180 audio returns do they go through a gigabit ethernet cable or do you mean physical audio cables into your interface/desk?

Just seen your reply John, thanks for the help. I understand what you're saying, ultimately I guess the only way to know would be to try it out but it won't be for a while yet. Just trying to get an understanding of the whole slave setup atm. I can only go by how well the MBP ran when I was using it as a single machine and I'm optimistic about it coping as a DAW machine. Like Anhtu I would plan to keep most if not all plugs, FX and verbs inside the DAW on the master but could play around with that, it might work better to have my fixed setting group verbs run on the tower slave. Like I say tho I guess only way to find out is to try it at some point :)

Cheers
 

mc_deli

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Thanks guys,

Cheers
You haven't actually said you are having problems since "upgrading" the RAM...?
You have essentially the most powerful Mac ever made (best single core stats, close 2nd multicore stats to the nMP 12 core)... and you "only" have 500GB of samples...
Why would you want to go to the hassle of tethering your ageing MBP via VEp to this absolute beast of a machine...?
 

Nathanael Iversen

Active Member
I had the MBP/MP config when I first started with virtual orchestra. DAW on the laptop, samples on the tower. It works. But it is much better with a DAW machine - bigger screen(s), faster drives, more RAM, easy expansion, and definitely faster and more responsive. My laptop is for playing live (Mainstage) and email, web, etc. Unless you are going to make a custom mobile writing rig, I'd not use the laptop as main DAW.
 

JohnG

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I had the MBP/MP config when I first started with virtual orchestra. DAW on the laptop, samples on the tower. It works. But it is much better with a DAW machine - bigger screen(s), faster drives, more RAM, easy expansion, and definitely faster and more responsive. My laptop is for playing live (Mainstage) and email, web, etc. Unless you are going to make a custom mobile writing rig, I'd not use the laptop as main DAW.

I think Nathaniel captured much better what I was trying to say.
 

jcrosby

Senior Member
You haven't actually said you are having problems since "upgrading" the RAM...?
You have essentially the most powerful Mac ever made (best single core stats, close 2nd multicore stats to the nMP 12 core)... and you "only" have 500GB of samples...
Why would you want to go to the hassle of tethering your ageing MBP via VEp to this absolute beast of a machine...?

That pretty much says it all...

I tried the same thing using a quad core Mac Mini Server, (2.4 Ghz, 16 GB RAM and 2 SSDs in RAID 0. Since MBPs tend to be similar in performance those specs should give you an idea...). The Mac Mini just wasn't powerful enough to run logic, receive high amounts of audio channels, and host effects... Add Ominsphere to the mix and its game over... I went the opposite route and host a few strategically chosen ones with a high CPU hit on the Mac Mini but do 90% on the MP... (I have the same MP FYI)

And honestly, I don't even use the mini much anymore. That machine can do a lot just running VEP locally... I find it much easier building different templates for different libraries / genres / projects and working on one machine... At one point I had a template with something like 600+ instruments and found I hated working that way. Too much scrolling up and down just to write a line and I tended to over layer stuff just because I could. Now I prefer layering only when needed...
 
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Dan J. B.

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Wow well that clears that one up ha, cheers :)

mc_deli tbh I haven't really had chance to see what the MP can do with the newly installed RAM. Main reason I was curious about the MBP master idea was just because of all the talk around master/slave setups in the industry. Just wanted some insight into what's best. I guess with more than one decent machine it can make a huge difference but can see why it wouldn't be so with just a MBP.

jcrosby that's interesting about the mac mini as a master. Although the processor's are a tad slower, there's twice as many plus the SSDs and twice the RAM, it does put things into perspective. I'm interested in the possible benefits (if there are any) or running VEP on the one machine. I know exactly what you mean about the templates and over layering (never had so many as 600 instruments tho ha thats crazy). But it is so tempting to layer up each similar string patch from various libraries and each brass patch and so on. I should reign it in a little. Also coming from working with film audio my templates are 48KHz. Could that be a hinder and should I make them 44.1KHz?

Thanks
 
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Mishabou

Senior Member
Your setup sounds great Anhtu. I'd like to keep mixing inside the DAW too so that's great you can do that. I am only running the Pro Tools 12.7 software tho not HD if that matters.

