Buying a refurbished Mac


I have always used Windows, but as I have decided to switch my guitar rig from using dedicated hardware units (Boss GT-1000, ToneX), to using a laptop based setup I am starting to contemplate getting a Mac instead. The reason is that it’s my gut feeling that it is much simpler to get real-time audio processing system running reliably on a Mac. I have already bought the license for Gig Performer so I have committed already.

However, as I am just hobbyist I have a hard time convincing myself to spend on a new Mac. I am doing occasional paid gigs with my band, so I need something reliable. I have been looking at older Macs and I am wondering how far back I can go in the product line and still get good enough performance for the real-time requirements.

My setup will probably involve 5 rackspaces each with an instance of the ToneX plugin, one or two drive pedal plugins, one or two modulations. The global rackspace will have a Valhalla Vintageverb VST, and two or three instances of the Valhalla Delay plugin. I might remove the delays from the global rack and put one or two instances into each rackspace but I haven’t decided quite yet. Each song will use one or two rackspaces each.

I know it’s impossible to tell which Mac would be able to run my exact setup, but I just wanted to give you an idea on the size of my intended setup.

So far back do you think I could look for a Mac that could handle my setup?

Thanks in advance :smile:

You will find a lot of Macs which can do that… also “old” Intel Macs.

But in my opinion you should take a look at the M processors. Starting with M1.

How much money you would like to spend?

I would probably try to keep it at around $500, maybe a bit more, so I am not looking at something from the M series.

You will find a lot of Windows users running GP reliably for live performace so I would question that a bit. Especially if your not an “Apple” guy. If your used to Windows you’ll have to adapt to the Apple way which may or may not be an a heavy learning curve depending on your experience.

Ok, I simplified a bit. I did use to have a Mac Mini for my home entertainment system, and I also worked on a Mac for while in my day job as I was branching out into iOS development. Most of my development work uses the MS tech stack, so I am more familiar with Windows.

That being said, I have never had any luck getting real-time audio processing to work properly on Windows. And I have tried on numerous different laptops and desktops over the years with different sound devices. Currently, I have been proof-of-concepting the switch to a laptop powered setup using my Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen (I think) and my work laptop which is running Windows 10 with 32 gigs of RAM, an 11th gen Core i7-11800H @ 2.3 GHz. I know, I have all sorts of stuff installed, but even after optimizing the power plan, disabling wifi, making sure that the USB connections do not go into power saving mode, that the processor is never throttled down, etc., I still get clicks and pops when using Gig Performer. I even have the buffer configured to be 160 samples (which makes the latency close to intolerable). Btw, the cpu meter is showing between 9-12% usage, so I am really puzzled here.

I will off course buy a laptop that will be dedicated to Gig Performer, but I really hoped I would be able to do a proof of concept with the current laptop I have.

So I am growing a bit frustrated with this and I am just thinking that there is a bigger chance of success switching to a Mac. Reading other people’s experiences I would think that a Mac with 16 GB RAM, an i7 quad core at 2.5 GHz ought to be able to get the job done. But then again, I thought the same a about my current laptop…

This is what I’m using, with a 3rd Gen Scarlett 4i4. 64 samples @ 48kHz.


I’ve been happy with it, running my guitar plugins. Most recently, this is Helix Native for stomp fx, Tonex for Amp+Cab, and IK Sunset Sound for some room (as I use headphones).

These are all very low CPU plugins, which is what allows me to run the low buffer.

At one time I had issue with pops/cracks when interacting with the UI (moving windows etc). I narrowed this down to the inbuilt Intel graphics card, which would kick in if ever I was low on power. I disabled it in the System Settings and that problem disappeared. I think we had some other users with similar issues with the Intel UHD graphics card.


Thanks for the info. That looks promising. Do you have a single rackspace with a one instance of ToneX or do you have several, each with an instance, or something different entirely?

Do you know how high cpu utilization you normally have?

I’ll tend to agree with aharry. Do you really need to go for a Mac?

I see that you have problems with your strong laptop. Difficult to say what is the problem.

I’ve used GP for almost two years now. I find it running very good on an old Windows PC.

I am an IT guy with a one man support business. It’s mostly software suppport. From time to time I get my customers’ old PCs when they buy a new one. I also, as was the case with the one I’m using both for GP and my daily chores at the moment, receive PCs where I get paid to delete content and destroy harddisks after a business have been through bankruptcy proceedings.

I had been using this PC for a year or two, I think, before purchasing GP. I installed a new SSD disk in it, to replace the one that I deleted and destroyed.

Other than that, it’s a HP ProBook 6570b. The model was released in 2012.

