Choosing a Mac for music production isn’t easy. There are many different models that will do the trick, each with their own pros and cons. MacBooks offer portability, for example, but iMacs may be more powerful. And when you’re handling long, multi-track songs, the more RAM and processing speed you can get, the better.
The important thing is to weigh everything up carefully before making a choice. So let’s take a look at your options to see which Mac is best for your music-making needs.
Before we start
Music production apps can eat up RAM like it’s candy. That can cause your Mac to slow down, until you free up some memory. Thankfully, you can do that easily with MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner feature.
- Run MacKeeper, and select Memory Cleaner from the left
- Click Open
- Click Clean Memory
- Now just wait, as MacKeeper clears some RAM for you
You can try MacKeeper now for free, with one free fix, so it’s well worth giving it a shot.
In a nutshell, these are our three favorite Macs for music production in 2022:
- Mac Studio — the best choice for music production
- 16-inch MacBook Pro — the best Mac laptop for music production
- Mac mini — the best budget Mac for music production
Read on to find out why we think these models are the best computers for creating music.
Recommended system requirements
The Mac system requirements for music production depend on what music software you’re using and the complexity of your projects. But ultimately, the faster your Mac, the easier and quicker it will be to produce music.
You could, for example, create music on an old MacBook with a dual-core i3 processor, but it’ll probably take a long time to do anything useful. If your budget is tight, that might be acceptable. Otherwise, you should either be looking at one of Apple’s latest Macs, which feature the company’s own M1 processors. With Intel chips being phased out, there’s little point investing in anything else right now..
Next, you need to think about memory. This is important, because music software has to hold a lot of temporary data in RAM, so you can do things like previewing your tracks. With an Intel Mac, you want at least 16GB of RAM, but because M1 Macs handle RAM differently, as little as 8GB might be enough.
Let’s talk about storage next. Of course, the amount of disk space you need depends on the size of the audio files you’ll be working on. Professional software can use hundreds of gigabytes of data. A good starting point is 256GB, but more is obviously better, unless you’re happy to expand using external drives later. And SSDs are much faster than hard drives, but they’re also much more expensive, so you need to balance capacity, speed and cost.
The video card, meanwhile, is one of the least important components for Mac music production. Really, any Mac should be just fine, because all it has to do, graphically speaking, is display a 2D user interface.
The best Macs for music production
Here’s our list of the best Macs for music-making:
Mac Studio — the best choice for music production
At first glance, the Mac Studio likes pretty unassuming, like a slightly taller version of the Mac mini. But it’s so, so much more than that. Powered by either the M1 Max or M1 Ultra chips, it takes performance to a whole new level, and will easily work through your most demanding, multi-track musical productions.
The M1 Max is a 10-core processor with a 32-core GPU, offering up to 64GB of unified memory. The M1 Ultra, meanwhile, offers 20 cores, a 64-core GPU and up to 128GB of unified memory. Either way, you’re going to get a ridiculously fast Mac.
In terms of connectivity, you get two USB-C ports and a memory card reader on the front; and on the back, you get four USB-C, a 10Gb Ethernet port, two USB-A, HDMI and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Of course, this kind of power doesn’t come without a hefty price tag. The M1 Max version starts at $1,999 and the M1 Ultra Mac Studio starts at $3,999. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of a display, if you don’t already have one.
But if you need this kind of raw processing power for music production, and if you can justify the cost, then you won’t be disappointed.
|Mac Studio specs|
10-core M1 Max or 20-core M1 Ultra
24-core GPU, configurable up to 32-core GPU (system-on-chip)
32GB unified memory, configurable up to 64GB
512GB SSD, configurable up to 8TB
16-inch MacBook Pro — the best portable laptop
Another Mac featuring Apple’s high-end silicon, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro gives you a choice between the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. The M1 Pro in this MacBook has 10 cores and a 16-core GPU. The M1 Max, meanwhile, is a 10-core chip with either a 32-core GPU. In short, any of these chips is going to power through your music productions easily.
Your work is going to look fantastic too, thanks to the 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, which has a native resolution of 3456 x 2234 (254 pixels per inch). Its 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 1600 nits peak brightness level, 120MHz refresh rate, and one billion colors are beyond impressive too.
What’s also impressive is the battery life. Apple claims this MacBook can run for up to 21 hours while streaming movies.
Storage starts at 512GB, which isn’t bad, but you might want to think about paying extra to get more. You’ll also need to think about connectivity if you have a lot of peripherals — you get three USB-C (Thunderbolt), a memory card reader, HDMI and a headphone jack.