The concept of the VEP connections still puzzles me tho (I don't own it yet), are the two machines simply connected by a gigabit ethernet cable that transfers all midi and audio back and forth or just midi to the slave? And then I'm unsure how the audio gets back to the Master/DAW to output through the audio interface (Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP). Would there be a bottle neck? following on from that, when you say there's about 180 audio returns do they go through a gigabit ethernet cable or do you mean physical audio cables into your interface/desk?

Just seen your reply John, thanks for the help. I understand what you're saying, ultimately I guess the only way to know would be to try it out but it won't be for a while yet. Just trying to get an understanding of the whole slave setup atm. I can only go by how well the MBP ran when I was using it as a single machine and I'm optimistic about it coping as a DAW machine. Like Anhtu I would plan to keep most if not all plugs, FX and verbs inside the DAW on the master but could play around with that, it might work better to have my fixed setting group verbs run on the tower slave. Like I say tho I guess only way to find out is to try it at some point :)

Cheers

I'm using VEP in server mode so eveything (audio and midi) goes through ethernet. The most reliable and lowest latency set up is still via stand alone mode, but you will need to invest in extra audio interfaces and you loose tempo sync from host.

You can definitely mix a pretty decent size session on a MBP so i don't see any problem using it as your main DAW machine. I'm using my 2011 MBP right now for a remote overdub session, i didn't even bother bouncing the original mix that i did at my studio. It has about 160 audio tracks, 9 reverbs (2 Lexicon, 3 Exponential Audio, 4 Altiverb), EQ/comp on most tracks, half a dozen DNS one. I basically just show up to the session with my MBP and PT HDN thunberbot interface...that's it! Crazy what we can do nowadays.
 
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Dan J. B.

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I'm using VEP in server mode so eveything (audio and midi) goes through ethernet. The most reliable and lowest latency set up is still via stand alone mode, but you will need to invest in extra audio interfaces and you loose tempo sync from host.

You can definitely mix a pretty decent size session on a MBP so i don't see any problem using it as your main DAW machine. I'm using my 2011 MBP right now for a remote overdub session, i didn't even bother bouncing the original mix that i did at my studio. It has about 160 audio tracks, 9 reverbs (2 Lexicon, 3 Exponential Audio, 4 Altiverb), EQ/comp on most tracks, half a dozen DNS one. I basically just show up to the session with my MBP and PT HDN thunberbot interface...that's it! Crazy what we can do nowadays.

Ah right that's cool how all midi and audio can go through ethernet, but yeah I can see the alternative being faster.

Yeah the portability these days is great. I had some reasonable sessions/projects on my MBP and it's still a good (yet ageing) machine. I think for now tho I'm going to continue on the MP as a single machine and see how I get on, especially with the recent RAM upgrade. I was just curious if the MBP could help out being a master. I may buy a PC slave further down the line. Although after some of the things said here it may be better to have a decent Mac like a more recent lower spec iMac as the master and slave the MP which should be full of SSDs in PCIe slots by then. Best laid plans tho aye ha..

Cheers
 

mscp

Senior Member
I know this is an old thread but I wanted to chime in just in case someone has been wondering still. It's Feb 2019 and I can run 256 tracks on Logic calling up all the VEP instruments set in my slave PC without issues. My MacBook Pro is a maxed out 2016 one. As with Pro Tools, I'm having some issues but I have found out that it's Mojave-related. Massive CPU spikes in Mojave - something they should address in Pro Tools 2019.3

Having a tower is lovely for thousands of tracks, but if the workflow doesn't require that many tracks, a MBP + slave PC will do just fine. I even wonder how the i9 ones are these days because - despite thinking about getting a Master tower - I might consider a new MBP.

In terms of overheating, Apple is infamously known for making their laptops thermal-throttle, so I doubt overheating will be an issue.
 

Jeremy Spencer

Senior Member
a MBP + slave PC will do just fine.

It sure does, my 2013 MB Pro is still chugging along nicely, even on Mojave. If I ever need the big templates (which is rare these days), I simply fire up the slave PC. Honestly, there's not much a new (or newer) loaded MB Pro can't handle despite it's RAM limitations.
 
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