Picking MacBook for Music Production (DAW)

Introduction

macbook 2022

In this post, I’ll outline all you need to know when looking for a decent Apple MacBook (Air or Pro) for music production – aka a portable studio system that can be easily transported from place to place. I’ll also break down some key aspects of choosing a proper MacBook for making music with DAWs (such as Apple Logic Pro, FL Studio, – getting everything from hardware specs to important software packages such as DAWs (digital audio workstation).

While researching which features matter most in a great portable laptop for making music in 2022 – I’ve compiled some really nice guidelines on what parts do what and who should buy which part configuration. In this section, you will learn about hardware requirements for various levels of production in your art form of choice. If any terms appear above you don’t understand – drop a comment below, I’m more than happy to elaborate on any specific specs you might not know much about (in fact, please do so as we all learn through discussions!). So without further ado – let’s roll!

Processor

M1 Pro and M1 Max

When it comes to music production, the processor is the most important part of the system. Most DAWs have good multi-core support; however, a fast single-core performance is still essential for quick UI response times and short buffer lengths.

If you’re looking for a MacBook – you’ll need to decide whether you want an M1 or M1 Pro/Max processor; the latters will offer better performance but will also come with higher power consumption and heat output. Although Apple’s M2 chip needs less power, performance-wise it’s comparable to M1.

I use DAW benchmarks such as Ableton Live and Logic Pro to compare processors because they’re more common in the industry. However, any other test would work just as well if not better (Passmark or Cinebench).

Following the ‌M1‌ chip, Apple eventually introduced the M1 Pro, M1 Max, and the same will happen with the M2 chip. But as for now, I would recommend going with higher tier M1 (Pro or Max) if you’re looking for the best performance possible.

Memory

laptop ram memory 2022

Most DAWs don’t need a lot of RAM to run smoothly, especially if you’re using an SSD instead of a hard drive. So 16 GB should be plenty for most people.

If you’re looking for the best possible performance, then 32 GB is the ideal amount of RAM for a MacBook or any other laptop that can support it. However, this is only necessary if you’re constantly working with extremely large projects with many tracks and virtual instruments or if you often find yourself running out of memory when working on complex projects. In such cases, it might be worth considering getting your laptop with 32 GB RAM from the get-go as upgrading memory is not an option for the latest MacBooks.

When it comes to DDR5 vs DDR4 RAM modules, it’s worth to mention that only the standard M1 chip MacBooks use DDR4 RAM, M1 Pro and M1 Max use DDR5 RAM.

Here are some recommended configurations by price range:

Budget: 8 GB RAM is the minimum for music production on a MacBook. If you can stretch your budget, 16 GB RAM will give you a significant performance boost. Anything beyond that is overkill for most people unless you’re working with extremely large projects or have specific needs that require more RAM.

Mid-range: 16 GB RAM is the sweet spot for most people, not only for music production, but also for all other day-to-day purposes.

High-end: For the absolute best performance, 32 GB RAM is ideal. This will allow you to work with even the largest projects without any issues and gives you plenty of headroom for future needs.

Storage

macbook ssd

If you’re a musician or producer, you know that your laptop is one of the most important pieces of gear in your setup. It’s where we store our projects, samples, and VSTs. So it’s crucial to get a MacBook with an SSD that can handle all those files without any lag.

The two main considerations when choosing an SSD for music production are speed and capacity. While I’d love to have both – if you’re on a budget, prioritize storage space over performance (though ideally you’d get both). That’s because even though we need fast drives for DAWs – they’re not as critical as CPU or RAM for audio processing.

When buying an SSD for music production, there are some other things to consider apart from speed and capacity – such as endurance and reliability ratings (especially if you’re going to use your laptop in live situations).

What’s new in the world of SSDs?

PCIe M.2 (usually NVMe) SSDs have become the standard. This interface provides much higher data transfer speeds than SATA III, which was the standard for hard drives and older solid-state drives.. As such, this newer generation of SSDs will offer significant performance boosts in everyday tasks like booting up your computer and loading programs. They will also improve load times in all applications and games.

How much storage do you need for your projects, samples, libraries and all other day-to-day needs?

Budget:: 512 GB

Mid-range:: 1 TB

High-end: 2 TB+

6 Best Laptops for MacBooks for Music Production (DAWs)

Apple MacBook Air

1
N/A
Price
$1200
Apple M1 | Apple 8-core GPU | 8 GB RAM | 512 GB SSD | 13.3″ Touch; 1600×900
Pros and cons
Pros
  • Excellent display (13.3 Touch)
  • Backlit keyboard
Cons
  • Not the best processor (Apple M1)
  • Unremarkable memory amount (8GB)

Apple MacBook Air M2

2
N/A
Price
$1480
Apple M2 | Apple M2 8-core GPU | 8 GB RAM | 512 GB SSD | 13.6″; 1600×900
Pros and cons
Pros
  • Latest generation processor (Apple M2)
  • Backlit keyboard
Cons
  • Average memory amount (8GB)
  • No IPS Panel (worse contrast)

Apple MacBook Pro M2

3
N/A
Price
$1900
Apple M2 | Apple M2 8-core GPU | 24 GB RAM | 512 GB SSD | 13″
Pros and cons
Pros
  • Awesome processor (Apple M2)
  • Awesome memory amount (24GB)
Cons
  • No IPS Panel (limited viewing angles)

Apple MacBook Pro 13

4
N/A
Price
$2070
Apple M2 | Apple M2 8-core GPU | 24 GB RAM | 1000 GB SSD | 13.3″; 3840×2160
Pros and cons
Pros
  • Competent processor (Apple M2)
  • Exceptional display (13.3)
Cons
  • No IPS Panel (worse viewing angles)

Apple MacBook Pro

5
N/A
Price
$2490
Apple M1 Pro 10-core | null | 32 GB RAM | 1000 GB SSD | 14″; 3000×2000
Pros and cons
Pros
  • Terrific processor (Apple M1 Pro 10-core)
  • Awesome memory amount (32GB)
Cons
  • No IPS Panel (limited viewing angles)

Apple MacBook Pro

6
Forget about shortage of storage
Price
$3900
Apple M1 Max | Apple M1 Max 24-Core GPU | 64 GB RAM | 2000 GB SSD | 16″; 3840×2160
Pros and cons
Pros
  • Superb processor (Apple M1 Max)
  • Splendid memory amount (64GB)
Cons
  • No IPS Panel (inferior color reproduction)
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Ethan

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