And finally, there’s the not-at-all small matter of the price. The 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at an eye-watering $2,499 for the M1 Pro version and $3,499 for the M1 Max edition.
|16-inch MacBook Pro specs|
10-core M1 Pro, configurable up to 10-core M1 Max
16-core GPU, configurable up to 32-core GPU (system-on-chip)
16GB unified memory, configurable up to 64GB
16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR (Extreme Dynamic Range) display
512GB SSD, configurable up to 8TB
Mac mini — the best budget Mac
The M1 Mac mini is the cheapest new Mac you can currently buy (although you’ll need to buy a display, if you don’t already have one). Despite its low price, though, it packs in a pretty fast M1 processor. It’s the least powerful of Apple’s first-generation chips, so it’s not going to be able to keep up with the newer, more expensive M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra processors, but it should be enough for amateur music producers.
It also uses extremely fast SSD storage, so projects will load in a flash. The cheapest model only has 256GB of storage, though, so you might need to pay for the upgrade or use external drives.
Unfortunately, the Mac mini is lacking in the connectivity stakes. It has an HDMI port, two full size USB ports and two USB-C ports that double up for DisplayPort and Thunderbolt duties. It also has a 3.5mm headphone port. If you run multiple monitors, you might need a USB hub for your other peripherals and music equipment.
|Mac mini specs|
Eight-core GPU (system-on-chip)
8GB of unified memory
Configurable up to 16GB of RAM
|The display is purchased additionally|
Configurable up to 2TB SSD
Mac music software
Here are our 2021 picks for the best apps for music-making on a Mac:
- If you’ve just started producing music, GarageBand is great. As well as support for MIDI and audio recordings, it offers tons of loops you can arrange or add to your projects. It also includes built-in lessons for various instruments, smart drummer loops and much, much more.
- Logic Pro is Apple's professional audio software. If you're an electronic musician and want to experiment with sound, Logic Pro is a great option. It’s not cheap, though, so we recommend taking up the 90-day free trial. You need to be running macOS 11.5 or later to run Logic Pro.
- Ableton Live 11 is an advanced DAW, which is great for both music creation and performance. It comes with a variety of effects, sounds and instruments, so you can start composing tunes immediately. Like Logic Pro, it’s pricey but offers a free 90-day trial.
- PreSonus Studio One 4 Prime is an excellent choice if you’re ready to get started with serious DAW software but don’t want to spend a lot. Why? Because it’s a completely free, full-scale digital studio. And if you get on with it, you can upgrade to the Artist and Pro editions, which offer more advanced features.
How to prepare your Mac for music recording
Recording and editing music can be highly demanding on your Mac. Every instrument and every track you load will eat into your RAM and test your processor. And as you save more and more projects, your free disk space will shrink too.
Before you get started with music production on your Mac, you should clear out at much junk as possible. The Safe Cleanup feature in MacKeeper can help with this.
How to clear junk from your Mac with MacKeeper:
1. In MacKeeper, select Safe Cleanup from the menu on the left
2. Click Start scan
3. Wait while the scan is carried out
4. When it’s finished, select everything you want to remove, and click Clean junk files
What’s best for musicians — Mac or PC?
Choosing between macOS and a Windows platform depends mostly on your computer preferences and your collaborators. And to be honest, both platforms are great for music production. However, if you’re just starting out, you’ll find Macs make music production much easier to get into.
For a start, Windows users need to install various drivers for their sound card and any other music hardware they’d like to use, such as MIDI controllers. On a Mac, fewer steps are required, because most, if not all, the drivers you need will be installed already.
And while Windows doesn’t come with any native music software, macOS includes GarageBand, Apple’s free digital audio workstation (DAW). That means you can pretty much just plug in your instruments and start recording and editing immediately.
Which MacBook is good for music production?
The 14-inch and 16-inch M1 MacBook Pros offer the best processing performance, but the new 13-inch MacPro comes with the latest M2 processor — so it’s certainly no slouch either. If your budget is tighter, take a look at either the M1 or M2 MacBook Air models.
Is RAM or CPU more important for music production?
If you’re choosing between more RAM or CPU for music production, then you should go with the CPU. Although RAM is important, Macs generally come with enough for music apps.
But when it comes to processing music files, the more processor speed you have the better. With a slow processor, you’ll be left waiting every time you want to export a multi-track recording to a single audio file.
How much RAM do I need for 2022 music production?
How much RAM you need depends on how long and complicated your projects are. The less RAM you have, the fewer tracks, voices and effects your Mac can handle.
For simple projects, 8GB is usually enough RAM for music production. This is fine for casual use and for things like podcast recordings. Once you start to build up longer, more complicated songs, you may find your Mac starts to struggle.
So for serious music production, you should be looking for at least 16GB of RAM. And if you’re a professional music production user, then you could need more like 64GB of RAM. However, M1 Macs don’t currently support more than 16GB of RAM, so that’s not an option.
We hope our guide helped you choose the proper Mac for music-making. Now go and grab your instrument or mic, plug it into your new Mac, and get rockin’!