If you’re wondering which Mac is best for making music on your Mac, we’ve taken a closer look at the best Macs for music production in 2023 including the latest M1 and M2 Macs.
Whether you want a touring laptop or a studio machine, we’ve looked at the best Macs for audio production of all kinds.
- Why Macs Are Best For Music Production
- Best Macs For Music Production: Apple Silicon vs Intel
- Best Music Production Setup For Macs
- 1. M1 MacBook Pro 16 inch (Best Overall)
- 2. M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch (Most Powerful)
- 3. M1 Mac Studio (Best For Pro Studios)
- 4. M2 Mac Mini 2023 (Best Budget)
- 5. M1 MacBook Air 2021 (Best Portability)
- 6. iMac 2021 (Best For Home Studios)
- Best Macs For Music Production Compared
- Is The MacBook Pro or Air Better For Music Production?
- Is The Mac Pro Good For Music Production?
Why Macs Are Best For Music Production
We might be biased but we think that Macs are by far the best computers for using music production software because they’re so reliable, stable and easy to use.
You’ll notice that almost all of the top DJs use Macs for performing and most of the best DJ software now work on Macs.
Macs are the computer of choice for creatives and professional music producers due to their fast and reliable performance, ease of use, sleek design and portability.
The latest Apple Silicon M1 and M2 processors in the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Studio have also replaced the slower Intel processors making Macs even more attractive for music producers.
In our extensive research, we found the best Mac for music production is the incredible M1 MacBook Pro 16 inch especially for live performers.
Best Macs For Music Production: Apple Silicon vs Intel
It’s important to be aware that at the moment there are two types of Mac on the market: older Macs that have Intel chips and the latest Macs with Apple Silicon M1 chips and more recently M2 chips.
The Apple Silicon M1 and M2 chip is made by Apple and is much faster than the Intel chip especially the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.
All new Macs sold by Apple now come with either the M1 or M2 processor such as the M2 Mac Mini and the fastest model the amazing Mac Studio has the incredible M1 Ultra chip.
All Apple Silicon Macs also support spatial audio for a more immersive music listening experience which is another attraction for music professionals.
Although you can still buy second hand or refurbished Intel Macs, we strongly recommend choosing an M1 or M2 Mac over older Intel Mac.
Older Intel Macs have anything ranging from an Intel Core i5 to i9 all of which are still suitable for music production on macOS.
However, it’s only a matter of time before all music production software runs natively on Apple Silicon and gradually drop support for older Intel chips because the M1 and M2 chips deliver much better performance.
Best Music Production Setup For Macs
Apart from your choice of Mac, here are some other things to consider when creating the best music production setup on your Mac.
- Music Production Software
Be aware that some music production software or Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) haven’t released an M1 or M2 compatible version yet.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use them on Apple Silicon Macs as macOS uses a clever system called Rosetta to translate them to work on M1 and M2 Macs.
It does however mean that you may encounter problems from time to time and slower performance compared to using music production software that has been built to work specifically with the M1 and M2 chips, especially when using plugins.
Cubase for example does not have an M1 or M2 compatible version.
Others such as Ableton Live, Adobe Audition, Avid Pro Tools, Apple’s Logic Pro X and GarageBand all support M1 and M2 chips natively so you’ll enjoy the full performance benefits of the M1 & M2 chip with them.
Music production requires a lot of RAM and so the more RAM your Mac has the better.
If you’re handling long, multi-track songs, you’ll definitely need a lot of RAM in your Mac.
The more RAM you have, the more instruments, effects, plugins and layers of sound your Mac can handle. Not to mention, everything will run much faster and smoother.
At the very minimum you need 16GB of RAM although M1 chip Macs only have a maximum of 16GB of RAM and there’s no way to upgrade it later.
In this respect, some Intel Macs may sound like a better choice for music production because Intel Macs like the older 27 inch iMac and 16 inch MacBook Pro can be upgraded with up to 128GB of RAM.
However, because the M1 and M2 processors are faster and utilize the RAM far more efficiently, they are quicker and we’d still recommend going for an Apple Silicon chip Mac over an Intel Mac despite the lower RAM available on most models.
- Hard Drive Space
As well as needing lots of RAM, music production software also requires lots of hard drive space.
Nowadays, all new Macs have Solid State Drives (SSDs) which are the fastest because they have no moving parts like mechanical drives do.
However, most new base model Macs only come with a few hundred GB of space although unlike RAM, you can customize this when you purchase a Mac including on the new M1 Macs.
