Will DJs Use The New Macbook Pro’s TouchBar?

Apple always make a big deal of their new product announcements – and this morning’s new Macbook Pro lineup is no exception. The big news was that Apple has removed the function keys from the laptop and instead replaced it with a secondary multi-touch screen called TouchBar. Could DJs and producers find a good use for this TouchBar? Keep reading.

Algoriddim’s DJ Pro Already Is Using TouchBar

The final app demo that used the TouchBar technology was an app that we’re very familiar with: DJ Pro. Karim Morsy demonstrated how they’ve integrated the new Retina touchscreen into their app. Two parts of the demo particularly stood out – first, triggering samples with the TouchBar:

Samples arranged on the TouchBar (image captured via the Apple livestream)

The question here becomes one of latency – is playing samples via the TouchBar really enjoyable? Is it better than using the keyboard directly below it?

Applying FX was the other demo that Karim showed off – doing beat loops and filters live in the TouchBar. This is a nice touch – and something that we imagine on-the-fly DJs who don’t have their gear with them but still want to perform might appreciate. It’s fun – and a better use of controls than the usually unused function keys during a DJ set. Here’s a tiny clip of the demo – better quality coming when Apple releases the keynote for re-watching:

Production DAWs?

Beyond simple on-the-fly DJing controls, we suspect that there will be even more interesting options available for producers whose software of choice builds an integration into the TouchBar. Imagine being able to quickly tweak your synth settings, or play a few notes, or trigger clips just using the multi-touch display. You can make get a pretty good sense of how the TouchBar might become a high-utility function in this screenshot of it in use with Final Cut X:

It’s attractive – but remember that this world moves slowly. We suspect that Apple’s own apps (Garageband, Logic) will be the first to adopt – and we’ll see Native Instruments, Ableton, and others take on the challenge at a much more leisurely pace.

What About The Rest Of The Laptop?

So there’s a decent chance that the Macbook Pro’s TouchBar could be incredibly useful for DJs and producers – but is first major update to the product line still be appealing beyond that?

It’s back to the same issue that we had in March of 2015 with the Macbook that removed all ports that weren’t USB-C. On this new Macbook Pro, Apple has consolidated their I/O to just a few ports.

  • No USB connectors
  • 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB-C works here as well)
  • A headphone jack (we can hear a sigh of relief from DJs everywhere)
  • No MagSafe connector

USB-C / Thunderbolt 3

But will moving to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports really be a solution that DJs and producers (professionals who need to use their computer with many external devices every day) will embrace? If you are plugging in gear that uses traditional USB connectors (thumb drives, MIDI controllers, drum machines, sequencers, etc) you’ll need either a new USB to USB-C cable for each device, or adapters for your old cables (we found this one on Apple’s store for $19 each).

USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 is faster and far more versatile than the old-style USB ports (up to 40Gbps transfer speeds, you can send up to 15w of bus power to any device), so adoption will make sense for some devices. But for a majority of solutions in the DJ and production world, it’s overkill. We’d be surprised to see industry manufacturers move quickly to adopt the new spec as standard until a majority of new computers and devices are USB-C compatible.

That being said – USB-C isn’t a proprietary Apple connector! This means that, barring some other connection type becoming more popular in the next few years, it will likely be a fairly future-proof option. It just might be more appropriate for a DJ in 2020 than 2016 – but we’ll have to wait and see.

MagSafe No More

The other thing to note is the removal of MagSafe might be a risk for some DJs – we’ve long relied on the power cable on laptops on stands to just pull away without moving the computer. The new Macbook Pro no longer has this advantage because it uses one of the four Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports to charge.

Simply put – this means that if someone trips over your power cable, it’s more likely to pull your computer with it than it would have been with a MagSafe connector. It’s not as bad as a USB cable (Thunderbolt connectors are much shallower), but still a risk.

In fact, Mac accessory company Griffin has already come up with a solution: the BreakSafe USB-C power cable – if you can spare $39.99:

Will you be considering the new Macbook Pro for a new DJing computer? Or will you hold off and look for something else? Let us know in the comments.

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  • David Cendrero

    New macbook pro 2016 is shit dj users

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  • LeeTronix

    Its a DJ Tonka Toy. If you like playing with kids toys then this if for you if you are a real DJ then either use your pre-tonka toy MBP or go Windows.

  • Johnathan C

    I think the whole idea of a mac pro laptop. Should be stop. Start something fresh. I have a better idea.

  • Roy Bear

    Not my buy.
    I don’t need a dedicated Emojii Bar, nor Thunderbolt 3. Therefor, I won’t be a customer. I’ll stick to my MBP15 2012.

