Mac vs. PC- alternative music lesson learned!

I’ll admit it- I’m a Mac guy. Yeah, look at my picture and I look more like the PC guy in the commercial, but trust me, if you are doing music technology- there are so many reasons to use a mac. In our alternative music class we have begun our next project which involves doing a cover of a song or composing one of your own (it’s much deeper than that, but for the purposes of this post I’ll leave it at that) I have the Korg PadKontrol plugged into a HP dual-core laptop and running SampleTankXL 2.1. You can see a video of my students using the PadKontrol in the video widget in the right sidebar.

They were really going along fine, then they ran into a frustration- the loops that they were triggering were “hiccuping” intermittently. They spent about 30min. troubleshooting before they came and got me. I had my cell phone handy, so I asked another student to video. I worked on it for another 30min. and came to the conclusion that it was the sound card! How did I find that out? I decided to run the same project on my PowerBook G4 and what do you know, it worked flawlessly!

That was one whole hour of time wasted that those students could have been creating and working, but for a cheap sound card- stopped them dead in their tracks! I won’t even get into how much more difficult it was to install drivers for the PadKontrol on the PC (Windows XP)! The moral of the story is that you get what you pay for. The HP computer they are working on in the video is just fine for internet and other basic tasks. It also does fairly well with video and is a reasonably fast machine (processor) but the sound card is CHEAP, therefore NOISY and very unpleasant to work with. My older Mac however has a very fine sound output, and while it is slower than the XP machine (quite a bit actually) it is still my machine of choice (until I can get a new MacBook Pro like they have been promising me!)

Beware- just because your school tech person says that it is a fine machine that should do what you want it to, and the district loves it because it is such a “value”- do your research!! What might seem like a bargain at first could end up to be a headache.


2 Responses to Mac vs. PC- alternative music lesson learned!

  1. Hm. I’ve been a windows user for a long time. I have three windows machines (not expensive). I run a HP-Compaq NX6115 notebook computer – basically a business machine. But, when I bought it, I knew I would have to get a few extras to do the music – so I invested in an E-MU 1616 – what a great investment! It gives me a large number of inputs and outputs – you name it, it has it – and it included all kinds of software extras; it has hardware-based effects; the sound is awesome; it was easy to install – just install the software, plug in the card, and go. I also upgraded the memory. And I would guess the total cost for a really good (IMO) audio setup, including the E-MU, software included, and memory upgrade, was less than the very cheapest MacBook. I’ve been looking at Macs for a while now, and just can’t bring myself to spend all that extra money.
    I also purchased an e-machines desktop unit to run my GigaStudio setup. So, I bought the GigaStudio 3 Ensemble version, a M-Audio Audiophile sound card, and an external HD to stream the samples for GigaStudio. It works great, and I’ll bet this unit, including the GigaStudio software, Audiophile sound card, and external HD, cost less than the cheapest Mac desktop unit.
    So – I would still like to own a Mac – but, being a bit of a DIY kind of guy, I have a hard time justifying the extra cost just so I can have a “right-out-of-the-box” experience. There are so many high-quality options out there now, that I think a Windows user who really wants to have a decent DAW on his computer can build whatever he wants, and get a lot more bang for the buck in the end.

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