As reported here last week, Apple’s 7.2.1 update to Logic Pro and Express adds ReWire support to Intel Macs. Logic 7.2 also revamped the way ReWire works on all machines, so it’ll benefit all Logic users, not just Intel Mac owners. But the addition of ReWire means you can now fire up a Core Solo or Core Duo Mac and ReWire the Intel-native Live into Logic.

And what a sweet combination it is.

Finally, you can add ReWire tracks to a Logic project using the Create Multiple Tracks command (or use one of the updated ReWire templates), and since 7.2 added better labeling and stereo support for ReWire, interconnecting the two is truly plug and play. Load up Live, and you have both apps working together beautifully — just blazingly faster than anything you’d see on a G4-based Mac. As I found with Logic Pro, Ableton Live runs almost as fast on the dual 2.0 MacBook Pro I tested as it does on my dual-2.7 G5 tower. The iMac and mini aren’t slouches, either.

The Ableton user forum has already extensively benchmarked each new Intel Mac machine, and the results are impressive. Since Live is especially popular onstage, you’ll be happy to see you can tote just about any complex project, even on the single-core Mac mini. The dual-core machines should get even faster with the next release of Live, since Ableton is promising more extensive multithreading, among other optimizations.

There is one detail that’s troubling the Ableton users: Live still appears to run more efficiently under Windows than Mac, based on the indication from the CPU meter running the forum’s benchmark project on the same Mac on OS X and Windows XP under Boot Camp. I’d take those results with a grain of salt, however. The CPU Meter is not the most efficient way to benchmark a system, because it’s not an entirely reliable or objective measure. Also, it’s difficult to say with just one project what might be causing a discrepency, especially since the gap is now fairly small. Theoretically, based on the numbers coming from the tests by forum users, real-world performance should be close enough on the two systems to make the platforms essentially equal. (In other words, your decision is really more about which OS you prefer than anything else.) Neither the Windows nor Mac build of Live is taking full advantage of the dual-core machines, either, so the results should get more interesting in the next release (they’re still well within high-end desktop-class performance, on both Mac and Windows, even now).

Back on the Logic front, some readers here have suggested a runoff between Logic 7.2 for Mac and Logic 5 for Windows on the new machine, but that seems unfair: Logic has advanced quite a lot since 5.x, so it would be hard to know how to interpret the results.

This point is up for debate, of course, but I think it comes down to this: if you want a system that will keep up with live performance demands, you should be happy with any of the new Intel Core machines, whether you prefer Mac OS X or Windows XP as your operating system. PC users have a more complex choice, given competitive chips from AMD, and Mac users still have to consider the very fine Power Mac G5 in the desktop space, but the new CPUs are delivering the kind of performance they promised.

  • thesimplicity

    Grain of salt, indeed. The CPU meter on my copy of Live 5.0.2 routinely settles around 283% but seems to playback just fine.

    This is pretty encouraging stuff, it's all making me very anxious to purchase a mactel.

  • Exactly: the CPU meter tells you *something*, you just can't be sure what that something is. πŸ™‚

    I'll have to think about another way of devising a Live benchmark, though it'll have to wait until I get a Mactel of my own (just had to send this one back).

  • thesimplicity

    I've found the CPU histogram in Windows XP (under the task manager) to be very reliable when benchmarking video tasks. The only problem is that that same CPU monitor eats up a fair chunk of CPU in itself and separating tasks can be confusing.

    OSX has Activity Monitor, which is amazing. It tracks CPU activity by process and you can easily export a histogram of any individual program. It's extremely reliable and a great tool for just about anything. It's saved my ass quite a few times when using After Effects and trying to figure out if my renders were failing due to lack of CPU power of plugin problems. I'd love to see some Mactel Live benchmarks using that.

  • Activity Monitor is nice, but I think it uses up a fair amount of CPU while it's open!

    MenuMeter is even nicer on Mac.

    I do like this idea, though . . . to really test the Windows vs. Mac thing, I think we'd need to establish the point at which a project fails on the Mac, and then see how it does on PC.

  • richardl

    I would like to see some recording benchmarks of these Core Duo systems (both Windows and Mac-tel).

    Maybe I've been doing things wrong, but multitrack recording seems to put an enormous strain on the performance of these systems – not just CPU but I/O.

    I'm looking for a transportable system that can reliably record eight to twelve tracks (in high res if possible) to an external hard drive. Then it would be sweet to have some CPU bandwidth left to do some live effects processing or live synthesis with low latency monitoring.

    The situation now seems to be that I must use a dedicated system for live software synthesis or processing. I know for reliability reasons it may not be practical.

    Maybe I'm asking too much. Still it would be nice to know how far I could stretch multitrack recording.

  • thesimplicity

    I use MenuMeter as well in OSX, it's great… however, I thought it was just an extension of the activity monitor? I'm not totally sure, my knowledge of the OSX infrastructure isn't exactly extensive.

    The way I understand it, if you disable all the visual components (like, 'show activity monitor' through the menu) but keep activity monitor open, you can still save a histogram without the CPU power required to constantly refresh the display. May be incorrect, I'm not totally sure of the details.

