Should Musicians Upgrade To Windows 8?

Should musicians upgrade to Microsoft’s new Windows 8?

Based on initial reports, few Windows users are rushing to upgrade.

But musicians have unique requirements, and Windows 8 promises to deliver better performance for music programs and to allow for new types of Windows multi-touch apps. As iOS developer Rob Fielding (Mugician, Geo Synth) puts it, “Microsoft realizes that music apps are going to push the touch hardware the way that games apps pushed parallel processing.”

Should you upgrade? We’ve received a lot of feedback from readers on Windows 8 already. It falls into four main categories:

Optimistic about Windows 8 for musicians:

  • “A 30 inch multi-touch Windows 8 system, running VMware and Ubuntu, Office Apps, Visio, etc… is an AWESOME experience.”
  • “Google hasn’t been able to get latency to the point where you can even make a serious instrument. I think Microsoft realizes that music apps are going to push the touch hardware the way that games apps pushed parallel processing.”
  • “I am running Windows 8 now and all the software I own runs perfectly. After 2 days, you are totally used to the new desktop and are loving the crap out of how FAST and STABLE Windows 8 is.”
  • “People always claim that they want the future and someone finally delivers – and then people say it’s too hard or too different to manage.”
  • “I’m on Windows 8 now and use FL studio. It’s much better than Windows 7, its faster and also too its maximum RAM limit is 512 GB. Alas, my machine can only take up to 32GB RAM.”
  • “There’s hardly a learning curve – I use it exactly the same way I used Vista, except it loads shit faster, and the start menu looks prettier.”

Pessimistic about Windows 8 for musicians; wait and see:

  • “The problem is that the VAST majority of Windows users do little more than game and use Facebook. There just isn’t any incentive. It’s a solution without a problem.”
  • “Windows has a price advantage. That’s a big deal. That said, they do not have the raw power of Apple products, which for me is a bigger deal.”
  • “If W7 works and its enough, why change? I dont see any major change in W8 that would make me buy an update.”

Get a Mac, already;

  • “Just about every person I’ve ever respected: my smartest friends, Douglas Adams, Brian Eno, Trent Reznor, David Bowie, Neil Degrass Tyson, George Lucas, Pixar, Jerry Seinfeld, Laurie Anderson, The Beastie Boys, William Gibson, Nasa… all use Macs. I like ’em too. I was on Windows most of my life, but switched to Linux, and then to Mac.”
  • “I only use Windows for games 😛 , personally more comfortable on Mac to do my job.”
  • “The big reason Windows users don’t switch is because they don’t want to learn a new OS. Windows 8 is different enough that there will be a learning curve anyway, so that’s the push they needed to say, “I guess it’s time to switch.” I switched years ago and will never go back..”

Linux FTW:

  • “I chose Ubuntu, and am not going back to Windows. I hope that Bitwig will be as nice as Live!

Got your own thoughts on Window 8 for musicians? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

70 thoughts on “Should Musicians Upgrade To Windows 8?

  1. I like the Linux comment. Really, it doesn’t seem to matter; there are advantages and disadvantages to each. I am looking forward to bitwig, though, and multitouch Linux with a decent touch response would be cool. Currently, latency on Linux is pretty horrible overall.

  2. On the “get a mac already” point, appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. I’ve found Windows 8 to be very solid, fast and secure. I’ve been evaluating it at work (domain admin at a major university) and it’s bee flawless so far. The long term implications for the touch screen interface are fantastic. I’t’s the best OS out there now, and better in the future. No offfence to the Mac kids out there, but a Mac Pro is so insanely expensive there is no point to Mac these days unless you feel like wasting your money. If you are a Logic fan at least have someone build you a hackintosh. Apple has totally abandoned the professional.

      1. Yes, because now all the apps from the Mac App Store must be sandboxed, meaning they cannot inter-operate with other apps. How professional can that be?

        1. I forgot to say : Thank god not every publisher sells their apps in the Mac App Store, but still this clearly is the direction Apple is taking.

        2. Which is exactly what Microsoft is doing, in case you’re not up on these things. What’s your comment have to do with Windows 8?