The CPU is an Intel Core i5-3230, running at 2,60 GHz.
I’m running Windows 10.
Initially I ran GP with the originally installed 4 Gbs.

I can’t say I remember any special problems while running on 4 Gb, but have later upgraded to 12 Gb. (Was lucky being given an old customer laptop, for disposal, with a compatibel 8 Gb memory module in it.)

My current GP-laptop being 11-12 years old, and also being used for stuff other than GP, I know it’s time for setting up a separate “newer” GP-laptop.

Do I go for something “really new”? The answer is NO.

I have a friend that earlier had a sound business. He just sold me two Lenovo Yoga laptops, produced in 2013 an 2014.

  • One with an Intel i7-4500 (2,40 GHz) and 8 Gb RAM running Windows 10
  • One with an Intel i7-4600 (2,70 GHz) and 8 Gb RAM running Windows 10
  • Both with a 256 Gb SSD

I got them both for a total of 150 Norwegian Kroner, about 150 dollar.

Looking forward to setting up both laptops only for music use, finally having a backup laptop :slight_smile:

I suppose I will upgrade memory to 16 Gb :slight_smile:


Point is that some new laptops have much more rigid bios settings that kill real time audio performance.
How can you select the right one? No way.
If laptop is too compact (new ultra books) there can be some CPU thermal protection you cannot override.
My suggestion: if you can, get the windows laptop before buying and test.
If you cannot test, don’t buy.
If you buy an M1 MacBookPro you don’t need to test.
It will work immediately well and with no efforts.
This is my experience after many windows notebooks.
I had 4 of them, all Intel i7. I used them live for many years and I was never fully satisfied.
The last one was completely unusable for audio.

I would never buy an Intel based Mac.
Simple reason: new OS versions will not work on intel machines. You risk to buy something which is immediately obsolete.

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Update: It just dawned on me that it might be the interface. A Google search showed that many people have problems with Scarlett Gen 3 interfaces / drivers.

On a whim I decided to try the ToneX pedal as my interface. Lol and behold, I could get it down to 32 samples without any problems. Then I tried my Boss GT-1000 as the interface. I got it to 64 samples without a hint of trouble. I didn’t try 32, but I have a feeling that would have worked too.

TLDR: my problems were caused by shitty drivers or codes in my Scarlett Solo.

This makes me think that a Windows laptop might work out. On the other hand, my employer might have some high specced Intel based Macs laying around after upgrading to M-based ones, and I might be able to get one for a good price.

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And thanks to everyone for your input. I’ll let you know what I end up doing :slight_smile:

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I have all intel based macs (4 machines). I use 3 for audio. 2 of them have Sonoma installed and 1 has Monterey. They all work a charm. Not a glitch. Audio interfaces just connect and never cutout. I use 2 Presonus (different models) and a very old Motu 828mk2… Everything just works perfectly and I’m a full-time professional keyboard player with a tonne of rackspaces and many plugins in each rackspace (synths, samples etc etc… )

Intel based machines work really well and there may come a time (many years from now) when you MAY need to change to an M based machine… but I think that will be just for the sake of having EVERYTHING up to date… But why the need if everything is working as is?

My Monterey setup works perfectly and THAT is the one I use live… not a glitch


Ah, bummer. I’m using a Scarlet 4i4 3rd gen on Windows without any glitches at 48Khz/64 samples. But I understand that cannot be :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:?

I’m happy you solved the problem :beers:

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Good for you. I mean, it could also be something conflicting with those drivers on my system. It was just that after reading about other people specifically having the same issues with Scarlett 3rd gen sound cards, watching youtube videos of jumping through hoops trying to fix the issue, and THEN trying out another sound card that worked flawlessly, it was an easy conclusion for me that it was the drivers or the hardware.

But I wish that I could get the Scarlett to work as I like how my guitar volume control interacts with the High-Z input. It works differently than the input on the Boss and the ToneX pedal when using those as sound cards.

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I meant no offense and I didn’t take any of you :grinning:. I just couldn’t resist. Maybe I’m just a lucky b*****d.

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Yeah, I didn’t take offense either.

I also believe that it cannot be that the whole Scarlett 3rd gen is broken. The backlash would have been enormous if it was a general thing that the ASIO drivers just doesn’t work properly.

I haven’t completely given up on Windows for this, but I did spend a fair bit of time trying to get the Scarlett working. I recently discovered a firmware update to the motherboard chipset plus some updated Intel drivers. I have installed those updates, and I will try to see if that should fix the issue with the Scarlett.


i think the main benefit of going Mac is to take advantage of the high single core performance/power ratio of Arm processor.

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