Mac Audio Optimization 101
Tweaking the Mac OS can bring a noticeable performance boost in both old and new Macs. You already know these machines are reliable and fast, right out of the box. This is fine for light duty tasks, but power users know better. Things like heavy DAW sessions, middleware, game engines and video trailers/cut scene work can cripple even the highest-spec Mac. Factory default settings can be tweaked to improve speed and stability. Optimizing the OS is the first step in leveling up the audio performance of your DAW.
Upgrading your system drive to an SSD (solid state drive) is commonly known to bring faster speeds. Upgrading memory is the next piece of the hardware puzzle. Factory RAM can be upgraded, so it's important to max it out with high quality memory from a reputable vendor. For those running demanding game audio sessions on a macbookpro, maxing out RAM is a smart move and takes your system closer to its full potential.
It's also important to use a second, dedicated audio drive for audio. Sample libraries and virtual instruments often require large amounts of space and reading/writing audio should happen outside of the system drive. This is another area where having an SSD brings the highest possible performance. A dedicated audio drive is a must-have piece of gear. The following tweaks work for optimizing both hard drives:
OSX Audio Tweaks
The following OSX tweaks work with Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks and Mountain Lion. Disabling unwanted services and resource-hogging processes are known to improve performance. Phantom pops or clicks in audio and random crashes can be caused by these. Remove every single icon from your desktop and uninstall antivirus programs (ClamXav is ok though). Check your DAW website forum to find the latest drivers, updates and performance tweaks. The buffer size, audio latency and sample rate may need to be tweaked for optimum responsiveness.
1. Turn off Wifi (System Preferences > Network) Click "Turn off Wifi" - Network activity can potentially interfere with your audio playback and disabling it improves performance.
2. Turn off Bluetooth. (System Preferences > Bluetooth)
3. Turn off the Firewall. (System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall) make sure Firewall is Off.
4. Disable Firevault Protection (System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault) click the Turn Off FileVault button
5. Remove Startup Items (except for DAW/hardware specific items) (Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users & Groups > Admin Account > Login Items) remove any Startup items not associated with your audio software
6. Disk Management (System Preferences > Energy Saver) set Computer Sleep to Never. Make sure "Put hard disks to sleep when possible" is NOT checked.
7.Reduce Transparency (System Preferences > Accessibility) Choose Display and check "reduce transparency"
8.Change Minimize Windows Effect (System Preferences > Dock) choose the "Scale Effect" in the 'Minimize windows using'
9. Disable Sleep (System Preferences > Energy Saver) move the computer/display sliders to "never sleep" and uncheck "Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible"
10. Disable Automatic Graphics Switching (System Preferences > Energy Saver > Power Adapter) uncheck "Automatic Graphics Switching"
11. Disable Automatic Updates (System Preferences > App Store) Uncheck the "Automatically check for updates" box
12. Disable Sudden Motion Sensor (Macintosh HD > Applications Folder > Utilities folder > Double-click on Terminal)
Type this: sudo pmset -a sms 0 and press Return. Enter your administrator when prompted. Type sudo pmset -g to verify that this has been applied.
Over time, a hard drive can get bogged down with the daily rigors of usage. Repairing permissions can reorganize file structure, remove clutter and encourage cleaner operations
(Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility) select Macintosh HD and click Repair Disk Permissions. Repeat this for any other Hard Drives you have connected.
Although OS X does a good job of managing memory on it's own, users who run heavy sessions with high plugin count can purge memory at the command line. This forces memory cache to be emptied as if it a computer was rebooted.
(Macintosh HD > Applications Folder > Utilities folder > Double-click on Terminal)
Type this: sudo purge
NVRAM corruption is rare, but reseting it can fix weird audio problems. With your mac off, press the power button, and as soon as you hear the startup chime, hold down Command-Option-P-R at the same time. Keep holding down those keys until you hear a second startup chime. Then let go and allow your Mac to continue starting normally. Be sure all USB devices are disconnected when doing this.
The SMC manages system hardware for power consumption, battery charging and battery function, thermal activity and fan activity, LED lighting for keyboards and displays, GPU functionality, sleep and wake, and other core hardware functionality. Resetting SMC can resolve hardware issues with Intel based macs. It can resolve sluggish performance, external ports not working or external devices not being found as well as the fan running too high. Apple recommends slightly different instructions depending on your model and issues: Reset SMC