Building a Recording Studio - Mac Pro + thunderbolt drives

I’ve been tasked with configuring the hardware for our music recording studio renovation.

Because the producer is more familiar with Apple products, and because everything is Thunderbolt 2 and below, we’re going with a Mac Pro.

I was hoping to find a decent rackmount RAID array with thunderbolt to connect to the Mac Pro, but it looks like I’m stuck with desktop arrays and buying shelves for the rack.

Any recommendations?

He originally requested “3 x 1 TB drives”, but I’m not sure if he means 3TB usable storage or 3 separate volumes. He is on his honeymoon right now, so I’m going to assume he means 3TB usable plus some other volume to back things up.

He requested “fast enough for audio” which I would roll my eyes at if we didn’t have issues in the past with drives being too slow for multitrack editing.

So I guess my question is, if you were to build an audio editing rig with 3TB of usable storage, what components would you use?

Do any of you have experience with OWC’s ThunderBay units? They have some with software RAID “built in”, or those that just use Apple Software RAID… both of which don’t make me feel too comfortable (I’m more of a hardware RAID kind of guy).

Despite the software RAID, this looks interesting:

I’d be tempted to just populate that with some 2TB drives in RAID 5 and then get another less robust large drive to back up the data.

How many tracks will you be recording at one time?

Looking back, we’ve recorded about 15 tracks at a time (considering different mics for each drum, etc). Then again, I’ve also seen 30+ tracks layered on top of each other with various effects, so even though they may not be recording 30+ tracks at once, the software may need to play back (and apply effects to) 30+ tracks while recording an additional track over it.

I can definitely see the need for higher speed.

I’m seriously considering the OWC 4-drive enclosure, especially considering I have some 2TB SAS drives available.

We’re pretty audio and video heavy and I’ve found that speed over volume is much more important for audio. We are a full Fiber SAN setup but for local stuff we use a 256 GB SSD for “Active Projects” and then you could have the Thunderbolt RAID setup to auto archive the active drive every night. We also use Mac Pro’s, spring for the long format 4k monitors as well. You can see a ton more on a single session and don’t have to spend time scrolling tracks or bouncing between multiple monitors.


Great insight!

The guy is pretty sold on two 1080 monitors mounted on top of each other.

Since he wants normal office monitors it won’t be a big deal to swap those out for a 4K later.

Any thoughts on 4 core vs 6 core Mac Pro for audio production in ProTools + plugins?

We’re an iSCSI SAN shop here, but until we run new fiber to the studio I don’t trust throughput over the network.

Check this out: Sonnet Technologies

Makes the trashcan rack-mountable, provides bays for HDDs and/or SSDs, and provides PCIe slots for audio or video capture cards. All connected to the Mac via Thunderbolt 2.

I’ve not had reason to use one yet, but they look neat. A bit pricey, but it might be what you are looking for.

Man, that looks pretty sweet!

I can’t justify the cost for this project (although, TBH I still think a rackmount PC would be the proper tool for the job), but man I’d love to have a good use for one of those. :slight_smile:

We have a “trashcan” Mac Pro that we use a Thunderbolt PCI card slot rack mount to control the Pro Tools HDX system. We run about 50 tracks for a typical Sunday morning so we need a lot of external processing power.

We use this: Sonnet Technologies

We edit on the internal storage on the Mac Pro. Each of our services usually runs around 40gb for a 1 hour and 30 minute service. After we’re done with our raw audio, we store them on a Thunderbolt external.