Category Archives: Mac mini

Apple Mac mini M1

Lowest cost desktop option for musicians and creators

Apple Mac mini M1 $1099.00 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 2023 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. 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.

With the above caveats, the Mac mini M1 and its siblings, the Mac mini M2, the MacBook Air M2, the MacBook Air M1 and the 24″ iMac M1 make amazing low cost options for musicians and creators. For some the 13″ MacBook Pro M1/M2 would also be a viable option, but I personally hate the touch bar and find the design/features dated, so they are not for me (or the majority of others).

CPU Performance Benchmarks

The single-core performance of the Mac mini is very similar to all other M1 Series processors, because of course they all share the same core.

Multi-core performance is where the differences become more apparent because of the different number of cores. It is worth noting that even the entry level M1 Mac mini holds its own against all previous Intel-based Macs.

GPU Performance Benchmarks

DAW Benchmarks

To give you a rough idea of DAW performance, these Logic Pro benchmarks come from the ‘Mac Studio vs M1 Mac Mini after 2 Weeks! Real-World Results..’ video located in the YouTube section farther down this page. These are base models. The Mac mini M1 8GB has 8 CPU cores and 8 GPU cores. The Mac Studio M1 Max 32GB has 10 CPU cores and 24 GPU cores.

Note the tracks in this benchmark are not necessarily real world loaded but I think you can see both of these systems will satisfy average DAW performance needs. Real world loaded I would feel very comfortable throwing 60 tracks at the Mac mini M1 8GB model or 115 tracks at the Mac Studio M1 Max 32GB model. No need to completely dog out the CPU, ha! The numbers would be comparable for Ableton Live or other DAWs as well.

DAWs will run on an 8GB Mac mini but you will hit the memory ceiling and feel it. Your call but I recommend 16GB. 256GB is a pointless SSD capacity as well. You will be on external storage very quickly.

Check software compatibilities

It should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway. M1 series has been out since November 2020 and macOS Monterey since October 2021. 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!

macOS 12 Monterey: Compatibility Guide

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 a year and a half, 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.

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

macOS 13 Ventura: Compatibility Guide

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

Ports are important for musicians & content creators

I am especially glad Mac mini M1s have an Ethernet RJ-45, 2 Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, 2 legacy USB-A ports, and an HDMI port. The Thunderbolt/USB-C and the USB-A ports can also be easily expanded with a hub if you need more. Also an external monitor like the Apple Studio Display has 3 more USB-C ports in addition to the Thunderbolt 3 connection port if you go that route.

You will want to plug your interface directly into USB-C or if you can’t do that, USB-A. The USB-A ports will be useful for legacy 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.

External storage alternatives

I recommend backing up all data to the cloud, and supplementing the internal Apple SSD.

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

The Mac mini M1 has what it takes to last 5+ years

This is why you buy Apple. Realistically with the cost of computers these days, a 1-3 year refresh cycle is not practical for most people. Unlike the majority if not all PC systems, Apple computers are built to last and Apple silicon is state of the art enough to start you at the head of the pack.

Keep coming back

What will be different about this site compared to many Apple sites is over time we will be sharing configuration and electronic music/video recording pertinent information. More soon.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

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

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

Videos

Yehuda Rothschild Apple Mac mini M1 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 MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M1
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M1
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M2
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series

Follow on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social.

Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro

Lowest cost desktop option for musicians and creators

Apple Mac mini M2 $999.00 minimum as recommended below
Apple Mac mini M2 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 2023 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. 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 M2

With the above caveats, the Mac mini M2 and its siblings, the Mac mini M1, the MacBook Air M2, the MacBook Air M1 and the 24″ iMac M1 make amazing low cost options for musicians and creators. For some the 13″ MacBook Pro M1/M2 would also be a viable option, but I personally hate the touch bar and find the design/features dated, so they are not for me (or the majority of others).

A Mac mini M2 with 16GB memory and 512GB SSD is $999.00. Leave it at that. If you want more than that, move up to the Mac mini M2 Pro, ok?

