Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers

23rd Oct 2013 | 13:57

Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers
Apple's October fest

Apple announced a whole raft of new products yesterday: the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display both made their debuts, while the MacBook Pro with Retina display got a significant update.

We finally got a price and release date for the Mac Pro, too, while Apple also released OS X Mavericks and new versions of GarageBand for both Mac and iOS.

So, as a musician, which of these products should you contemplate buying – or in some cases, downloading right now for free? Let's take a closer look...

Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers
iPad Air
Light to hold - weighty specs

Thinner, lighter and more powerful is the best way to describe the iPad Air, which contains Apple's 64-bit “desktop-class” A7 chip.

Prices start at £399/$499, and it'll be available from 1 November.

Should I buy it?

If you don't already have an iPad and want a full-size model, this is clearly the best option (the ageing iPad 2 being the only alternative in the Apple Store), but it remains to be seen what impact the increased power will have on the quality and performance of music making apps at this stage. As such, if you already own an iPad that supports iOS 7 it's far from an essential upgrade.

Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers
iPad mini with Retina display
Small wonder?

Most of us were expecting this, and the good news is that, like the iPad Air, it contains the A7 chip.

The bad news is that, rather than replacing the existing iPad mini, its going to sit alongside it at a higher price point when it arrives later in November. The entry-level model costs £319/$399.

Should I buy it?

It's certainly tempting when you consider the power inside, but if you want a tablet to make music on, the iPad Air is probably a more practical (and better value-for-money) option.

Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers
MacBook Pro with Retina display
The pro's choice?

A lot of creative types have been holding off buying a new laptop in anticipation of this, and its new specs are pretty much in line with expectations.

You now get Intel's Haswell chips, and the same company's Iris graphics. Battery life has been improved, and it's flash storage all the way. Better still, prices have come down - the 13-inch model starts at £1099/$1299 and the cheapest 15-incher costs £1699/$1999.

Should I buy it?

If you want the best Mac laptop for music making, yes. The only downside is that, with the move to lower capacity flash storage, you may have to carry a portable hard drive around with you as well (for storage of sample libraries etc), which arguably negates the benefits of the laptop itself being lighter.

Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers
OS X Mavericks
OS X set free

Another release that's been in the pipeline for a while, the latest version of OS X is now available.

The pleasant surprise is that it's free to everyone who owns a Mac that's capable of running it, which might make you think that upgrading to it right now is a no-brainer. However...

Should I download it?

Given that we don't yet know if there are any compatibility issues with the big DAWs, plugins and audio interfaces, we'd advise holding off for at least a few days until the dust settles and any problems come to light (unless you're absolutely desperate to try the new version of GarageBand, that is).

The good news is that, because Mavericks is free, developers will be aware that a lot of Mac users will update to it and should make it a priority to make sure their products work with it.

Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers
Mac Pro
The super-powered cylinder

Announced earlier this year, Apple's new super-computer now has a price and release date.

Rocking Intel Xeon processors it'll be available in December at a starting price of £2499. Unless you've been impeccably behaved this year, that's a big ask from Santa.

Should I buy it?

Years ago it was common practice to recommend the flagship Mac to musicians, but the truth is that, with Apple's other computers now so capable, you probably don't need it. If you want the ultimate in power and performance and can stomach the price tag, though, we're sure you won't be disappointed.

Apple round-up: the new Macs, iPads and apps for music makers
Garageband for Mac and iOS
Two for the price of none

We've covered this elsewhere, but the fact that the latest Mac version is now free for all OS X Mavericks users - even if you do have to pay £2.99/$4.99 to get all the content - is great news.

As for the iOS version, first impressions are that, beyond adding more tracks and Inter App Audio support, not a great deal has changed beyond the interface. Again, there's an in-app purchase if you want all the goods, but it seems that, if you've already paid your £2.99/$4.99 for the app, you don't have to pay it again.

Should I download it?

Mavericks-running Mac owners should definitely take it for a spin - it's worth having a play with for Drummer alone. iOS 7 is a requirement for the latest version on mobile devices, so you need to decide if you're ready to make the jump to that before you dive in.

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