Which Mac would be recommended for using Rack

Hey everyone, that’s my first post and I’m an absolute newbie with VCV. I’m working with Ableton for a while now and some drum machines/ synths. Switched back to Ableton after some DAWless experiments but my budget is simply too low to buy all the elements to make it really diversified and interesting.

My MacBook 12" (early 2016, 1,1 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core m3), which I primarily bought for university/ work, is running into heavy performance issues once I start working with VCV or Multi-track projects in Ableton Live. Since its almost 5 years old now, I was wondering which devices are generally recommended by the community. I saw many posts that were mentioning MBPs having performance issues as well, is that still the case with 2020 models?!

Also, Apple is about to launch the new silicone processors this/next year, which are independent from Intel and AMD. While they sound almost too good to be true performance and energy-usage wise, I fear that those do not support all the software I’d like to use and work with.

Anyone got some helpful input here for me? I’d prefer a Mac since I prefer the OS but when those issues are common with all devices out of the upper high-end range I might consider switching to something else.

Thanks a lot!

The main problems with MBPs is heat. A similarly priced iMac will generally perform much better if portability is not critical.

While the new Apple processors certainly sound interesting and promise a lot, based on previous experience I would never buy into the first generation of a totally new processor/architecture - there are practically guaranteed to be issues and being an early adopter will probably be a painful experience. Wait until at least Rev 2 and possibly Rev 3 - so that’s maybe 3 years away.

I just bought a 2020 8 core 27" iMac and it runs VCV very well.


Hi Steve,

I absolutely agree with you, furthermore is the pricing of “older” devices probably decreasing once apple launched the new machines what would be a great point for buying a 2020/19/18 model.

I guess you are talking about a regular iMac or is it a pro model? The regular ones would fit into my budget, however, the portability unfortunately IS a huge factor for me. That’s why I was always looking into MBPs but the heat problems are a huge downside.

Maybe I will just go with an older model and live with some performance restrictions until there is something more affordable available that solves my problem.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Hi Marius, and welcome to the forum!

Maybe you can try and revive this thread about using a Mac Mini in combo with eGPU.

A couple of contributors in that thread were getting into using a Mac mini. So maybe they have some up to date insight?


Hi Marius.

I still use a 2015 MacBook Pro, and while it has plenty of processor power for VCV it’s the video card usage that makes it sound like a jet plane taking off. It’s a fantastic machine in most regards, but both Ableton and VCV Rack heavily use the video card. VCV allows you to tweak the frame rate down, which helps a LOT. But it’s still loud. I don’t think even an old MBP is going to solve your problem.

Honestly? If you really need portability, I’d look at a Windows laptop instead.

Still haven’t picked up that Mac Mini I talked about in the other thread. Was all set to but then but COVID and having to be responsible with my finances. But hey, my family is healthy, I’m healthy, and employed. So I’m not gonna complain too much. :wink:


I tend to agree. Have heard nothing but problems from MBP users. I get the impression that a “gaming PC” should be up to the job. Of course they are expensive. It’s too bad - VCV runs really well on a pretty modest computer that isn’t a laptop.


Hi Marius,

I too used to have the “jet engine MBP” problems–excessive fan use, overheating, glitching, high CPU etc.–til I found and followed as many of the instructions on this FAQ from the VCV Rack documentation as I could (to wit: open in low resolution, lower frame rate, high block size, low thread count), and now I don’t have them anymore.

Current system (not terribly new, not terribly high-end, works fine for me):

When I say “works fine for me,” I mean: I don’t really care if the animation/graphics isn’t running at a terribly high frame rate (I care much more about the sound, and to me Rack sounds fantastic), and I get good performance from the patches I like to make; ymmv depending on how much stuff you want to pack into your rack, I suppose.

As to the new processors: for whatever it’s worth, as a seasoned Mac user, I’m definitely going to be following the approach advocated by @steve above (wait for later revisions).

Hope this is helpful to you, and welcome aboard!


Thanks for the link!

My main machine is a Del XPS running Arch, but I have an older (mid-2015) Macbook as a backup machine. I tried doing some VCV work on it last night… and was kind of disappointed with the results. Granted it is an old machine, but it drained my battery in about 1/2 hour and could barely hear the music over the fan and the glitches.

I’ll have to try these things.

Great, best of luck there – I will mention that I had more problems on older hardware (of a vintage similar to what you are describing), so, unfortunately your mileage may vary. My 2017 laptop is old, but not quite as old as that.

In any case, let us know how it goes!

I’m using a HP Pavillion laptop for VCV without any issues, it has a ryzen 5 4600H cpu and a dedicated nvidia gtx 1650 graphics card and 8gig ram. That isn’t too expensive imho. at least it is much cheaper as a comparable MBP.

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I have looked at that FAQ a bunch of times and never realized “low resolution mode” was a thing. THANK. YOU! That actually helps significantly with fan noise. The UI does look like ass in this mode though. :slight_smile:

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