Best Apple Laptop For Music Production

Best Apple Laptop For Music Production

Apple laptops are a very good choice when searching for a laptop to produce music on, but there are several different variations of Macbooks all with different specs and features.

So if you’ve decided that you want to get a MacBook for music production, you’re probably still left wondering “Which is the best MacBook for music production?”.

Well, don’t worry, because, in this article, I’m going to try and answer that question as best as possible, and help you figure out which MacBook is the right one for your needs.

12 months ago, this would have been a fairly simple question to answer, I would have just told everyone to go out and buy the most powerful MacBook Pro available. 

But, seeing as Apple has recently started making MacBooks with their own M1 CPUs rather than Intel CPUs that they have been using in the past, choosing a new MacBook for music production has become a bit more complicated.

So let’s take a look at the different options currently available to help you decide which one is the best for you.

Pros
Cons

A year ago, I would never have put a MacBook Air on a list of the best laptops for music production because they have always been small and not very powerful.

And while the latest MacBook Air is still quite small, thanks to the M1 Chip, it is actually now powerful enough to handle the demands of music production with no trouble at all.

M1 Chip

This new chip is actually powerful enough that the MacBook Air is able to deliver similar performance to the highest end Intel MacBook Pros, while still being available for a much cheaper price.

No Fans!

And, better yet, it does all this with no fans which is a big plus for music production as you can do everything you need to without hearing the constant hum of loud fan noise.

You would think that without a fan, it would either get really hot all the time or slow down to stay cool. But incredibly, it is actually able to handle the demands of a regular music production workflow for hours on end without getting overly hot or thermally throttling.

Price Range

And, it’s the most affordable of all the MacBooks currently available making it a great choice if you’re just starting out or you’re on a budget.

But unfortunately, there are still a few things you should keep in mind before you go and order the new MacBook Air.

Screen Size

The screen is only 13 inches (diagonally) which can feel a little bit cramped for music production. It’s still perfectly workable, but it would be nice if it was a few inches bigger.

You can of course connect an external display with one of the two thunderbolt ports which would give you a lot more screen real estate, but it’s also worth keeping in mind that M1 MacBooks can only output to one external display which could be a pain if you’re used to a setup like mine that has multiple external displays.

Ports

Another slight drawback when using the MacBook Air for music production is the port selection, it only has two thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack. Of course, with the right USB-C hub you could still connect pretty much anything you want, but it’s still a little inconvenient.

Possible Compatibility Issues With M1

 

macbook air for music productionThe final possible issue you should consider is the potential compatibility issues of the M1 Chip. While the M1 chip has heaps of wonderful advantages, at the moment it also has a bit of a disadvantage.

Because the M1 chip is designed quite differently from the Intel Chips that all previous MacBooks have used, all the app developers need to rewrite the code of their apps to make them compatible.

Apple has designed something called Rosetta that can run intel versions of apps on the M1 chip which is a great workaround for now and most apps work perfectly through that.

But the performance when running apps through Rosetta won’t be quite as good as using the propper M1 versions of the apps.

At the moment, Logic Pro and Garage Band are fully optimized to run perfectly on Apple Silicon, but most of the third-party plugins are not.

So if you use either of these two apps, the experience will be great, but if you use third-party plugins, you’ll still want to end up running the whole app through Rosetta as that seems to work better than running the app as native M1 but the plugins through Rosetta.

And at the time of writing this article, none of the other music production apps have been optimized for M1, so you’ll have to run those through Rosetta until the developers optimize them.

In my testing, all the most popular music production apps ran perfectly fine on the M1 MacBook Air through Rosetta, and hopefully, over the next year or two they will all be updated to be optimized for M1 and then the MacBook Air will be incredible for music production.

But at the moment, the possible compatibility issues of the M1 chip are certainly something you would keep in mind. Here’s a link to a great article all about whether or not you should buy an M1 Mac for music production.

Is The MacBook Air Good For Music Production?

So, is the M1 MacBook air a good choice for music production? Well, I’d certainly say it’s a great option if you’re on a budget or just starting out and don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a new laptop.

And even if you’re a bit more of an experienced music producer and can afford the higher price tag of Apple’s other options, the MacBook Air might still be all you need, and the extra few thousand dollars you save could be better spent on some other equipment.

Which Specks Should You Get?

