My Photo

Current Listening

Books I'm reading

Great texts

  • John V. Taylor: The Christlike God (Scm Classics)

    John V. Taylor: The Christlike God (Scm Classics)
    A serious theological book which is the companion to JVT's classic work "The Go-between God". Anyone who is frustrated by (fellow) Christians that choose to define God so tightly that faith seems impossible, or seem to align faith with "happiness" despite the evidence to the contrary should read how faith is really a mix of " wonder and comprehension, illumination and darkness, loss and possession, abasement and bliss". If you want to stop to "think" about God then this is a book to read thoughtfully in the company of one of great Christians of the 20th Century

  • Jean Vanier: Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together Revised Edition

    Jean Vanier: Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together Revised Edition
    A revised collection of the thoughts and ideas of the founder of the L'arche Community - "faith without boundaries". This is a classic book - for everyone seeking faith and to grow in their faith

  • Rowan  Williams: Anglican Identities

    Rowan Williams: Anglican Identities
    As someone who is both a passionate but frustrated Anglican - glimpsing sometimes all that Anglican could be and seeing on a daily basis all that it isn't, this book was a wonderful account of what liberal Anglicanism - tolerant, inclusive, supportive, intelligent and profoundly spiritual, just might be. Of course it is not an easy read - it takes time and effort to grasp what RW is saying but the effort is worthwhile

  • John Drane         : Do Christians Know How to Be Spiritual?

    John Drane : Do Christians Know How to Be Spiritual?
    If you are a committed member of a local Church and wonder why others do not see the point - or wonder whether it might be possible to be more spiritual outside the confines then you could read this book which is a thoughtful introduction to what is meant by a post-christian society.

  • Tom Wright: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

    Tom Wright: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
    This is a detailed read from Tom Wright which makes the case for the Christian faith in contemporary society. Its thoughtful, challenging, and gentle.

  • W.H. Vanstone: Farewell in Christ

    W.H. Vanstone: Farewell in Christ
    Vanstone's final work, which explores the mystery of existence, the mystery of my soul, the mystery of meaning, - and none of this becomes possible without intellectual doubt. Is this what Dawkins et al will never understand?

  • John Pritchard: The Life and Work of a Priest

    John Pritchard: The Life and Work of a Priest
    This book should be compulsory reading for all enquirers, ordinands, and current clergy - perhaps adding in all elders and churchwardens for good measure. It charts in a profoundly hopeful way the joys and pressures of contemporary priesthood, and avoids the pitfalls of theological bias or the bland functional understandings of leadership.

  • Timothy Radcliffe: What Is the Point of Being a Christian?

    Timothy Radcliffe: What Is the Point of Being a Christian?
    A prophetic introduction to the Christian faith for those who struggle to find God amid the complexities of life

  • Robert Dimery: 1001 Albums you must hear before you die

    Robert Dimery: 1001 Albums you must hear before you die
    Just a great read - extensive intelligent reviews which bring back memories, stimulate to seek out, and inspire to add to the wish list.

All time Top Ten albums

  • Bob Dylan -

    Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks
    Probably the best single collection of orginal songs - performed by Bob with his inimitable non-music style - the best produced Dylan album into the bargain

  • Miles Davis -

    Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
    I remember the first time I heard this - on a loaned Walkman on a very turbulent flight to Belfast - it has rightly been described as a milestone in 20th century jazz. I remember playing to a group of spell-bound 9/10 year olds in a Primary school music workshop

  • Portishead -

    Portishead: Dummy
    Every once in while I listen to an album whose orginality leaves me instinctively knowing that music will never be the same - that the goalposts of repetoire have been changed for ever. Dummy is just one of those rare treats

  • Prefab Sprout -

    Prefab Sprout: Andromeda Heights
    In 1997 I escaped for the afternoon from the madhouse of an ordination training residential to the comparative sanity of my friend Tony's studio. During a tea break in a session, Tony said these imortal words " I've just found this amazing album" and my love affair with Andromeda Heights began - sanity was restored and I completed the residental and training.

