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I'm a big fan of Garritan CFX, and ran it for years on a spare work Macbook Pro (record uptime: over 100 days!). But I've switched jobs and that computer had to go back.

So while I've been thoroughly enjoying the native sounds from the NV-10, for the first time really, I'd still like to get back to CFX, and I want to do so in the easiest, no-nonsense way, with as little setup/hassle/maintenance as possible.

So I was thinking maybe a Mac Mini M1, set it up to open CFX on bootup, mount it under/behind the DP without a monitor, and just reboot the machine anytime something goes wrong (with my MBP, after more than 60 days uptime, CFX would sometimes stop outputting from the right speaker). That'd be pretty small, simple, and no extra audio interfaces or anything else needed. And at ~$700 it doesn't break the bank. Plus, I can take a gamble that if Garritan ever recompiles Aria player for ARM, it'll get even faster.

Is there anything else I should be considering? I'd honestly prefer not to have to deal with choosing some el-cheapo laptop, and finding out it has really obnoxiously loud fans, requires certain OS versions that work with ASIO drivers, and in the end discover there's manufacturer firmware that cripples audio latency. But if there's a nice, proven plug and play solution on the PC side, I'm willing to listen.


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I don't think you can go wrong with the Mac Mini M1 for this task.

I have an M1 MacBook Air here and am completely bowled over at home good this little computer is. However if you don't need portability nor a laptop form factor, and will just be mounting the computer somewhere out of sight, the M1 Mini is a great choice.

Cheers,
James
x


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An old office computer may be your best price-performance option. I know some people are using the M1 here with some VIs but not sure which VIs.

Note all laptops have power schemes that tend to cause latency issues.

I will not recommend Dell laptops at this time for CFX. My old XPS is great but it took a lot of time to get it working.

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I just bought a lenovo ideapad 5 AMD Ryzen 5 4500, only paid about £500 and its great, it makes zero fan noise for 90 per cent of the time its operational, its completely overpowered for just running vsts, but is so quiet and easy to use, i love it. Its really a cheap laptop at aporox £500, it's light and looks sleek. It actually is not perfect for audio production as it has audio latency issues according to latencymon testing... but i only get the odd drop out/crackle once maybe here and there and then nothing for hours and hours it runs flawlessly so it's a non-issue for me, i think turning the Internet off actually helps a lot also with any issues audio wise.

I'd recommend my laptop to anyone, has 16gb ram, hexa core 2.3 - 4 ghz amd ryzen (cheaper and faster than intel), small ssd though, but 256gb is enough for me, has 1tb HDD also.

Runs any vst you can throw at it easily because of its power. I was running ivory ACD and garritan cfx at the same time and no issues at all, also goes to buffer size 32 without any issues.

Much cheaper than mac equivalent or intel i7, and runs just as well if not better.

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Another vote for the Mac mini. Still running my 2018 mini with i5 and 16GB/ram, and it works flawlessly with Garritan, Pianoteq, VI Labs, but struggles a bit with VSL when I'm using more than 4 mic options (however, VSL is working on a fix for that).

It's small, light, and since you won't have much plugged into it you can probably mount it out of sight with industrial strength velcro.

I have something attached to every port on mime.

[Linked Image]

From left to right
Power cable
Ethernet
USB wireless Mouse
USB-C/lightening cable for charging iPad/iPhone
USB mouse charging cable
External thunderbolt 3 SSD
HDMI monitor cable
N1X USB cable
VSL dongle
3.5mm Stereo cable going to my mixer

God Bless,
David


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If you are firmly on the Apple camp go on with the mini, good choice; if not you might want to consider a NUC, smaller than the mini, and a tad cheaper. I have had good results with a NUC7i5, 500 Gigs SSD and 16 Gig memory, running Garritan no problemo.

You should be able to get that for some 400$. If you go that route do increase RAM at least to 16 Gigs. If you plan to do ONLY Garritan 256 SSD will do but you never know ....

Good luck.

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I really love my MacBook Air M1, it's a real revolution IMO and the fact is I switched to doing my daily job (Java development) entirely on it although I have a company provided MacBook Pro 15" from 2017 which is the highest possible configuration.

All that being said, I would be cautious in choosing an Apple Silicon Mac for Garritan CFX. IMO Garritan stopped supporting their products and I highly doubt they will provide a native Arm-based build soon, if ever. Even some of the active music software companies haven't yet updated their products. And although their current Intel-based software works pretty well through Rosetta 2, it's still not the same. For instance, I also have a Mac Mini from 2012 and Garritan CFX Full works better than on my M1. Anyway, if you use the Aria player and instal the latest updates and close all other software on the Mac, it works more than OK which is a little wonder. I can only imagine how fast it will be if they recompile it for Apple Silicon.

As a slight offtopic, I started researching music software and plugins that have Arm-builds and I discovered U-He synth plugins. I purchased the Diva which is a virtual analog synth, however it's one of only a few (or even the only one) that uses virtual circuitry modeling, instead of regular DSP-filtering, etc. As a result it's been known as a very heavy CPU-hog. They have a beta of ARM-build and the performance is mind-blowing 😲 I created a track with more than 10 instances, each in the highest possible quality and it plays without a hiccup. On a laptop with passive cooling, meaning absolutely silent! That CPU is a marvel, it's a technical revolution. I can't speak high enough of M1.


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Originally Posted by newer player
An old office computer may be your best price-performance option.