P.S. The 256GB SSD is slow, much slower than the 512GB SSD.

The Mac mini M2 has HDMI 2.1, WiFi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. Otherwise it has the same ports and same number of ports that the Mac mini M1 has (notably 2 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports). Note the Mac mini M2 supports 2 displays, one up to 6K over Thunderbolt, and one up to 5K over Thunderbolt or 4K over HDMI.

Mac mini M2 Pro

Many people feel the Mac mini M2 Pro is one of the best and most important systems Apple has released lately. The Mac mini M2 Pro is really the star of this release. If you are in the sub-$1500 budget range, give it serious consideration. Yes it costs more than a Mac mini M2, but you get a lot of bang for your buck.

I will also mention that if you would add more than two options of CPU/GPU cores, memory, SSD or Ethernet to the $1299.00 Mac mini M2 Pro, you might consider jumping to the Mac Studio M1 Max or wait for the Mac Studio M2 Max. Personally, I would take the Mac mini M2 Pro in its $1299.00 configuration or bump it up to 12 CPU cores, 19 GPU cores, and a 1TB SSD, making it $1799.00 and that is it. Any more upgrades than that and you are firmly in Mac Studio territory. $1299.00 to $1799.00 tops is the sweet spot.

Keep in mind, that just like the MacBook Pro M2 Pro, the 512GB SSD on the Mac mini M2/M2 Pro is not slow, it is fast, but the 1TB SSD is as much as twice as fast.

The Mac mini M2 Pro has HDMI 2.1, WiFi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. It has 4 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports. Otherwise it has the same ports and same number of ports that the Mac mini M1 has. Note the Mac mini M2 Pro supports up to 3 displays, two up to 6K 60Hz over Thunderbolt, and one up to 4K 60Hz over HDMI, OR one up to 6K 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one up to 4K 144Hz over HDMI, OR one up to 8K 60Hz OR one 4K 240Hz. Whew! Read the specs for details.

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

CPU & GPU Performance Benchmarks

M2 Series single-core scores are slightly faster than M1 Series processors. M1 Series Geekbench CPU single-core scores range from 1716-1771. M2 Series Geekbench CPU single-core scores range from 1941-1981. M2 Series is about 10% faster in CPU single-core performance.

The M2 with 8 core CPU and 10 core GPU in the Mac mini is faster in all ways than the M1 with 8 core CPU and 7/8 core GPU.

M2 Pro 10 core CPU multi-core performance is almost as fast, about 95% of the M1 Pro/Max 10 core CPU multi-core performance. This makes more sense when you consider this M2 Pro has 4 efficiency CPU cores and 6 performance CPU cores, and the M1 Pro/Max has 2 efficiency CPU cores and 8 performance CPU cores.

M2 Pro 12 core CPU is about 20% faster in CPU multi-core than all M1 Pro/Max processors and roughly 66% of the M1 Ultra 20 core CPU performance. M2 Pro 12 core CPU has 4 efficiency CPU cores and 8 performance CPU cores, and the M1 Pro/Max have 2 efficiency CPU cores and 8 performance CPU cores.

This optional M2 Pro 19 core GPU has roughly 50% of the M1 Ultra 64 core GPU performance. This is very impressive.

DAW Performance Benchmarks

In lieu of graphic images for the moment… DAWs are heavy on CPU use, with very little if any GPU load, so the Mac mini M2 Pro 10 core CPU, 16 core GPU or M2 Pro 12 core CPU, 19 core GPU are perfect choices for desktop DAWs.

If you need more CPU horsepower for a DAW, you will need to move into the desktop Mac Studio M1 Ultra or wait for the Mac Studio M2 Ultra though. The extra GPU cores of an M1/M2 Max won’t help a DAW. Video or other graphic applications are a different issue of course.

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 2 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

My personal experience with Ventura has been very good. Everything I use runs natively on M Series and is compatible with Ventura. 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 M2 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 M2 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 MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M1
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M1
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M2
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series

Follow on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social.