2021 Mac Mini M1 Review for Music Production

2021 mac mini m1 review for music production - decibel peak

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Reason Studios Reason 11 Review

That's why I wrote this Reason Studios Reason 11 review.

Editor's Rating:
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I finally made the move… I’m officially using the Mac Mini M1 for music production.

It’s definitely still got some room to grow, but the performance so far is SO MUCH better than my previous 2018 Mac Mini i3 (Intel). It’s also important to keep in mind that the entry-level Mac Mini M1 is THE LEAST expensive Mac to date selling under $1000.

Now, you might just be concerned about compatibility with the M1 and Mac OS Big Sur.

I can personally confirm that everything is working great without so much as a few minor bugs.

If you’re using Logic Pro X, I recommend running it using Rosetta 2 because it may cause issues with some plugins that are not yet fully-optimized.

As stated, it’s just the beginning of the Apple M1 and it’s already showing GREAT promise.

If you’re in the market for a surprisingly affordable yet POWERFUL desktop for music production, I wouldn’t look any further than the 2021 Mac Mini M1.

Let’s dive into this 2021 Mac Mini M1 Review…

What I like about the 2021 Mac Mini M1

I like EVERYTHING about the 2021 Mac Mini M1.

Even the things I thought I didn’t like, I ended up liking. So, I’m just going to be talking about the major advantages and let you explore the rest…

The revolutionary Apple M1 chip

Of course, the main reason the 2021 Mac Mini outshines the rest is because of the M1.

The Mac Mini has always been one of Apple’s best computers in my opinion, but the M1 takes it to a whole new level. It outperforms some of the older Mac Pro models…

It essentially provides commercial-grade performance for consumers.

If you own and operate your own recording studio, then you can achieve what top-level commercial recording studios can at a FRACTION of the cost.

The power efficiency of the M1 should also save you money on your utility bill!

The upgraded Thunderbolt 4 ports

One of the things I didn’t like about the 2021 Mac Mini M1 ended up being one of my favourite features. You might’ve noticed that there are only TWO Thunderbolt ports instead of FOUR.

Well, it turns out that the Thunderbolt ports on the M1 Macs are actually superior.

Thunderbolt 3 ports operate in pairs, so the 2018-2020 Intel-based Mac Mini actually had TWO Thunderbolt controllers which split the performance in HALF.

The upgraded Thunderbolt ports on the Mac Mini M1 provide 15W of power and 40 Gbps of speed for EACH port. I hope that makes sense.

It’s also capable of streaming 8K video or 4K to 2 different monitors.

One of the most impressive advantages of the upgraded Thunderbolt ports is the ability to connect NEW peripherals such as Thunderbolt Hubs.

These allow you to ADD additional Thunderbolt ports (which wasn’t possible before).

The improved Wi-Fi/Bluetooth stability

One of the main issues I had with my 2018 Mac Mini was with connectivity.

It’s well-documented that these older Mac Mini models suffered from dropouts every now and then with the Bluetooth. That means your mouse/keyboard would randomly disconnect.

It was primarily caused by interference (“crammed” components inside the miniature Mac Mini, USB ports, etc…) and also because of CPU load.

It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was definitely annoying.

The newer Mac Mini M1 doesn’t seem to struggle as much in that sense, although I HAVE had a few dropouts here and there.

It’s not NEARLY as much though and I barely even notice it.

One of the reasons I think it’s better now is because of…

  • The increased performance of the M1
  • The upgraded Wi-Fi/Bluetooth
  • The fact that I DON’T use any of the integrated USB ports
  • I use a Thunderbolt Dock instead

Those last two tips could also improve the situation on the older Mac Mini models.

However, I think the M1 Mac Mini would still perform better in that regard.

What I don’t like about the 2021 Mac Mini M1

To be completely honest, the only thing I don’t like about the 2021 Mac Mini M1 is the colour…

I’m not kidding, I preferred the “Space Grey” of the 2018-2020 Intel-based Mac Minis.

I guess the only other thing is that you CANNOT upgrade any of the internal components like the previous models. In other words, you need to be 100% certain of the configuration you decide to go with.

That’s why I went with the 16GB RAM, I didn’t want to risk it.

2021 Mac Mini M1 vs 2018-2020 Mac Mini i3 (Intel)

Before owning the 2021 Mac Mini M1, I was using the 2018 Mac Mini i3 which is the ENTRY-LEVEL model.

I’ve been talking about it ever since and I still think it’s a great machine for music production in 2021! However, the Mac Mini M1 is truly in a leaugue of its own.

I reached the 2018 Mac Mini’s limitations when I was making tutorials (using OBS) and running some pretty demanding projects at the same time. Livestreaming wouldn’t of been possible either.

It was getting so hot that I could cook on it!