    I really want to see some sort of transparent background task that dumps CPU activity to a text file or something. For all I know it already exists… but really, it'd be a life saver.

    Richard: I think it may have a lot to do with how you're working. For live multitrack recording I use a 400mHz PC with 128MBs of RAM running Audition and ProTools. It's never choked and I've never had a lag issue, even with over 100 different audio tracks. However, when I use my 1.8gHz P4 running Live, it chokes after twelve tracks. It's all about optimizing your hardware and working with your software. I think that's the main appeal of OSX… core audio just works and you get a pretty universal experience. Play around with what you have, I suppose.

  • Richard, I don't think you're asking that much. I've gotten that to work. There's no reason a MacBookPro (or a much more modest laptop, actually) shouldn't be able to do this. And you're right, the primary factor here is disk I/O, not CPU, when it comes to recording. Unless those are time-stretched tracks or something, or you're chaining a lot of effects, recording should have a very minimal CPU load — very small, not including effects. The hard drive is the main factor.

    Maybe you're just maxing things out on the synthesis side? I'm not sure.

    As for the CPU histograms thing, hmm, now I'll have to try that. πŸ™‚ The Apple Developer tools come with yet another CPU meter, but I don't know if there's anything special about it.

  • richardl

    Ok! That's encouraging. I've been using Live 5. I'll try using other software and shifting things around.

  • Lachlan

    I wonder how much of an overhead OS X's graphics put on the system overall … I wouldn't imagine XP's graphics would burden anything judging by how utilitarian they look … It would be interesting if you could strip OS X back to a bare bones kind of XP look then re-test …

  • Just as a reminder, you can do all this with JACK and not be limited to ReWire-enabled applications.

    At least for audio. But you all remembered that already and were just itching for ReWire's higher level of integration into the apps, right?

  • there was a claim above of 100 tracks played back using audition and protools. i'd be very very interested to know the disk i/o configuration and the track "audio density" – where these tracks with a little bit of audio spotted here and there on each track, or where they 100 tracks filled with audio from start to finish?

    you cannot get the bandwidth from anything except the most recent disks to play 100 solid-audio tracks at once from a single spindle. the numbers just don't add up. even on the newest disks, i don't believe you could get 100 solid-audio tracks at once from a spindle in general.

    if the tracks are sparse, that would explain the capacity, but it ends up not really measuring anything either. you can run 500 tracks or more if there is basically no audio occuring in most of them most of the time πŸ™‚

  • Paul, I'm itching to have Linux-like Jack functionality and be done with ReWire, absolutely! But I do need transport sync, so for now, this is about ReWire, at least on the Mac.

    Not having to rely on ReWire would be a huge boon. I know that writing ReWire host apps in particular is tricky, or say say my developer friends. And plenty aren't, like the just-released KORE from Native Instruments (KORE works as a plug-in and standalone only). So it'd be terrific for us to be able to have OS-level services that gave us not only inter-app audio and MIDI, but sync, too, a la Jack on Linux.

    Richard, I'm guessing it's Live's tendency to try to stretch everything that may be your issue . . . I usually try to watch the amount of audio stretching that's going on to improve performance. That is, of course, CPU-intensive (especially if high-quality or complex mode are on).

    Oh yeah, I didn't read that Audition post carefully; thanks, Paul. 100 tracks? Not sure what you mean, simplicity.

  • thesimplicity

    Okay, let me elaborate a bit.

    I did mean 100 tracks total in a piece, not 100 tracks constantly playing. Should have explained that better, sorry. I do have on average 20 or so tracks playing through the whole piece, but a lot of what adds up to the 100~ tracks is just doubling wind instruments for a few measures or so and dropping out. It still amazes me how well the entire project is handled, though, compared to the stutter I run into a lot with Live.

    The computer itself is using a 36GB Raptor as the main working drive, which probably has a hand in it. It's a Win98 machine with absolutely nothing else on it besides Audition 1.0 and the free version of ProTools. I use ProTools mainly for waveform editing and do most of the multitracking in Audition.

    Raptor disks are really nice, by the way. I'm planning on picking up a few more when the larger sized ones become more affordable. I think the 150GB models are about $300 right now.

    This kind of makes me want to waste the day to see how many tracks I can stream at once before my computer catches fire. πŸ˜€

  • That sounds realistic . . . 20 tracks at a time is quite doable. The made variable, really, is hard disk I/O, assuming you're running raw tracks. FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 drives work perfectly well.

    My next drive will definitely be a Raptor; they're great and very affordable.

  • FYI, i know that ardour has streamed close to 70 mono continuous audio tracks from a totally off-the-shelf ATA disk drive on both linux + OS X. since that version of ardour also always uses 32 bit float on disk, in theory there is room to squeeze another 30% increase without losing sample resolution.

  • Ean

    Its not a big surprise that it runs more efficiently under Windows. After all, OSX is essentially a BSD personality running on a Mach microkernel. The abstraction layer of the microkernel *will* impose a CPU speed cost.

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