Macbook Air and VCV Rack - Any good?

I don’t run Macs myself, but I wanted to get my son set up on his MacBook Air 2019. Even with a fairly modest patch which runs fine on a clapped out i3 running Windows, it was all stuttery and distorted on the MacBook.

Is it just not good enough to run Rack, or is there some trick to do? External soundcard maybe?

If Rack can run at all on a £34 Raspberry Pi… but hey :smile:. Thank for any advice.

Rack and Macbook GPU’s don’t play well together but you might find some handy tips here:

It’s worth serching “Macbook” too.

Hope this is some help!

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Thanks, I did search first - of course I did :smile: but it’s mostly about the MacBook Pro. He’s not very tolerant of techie fuss so if doesn’t work off that bat he won’t use it. Shame but there we are. I just wanted to hear if anyone did have working on an Air.

what always helps too if your hardware is simply too slow is to reduce the sample rate - in the vcvrack menu you can only go down to 44.1khz but you can set it to 32000 or 22050 in settings-v1.json - very very few modules might not work too well with such low sampling rates but most just work fine and with this it is possible to get vcvrack running ok on nearly anything :slight_smile:

best wishes - hexdump

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Thanks @hexdump I’ll try that one thing. These computers are expensive, I know it’s a lower spec machine but really!

one other thing you should do (besides the already mentioned frame rate reduction from the linked other discussions) is to disable retina which i think the 2019 macbook air has (the older ones do not have it) - not sure how exactly that goes, but i’m sure you’ll find some info - this takes away quite a bit of rendering efforts from vcvrack …

update: there is a link with more info about that in this section here: FAQ — VCV Rack documentation

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Thanks. As I say, he’s not going to tolerate that kind of thing. For him the whole point having a Mac is that you don’t have to get your hands dirty taking the carburettor to bits.

But - Man Alive! I just tried taking down the sample rate with the .json edit you suggested and it’s really reduced the CPU on my Windows box. I can’t hear a difference in the output, but then I’m a lo-fi kind of guy. You done me a bit of good there, thank you.

Now I feel I want to buy a cheap old laptop, stick linux on it and away. Or maybe revisit Rack on the Raspberry Pi. It worked, but didn’t have enough oomph to run the patch I need - maybe with this setting it will?

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I’ve always had problems with the fan being at full speed on my Macbook Pro so I thought I’d try some of these suggestions. It’s a small patch, but reducing the frame rate to anything less than the default of 59 stopped the fan.

I would reduce the frame rate, and if the audio still stutters increase the block size. The intel integrated GPUs always seem to cause performance problems on mac laptops.


  • Computer: MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)
  • Processor: 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
  • Memory: 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB
  • VCV Rack: v1.1.6
  • CPU meter: OFF
  • Sample Rate: 44.1kHz
  • Number of Modules: 24
  • Threads: 1 (lowest CPU usage)
  • Audio block size: 256
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@Soxsa - the raspberry pi version has all those optimizations built in already - it runs by default with a 32khz sample rate - you can lower it to 22.05khz in the sonaremin.conf file to get about 40% more power for vcvrack …

Thanks, yes I discovered that was the case. Still running a bit too hot though for my patch sadly.

Yeah, many many threads have already been expended on the fact that the Intel based Macbooks are horrible for Rack. The bottom line is that it’s a too hot CPU, stuck in a too tiny cabinet, with too little cooling, and with a GPU which is not up for the job. Thankfully the story is completely different with the new M1 Macs:


Thanks @LarsBjerregaard, yes seems like flogging the dead horse.

Again, trust me, I do search the answers first over all sorts of things - you’re just seeing the ones that I didn’t get a clear answer to. True there’s lots of threads but moslty about MacBook Pro, also you can’t easily tell how big or intensive the patches are they are having problems with. Some patches I see on here are HUGE!

So, I’m giving up on getting running on an Air, until he buys a new one :smile:

However, thanks to @hexdump I’ve got some new valuable info that makes for better running on my Windows PCs. I’m glad I posted :smiley:


@Soxsa - you really did not get it working somehow with disabling retina, lowering the framerate and lowering the sample rate? a macbook air might not be the best machine for vcvrack, but to some degree it should work too - i once did run it quite well on an old 2011 macbook air and it was ok … i’m a bit surprised

regarding the rpi you said it was running too hot - do you mean temperature wise? you’ll need a good heat sink and/or fan for the rpi in case you want to run vcvrack on it …

best wishes - hexdump

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The son is remote, and doing any of those things for him is awkward. I know, I know…

By ‘hot’ I was meaning too much CPU. I do have it in a nice case with a fan, so it’s not actually all that hot. But the patch was running up at high CPU and I don’t think that’s going to be robust. I’m sad about it, coz I’d love to run this stuff on RPi, and particularly all the work you’ve put into the port.

You know I love VCV but I have to acknowledge it does use a lot of resources.

I have a macbook pro 2.6ghz 6 core i7 (2019), 16 GB of ram and ive been using VCV rack for a few years now. Not one issue. So im just reading through the comments wondering what systems you guys are running since I didn’t even think it was an issue. Never changed any sample rate settings, just plug (installed) and play. I’ve had massive racks full of modules and didn’t one think about performance since it was never an issue. Been considering those M1 macbooks but im waiting until I actually need it, like i see the benefit cause right now everything seems to be running fine, Ableton, soft synths, Bitwig VCV rack, I even have a bunch of Kontakt and NI software thats known to kill a system and all is well.


AFAIK the worst mac offenders with rack in recent years have been the thin Intel MacBooks with integrated Intel GPUs. That means pre M1 air, and pre M1 13” MBP (especially after they moved to the thin chassis in 2016.) Your 16” i7 has a discrete GPU, it’s not one of the vcv problem macs.

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