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The sound engineer shootout OSX El Capitan V Windows 10. Part 1

Yeah I know, it's an argument that will rage until the end of computing, Its done to death and very few people sit on the fence. Which is better Apple or Microsoft, Windows or OSX?. I am currently at a point where I need a new computer and it's the first time, for me personally, that I really don't know where my hard earned money is going to go. So I have set up a test that I'm going to run for a while and see what I can learn.


Now in the past I could have been considered an "Apple fanboy" type but that was a long time ago. In all honesty I want Windows 10 to win this hands down. Primarily because I can spend half the money on a much higher spec'd machine and if the OS is good then it's a no brainer as far as I'm concerned.

Back in the day I ran a Windows XP desktop plus a Macbook laptop and always found the Mac to be more stable and easier to use, hence more productive. However over recent years I have been feeling that this might not be the case any longer. Since the advent of the iPhone and iPad, Apple has far more lucrative things to worry about than the qualty of its desktop and laptop computers and I feel the quality and stability of the OS may not be as good as it once was.

Also as a touring engineer to make sure you are able to use all the major mixing desks you have needed to be able to run both operating systems (e.g. Midas controller software is OSX only and the Avid Venue software is Windows only) so having a Macbook running Bootcamp or a virtual machine covers both sides nicely. But now I want a new studio desktop machine which does not need that capability.

How do I work out which way to go? Simples!

The Test.

For this recipe I have

One late 2011 Macbook Pro 13" with,

i7 dual 2.8ghz processor,

8 gb ram,

Intel HD Graphics 3000 512MB.

Start by removing the old hard drive filled up with 5 years of crap and replace it with a shiny 500gb SSD. Split the HD in two with one half running OSX El Capitan and the other half with Windows 10.

Plug it into a 37" Samsung T.V. to work as the main screen and bring to the boil then simmer for 20 mins before serving on a bed of mouse mats.

Both systems are going to have an identical install of Pro Tools. I'm going to run my life for the forseable future on Windows 10 and see how often I need to go back to OSX other than to do comparisons on performance. Although my primary concern is recording, mixing and producing I will also be using it for everyday tasks such as email, web surfing, watching T.V. etc.

This is about as fair a test as I can make it with the tools I have available. Two fresh operating systems running on identical hardware doing exactly the same job. It's an old and slower machine than the upper level modern laptops which means problems should start showing up quickly. I'm also making the presumption that the Bootcamp drivers are going to run as well as if this was a dedicated Windows based machine. From my previous experience with Bootcamp, I never became aware of a problem that was caused by them (but there is always a first time). So without further ado

"Let battle commence!"

Day 1

I boot up OSX for the first time and WOW!!!...........I've been meaning to put an SSD in this baby for years, I've just been too busy but I really should have done it sooner. It booted up faster than it used to come out of sleep mode. This is a good sign that there's life in the old dog yet and hopefully it's up to the challenge. So I go through all the usual setup nonsense for my icloud account and everything is running smoothly. I spend a day getting things in order, downloading Pro Tools and all the plug ins so I'm ready to go and use the rest of the time just doing usual computer stuff unrelated to music. It's working...........It's really good, apps open instantly, I press buttons and stuff just happens. I occasionally but very rarely see the spinning wheel of boredom

which was the bane of my life with this laptop's previous incarnation. When it does happen now it seems to be caused by USB hard drives spinning up rather than the operating system itself and it's gone pretty quickly.

I'm happy and as my friends will tell you, I'm rarely happy.

Day 2

Its Bootcamp day. Time to bust out Windows 10 and see what she can do. Unfortunately it's not that easy, Bootcamp can't read the disk image. After a few hours of frustration googling the problem and looking at Youtube videos that show options my laptop doesn't have, I finally come across a small piece of information that helps. Because I have an old laptop with a DVD drive fitted I have to print the disk image to a blank DVD to sort it (simple really but I was trying to avoid a trip out to buy DVD-R's). If I had a new Mac without the drive it would be fine, so why doesn't Apple give me either option?