We recommend getting a minimum of at least 512GB with your new Mac for music production.
However, if you’re producing music professionally on your Mac you’ll need a lot a more than this and depending on the Mac you purchase, you can add anything up to 8TB of SDD hard drive space.
The good news is that you can also extend your Mac’s storage capacity with an external hard drive.
Nowadays, with Thunderbolt connections, your Mac can transfer data almost as fast from an external SSD as it can from the internal drive so you don’t necessarily have to upgrade internally either.
To edit music directly from an external hard drive requires at least an external SSD drive, preferably one with a Thunderbolt connection like the Samsung X5.
SSD and Thunderbolt drives are much faster than mechanical HDD drives and music editing software requires high-speed read-write capabilities that usually only internal hard drives can offer.
Check out our guide to the best SSDs for Mac and best Thunderbolt external drives for reviews of the best ones for music production.
- External Monitors
Apart from the Mac you choose, an important thing to consider is an external display for producing music on especially if you’re going to be working for long periods on a small MacBook screen.
If you require multiple displays or monitors, be aware that the 2020 base model M1 Macs and M2 Macs including the 13 inch M1/M2 MacBook Pro can only support a maximum of one external monitor.
Athough there are still ways to connect multiple monitors to base model M1 Macs it requires third party hardware and we don’t recommend it.
This is not a problem with the 14/16 inch 2023 M1 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro or M1 Max chip which can support up to two and four external monitors respectively.
The sames goes for the M2 Mac Mini which can support up to three external displays with the M2 Pro chip.
And it’s definitely not a limitation with the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra chip which can also support up to 5 monitors (4 via Thunderbolt/USB-C and 1 via HDMI).
For more on using external displays for music production, you can read our guide to the best monitors for the MacBook Pro, best displays for the Mac Studio and best monitors for the Mac Mini.
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With all this in mind, here then are the best Macs for music production in 2023.
1. M1 MacBook Pro 16 inch (Best Overall)
The 16 inch Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Pro is by far the best Mac for music production due to a combination of power, performance and reliability.
The MacBook Pro provides a powerful and portable music production studio that’s good enough for even professional music production on a Mac.
Apple has obviously already updated its own music production software Logic Pro X to work with the M1 chip and the M1 MacBook Pro is the best Mac for Logic Pro X on the market.
However, even non-Apple software like Pro Tools are now M1 compatible making the M1 MacBook Pro the best Mac for Pro Tools on the market.
The 13 inch MacBook Pro was the first MacBook Pro to have the M1 chip but now the bigger 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pros have switched from the old Intel Core i9 processors to the M1 chip.
We recommend going for the 16 inch model for creating music as you really need the screen estate for music production and it supports more than one external monitor.
The 13 and 14 inch models are however more compact for live music production as they’re lighter but note that the 13 inch model can only support one external display.
You can customize the storage capacity of the M1 MacBook Pro up to 8TB which is incredible for a compact laptop.
The M1 MacBook Pro is also the first to have an incredible Liquid Retina XDR display with mini-LED which offers incredible clarity and resolution.
Bear in mind that the 13 inch model only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports compared to four on the 16 inch model which is important if you need to connect lots of external devices such as DJ controllers and external hard drives.
Note that since this review was written, Apple released the new 14 inch and 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro in January 2023.
The M2 models offer some speed improvements on the M1 MacBook Pro although are yet to be reviewed but you may want to consider this before purchasing.
You can read more about this amazing machine in our M1 MacBook Pro review.
- Powerful mobile music production machine
- Incredible Liquid Retina XDR display
- Ideal for music producers that travel between studios
- Best Mac for Logic Pro X
- Very high specs
- Huge storage capacity for a laptop of up to 8TB
- Supports more than one external display
- Cheaper than the M2 MacBook Pro
- Not upgradable after purchase
- Similar price range to more powerful iMac
- No Ultra chip option
2. M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch (Most Powerful)
The M2 MacBook Pro is Apple’s latest version of the MacBook Pro released in January 2023.
The M2 MacBook Pro is the replacement for the M1 MacBook Pro and features modest speed improvements on the M1 chip although it does cost a few hundred dollars more than the M1 version.
The new M2 Pro MacBook Pro supports up to 95GB of unified RAM with the 16-inch M2 Pro MacBook Pro version capable of up to 22 hours video playback on battery power and 15 hours of web surfing.
Apple claims the new M2 MacBook Pros will render video six times faster than an Intel MacBook Pro and perform color grading twice as fast.
