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MainStage 3 System Requirements

March 16, 2017

Photo by Wesson Wang

An in-depth look at MainStage 3’s system requirements.


When putting together a MainStage rig, it’s important to think about the many different factors that will have an effect on performance and stability. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at MainStage 3’s minimum system requirements for optimal results.

Here are Apple’s official minimum system requirements for MainStage 3.

  • 4GB of RAM
  • Display with 1280-by-768 resolution or higher
  • OS X 10.11 or later
  • Requires 64-bit Audio Units plug-ins
  • Minimum 6GB of disk space. 51GB of optional content available via in-app download.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

You can think of RAM as super fast temporary storage. Compared to a SSD’s maximum bandwidth of 500MB/s and access time of .05 milliseconds, RAM can reach speeds of 100GB/s with a 50 nanosecond access time.

In the context of MainStage, RAM is where sampler plugins like EXS24 and Kontakt store the start of samples. The rest of the sample is then streamed from your hard drive.

Apple recommends 4GB of RAM, but you should know this is only sufficient for basic MainStage concerts with minimal sounds. If stability and flexibility is important to you, look for a computer with at least 8GB of RAM. This is especially true if you’re planning on using heavier third party samplers and plugins like Native Instruments Kontakt or Spectrasonics Omnisphere.

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Display Resolution

Apple recommends a display with a resolution higher than 1280×768 pixels. A higher resolution screen will enable you to see more of MainStage’s interface without scrolling. In the real world, this translates into a more efficient programming process.

If you’re using a MacBook with a Retina Display, you can take advantage of the display’s high native resolution to display scaled resolutions instead.

Native Resolution vs. Scaled Resolution

Operating System

This is pretty self-explanatory. The latest version of MainStage 3 requires OS X El Capitan 10.11 or later.

64-bit Plugins

Modern software, including virtual instruments and FX plugins, are typically coded in either 32-bit or 64-bit architecture. Back in the 1990s, state of the art 32-bit software ran in a 32-bit operating system environment, which ran on a 32-bit hardware processor.

At some point, high end software became too resource-intensive for the 32-bit system’s addressable RAM cap of 4GB. Thus, 64-bit systems, with it’s addressable RAM cap of 16.7 Billion gigabytes, became more popular. This RAM factor is especially important for audio and music software because modern samples libraries and FX plugins are often hungry for RAM.

Hard Drive

MainStage 3 requires 6GB of disk space for its core content, but another 51GB of additional content is available for download as well. You’ll need a lot more space if you want to use third party libraries like Synthogy Ivory II and Omnisphere. I recommend storing your most used libraries on an internal SSD, and other less used libraries on a fast external SSD.

While Apple doesn’t specific any minimum requirements in terms of mechanical hard disk vs. SSD, I highly recommend the latter if you plan on doing any sort of serious work with MainStage. SSDs are much faster than their mechanical counterparts, which means you’ll be able to stream a higher number of samples without audio glitches.

If you want to read more about what Mac to use with MainStage, click here.


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