We are not amused! Therefore the first strike goes against Apple, maybe not a major one, but it was not the quick fix I was hoping for.

Eventually full service is restored and the install starts...........and then it finishes, no fuss.

Now boot, go through the setup procedure wait a little while and

Hello Beautiful Windows 10!

I like it, I like it a lot. Neat and tidy, sleek and sexy. Maybe I've been staring at OSX for too long but this is the first windows desktop I actually like looking at. Now looks are very far from my primary concern and it doesn't mean that its any good under the hood but it's a nice place to be. The rest of the day is spent installing Pro Tools, the plug ins and the driver for my MOTU 896hd which my studio runs through. Now its Netflix and chill time, I load up the Edge browser choose a film and

nada........nothing............. zip..........sweet F.A.

It won't play.

Try Youtube does that play? No, no it doesn't. Strike 1 for Windows.

Now I have no idea how I worked out that it was an audio problem (surely the video would at least play without sound but no!). It appears to be a clocking issue or maybe a sample rate issue, so I start mucking around with settings on the MOTU which help a little and the videos start playing..........

for a while.

10 mins, 20 if you're lucky. Then it cuts out more clicks and pops and whistles and too much for me to bother with tonight.

OSX it is for the rest of the evening. Now OSX doesn't have a problem playing Netflix, and with sound too, so its winning so far but it's far from perfect. Every so often the audio glitches and pops and then is out of sink with the video. However pressing pause and play again sorts the problem for a time which is a far easier fix than Windows is offering.

Day 3

Ok lets get this baby working today, I'm guessing its a clocking problem, a sample rate problem or maybe a software problem. This becomes a pain very quickly. I start going through all the clocking options on the MOTU, it only gets worse so I go back to where I started. The problem is that Windows keeps locking up and I'm having to reboot almost every time to try a different setting (Apples clocking problems are rarely that serious). Thank God I'm doing this on an SSD, I'm still amazed how quickly it boots up. Eventually I find some preferences for the MOTU that show supported formats for DTS and Dolby Digital ticked. I turn them off and bingo, we are cooking on gas.

Netflix plays for a whole 10 we go again!

So I play about again, changing settings rebooting and I'm yet to find an answer. It's not good form for my recording studio if basic audio setup is going to cause me headaches. I had better check if Pro Tools is doing the same thing. I load up a huge live show recording that I have, 56 channels 1.5 hours of music. This should test it. I press play, it plays and doesn't stop. No problem, phew!

So what IS the effing problem?

This is unfortunately starting to look all too similar to my previous Windows experience. All that's missing is it sorting itself out without me doing anything.

And guess what?..................Yep thats exactly what happens.

No rhyme or reason that I can see and suddenly it's working. Netflix plays a whole show, Youtube plays a long video. No problems, apart from the music that plays on my own website. It glitches when the MOTU is set to 48khz but is fine when its set to 44.1khz. To test if it's a software issue I download the Firefox web browser and go straight to my web page set at 48khz. Hey Presto! It works! Microsoft's new Edge browser isn't looking too good right now.

I decide I've had enough sound wise for the day, not being sure if I have accomplished anything. I figure I will do some work on my website. I load up the Edge browser again and go to where I am greeted with this.


Ok, ok Wix haven't got round to it (it's been out well over a year now, maybe supporting Microsoft products isn't the priority it used to be for companies). Maybe its not being used very much but they recommend Firefox and I've got it so here goes nothin'...............................

Man it's slow, in fact it's slower than Snailey McSnailerson when he came last in the first qualifying round of the 1500cm race at the Snailympics. It's crap! It's unuseable! I'm back off to OSX for the rest of the day.

To keep this fair, I downloaded Firefox to OSX and then go to edit my website. Good old Snailey makes another appearance and it's horrific to use. A quick switch over to Safari though and we are cooking on gas once again.

Let's try again tomorrow.

For part 2 go here.

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