My Gear

As a professional music engraver and, by extension, a limited graphic designer, I need some specific gear to perform my work. In this page I will list what I currently use and, down below, my wishlist for the future alongside some suggestions for those who either have the space or the money, or both, to expand in such a way. Most links shown here will be “affiliate links”, that meaning that a small commission will be paid to me if you choose to purchase something from those links. Your purchasing experience will not be affected.

My setup

My daily driver is a 2016 MacBook Pro, a 15″ model with the TouchBar (RIP, I will miss you!). I was tempted by the new 2021 MacBook Pro, but back in 2016 I made the half-mistake of buying the first model with TouchBar, with all the issues it had (besides being less performant than the 2015 model). I do not want to repeat the mistake this time, letting beta testing to other brave souls.

I chose a laptop because for about 1.5/2 months a year I am not home and having both of a desktop and a laptop was simply not an option so far. I cannot link my current model but, if you want, Amazon has the latest iteration with Intel processors from 2019, which may be good if you for some reason cannot use M1 processors. Otherwise, if you are looking to buy a current generation model, I suggest going for the 16″ for the bigger screen (and better thermals), while the M1Pro should provide ample room for all your needs. Should you do a lot of gaming, the M1Max would be better, but then this assumes you want to keep using macOS as I do.

2021 16″ MacBook Pro

To keep my MacBook Pro raised from the desk I use a TwelveSouth ParcSlope.

TwelveSouth ParcSlope

Working in graphics, a 15″ display is certainly not enough both for the available space and for the eyes. I have been working many years on just a 15″ display with my previous MacBook Pro (a 2009 model) but thankfully I have moved on. I have used 1080p displays until one month ago, but have now moved on to this Huawei model, the MateView 4K 28.2in.

It is a gorgeous display, with 98% DCI-P3 color coverage, alongside full sRGB coverage, a 3×2 aspect ratio that actually makes it a lot taller with a resolution of 3840 x 2560. It has 65W power delivery but I try not to use it too much because of the effect it can and will have on the battery. The packaging, just gorgeous, comes with an USB-C to USB-C cable for connectivity and PD, and a mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort for alternative connectivity. To use this with the MacBook Pro, I am using CalDigit DisplayPort to USB-C adapter. I strongly suggest CalDigit adapters because they are the only one which did not cause any issue with the displays or with overheating (and in 2016 I tried a lot of them).

My model is the older, white one, but I am sure this is at least as good!

Using Sibelius as my main software (by now) and also because I am a bit old-style, I have an external full size keyboard with numerical keypad. I tried many of them, but, in the end, I always came back to the original Apple one which, by the way, after 5 years of using it 8-10 hours every day, still has excellent battery life (I charge it every 20 days or so) and gorgeous Bluetooth connection. I tried the MX Master keyboard from Logitech and sent it back after ONE DAY because of the issues with Bluetooth and how uncomfortable the keys were. Definitely personal, but still, I was the one in charge!

The best keyboard ever for Mac

Of course, a perfect pairing for this is the Magic Trackpad 2. This has been the perfect companion but, possibly because of its smaller size, its battery life is starting to fail. It may be normal after 5 years of continuous use and I will certainly replace it with the same model when time will come.

The ForceTouch feature is just killer!

As a trained classical musician, I need to get at least an acceptable sound out of what I do, even if my occupation lies in print graphic. For when the laptop is on my desk, I got these two beautiful monitors:

These are the Edifier R1280Ts and, for a small room like mine (about 15sqmt) in a quite transparent Italian building from the 1970s, they are perfect. For mobility I have two items: the Powerbeats Pro in ivory color (sadly no longer available) for when I go out or I teach remotely and the Focal Listen Wireless for when I need something more. I am all for Bluetooth but, of course, when something more is needed, a cable and a pre-amp will be used.

These will never fall from your ears and provide a quite satisfying sound quality. The only downside is the contact in the charging case, which fails many times.
These are just the most comfortable pair of headphones I have ever tried.

The final, and possibly best part of my setup is my 12.9-inch iPad Pro (the 2018-model), which has completely revolutionised my way of working. I would not advise buying the M1 model as you can find the 2018 model refurbished which is absolutely fantastic for a lot less but I didn’t find reliable links for that. It is better that you look for it on the Apple Store where sometimes these offers come out. If you want the latest and greatest, do not go for the 11-inch but with the 12.9-inch as it has a much better screen.

You must absolutely pair this with the Apple Pencil 2, it is such an inseparable piece of tech that has improved both my engravings and my teaching experience.

The final and most recent addition to the family is the Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad, which effectively makes the iPad into a laptop (bar all the things a tablet cannot do, but we are not here talking about that). The keyboard has an awesome tactile feeling, and so has the trackpad, even if it is kind of little and it works not too well in some apps like Apple Books. The only problem I have with this is that it is not worthy 400€; I understand they are the only one offering such a high level product (as competition doesn’t even come close), but this is way too much! Wait for when this goes down in price.

Extra Tools

The other tools I use beside are, obviously, external disks for backups. After having many of them fail, I opted for enterprise-grade ones which give me 5 years of warranty AND recovery plan included: I am talking about the LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 3, 6TB drive! It is a great drive, sure spinning and not SSD, but it has an enterprise-grade disks inside so it is more than reliable! A little downside is how noisy it is, now that we are used to SSDs.

Lastly, I also bought a Logitech gaming mouse for the few times when I have time to do some gaming. I went for the G603 Wireless / Bluetooth and I like it very much, even if I have to find the perfect DPI balance to get it to maximum precision.

A couple of SSDs for TimeMachine and CarbonCopyCloner backups complete the collections but both of them are handmade: I bought the internal SSDs and mounted them on USB-C / T3 cases. For SSDs I always choose Crucial because they offer great performance at reasonable prices; also, for TimeMachine and backups you just need them to be SSDs, not fast ones.

For case, I suggest this one from UGreen: cheap, reliable, good!

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