Macs are the top laptops for music production, performing, and recording -either for ambitious music producers or DJs. I’ve reviewed the Best Mac for Music Production (in studio or on-the-go). Get a Mac with Core i7 processors, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD.
Summary: With a good music-making laptop, you can make your DAWs, API or sub-systems (like CoreAudio) highly responsive & robust. If you’re a traveling producer, go for a sleek, light and compact Mac – in addition to having excellent specs.
|MacBook Pro 15 (@ Amazon)||15″ Retina||Bluetooth, Thunderbolt||Intel Core i7, 2.6 GHz, Six-core||16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD|
|MacBook Pro 13 (@ Amazon)||13″ Retina||Bluetooth, Thunderbolt||Intel Core i5, 2.3 GHz, Quad-core||8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD|
Reviews: Our 5 Best Mac for Music Production & DJs (2018)
1. MacBook Pro Retina 2015 – Our Top Pick (Fast & portable)
Apple 15″ MacBook Pro Retina is loved in the music industry – it’s robust, has many USB ports, MagSafe present, and no noisy butterfly keys. Further, It’s compatible with many DAWs that are optimized to work with the Mac OS – thus has fewer performance issues or crashes.
But, why didn’t I include the MacBook Pro 2016? Well, MacBook Pro 2016 has a decorative touchpad – whose application is not fully utilized for music production. But get some hard-drives for great studio work.
Also, the 2016 model lacks the MagSafe connector, Firewire sockets, and USB ports – that is great for live performance or producing music on the move. MacBook Pro 2016’s Touch-Pad may allow faster access to the tempo, record, stop and play controls on the Ableton Live.
Apple 15″ MacBook Pro will comfortably run sessions with many plugins and tracks running actively – with superior 16GB RAM and processing power (quad-core Intel Core i7). But remember, MacBook Pro has some noise fans that could disrupt your recordings – if you’re doing this in the same space.
In addition, Apple 15″ MacBook Pro uses SSD storage (256GB) and thus you can easily store the large sized files without slowing the machine. Its base model has an 8GB RAM and a 3.6 GHz processor (dual-core), which implies that you’ll get adequate power.
Here’s how different music producers use their Macs. (1) Traditional production – Record music tracks via mics & instruments and finally mix. (2) DJs and performing musicians will use their Mac in recording and producing tracks and finally in performing. (3) Lastly, hip-hop artists and EDMs use DAW with Laptops for FL studio, MIDI-keyboard controllers, & sequencers.
2. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (mid-2018) – Also Powerful MacBook
First, the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch is almost similar (with its Touch Bar too) to the Apple 15″ MacBook Pro but with a smaller sized display and some compromises in features. New features include the True Tone display, an improved keyboard, and Hey Siri that will make a large difference in your daily work.
But with the highly portable 13-inch MacBook Pro (thin and light), I can now work at coffee shops, trains, or planes. With the amazing analog modeled plugins, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and awesome mixing headphones, it’s even possible to edit my tune vocals and drums while in the waiting lobby of the airport.
The MacBook Pro has a silicone layer below every key and thus you won’t experience stuck keys. With its 2560 * 1600 pixels’ True Tone display is colorful, bright and sharp in resolution. It has Intel Iris 655 Plus graphics which are awesomely helpful for video and photo editing.
In my beginner days as a music producer, I would spend days without an end in the basement studio with limited air or lighting. While editing my band’s drums and tracks, I would suffer from the ruthless fluorescent lights. This made me seek increased portability of my music making machines and devices. Its Thunderbolt 3 will support 2 – 5K displays and a 40GB/s data transfer that will work great for your music making tasks.
Therefore, with the True Tone technology, your display will change the panel of Mac’s white balance to match the color temperature for your surrounding temperature – therefore, you’ll have better viewing when making music for an extended period of time.
With the new T2 chip to allow full disk encryption for secure booting and for storing data in the SSD. Further, the Hey Siri will allow you to use your voice to change settings while producing music. It has 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports and the 720p HD camera (Face-time) to allow better video calling.
It has 128GB SSD storage to allow power efficient and high-speed memory, which will mean you, can start multiple apps or import huge files very fast. The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with 2 speakers that’ll offer you balanced and rich audio. Further, it has a 58-watt-hour battery that will guarantee longer power supply for the laptop.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with fast processors that will readily handle your recording or handling various audio work (either professional or beginner levels). For the 2018 MacBook Pro, you’ll get additional Ram and a 2TB SSD.
3. Apple 27-inch iMac 5K – Best studio Mac for Producers
iMac 5K is a great machine for your studio music-making. Interestingly, in addition to the large (17 inches) display, you’ll get a powerful iMac that will allow you to record and produce effectively using complicated music editing DAWs.
Its Radeon Pro 500 graphics are great for music and video editing in your music making activities. Also, our current iMac 5 version has a 2TB Fusion Drive, 8GB RAM, and Intel Core i5 (3.8GHz Quad Core) processor.
This iMac 5K has higher-bandwidth connectivity and advanced graphics technologies that will enhance your music production on this desktop computer.
The base model of Apple’s 5K iMac has a 3.2 GHz 8GB VRAM that you can upgrade to 32GB (plus a 1TB hard) – but its i5 chip is great for handling music production – multitasking, editing and selecting multiple music tracks.
