Producers, don’t upgrade to macOS Big Sur yet

Don’t let curiosity kill your studio computer.

Apple MacBook Pro

Image: Apple

Apple’s latest major release of macOS launched yesterday (12 November) – but you’ll probably want to hold off on hitting that shiny update button and heading on to Big Sur.

But it’s so shiny…

So why not update? Well for starters, brands are still compatibility testing their software with macOS Big Sur; by jumping the gun, you could potentially be damning your plug-ins, DAWs and other software to incompatibility limbo.

And that includes Logic users too; even though the DAW is compatible from day one – the plug-ins you rely on may not be. On that note, if you’ve pre-ordered a new M1-equipped Mac, you might find yourself cornered because these come preloaded with Big Sur with the road back to Catalina barred.

Apple began phasing out 32-bit app compatibility with Catalina, so if your software is running below 64-bit, simply put, it’s not going to be compatible. Otherwise, it’s up in the air.

For instance, while Celemony’s current Melodyne 5.1 is supported on Big Sur while previous editions are not. Avid and Ableton also both appear hard at work to get their DAWs running on Big Sur. Suffice to say that most brands are advising customers to hold off on updates for now.

Rosetta 2

This year is a special one for the Cupertino giant as it marks the advent of ARM Macs – its first generation of computers equipped with Apple Silicon instead of Intel chips. To aid the transition, Apple has launched the updated Rosetta 2 for macOS Big Sur.

Rosetta 2 is a compatibility mechanism (or “converter”) to help ARM Macs run software that hasn’t yet been ported to Apple Silicon. But will this allow you to use your existing plug-ins and audio software on the new M1 Macs? Apple has said that Rosetta 2’s compatibility will extend to plug-ins, but the details are thin, so the safest bet is to wait and see.

What about Boot Camp?

We know that Boot Camp – Apple’s utility that lets you switch between macOS and Windows – will be excluded on ARM Macs simply because Windows is not designed to run on ARM processor architecture. However, according to Ars Technica, it appears that Intel-based Macs operating on Big Sur will continue to receive support for Boot Camp. That’s great news if you’re running a dual OS setup.

When should I upgrade?

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of updating a studio computer, you’ll know that it can be a painful process where you have to wave goodbye to faithful old plug-ins. The transition to a new OS is rarely a straight line for brands either. On the upside, you can expect the music-making community to highlight any glaring incompatibility issues fairly quickly. At the end of the day, however, it depends entirely on your own set up.

As a general guideline, we would advise holding off on upgrading – and watching for updates from brands – for at least a few weeks (or months if possible). Also, remember that there’s nothing wrong with staying on Catalina (or whatever OS you’re on) indefinitely – especially if your setup works for you. also has a rolling list to track compatibility testing across most well-known developers, here.

As always, if you’re still curious about hitting that update button, we have a few suggestions:

  • Thoroughly back up your existing rig
  • If you have another non-studio computer, try updating that first
  • Keep an eye on forums for compatibility (horror) stories
  • Check with software developers and hardware manufacturers for the latest compatibility information
  • Oh, and cross your fingers

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