    • isaiah asiamah

      hell yeah

  • Lorenzo Di Girolamo

    does anyone know the title of the songs that the dj mixed? the second one is so good!!

  • Rolfski

    Frankly, the new Surface Studio looks like a far more interesting device to me

  • Fat

    MAgSafe has saved my kit soooo many times

  • Treadway

    OMG it does not have a floppy drive, how am I going to install Digital Performer on it? APPLE FAILS AGAIN.

  • Be

    As much as I dislike Apple, I do applaud them for the touchbar innovation and pushing the whole technology industry forward with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. The touchbar will never be a replacement for quality potentiometers and pads, but it could give more access to functionality available on controllers with touch strips like the Twitch, Mixtrack Pro 3, Kontrol S5, and Kontrol X1.

    The lack of USB-A ports is a non-issue with USB-C to USB-B cables and USB hubs. The power available through USB-C cables may mean that larger devices like the Kontrol S4 that require a dedicated AC adapter may be able to drop that. Also, Thunderbolt is capable of much lower round-trip latencies than USB because of its direct access to RAM without having to go back and forth through the CPU. Some sound cards are already taking advantage of this. Focusrite advertises 1.67 ms minimum round trip latency with their Clarett range and MOTU advertises a minimum of 1.4 ms with their Thunderbolt sound cards.

    • stuie66

      Are the adapters and hubs reliable?

      • Be

        Good question. If you get the very cheapest ones, perhaps not. I have a super cheap 7 port USB 2.0 hub from Monoprice that drops its connection on rare occasions (but that could be due to the cheap cable it came with). I wouldn’t suspect most hubs would have issues with reliability. I’d be more worried about the quality of the cables. Hopefully DJ TechTools starts making USB-C Chroma Cables soon.

        • Brian Chen

          usually the cheap hubs don’t supply sufficient power thru single port., especially when you connect the hub thru different devices. One single USB 2.0 port only delivers 5v0.9a at best. I recommend a USB 2.0/ 3.0 hub with power adapter.

        • stuie66

          I just got the new MacBook Pro so far the USB C To USB B cable has been working just fine without any issues with latency.

  • Christopher Allen

    people buy $2-4k setups and complain about $30 adapters….lmao

    • Treadway

      hahahaha, yup.

    • Mike Kraze

      More to carry, more to break, more to lose…and let’s be honest, Apple has the worse track record with their cables fraying and breaking.

      • Christopher Allen

        Well in that case, solve the root of the problem, which is not how to support your DJ setup with a laptop with the least amount of external components, but instead how to DJ without a laptop at all. Unless you’re using turntables, your best bet is spending the extra money on an all-in-one or one of the few CD players that support USB because a laptop doesn’t need to do anything more than analyze and hold your music collection as far as a DJ is concerned anyway. That would certainly be less to carry, and to break, and to lose.

          • Christopher Allen

            then a midi adapter hub shall be your best friend..lol

  • Is this Macbook a joke?

    What are we going to loose with the next “update”? No internal hard-drive?!?.
    I hope there stock prices plunge for this sh*#.

    Is there anyway of running Mac OS on PC (with stability)?
    I’m done with apple.

  • AuralCandy.Net

    Apple is losing its touch; They are making “pro” products that do not meet the needs of the pros, yet are too expensive for the average consumer. Each new OS update is a compatibility nightmare, yet they practically force-feed the updates to their customers.

    At home the USB-C thing is not such huge pain. I currently have a Thunderbolt dock that connects my mixer, 3 controllers, external hard drive, LAN cable and external display to my MBP with just one Thunderbolt cable. There are similar USB-C docks.

    The dock, however, is not a practical thing to bring with me on a gig. On the other hand, a set of USB-C –> USB-B cables is not THAT big of an investment.

  • jm2c

    The New USB3/Thunderbolt3 I/O is great (no more puny 2.1A 5V power limit with USB bus power!), but the magsafe power admission was a bad choice. Couldn’t care less for the fondlestrip tbh. I will not be upgrading anytime soon. Apple seems to be sucking more and more with every new release!

    • stuie66

      I wonder if that cable would work without latency issues using a powered sound card. doesn’t Midi need a steady specific speed for it to work properly?

      • Jacob Stadtfeld

        Not at all. Midi is sent in bits rather than as a continuous stream, so it doesn’t need a steady stream really. But even continuous streams, like audio, work just find over current USB connectors. The USB-C port is primarily physical in its changes. Since the USB data transfer protocol is largely the same, so there should be no degradation compared to your current use of a USB powered card.

