10 Best MacBooks for Music Production in 2020

It used to be that only musicians who spent a decade traveling the world in a van and playing to anyone who would listen would have a chance of making an album. For almost half a century, the entire music business was dominated by major labels who dictated what was and wasn't popular.

All of that changed with the rise of the internet - music distribution became as easy as sending a message. With the evolution of technology, home recording exploded into a market that now rivals major record labels with the ease of access to anyone who can string a few chords together. But here in which lies a new problem.

With so many musicians and composers able to flood the likes of Soundcloud and Spotify with music, it's still difficult to stand out from the rest. Part of that will be your musical writing and playing talent, but another major factor is ensuring that you get a clear, professional sound in your finished tracks.

The battle between Mac and PC is still raging on, but many professional sound technicians have thrown their votes in for Apple as the best laptops to produce music on. Apple's interfaces and software programs, such as Logic Pro X and Garageband, offer a wide range of options to create your unique sound.

As for what hardware to use, leave that to us. We'll look at some of the best Macbooks for music production. Whether you're looking for a Macbook Pro, an Air, or something else, we've got you covered.

1. Apple Macbook Air Retina

Apple Macbook Air Retina

This Macbook runs on a 1.6GHz dual Intel Core i5 processor, which is on the low end of the performance when compared to the i7 processors, but won't cost you nearly as much. Even with the i5, you will be able to run most software and DAW packages. It comes with 8GB of Ram and the option of a 128GB or 256GB SSD hard drive.

The stereo speakers are excellent quality, although, for any recording technician and their laptop, we recommend investing in some good quality over-ear headphones to get the most accuracy out of your mixes. Where the Air Retina scores points, is in the 13.5-inch full HD screen. As a sound technician, you will be staring at your DAW for hours on end as you work to get your tracks sounding as good as possible.

The HD Retina Display has razor-sharp resolution so you can see every detail of your work without making your eyes bleed. The Air Retina also comes with two Thunderbolt 3 USB ports for fast connectivity to your audio input devices, so your music production never has to wait. This makes it an efficient and the best Mac for music, whether you're a pro or just starting.

Pros:
+ Amazing HD visuals.
+ Fingerprint touch bar ID to keep your contents safe.
+ Made from recycled aluminum, be eco-friendly!

Why We Liked It -With a razor-sharp resolution, and a great stereo quality, this computer is more than adequate for music production.

2. Apple Macbook Pro Retina

Apple Macbook Pro Retina

The Apple Pro Retina differs from the Air Retina through the sheer bolstering of power. Its Intel Core i5 processor runs at an increased 2.3GHz, making it just that little bit faster, and ensuring your software packages are running a little smoother.

The RAM on the Pro Retina comes in a range of speeds, topping out at a whopping 32GB, four times the amount of the Air Retina. This is great if you're planning to use multiple VST instruments, plugins, or other multi-program setups in your DAW and will ensure you have no issues with latency or stalling.

This is the best Mac Pro for live music for this reason as well. The Intel Iris Plus 640 graphics are so clear and crisp, you know you'll have no problem working and cueing from this laptop in a busy club or venue environment. The Macbook Pro Retina even can be upgraded to a quad-core processor for even more punch. It packs a 128GB or 256GB SSD hard drive and two Thunderbolt 3 USB ports.

Pros:
+ Fully upgradable
+ Potential for immense processing power
+ Superior RAM for multiple VSTs and plugins.

Why We Liked It - This Macbook Pro is an excellent choice of Mac for music production. Aspiring music producers will love the clear and crisp graphics. We love this is the best Mac for music, especially if it's live. Why not invest in a Macbook Pro?

3. Apple Macbook Air

Apple Macbook Air

The Macbook Air uses a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel i7 processor, making the most powerful Mac for music production on our list in terms of speed. The i7 can even be turbo boosted to an incredible 3.2GHz for even better performance. Where the Macbook Pro Retina stands as a competent live performance laptop, the Macbook Air gives you almost guaranteed performance reliability, and it's lightweight for easy traversal between venues and home studios.

This Mac for music comes with 8GB of RAM, which isn't quite as much as other models, but the superior processing power it makes up for it. The SSD hard drive comes in either the standard 128GB or the massive 512GB. That's over half a terabyte to store your music on! The Macbook Air uses a 4K screen and Intel HD 6000 graphics to give what might be the best resolution out of all the laptops on our list.

