Apple Mac mini M3 & M3 Pro

M3 Series Mac mini expected to be released in March 2024

Apple Mac mini M3 $999.00 ?? minimum as recommended below
Apple Mac mini M3 Pro $1299.00 ?? minimum as recommended below

Do not buy a computer with 8GB memory and a 256GB SSD! Why any musician or creator would buy a new system constrained like this in 2024 is beyond me. If properly configured Apple silicon is too expensive for you, buy used or refurbished.

I’m not going to play with you here, or hem and haw like many YouTubers do. 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD are not enough for musicians and creators. Some software will not run. It’s tight now and has a negative future-proofing factor. A 16GB memory upgrade for $200 and a 512GB SSD upgrade for $200 are seriously the minimum of what you need.

My minimum Apple computer recommendation for musicians and creators is 16GB memory and 512GB SSD or more. Any less than this does not make performance or economic sense. You will regret buying an Apple M Series system with 8GB memory and a 256GB SSD.

Mac mini computers are amazing machines with one caveat. Do not upgrade them too much. If you upgrade them too much, the next higher model will make more sense.

Mac mini M3

There are no expected changes to the Mac mini M3, except the M3 processor itself. The M3 processor is out already, so we know exactly what to expect.

Mac mini M3 Pro

There are no expected changes to the Mac mini M3 Pro, except the M3 Pro processor itself. The M3 Pro processor is out already, so we know exactly what to expect.

Information you need to properly digest web sites & especially YouTube.
Updated frequently – Apple Technology YouTube Critique

CPU & GPU Performance Benchmarks

I would generally advise to not get too tied up in the minutiae of benchmarks, but they are useful for relative comparisons of processors. It is worth noting that no M Series processors are slouches. Some more than others, but all of them are a noticeable improvement over the Intel processors in previous generation Macs.

That said, even though the Mac mini M3/M3 Pro is not out yet, we know exactly how it will perform.

DAW Performance Benchmarks

M2/M2 Pro

M3/M3 Pro

M3 DAW performance has improved decently over the M2. M3 Pro DAW performance is pretty much a wash over the M2 Pro. The M3 Pro 11 core CPU is actually a slight downgrade in DAW performance compared to the M2 Pro 10 core CPU. The M3 Pro 12 core CPU is improved compared to the M2 Pro CPU, but only very slightly.

The M3 Pro is a great system for DAWs, I highly recommend it. However, I would not upgrade an M2 Pro for DAW performance alone. Maybe if you wanted more cores, memory or SSD capacity, but also be mindful of the price point it makes more sense to upgrade to the Mac Studio M3 Max, which is a serious DAW performance upgrade.

Of course, realistically the mass majority of musicians are going to use less than 100 tracks. If you need more, I’d wait for the Mac Studio M3 Max to come out which you can see makes quite a jump up in DAW performance.

Check software compatibilities

It should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway. M Series has been out since November 2020. I think it’s crazy that any DAW or plugin should have issues or still be running on Rosetta emulation, but not everyone listens to me. Do your homework!

Furthermore, in my opinion any major software company that markets to Apple users and hasn’t updated their software to include Apple silicon compatibility deserves to lose your business. It’s been over 3 years, and at this point it’s a real screw you. They obviously don’t care about their customers and should be replaced by a company that cares more about their customers.

macOS 13 Ventura: Compatibility Guide

macOS 14 Sonoma: Compatibility Guide

My personal experience with Sonoma has been very good. Everything I use runs natively on M Series and is compatible with Sonoma. But don’t listen to me, do your homework!

Ports are important for musicians & content creators

The 2 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports on the Mac mini M3 are a bit tight for musicians and creators, but can also be easily expanded with a hub if you need more. The 4 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports on the Mac mini M3 Pro are better for musicians and creators. Also an external monitor like the Apple Studio Display has 3 more USB-C ports in addition to the Thunderbolt 3 connection port.

You will want to plug your interface directly into USB-C and find the 2 legacy USB-A ports good for USB hard drives, flash drives, cables to synths, cable to printer etc.

Obviously wise future purchases will be solidly Thunderbolt or USB-C. The HDMI will be very useful for TV, and occasionally most musicians like to plug headphones directly into the system, though most of the time it’s either through an interface or Bluetooth. You can also buy the Apple USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter for an older existing monitor if you need it. This adapter also has a USB-C and a USB-A.

Mac mini hardware upgrades

Remember no internal hardware upgrades can be performed. This is especially true with Apple silicon. SoC or System on Chip as you probably already know, cannot be upgraded. The advantages are more than worth it, but push yourself to adequately configure memory and storage for the future or get the appropriate system.

External storage alternatives

I recommend backing up all data to the cloud, and supplementing the internal Apple SSD with an external USB-C or Thunderbolt SSD/HD.

SSD speed needs for music production are similar to photography and video. This video will help you choose external SSD solutions (also in YouTube playlist below).

See Apple M Series External USB-C SSD Options for a more extensive discussion and specific product recommendations.

More soon, check back!

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Manufacturer’s website
https://www.apple.com/mac-mini/

Product support, downloads
https://support.apple.com/

Videos

Yehuda Rothschild Apple Mac mini M2 Series YouTube Playlist

Yehuda Rothschild Apple Mac M Series Music Production YouTube Playlist

Useful Links

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M2 Max & M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M3 Max & M3 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M3 Pro & M3 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Pro M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Pro M3 Ultra & M3 Extreme
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M1
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M3 & M3 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M3 Processor Series

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