The usual advice applies: if you’re thinking of rushing to update to a major new OS, and you’re a musician, take your time.
That’s the advice for OS X Mavericks as it would be for any big update to OS X, Windows, Linux, and now even iOS.
But with that disclaimer, OS X Mavericks is so far looking like an uncommonly smooth release. The impact of App Nap, a new power-saving feature, appears to be negligible. (Presumably, it isn’t getting aggressive with apps using the audio system. We’ll need to do more testing, and as always it’s worth keeping your Mac plugged into power for optimal performance, but so far we’ve seen no reported problems.) That means the main area of interest is Apple’s extensive optimization of the graphics systems. So far, most reliability problems with apps have been in this area. And in some sense, that’s kind of good news. Some OS X developers had been using outdated APIs for graphics support; part of the idea of Mavericks is to modernize the use of OpenGL even on integrated graphics (as found on the mini and more affordable MacBooks).
I also think the focus of this update blows holes in the oft-repeated gripe that Apple uses OS updates to obsolete old hardware. (Hint: wearing tin foil on your head won’t control the urge to buy a new Retina MacBook, either.) The new OS makes it easier to update from older versions, supports a wide range of hardware back to 2007 (see Macworld’s guide, below), and improves battery life and graphics performance on older machines. (Anyone remember that old Apple slogan about upgrading being like “getting a whole new Mac.” Yeah. Like that.)
Of course, these same graphics optimizations and so on mean, crucially, some older apps will have problems, and some key software is going to need updates. If you like tinkering, or you have one of those spells where you aren’t under deadlines or gigging, you might want to update. Almost everyone else is going to want to wait just a little while for some key app updates.
Details of what works and what doesn’t?
Thanks to Benjamin Weiss at De:Bug for the first exhaustive guide I’ve seen (German). I’m going to pillage his links shamelessly here:
Ableton Live 8 and 9 are compatible via new betas. Live 8 and Live 9 stable currently are not recommended for Mavericks. If you’re on the beta list, though, beta updates (8.4.2 and 9.1) are available now. Those two betas are very stable, so oddly, beta Ableton users may feel free to jump for the new OS. Everyone else should wait.