It comes with two USB 3 ports, one Thunderbolt 2 port, and an SDXC card slot. While these are not quite as fast as the Thunderbolt 3 ports on the other models, the Macbook Air makes up for it in its impressive range of other specs. This is still one of the best laptops for live music.

Pros:
+ Unrivaled i7 processor power.
+ 4K Screen display.
+ Largest SSD hard drive.

Why We Liked It - There's a reason this has made our list of the best Mac for music production. It's reliable, lightweight for easy travel, and the power behind this Mac is equal to none.

MacBook for Music Production Buyers Guide

RAM and Processor

Why is RAM and processing power so prominent in the specs of music production? The best analogy is to think of it like books and a table. Imagine that your RAM is a table, and your computer programs are books.

The larger your table or RAM is, the more books (programs) you can have open at one time. Your processing power is how fast and how many of those books (programs) you can read at once. Most Mac recording software operates as a cluster of smaller programs, normally consisting of a sequencer, VST or instrument library, inputs, and a few other functions, depending on which software package you use.

It's always important to look at the minimum spec requirements of whatever music production software you plan to use to ensure your Macbook can handle it. All the laptops we've looked at are capable of running most of the popular program packages (see our programs section), but some fine tweaking or optimization is often a good idea.

Hardware inputs

If you want to use microphones or a DI, you will need to invest in an input device for your Macbook. There are many available in a wide range of brands, prices, and qualities, so it's worth doing some research to find which is best for your style of music. Some DIs come as just an input box that allows you to run an XLR cable or jack-lead into your laptop so you can use your DAW's internal sound effects and alterations.

Other DIs, such as Line 6's guitar POD range, also come with additional software, such as digital amplifiers and plugins, that you can record in real-time into your sequencer. If you are a writer of dubstep or EDM, a guitar package is likely to be of no use, so have a look and see what's required for your genre and recording style.

Programs

Finding a music production program or DAW that works for you can sometimes take a while. It comes down to personal preference and the setup for how you write and record music. For example, Steinberg's Cubase range allows for huge amounts of customization of MIDI, VST, and audio inputs, which makes it great for EDM or electronic genres.

It does not lend itself live performance as much, though. Pro Tools, while widely revered as one of the most professional audio interfaces, offers very little in the way of VST or digital instrument support and programming. This makes it best suited for audio input based genres like rock, metal, or indie.

The best thing to do is research your music production software, try it out, and if it doesn't work for you, move onto another music production program until you find one that does. While some packages can be expensive, you can find plenty of free alternatives online to play around with.

Here's a list of some of the best paid and free music production software for Mac available right now.

  • Ableton Live (Paid)
  • Logic Pro X (Paid)
  • Avid Pro Tools (Paid)
  • Garageband (Paid)
  • Steinberg Cubase (Paid)
  • Tracktion T7 (Free)
  • Amplitube Custom Shop (Free)

Questions

Which is better for music production? Mac or PC?

There is no definitive answer as to which are the best laptops for music production. It comes down to personal preference. Most professional music producers tend to lean towards Mac based on reliability. However, there are plenty of music producers who prefer the most customizable options you get with a PC.

How good your end product is, depends on your competence as a musician, audio technician, and sound mixer. Choosing between a Mac, PC, and your recording software will not suddenly turn you into a pro-level music producer - that only comes with time and experience.

Which Macbook is the best laptop for music production?

From our list, our favorite is the Apple Macbook Pro Retina. The options to upgrade the laptop to 32GB Ram and a quad-processor gives it the edge to make it an exceptionally powerful machine. The only reason it beats out the Macbook Air is because of the higher quality Thunderbolt 3 ports, which provide a faster connection to DIs.

While the two other models still have respectable specs and features, the Macbook Pro Retina is a nice all-rounder of all of them, making it a versatile, and not to mention, beautiful looking laptop.

What does DAW mean?

DAW stands for Digital Audio Workspace. It refers to your sequencer or display that shows all of your audio files during recording so you can tweak, cut, copy, mix, and enhance your samples.

What does DI mean?

DI stands for Direct Input. It refers to when you plug an audio instrument such as a guitar or microphone directly into your computer.

Expert tip

Whether you're aiming for a PC, a Macbook Pro, or an Air, It's always a good idea to get a laptop that can run above your music software minimum requirements. While your software will run, you may experience long loading times, latency, or syncing issues. When you're in your creative mode, the last thing you want is to be troubleshooting technical issues, so in the long run, it's worth the investment for the extra processing power and RAM.

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