Should I Update My Operating System or Software?

We all want to stay as current and close to the newest state of the art software and hardware, with the release of the iPhone 6, iOS8 and Yosemite, this has never been more apparent. With the syntonization of all our mail, phone calls, messages, website reading and app usage – or “Handoff”, the power is being given to the users of the latest software to keep their lives ticking over with seamless integration between platforms. So for example, we could receive a phone call, but our phone is in another room on charge, but we are using our laptop, so we can still answer the call. An email could be started on the desktop mac, you don’t have time to finish it, so just pick up from where you left off via your phone whilst on the train on the way home. But I’m not here to sell you the latest operating systems and hardware to use, I am trying to determine if we, as collective users of music production software should dive straight in.

Synchronization of day to day activities become as standard

What you need to weigh up is how much of a backwards step you could be putting yourself through in comparison to the development in productivity that the new technology with provide for you. Sure, we may not need to have all our devices immediately round us because they are all synced through our wifi network, but is this really the most important element of our music studio or recording studio…. I doubt it. It’s more of a consumer gimmick to draw the masses towards using a single standardized interface to interact with the world. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but it is not necessarily the most pressing issue in a recording studio environment. So if all we use is the base set of applications across our devices, we will be happy in the knowledge that all of our day to day actions will be in sync with our fast paced way of life.

When it comes to all the different equipment that is in even the basic studio setup, we are opening ourselves up to a higher possibility that something will not be kept up to date quite as quickly as the base operating system. So for example, the midi interface and audio interface that we are using in conjunction with our DAW need to work at the very least so that we can still use the main core of our studio, and these will probably need new drivers. As we dig deeper through our equipment and more specifically our software, we will undoubtably come across more items that fall under the 3rd party manufacturer column. It would be a nightmare if we only realized after updating that the majority of our projects were reliant on those 3rd party plugins. So even though as an individual user, we want to stay ahead of the game, as a professional user, we want to stay behind in the safe zone of tried and tested system and software.

If you update or change your system things may not work

I know, and work with many professional studio owners and engineers who still use older versions of software because the whole studio works at that current level. Of course, there are other reasons not to update straight away, one that is extremely important is to be sure that there are no work in progress projects, either your own or for clients that could end up getting damaged, lost or corrupted through the upgrade. This could be disastrous for a commercial studio if deadlines need to be met and problems occur slowing down the output. It is always going to be hard to find a suitable point to draw the line and start again, but i would suggest that if this is the way that you want to go, upgrade and get more up to date, then it is more sensible to wipe the system and literally start from scratch. Over time, and time moves very quickly remember, our hard drives get full up of all kinds of junk. In the studio, there can often be random bits of audio that have been dropped in places in the spur of the moment, people sharing samples, bits of recorded audio for example. If we are organized with our files, then periodically, we will tidy this up and move everything around, but we will still end up with artifacts left around the drives. I am slightly over protective in my studio setup and there is no internet connection to the main system, which reduces the amount of temporary files and needlessly downloaded files on the mac’s hard drives, but this only accounts for a percentage of useless files or junk.

But is it the smartest decision to abandon ship from our currently stable and functional studio setup at all? I would argue, that if your system works – don’t change it until a problem develops. I would much rather have a stable system that i trust to work in every situation, rather than the latest toys to play with. There is the possibility of procrastination that creeps in because “we can’t do this because we don’t have THAT plugin”. I’ve seen it all too many times, and it is cringeworthy, that the basics can be overlooked and the principles that allow us to produce music are missed, simply because something isn’t available. There is always a plugin tucked away in your arsenal of processors and effects that will allow us to achieve what we are striving for. Please don’t forget that this is not a case presented to justify the quality or prestigiousness of certain manufacturers plugins, but a reminder that we have to start somewhere and particularly in modern sequencers, we have everything we need right out of the box. Overtime, it is only natural that you will develop a certain sound and way of working which includes your favorite plugins which may and probably will include 3rd party manufacturers. But the point is that, if you do have your workflow and software choice that allow you to complete projects, then stick with it for a while at least so that you become comfortable and faster in your productions and make head way with your career in the music industry.

Work your production system until it dies

So should I update my operating system or software? To be one of the first to try all the new features maybe cool, but in the long run we are only volunteering as the industry guinea pig. Well, as the majority of this article would suggest, I would say no, don’t move over yet. But, this isn’t necessarily a black or white question that can be answered with a clear do or don’t answer. Being lucky enough to be in the position of having access to several macs running a variety of software with some overlaps, I have found myself able to stage the upgrading process step by step leaving the most important macs till last, upgrading the more communal and day to day systems while leaving the workhorse system till last, or in some cases – not at all. The before mentioned safe zone can then be viewed and understood in terms of how updating will impact the day to day work, through to the ongoing project work. It is also getting closer and closer to the most up to date of software, but there is always an iffy period of time where the catchup game is played out. For those who run older hardware, there is always the possibility that updating can open a whole can of worms, or just not even be an option.

I would also like to mention that i wrote this article on my iPhone (iOS8), iPad (iOS7.1.2) and Macbook Pro (OSX 10.9.5) using iCloud notes, I teach on the Music Production and Audio Engineering Diploma Course and the Electronic Music Production Course at school of electronic music using Logic Pro X (10.0.7) with Mac Pro Quad Core (OSX 10.8.5), i produce at c2caudio.com on Logic Pro 9 (9.1.8) on a Mac Pro Quad Core (OSX 10.6.8). Each part of how i use the technology is balanced at a level that allows me to complete the tasks that i have to complete and deliver.

Here is also a list of known working audio related software/hardware with OSX 10.10 Yosemite provided by Sweetwater.com.