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Is the iPad Pro 2021 with M1 Chip the best iPad for music production?
Hi all. For the past three years I’ve been using an iPad Pro 10.5 for making music. I’ve run up against several limitations that I believe are due to this iPad’s hardware. Synths, like Model 15, produce crackles even using one instance; the Fabfilter plugins cause crackles—again, just using one at a time; SugarBytes Drum Computer “hiccups” and will randomly change the pitch of some drums while playing—these are just a few examples. I’d like to get a new iPad that can run these and other apps without any problems. So, is the iPad Pro 2021 11” (256GB—I cant afford any more space) with the M1 Chip my best bet? I know it would be a 4GB RAM increase for me and that the M1 is a major upgrade to my current chip, but I’ve also read that iPadOS doesn’t actually take advantage of the M1. I’ve been reading reviews and looking at comparisons till my eyes have bled, so I thought I would ask you guys in the hope of getting a straight answer. Thanks in advance for your help!
Get 2020 11” if you are on a tight budget. As you’ve pointed out currently iOS cannot take a full advantage of the m1 chip. The screen seems to be the biggest upgrade.
I’m using an 2020(21?)Air with the A14 chip. Well capable and far cheaper than the new pro models
If you're using Cubasis 3 with a decent audio interface the M1 iPad Pro has huge advantages because Cubasis 3 makes great use of the M1's multiple cores (I've been running projects with 80+ devices in Cubasis without dropouts). I think it will be a while before many apps can take advantage of the 16Gb RAM of the high storage M1's but the 8GB in the 256GB and less models, is very useful. iPadOS may be limited with regards to shared AUv3 memory but there are greater memory considerations than AUv3s.
If you think of the M1 as 'just' an A14X the performance on iPad makes more sense.
The M1 isn't a huge increase in performance over, say the A14 in the iPad Air. It's basically the same performance you'd expect from an A14X if you extrapolate the performance the extra cores would give you. i.e. no increase at all in single core
performance, a significant multi-core increase.
So effectively the M1 is an A14X in an iPad. There's nothing Magic about the 'M'.
I have the same 2021 iPad Pro that you are thinking about. I had a iPad 6 before and it was easy to get the crackles. Now I can run several instances of Model D. Even my most complex projects have a lot of DSP headroom. @Paa89 was able to run 80+ audio tracks in Cubasis 3.3. Looking at the benchmarks the M1 is the much more capable chip compared to its predecessors and the biggest difference is in the multi-core figures. Most apps are not yet using multi-core processing but Cubasis 3 is doing that very well. It’s true that iPadOS is not yet utilizing the full potential of the M1 but I think this is just a question of time. I think this device is much more future proof for the extra money compared to the Air 4.
I’ve read a lot of good things about the iPad Air 2020 10.9”. The A14 bionic chip sounds very capable, and the price is nice, but I’m concerned about only getting 4GB of RAM. Have you run any of the apps I mentioned above? If so, how do they do? Have you maxed out this iPad’s performance? What can it handle?
Yes, future proof is also a big concern. Cubasis 3 is my primary DAW, but does AUM utilize the multi-core processing as well? Have you pushed this iPad to its limits, i.e. have you caused an app to crash or produce crackles? What did it take?
80+ MIDI tracks? What are some of the apps you’re running?
As you can see from the Six Colors benchmarks (a sterling effort by Jason Snell), the multicore performance of the M1 has significant advantages over the 2020 Air and 2021 Mini. Single-core scores show less of an advantage. As to whether the M1 iPad Pro is worth the extra outlay, it really depends if you're only going to use single core hosts or a host like Cubasis 3 that can take advantage of multiple cores.
Thank you for the benchmark chart.
What other DAWS take advantage of multiple cores? Does AUM?
I think AUM is not using multi-core. So far Cubasis is very stable and if an AU crashed I think its rather a bug. Happens rarely anyway. I never really made a stress test but I tried something quick now.
I loaded one of my projects into Cubasis that is using in total 29 plugins, among them Synthmaster 2, Bleass Alpha, Fab filters and Model D. The Model D track has got FAC Phazer, Bleass Saturator and Multiband Haas Effect. It also has automation on Cutoff and Sustain. I was able to duplicate this track 13 times. After adding the 15th Model D track some light crackles started.
I quicky created an AUM session with a similar number of notes played by Cykle but no automation. I added a channel with Model D and the same FX plugins. I could have 6 instances in total. After adding the 7th the DSP went deeply into the red, about 110%, and audio was fully distorted.
I know this is not a decent test but I think this clearly shows the great multi-core performance of the M1 and also the multi-core rendering of Cubasis. Details were explained here: https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/42746/cubasis-3-2-multicore-rendering-latency-settings
Update: I used Model D as a benchmark because it is known for its resource hunger and probably not very efficient way of doing things.
AFAIK, Cubasis 3 is the only iOS host that currently offers multicore advantages. Steinberg has huge advantages over other developers in the sense that they've already gone through the challenge of converting their desktop programs to take advantage of multiple cores. It's no mean feat to achieve.
