How to Choose the Best MacBook for Music Production
Music-making does not require renting studios to record your tracks — all you need is your home laptop to apply the desired effects to polish tracks. But before this, learn which Apple computers are the best ones to record music.
Before we start
Music production apps often consume a huge amount of space, so before installing an app like this on any device, ensure you have enough free gigabytes.
Install MacKeeper to remove all useless stuff from you Mac — needless apps, duplicate files, and junk — so you can enjoy your unclogged device!
Musicians prefer Macs, and for several reasons — high-quality music production is one of them. In this article, we’ll cover the main aspects you should consider when choosing the best Mac for music production and give our recommendations on important models specs.
In a nutshell, we believe the top three of the best Macs for music production 2020 are:
- 27-inch 5K iMac —the best choice for music production
- 16-inch MacBook Pro — the best portable laptop
- Mac mini — the best budget Mac
Read further to find out why these models are the best computers for creating music!
What’s Best for Musicians — Mac or PC?
Choosing between macOS and a Windows platform depends mostly on your computer preferences and your collaborators. With the fast development of technology, the PC is right behind Mac. However, it's easier to get started making music on a Mac than on a PC. We’ll tell you why.
The PC standard audio drivers won’t be suitable for creating music professionally. Windows users would need to install ASIO drivers for the sound card alongside other music hardware they’d like to use, for example, MIDI controllers. Windows does not provide native music software — that’s why installing extra music software is essential.
On a Mac, on the contrary, fewer steps are required. You can plug in music hardware and then open GarageBand — the pre-installed app on iOS and macOS in DAW (digital audio workstation). It lets you have your music studio for recording, editing, composing, and experimenting with audio-tracks. We’ll tell you more about GarageBand in this article.
Recommended system requirements
The Mac’s system requirements depend on which type of music software you’d be using and the complexity of your music-making processes. The next step is to check the program’s official system requirements you will run. This will help you determine the minimum required specs your Mac should have.
For music production, a Mac should have at least a 2.2Ghz i7 quad-core processor. The process determines how fast your music projects would run (and usually they are huge). Start at least with 16GB of RAM. Having less than 16 GB of RAM means using fewer instrument voices. Also, your speed will decrease.
Let’s talk about storage. The amount of disk space depends on the size of the audio files you’ll be working on. As a rule, professional software can use hundreds of GBs. So, for starters, Macs coming with basic 256GB SSDs may be enough. Still, you can plan to add some external storage for your Mac in the future.
Video cards have always been important for playing games and video editing. And for audio software as well. Choose a video card wisely — check which one is required by the audio software you need and if you’ll have to connect any displays.
The Best Macs for Music Production
Here is our list of the best Macs for music-making:
27-inch 5K iMac — the best choice for music production
The new 2019 hardware makes the 27-inch 5K iMac our top pick for your home studio. You can customize its RAM up to 64GB. The advanced processor lets you use all the features of pro audio editing apps. The size of the Retina display is an obvious benefit. Besides, it comes with four USB 3 ports alongside with two Thunderbolt 3/USB Type C ports.
|27-inch 5K iMac Specs|
3.1GHz 6‑core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz)
Configurable to 3.6GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 (Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz)
Radeon Pro 575X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
8GB (two 4GB) of 2666MHz DDR4 memory, four SO-DIMM slots, user-accessible
Configurable to 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB
27-inch diagonal Retina 5K display
1TB (5400-rpm) hard drive
Configurable to 1TB Fusion Drive or 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD
16-inch MacBook Pro — the best portable laptop
If you go on tours — the 16-inch MacBook Pro is just right for you! The basic configuration makes it powerful enough. Using the Touch Bar is useful when you record tracks and change the settings at once. Only 4.3 pounds (2.0 kg) of weight, MacBook Pro has a major advantage for musicians who are always on the road.