4. MacBook Air (2018) – Fast, Light & Sleek
With this MacBook Air, Apple again managed to hit the light and thin in a laptop great for music production. Notably, it has MacOS, Retina display, and a sleek aluminum body. I loved that it weighs about 3 pounds, which is light enough for traveling production.
However, you’d need to purchase some dongles since the available Thunderbolt 3 will not connect with most of your peripherals. Besides, it’ll give you about 12 hours on its full charge. MacBook Air has a PCIe- flash (256GB), 2.7 GHz Core i5 CPU, and 8GB of RAM.
Moreover, the MacBook has the HD 6000 coprocessor Graphics which allow excellent video and image editing. With its turbo booster, the regular processor speed (1.8GHz) can be enhanced to about 2.7GHz.
5. Mac mini – Best Budget Mac for Producers
Yes, I am talking about the “little computer.” Despite being considered as a basic computer, I believe the Mac Mini is a powerful machine that will help you kick-start your music production career.
Therefore, I would say that it offers the best value for a music-making machine for beginners – but the iMac would be a better alternative but at a higher price of course.
Some Mac Mini’s hardware specs such as connectivity almost match those of the iMac. Also, this Mac has more audio-in ports; it, however, produces less noise and is smaller in size. However, if you need to edit using soft synths such as Diva (at real-time), you’ll probably require additional horsepower.
Connections & Portability in Mac for Music
On connection, you might require using monitors, USB instruments, or audio interfaces. Hence, the full connections pack (stereo speakers, headphone jack, two USB 3, & Two Thunderbolt 2 (USB-C)) in your MacBook Pro Retina 2015 will serve you best. However, the newer MacBook Pro (such as MacBook Pro 2016) only one USB-C port will require you to carry a connections dongle.
If you’re a traveling music producer, an iMac is too bulky (28 pounds and 27-Inch Retina Display). However, for extra portability, MacBook Pro Retina (15-inch Retina display & 6.8 pounds) would be great. Therefore, if you’re just a solo music producer or musician and work in a single office, the iMac desktop would give you a great return on investment.
Mac vs PC for Music Production
Why Macs in music production – robust hardware. Current DAW’s like logic Studio (unlike Omega and Atari -using Octamed) has many sound & studio effects’ libraries. Logic DAW runs only on Mac – it’s simple and offers top performance.
Mac laptops (such as MacBook Pro 2015) have a lightweight design and are highly portable, which allows an easy time for on-the-go music production. Further, the new retina display allowed the designers to achieve an even thinner build that makes the laptop easy to carry while traveling or to live gigs. Despite having the thin and light design, MacBook Pro laptops will competently run your DAW and multiple music tracks – even with the baseline 8GB RAM.
OS X allows a Plug-and-Play experience in music production. Therefore, music producers don’t have to go searching (when on a live stage) for DAW’s updates & drivers – which could be frustrating and time wasting. Further, with a Mac has limited compatibility problems and thus it’s possible to launch pads and hook-up interfaces.
Logic Studio DAW makes many music producers prefer Mac over Pcs. Reason? Macs hardware and software is keenly built to run Logic Studio just like its predecessor – Garageband (pre-installed to easily create great loops and studio sounds). Logic X plus the Alchemy synth are also highly affordable. Interestingly all Mac laptops come with the SSD (Solid State Standard) storage drives that are fast and will give you better performance compared to the mechanical drives.
MacBook Pro Vs. iMac in Music Production
Recently, I went through a gearslutz forum on MacBook Pro or iMac for making music. First, the iMac 5k would work great for you if you require a faster CPU (processor) / GPU and larger display. In addition, with the newer type of MacBook Pros, you might require dongles to connect additional peripherals such as USB instruments.
Further, it’s easier and cheaper to upgrade your RAM (such as to anything above 32GB) on the iMac 5k compared to the 15″ MacBook Pro. However, for 15″ MacBook Pro is more suitable if you’ll be producing on-the-go or you might be doing live performances or mixing.
Hardware Specs for Music-making Mac?
RAM: You don’t want RAM bottleneck, particularly with the heavy music making software in your pro-level projects. A limited RAM capacity on your Mac will mean that your operations will be affected.
You’ll have less time completing thins live and excessive time rendering. Therefore, since most Macs do not allow post-production RAM upgrade, you’ll need to acquire a laptop with minimum 16GB RAM. Well, now we check Mac storage. The debate has been large capacity HDD or an SSD. SSDs have notably low speed in comparison to Hard drives (HDDs) and produce some higher noise levels.
Processor: Simply stated, the Mac processor is akin to the human brain. Notably, to achieve high performance in music production task, you’ll need to get minimum Core i5 processor or 3Ghz AMD quad-core processor. However, for optimum performance go for a core i7 processor or a 3.8 GHz Xeon12-core processor.
Hard Drive Capacity – You Mac will either have an SSD (Solid-State Drive) or an HDD. The difference is that SSD storage is faster and more efficient (more expensive too) compared to the HDD one. Further, SSD is faster if you’ll be using very heavy plugins. However, if your Mac has HDD storage, you can store the 3rd party plugins on the SSD to avoid pops and clicks when producing the music.