Apple has long been the barometer of computer creatives and the workhorse Macbook Pro and iMac were responsible for the tech giants firmly staking their name in countless studios around the world. However, slowly but surely Apple has been suffering from catastrophic system failure in the eyes of producers and DJs thanks to the countless operating system updates that have left artists with an OS that is not compatible with plug-ins and hardware thus rendering sessions files useless.
This has been a common scenario for some time and with Mojave, Sierra, and High Sierra only being adopted after some time third-party software and hardware developer have had no option but to play serious catch-up. These issues have been compounded by the recent OS update Big Sur and not only has it meant that plug-ins are redundant in some cases there have been reports of it actually damaging hardware. In an article by imore.com it has been reported that using Big Sur can actually result in damage to certain Native Instruments hardware.
While these reports are extreme cases they are not confined to all Native Instruments hardware. Weight is added to a conversation that has been ongoing for many OS updates with Big Sur being the latest. Producers are a notoriously fickle bunch and once a finely tuned balance has been reached between machine and human a revolution in music tech must arrive fully formed. Putting this out to the music community has been met with similar disdain.
Spanish artist Enzo Leep as, as well as encountering this in the studio he found it also found it to affect his DJ setup, “Just yesterday we had big problems using the Pioneer CDJs as Rekordbox with the new OS doesn’t work properly”. Not to sensationalise the subject Enzo has experienced such update issues, “I have a stable Ableton setup for my live sets and updating my OS could pose problems with regards to my hardware. “It’s amazing how they force you always to have something new, when the old one works normal”.
Romanian artist Dragutesku has similar views when it comes to Apple’s approach to their software updates, “I don’t update because I did it and all my VST’s didn’t work, and I am using a lot of them. It is definitely annoying! Reinstall again and again took so much time, instead of doing something creative with the time.” With so many producers having such bad experiences with new versions of OS it has certainly left a bad taste in the mouth, “I think Apple doesn’t care about music producers and they don’t realize how many customers using Apple products for production and they just focus on marketing stuff and more sale. They just captivate you with “new innovations” but actually is not helpful for a music producer.”
Having been using Apple computers for about 15 years The Source founder and Fuse Records artist Michael James gave deeper insight, “I think in that time I’ve probably only run about 3-4 OS updates!” Michael explains further the issues that some producers face, “The biggest change for me was this year when I got one of the new MacBook Pro’s which shipped with OS Catalina, it only works with 64-bit software and you can’t downgrade the OS. I know that software producers are made well aware of forthcoming updates and given plenty of time to make changes but I think some of the smaller and independent companies struggle to keep up with the regular updates and all of their subsequent requirements.”
Native Instruments are not the only hardware company to be left out in the cold, “My friend in the studio has a Virus TI2 Desktop and I used to use one in all of my productions and they still haven’t updated to 64-bit drivers, so the machine (that costs around £1500) is pretty much useless with any of the newer Apple computers. To be honest, where possible I try to avoid updating the OS, but then you miss out on the new features which is disappointing when you’re spending thousands on a computer and also leaves you at risk with regards to security – it’s just not worth the hassle most of the time!”
Hotshot mastering engineer and top artist Pheek gave a slightly different angle on the OS discussion, “Well it’s sort of a norm for producers on Mac not to upgrade. All groups I’m in, 90% of people said they wouldn’t upgrade for a while. But the new Mac is very impressive and I would buy one if it was supported by the different developers.” While the improved performance from Apple’s recent quantum leap forward in chip design means that the new breed of Macbook Pro’s will have considerably more advantages for creatives, “I think that who will buy it will see the quality of audio improve a lot and I can see that for engineering it will be impressive. Already some guys are starting to adjust but it can take 3 months to fully be possible. The more cautious guys wait 6-8 months.”
While the issues associated with updating one’s OS to Big Sur doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon music producers who rely on a stable system some producers are often left with limited or no way to connect to their studio. It is clear that Apple has grand plans in the pipeline but it remains to be seen if music producers are at the heart of these plans.