I actually have an old spare PC in the garage. But I forgot to mention, another big factor for me is having everything as "out of the way" as possible. And I certainly don't want a huge mess of cables and black boxes sitting around by/behind the piano (that's mainly why I was thinking about the Mac Mini, it's something I could secure to the bottom of the DP, or possible hide inside a cable management box.



Originally Posted by CyberGene
All that being said, I would be cautious in choosing an Apple Silicon Mac for Garritan CFX. IMO Garritan stopped supporting their products and I highly doubt they will provide a native Arm-based build soon, if ever. Even some of the active music software companies haven't yet updated their products. And although their current Intel-based software works pretty well through Rosetta 2, it's still not the same. For instance, I also have a Mac Mini from 2012 and Garritan CFX Full works better than on my M1.

Huh, well that's a game changer...thanks! Maybe I'll look for a cheap used Mac Mini...seems like David B gets good results out of his 2018 Mini...

I'll keep an eye out for viable options, thanks all.


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I think you'll be good with an old Mac Mini (mine is 2.4 or 2.5GHz, don't remember exactly) and I upgraded it with a SSD and 16GB of memory. I think it was the last generation that allowed for easy upgrades of those.


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Hi I'm running a Mac mini 2012 for Garritan CFX (but also a few other apple-refurbed Mac minis for work and for family members, a few 2012's, 2018 and an m1). The m1 refurb mini is a great deal if you don't mind apple-refurbished units (check out refurb.me). Believe micro center also sells a 16gb m1 mini at a good price

Question for this crowd, how do I tell Garritan CFX to load a preset on startup? I seem to still need to go into Garritan to load a preset, but otherwise is ready to go when rebooted.

Last edited by dng; 04/22/21 12:32 PM.
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Thanks for the link to reburb.me.

Looks like there's a nice sweet spot with the late 2014 mac minis. I can get a 256GB SSD+8GB i5 for $250, or a 256GB SSD+16GB i5 for $370.

I recall with my MBP (16GB), allocating less RAM actually didn't matter much, so Garritan should run fine with 8GB, correct? This machine really isn't going to be doing anything else (no DAWs, etc.)


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Note that the late 2014 Mac minis are only dual core. (see everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini) 2012 and 2018 had quad-core/hex-core intel options. Not that it's required for garrison, but thought you should know. 2012 RAM is easy to upgrade. 2018 is a bit more involved but doable. M1 is impossible to upgrade RAM.

Last edited by dng; 04/22/21 12:49 PM.
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Originally Posted by dng
Note that the late 2014 Mac minis are only dual core. (see everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini) 2012 and 2018 had quad-core/hex-core intel options. Not that it's required for garrison, but thought you should know. 2012 RAM is easy to upgrade. 2018 is a bit more involved but doable. M1 is impossible to upgrade RAM.

Appreciate the details, thanks! My uneducated guess is that Garritan is probably single-threaded, and all things being equal a slightly higher clockrate would be more beneficial than a multithreaded/multicore CPU with lower clock? But I doubt it'll be CPU-limited to begin with on any i5/i7.


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Here are the Mac single-threaded benchmarks:
all Macs:
https://browser.geekbench.com/mac-benchmarks

Mac mini's:
https://browser.geekbench.com/macs/mac-mini-late-2020

Last edited by dng; 04/22/21 01:39 PM.
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I'm not sure how Garritan works, but I know that VSL benefits from multiple core/thread reading. Unfortunately, the current VSL software doesn't utilize multi-threading (they are working on upgrading that), but it can be accomplished with additional software by splitting the mics up between multiple channels. By doing that I can literally run every mic possible in a full library without any problems on my 2018 mini.

However, one thing I did notice (VSL support was not able to help me out), was a significant change in the read speed when I updated to Big Sur on my 2018 Mac mini. It was also when I updated to the latest VSL software, so I don't know which one caused the issue. The pic below shows my read speed before the updates. 1045 MB/s

[Linked Image]

The pic below is after the updates.341 MB/s

[Linked Image]

My read speed is actually faster on my external SSD compared to my internal. This hasn't changed the performance at all, but it was very curious to me why it changed so drastically after the updates. VSL doesn't know either.

God Bless,
David


Yamaha AdvantGrand N1X
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Dng, you're awesome, thanks for essentially doing the research I should be doing myself!

Much of this is probably splitting hairs for CFX, but seems like any 2012 i7 or 2014 non-1.4 i5 is a good floor to shoot for.


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Originally Posted by David B
My read speed is actually faster on my external SSD compared to my internal. This hasn't changed the performance at all, but it was very curious to me why it changed so drastically after the updates. VSL doesn't know either.

Could be a number of things, but I wonder if it has anything to do with Spectre/Meltdown mitigations? I recall I had held off on any upgrades of my offline, airgapped Macs to avoid any performance hit associated with those.


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Originally Posted by dng
Question for this crowd, how do I tell Garritan CFX to load a preset on startup?
Set up Garritan CFX with your favourite settings. Then in the stand-alone player, at the top left corner, select file>save as default.

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See the N1X thread, I posted some results too. Basically a 2012 Mac Mini with 2.5Ghz and Dual-Core CPU is up to the task too.


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Gombessa, has peeked my interest. I have Garritan installed on my iMac, with the samples on a external SSD. However, I still get "cracking" even when I disconnect wifi. I suppose it is simple to connect the mini to the iMac as I will require a monitor for downloading, and to set it up to open on startup. Other smaller VSI's I have run fine on the Mac. So I can leave them there, easy to access if I ever want to. The only other one I occasionally use is PTq.



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