From PC to Mac
I've been using a PC computer daily for over five years, and I've been through five PC operating systems: Windows 95, 98, 2000 and XP, and Linux Mandrake. Just over a year ago I even assembled my own PC, taking particular care in the selection of each component. That's when I started using my PC for music and composition.
During the year with my PC, I spent at least as much time configuring it as using it. It worked very well with Windows 98, but then I upgraded to XP. My DVD drive was no longer recognised. And, as soon as I booted Fruityloops, the drum synth I used at the time, the system crashed. For 4 months, I grappled with this OS trying to get my set-up to work. Four months of musical creation wasted. I dare not think of how many creations I lost at each re-installation of the system.
Quite a few of my friends are image professionals: designers, photographers, graphic artists... All use Macs. It was quite amusing to see how Mac and PC users would tease each other on the relative performance and reliability of their computers. A visit to Apple expo with a Mac friend, and 3 hours on a dual-processor G4 later, I was convinced! I was going to work with sound on Mac.
At first, I almost hit the roof when I realised that a basic Apple computer cost as much as my PC configuration which was far from being entry level. As I'd made up my mind, I didn't back down, and got an iMac G4 at 800 Mhz at the end of September. I'd been advised to change the hard disk so I re-used one of my PC hard disks. Its 7200 rpm was quicker than the original one in the l'iMac (6400 rpm). I installed Jaguar straight away as I considered that, by the time I'd learnt how to use OSX, most music apps would be available for it. I've not therefore installed OS9.
The first evening, I burnt a CD with demo and shareware music creation apps (cacophony, amadeus...). I installed the apps and decided to do a first recording from an audio CD. Big disappointment. Impossible to set the internal CD/DVD drive of my iMac as sound input. Impossible to input anything besides what the built-in microphone would record. I was furious, as any entry level PC can do that native. I immediately rang one of my designer friends who had strongly influenced my choosing a Mac, and explained my problem. He told me that for around 60€ I could get an iMic, a USB interface audio input. I tried the iMic, but came up against the same problem: I still couldn't set the internal CD/DVD drive of my iMac as sound input. I started getting nervy... I rang my friend and told him that the Mac wouldn't do for me, as the cheapest USB audio interface I would need costs 400 € and at that price on a PC with SoundBlaster I had everything I needed! I then contacted a sound engineer who works on Macs, who confirmed my opinion: "for doing audio just as an amateur and without getting ruined, you're right. Stay on the PC".
Also, I couldn't find the equivalents of the apps I used on PC (Fruity Loops, Acid and SoundForge). Impossible to do sound takes. No good game on Mac OS X, no way of seeing my DivX... In short, I started thinking I should sell my Imac and get a PC again.
Then quite by chance I stumbled on the site MacMusic.org where I posted two messages, two calls for help! And then... within the next half hour I got about ten replies including one from a bloke called VinX. Vinx advised me to download Audio Hijack, a shareware at16€, to solve my sound input problem. The very same evening I downloaded HiJack, and it works. Also on the site I met Garbo, a macmusician, who sold me his EMI 2/6 and encouraged me to continue on Mac. For the last two weeks, I've been discovering a little more each day about the audio abilities of my Mac.
Now, a month in, this is where I stand. What I like about the Mac is the sound quality. Its really much better than on my PC. In fact, there's no comparison. Ergonomics? I've never seen a computer as pleasant to use. The feel, the look, and the sound have seduced me; I'm in love with my Mac! Also, it hasn't crashed even once during this first month! And when you come from WindowsLand, that is very pleasant. I've also managed to get all the equivalent software I used on the PC. However, the biggest disadvantage of my Mac, is its slowness !!! I find my iMac 800 Mhz much slower than an Athlon 1.2 Giga (even though its supposed to be quicker). I find Pcs much quicker and cheaper than Macs. I also get the impression that Pcs have medium quality audio peripherals, whereas on the Mac there's nearly only pro gear which is quite expensive. Now I've got the Mac and the audio card, I'm starting to have fun with various demos, but I can't say I'm composing on Mac, yet.