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  #1  
Old 03-28-2021, 06:56 AM
Spoil the Child Spoil the Child is offline
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Default Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibility

Hello, all!

Just wanted to ask, for clarification, about the Avid "System Requirements and Compatibility for Pro Tools", particularly the "Supported Apple Computers" section. Apologies if I seem dense about stuff like this, but I'm about to purchase a new iMac (since Pro Tools is already BigSur-compatible) and would just like to really be sure before doing so. I just upgraded my Pro Tools STANDARD and would like to start my transition to PT 2021.3 and BigSur on a new iMac.

My question is this: Are these requirements supposed to be strictly adhered to, to the tee, or are these just the recommended specs for the most optimized performance? I ask, because of the "Minimum System Requirements" section which mentions the bare minimum, like Intel Mac, OS versions, i5 processor, 16GB RAM(like Intel® Mac with macOS 10.14.6, 10.15.7, 11.2.3, among others, but which also states, "please find version specific qualifications in the macOS Compatibility Grid below" where the only stated iMac 2020,x specs stated is "2020 Retina 5K 27" iMac20,2 10-Core i9 'Comet Lake' 3.6 GHz w/Radeon Pro 5700 X". I'm honestly a little confused as to what the real minimum requirements are, my apologies.

Just in case, can I ask if any of these iMac specs would work with the current Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD)?



OPTION 1: (21.5-inch)

3.2GHz Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz
Retina 4K
6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor
16GB (or Upgrade to 32GB) DDR4 memory
Radeon Pro 555X with 2GB of GDDR5 memory
256GB SSD storage



OPTION 2: (27-inch)

3.1GHz Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
Retina 5K Display
3.1GHz 6-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor
8GB (Upgrade to 16 or 32GB) 2666MHz DDR4 memory
256GB (Upgrade to 1TB) SSD storage
Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory
Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display with True Tone (optional nano-texture glass available)



OPTION 3: (27-inch)

3.3GHz Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz
Retina 5K Display
6-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor
8GB (Upgrade to 16 or 32GB) 2666MHz DDR4 memory
512GB SSD (Upgrade to 1TB) storage
Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory
Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display with True Tone (optional nano-texture glass available)



OPTION 4: (27-inch)

3.8GHz
Retina 5K Display
8-core 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor
Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
8GB (Upgrade to 16 or 32GB) 2666MHz DDR4 memory
512GB (Upgrade to 1TB) SSD storage
Radeon Pro 5500 XT with 8GB of GDDR6 memory
Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display with True Tone (optional nano-texture glass available)



Apologies for my lengthy post. Any help/advice would be very much appreciated.

Thank you!

Last edited by Spoil the Child; 03-28-2021 at 08:00 AM. Reason: I failed to mention which Pro Tools system I use and other options.
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  #2  
Old 03-28-2021, 01:57 PM
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albee1952 albee1952 is offline
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

Good advice from Darryl One more opinion; I would skip the 21.5" as the larger screen is going to make life much easier. I think any of the 27" models you listed would do a fine job, but you DO want to go with 16GB of RAM at the minimum, and I would double that to 32GB if you plan on using many VI's(Virtual Instruments). Avoid Fusion drives(I think all you listed are good on that detail).

Re the i5 vs i7 debate, in the past I have always been a proponent of the i7. However, with so many folks getting better stability with Hyperthreading disabled, the i5 may make more sense(though this seems to depend on a great many small details)

Re Darryl's advice on drives, I agree and recommend at least 2 external drives(or maybe 1 really big one that's partitioned in half). 1 would be for backups of all sessions, and the other would be for backups of your system drive(drive images), and I would also designate a folder to store everything you download(PT installers, plugin installers, etc) This might be overkill to many, but I have never regretted saving installers My preferred use of backup drives is to keep them turned OFF most of the time(turn them ON, copy/backup, then eject and turn them OFF).
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Old 03-28-2021, 02:26 PM
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darryl Ramm View Post
Macs generally run Pro Tools well
This is pretty much all you need to know. You know your budget. Buy as much internal storage and memory as you can, but otherwise any Mac should serve you well.
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Old 03-28-2021, 02:36 PM
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

I certainly wouldn’t be buying an Intel Mac at this point, even if it meant waiting a while for full Pro Tools M1 compatibility.

