David Lewis Talking Tech & Audio
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M1 Max – My 1st choice content creators’ production rig…can it get any better?

For ages, I was an Intel Mac user, but this year, I knew that had to change. I needed M1 Max on side!

M1 Max
image courtesy of editor

Moving on

Normally, I am a pretty boring soul, and I’d say I like a certain amount of status quo. Change is not necessarily my middle name. But when I get restless, and truly know something needs a little ‘mixing up’, then there is no stopping me. I don’t rest until that change is made.

It was around this time last year that the idea of becoming more immersed in the world of content creation started to appeal. For the past six years, I had been hosting three live radio shows per week. But it had served it’s time, and I could see little future in it. Certainly, it was never going to earn me a living.

I took a hard look at the time I was putting in to radio every week, in excess of 30 hours, with no financial award at all. As much as I loved radio, the music I got to play, and the guests I interviewed, giving up that much time was starting to make less, and less sense. After the COVID years, like many, I had to re-map my future.

Through lockdown, I had started to watch a lot of YouTube. Apart from enjoying the content, I wondered if transferring my time & skills to this arena made more sense.

Once my mind was focused on this new direction, I wasted no time in making the changes required. High on the list of those changes was some new hardware in the studio.

Audio vs. video

M1 Max
image courtesy of author

Obviously, my studio had always been geared toward audio in my radio days. I had an array of Macs in my lineup, but the primary ‘broadcast’ Mac was a 2019 Intel, 15–inch MacBook Pro.

Not only did I broadcast, but I also produced podcasts as well. The most demanding part on the Mac with audio, is once you start to load up plug-ins on the effects rack in your DAW. Even then, it is nowhere near as intense as video work.

Shooting in 10bit log V3, means the video files are pretty hefty. The poor old Intel Mac struggled from day one. Slow, laborious, hot and loud pretty much summed up the experience.

Apple Silicon was now in my line of sight, and a few months ago, I added a new MacBook Pro to my studio, and it has been a game changer.

Not for the feint-hearted

M1 Max
image courtesy of editor

I really had to back myself on this move. Buying this Mac was a big investment. At over £4000, I had to be certain I was making the right choice, not just for today and tomorrow, but for the next five or may be six years ahead.

I was going to give myself plenty of headroom, and make sure, however I spec’d out this Mac, it was ready for whatever I could throw at it.

I fancied the idea of being mobile, so knew the Mac Studio, great as it is, was not going to be for me. Although I mostly work from the studio, the option to work from home, coffee shop or hotel, even, appealed. I wanted the bigger screen, so that narrowed my focus to the 16–inch M1 range of MacBooks. Next was the chip choice.

The M1 Pro looked as if it would probably be enough for my needs….but that tiny nagging doubt that it was only probably enough made me wonder if I should look at bumping up the spec more.

Knowing that this new Mac would almost solely be working on video, audio and graphic work, I decided to go for the best of the best. I ended up with the M1 Max chip, with the 10–Core CPU, 32–Core GPU and 32GB of Unified Memory. Storage wise, I had originally chosen 2TB, but ended up with 4TB in the end. This wasn’t really by choice – more supply! The order I had with Apple was continually being pushed back. I scouted the UK far and wide, and found one MacBook available. As it had more and not less storage than I had wanted, it ticked the ‘headroom’ box.

Not here for the spec’s

image courtesy of editor

I am sure you have seen all the benchmarks you could ever wish for, and watched all the videos about the performance of the M1 range of Macs. All I can tell you is, what you hear is all true.

What makes these MacBooks a creator’s dream is the flexibility and power. The performance is like something other worldly. The amount of work, and production these M1’s suck up and spit out still continues to amaze me.

My MacBook spends most of its life attached as if by ‘umbilical cord’, to the Studio Display, which, as you know, breathes life & power in to it via the Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port. It’s when you unplug it though, that the magic comes to life.

The amount of work you can achieve on the battery is stunning. And we are talking high-end, intensive, power hungry work here, not spreadsheets and the like. What no one tells you, is the stand-by life is possibly even more amazing! Seriously, park this MacBook on the table overnight, and the next morning, the battery is pretty much where you left it the night before! Whatever the boffins at Cupertino did with this chip design is the stuff of science. I realised this week that my charger isn’t even un-packed from the MacBook’s box yet! If it is not hooked up to the display, then I don’t need power….it is as good as that!

I found a perfect partner

image courtesy of editor

I am lucky, in that I can leave my studio set-up, ready for use at all times. This means that the mic and cameras are in the same place. The sound treatment is un-moved and everything is stable.

As far as the audio goes, I have a pre-set, rack-effect saved in Adobe Audition. So, once recorded and treated, I can edit the video or podcast anywhere I want or choose.

The six speaker set up on the Mac is impressive for a laptop. If you are casually listening to Spotify for instance, you’ll have no need to add extra speakers to your desk. In all honesty because I know the audio is consistent, and treated in the same way every time, I could even use the MacBook speakers just to ‘monitor’ the output before uploading.

But being the audio nerd I am, I always like to be certain. So, although when heading out the door I don’t take a charger with me, I do take my favourite, and trusted headphones – the Beyerdynamic, open–backed DT 900 Pro X.

Comfortable, flat, balanced, and with a full sound stage, these headphones are my go to every time. Whether I am editing the audio for a video, or my podcast, these are the headphones I work with. In the studio, I will mix and initially master on my monitors, then check back in the DT 900 Pro X, and finally, oddly, through AirPods or the MacBook speakers themselves.

This is an old trick that pretty much ensures, however my content is consumed by the end user, it should sound ok.

The creator’s dream team

image courtesy of editor

Yup, once the video is shot, or the audio created, with the power of the M1 Max tucked up in my rucksack, and the DT 900 Pro X headphones, I can work and edit any place I choose.

The fact I ended up with so much on-board storage, has actually worked out great. I now work directly from the MacBooks SSD. With crazy read/write speeds, I’d be daft not to. Although the MacBook has a port array to die for, I don’t even have to take any external storage with me. Once the project is finished, I clear from the Mac and on to my Lacie raid drive.

To say any one bit of tech can change your life, is a big statement. But in the six weeks of living with this Mac, I think that I can say this purchase, and using the DT 900’s along with it, really has changed everything for me.

It was a serious outlay, but for the freedom it is bringing me, and the creative performance, it was absolutely the correct move.

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