Music production computers are at the heart of the creation journey. They’re where you’ll store your sounds, access your programs, and refine your music into something that you can’t wait to share with the rest of the world. So, how do you choose the best computers for music production?
There’s more to producing amazing music than picking up a guitar and letting the rhythm take control. As any professional knows, you need the right tools at hand to bring your vision to life.
Today’s music leverages all the latest technology in the industry, from state-of-the-art software to incredible hardware. For most people, however, the most valuable piece of equipment on the production floor will be a computer for music production.
Mac or PC? What is the best Music Production Computer?
The first question you’ll need to ask when picking the right computer for recording music is whether you’re going to go with a Mac or PC. This is a pretty significant debate for a lot of music producers. Some believe that the only way to get a good sound is to use a Mac. Others say that PCs are perfect for versatility.
The good news is that music generally sounds just as good on both operating systems of either type of music production computer. The one you choose is unlikely to affect your outcomes too much. Additionally, many of the major DAW programs available today work for both Mac and PC. There’s only Logic Pro that you’ll be tied into a specific system for.
You can access all of your essential music production computer equipment for both Mac and PC with no problem. Ultimately, your choice will come down to personal preference. If you can, take some time experimenting with both options before committing to your choice.
Best Computers for Music Production: Buying Advice
If you want to excel in your music production, then you need to look for a few essential features in any music production computer you choose. A lot of the decisions you make when buying the right computer will come down to your personal preferences and how you like to create your music.
However, whether you are looking at building a computer for music production from scratch or simply buying off the shelf there are three must-have features that should always come at the top of your shopping list.
The most essential computer specs for music production are as follows:
- CPU: This is the brain of the computer. Your CPU carries out all of the essential work, making things happen on the back-end. Whether it’s running various plugins or fetching data, your CPU is at the heart of your computer.
- RAM: This is another essential part of your computer. For audio production, RAM is responsible for holding onto your sample files and important data that you need to keep track of. Double-check that you have the right amount of RAM before you buy.
- Storage: Storage is another key ingredient – and something that you need plenty of when you’re producing. Look for lots of storage in the computer itself, as well as external storage options. Access to HDDs and SDDs will be crucial.
Examining the Most Essential Components of a Music Production Computer
Choosing a computer that’s capable of running computer music audio production software is tricky at times. Some solutions soak up a lot of battery life, while others just require a high-end processor, or CPU.
If you have a specific piece of software that you need to use, check the requirements before you begin shopping. If you’re getting started from scratch, here are some tips to help you pick the right product for your computer music production journey.
The CPU is the central processing unit and the workhorse for any computer for recording music. You can use your CPU to load in a new MIDI instrument to your computer and fill it with data. Your computer then translates that data into sound. Plugins are also highly reliant on your CPU. They demand processing power to deliver new and improved music experiences.
Without the right CPU, you won’t be able to export finished versions of your tracks or bounce audio to create new sounds. The better your CPU is, the more you can accomplish. When shopping for your music production computer, focus on a CPU that offers reliability and speed. This will ensure that you can complete more tasks and process actions faster.
In the CPU world, there are currently two major players that stand out most: AMD and Intel. Intel has a range that goes all the way up to i9 processors, which deliver the most speed and power. AMD provides Ryzen processes, which follow a similar numerical approach to Intel. The higher the number, the better your computer music production processor will be.
With RAM, it’s best to ignore the “minimum” specs that your DAW suggests. Trying to run your computer music production software on minimum specs alone will end up causing a lot of frustration. RAM means that your audio playback is glitch-free and smooth because the audio isn’t having to pull audio from the hard drive whenever it needs to play something.
Make sure that you go for something higher than 4GB of RAM. The more RAM you have, the better off you’re going to be. Think of this solution as the short-term memory for your machine. Your audio programs need extra Ram to avoid glitching. Look into options to upgrade your RAM if you need to. Apple laptop fans generally can’t add extra RAM, but laptop users have more freedom.
Finally, storage memory is another absolute must-have for any music production computer. This is your long-term memory solution, unlike RAM, which focuses on the short-term. For audio applications, you’ll need at least a significant SSD (solid-state drive). This will give you a rapid data transfer experience, so your data files can load a lot faster.
You will also often need an HDD too. It’s not uncommon to see people using a combination of HDD and SSD solutions to give the widest variety of storage. External hard drives are handy also. These are useful when you want to take your music elements with you on the move, without bringing your entire music production computer and studio along.