If you decide the MacBook Air is the best option for you, you will find that it comes in a whole lot of different configurations with different amounts of RAM and storage.

As far as RAM goes, the base model with 8GB is perfectly fine for music production, but if you don’t mind paying a bit more, I’d recommend going with the 16GB option as it just gives you a lot more room to work with.

And for the storage, if you want to store everything on your laptop, you’ll realistically want at least 1TB. But if you’re happy to use an external SSD, the 256GB or 512GB will be perfect.

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Note: The button above only goes to the variant with 8GB RAM on Amazon, Click here for the 16GB option.

Pros
Cons

Apple’s latest 13 inch MacBook Pro also happens to use their new M1 Chip, and a year ago, I would have said that the 13 Inch MacBook Pro is definitely better than the MacBook Air for music production.

But, now, considering the higher price of the 13 inch MacBook Pro compared to the Air, you might be better off just buying the MacBook Air.

How Does It Differ From The Air?

If you look at these two laptops side by side, they appear to be basically the same. The Pro has a touch bar at the top of the keyboard which you might either love or hate depending on your personal preference.

And the Pro has a slightly bigger trackpad which is better for music production, but it’s not a big difference. And the Air slopes down on an angle so that the front is thinner than the back but other than that, they look very much the same.

Battery

best macbook for music productionInside, the Pro does have a significantly bigger battery, so the battery life on the Pro will be 1 – 2 hours longer if that’s something that’s important to you. But the Air still has exceptionally good battery life anyway.

Fans

So in my opinion, the only important difference is that the MacBook Pro has fans. This obviously means that you will sometimes have to put up with fan noise, but the fan doesn’t come on all the time and when it does it’s quite quiet.

And having that fan means that although these two laptops use the same M1 chip, the MacBook Pro will be able to run slightly faster than the Air, and it will be able to handle intense workloads for longer periods of time without getting too hot.

Should You Get The 13 Inch MacBook Pro Over The Air?

So while the 13 inch MacBook Pro is a bit better than the Air, if you are deciding between these two laptops I would probably still go with the Air given the higher price tag of the pro.

Unless you desperately want a bigger battery, a touch bar, or slightly improved performance. They are really very similar and the latest MacBook Air is a very capable laptop for music production while being a few hundred dollars cheaper.

Which Specks Should You Get?

As with the MacBook Air, if you do decide to buy the 13 Inch MacBook Pro, you will have the same different configurations of RAM and storage to choose from.

And as these two computers are both fairly similar, my recommendations would be the same.

8GB RAM will be fine, but 16GB will be better if you’re willing to pay more, and if you’re happy to use an external SSD or cloud storage, 256GB or 512GB of storage will be perfect. But if you want to store everything on your computer, you’ll want to go with at least 1TB.

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Note: The button above only goes to the variant with 8GB RAM on Amazon, Click here for the 16GB option, or here for 16GB RAM and 512 storage, or here for 16GB RAM and 1TB storage.

Pros
Cons

If you want a MacBook with a bigger screen and slightly more power, or you’re worried about the possible compatibility issues you could face with Apple’s new M1 Macs, the 16 inch MacBook Pro will be the way to go.

But they are, quite a bit more expensive, and there are a few pros and cons when compared to the other two options that you’ll need to consider.

Intel Processors

The 16 inch MacBook Pro is now the only current laptop in Apple’s lineup that still uses Intel CPUs instead of Apple’s own M1 CPUs, and this is simultaneously a good and bad thing.

The good news about this is that you can rest assured that all your favorite music production apps and plugins for those apps will work perfectly on the 16 Inch MacBook Pro without any problems.

And while Apple’s M1 Chips are actually more powerful than most intel chips, the 16 Inch MacBook uses very powerful intel chips so it’s actually slightly more powerful than the M1 Macs and will have no trouble handling the demands of music production.

Battery

Unfortunately, using Intel chips instead of M1 also means that although the battery in the 16-inch model is significantly bigger, the battery life will actually be quite a bit worse. It’s still very good, but just not quite as good as the M1 Macs.

For most people, this really isn’t a big deal as you can have it plugged into power all the time in your studio anyway, but if you spend a lot of time using your laptop away from a power outlet, the reduced battery life might be something to keep in mind.

