Apple Mac Pro 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 3.5 GHz Running Pro Tools On Internal Soundcard - Power Test

11-18-2014 03:14 PM

The requests keep coming in to run further power tests on Macs with a copy of Pro Tools native.
So far we’ve taken the latest Macbook Pro Retina 15” for a spin to see how it handles Pro Tools 11, you can see our Macbook Pro 15” Retina Pro Tools 11 test here. and also a Mac Mini i5 Late 2012.
We’ve been asked to run the same test on a new Mac Pro (Trash Can), so we’ve run this test on a Mac Pro 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 3.5 GHz.
This is the basic test, just the Mac Pro, internal soundcard and internal drive, it’s just you, your Mac, an iLok, headphones and a USB micro keyboard.
Is the new Mac Pro the powerhouse Apple claim?
Test Machine Specification

  • Mac Pro
  • 6-Core Intel Xeon E5
  • Processor Speed: 3.5 GHz
  • Number of Processors: 1
  • Total Number of Cores: 6
  • L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
  • L3 Cache: 12 MB
  • Memory: 16 GB

Pro Tools Session Specification

  • Internal Mac soundcard used
  • Pro Tools 11.2.1
  • 96Khz - maximum with internal sound card
  • 24 bit
  • 5 minutes of mono audio, with edits at every 1 second
  • Volume automation recorded on every audio track
  • Disk cache disabled to emulate native versions of Pro Tools
  • All audio tracks had an instance of Avid Channel Strip and Dverb inserted

Results Of Test

  • 128 Audio tracks reached then Pro Tools ran out of voices
  • A mono audio track would record without issue along with 127 audio tracks in playback
  • Instrument tracks were then added
  • 128 MIDI tracks with an instance of AIR Boom running with MIDI data
  • The session would play at H/W buffer size of 64 samples, we could increase our instrument tracks to 256 but this then required a buffer of 1024 or higher.


What is apparent with the new Mac Pro is that it does live up to the claims that Apple make about power, in an ironic way it seems to exceed the Apple marketing hype and that takes some doing. What we are trying to do with these tests is to give Pro Tools users a sense of how a machine would perform using Pro Tools, rather than the general benchmarks found on other less specific Mac test sites.
We’ve had the Mac Pro ‘Trash Can’ at Pro Tools Expert HQ for several months and have been quietly putting it through its paces to see if this is the native powerhouse that Apple claim it is. Some articles have been written about Pro Tools 11 not being ‘fully optimised’ to take advantage of the new Mac Pro, in the way that some Apple Apps such Final Cut X do. In reality the term ‘fully optimised’ is a term that falls somewhere between the realms of developer reality and marketing hype, what it really means is applications that can take full advantage of the GPUs in the new Mac Pro.
For various reasons our Avid Pro Tools HDX card, that lives in a Sonnet Thunderbolt Chassis was removed from the system some weeks ago whilst we did some office re-organisation, instead using an Apollo as the audio interface. Using this Mac Pro with the Apollo there has been no time when the HDX card has been missed for the work we’ve been doing. This is not to suggest that Pro Tools HDX systems are not required for other high track count, low latency work, but with many other interfaces such as the UAD Apollo offering near zero latency when tracking, and machines like the Mac Pro or indeed the Pro Tools PC offering this kind of native power, Pro Tools HDX is less likely to be a requirement. This is even more the case for those using virtual instruments, which in 99.9% of the applications only work as native plug-ins.
If you want to run this test on your own machine then you can download it here. If you run the test then let us know your results via our contact form and we’ll post them on the site.
Other Pro Tools power tests exist, you can find these in other forums and run as well if you wish.
We are waiting on Apple to send us a new iMac Quad Core to run the test on, so watch this space.