If you’re a musician or music producer, you know that the right equipment is crucial for getting crisp, clear, professional sound. The right mics and preamps and even the right room can make a huge difference in the final result of your recorded sound.
These days, the MacBook is pretty universally accepted as the best laptop for professional audio technicians. But there are so many different MacBooks out there now. How do you decide which is the best MacBook for music production? We’ll take a look at some of the following MacBook models and break down their specs.
Let’s dive in!
Why Should You Use a MacBook for Music Production?
For years now, Apple has led the way in producing high-quality computers for music production. The MacBook is the only portable platform that supports Logic Pro, Apple music production software which is an industry-standard piece of music production software. If you’re looking for a laptop for live performance or DJing, a MacBook is a clear choice because of its power, portability, and because it can handle all of the latest live performance software with ease.
For studio musicians who plan to use their computer as a desktop, the MacBook is still considered the best computer for music production. The new M1 models, when boosted to 16GB of RAM, provide more than enough power to process multiple tracks at once. Unless you’re planning to go with the new Mac Studio or one of the later Mac Pro desktop computers instead, the latest Macbook Pro is all you need to create professional audio tracks.
How to Start Using a MacBook for Music Production
If you’re new to music production, you probably have a few questions. The top two questions music producers need to know are “how much CPU do I need for music production?” and “how much RAM for music production?” Any computer you’re using for music production will need a powerful, multi-core processor (like the M1), at least 16GB of RAM (anything less won’t run power-hungry production software), and at least 1TB of SSD. Pick a machine with plenty of ports, especially if you’ll be plugging in multiple dongles, external drives, and audio pre-processors.
You’ll also want to invest in some professional audio production software. We recommend Logic Pro, as it was designed specifically to work with Apple. Other solid choices are Ableton, ProTools Audio, and Cubase.
Best MacBook for Music Production for 2022
MacBook Pro 16 inch (2021)
- Scary fast
- Plenty of storage
- Portable enough for live performance
- Enough screen real estate to use as a standalone device
- Very expensive
Image credit: Rahul Chakraborty
Apple’s latest MacBook Pro is undoubtedly the best choice for professional musicians and live performers. Although Apple had some setbacks with the MacBook Pro in recent years (the 2015-2019 models had some notorious issues with the keyboards, among other things), the 2020 and 2021 models are considered by most people to be the only choice for musicians looking for both portability and performance. They’re not just the best MacBook for music production: they’re the best laptop for music production for 2022, period.
The latest MacBook Pro comes with Apple’s new M1 chip, with options for either the M1 Pro 8-core or the M1 Max 10-core. If you can afford it, we recommend upgrading to the 10-core chip, which will give you up to 33% more processing power than the 8-core. For average MacBook users, the power gained from this upgrade would be unnoticeable, but music production is a very CPU-intensive process. It’s one of the areas where more processing power will always make a difference. The M1 Max gives you the best CPU for music production available. You also have the option to expand to as much as 32GB of RAM.
We recommend the 16-inch over the 13-inch or 14-inch models primarily because of screen real estate and ports. In our opinion, 13 or even 14 inches is just not enough space for all the apps you need to have open. And what’s the best part about the new 16-inch MacBook Pros? The thing that actually makes it the best MacBook for music production? They brought back the ports. That’s right. You get a headphone jack. You get a MagSafe power port. You get HDMI and SDXC, and you get three Thunderbolt ports. It kind of makes you want to weep, doesn’t it?
MacBook Air (2020)
- Good option for people on a budget
- Silent, fanless design
- Small screen
- Few ports
- Less storage and RAM
Cheapest MacBook for Music Production
If you’re on a budget, the next best thing to the 16-inch MacBook Pro for music production is the 13-inch MacBook Air. When it comes to value for money, this is probably the best you’ll get from Apple. We recommend it over the 13-inch MacBook Pro mostly because you get basically the same specs as the 13-inch Pro for a lower price. Also, the new fanless design makes it absolutely silent, an added bonus for music producers.
Using the MacBook Air for music production is definitely a downgraded experience from using a MacBook Pro. The MacBook Air comes with the new M1 chip, expandable up to 8 cores. You get up to 512GB of SSD and 8GB RAM. Unfortunately, you only get two Thunderbolt ports, so you’ll need to invest in an adapter to plug in all your external devices. We also recommend plugging it into an external monitor to give yourself more screen space. In addition to GarageBand, MacBook Air will also run Logic.