          Most users don’t have a problem with App Store apps. People that need ‘power user’ apps can load them themselves, while people that don’t can install things automatically. There are some Luddites and paranoids that are afraid of change, but it’s been good for everybody else.

          Personally, I have never have had a problem with the reliability of apps on my iPad or or Mac from the app store, or had to worry about viruses or getting hacked. If a developer has released a buggy version, it doesn’t affect anything else and they’ve always fixed their mistakes quickly.

          Few can say that about their Windows PCs. My HP came with firewall and antivirus installed that go off all the time with warnings and then reminders to update. This is a pain in the ass for people that may be power users, but who don’t want to be Windows system admins.

          Hopefully Win 8 will not have these problems.

          1. Hmmm… The “Power User” can load their own apps? How is that working out for those people who have an iPhone/iPad? Apple wants to completely eliminate that option completely from the Macs just like they have done with iPhone/iPad. If you buy software directly from somebody else, Apple does not get their 30% cut, and they don’t like that. Apple wants 30% of EVERYTHING used on any Apple platform.

            For NOW the “Power User” can load their own apps. Expect that to go away in a couple of years…

            1. So – you’re making your platform decisions based on paranoia, rather than how they actually work?

              By the way, Windows 8 copied the app store approach that Apple uses. So you better expect the option to load your own apps on Windows to disappear too!

      2. A Macbook or an iMac are not professional music boxes. Sure, you can use them as such, but why in the world would somebody accept a massively under-powered machine that costs twice as much compared to a Hackintosh???

          1. A live machine (which due to portability concerns is almost always a laptop) is not the same thing as a studio machine.

        1. Stability. And anyone that thinks today’s Macs are massively underpowered hasn’t seen their benchmarks.

          If your time is worth anything, PCs and ‘hackintosh’ computers are a fools bargain.

          Arguing that they are a good deal is the same as arguing that your time is worthless.

          1. Really? I’ve run a windows box for the last 15 years I’ve been producing. Rarely had any problems. A producer friend of mine spent about a day putting together a custom Hackintosh – for about a third or less of what he would have had to spend on a Mac Pro.

            1. Not sure if your producer friend is a pro or not – but billing rates for production are $75/hour and up. If he’s spent a day building the box, he’s invested $600 of time into it.

              There’s also an additional maintenance overhead that goes with a hackintosh, such as inconvenient minor OS X and app updates and very painful OS upgrades ( Considering that Apple releases a major system update every year, estimate an extra 8 hours/year of overhead for maintaining a hackintosh.

              If you keep your machine for three years, the time you spend patching your system should be worth $75/hour x 24 hours = 1800. Add that to your initial setup cost, and a professional producer is using $2,400 of time for the pleasure of owning a hackintosh.

              Obviously, the economics of this will depend on things like what your time is worth, how much hassle you encounter building your hackintosh and whether you’re willing to avoid patching and upgrading your system.

              The bottom line, though, is that the only way a hackintosh makes sense financially is if your time is not worth very much.

        2. I disagree that a quad-core i7 is massively underpowered. The i7’s hyper-threading creates 8 cores for processing in Logic 9. Still not enough for you? Combine that with devices like the UAD-2 or the Apollo. If you can’t mix a good record with all of that headroom it is not the computer’s fault…

  3. Sell, most tools for musicians are heavily mouse-oriented. My eyes are anything but good, and hunting for mouse pointer is very exhaustive for them. So my hope is Win8’s practical touchscreen support will yield touch friendly music apps with controls large enough for my eyes to see comfortably. And once I get my touchscreen for my desktop, I might be finally able to make some music without hurting my eyes

  4. I own Mac and PC and look forward to moving into windows 8 on my primary workstation. Windows 7 has been fabulous for me with Live and Cubase as my main apps. With Live 9 and Cubase 7 coming, it will only get better.

    My experience with a MacBook pro has been the opposite. What a piece of junk. Runs too hot, operating system memory leaks and bugs (Lion), barely runs with stock 4gb ram. I ended up leaving the quad core in the closet and just used my 3 year old custom built pc instead. Not to mention apple as a company has become pretty disgusting with their greed.