The M2 MacBook Pro 2022 13 inch has no problem handling layered tracks, VSTs, effects, plugins and pretty much anything else you can throw it at thanks to the latest Apple Silicon M2 processor.
Compared to the M1 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip, the M2 Pro chip offers up to 20% faster performance according to Apple with 200 GB/s of unified memory bandwidth.
It also has a 19 core GPU that offers up to 30% more graphics performance compared to the M1 Pro.
There’s also a 40% faster Neural Engine for video/image processing and other graphic intensive tasks.
If you max out the M2 MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip, it has a whopping 38 core GPU which promises another 30% faster graphics performance compared to the M1 Max according to Apple.
This includes 400 GB/s of unified memory and 96GB of unified memory which will handle the most demanding graphic intensive applications.
Apple claims the M2 Max 12-core CPU is 20% faster than even the M1 Max.
The new M2 MacBook Pros have also been upgraded with Wi-Fi 6E connectivity which is twice as fast as the previous WiFi standard on the MacBook Pro.
There’s also an upgraded HDMI port with support for higher resolution external monitors including 8K displays and 4K displays up to 240Hz.
The M2 MacBook Pro with M2 Pro chip can support up to two external displays and M2 Max chip up to three external displays.
We do not reccommend the either the 13 inch M1 or M2 MacBook Pro though as they only support one external display although it is possible to add more displays to them with extra hardware.
There are also an additional three Thunderbolt 4 ports, MagSafe charging connector and a headphone jack in the M2 MacBook Pro.
Pricing for the base model M2 MacBook Pro 14-inch model starts at $1,999 (£2,149) and the M2 MacBook Pro 16-inch MacBook starts at $2,499 (£2,699)
You can read our full M2 MacBook Pro review for more.
- Apple’s latest and most powerful MacBook Pro
- 20% faster than the M1 MacBook Pro
- 30% better graphics performance than the M1 MacBook Pro
- Up to 38 core GPU
- Up to 96GB of unified memory
- Upgraded HDMI 2.1 ports
- Supports multiple 8K and 4K displays up to 240Hz
- Lots of ports for connecting external devices
3. M1 Mac Studio (Best For Pro Studios)
The Mac Studio is Apple’s latest Mac aimed at creative professionals such as music producers and was released alongside a new monitor the 27 inch 5K Apple Studio Display.
The Mac Studio is basically a mix between the Mac Mini and M1 MacBook Pro with an incredibly powerful M1 Max or new M1 Ultra chip with 20-core or 64-core performance.
Apple calls the M1 Ultra chip “the worlds most powerful chip for a personal computer” and it’s certainly hard to beat with up to 64-core performance.
The Mac Studio also includes 128GB of unified memory, 800GB/s or memory bandwidth and an 8TB SSD which dwarfs the processing power of both the Mac Mini and MacBook Pro.
It’s also jam packed with ports for connectivity including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10GB ethernet port, two USB-A ports, HDMI and a Pro audio jack.
If you’re recording music in a professional studio but don’t have the budget for a Mac Pro, the Mac Studio is an excellent alternative although like the Mac Mini, you will need to buy an external monitor, mouse and keyboard.
Pricing for the Mac Studio starts at $1,999 (£1,999) for the M1 Max with the M1 Ultra starting at $3,999 (£3,999) If you bought a top of the range Mac Studio with M1 Ultra chip, 8TB of SSD it would cost $7,999 (£6,100).
On top of this is the new 27 inch 5K Apple Studio Display which costs $1599 (£1499). However, you could also use a cheaper alternative external display for the Mac Studio instead.
You can also check out our full Mac Studio review for a closer look at this amazing Mac.
- The most powerful Mac on the market with M1 Ultra chip
- Up to 64-core processing power
- Up to 8TB internal SSD
- Supports up to 5 external monitors
- Incredibly high quality images when paired with Apple Studio Display
- Not upgradable after purchase
4. M2 Mac Mini 2023 (Best Budget)
The Mac Mini is the smallest Mac you can get but the latest M2 Mac Mini is easily the best budget Mac for music production.
Released in January 2023, the M2 Mac Mini starts at just $599 which is actually $100 cheaper than the original M1 Mac Mini released in 2020.
Unlike MacBooks, the Mac Mini also has the advantage of an audio-in port for those that want to connect an instrument to it without a USB audio interface.
The other great advantage of the M2 Mac Mini is that you can easily upgrade the RAM on it. You can choose up to 32GB of Ram with the Mac Mini with storage of up to 2TB.
