“I’ve been thinking about switching to a Mac for my audio and MIDI production needs. I kind of like the new iMac, but is it expandable enough to work in an audio and MIDI environment?”
The answer depends to some extent what you need to do. It is nowhere near as expandable as a G4 tower, but it certainly can be effectively used for audio and MIDI. Like the towers it has Firewire connections, USB, Ethernet, Modem (built in), audio outputs (in the form of speaker and headphone jacks), expandable RAM (up to 2 gig), Airport wireless networking capability, a good sized built in hard drive, and a choice of a CD-RW, DVD ROM, or DVD-R drive.
A few of the caveats are: it has a built in monitor (very cool), but it isn’t really expandable. There is a separate video port on the back to which you can connect another monitor, but this is only for video mirroring, where the other display will mirror what is on the main flat screen display. This really isn’t a problem unless you want to run two displays with different images. You can’t add an additional internal hard drive, but there are more and more Firewire drives coming to market that are suitable for audio and/or video recording so you can still add a lot of extra storage that way. Also, another issue with the new iMacs is speed; they have a 100MHz system bus – not bad but a third slower than a G4 tower. But the main difference between the new iMac and the G4 for audio production is that the new iMac doesn’t have any PCI card slots. This means you can’t add things like SCSI controller cards (probably not a big deal for most people these days), extra monitor cards, and (most relevant to us) audio interface cards. This limits the type of audio system you can use, but since there are more and more Firewire and USB based systems coming out all the time even this isn’t really a show stopper unless the system you want to use requires PCI slots. Get yourself a Firewire audio interface, an approved Firewire hard drive, a USB MIDI interface, the right software, and you’re ready to roll.
Bottom line: the iMac is a great all in one computer at an incredible price. As long as you know the few limitations and select your other gear accordingly you will be really happy with it. Your Sweetwater Sales Engineer can help you with the best choices and iMac system configurations.