    Windows 8 to me is sort of an opportunity for change, to vote apple out of office. And if we do vote apple out, maybe they will come back into reality and start making good computers for creative people like they used to. Nowadays it seems they are only interested in releasing shiny retinea screens powered by integrated graphics built for rich people to show off.

    Technically, I don’t really care if windows 8 does much more than win 7. It already does what I need it to do. As far as windows touch, I’ve only used this on an older windows phone and it blew android and iPhone away in terms of user experience. I also don’t know how much a giant touch screen will add to music production. The touch aspect of the iPad falls kinda flat for serious production (not to be confused with performance). I believe this is mostly due to the low resolution of control in a touch interface. Currently the accuracy of a mouse is necessary for the detailed edits necessary in audio production.

    At the end of the day, the big thing that windows 8 can do is to show that Windows is just as effective as a Mac for creating music. Maybe even better than Mac. But a lot of PC users already know this. Maybe it’s time now for this to become mainstream knowledge.

    1. Huh? Is Windows now the rad underdog choice to fight the imperial Hegemon that is Apple?
      And buying a gadget is to “vote”?

      It must have taken longer to brew that cuppa tea than I thought.

      Some things stay the same though. I’ve used Windoze for audio (at home) since 90’s, but Macs (in any studios I’ve visited) have been consistently more stable for audio.
      When this changes I’m gonna have that tea tested for opiates…

      1. Yes, Apple DOES seem to be edging towards “greed” with rather severe prices and more rapid OS upgrades that obsolesce still-working systems. I expect at last 5 solid years from a computer. My iMac is on year 4 and I’ve already been locked out of several recent apps that started at OS 10.6. Excuse me, but screw you guys. Should we just go balmy, all live in the god-$#@!@ CLOUD and pay you a fee every month for incremental upgrades? I WANT to pay people for their work and goods, but lately, its feeling like a daisy-wheel colonoscopy.
        I prefer Macs, in part because my first computer experience was with the legendary Windows 95. I’ve bought both new and refurb Macs and when I moved to a new one, the old one was always still performing well. I’ve never had a major problem, except with a faulty iMac which Apple replaced under the extended warranty. If you prefer PCs, certainly use what works for you, because platform arguments have become passe. Still, I resent being muscled to keep “growing” so cancerously. In a few short years, people will be using obsolete iPads as Xmas tree ornaments. I think I “deserved” one more year of general OS compatibility. The rush to “improve” in the computer world has become a bigger enemy to me than any crash or formatting error ever was. Windows 8 looks like the clean-up job the bloody program has always needed, but will it be better for musicians? Ask again in 9 months, after the majors write drivers for it and its 3 tooth-gnashing bugs are revealed.

          1. Fungo

            Is that Apple’s fault or the developers rom what I’ve read, Apple has a much higher rate of users staying up to date with the latest versions of their OS’s. Maybe it’s because they’ve made the OS updates so cheap.

            This is great for developers, because they can focus on the latest two versions and their apps will work for most buyers. It sucks, though, if you havre an ancient Mac. (I’ve got both!)

            This is an industry trend, though, not just Apple. Apple is just ahead of everybody else. Microsoft is doing the same things with Win 8. I saw a reader here comment that they’d upgraded to 8 for something like $15. That would have been $150 for vista or win 7!

    2. How can you complain they don’t make tools for pros and then whine about the retina screens? Do ever think maybe photographers and video editors can benefit from this? Being able to edit pixel perfect 1080p without having to bounce back between full screen and your app window?

      But for music it will depend on does W8 still have to rely on the 3rd party ASIO driver to do real time audio? CoreAudio is supreme against anything Microsoft has made so far.

      1. Apple stopped caring about audio/video pro’s years ago. They are focused on the garageband crew nowadays. Do a search on glossy screens, integrated intel hd graphics, and final cut x. All slaps in the face to the video crowd. Just read today that their new retinea 13″ can barely run graphic-intensive programs.

