Best Mac Pro Build for Twitch-Partnered Music Streamer (Converting from 2020 Mac Mini)


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Hi all! My name is Zane Carney and I'm a professional musician turned Twitch-Partnered mostly-music streamer (thanks COVIDDDDDDD) and I'd love some input on a Mac Pro build I'm ordering in the next week or so!

When Quarantine started in March I scrambled to learn as much as I could about live streaming and decided to buy a 2020 Mac mini (3.2 Ghz 6-Core Intel Core i7, 64GB RAM - self installed) with an OWC Mercury Helios FX650 eGPU with an AMD Radeon 5700XT 8GB card. I thought this would be just strong enough for my needs seeing as how I already had a couple monitors laying around and how it was significantly more powerful than my 2015 13" maxed out MacBook Pro.

Since I started streaming I've been partnered which means I have access to encoding options on Twitch and therefore can properly stream 1080p / 60fps at 6000-10000kbps and let people pull down the encoding if that stream is too intense. A big part of my brand on Twitch is high quality camera and audio (via Universal Audio Apollo Audio Interfaces and 5 studio grade XLR Blue Microphones) and so it's really important to me that I'm able to reliably stream 1080p / 60fps.

Long story short, this setup is not working out as expected. For one, the Mac Mini/eGPU vibe is a true nightmare with sleep to wake and startup issues randomly and awfully often. Secondly, a big part of my content is my unique Music Theory of Gaming program where I use an iPad Pro, Canon EOS R DSLR FaceCam and Switch/PS4 all via 3 consistently connected Elgato HD 60 S+ Capture Cards while tapping into Spotify and Safari to play the songs I'm transcribing and explaining and Discord to do combo streams with people like Destiny or Austin Show. To top it off, I have two camera positions (I moved the EOS R between the two spots depending on if I'm at my desk or "guitar performance" part of my studio) and 3 monitors that I'm running based on which "station" I'm at (two Samsung 28" IPS 4k Monitors at my desk, 1 BenQ 1080p at my guitar performance setup.)

Long story short, sometimes I get 60fps, sometimes it lags in scene transitions, sometimes it lags randomly, sometimes it crashes during stream (especially if I'm using hardware encoding)'s all so unpredictable and enough to make me want to quit streaming at times even though I average about 75-150 viewers and hit spikes of 750-2k after raids (which happen often.) I need something that doesn't stress me out as much, doesn't barely work most of the time and doesn't require such insane setup and tech troubleshoot times.

Soooooo - I've decided to pony up and get a Mac Pro and sell my current 5 month old Mac Mini/eGPU setup. I need something more reliable and seeing as how streaming is turning into a potentially serious business, I'm hoping that I won't regret the lavish financial decision down the line. Worst case scenario I'll have a whisper quiet Mac for my film scoring, producing and home studio work. Best case, I'll be able to regain the 10-30 hours a week I'm wasting troubleshooting, rebooting, hard resetting, coming in hours before stream to tech check my Mac Mini etc and use those hours streaming, teaching online guitar lessons, recording my solo music and enjoying a life outside that isn't all about monitoring and fixing my current rig. I'm thinking it'll be a great investment either way...hoping!

I know that a PC would be cheaper move if all I wanted to do was stream but then I'd have to learn a whole new ecosystem and deal with the nightmare Universal Audio driver situation on Windows while also dealing with the myriad ways a PC can crash and have driver issues etc and I wouldn't be able to sell my current Mac Mini cause I'd have to keep that for any sort of meaningful audio work I'll do from home. Plus, I'm starting to do live recording sessions on stream where I flow in and out of Logic, ProTools, etc...long story short, I really need to keep this all on a Mac so I can easily workflow and control my dialed-in multi signal audio while broadcasting and I don't feel that an iMac or iMac Pro are worth the investment considering there's very little modularity or upgrade path for either of those. If I'm gonna pony up the money, I might as well get something that can last a decade with proper upgrades.

So, without further ado, here is the Mac Pro build I'm looking at and I'm wondering what I should change to really optimize it for my streaming setup (knowing that I'll be using OBS with x264 encoding, unless one of the AMD cards listed below is amazing at hardware encoding?)