If you want a better idea of the differences, check out THIS benchmark or this table…

2021 Mac Mini M12018-2020 Mac Mini i3 (Intel)
CPUApple M1 (8-cores)Intel-Core i3 (4-cores)
RAM8GB/16GB (unified)8GB/16GB/32GB (DDR4)
HDD/SSD256GB/512GB/1TB (SSD)128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Connectivity2x USB 3.1/2x Thunderbolt 4/1x HDMI/1x Ethernet2x USB 3.1/4x Thunderbolt 3/1x HDMI/1x Ethernet

Personally, I’d say the performance is at least 10x better with the M1.

It’s honestly overkill for most music producers, but the entry-level M1 Mac Mini is more affordable than the entry-level Intel-based Mac Mini (which isn’t being sold anymore).

That’s why it’s a no-brainer…

However, you could still consider purchasing a secondhand/used 2018-2020 Mac Mini if you want to save more.

2021 Mac Mini M1 vs 2018-2020 Mac Mini i5 (Intel)

As previously stated, Apple made the claim that the M1 Mac Mini was 6x more powerful than the top-line Intel Mac Mini (which is still being sold today).

If you need some convincing, you can check out THIS video…

To get a general idea though, check out this table…

2021 Mac Mini M12018-2020 Mac Mini i5 (Intel)
CPUApple M1 (8-cores)Intel-Core i5 (6-core)
RAM8GB/16GB (unified)8GB/16GB/32GB (DDR4)
HDD/SSD256GB/512GB/1TB (SSD)256GB/512GB/1TB
Connectivity2x USB 3.1/2x Thunderbolt 4/1x HDMI/1x Ethernet2x USB 3.1/4x Thunderbolt 3/1x HDMI/1x Ethernet

It’s difficult to understand the differences just by observing the specs, but at least you know your options.

The only point I want to make is in regards to RAM.

It may seem like a disadvantage that the 2021 Mac Mini M1 maxes out at 16GB of RAM, but you need to keep in mind that the RAM on the M1 is much more efficient than DDR4.

In other words, 16GB of RAM on the M1 is BETTER than 16GB of RAM on the Intel-based Macs.

Is the M1 good for music production in 2021?

I purchased my 2021 Mac Mini M1 in the 2nd quarter of the year.

To be completely honest, I haven’t experienced any compatibility issues that couldn’t be solved with Rosetta 2. The performance/stability is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve been perfectly fine until recently with my entry-level 2018 Mac Mini i3 (Intel).

HOWEVER, I needed something just a little more powerful to run the larger projects I started to work on. I’m talking about producing music for film/trailers.

That being said, the Mac Mini M1 definitely takes care of that and MORE.

Apple made the claim that the M1 Mac Mini was 6x more powerful than the Intel-based top-line Mac Mini of the same year. They were correct…

And you need to REMEMBER… The M1-based Macs are significantly more affordable

In other words, I think that you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t purchase the M1-based Mac Mini for music production. If you’re not in urgent need of a new computer though, you can wait.

I also mentioned that there’s still some work to do in regards to optimizing the M1.

This has more to do with software developers though…

It’s been said that MOST of the applications should be optimized for the M1 chip by the beginning of the 2022 year.

I think it’s a reasonable prediction, but we’ll just have to see.

Either way, applications that aren’t optimized for the M1 architecture are still able to run using Rosetta 2 without any issues. They just won’t benefit as much…

In my case though, there was a HUGE upgrade even with applications running on Rosetta 2.

Summary: 2021 Mac Mini M1 Review for Music Production

Is the 2021 Mac Mini M1 the best computer for music producers?

I personally believe that IT IS and that it might actually be more than what most of us need.

The Apple M1 isn’t the most powerful CPU on the market, but it’s actually pretty close. You’ll be surprised to find out how much power you’ll be getting for this price point.

The MacBook Air/MacBook Pro M1 are also in the same boat.

However, I get the feeling that this is the beginning of a new age…

Intel, AMD and other manufacturers will surely re-enter the competition with something better at some point. For the time being though, the Apple M1 is state-of-the-art.

I’m really grateful that I decided to make the switch and purchase the 2021 Mac Mini M1.

I personally recommend the 16GB RAM option for music producers.

I also recommend THESE accessories…

Thunderbolt 3 Dock:

External Thunderbolt 3 SSD:

Asus Zenscreen:

What do you think about the 2021 Mac Mini M1 for music production? Let us know in the comments and feel free to ask any questions there as well.

I hope that you enjoyed this 2021 Mac Mini M1 review. Thanks for reading!

2021 Mac Mini M1 (16GB model):

Sources

https://www.apple.com/ca/mac-mini/

https://music-prod.com/logic-pro-x-benchmarks/

https://browser.geekbench.com/mac-benchmarks

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