Remember, for audio applications, you’ll need a high-level SSD, but HDD and external drives are crucial for storage of videos, files, and other components.
A Quick Checklist for a Music Production Computer
Aside from the three primary considerations mentioned above, you’ll also need to consider a range of other crucial things for your music production computer too. For instance, everything from your mouse to your screen size will often affect how comfortable you feel with your new system. Here are some top tips to get you started on the right track.
- What screen size do I need? We recommend using at least a 15-inch screen, but a 17-inch screen is often a better choice for increased visibility. The more overview you have on your software and programs, the less you need to scroll. This means that you get work done faster. There are also DAW options out there that don’t work as well on 13-inch monitors.
- What mouse do I need? A good mouse is a crucial part of your workflow. Ideally, you want something that can offer side-scrolling functionality, as this will help you to get your work done faster. It’s also worth looking at the trackpads. Although these can be helpful from time to time, mouse options are often much better.
- What sort of keyboard do I need? A great manual will help you to get through production tasks much faster. Music Production Laptops with backlit keyboards mean that you can see the letters and shortcuts easily in a poorly-lit studio.
- What style of music production laptop do I need? Ideally, you’ll start your search with gaming laptops. These are built for a heavier workload, so they’re ideal for music production, and come with a lot of memory and RAM. The only downside here is that you’ll pay more for a gaming machine thanks to a big graphics card, which you probably won’t use for music production.
Be cautious when you’re shopping for the ultimate computers for music production. Things like Dell Inspiron and XPS models commonly suffer from latency problems, and there are many computers out there that rely heavily on bloatware (sponsored software).
Researching the company and the computer before you purchase is a good idea. You’ll get a better insight into how these tools perform. One important thing to note is that you do get what you pay for in this arena. The lower the price, the lower the quality of your laptop. Low costs also often lead to poor customer service. There aren’t a lot of great deals out there these days.
Stick to a brand that you know and a company that’s local if you can. Computers from half-way around the world usually struggle with sub-standard components, and terrible customer service. You need to know you can rely on the company if something goes wrong.
The Best Computers for Music Production in 2020
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what to shop for with your music production computer, we can start examining some of the top performers on the market. We’ve picked these products for their excellent range of features, as well as their brilliant reviews from previous customers.
1. The Apple MacBook Pro – Best Overall Computer for Music Production
Probably one of the best-known computers on the market for computer music production, the Apple MacBook pro is a delightful machine in a compact package. There’s a fantastic track pad on these devices that make it easier to scroll through your content, plus there aren’t as many function keys to worry about as there used to be on older Apple computers.
The LED display of the Apple MacBook Pro gives you a stunning overview of your music. Plus, you get a Core intel I7 processor, which means that the technology is quick and easy to work with. The memory is fantastic too, delivering around 16GB of RAM with ease. There’s even a handy 10-hour battery life, so you don’t have to worry about running out of juice when you’re away from an outlet.
What’s even better for computer music producers is that Apple has replaced its USB ports with USB C ports and thunderbolts. This is excellent for music producers who need access to their work from a range of different tools.
2. Lenovo ThinkPad – Best Windows Laptop For Music Production
The Lenovo ThinkPad is a real heavy-hitter in the music production landscape. Delivering excellent performance for those who want to stay away from the Apple environment, the Lenovo ThinkPad is sturdy, reliable, and brimming with functionality. If you need a device that can stand the test of time, this should be a good choice.
The great thing about the Lenovo ThinkPad is that it comes with a powerful SSD, which is a must-have for today’s producers. On top of that, there’s a lot of different ways to upgrade and enhance your music production computer in any way that you choose. When it comes to picking things like processor performance and RAM, there’s no limit to how far you can go.
Unlike Apple devices, Lenovo give today’s users the freedom to boost their performance however they like. Lenovo machines are also surprisingly affordable considering the amount of power you get. Battery life often extends far beyond other devices, and you can use your music production laptop with a wide range of smartphones and other devices.
3. Apple iMac – Best Apple Desktop for Music Production
The 27-inch display Apple iMac is one of the biggest and most impressive music production desktop computers around. This product has all the power you’re going to need to master your music production. What’s more, the solution works with many of the leading tools on the market so that you can experiment with all kinds of software.