|16-inch MacBook Pro specs|
2.6GHz 6‑core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz, with 12MB shared L3 cache
Configurable to 2.4GHz 8‑core Intel Core i9, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz, with 16MB shared L3 cache
AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and automatic graphics switching
Intel UHD Graphics 630
Configurable to AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory, or AMD Radeon Pro 5600M with 8GB of HBM2 memory
16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 onboard memory
Configurable to 32GB or 64GB of memory
16‑inch diagonal LED‑backlit display with IPS technology
Configurable to 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB SSD
Mac mini — the best budget Mac
Why is the Mac mini also on the list of the best Macs for music-making? Mac mini had an update in March 2020, bringing in a 256GB SSD. Besides, it is a good choice if you’re on a budget. What’s great about the Mac mini is a small size, an extra audio-in port. In addition to this, you can customize it with a much more powerful processor and more RAM. But be ready to buy a keyboard, a mouse, a display to go with your Mac mini model.
|Mac mini specs|
4-Core, 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3, 6MB shared L3 cache
Configurable to 6-Core, 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz, 12MB, shared L3 cache
Intel UHD Graphics 630
8GB of 2666MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM memory
Configurable to 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB
|The display is purchased additionally|
256GB PCIe-based SSD
Configurable to 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB SSD
Things to Consider Before Buying a Mac for Music Production
Consider these two factors when deciding on the best computer for music:
Among the first things to consider when determining which Mac to choose is to think over whether you need a desktop computer or a laptop. A laptop is the best choice for musicians who move a lot for work.
Using many additional instruments, such as monitors, headphones, USB instruments, and other audio interfaces, is essential. That’s why a limited number of USB ports might become an issue. Do check and compare the Connections sections when reviewing Mac specifications.
Mac Music Software
Here are our 2020 picks for the best apps for music-making on a Mac:
- If you’ve just started producing music, GarageBand has Smart Instruments helping you create a guitar, drum, synth, and orchestral parts without knowing how to play these instruments. GarageBand version 10.3 is full of surprises. New sound effects and instrument sounds and 1000 electronic and urban loops at your disposal are just the beginning. The Artist Lessons are finally free for those craving to learn songs taught by famous artists.
- Logic Pro X is called GarageBand's "companion" and is, in fact, Apple's professional audio software. If you're an electronic musician and want to experiment with sound, you might opt for Logic Pro X. The great news is that you can get a 90-day free trial. However, you’ll need to run macOS 10.14.6 (macOS Mojave) or later. Moreover, this app is rather resource-consuming, so the best MacBook for Logic Pro X is either a 13-inch MacBook Pro or a 16-inch model.
- Ableton Live 10 makes your DJ experience smooth. Being a DAW it offers empowered MIDI sequencing hardware and software. With this app working on MIDI controllers is hustle-free now.
- PreSonus Studio One 4 Prime is for you if you’re still deciding whether you’re just at the beginning of your music-making career. It is free! A perfect app to start creating music with. Being a full-scale digital studio, it offers the Artist and Pro editions and an improved drum editor to make your instrument editing workflow easier.
- Cakewalk SONAR Mac Prototype is another free app used to be available on Windows only. However, now it can be installed on a Mac too.
How to Prepare your Mac for Music Recording?
Recording music does sound like a high-load process for your Mac. Full storage, apps responding longer than usual, or a spinning wheel on your screen may slow you down. So how to get back to productive work?
For starters, it's always a good idea to clean RAM. The rule applies — the more memory available, the faster your Mac should run. Memory Cleaner feature in MacKeeper frees up RAM with just a few clicks and lets you know which apps may be eating up memory without you even knowing it.
Another thing that may hamper music recording is the lack of free space. Music-making requires some extra gigabytes at hand, so you can use such MacKeeper tools as Safe Cleanup and Duplicates Finder to scan your Mac for old copies of files, caches, or apps leftovers and safely remove them.
We hope our guide helped you choose the proper computer for music-making. Now go and grab your instrument or mic, plug it into your new Mac, and get rockin’!