        Their main customer nowadays is the bottom line.

  5. looks like a typical win x mac x linux thread. But a good point is: Should musicians change from the currently industry standard multi-touch screen platform (aka iOS) to Windows 8?

    1. What are the good Intel multi-touch WIndows 8 PC’s?

      I’m really interested in the idea of these big multi-touch screens. They seem like they’d be an ideal way to work with Ableton Live.

      The only large multi-touch machine I’ve seen in town, though, was one of the Windows 8 RT machines, and it seems like those are a dead-end.

      Anyone have experience or suggestions on this?

      1. I recently contacted Ableton asking about multi-touch support. I was very disappointed by the response:

        “At the moment Live doesn’t bring special multi-touch support for Windows 8 or any other touch optimized OS and it’s also not planned to bring such a feature for Live 9.”

      1. Part of what interests me in WIndows 8 is that Microsoft is doing the opposite of Apple.

        Apple decided that trying to do multitouch with Macs would be a clumsy compromise, so it came up with iOS, which is clean and new and forces developers to make apps that will work with multitouch.

        Microsoft is trying to make multi-touch work with WIndows, which is going to result in a lot of crappy user experience. But it also opens the doors to developers and manufactures to do anything they want, which I think will result in some interesting stuff.

    2. well the difference between iOS and Windows 8 is that iOS is a handicapped mobile os.

      this I think is why theres so much interest in Win8

      the whole Mac/pc argument is really personal. I’ve done both. find macs best for graphic design. but pcs best for diversity. in the ore-garage band days I went back to pc for Cool Edit Pro.

      I’ve tried all the biggies cubase cakewalk protools, which are all cross platform now. So home can now be where the heart is.

      myself I’m eventually when I win the lottery heading for FL studio on windows 8 with new audio interface. on a nice new all in one or something similarly sleek.

      1. Windows 8 is handicapped by trying to be everything for everybody.

        The OS is so bloated that it takes up 16 GB of the space on 32 GB tablets. So you pay for 32 GB but only get 16 that you can use.

        It’s also handicapped by usability issues. You have to be trained on how to use Surface tablets, instead of it just working. Try watching somebody try to figure out how to get back to the start screen for the first time.

        It’s also handicapped by two very different UI’s. Which one should developers support?

        When Windows 9 comes out, it’s going to be ‘tuned’ for the type of device it runs on, with desktops using the standard Windows interface and tablets using the new UI. It will let users switch, but there won’t be much reason to.

        1. “The OS is so bloated that it takes up 16 GB of the space on 32 GB tablet”

          I guess you have no idea that most of this space is used by Microsoft Office, not by the OS.

          1. Does anyone need half their storage on a tablet eaten up by desktop versions of Word and Excel?

            Microsoft made a big miscalculation about the importance of Office for tablet users! Who wants to spend $600+ on a tablet, which doesn’t run any of the apps that you own and is slow, when you can get a cheap laptop that actually works for less?

            1. Well you can uninstal Office if you don’t need it.

              As for miscalculating the importance of office, that depends on which market you are talking about. I work in IT for a large financial firm, and we have no ipads, none at all, because they don’t have good Office apps, and they cannot be integrated in a domain. People here still uses laptops.

              Microsoft will score big in this market, but you are right about the general consumer market

  6. On updating from windows 7 to windows 8 for standard desktop applications, it’s a completely moot point. If you use windows you will upgrade at some point when it’s convenient or necessary. If you don’t, nothing has changed.

