Apple is about to release its yearly update to OSX. The next major iteration, 10.16 or Big Sur – will be available from today for (almost) all MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Minis and Mac Pros. After months of beta and open beta testing, you can download the new macOS for free from the Apple servers in a few hours. But as usual, we’ll all be inundated with manufacturer warnings from third-party hardware and software companies. Most of their products are not yet compatible or have not yet been extensively tested. Here’s our recommendation: Please don’t update studio computer yet!
Apple macOS 10.16 Big Sur: Don’t do it (yet)
Every year Apple presents the next generation of its macOS operating system. This year, the release heralds a new era at Apple because the system is the first to support the new Macs equipped with the ARM processor M1. I worked for Apple when they went from Power PC to Intel chips and I can say – hand on heart – that it was not a smooth ride for Mac users. Musicians and professionals were badly hit by the move. That’s made me very wary of new Macs bearing fancy new operating systems.
Rosetta 2 – Here we go again
Big Sur is still compatible with the current Intel generation of CPUs. Apple has announced Rosetta 2, a “converter” that can run apps that have not yet been converted to their new ARM computers. But what about audio hardware and software?
Unfortunately, this has not yet been tested. For this reason, now is not a good time for musicians, music and video producers to switch to Big Sur. Unless you only work on the computer with Apple’s own software without additional plug-ins and without hardware. I vividly remember the original Rosetta making a real mess of audio applications, plug-ins and pro apps, so I doubt very much that Rosetta 2 will have resolved these conversion issues.
Is my software ready for 10.16?
In a word, no. My inbox is already full of manufacturers and software developers warning me not to upgrade today – for good reason. No pro audio software has been fully tested yet. If your system is working, stay away from Bug Sur for now! Updating unsupported software will more than likely mess up all your plugins, audio editors and DAWs. That’s not to say that 10.16 won’t be great in the long term. But today my advice is to steer clear and let it mature a while before you make the jump. My advice as always, check with all the software and hardware companies you use and have installed on your current system. Are they ready yet? If not, then don’t do it yet.
A problem will arise for anyone that has just ordered a new M1 ARM-based Mac. These will ship with Big Sur and owners won’t be able to downgrade to the previous version. Remember that Apple has announced a Logic Pro X version for the M1 chips – 10.6 – that is not yet released. And you won’t be able to use Boot Camp to launch into a Windows environment, or use external GPUs. That’s a bind for anyone working with high-end video applications.
All MacBooks from 2015, MacBook Air from late 2013, Mac mini from 2014, iMac from 2014, iMac Pro from 2014 and Mac Pro from 2013 are compatible with the new OS.
If you want to update anyway – evn though we don’t recommend it at this point – you need to create a backup of your system before you start. Only then can you go back to the previous version in the event of problems. We advise professional users to wait a few weeks or even months until officially supported updates have been made available. As usual, testimonials from first-time users arrive very quickly and manufacturers of hardware and software are gradually releasing their updates for their products.
You can also check out my article here on basic things to do to make your current Mac system work smoothly for music production.
Price and availability
You can download the new Apple operating system macOS 10.16 Big Sur for free from the App Store starting this evening. That’s November 12, 2020, around 6 pm UK time.
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