Sound Devices 702 review. Digital recorder summary.
recording music, sound effects, broadcast, CDs.

Michael Oster
"I'm that one person who when they hear a skipping, stuttering CD playing is shouting, 'Keep it going, I can do something with that!" more

Michael Oster - discography
Podcast - the Difficult Listening Channel
Michael Oster - latest news and credit information





Field recording
Field Recording
Get out of the studio and record the sounds around you. more
podcast "the Difficult Listening Channel"

Experience "the Difficult Listening Channel" podcast where the sounds in my head become the sounds in yours. more

podcast "the Difficult Listening Channel"

Hear what I'm currently doing with Reaktor

My podcast "the Difficult Listening Channel" where the sounds in my head become the sounds in yours. more

Electric PlacentaLand 2013 Michael Oster
Electric PlacentaLand
Electric PlacentaLand is loud and intense. Its sonic textures and colors change, evolve and don't let you go. It's a blending of sound deconstruction and aural rebirth more
...Aliens Invade!
An experiment in human artificial intelligence sends an errant signal into space and aliens are inadvertently contacted. Then it gets weird. more
...Aliens Invade!
MacBook Air - my new laptop noise machine

This tiny beast packs a punch!


For the last 5 years, my main laptop has been a MacBook (late 2007 model) running an Intel Core 2 Duo at 2.2GHz. It's been a great machine and it's put up with a lot of abuse over the years. But it's really starting to show it's age. Not so much in the speed department (except where Reaktor is concerned - more on that later), but literally it's starting to come apart at the seams.


So I decided that before I get stuck with a dead computer it's time to make the move now. That being said, I opted for an 11" MacBook Air. I don't have a lot of extra room in the studio and I've still got a vintage 2005 11" PowerBook G4 in use, so the smaller screen size doesn't bother me. I know, there's a tradeoff in speed and connections of the MacBook Pro over this little "Air", but as I found out and will show you below, the Air is a very capable machine.

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My new Laptop Noise Machine - Apple MacBook Air

(mid-2012) 11" model
Intel i7 CPU dual core 2.0GHz
128 GB SSD, 8GB RAM
MacBook Air and vintage 2007 C2D MacBook running Reaktor soft synths
MacBook Air and Reaktor

Now a big concern for me was how would this MacBook Air handle my latest Reaktor creations. I found that some of my more recent works were bringing my Core 2 Duo MacBook to its knees. I was hitting the processor limits despite everything I was doing to maximize the capabilities of that machine. Now to be fair, or unfair depending on how you look at it, my Reaktor designs are a little 'barbaric'. I mean, I've checked out other people's work and mine seems a little 'crude' in comparision, but it gets the job done (at least that's my opinion).


I checked online and compared Geekbench scores of both machines and I came out with an unscientific estimate of about a doubling of processing power of the Air over the older C2D MacBook.


To be even more unscientific, and as fair as I could be, I tapped into my 'super engineering skills' and ran a test of my own once I had the new MacBook Air in studio and set up. It was simple enough: I opened and ran the same synth on Reaktor on both machines and noted the CPU usage. Both systems were running at the same sample rate of 48k. Here's what I came up with:

Right: Side by side the 11" MacBook Air and on the right the 13" MacBook.

Note the bulging battery on the underside of my white MacBook (probably need to replace that). Oh, and the tape on the right side bottom of the case. That MacBook has been through a lot over the years.

Another thing: The MacBook Air makes my other laptops feel like bricks! There's a huge perceived weight difference. When I go to the Air I feel like I'm missing the "other part" of the computer... meaning the "fat". These thngs have come a really long way!
MacBook Late 2007 C2D 2.2GHz system was running the synth at 92% CPU which is really past the "useable" end for Reaktor in my experience. Reaktor was sluggish and lagged. I could hear "glitches and dropouts" in the audio.


MacBook Air mid 2012 i7 2.0GHz system was running the synth at 43% CPU which is well within the limits of Reaktor.


Note: these were "idle" readings meaning that I was not playing the hell out of the synths but they were running and spewing audio :-)
There was only one thing that the older MacBook seemed to beat the Air on, and this was unexpected to me. In Reaktor, the Air showed a bit of a graphics lag (and an audio lag) when hitting the "randomize" function (I know, then don't hit 'randomize' - but I love 'randomize'). Now before you jump in with the Air's lack of a dedicated graphics card, remember that this particular MacBook also didn't have any dedicated graphics, so in theory, they should be equal. In reality, I figured that the Air would have the edge in the graphics just because of the more recent technology.


But it gets even more strange. In other respects, the graphics of the Air outpaced the MacBook everywhere else. Surfing the web, playing video, changing screens in programs. The Air was much snappier than the MacBook. So, why did it lag in Reaktor?
Hear more of my Reaktor creations in action!!
Messages From Space

The prequel to "...Aliens Invade!" Weeks before the invasion a series of messages were sent to Earth. Complex and confusing, but highly specific instructions were embedded within a stream containing thousands of random sounds.... more
Made on the MacBook Air and Reaktor