  • BKBikeNerd

    No USB 1.1/2.0/3.0 ports – Fail
    Near useless touchstrip – Fail
    No full screen touch screen – Fail
    Letting Dell have way better laptop with a touch screen for the last 4 years – Fail
    Getting rid of MagSafe – Fail
    Apple seems lost without Steve Jobs.
    The iPhone halo effect will eventually dissipate then they will be forced to innovate or at least copy really good technology.

  • boogie mac

    i would love to see the toucbar on a regular keyboard for imac and so

  • Ztronical

    Sticking with PC, the touch bar is neat but I would prefer a second display/ touch enabled with more options and size.
    Plus there is a huge space I almost have never used on any laptop that requires touch. The mouse/trackpad.
    In many ways I prefer buttons and the definite push for certain uses. It does look neat, and having one in front of me at a store might envoke the evil credit gnome.

  • Michael K

    Of course I will buy it u have 4 USB-C ports all u need is this right here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01AUKU1OO $7.99 for 2 USB C to USB 3.0 Adapters I am sold.

  • M8

    Ok, let’s look at poorest version Macbook. Only 2 USB-C ports. One is for charging, second for hardware. Great solution. For now, it’s really non-usable. Currently, there is no usb-c hub, which support charging (if I am right). Second thing, I don’t know how much hardware we can connect through usb-c without loosing voltage and data transmission (if we want to use hardware charged through usb). I am really disappointed.

    • Steve Francesco

      Try Amazon – theres literally HUNDREDS of usb-c hubs and multi I/O docks that support charging from $20 for a basic 4 port and upwards.

      • M8

        Ok, but there still is question how much hardware we can connect through usb-c hub without loosing voltage and data transmision…

        • Steve Francesco

          Well the ports send up to 20v @ 5amps which across 4 ports far more than a regular USB port and most of the USB-C hubs state up to 5 Gigabits per second max transfer rate so cant imagine theres going to be any issue for DJ use.

  • Dave Clayton

    One big unknown is if the hard drive and RAM are user upgradable. I went on Apple’s shop, and the base model 15″, which is $2,400 only has a 256 GB hard drive, and you’ll pay $600 more to upgrade it to a 1TB. So if it isn’t user-upgradable, you’re looking at a $3,000 investment for a DJ and Production laptop that doesn’t require an external hard drive for a modest sized music and sample library.

    My 2012 15″ MBP has a 256 GB SSD, and a 1TB HD in the optical drive, and I’m constantly having to offload to DropBox or delete, to keep from running out of space. I saved a significant amount of money by doing all of the upgrades myself. However more and more I’ve been thinking of moving to a PC laptop, and now that my UAD Apollo and Plugins will be supported in Windows with the next release, it’s looking like I will move to a PC laptop with replaceable components.

    • akswun

      I’m pretty sure they dumped the whole user upgradable design years ago. All for the sake of making things thinner and speedier. It’s unfortunate but I guess it does help for speeds and battery life.

    • Quenepas

      Maaaaaybe the SSD could be user upgradeable. http://www.computerworld.com/article/3056789/apple-mac/how-to-upgrade-your-macbook-pro-retina-to-a-1tb-pcie-ssd.html I think you could also install a Samsung 850 evo PCIe and not the OWC one.

      I forgive RAM since 8 is enough and would forgive on storage if it’s PCIe user replaceable like the link above but bor me it’s the battery. I depend a lot on battery and go thru them very quickly so having an extra battery user replaceable would help. With Macbooks no longer having that option I’ll be going PC, probably a Thinkpad.

      • Ian Williams

        Re battery life. Remember this will charge via USB C, so expect high capacity external power packs to appear on the market.

      • Frank

        That’s the old retina mbp, the new ones aren’t up-gradable at all.

    • reidar-evanger

      wow for 1TB cost 3000 dollars, that i pay ca 21000 bath here in thailand so much some 3000 dollar never

  • WRONG!

    Very expensive, no magsafe, slightly uglier, cool apple glowing light removed from the back of the screen, potentially gimmicky touch bar… This is the first time I’ve felt nervous upgrading my Macbook Pro.

    • Christopher Allen

      they’re always going to be expensive. ugly is subjective and even so i hardly see a physical difference. i don’t really care for the glowing apple. Hence, aside from the magsafe, everything else you listed is cosmetic and won’t affect your workflow at all soooo…you just complaining for the hell of it or what?

      • WRONG!

