How does a $6999 Music Computer Workstation look like?


Summer 2010, I did a post called “Why I quit Open Labs” ( ) where I was listing the gear and soft you could buy for $6999 (the price at the time of a neKo XXL). If you haven’t read it, you should probably have a look.

However, since things never stop to progress, here’s how a $6999 Music Computer Workstation could look like:

Apple MacMini Quad i7 2.6GHz 1To: $899
Apple Magic Trackpad: $69
Display Asus 27″: $645
16GB (2x 8GB) RAM: $130
SSD OWC Extreme 240GB: $294
Lacie 3TB Thunderbolt: $299


Yamaha MX61: $799
Digidesign Eleven Rack: $699
Native Instruments Maschine mk2: $599
Frontier Design Alpha Track: $199


Native Instruments Komplete 9 Ultimate Crossgrade: $749
Apple Logic Studio: $199
Nomad Factory MAGMA: $199
P&M Bundle: $169
Spectrasonics Omnisphere: $478
Korg Legacy: $199
u-he DIVA: $179
D16 LuSH: $189

Total: $6993
(yeah, you still have 6 bucks left to grab a six pack while reading this post… it’s a tradition now ;)).



What we can immediately notice (mainly from the 2010 setup), is that this time, I did a different setup, not based on an iMac, but on a MacMini.

Why? Probably just because we can and because it’s a very affordable solution. Of course, it’s quite different and we could still use an iMac (or even MacBook Pro) instead. It’s gonna be up to you to figure out what’s best for you.

However, by going the MacMini way, there’s one major good point, which is the cost when we will need to upgrade it… you won’t have to change your display, drives, etc… But the bad point (because there’s one) is the fact you won’t have a very powerful graphics card. On an iMac, you can go with a pretty decent geforce card… that could help for games and video montage. Just forget it on the MacMini… which isn’t a big deal if you dedicate this computer for Music only.

The current MacMini is also the only Mac to still have Firewire port (that might be helpful for the ones out there that have Firewire audio interface). Of course we can use adapter to plug it on a Thunderbolt port, but it’s a waste of Thunderbolt that can do so much better things.

The MacMini can easily be upgraded for both RAM and Drive (something we also can’t do on an iMac). So, we can buy the memories and SSD from any store we like (such Macsales, Frys, Newegg, etc..). No need to waste money on Apple *taxes* for that… as well as for the Display too.

Here I selected one 27″ display with similar resolution of the Apple one, but for the same price you could also go for two 27″ displays with slightly smaller resolution (there are 27″ displays around $320-$330). It’s another solution to think about it.

Since the MacMini can only have two 2.5″ drive, we will also have an external Thunderbolt drive to store all sample libraries, recording sessions, etc…


What’s new?

One of the changes is the Yamaha MX61 instead the Motif XF6. Since we will use the computer for everything, the keyboard doesn’t need to be super fancy with tons of features we won’t use since the computer will have those features anyway. Honestly, even a simple controller keyboard (M-Audio Axiom, Novation, etc…) would be sufficient… most of the time it’s around $599. So here for $200, it’s nice to have some sounds we can play without turning on the computer. For the guys out there that don’t like the Yamaha MX61, you can go for a Korg Krome 61 ($999) or something like that. It’s up to you.

Having a cheaper workstation keyboard will also allow us to have a real drum machine such Maschine mk2 (or the MPC Studio for the Akai fans). Instead of Logic and Maschine, some could perhaps like better to choose Ableton Live 9 with Push. Again, it’s a matter of choice, but in the end, it’s gonna be a great DAW with a great control surface. I think Push (just like the MPC Studio) is gonna be great in future, but for now, I’d rather stick with Maschine. Not only it’s rock solid, but it’s also well integrated with Komplete 9 Ultimate. There’s even a discount crossgrade price.