    As for touch apps, something really drastic will have to happen for Microsoft to get a critical mass. Here are some factors that matter:

    – Any MS touch tablet worth having (intel based) will cost noticeably more than a comparable spec laptop, because touch screens aren’t cheap, and you add that cost to the average price of a laptop. And it just gets more expensive the bigger you get. They will also be the hottest, heaviest, and worst battery life of any portable device. That stuff really matters to consumers. This gives them two distinct disadvantages at precisely a time when people are miniaturizing both their hardware and expenditures.
    – It has yet to be shown that playing on a big touch screen is at all superior to playing on a small one. Maybe it is, but fingers only spread so far, and arms can only be held out for so long. There will be a sweet spot and we don’t yet know what that is.
    – Apple already has a ton users that voraciously buy apps. Google has a ton of users that don’t buy apps. So MS either needs to hit a critical mass with top quality apps, or compete on low end hardware prices for users that don’t spend follow up money. Interestingly these are exactly the problems Apple faced years ago when trying to get Windows desktop users to convert to Mac (which never happened on a large scale). Once a user has invested in software, it’s too big of a hurdle, both financially and intellectually, to switch expensive hardware to run essentially the exact same apps they already have. Given the late start, lack of apps, and cost disadvantage it is highly unlikely that Microsoft will achieve a critical mass. Even if they do, the same apps will already be on the iOS, being actively used by the very users MS wants to lure. So screen size would be the one and only incentive to move to surface. Which leads us to the obvious…
    – If huge screens turn out to be what everyone wants and is willing to pay for, Apple and Google can produce them too. MS didn’t develop the hardware, they buy it like anyone else. “Big” isn’t a design innovation unique to Microsoft. “Big” was the only place that competitors weren’t playing (for good reasons), which is why MS is trying to leverage it. So if “big” turns out great, everyone else will be in that same space in no time. Equally important…
    – If you buy a “big” device for music, you loose your reasonably sized device for everything else, being reading, sketching, using maps, design apps, or all the myriad things we use iPads for today. It really isn’t one or the other. You will still want a device to read in bed and also capture a composition idea at lunch or on the bus, and then you could go home and work with that idea on a huge screen if you feel the need. Its more akin to an iPad vs a workstation or physical instrument. But you will NEVER see people walking around with 24 inch tablets under their arms all day long.
    – And finally, it doesn’t matter if a portable surface will run your standard windows music apps because you will still need to plug in a mouse and keyboard to use them until they do a MASSIVE overhaul of the UI and app design to take advantage of the touch screen. That makes it a laptop, which you already have. And I mean MASSIVE overhaul! If do it wrong, the app will suck. If done right, it won’t be the same app anymore. That is such a huge undertaking that developers have more incentive to start from scratch with a new product. So don’t expect to touch Ableton or Cubase or whatever your favorite app is anytime soon.

  7. I’ve been running Win 8 since it was released last month which I managed to get as a $14.99 upgrade. No complaints at all. The start screen is just a replacement for the start button. Since I’m on a desktop, I generally avoid the touch apps. But on a touch style tablet, they would make more sense. The live tiles too make a lot more sense than icons.

    It’s funny, when you look at all the different Windows 8 tablets out there, it’s clear the companies making them are the ones innovating right now. The Asus TaiChi for example, or Dell’s flip thing. And having both that touch and desktop experience in one portable device makes a lot more sense that what Apple are doing. You could have a Macbook and a separate iPad, but unfortunately the whole itunes thing makes it extremely difficult to run them together in anyway. I’ve got an ipad here, and loading any kind of audio onto it or exporting from it is a painful experience. With a Windows 8 tablet (not RT), there won’t be any problems like that.

    Desktops too. Like the one Jordan Rudess was playing his app from. How can Apple compete with that? A 27″ ipad perhaps?

    1. No ads on it and when I installed it, and W8 removed the crapware that came pre installed on my Vista HP computer.

      My computer is actually a lot more responsive now than it was with Vista.

  8. As with any new OS, you need to wait for new software and drivers to be written, if at all. The screen only recognizes 5 multi-touch points, which means only 5 notes at a time. The latency is so bad it will keep professionals away. Microsoft aren’t dummies, they will eventually get Windows 8 up to par, but right now it’s just a toy.

      1. To be fair, Rudess said the latency wasn’t as good as an iPad, but he said it was way better than Android.

        It may be that the larger screens are going to come with higher latency for a while, regardless of platform. And it’s not really even an option on the Mac side, yet!