However, I'm sure other developers will look to take advantage of multiple cores. It may take time to get those capabilities to market, but they will get there in the end. The main advantage of pro computing is multiple high-performance cores, but taking advantage of these cores is more complicated for audio applications than it is for e.g. graphical applications such as 3d rendering, which is totally reliant on massively cored hardware, be that GPU or CPU.
The stuff that is running around in the tech press and YouTube about iPadOS not taking advantage of the M1 is basically nonsense. It all started because of a post that simply ignored most of how memory management works on iOS and has spread to become an undying meme.
But, that doesn't mean that the M1 in the iPad Pro will be much of a boost over the A14 Air or even the new A15 Mini for you. It's going to depend on your use case. There are some architectural differences between the M1 and the A14 that give the M1 advantages. But the A15 has a few changes that give it a boost too. The caches in the A15 look to be double those of the A14 and the efficiency cores performance have a significant boost. It may seem like the efficiency cores being faster wouldn't be important but they can be. Even in a a DAW that is only providing one DSP thread and all the AU's are only using the main thread, there's all sorts of other threading going on that can impact the audio thread. Lots of the times I've seen crackling on my old iPad it was because the UI was starting to impact the overall performance. iOS is well optimized for the audio threads and they run at a very high priority, but the UI threads run at a relatively high priority as well.
The first thing I'd note is that there might be something else going on in your setup causing problems. I could run 3 or 4 instances of the Moog Model 15 in AUM on my first gen iPad Pro. If you are seeing distortion with one instance, then something else could be wrong. Is there something doing heavy graphics processing for the UI in the chain?
I've done some poking around with the Xcode Instruments app and from what I saw AUM is using a single audio thread. If I remember correctly, GarageBand had two realtime threads running. I'll have to do that test again now that I have iOS 15 on the M1 Pro.
Another thing to think about when looking towards the future is that AU's can also run multiple audio threads. For smaller AU's this is almost always a bad idea, but as we are starting to see larger more complex AU's on iOS I'd expect some of them will start to use multiple audio threads too.
For now, the new Mini or the soon to be released Air might be just as good the M1 Pro for your use case, but that should change to an advantage to the M1 in the future.
It does. About 1.7x the score of the Air.
It's also about 1.5x the performance of an A12Z both in single and multi-core benchmarks.
What's quite remarkable is that the A14 iPad Air almost matches the A12Z powered iPad Pros for multi-core performance despite having fewer cores. And the iPhone 12 pros aren't too far behind that... Those A14/M1 series cores are pretty damn speedy.
You can see more devices compared on the geek bench site: https://browser.geekbench.com/ios-benchmarks
@brgreg78 BTW, I think the random hickups of DrumComputer is not a problem of your device. It is the humanize or fill-in function of the app. You can turn that off.
I made another quick test with Model 15 without any effects and without an audio device. Just playing a sequence of 10 16th notes. With AUM I could run 11 instances and with Cubasis 33. I also tried Model 15 on my 2016 MacBook Pro 2.9 GHz Core i5 16 GB and I could not run more than one instance 😂 but I don‘t know this comparison is okay.
I wondered if that was the problem, but I never found a setting to turn off.
Thank you for running those tests—those numbers are very impressive! It sounds like this iPad turns Cubasis into a real beast!
There’s nothing else in the chain, I get crackles in stand-alone but only in some patches with five or more notes playing.
Thanks for all the info, btw!
Dear Krassmann - thanks for this insights - sounds impressive -
May I ask about the buffer size which you used while your tests?
But not so sure about the DrumComputer hiccups - I made the same experience that it easily adds to much to my DSP-level and cause crackles ... when i add to a quite regular AUM project ... and I am sure its the graphics of the sequencer - cause it mostly occurs while switching there and stops after leaving the sequencer view -
IPad Pro 12,9 2017 here ...
On balance, I think the sweet spot for the M1 iPad Pro in terms of cost against performance is the 256Gb 12.9in model. You only get the great screen on the 12.9in models, and the 16Gb of RAM with the 512GB and 1Tb models is complete overkill for the current generation of ipadOS apps. Having said that if you factor 24 months ownership it's likely that more apps will be able to take advantage of the complete gamut of iPad Pro internals. But those 512Gb and 1TB cost a crazy amount of cash.
I've mentioned this elsewhere before, the 256Gb 12.9in M1 iPad Pro is my favourite computing device in a long history of computer ownership going back to the 80s. It delights in so many ways beyond the stuff we talk about on this forum. The screen is so good that I choose to watch new movie releases on the iPad Pro screen because I feel totally locked into the content in a way I haven't felt since we first purchased a large format TV. For graphics workflows, it's become capable in ways that traditional computing devices can't match (production quality photogrammetry has been the biggest surprise). And when hooked up to a joypad, it rocks as a gaming device too.
Sure, when push comes to shove it's still an iPad and paying in excess of 1K for an iPad stung a little but I've had absolutely no regrets spending a laptop budget on an iPad.
