The verdict is unanimous. The Mac Studio is an absolute beast. When equipped with the ARM M1 Ultra processor, it’s simply in a league of its own. Most reviews you’ll find on any respectable blogs and publications out there have found it to be simply the fastest Mac ever launched. The question remains though: Do you really need to spend four thousand dollars to have a decent studio system?
What do reviews say about the Mac Studio?
Some of the most renowned tech blogs and media outlets have showered the new Mac Studio with praise. “The performance is impressive.” (Oliver Nickel, Golem). “Freakin’ Fast” (Monica Chin, The Verge). “Apple finally has a Mac desktop that rivals PC workstations in the $5,000 range.” (D. Hardawar, Engadget) – these are straight from the horse’s mouth. The trade press too is amazed at the speed of video rendering, image processing, and impressive connectivity options.
The Mac Studio has also made a good impression on YouTubers like Mary Spender. With the capability to export 30 GB of 4K ProRes video in only 24 seconds, it’s not surprising. The close to silent fan system means you can position microphones close by, without the risk of noise on recordings. Opening pro apps like DAW systems or calling up your projects happens almost instantly. In addition, Spender found the energy efficiency of the Mac Studio to be considerable. When compared to an equivalent desktop PC, energy savings were around a thousand kilowatt-hours per year!
M1 Ultra Mac Studio: How Ultra is it?
There are however a few things that annoy us slightly. At Apple’s Peek Performance event, the Mac Studio’s GPU was compared to Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3090. As it turns out, the first benchmarks have discovered this is not comparable and a discrete GPU is still far more powerful. To make matters worse, there is a distinct lack of the upgradability and modularity that we are used to. Everything is installed firmly onto the board, which is a steady move away from the Mac Pro into the consumer realm. The limitation on RAM and SSD size is also rather underwhelming.
The new Studio Display received mostly mixed reviews, while some were unconvinced, to say the least. Apart from the astronomical price tag, there were several aspects that simply didn’t cut it. The six-speaker system did not give you a particularly accurate image of Apple’s Spatial Audio format. On top of that, the selection of stands is factory configured and cannot be altered after the fact – which sucks, frankly. Meanwhile, the built-in webcam is also subpar in the quality department, but at least Apple has promised to fix this with a software update.
Does the Mac Studio make sense for home producers?
The initial hype wave of the Mac Studio washed over us all, with impressive promises of performance. Once you take a look at the reviews and benchmarks, you’re faced with the truth. This is a semi-pro desktop at best. Like so much tech aimed at the content creation market, it offers Swiss-Army knife solutions to a very impressionable audience. For professional studios looking to upgrade to an Apple silicon workstation, the Mac Studio just isn’t what we’ve been waiting for. Without upgradability, it simply isn’t a sustainable and future-proof tool. So many are likely to wait for the new Mac Pro.
On the other end of the market, Apple may have priced the Mac Studio just out of reach of home studio users. This is more than a slight oversight, as home producers dominate the industry worldwide in terms of the amount of music released and the sales of compact audio interfaces, USB microphones, and plug-ins.
Does this mean we’ll see a MacBook Studio?
Bedroom producers are responsible for a large number of great, commercially successful songs, albums and film scores. So as far as the M1 Ultra is concerned, there are currently few scenarios where it would struggle. This includes larger DAW projects with over seventy tracks. Modern producers mostly work with software instruments, effects plug-ins, samples, and loops. So it’s only more CPU-heavy plug-ins like Arturia Pigments, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, or more intensive NI Kontakt instruments that require more power, especially when using multiple instances.
Apple certainly demands a pro budget for the M1 Ultra Mac Studio. However, so many of the connectivity formats it comes with are out of date and don’t meet pro specifications. In the future, we look hopefully at mobile products innovating with the increasing processing power offered by the new CPUs. Will we ever see a MacBook Studio with an integrated audio interface? How about an iPad Studio with zero latency MIDI triggers. Even an “AirPods Studio” with low latency like the AIAIAI TMA-2 would be useful to mobile producers of the current generation.
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Originally published on Gearnews.de by Julian.