  • Moloko -

    Moloko: Things to make and do
    Brilliant music within the scope of the dance music genre. Crisp instrumentation, meets cool beats, and the voice of Roisin - how I love Moloko

  • Craig Armstrong -

    Craig Armstrong: Piano Works
    If I were not Tom Allen ( artistically and musically speaking) I would be Craig Armstrong - from my discovery of him through Massive Attack I have loved and admired his work - and Piano Works covers his repetoire in stunning style

  • Joe Cocker -

    Joe Cocker: Sheffield Steel
    The greatest album from the greatest rock intrepreter of them all - genius production meets some of the best songs of all time sung by that voice - I've confess that I have sampled the album to oblivion

  • Paul Simon -

    Paul Simon: Graceland
    Had to be a Paul Simon album and it had to be Graceland. A epoch making album which opened African music to the world but seamlessly combined that music with western rock and pop with songs to die for.

  • Cosmic Rough Riders -

    Cosmic Rough Riders: Enjoy the melodic sunshine
    Glasgow's finest produce the ultimate guitar-song album of pure delight and of a quality that puts Athlete et al in the shade - shame it was two years too early and the lead singer left after this debut album

  • Massive Attack -

    Massive Attack: Blue Lines
    OK so Bristol has launched Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size, but it was the staggering impact of this debut which created a genre in trip-hop and a collective approach to song-writing, band membership which has influenced a generation and spawned so many other deriratives. From the low-fi paranoia of "Five Man Army" and the unrepeatable melancholic splendour of "Unfinished Sympathy", this is a 20th century classic.

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 11/2004

« Current listening update | Main | Reason 4 beta available »

20 June 2007



I've just got a 17" iMac (converted from Linux because, with young children, the parental controls are excellent). I'm no evangelist for the Mac, but I am amazed by how quiet this system is. I've not yet stressed it for any length of time, but I can tell you that the loudest noise from it is the hard disc, which you can hear ticking away sometimes. It's a fairly quiet drive, nonetheless.

There is a background hum that might be a worry for music work - I suspect it's the hard disc spinning (it's around G below middle C, although I've not got perfect pitch, just guessing by humming in tune with it!). But it doesn't seem to get louder; although extended stress might cause fan noise, I've not encountered it yet.

The main issue would probably be that the iMac is a single unit, so you can't move the noise-making parts further away from you - they sit in the desk with the screen. Shame it's so difficult to get a feeling for the systems with so few decent shops! Is there an Apple store near you? I would hope (!) that you'd get better answers from them. They've got a pretty good reputation from what I've heard.

pax et bonum


A long-time (another anglican musician, fortunately not an ordained one) lurker comes out to comment

In answer to question one, in my experience, the specialist audio support is by far way and above better. Steinberg for Cubase seem to have a far better facility for answering questions about Macs than the PC equivalents, and they have a fantastic forum. Sibelius I was briefly in contact with and their mac support was second to none, Digidesign is probably equal. Apple's own support is normally excellent as well.

2) I can't really answer that, only to say that the likely sound source as noted by the other commenter is going to be the harddrive not the video card. Certainly that's been my experience with all mac machines so far. Most of my studio noise comes from my external firewire harddrive which has a maddeningly loud fan which I really must replace some day, but I've never had a problem apart from that.

I used PCs to a very basic level for music extensively for years. At the office we had a close to top PC (2 years old, so not top any more, but close to top when we bought it) running Pro Tools. We've switched that over for the cheapest mac mini that we could find, and we've gone up from recording 4-6 tracks in real time recording, to 16, and being able to stick effects on all of those tracks rather than having to use effects sends all the time as it didn't like effects on individual tracks. My 2 year old ibook didn't bat an eyelid at recording 16 tracks recently, live in from the excellent Digidesign hardware, and appears to be mixing without seeing more than 25% CPU usage.

Susie D

Hi Tom
Heard from Joan about your problems and post - thought you (and others) might find the following helpful.

As you know we have both sets of machines in regular use here at Magnum - pop over to the surly city if you want to see and hear them in action. Like you we are using Ableton Live,Cubase, Sibelius so the comparisons are valid.

The key is compare like for like - ie not a duo mini mac with a two year old PC!

So here we are comparing imacs (which we currently have in the two 24" duo cores in the edit suites and three 17" duo cores for office admin)with Carillons (which we three of various ages including a 1 month old level 2 machine in the studios)

1. Noise.
There is no contest here whatsoever - we cold not consider putting an imac in the studio context they are simply too noisy to place in such a prominent position. More importantly Carillon are consistent since they special build their machines for that purpose. The Macs are hugely inconsistent - our three 17" vary from reasonable quiet (gentle hard drive noise) to irritatingly noisy for no real reason that Apple are able to explain or accept is not acceptable. One thing as you have already realised is that the video card upgrade is a noise disaster and much noisier and we have problems with them in the 24" in the edit suites.