Fan Noise

Additionally, due to the Intel processors, the 16 Inch MacBook will give you a lot more fan noise than either of the other two MacBooks. Sure, the 13 inch MacBook Pro has a fan, but due to the M1 chip it barely needs to use it, and when it does it’s really quite quiet.

Whereas the 16 Inch MacBook will have the fans running pretty much the entire time during music production, and during intensive tasks such as exporting a track, the fans can even get fairly loud.

Bigger Screen

A really big plus side of the 16 inch MacBook Pro is the nice big 16-inch screen. This really gives you a lot more space to work with compared to the other two MacBooks which only have 13-inch screens.

The screen size might not be a big deal if you mostly do your music production on an external display, but if you are going to mostly use the laptop’s built in screen, the extra three inches is really quite a bit better for music production.

Also, while both the M1 MacBooks are only capable of connecting to one external display, the 16 inch MacBook Pro can handle up to four external 4k displays at once which could be a big deal depending on your setup.

Better Speakers

The 16 inch MacBook Pro also has significantly better built in speakers than the two smaller options. And while this isn’t a huge deal as they’re not exactly studio quality, if you’re in a pinch and need to listen to something on your laptop speakers, it will at least sound fairly good.

More Ports

The last advantage of the 16 inch MacBook Pro is that it has four thunderbolt ports which might only sound like a minor detail, but if you have a lot of equipment you want to connect, an additional two thunderbolt ports can go a long way.

Should You Get The 16 Inch MacBook Pro For Music Production?

macbook pro for music productionSo, is this the best MacBook for music production? Well, it has some nice things that are good for music production that the other two options don’t have, and it’s certainly a great option for music production.

But you do have to consider the price, the 16 inch MacBook Pro can end up costing several thousand dollars more than the 13 inch, and because the 13 inch has an M1 chip, they both have reasonably similar performance.

So if you don’t mind paying thousands of dollars, and you really want some of the benefits like the bigger screen, or you’d prefer to have an Intel Mac so that you can be certain that app your favorite apps and plugins are going to run perfectly. Then the 16 inch MacBook Pro will be the one for you.

But, if you can live with the smaller screen, and you don’t mind having to run most of your apps and plugins through rosetta until they are optimized for M1, I’d say it’s worth going with either the 13 inch MacBook Pro, or even the MacBook Air as the money you save could probably be better spent on some additional equipment.

Which Specks Should You Get?

If you’ve decided to go with the 16 inch MacBook Pro, you will also get to choose between different variations. And the 16 inch MacBook Pro has variations in not only its RAM and storage but also its processor and graphics card.

Graphics Card

The graphics card part is fairly easy to choose, as this is only for graphics, you don’t really need it for music production so if this laptop is solely for music, just save yourself the money and go with the cheapest option there.

Processor

For the processor, a 6 core Intel Core i7 will be powerful enough to handle music production, but at the same time, if you don’t mind spending a bit more, the added performance of the higher options can be nice to have.

RAM

And it’s a similar story with the RAM, 16GB will be perfectly fine, but I personally use 32GB and find it really nice to have the extra space so it might be worth the upgrade. And I’m not sure what you’re doing on your laptop if you need 64GB, but if you currently have 32GB and find it’s not enough, I guess that’s the option for you.

Storage

As for the storage, if you’re happy to store some of your files elsewhere, 512GB will be perfect. But if you want to store everything on your computer, you’ll want to go with the 1TB, 2TB, or possibly even 4TB options.

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So while, with MacBooks being in the middle of transitioning from Intel to Apple Silicone, it’s quite hard for me to definitively say which MacBook is the best for music production at the moment, hopefully, this article has given you all the knowledge you need to decide which one is best for you.

And really, part of the reason it’s so hard to decide at the moment is that every laptop Apple currently makes will be great for music production. So while they all have their upsides and downsides, you can’t really go wrong no matter which one you choose.

Here’s a comparison table so you can compare the three different options.

Best MacBooks For Music Production Comparison

Image MacBook CPU RAM Storage Screen Size Check Price
MacBook Air
8 Core Apple Silicon M1
8GB or 16GB
256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB
13 Inches (diagonally)
13 Inch MacBook Pro
8 Core Apple Silicon M1
8GB or 16GB
256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB
13 Inches (diagonally)

16 Inch MacBook Pro
Intel 6 Core 9th Gen i7 or 8 Core 9th Gen i9
16GB, 32GB, or 64GB
512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB
16 Inches (diagonally)

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