Saturday, May 25, 2024



Apple Computers declared the small shiny wastebasket Mac Pro (often referred to as 'Late 2013'), End-Of-Life back in 2017. These computers were still being manufactured as late as 2017 and the year of manufacture can be determined by the serial number. 

These Mac Pro models were powered by Intel multi-core processors which came in four, six, eight and 12-core models. The computers were built in an assembly facility in Texas with the four core model selling for around $3100 in 2016; I know because I bought a new one in April of 2016 and it has been my main DAW up until April of 2023 when I replaced it with a Mac Studio.

Since these Mac Pro models are powered by Intel processors there will be very limited software for them in the future because Apple has shifted all their design focus to their Native, in-house processor designs. While the new Apple Silicon models offer a great deal of power they don't come cheap. Musicians are notoriously tight with their money which makes these older, discontinued Mac Pro models a veritable bargain. 


The answer is, LOW total purchase cost for a powerful, stable DAW that will provide several years of use. We'll examine complete system purchase price later in this review. 


Lock down your DAW machine usage, don't use if for general use or internet, only use this machine for DAW recording/production 

Shut the computer down (not just sleep) when you're not doing music, recording or production

Turn WiFi off when you're not updating software, this prevents accidental auto updates 

Be extra cautious about adding new software that is not compatible

Focus on recording and production with this machine, test plugins on a different machine (now is a good time to pickup a cheap spare machine for test purposes or backup

Keep Time-Machine backups up to date

I follow these tips and it has helped me keep three Intel based 'Cheese Grater' Mac Pros and one 2003 dual core Quicksilver Apple computers still running great. 


The Monterey release of Apple Mac OS is the end of the road for the Mac Pro cylinder model, the Ventura and Sonoma versions don't officially run on these older Mac Pro models. In my opinion that is ok. Monterey is very well supported and it is still receiving maintenance updates by Apple. One of the older, cylinder shaped, Mac Pro models running the latest release of Monterey can provide you with a very stable and powerful computer that will run for years to come. 


The older Intel version of Mac OS is currently very well supported with software and there are a number of major DAW software packages that run well on these older machines. 

Apple Logic X 10.7.9


Studio One


Lets take a quick look at these options individually:


To get Logic to run on Monterey you may need to have purchased it before Monterey was frozen. While I was tweaking my 12-core Mac Pro, Apple told me I can not run the very latest version of Logic but they gave me the option of down loading and installing 10.7.9 because I bought an earlier version of Logic from the APP store. 10.7.9 is a very powerful and mature package with lots of processing plugins and virtual instruments. There are no fake track count limitations like some Professional Tools ;-)


Reaper is one of those programs you love or hate, I don't love it but I recognize it as extremely powerful with many very desirable features. If you're new to DAW and recording Reaper could be a good place to start. There are a lot of instructional videos available about how to use Reaper. The user interface is unique but extremely powerful, and available to new purchasers, for an extremely attractive bargain price. The Reaper demo is one of the most generous in the industry, anyone can download the full version with no artificial limitations. You get a full 2-month demonstration period absolutely FREE. The latest version runs native on an Intel powered Mac Pro. 


Studio One by Presonus is an extremely powerful DAW package. It is updated regularly and it runs with full features on a Mac Pro powered by Mac OS 12 Monterey. Studio One has lots of plugins and virtual instruments. Studio One is available in many different versions but the full professional version with everything can be had for $20 a month through subscription. That's only one of the ways you can buy it, check out the Presonus web site for current and full details. 


As of today all versions of Cubase, from intro to Pro, show compatibility with Mac OS Monterey and Intel quad-core (or better) processors. 



The APP store gave me the option of downloading a compatible version of GarageBand on to my 12-core Mac Pro. 

I have not had time to try out everything or to look deep into all available options. I've been using Logic since version six (back around 2006) when I got fed up with the Pro Tools tax. 

All DAW have a somewhat steep learning curve to extract their real power and capability. I recommend you try out several using demos and when you find one that works with you and for you, stick with it and put all your attention into learning the nuances that make your mixes shine. 


A four, six or 12-core Mac Pro makes a very powerful virtual synthesizer platform. Here are some popular instruments that run on Monterey Mac OS. 


I could not find a simple answer for this brand of popular synth plugins but looking over the individual contents shows that many are compatible with Mac OS 10+ while others show Mac OS 11 as a requirement. If you're running Mac OS 12 Monterey on an older Mac Pro you are in good shape. 


I glanced through the requirements of most of the contents and they are listed as Mac OS 10+ so you should be VERY good with a multi-core Mac Pro running Mac OS 12.


The OB-X by Gforce says macOS 10.13 or above so an older Mac Pro running Monterey macOS 12 should be fine. 

The M-Tron Pro which is a sample player in the style of the vintage Mellotron is also shown as macOS 10.13 or above so Monterey on an older Mac Pro model should work fine. 


Just to make sure that things have not changed for the worse it would be a good idea to ask the manufacturer before purchasing software; at least by sending an email to support you will find out how responsive a developer is. This is always a good idea not matter what computer you're using. 


eBay is THE place to grab yourself a deal on a used Mac Pro, I've bought several in the last year because these models are well supported, very well built and they're comparatively easy to service for DIY type folks (like me). Remember, if the deal looks TOO GOOD it probably is a machine with problems. Ask questions, see how responsive the seller is. 


12-core Intel

My favorite cylinder-shaped Mac Pro is a 12-core model which has two D700 Radeon video cards in it. I don't do much that requires this level of video processing horsepower but the Intel 12-core processor does a great job running Logic with lots of plugins. The video cards are nice when I'm editing videos in Da Vinci Resolve. This Mac Pro was upgraded along the way to 64GB of DRAM and 2TB SSD. It also came with a warranty which is backed by eBay (I've had good luck with this in the past, I'm cautious and ask questions). I use this machine every day and it's a gem. 