You will not be able to assess the noise in even a proper showroom context because if the Imac on display happens to be a noisy one then they will replace it with a quieter one. So comparing like for like if an Apple employee ever heard a Carillon in professional use (99% of them haven't) they would then know what quiet means in a studio context.

BUT do you really need it to be that quiet in your context - with your latent background noise etc and the ability to use shielded microphones?

Again compare like for like: put simply Carrillon are in a different league technically - used to dealing with professional users and offering first hand experience of specific machines which they built for you.
In the last twelve months checking the maintenance book we have had two problems with a Carillon machine which were fixed within three hours and one further problem which they logged into and fixed within five hours - no off-site repairs needed.

With our Macs one problem took 3 hours to fix (most of it trying to get through to the helpdesk) and then in three cases over 24 hours to fix and a further case a 24" had to be returned which took four days.

The problem with Mac support is that they have no idea what is on your machine etc. So its not that it isn't professional but that they could be dealing with someone with their accounts on the case before- so we now pay a considerable amount extra for local support with a mac specialist.

But equally Carillon only work office hours, while theoretically Apple are 24 hours.

Stability etc.
Carillon machines have worked with everything we have asked them to do in the studio context - make sure you specify as much memory as your can afford and stick with Windows XP for now.
Apple machines don't crash - they just get slower and slower.

The future:
We will continue to use Carillon and will buy from them for the proposed off-site recording unit.
We will continue to use Macs for audio-visual stuff but will move to Macs Pros which are upgradeable, self serviceable and can have the memory needed for the professional end - but hugely more expensive - and we will probably use Imacs and mini-macs in the office since everyone prefers them for admin tasks.

So it doesn't answer your questions but this is real experience - if I was to make a pitch then I would suggest an Imac cos I don't think your "noise setting" is as important as you think in a Vicar's study, and you above all will appreciate the cool working aesthetics which a OS X brings to the creative world!

Blessings - see you next week


Just to contradict Susie, and its nothing to do with the equipment, but because I know you!
Buy Carillon . . . .please!

Cos if you buy an Apple Imac we will never hear the last of it - either way!

1.If you get a duff noisy machine (and sods law will be that you will get the 50% that are noisy)then we will have post after post as TA wages war on Apple - whearas Carillons we know are quiet
2. 6 months down the track you will want to upgrade it and won't be able to afford Apples rediculous costs - wereas Carillons can be upgraded at reasonable cost
3. You will have person after person visiting and wondering how a poor Vicar can afford such a posh machine - they won't even notice a humble Carillon.
4. You know your way around PCs, and it will take you ages to learn the Mac stuff - and I don't want a series of calls/emails saying " how do you do *** on a Mac?"
5 If the Mac works out fine then you will the world's most extreme Mac evangelist - whereas a Carillon will hardly get a mention!

See you next week - intros and section 1 sounds superb brother - and extra ideas are genuinely exciting!


Tom Allen

Thanks to all for the comments and the emails - seems some folk cannot in their emails resist being Apple evangelists - but the comments are much more sane!

I am now planning to visit Jigsaw Systems in Nottingham next week as they are the only people prepared to demo a Imac in a seperate demonstration room - thanks to Nic for the tip about them being the biggest specialist Apple reseller.

The standard of support from the two official Apple shops in Manchester and Sheffield is simply appalling - took about 10 minutes to answer the phone - and then said it was out of the question to have a proper demo and just repeated the mantra of Imacs being " really quiet" compared with a PC - what kind of PC they wouldn't say.

Tim - re external firewire drives.
When it comes to replacement AA have learnt some lessons from experience and I would recommend the Lacie design 500gb hard drives (designed by FA Porsche etc etc.)WE have learnt by accidental experience that the USB 2 models are quicker than any of the firewires - the spec as well as practical experience confirms this with PCs so save £30 quid in the process.
Accidentaly cos I bought a USB2 version thinking that was what other folk were using only after initially cursing discovering that they are quicker - and deliver larger files more consistently in side by side comparisons.

The "cool" element comes from the aluminium case which in itself acts as a heat sink so that they make virtually no noise at all - in fact on the USB version which I use daily as my office back-up I sometimes struggle to tell whether it is switched on or not - though there is a very small green light if you look carefully. I got mine from Misco for £75 including P+P in a special offer. Worth looking out for.

Thanks again and I would welcome any further comments

The comments to this entry are closed.