3.5Ghz 16-core Intel Xeon W processor (4.4Ghz Turbo Boost)
32GB Ram (I'll be installing my OWN RAM, either 64GB or 96GB to start)
Radeon Pro Vega II (32GB HBM2 Memory)

Now, here's the deal: I'm not sure how OBS Optimizes the CPU Cores! There's a chance the 3.5ghz 8-Core could actually do a better job of x264 encoding because of the higher base speed (turbo boost only hits 4Ghz...) if OBS doesn't actually utilize all cores while encoding. I don't think I'd get the 12 Core 3.3ghz cause it's only .1 Ghz faster and the 4 more cores in the 16-core would be better for all the other Apple apps I use, but I could maybe be swayed to get since it's $1k less. And I've heard that the 24 and 28 core processors don't quite make sense for encoding and/or OBS because of the lower clock speeds (2.7Ghz and 2.5Ghz respectively) but if OBS can use all those cores and crush a stream that way, I honestly would be open to consider either of those options. I plan on encoding at fast - veryfast but if by some miracle I'm able to hit slow or medium encoding with one of these higher core processors I'd consider...

I'm also not sure how OBS (or live encoding in general) uses the GPU. I've heard that the W5700X (16GB GDDR6 Memory) might actually perform better with H.264 and H.265 encoding than the Pro Vega II, but I'm not sure if that's true? And I have no idea if H.264 has anything to do with x264 (I'm still learning all of this...) but if it does, perhaps the W5700X would somehow help me in OBS? Again, I need to run 3-4 monitors simultaneously at my setup so the GPU would mostly be a) for running visuals and monitoring my stream live b) making sure the CPU can focus purely on encoding the stream.

I'm open to buying the best Mac Pro build (within reason) right now if it's means I can rest easy that I won't ever have a bottle neck while streaming using OBS and that's why I'm thinking of getting the Pro Vega II. But, If the W5700X is legitimately better for streaming (I've seen some signs of this online maybe...), I'll absolutely save the money and go for that. It's also worth noting that I don't plan on editing a ton of videos the next year or so because I have someone helping me edit remotely for my YouTube channel and I don't do anything involving ProRes right now. I'll be using my CPU to encode so I honestly don't even know if the GPU is very important, but I've noticed on my Mac Mini that I can barely pump out 1080p / 20fps with only one 1080p monitor connected to the HDMI out, so I've gathered that OBS *does* need some sort of GPU power to run. I just don't want to spend an extra $1800 for the Pro Vega II if it turns out the W5700X is actually BETTER for OBS optimization.

If you stuck it out to the end of this post, you're my hero and I'd love to be your friend (ha! But for real...) and here are final questions in the most succinct form:

1) Which processor is going to better optimize x264 encoding in OBS while using 3-4 video sources and 3-6 background apps (incl Logic, ProTools, Safari, etc.): 3.5Ghz 8-Core (4.0Ghz Turbo) or 3.2Ghz 16-Core (4.4Ghz Turbo)? Is there any universe where I should entertain the 3.3Ghz 12-Core (4.4Ghz Turbo)?
2) Even though I'll be CPU encoding via x264, which GPU will best handle my OBS streaming setup including 3-4 4k/1080p monitors, and 3-4 Capture Cards: Radeon Pro W5700X (16GB GDDR6) or Radeon Pro Vega II (32GB HBM2)
3) Should I be focusing on getting more ram than my assumed 64-96GB need? Would that somehow help me run OBS better while running my other apps (Logic, Pro Tools) or is 64-96GB already way to much for my needs?

Thank you so much to anyone who decides to respond and please feel free to come over to my Twitch or Discord to hang and/or chat about this build in more depth!


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I realize that I've gotten myself into the same situation... I run my own recording studio, while not having any UA gear, I was really dead set on streaming some high-quality 1080 60fps music and gaming on the nights I didn't have sessions or gigs. At the beginning of covid, I also got a mini mac, 2018 with the 3.6 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i3. I self-installed 64GB of ram and got the Sonnet 750ex Breakaway. After 4 months of not being able to get a graphics card, I finally got my hands on a cheap RX580 on amazon... It came today :/
You're right, it sucks. I really should have built the Hackintosh a friend recommended, running Linux, Mac and Windows. Somehow I convinced myself the mini mac upgrades would be cheaper seeing as I wouldn't have to source a case, CPU, more ram and possibly another graphics card... At least this was a stimulus venture so I'm not out TOO bad, but I really just wanna stream.


@zanecarney what did you end up doing? I'm still on the fence as to what to do. I'll have to take on a bunch of work before I can dump any more money into it, but I'm very curious as to what you came up with!


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@zanecarney would also love to hear what you ended up with. I've been live-streaming on a trashcan, which has been crashing in the middle of streams. kernel panics. the worst.