anyone using iMac w/Sequel or Cubase?

My PC is getting old and I am interested in buying an iMac to use as my DAW (i am not sure if I can afford a Mac Pro). Its built-on sound chip is not upgradeable and that is a concern. It also has no PCI slots. Apple website doesnt give detailed info for the sound chip either. I am not a professional musician, only a hobbyist. Is anyone using an iMac w/Sequel or Cubase? What is your experience like; especially w/the latency like?


Yes, an iMac is an excellent platform for a DAW, but like any decent setup, you need to factor in a reasonable audio interface of some kind. Don’t rely on the internal sound card (It actually isn’t that bad but you only have 2 in 2 out and the latency isn’t brilliant)

Something like a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 at around £120 comes with a couple of really nice preamps and pretty good converters, or a Focusrite Sapphire 6 or the NI Komplete Audio 6 which both add a MIDI I/O (if you need that) which are both under £200.

I recorded my first album on a 2009 core duo iMac with only 4GB RAM with an Alesis firewire mixer as my audio I/O. Every song had 9 tracks of drums, one or two bass, up to 8 tracks of guitars and anything between 6 and 20 virtual instruments (Including some big NI piano libraries) and it never hiccuped.

I agree with Mark. For the moment I’m using Cubase 6.5 on an iMac i5 with 32 gigs of ram, 256 SSD, 1 TB Internal HD and the machine runs like a champ. I’m hosting my VSL, EW, and Kontakt samples on the internal 1 gig TB HD and audio files on an external HD. I’m even using a second monitor connected via thunderbolt.

Honestly this machine rocks. I should be good for the next few years. Hope this helps. :smiling_imp:

Thanks for your responses. I have few follow-up questions:

  1. RE: “Don’t rely on the internal sound card”. What do you mean by this? Do you have an external sound card? If I buy a nice audio interface would it make for the not-so-good sound card? If so, what should I look for in that audio interface?
  2. What is VSL and EW?
  3. What is the point for keeping audio files on external hdd?


Hey. Sorry. Forgot to clarify. Here’s my setup:

iMac 21 inch - i5, 32 gigs of ram, 256 ssd (osx 10.8.1, cubase 6.5), 1 terabyte 7200 hd
2nd monitor - 23 inches connected through thunderbolt (LaCie esata hub)

External esata 1 TB HD connected through LaCie esata hub. (Audio files and some vst’s)

Soundcard is a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 ( FireWire) - Excellent entry level soundcard. And cheap.

I use a lot of samples like Vienna Symphonic, East West Hollywood Strings, Hollywood brass, etc.

Latency is great and I don’t get pops and clicks. I use an external for audio files to alleviate some of the stress for the computer. It’s not necessary but it helps.

The iMac has an audio I/O chip built into the motherboard, probably something like a Realtek sound chip.

You can use this to play back from Cubase and as an input for Cubase, but honestly, it’s not great. But fortunately there are loads of either USB or Firewire soundcards which are pretty cheap, and very good. I gave you a couple of options that I think are rather good, there are many others.

VSL=Vienna Symphonic Library
EW = East West

Both of these are well regarded makers of orchestral samples, they sound amazingly authentic, but are HUGE and require lots of system resource, lots of RAM and lots of hard disk. It is an esample of how good this computer can be when you are pushing things to the limits

Using an external hard drive for audio files, and sample libraries can be useful because they are big and take up space. There can be a performance advantage from seperating them, and you can always add a bigger drive, but it isn’t essential.

Hope this helps

You guys have been very helpful, thank you!