• New Mac Pro at Protootr

New Mac Pro Week – The First Impressions

The new Mac Pro has arrived and Protootr will be testing its functionality and performance with professional audio users in mind.

You can find numerous unboxing videos and blog posts online, so I’ll skip the unboxing part. Plugging it into a power outlet for the first time, I instantly noticed a nice touch. Without having the Mac Pro turned on, the lights surrounding the connections still light up when you move the computer. This helps finding the right connection when plugging in stuff for the first time. Once you have things plugged in, the lights only come on when the Mac Pro is powered on. A small touch that is typical for Apple’s attention to detail.

New Mac Pro 2013 Opening Screen asking for wireless mouse or trackpad.

Starting up the Mac Pro is FAST. It took just 7 seconds to show the screen where the Mac asks me to connect a wireless mouse and keyboard. The new Mac Pro doesn’t come standard with a mouse or keyboard, so you have to order these separately. To use Pro Tools properly I need access to a keyboard with a numerical key pad. I will be using a wired Apple keyboard for this. Just as a test though, I first tried to set up the new Mac Pro with a wireless keyboard and a trackpad. These were instantly recognised and paired without a problem, so everything went smoothly there. After filling in the necessary name, short name, password and network settings, the Mac Pro showed me the blue-green Mavericks waves desktop picture for the first time. After everything is set up in the system I did a restart to test what the actual startup time is until the login window asks for a password. I clocked a short 9 seconds. That’s an amazing improvement over the previous late 2007 8-core studio Mac Pro which took around on and a half minute to start up. Of course this is still a clean system, so I’ll test it again once all the software and hardware drivers have been installed.

We’ve all read about the unique design and how the Mac Pro gets rid of its heat. The air is sucked up from an air inlet at the bottom and blown out the top via a large fan. Be careful though with the air inlet at the bottom. It is as sharp as a cheese grater. I scraped my knuckles handling the Mac Pro which gave it its first, and hopefully only, blood stains. The cooling system seems to work very well. I haven’t pushed the machine very hard yet, but so far it stays very cool and the air coming out the top is still cool. We’ll come back to that later when we stress test the Mac Pro with sessions that have a large track count and use lots of plug-ins.

New Mac Pro 2013 cooling fan

Up until today, Pro Tools was only qualified for running on OS X 10.9. But Avid updated the specifications today and announced that 11.1.2 is compatible with Mavericks 10.9.1. The Mac Pro comes pre-installed though with Mavericks 10.9. There are still some users reporting issues with drivers for Fast track Interfaces. So if you want to, you can stick with OS 10.9.

Connecting monitors and external hard disks is easy. So far all my drives have been recognised without a problem. I only have one slight concern. There are three monitors connected to the Mac Pro. One to the HDMI output, and two via Mini Display to DVI adapters. These adapters have a very short cable and the DVI plug, with the rather thick and heavy DVI cable connected, is dangling in mid air tugging on the Mini Display plug. I will somehow have to secure the DVI cables to the shelf so they release the strain on the Thunderbolt ports and prevent any wear. Either that or I will have to find adapters with a bit longer cable. Apple’s own adapters have the same short cable, so take this into account. It is assumed that the connections are at the back of the new Mac Pro. But since it is a cylindrical design, who knows what the front or back is? I will actually use the Mac Pro with all the connections on the front for easy access.

Lacie D2 Quadra hard disk

The new Mac Pro has two Lacie D2 Quadra disks connected for external storage via Thunderbolt to Firewire adapters. The Lacie’s use their aluminium chassis’ for passive cooling. This is actually nice for studios as it prevents any unnecessary noise being added to the very quiet Mac Pro. Only time will tell whether the passive cooling keeps the drives cool enough to survive long 12 hour days of use in the studio. I will eventually move to a RAID multi-drive bay, but these often have a noisy fan so it will have to be placed in the isolated cabinet. For now the Lacie drives will work fine. If you want to go the same route, make sure the drives are backed up properly and automatically every day. Whenever the drives do have a problem or stop working, you won’t lose your precious data.

Somewhere this week I’ll be trying to get a proper measurement of the noise from the Mac Pro. I’ll turn off all ventilation and air conditioning in the studio to get an accurate as possible reading of the Mac pro’s noise.

That’s it for today. In an upcoming post I’ll tell you all about the installation of Avid’s HD Native hardware and Pro Tools HD 11. Plus we’ll see how the daw performs on the new Mac Pro.