Make sure you're running the latest versions of everything (including iOS 15.0.1) before throwing out or selling the old one.
I also use Pro 10.5" with 256 GB. Yesterday I made an update from iOS 13.4.1 to 15.0.1 and I thought I killed the tablet % of the charge disappeared with every blink of an eye and the 120Hz turned into maybe 30 Hz, so lag. I thought I screwed up and I won't sell it now, But I left it on the night in the charger and today looks like the iPad back alive. It's just as smooth as before and the battery seems to work similarly, ufff.
EDIT: You shouldn't worry to update if you think about that - as @NeuM proposed. But make sure it's 15.0.1 (not 15.0). I have read about trobule with iOS 15.0 and 10.5". If you have doubts here is also instuction how to restore iOS to your current iOS using SHSH2 BLOBS, even if it's unsigned by Apple, but you have to be careful with that procedure.
I waited a long time for the successor of the Pro from 2020 and I have decided and ordered Pro 2021 (11" 256 GB) as you thinking to buy as well. At begining I ordered the 12.9". I promised myself in the past that the next iPad will be 12.9". But the next day I went to the store to do a little play with it and I was terrified by its big size. Then I went to a friend who has 12.9" to play with it at home environment for a few hours, which confirmed my fears. To help myself I created a list of points what is important to me and it turned out in my case there is a 4:2 for 11" and 3:0 for 11" in critical points. You can make a similar list of points that are important to you to help with decision.
weight (critical) - 11"
convenience of use and mobility (critical) - 11"
lack of blooming (critical) - 11"
price (important) - 11"
workspace area for music app (important) - 12,9"
deep black color (important) - 12,9"
I'm not saying to not buy the 12.9". Still, despite my logic, I would like to have a 12.9" because of beautiful screen. Model 15 on the vertical 12.9" it's like dream come true But I use iPad not only for music, but for all other things, and I choose universality. As for the music itself, if I used mainly AUM, size would be a critical point also due to the workspace area and the number of plugins on the screen. However I use traditional DAW mainly and I think 11" is enough for that. Maybe Apple will release 12.0" in the future with micro-led and no blooming effect, then I will be happy to switch to something in the middle between 11" and 13" after next 4-5 years from now. I keep my fingers crossed for your new iPad, whichever you choose. Cheers
Sorry, I forgot those DrumComputer settings to turn this off. If the hiccups occur regularly every couple of bars it is these fill-ins.
I ran my AUM tests at 48kHz, 16 bit, 256 frames. Cubasis, see the screenshot
After a big system update, it's good standard practice to do a force restart/reboot on iOS.
Ok, wow - that’s truly impressive ...
And the buffer inside of AUM during your tests?
Yep, i did this on my ipad pro 11 2018, it was roughly 70 audio tracks and over 100 plug-ins, builtin and third party. Here is the video
A sorry - my mistake - you wrote it there ...
Have overseen it ...
@brgreg78 - Something is really wrong here. You might want to spend some time trying to figure out what is causing this abnormally low performance before buying new hardware with he possibility of simply running into the same issues.
What buffer settings are you running into that you run into crackles at one instance with Model 15 and FabFilter plugins? I can run more than that on my Air 2!
Are you sure that the crackles are due to dropout, or is it possible volume is just too high? Some Model 15 and Model D patches are ridiculously hot.
Have you tried various optimizations, such as force quitting apps when done with them, minimizing background activity, rebooting, running in airplane mode?
Also - as mentioned, the Drum Computer thing has nothing to do with performance. At the bottom - right you'll see Remix, Auto 1, and Auto 2. Remix should be highlighted to avoid the automatic "fills" that are affecting pitch.
I figure after three years you've probably tried most of these things, but I can't help but think there's just something fundamentally wrong here since I have much, much older hardware and get along with it just fine.
@brgreg78 : I agree with wim. If you are running model 15 standalone with no other apps running, it is Uber-surprising that you would have performance related crackling (unless MAYBE you are running with a buffer of 64).
Is this the case after a hard reset?
What OS version are you running?
Exactly the same feeling for me. I've been using computers for a long time and have had the opportunity with work and school to use some of the most powerful and amazing computing systems that have been built. Every time I open up the new Pro I still think it is just mind blowing. The screen is near perfection and it fits in a device that's almost just the screen in all three dimensions.
That is kinda strange. There was a bug in the D and 15 a bit ago that caused some pretty bad performance issues, but they cleared them up with a couple of betas and updates. Kinda makes me wonder if there is something going on with your particular device that is related. But, then you have issues with some Fabfilter plugs too.
There may be something there that you can track down and fix because it does feel strange. But, if you actually do want to upgrade anyway, maybe it isn't worth the time. I'd guess that you might end up having to wipe the device clean and don't do a backup to see if it is an issue with configuration or some other software.
Whatever you consider doing, it is likely the new Air might be released this month. If they end up putting a maxed A15 in the Air it could easily end up being the best device to run AUM on for the next couple of years.