6-core Intel

I found a seller with brand new, in the box Apple Mac Pro computers, they bought remaining stock from Apple for a huge discount. I bought a six core Mac Pro which I've been experimenting on with a bunch of software. I got this one brand new for $600 with full Apple warranty, it came packed and sealed in the original carton. I was a bit nervous until it arrived and I opened it up; it was a brand new Mac Pro for $600, it came with 16GB of DRAM and 512 SSD internal, much better specs than my original 4-core Mac Pro I bought back in 2016.

4-core Intel

I've bought three of the least powerful Mac Pro and got them for $235 each. I bought them from a leasing company who was selling them “off lease” on ebay, with warranty. I had good luck buying “Cheese Grater” Mac Pros from leasing companies back in 2012 so I took a chance on these much newer preowned Mac Pros. Those old Cheese Grater models are still running today without any updates, I run Photoshop on one of them. So far, all my Mac Pro cylinder shaped computers are working great. I've got a four-core cylinder set up as a network server, it runs 24/7 and solved our server needs beautifully, plus it runs rings around other NAS (Network Attached Storage) solutions I tried previously. 


The original four-core model can be upgraded to a 12-core model by swapping out the processor. OWC sells upgrades for these older Mac Pro models and you can buy a complete kit including the 12-core processor, heat sink paste and tool kit for doing the processor exchange. OWC also has detailed videos which show you every step of the way to upgrading the processor yourself or you can ship your machine to OWC and they will do the upgrade and warranty their work. 


The Mac Pro came with three different AMD Radeon video card configurations (every machine came with two video cards), the lowest priced was the D300, two of these came in my new 2016 Mac Pro. I drove two side by side HD monitors and never felt like I lost anything by going with the cheap model. For running DAW software the two lowest power video cards in a Mac Pro have plenty of power. 

My 6-core has dual D500 video cards, I can't tell a difference with my usage of these over the cheaper D300. My 12-core has the D700 video cards in it, a significant amount of heat pours out of this machine whenever it is on, so much that it physically warms the desk I work from. 

My recommendation is get the lower powered 4-core model, change the processor to 12-core, get at least a 1-TB SSD and ideally 64-GB of DRAM. If you can find someone who will sell you a machine that is already upgraded, all the better. 

IMPORTANT – All the bits to build your own, very powerful MAC Pro computer(s), are available now but very soon the supply will dry up. Enjoy this rare 'End Of Life' Mac Pro event. Compatible DRAM will disappear; so will the custom internal SSD form factor. New Thunderbolt-2 cables are only available from OWC. Amazon still has a few repackaged Apple 2-meter Thunderbolt cables. Apple Thunderbolt 2-to-3 adaptors are beginning to get scarce. 

One of my favorite companies, Mara Machines has built a nice little business out of selling refurbished MCI tape recorders from the late 70's era. With that in mind it's not so crazy keeping an old Mac Pro operating for your DAW so long as you follow the tips listed previously. 


For the purpose of creating a bargain DAW example I'm going to go with the SSL2+. I like it because it is capable of zero latency hardware monitoring with the easy to use MONITOR MIX control. This interface drives two sets of headphones independently and it has two inbuilt microphone preamps that don't suck. Also on board are legacy 5-pin MIDI input and output jacks. High on Technology recently reviewed this interface and you can read it here (ref: High on Technology).

Currently this interface sells for $249 (Minimum Advertised Price) through all the standard internet retailers. 


I wanted to leave you with a very low cost DAW package idea, only one of many possible combinations. Tax and shipping is included in the price estimates.

$210 Sceptre brand 27” 4K display monitor (Amazon)

$250 4-Core Intel Mac Pro (cylinder) (eBay)

$15 Logitech K120 wired keyboard (Amazon)

$10 Logitech B100 corded mouse (Amazon)

$70 Reaper DAW Software

$260 SSL 2+ audio interface (Sweetwater)

$145 OWC Envoy Pro USB SSD 480GB external drive (for storing your creations) (OWC)

$960 Total Stand Alone DAW Package

For less than the price of many toy-like recording platforms, that want you to stare at a tiny LCD screen and have limited editing, you could be flying a seriously professional machine with all new accessories, a brilliant new 4K 27” display, a new external SSD to record on and a solid high performance preowned computer to power it up. 


Adding the supercharger option gives you even more performance

$250 OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock,Thunderbolt 2 cable and Apple Thunderbolt 2-3 adaptor (includes tax and shipping)

The SuperCharger package adds an OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock, OWC Thunderbolt-2 two meter cable and a genuine Apple Thunderbolt 2-3 adaptor. With this add-on you'll get some USB 3.2 ports, a USB-C Thunderbolt port (great place for an SSD to plug in), a mini display port for an additional video monitor and SD card slot. Here is a link to the High on Technology article about this dock.


The video monitor limitations of the 2013 Mac Pro are detailed in the following screenshot:

Click to enlarge


If you happen to have a keyboard, mouse and unused monitor laying around the house then a $235 used Mac Pro Quad-Core computer makes a good desktop for everyday internet browsing and email. If you already have some peripherals one of these older Macs is a bargain and can help you stop using your DAW for regular internet tasks (the number one source of DAW problems).

LOCK-DOWN your DAW computer, don't use it for email and other mundane tasks. Treat your DAW like the recording tool it is. It will be more reliable in the long run, you'll produce more creative content and spend less time trouble shooting problems. 

Thanks for reading High on Technology. Happy Computing, good luck and Good Music To You!

©May 2024 by Mark King, it's NOT ok to copy or quote without written permission from the Author.