There are rumoured to be M1 iMacs released next month that are potentially 50% faster than a similarly priced Intel equivalent. 32” iMacs are also a possibility.
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Old 03-28-2021, 02:40 PM
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marsdy View Post
I certainly wouldn’t be buying an Intel Mac at this point
I would, but then again I am a dinosaur. Bought a last generation PPC G5 Quad PowerMac when the earlier transition was going on and could not have been happier about that decision. That machine was good until 2009 when "Nehalem" Mac Pro models were released. Those (4,1) and the following 5,1 were the good ones.
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Old 03-28-2021, 05:15 PM
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Eric Seaberg Eric Seaberg is offline
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

I just bought a 27" in November. Got the fastest processor available and bumped up the graphics to the max. Ordered it with stock 8GB RAM as I could get 64GB from Other World Computing for $300 (Apple wants $1000), and as Darryl just said, the 27" RAM is accessible behind a door... takes minutes to install or upgrade.

Since there are four RAM slots, my thought was adding 64GB now for total of 72GB, then I can pull the 2x4GB a little later and add another 64GB.

Honestly, this machine with 72GB in this configuration seems much snappier than one of the iMac Pros we have at the studio... and less than HALF the price!

In my opinion, the cost difference to go BIG now is worth it.
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Old 03-28-2021, 06:12 PM
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

I'm not quite sure what planet I'm on, but if Darryl is there, I'm okay with it I will willingly bow to his comments on the nuts and bolts(I know he has put in the time to learn that stuff).

One more note on the backups, we(me, anyway) are always on about it because we know a few things;
#1-never assume any drive(even brand new) will be great for any assumed amount of time.
#2-In my 18 years of DAW use, I have had 2 brand new WD drives fail within weeks, a 6-month old SSD start deleting data by itself(it needed a firmware update) and a quality spinner lose data because my partner kept setting headphones down, directly on the drive(in a USB drive tray). Then there was 1 more drive that was plugged straight into a wall outlet when a power surge hit the house(the computer was on a surge suppressor and the drive SHOULD have been).
#3-Anything you hate to lose needs to exist in at least 3 places, and 1 of the 3 should be NOT in the same building
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Old 03-28-2021, 07:14 PM
Spoil the Child Spoil the Child is offline
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darryl Ramm View Post
The Supported Computers list is near useless and not kept up to date.

Macs generally run Pro Tools well, but how much horsepower you need nobody here can guess.

If you are working with large sessions, especially using lot of VIs, then you will need more compute power, and memory, and potentially disk (for sample libraries as well as sessions).

The simplest guide for what to purchase is starting with what you are using now. Especially with Macs you face inflated costs and often non-upgradeability so I would tend to overconfigure machines to get some good years of use out of them. But now you are also facing the move to Apple/ARM silicon, so if you don’t need this right now for professional use you might want to wait for new ARM based Macs.

Personally I would start with the SSD, with modern fast PCIe/NVMe SSD as Apple uses you can have everything on one internal drive, Boot/OS, sessions, and VI samples. Purchase the largest SSD you can afford/justify. Calculate how much space you need for VI samples. Guesstimate how much space you will need for working sessions. Are you working with Video? Etc. nobody here can guess what you are doing or need... but you can work that out. And the Internal SSD is not
Upgradeable, you can add PCIe/NVMe based external Thunderbolt SSD that run about the same speed but then you have to deal with unreliable cabling, etc. Any other type of drive SATA based SSD or any HDD is significantly slower.

Memory needs can be all over the place, depending again on what you are going. Minimum formal requirements is 16GB, you may never need that if just working with small sessions, you may need much more than that if working with lots of VIs, having enough memory to run the Pro Tools disk cache large enough to fully disk cache sessions should be a goal. Personally I would want at least 32GB, but your needs may be different.

CPU again your needs may be different, and with an iMac you are likely locking in that CPU... even if it is socketed. So while overconfig is good, old advice to not use i5 no longer really applies. Old advice you have to use an discrete GPU is less important than previously with recent Intel integrated GPUs, although I still would go for a fast discrete GPU. Personally I would want at least an 8 core/16 thread CPU, but you gave no clue what workload you are running.