The iMac comes with plenty of storage, memory, and interface features. Plus, there’s a fantastic display that comes in a sleek and beautiful all-in-one design. If you’re looking for the leader in Mac functionality for your computer music production needs, then this could be the perfect machine for you. This particular model even comes with a fantastic 8 core processor.
With Turbo Boost, you can crank up your speed to a massive 4.5GHZ, so you don’t have to worry about running out of functionality. There’s also a redesigned cache architecture feature that’s better and more powerful than before.
4. Lenovo ThinkServer – Best Value for Money Computer for Music Production
The ThinkServer is another brilliant computer option from the Lenovo brand. If you’re looking for a PC that can deliver excellent music production performance at an affordable price, this could be the product for you. The Lenovo ThinkServer is a tank of a machine, while it has been around for quite a while, this device doesn’t lose its functionality, thanks to its scalable nature.
The ThinkServer comes with a decent amount of RAM and a powerful SSD, so you can quickly access your music and build tracks with no problem. There’s also a 2TB hard-drive built-in, making this an excellent product for those who need advanced storage options.
Although the Graphics card is a bit outdated in this machine – that won’t be a problem for most music producers. Plus, you can always remove and replace any of the features that you’re not fully content with. The ThinkServer remains to be one of the leading products on the market for anyone in search of a Windows machine.
5. Acer Predator Helios 300 – Most Affordable Computer for Music Production
The Acer Predator Helios 300 is one of the more affordable gaming laptops on our list – and one of the best music production computers on the market. Although this device is primarily for gaming fans, it also works well for production, thanks to its powerhouse performance. Although the Acer Predator is only a mid-range device, it comes with a fantastic Core Intel i5 processor.
You can also upgrade your processor whenever you like if you need a faster laptop. The design of the Acer Predator allows for customization to suit your needs.
The Acer Predator looks good and performs admirably and features a high-performance SSD – which is good for any music producer. The battery life is also ideal for a 17-inch gaming laptop.
6. Apple Mac Mini
Another top performer from the Apple brand. The Apple Mac Mini is an impressive product, bundled into a compact machine. The Mac Mini comes with a 6-core i7 processor at standard – which is amazingly fast for its category. This particular model from Apple seems to have a great balance between affordability and power.
There’s only 16GB of RAM available and a single SSD drive at 516GB, however, that should be enough for some beginners. There’s also up to 64GB of extra memory, so you can make a couple of upgrades and turn this device into a top-performer in no time.
One thing that’s particularly appealing about the Apple Mac Mini is that it comes with four Thunderbolt ports. There are many other music production computers that don’t have a Thunderbolt port at all. The availability of all these connectivity options ensures that your machine is as future-proof as possible.
7. HP Pavilion 690
The HP Pavilion is one of the more popular and highly-reviewed computer options on the market today. It delivers plenty of fantastic specs that make it a great choice for handling challenging music production computer tasks. This widely-praised device gives you more confidence with your music software. Plus, you can upgrade your RAM and performance too.
We’d recommend going a bit higher than the basics with your new HP computer, as the speed can be a little limited initially. One of the biggest downsides of this device is that it doesn’t come with an SSD solution, so you’ll need to figure that out yourself.
On the plus side, there’s a decent amount of power in this product for creating and making music, and it’s not the most expensive item in the world either. It might be a good introduction option or beginners.
8. Microsoft Surface Studio
Finally, we come to one of the most enticing music production computers for today’s producers around. This ultra-thin desktop is perfect for music production and performance. You can take the device with you anywhere you go and access a fantastic lightweight experience. There’s plenty of power built into this machine for creative tasks, and an excellent display too.
The screen tilting is perfect for getting a good look at your software while you’re working, and you can use the available stylus too. There’s also a great user interface thanks to integration with Windows 10. The full system feels like a premium music production computer – perfect for people who want to take their experience with music to the next level.
However, there’s not a lot of upgradeability options here, which could be a serious problem for those who want to future-proof their system. Additionally, there aren’t a lot of ports to choose from.
Finishing Thoughts on the Best Computers for Music Production
Ultimately, there are plenty of excellent computer music production options out there for anyone who needs a powerhouse computer for their career. You can stick with something small and lightweight that’s great for life on the move, or you can invest in something more robust and future-proof.
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for success here. Over time, you’ll get a feel for the kind of technology that you work best with. This will help you to make your decisions more confidently in the future. Until then, use our suggestions above to boost your chances of picking your best computer for music production.