Apple Silicon M1 - system-on-a-chip to Rule Them All.

Well it seems that Apple protect unsigned Applications from running after downloaded from the internet. Thats really bad and I am kinda angry right now… I will search for an easy workaround, stay tuned!


Open Terminal App and paste the following lines:

cd ~/Download
xattr -dr ./

Now you should run Rack without any issue. :slight_smile:


Hey Lars, any news on the M1 Macbook Air with VCV? I’m very curious to see how it performs!


It wont, just buy a PC! All the fans and coolings you cant find on apple products

Hi there, please don’t dilute this thread, which is specifically about Apple Silicon M1. And preferably a good place to find information on how the M1 and possible consecutive models will perform with VCV Rack.

There are plenty of other places to debate on PC vs Mac. Which frankly is a very tiring debate on its own.

Have fun making music! :wink:


Ok, you kicked me, testing right now…

1 Like

Ok, I’ve done some testing on the M1 Macbook Air, and these are the results.

Settings and conditions for all tests, unless noted otherwise:

  • Good headphones directly into the headphone out of the computer.
  • Audio module connected to standard, internal audio interface.
  • 44.1 Khz, blocksize 1024.
  • 1 engine thread used
  • Native (Retina) screen resolution with 60FPS
  • Rack window zoomed to whole screen
  • Screen is on the whole time, powercable is connected.
  • Used CPU is given for the whole machine as such.
  • Temperature readings are given as two readings: 1) By touching the hottest strip of the cabinet, just above the function key row. 2) By touching the cabinet next to the trackpad.
  • When nothing is remarked it means everything works, plays and sounds as it should, with no audio stuttering at all.
  • Each patch is run for 15 minutes straight or more. Any thermal throttling will happen before this.
  • It’s the normal VCV Rack for Mac downloaded and installed, which means an x86/Intel binary running under Rosetta2 on the M1 Mac.
  • Unless otherwise noted, scrolling the Rack is buttery smooth, with no lagging whatsoever. Very graphically satisfying.
  • Also, just as a reminder, the M1 Macbook Air has no fan and so makes no sound at all!
  • This M1 Macbook Air is the base model: 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. In other words: The smallest M1 machine that Apple makes :slight_smile:
  • All test patches are fully wired up and playing actual “music”. This to maximize the chance of getting actual, real-use results.

Before Rack is opened:

  • Used CPU: 2%

Test 1:

  • Rack default patch
  • Used CPU: 11%
  • Temperature: Skin temperature / Cold

Test 2: test-02.vcv (8.1 KB)

  • The Test-1 patch with Midi module replaced with Bogaudio llfo, addr-seq and VCV Qnt:
  • Used CPU: 11%
  • Temperature: Slightly above skin temperature / Slightly below skin temperature

Test 3: test-03.vcv (20.4 KB)

  • The Test-2 patch built out with another row of Plaits, Clouds, 2xRings plus Plateau reverb etc. So a modest and quite musically relevant 2-row patch with 4 voices.
  • Used CPU: 12%
  • Temperature: Slightly warm / Skin temperature

Test 4: test-04.vcv (76.7 KB)

  • The Test-3 patch built out with big mixer+expander, GUI effects, and 3 instances of Dexter. A healthy 6-row patch with 7 voices.
  • Used CPU: 15%. Rack is using about 75% of one core.
  • Temperature: Slightly warm / Skin temperature

Test 5: test-05.vcv (152.9 KB)

  • 3 voices of Dexter with 4 x Dexter in each voice, so 12 Dexters all in all, plus various mixers, reverb, etc. I’ve chosen Dexter for testing because it uses significant CPU.
  • Used CPU: 20%
  • Temperature: Warm / Slightly above skin temperature
  • At this point I had been running Rack with this patch for a couple of hours. I felt out the underside of the cabinet and the side towards the screen is quite warm. Seems like it’s the main heat disipation point of the cabinet. So when you do something CPU intensive on this laptop for a long time you should not be having it on your lap, and it should definately be sitting on a level, hard surface with some airflow underneath.

Test 6: test-06.vcv (284.9 KB)

  • The test-5 patch doubled up, so now 24 instances of Dexter in all. So that’s a 7-row patch of which 6 are overflowing with Dexters.
  • When I added the 5th voice the audio finally started breaking up using 1 engine thread. I bumped it up to 2 threads and everything was fine. After 2 minutes with the full patch it started to break up a little again, and I bumped it up to 3 threads after which it was steady.
  • Scrolling the patch is still completely fluid at this load. Good GPU on that chip.
  • Used CPU: 40%. Rack is using about 280% of one core.
  • Temperature: Hot / A bit above skin temperature. Both the strip above and the underside of the cabinet are hot, but not hotter than you can still touch it continuously without burning yourself or being uncomfortable. The machine is thermally stable also after playing this patch for half an hour.
  • I consider this patch to be very close to the practical limit of this machine. You might get away with adding another row of Dexters (so 4 more) to it, but it will likely get quite hot and another background process starting up and your audio will instantly break up I think.

My conclusion is that this little machine is very capable at running Rack and has a shocking amount of power, runs very cool unless you really push it, with very capable graphics. I feel like with Test-6 I reached the practical limit and don’t plan on doing any further testing. Using more CPU efficient modules than Dexter, I reckon that I could run a 8-10 row patch on this machine. Whether that’s sufficient for you is for you to decide.

I wouldn’t run a PRO studio on this machine alone, but for home use running moderately beefy but non-extreme patches I think it does the job well. It’s been a very pleasant surprise and it’s a fantastic “little” laptop.