What interface will you use? Can that connect to this computer? Is the driver supported on Big Sur? Are all the plugins you need supported on Big Sur and Pro Tools 2021.3? How will you backup/recover the computer? To multiple external drives? NAS? Cloud storage? At a minimum you will likely need several external drives.
Thank you, Darryl! I already learned so much from your reply.

Sorry about not having stated my current (and antiquated) work system. Just to give you an idea: For one, I don't do video, so that's a big load off. Since 2012, I've also (somehow) survived on an iMac mid-2011 with 256GB storage and 8GB RAM, Lion 10.7.3 (I know, really old), MBox2 (another oldie), Pro Tools 10.0 (Standard), and a lot of external SSDs for VIs and back-ups. Basically, believe it or not, I did start much lower than that (with the exception of a former 1TB storage though an HDD then went SSD but with only 256 when I had discovered, the late bloomer that I am, what SSDs were). So, unfortunately, none of these are BigSur and current Pro Tools-compatible.

My modest upgrade plan will hopefully include the following (since I wouldn't require the high-end stuff, like PT Ultimate, iMac Pro, and the like as my gear consists of very basic items for my music arrangement and home demo recording needs):

- Any of the Macs above, hopefully the cheapest which is in the Option 1 (21.5", Retina 4K range though, based on the replies here, it seems 27" is the way to go for flexibility)
- My spare Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD as my interface
- My current Kawai ES110 keyboard as midi controller
- My current external SSDs for VIs, recording, and back-ups (separate SSDs for each)

Thanks for the tip on PCIe/NVMe based external Thunderbolt SSDs. I'll read up on that as I'm not tech-savvy. But it would be good to learn more.

I checked a list of the status of compatibility of different VI, and it seems that almost half of what I use are not yet supported in BigSur. However, it's Kontakt and VSL I am actually primarily concerned with, but I did see they are now BigSur-compatible.

Your reply made me aware of some things I had never heard of, so I am actually looking forward to learning more. So, thank you very much for such detailed and thorough information and advice, Darryl. Very much appreciated!
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Old 03-28-2021, 07:35 PM
Spoil the Child Spoil the Child is offline
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

Quote:
Originally Posted by albee1952 View Post
Good advice from Darryl One more opinion; I would skip the 21.5" as the larger screen is going to make life much easier. I think any of the 27" models you listed would do a fine job, but you DO want to go with 16GB of RAM at the minimum, and I would double that to 32GB if you plan on using many VI's(Virtual Instruments). Avoid Fusion drives(I think all you listed are good on that detail).

Re the i5 vs i7 debate, in the past I have always been a proponent of the i7. However, with so many folks getting better stability with Hyperthreading disabled, the i5 may make more sense(though this seems to depend on a great many small details)

Re Darryl's advice on drives, I agree and recommend at least 2 external drives(or maybe 1 really big one that's partitioned in half). 1 would be for backups of all sessions, and the other would be for backups of your system drive(drive images), and I would also designate a folder to store everything you download(PT installers, plugin installers, etc) This might be overkill to many, but I have never regretted saving installers My preferred use of backup drives is to keep them turned OFF most of the time(turn them ON, copy/backup, then eject and turn them OFF).

Thank you, Albee1952, for your advice! I agree, avoiding 21.5" and fusion drives as well as getting more RAM sound wise. I'm not learned about processors, but I will look into the i5 vs i7 comparison, so thanks for that thought.

I agree again, regarding external drives! Speaking fo overkill, I currently have 4-5, for my VIs, back-ups, and recording drives. But yes, overkill in this regard is better than being slowly tortured in regret. Thanks for the reminder!
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Old 03-28-2021, 07:36 PM
Spoil the Child Spoil the Child is offline
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Default Re: Recommended iMac Specs for Pro Tools 2021.3 (Pro Tools STANDARD) BigSur Compatibi

Quote:
Originally Posted by JFreak View Post
This is pretty much all you need to know. You know your budget. Buy as much internal storage and memory as you can, but otherwise any Mac should serve you well.
Thank you, JFreak! It indeed is a good thing to remember!
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