Music Production Computer: 2009-2010 Mac Pro Review

Is a 2009-2010 classic Mac Pro a viable music production computer in 2016? What kind of results can we expect from a 6-7 year old computer? What are the pros and cons as well as the costs of a buying this machine? These are a few of the questions I’ll be tackling in this article.

Summary: Yes it is.

Long story short, a 2009-2010 Mac Pro is well worth it, if you can find one at the right price.

The old machine I had been using was a 15-inch Early 2010 MacBook Pro with a 2 Core Intel Core i5-540M 2530 MHz, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD.  These are the maximum specs this machine can accommodate.

When running Logic Pro, I was able to run 15-20 tracks. At around 15 tracks, things would begin to get glitchy. I could get a few more tracks by Freezing, but no more than 20. The following Benchmarks show this is about right.

After hours of research, I upgraded to a 2009 Mac Pro with 12 Core Intel Xeon X5650 2670 MHz, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. I don’t know how many tracks this computer can run, because I haven’t run into any glitches. Benchmarks show it should be able to run around 120 tracks.

Music Production Computer Benchmarks
Music Production Computer Logic Pro Benchmarks

The Price: $1000 + Tax + Upgrades

I found a flashed 2009 Mac Pro on eBay for $1000 + Tax. I then purchased and installed two 1TB SSDs. I’m currently using one as the boot drive and another for sample libraries. My computer boots in less than 30 seconds, and my projects – no matter how sample-heavy – are up and running in less than 30 seconds.

This is tremendous bang-for-the-buck, when you consider a refurbished 2013 Mac Pro starts at $2500, a refurbished 2013 iMac starts at $1400, and both of these machines cannot get half the performance of the 12 Core Classic Mac Pro.

The Drawbacks?

The advantage of a Classic Mac Pro is that you get tremendous power at an extremely reasonable price. However there are two main drawbacks:

  1. Can’t get it fixed at the Apple Store. 2009-2010 Mac Pros are considered “vintage” and will be “obsolete” soon. This means you will not be able to repair the computer at the Apple Store.
  2. No Thunderbolt or USB 3. You can install a PCIe card that will allow you to run USB 3, but with Thunderbolt you will be entirely out of luck. Thunderbolt capabilities cannot be added on.

Summary

A 2009-2010 Mac Pro offers tremendous power at a reasonable price. According to Geekbench, the 2009-2010 12 Core Mac Pro offers similar performance to a 2013 8 Core Mac Pro – but at 1/6 the cost.

The classic Mac Pro is easily upgradeable. You can have up to 4 internal hard disks, and there are 4 PCIe slots. As a music production computer, this machine could be considered overkill.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your music production setup, and you’re on a budget – a 2009-2010 classic Mac Pro should definitely be an option to consider.

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