Very interesting to hear that Lars - thank you!

I bought a 2020 iMac a few months back as I wanted a new computer and from experience it has generally not been a great idea to buy into the first gen of a new chip architecture - wondering if I made the right choice now haha! (although tbh having a Mac that can run Windows in Bootcamp is useful to me too).

The iMac I have now is very capable with VCV but I imagine the M1 iMac I buy in a few years time will be an absolute beast if your MacBook Air test is anything to go on.

1 Like

You’re welcome, glad to be of help. And I do find these numbers interesting and promising as well.

I know :slight_smile: I’ve been watching a lot of reviews (playlist in my post above) and the M1’s seem to regularly embarrass also much bigger Intel Macs in various ways. My late-2013 iMac 27" with Core i7-4700 3.5Ghz and fast SSD still feels quite snappy, but my gut feeling, without having measured, says that this M1 Air is creaming it in all respects. But yeah, you won’t be running x86 Windows on these machines, not virtualized either, it’ll be emulated at best and very slow.

Yeah, if the recent leaks have any truth to them at all, it seems that Apple is full steam ahead on these chips, and that there’s some monster machines coming in the near future, we’ll see. For me it’s just a very pleasant minor miracle, that we have what seems like a quantum leap in processor and graphics efficiency and performance, which should be great for everyone. That Rack seems, so far, to run comfortably on a slim laptop like the Air without a fan is just… amazing. Quite the departure anyway from its Intel siblings of the last few years, which were really bad at running something like Rack. I’ll continue my testing with bigger patches to see just how far this little miracle will go, but so far I’m very impressed with it.

By the way, could someone help me with info on what our real CPU guzzlers are these days? Is it still “Portland Weather” and then “Dexter”, or…? I need to put some load on this machine and I don’t think CPU efficient modules are going to cut it.

Thanks so much! This is music to my ears - I’ve been teaching myself Rack for the last two months on my aging (but much loved) mid-2012 15-inch Macbook Pro and I keep running into the brick wall of performance limitations. I’ve been waiting quite some time for the new M1’s.

Just to confirm - is this the base model Air with 8GB RAM?

I think I’ll go ahead and grab an Air for now and wait for the possible ‘M1x’ generation and see if they do a ‘performance’ version of the Mini with better I/O etc. Finally a reason to be buying Apple again.

1 Like

Yup, the rock bottom base model: 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. Rack doesn’t really use RAM anyway.

Depends on what you really want and your wallet. If you really want a laptop the Air is great and is silent, but the Pro has a fan, which means you can push it even harder. Depends on how large patches you want to run. If you would actually like a desktop then definately grab an M1 Mini. Even more cooling and a great “little” desktop machine. Supreme value for money! But yeah, there will always be something better tomorrow :slight_smile:

Try and download the test-04 patch above. If you think “plenty for me” you’re home free with the Air for sure. But I haven’t really pushed it yet, will get to that in the next couple of days.

I agree!

Yeah the Mini looks like incredible value for the price, but I need a laptop for work/travel at the moment. And from everything I’ve seen so far the performance throttling on the Air, while present, looks fairly reasonable (beyond Rack as well). I’m really curious to see where they take these chips, especially how they implement them in iMacs/Mac Pros. Crazy to think that these are only first generation M1s…

1 Like

s&h driven modulation, looootttssss of it :wink:

I just bought a new iMac last year so I checked the trade-in value if I bought an M1 MBP now - £600 lol. I’ll be waiting until the M1 desktops come out next year I suppose.

Thanks for testing this Lars! Was watching this thread for news every day. There’s a funny app to check what apps you have installed are actually M1 compatible, that worried me haha.

( 4th app down)

But now, there seems to be sunshine.

Looking forward to new test results!


1 Like

You’re welcome Jeroen.

That app you point to, as far as I can tell it just tells you whether it’s an Intel or Arm binary and that info can just be seen in the Finder in Big Sur. But that just tells you what architecture the program is for, not whether it runs on M1 or not. Both Intel and Arm programs run on M1, but some Intel programs won’t run, or won’t work well because of various reasons, and for those the manufacturer has to update them first.

There’s a good list here of which programs do or don’t run on M1/Apple Silicon:

Maybe I should add VCV Rack to it, when I’m done with my testing :slight_smile:

Oh, and by the way, I won’t be testing all 2000+ VCV Rack modules. It’s certainly possible that some developer used some Intel specific instructions in one of their modules that will make it not run on M1, no guarantees where that’s concerned. But VCV Rack runs, that’s for sure. Maybe some enterprising soul can start a M1 certification test and try out each and every module :slight_smile:


Aha ok. I had that app running on my High Sierra Xeon machine and all apps were intel compatible only, but according to your research it is useless info then haha.

Will keep a close watch to your findings man, thanks a bunch!!


thanks a lot Lars for your time testing the M1.

Very good approach.

As you’ve proposed, I’m working with this patch and my iMAC 2017 i5 is at almost 85% and glitches appears. I had to disable some voices (hidden on the left to limit screen refresh) to save some CPU workload. If you don’t mind trying it (no worries if you can’t)

spontex-spaceship.vcv (290.5 KB)

Cheers Spontex


If it helps, this runs fine on my 2019 iMac i5 even with all the modules enabled.

Thanks a lot for your feedback. Very kind It runs but when I move the mouse over some modules or patch cable, a glitch can happen. Cheers Spontex