With this setup, you would have probably everything you would need to make music, regardless your music genre. You’ll get:

– 370 GB of amazing sounds from Komplete 9 Ultimate (with great pianos, drums, basses, guitars, etc…)
– 30 GB of really great sounds from Logic Studio 9
– 40 GB of breath taking sounds from Spectrasonics Omnisphere
– Very great “Analog-ish” synth with Monark, Diva, LuSH and the Korg Legacy ones (MS-20, Polysix, Mono/Poly)
– Very great “Modern” synth with Massive, Absynth, FM8, etc…
– Very useful FX Rack with MAGMA (with support of 3rd party plugins)
– Very useful FX plugins with P&M Bundle and the ones from Komplete 9 Ultimate (Solid Mix, Premium Tube Series, Driver, Guitar Rig, etc…)
– World most famous Sample Player: Kontakt
– Some old school instruments such Korg M1, Wavestation, etc…

If you can’t make music with a setup like this, you should probably considering to stop making music at all.

Also, you might think $6,999 is a lot of money today (and I’d agreed with you), but let’s keep in mind that some of you guys probably spent already as much money (or even more) on your current setup. One basic example? Just buy a Korg Kronos X 61 ($3,200) with a Roland Jupiter-80 ($3,499)… you already end up to $6,700 and you only have two keyboards with very basic and limited features in comparison to what we could do with the setup I listed here. And that’s supposed to be the flagship keyboard from Korg and Roland.

It’s night and day… In one hand you have a 16 Audio and 16 Midi Tracks sequencer, and the other hands you can have hundred of tracks in Protools and Logic. In one hand you have 16 InsertFX and in the other hand you have hundred of them. In one hand you can make a mixtape, in the other hand you can make a real production. The neKo XXL was already beating, performance wise, the regular workstation keyboards… and since this setup is beating the neKo XXL, it’s not even a question in comparison of hardware workstation.

Nonetheless, you could buy step by step every components. You don’t HAVE to buy everything in once. Which could help to get things over the time. So now, for the same amount of money, what will you buy?



3 thoughts on “How does a $6999 Music Computer Workstation look like?

  1. Pingback: Why I quit Open Labs? | Deep Inside of...

  2. Well …. nice article. I never really understood what Open Labs were trying to do, expecially basing the whole thing on a 32 bit OS ? >sigh<

    • Well, we have to put things in perspective.

      The neKo is a concept from 2003 (so over 10 years now). Back in the days, the laptop computers didn’t have the power to easily run all DAW and Virtual Synth and FX we needed. The desktop computers weren’t as small as the new Mac Pro, Mac Mini or even the new micro Intel NUC. So, if we wanted to have a system to run a lot of software, we had to have a computer tower, screen, a master keyboard, audio interface and some controllers… so not something we could easily carry-on anywhere (for live situation).

      And it would have a lot of cables everywhere. And back in the days, it was based on 32-bits Win XP (because 64-bits was still out of the picture). So the neKo was a great solution to have everything in one box. However, technologies did improve with multi-touch capacitive screen, computers became smaller and smaller, laptop power increased… but Open Labs hasn’t redesign its 2003 solution.

      Today, we can easily have a MacMini in a 1U rack with an audio interface, take an iPad as surface control/display, some Maschine and master keyboard controllers and we’re ready to go. And 10 years from now, we will have some iPad (or Android Tablet or Microsoft Tablet, pick your favorite one) that will have as much (or even more) power than Today’s top of the line 12-core Desktop computer, a computer that could cost today between $5K, $6K or even $9K… with a power we will get 10 years from now in a $400 or $500 tablet. And then, it will definitely make the neKo look like a dinosaur, but even current “Desktop Computer” we use for music…

      If we look the size between a 2010 Mac Pro and a new 2013 Mac Pro, we can realize how things get smaller and smaller with more and more power. And everything is now 64-bits (including tablets). So what was “great” in 2003, ain’t that great anymore in 2013, but won’t be be great at all in 2023 and will probably even look completely absurd by then. And they will run the most ressources hungry plugins such Omnisphere, DIVA, LuSH, etc… just like if it was nothing.

      Kids in 2023 will just have their controller that will be wirelessly connected to their personal computer (on their wrist) and they will think: God, I saw some article from 2013, can you imagine the guys were using “computer” in a freaking big box like a shoes box… And they only had 1TB SSD… Who could make music without that so little storage space? And can you imagine that they didn’t have internet interaction and collaboration and they had to make music in a specific room they call “Studio” (or “Home Studio”)? How frustrating it should have been to not be able to make music anywhere you want like we can do know. What were they think??

      It’s just part of the continuous technological progress…

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