MacBook Pro 13 inch (2021)
- Much cheaper than the 16-inch model
- M1 8-core chip is an incredibly fast processor
- Smaller screen
- Few ports
- Can’t get the M1 Max chip
Second-Best Budget Mac for Music Production
This model comes with nearly equivalent processing power to the 16-inch model and is comparable to the MacBook Air in terms of specs. It’s a solid choice, but if you’re going for a budget option, we recommend the Air over this. The major downgrades from the 16-inch Pro are the lack of ports, smaller screen, and the fact that you can’t upgrade to the 10-core Max chip. Because of this, we don’t recommend it for live performance, but if you’re a studio musician who can’t afford to invest in the 16-inch model, the 13-inch is the next best thing.
What about the 14-inch? While the 14-inch model is an excellent MacBook Pro for recording music, in our opinion, if you’re going to buy the 14-inch, you might as well just buy the 16-inch. Once you’ve specked out the 14-inch model with everything you’ll need, you won’t be saving enough to make it worth it. Just bite the bullet and go for the 16-inch model.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with the M1 chip but only gives you the option to install the 8-core version. You’ll also only have the option to choose up to 512GB of SSD—however, if you plan to keep all your music on an external drive, this won’t be an issue. You’ll get a lot less screen real estate of course, but again, if you plan to plug into an external monitor, this is a non-issue. As with the MacBook Air, Logic X Pro, and other music production software will run, but you may find that the limited RAM causes performance issues.
The major downside to going with the 13-inch model over the 16-inch is the lack of ports. All you get on the 13-inch model is two Thunderbolt ports. You can always plug in a hub or dongle to expand this, which works fine if you’re in a studio setting. For musicians on the go, though, the lack of ports could become pretty annoying pretty quickly.
MacBook Pro 16 inch (2019)
- Cheaper than the newer model
- Lots of screen real estate
- Plenty of SSD and RAM
- The i7 Core is no slouch
- Can only get them refurbished or second hand
Hold on, didn’t we say earlier that this model had issues with the keyboard? We did, and it does. So why would we include it in a list of the best computers for music production? Put simply, because it used to be. And if you can’t afford anything newer, this laptop is still a great machine. Apple discontinued all of their Intel core models after the latest 2020 and 2021 models were released, meaning that the only way to get a 2019 or earlier model is refurbished or secondhand.
A refurbished or secondhand 16-inch Pro will be significantly cheaper than even the latest 13-inch Pro, and to be fair, disregarding the keyboard issues and lack of ports, it’s still a very powerful machine and a solid computer for recording music. It is, after all, what professionals were using a few years ago before the new models came out.
The 2019 16-inch Pro features the 2.6gHz Intel i7 Core and up to 1TB of SSD. It comes with 16GB of RAM standard and is configurable up to a whopping 64GB. You get four Thunderbolt ports and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. You also get a touch bar, but honestly, who cares?
If you’re a professional musician looking for the best computer for audio production, the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro, specked out to the max, is the only way to go. Unfortunately, you’ll be paying through the nose for all that power and speed (and those sweet, sweet ports.)
For budget musicians and amateurs, the MacBook Air is a nice option. Though it lacks the screen real estate, storage, and RAM capacity of the Pro, it still boasts that powerful M1 chip. And for those truly on a budget, the earlier 16-inch Pro models offer obsolete but still-powerful technology.
Any of the newer MacBooks have the processing power to be used for music production in some capacity. For amateurs and hobbyists, a MacBook Air or 13 or 14-inch MacBook Pro, or even a previous generation MacBook will probably be able to meet your needs.
For professionals who need the absolute best Mac for music production, the latest 16-inch MacBook Pro with all the top specs is the only choice. The processing power, RAM, storage, screen real estate, and return of incredibly useful ports make this not only the best MacBook but one of the best overall laptops for audio production.
The recent upgrade to the M1 chip and the new fanless design make the MacBook Air a surprisingly viable laptop for music production. While it can’t compete with the power of the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air delivers a great experience for the price and is the best MacBook for music production for those on a budget. We don’t recommend it for professional use. For that, you’ll need a MacBook Pro.
The short answer to this question is yes. You can use the 13” MacBook Pro for music production. It has the new Apple M1 chip, meaning it’s got plenty of processing power. Unfortunately, its RAM is only expandable up to 8GB, so you may experience some performance issues if you are running multiple applications or have a lot of tracks and plugins.
It also has a very small screen and lacks a lot of ports, so while you can use it for music production, it’s certainly not the best iMac for music production and may not be a very convenient experience.
The 16-inch or 14-inch MacBook Pro is generally considered to be better for music production than the MacBook Air because it has more CPU capability, space for more RAM, a larger screen, and more ports. The fully specked-out 16-inch MacBook Pro is considered by most people to be the best MacBook for music production and one of the best computers for music production overall.