        No I am not… I know it was always going to be expensive, I’ve owned every generation of Retina MacBook Pro, the one I’m writing on now cost me close to £2k.. It always seems like a good idea to strike while the iron is hot, resell and buy new.. this year, not so much… the outlay is much bigger and that doesn’t include adapters I’d need to use my devices. There is no ‘aside from MagSafe’ – it is one of Apple’s greatest innovations – something they can genuinely say they innovated with – and could be their biggest mistake removing it. Plenty of Apple die hards don’t want this machine.

        • Christopher Allen

          I agree with you, but if re-sale is that important, you have to know that these new changes aren’t going to stop sales, just as the lack of an AUX cable hasn’t haulted sales of the iPhone 7 (though it has slowed them).

          People will still buy them and as great as the MagSafe was, you’ll find that it’s something you’ll get used to being without. It’s a portable computer. If it’s not plugged in or the cable falls out, it WILL still work, assuming the battery is not dead….lol. It was that way before the feature and so shall it be after.

      • ?Pearl Grey ???????

        Loads of people use the F-row and I’ve never seen *professionals* applaud replacing/removing the F-row with other stuff. A hell of a lot of programmers are mad about the escape key being removed (and don’t consider remapping it to be a good replacement). The touch-bar is not “just cosmetic” at all, it completely removes the ability to reliably “touch-type” f-row functions. Many people just map hotkeys in various apps (including production apps) to the F-row, and now there’s no guarantee that the area in the touch-strip you hit is the desired function you want.

        Generally speaking, most programmers/developers, artists, and musicians/producers I know have been very disappointed and will see this impacting their workflow.

  • Krunchie

    Losing the MagSafe and USB ports was a mistake. I was waiting for the release but may opt for the 2015 model now instead. The touch bar has limited advantage for the professional user.

  • Shawn

    My main issue is the USB c-ports. I am a very forgetful man. So I would at least lose an adapter every few gigs or so. Then that’s 20$ out of my pocket right there. As far as I can tell this is the only computer that is all USB c ports only. So pioneer and them will see no point in giving out cords for it with their controllers. So now I will have to dump 100$ on adapters.

    • Jacob Stadtfeld

      I can’t imagine it’ll be long before we see USB C to USB Type-B cables though.

      • Bobak Chehrehnegar

        These have already been out actually! Fairly inexpensive too, saves having to get a dongle or adaptors for controllers/mixers

        • Jacob Stadtfeld

          Exactly. The adapters wouldn’t make sense to purchase in my opinion. I mean I already have USB to Type B, Mini, and Micro cables; just the other end that’s changing this time.

    • Steve Francesco

      A basic USB-C 4 port hub is $10

      • gigglekey

        lol do try running a controller or two and an Audio2/4/6/10 on one of those $10 hubs. You’re gonna spend at least $40 for a hub that doesn’t suck.

  • ?The Other Denzel?

    As I type this on a Late 2011 MBP, I can’t help be be pleased at how useful this machine still is. I’ve got 4tb’s of SSD storage(that I upgraded myself), 16 gb’s of ram(That I upgraded myself), and a 17 inch anti-glare display. I’m also running window’s (because my Denon Dnx-1600 doesn’t work with Sierra, and i had to upgrade to sierra for my web dev job). The unibody mbp was such a great machine, that it’s still not really obsolete.

    The touchbar seemed relatively pointless for anyone who uses their machine professionally Most of our workflows, be it for web dev, video, graphic design, djing, or production are predicated on shortcuts that we can use in our sleep. The adobe demo was nice, but any real graphic designer want’s a damn touch screen that they can draw on, not a touch bar. The Algoriddm demo was a shamble.

    And the keyboard!!! why did they use the regular macbook’s god forsaken keyboard?!?!?!

    I don’t think i’ll be buying a new mbp, ever.

    when my 17 inch is obsolete, i’ll probably buy one of Razor’s machine’s, or a Surface Book.

    • Shawn

      I have been thinking of getting the new razor also…

    • Dave Clayton

      Does your MBP ‘officially’ support 8 GB, but you saw OWC’s testing that it can accommodate 16GB? Does it run hotter than normal with 16GB?

      • ?The Other Denzel?

        The machine ran pretty hot with 8gb’s, it’s actually about 10 degree’s cooler with the “un-supported” 16gb’s

    • Spacecamp

      Sure, but USB-C is the future standard of I/O – it’s not like FireWire where Apple was the ONLY company to adopt it (aside from a few companies that sold FireWire boards to slap in your PCs).

      • Jacob Stadtfeld

        Not to mention the few companies that banked on it like Korg with their Zero line. Although those units have bigger problems than just ports that didn’t get adopted en masse.

    • angus

      Same here! I guess we gonna need an adapter