  9. I just replaced my hated Android phone with an HTC Windows 8 phone. So far I like it much better. The only complaint is that it does not show up as an external drive on my Mac, so I can’t just drag some PDF files or tunes and drop them i. There is some sort of app that I am supposed to get to make that possible but it is only good from 10.7 OS and I am still at Snow Leopard.

  10. the majority of users are still on XP so the windiws7/8 comparisons are useless for most of us for me the big issue is drivers. I’ll be putting off getting a new pc as long as possible because it will cost me a lot more than just a computer

    also processing power for audio and video editing really does mean going 64bit. which really does mean throw away everything old.

    interface, software and computer? ill have to take out a loan.

  11. I will eventually upgrade to Windows 8. I’ve searched around for information on how well Windows 7 drivers for my music hardware work on Windows 8. So far the reports haven’t been good for my Echo Audiofire 12 and my MOTU MIDI Express XT. I’ll wait until drivers are released by the manufacturers before I make the switch. For now everything functions fine in Windows 7 so I’m going to play it conservative.

    1. I would like to upgrade as well, but I have too much motu stuff in my studio. It’s usually smart to wait at least 6 months anyway. However, I’ve only heard good things in regards to system performance.

  12. While I usually enjoy OS-Wars talk as I do enjoy a good comedy, I would really *love* to see this thread focus more on the “Windows 8 for musicians” part as in driver support, latency compared to W7 overall effect of the new OS / UI on existing applications (slowdown or maybe better multitasking?) and generic compatibility issues with existing music software and hardware. Anyone brave who can give us some real world experience on that?

    1. I’ve never seen a real musician put platform fandom ahead of making music.

      Many pros I know are Windows-based and even more are bi-platform. A common setup is to use a Mac for the sequencing machine and cheap PCs for running virtual instruments and other tasks.

      To each his own – judge the platforms and technologies by how they help you make music!

  13. YES
    you should upgrade to win 8
    !! you get better audio performance!!

    you don’t have to use the metro interface
    just Google “win8 start menu ”

    and the number one reason for me is
    FLstudio has a tablet mode

  14. I think all this upgrading OS craze is just plain silly and childish. Not to mention all the “versus” comments. I still use Windows XP for my professional work. Why? Because I tested its performance with Reaper against OS-X and Windows 7 both, and wasn’t really satisfied with the others’ performance with plugins. It was a piece of cake choice: what works best should be the choice. I don’t care what you chose, though. It’s your choice and all of you have the right to it. Just stop following the biggest sheep in the herd, please, and use your own head and real performance tests for your application…

  15. From a usability review of Windows 8:

    Hidden features, reduced discoverability, cognitive overhead from dual environments, and reduced power from a single-window UI and low information density. Too bad.

    “Windows 8 encompasses two UI styles within one product. Windows 8 on mobile devices and tablets is akin to Dr. Jekyll: a tortured soul hoping for redemption. On a regular PC, Windows 8 is Mr. Hyde: a monster that terrorizes poor office workers and strangles their productivity. “

  16. Dear Mac users, get an Amiga already.
    Seriously though, Win 7 already converted to 64 bit well enough and runs stable. I was sticking with XP until I found out about using GPU processing techs like CUDA that only Win 7 and whatever new OS X animal could use and XP had a shit 64 bit version. As of now there’s no reason to upgrade and as usual no reason to pervert to a Mac. I prefer to put money into hardware, not crappy OS brands with terrible tech support. As far as audio engineering computers are concerned there isn’t a single real improvement in their music recording capabilities in the last 10 years. The only thing you get out of these new 64 bit ones is that it’s possible to have more than 256 simultaneous tracks which is pretty useless anyhow. Oh and people can pretend to be DJ’s and make terrible dance music with software made for monkeys.

  17. I am currently regretting my upgrade from Win 7 to 8. My Motu 828mkII is no longer recognized by the PC and it appears there is no longer support for FireWire. So, for the cost of a $69.95 software upgrade, I can no longer use an $800 audio interface that, otherwise, works perfectly.

  18. Hey guys – here’s a new one for you to try out:

    full disclosure, I’m one of the guys who works on this project.

    We’ve worked very hard to get this DJ software working on touchscreens this spring.
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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