MQ Windows vs Macintosh

Sound Quest is frequently asked, which is better - Windows or Macintosh? This is our take on the two systems and why.

If you are interested in incorporating MIDI hardware editors into your DAW (Pro Tools, Cubase, Sonar, Performer, Logic) using VST, AAX, AU, or any another plug-in system, the clear winner is the Macintosh. Hands down. No question. Why? The MIDI management system developed by Apple called CoreMIDI is far superior in handling MIDI data and allows all applications equal and unlimited access to all MIDI ports. This functionality is built into the operating system and is an incredibly important feature if you wish to use AU or VST plug-in editors. The reason, both the DAW and the editor will function at their best when both have equal access to the MIDI interface. This is what the Macintosh does.

Windows on the other hand, leaves the MIDI capabilities to the MIDI interface manufacturers. As a result, there are many, many MIDI interfaces that only allow one application to access the driver at a time. This means that if the DAW has the MIDI interface open, a MIDI hardware editor can't open the MIDI port to communicate with the interface. To further confuse matters, some MIDI interface drivers will allow multiple applications to access the MIDI interface but they must be separate processes. While there is a workaround for these issues, it requires specific planning and you are forced to spend more time considering the setup and configuration of your system. While these limitations are not true of all MIDI interfaces, it is true for many of them.

Windows does have one advantage over the Mac. There is slightly more control over the output of SysEx data. If you have a specific group of very old instruments from Casio (CZ and VZ series), Ensoniq (ESQ-1, ESQm) or a few others which are not able to receive SysEx transmissions at full speed, it is possible to reduce the transmission rate for effective communications. This is not possible on the Macintosh.

Even with this advantage, remember that with a Macintosh you can still install a virtual version of Windows (Parallels, Fusion, etc) on a Macintosh and use it to communicate with these problematic instruments.

This comparison between Windows and Macintosh is taken solely from the perspective of MIDI support. There are certainly other reasons to choose one system over the other.