You will of course need to buy an external monitor for the Mac Mini as it doesn’t come with one.
Although it’s more expensive, we strongly recommend going for the more powerful M2 Mac Mini with M2 Pro chip as it also supports up to three external displays – two via Thunderbolt and one via HDMI.
The basic M2 Mac Mini supports two external displays but only one via Thunderbolt, the other via HDMI. The HDMI port is also useful if you want to connect your Mac Mini to a TV too.
Of course, you’ll also need to buy a keyboard and mouse although these are relatively cheap and you can use pretty much any USB or Bluetooth keyboard or mouse with the Mac Mini.
You can read our full M2 Mac Mini review for more on this incredibly powerful budget Mac.
- Excellent value for money
- Suitable for beginners or amateur Musicians
- Great for Logic Pro X or GarageBand
- M2 Pro model supports up to three external displays
- Audio-in port
- Not available with M2 Max or M2 Ultra chip
- Requires purchasing of keyboard, monitor and mouse too
5. M1 MacBook Air 2021 (Best Portability)
Although the MacBook Air is the least powerful MacBook on the market, it’s also the cheapest MacBook for music production and offers the ultimate in lightweight portability.
The MacBook Air is only available with the M1 and M2 chip however so while GarageBand and Logic Pro X will be able to perform amazingly fast on it, you may not experience the best results with non native Apple Silicon M1/M2 chip music production software.
One advantage of the MacBook Air is that it has no fan so if you’re recording in a studio and need total silence, then it may be a better option for you than the MacBook Pro.
However, the small 13-inch screen size isn’t ideal for music production and you may want to consider getting an external monitor for when you’re in a studio or using it at home although it only supports one external display.
Note that since the 2021 M1 MacBook Air was released, Apple released the slightly faster 13 inch M2 MacBook Air with the latest M2 chip although this also only supports one external monitor.
The M2 MacBook Air also costs considerably more than the 2021 M1 MacBook Air and there’s very little difference in performance so we recommend M1 MacBook Air for a great combination for performance and value for money.
- Incredibly light and portable
- No fans makes it totally silent
- Good value for money MacBook
- Lacks processing power and spec of the MacBook Pro
- Not upgradable after purchase
- Only supports one external display
6. iMac 2021 (Best For Home Studios)
If you’re going to be making music professionally mainly in a studio or at home, then look no further than the iMac as the best desktop Mac for home studios.
The iMac is a far superior option to the Mac Mini if you need more RAM, better graphics and of course, an amazing 5K display with the 27 inch model.
In fact, any used iMac is good enough for music production although we recommend avoiding the 21 inch model unless your budget really won’t stretch.
All processors in iMacs support what’s known has Hyper Threading which means more than one core processor can handle instructions threads at the same time.
The iMac comes with silent SSD drives and the latest iMacs have the M1 chip. The 24 inch and 27 inch iMacs also have a mic input for recording vocals directly into it.
The iMac also comes with 3 USB ports and 2 Thunderbolt ports so there’s plenty of room for connecting peripherals such as external hard drives or daisy-chaining external displays.
Unfortunately there’s only support for one more external display with the M1 iMac although there are ways of adding more displays to M1 Macs with extra hardware.
You can even use an iMac as an external monitor with a MacBook or Mac Studio although this has become more complicated in recent releases of macOS due to the removal of Target Display Mode.
- Ideal for recording artists and engineers
- Best desktop music production Mac
- Amazing 5K display
- High specs for professional music production
- Integrated mic input
- Lots of ports for added connectivity
- Not portable
- Only supports one added external display
- No M1 Pro, M1 Max or M1 Ultra model
Best Macs For Music Production Compared
If after these reviews you’re still not sure which Mac is the best for producing music on, here’s a side-by-side comparison of them to help.
Is The MacBook Pro or Air Better For Music Production?
The MacBook Pro is better than the MacBook Air for music production because it’s more powerful than the MacBook Air.
The slight advantages the MacBook Air has over the Pro when it comes to music production is that it has no fans so it’s completely silent if you’re in a studio environment.
Being lighter of course, the MacBook Air is also more portable.
Is The Mac Pro Good For Music Production?
The Mac Pro is supposed to be the most powerful Mac on the market so you’d expect it to make this list of the best Macs for music production.
However, the reason the Mac Pro hasn’t made it is because Apple still hasn’t released an Apple Silicon chip version of it yet.
For the money, we think the iMac Pro is actually better for music production at this stage but that may change once the Mac Pro has an M1 or M2 chip.
It’s expected that the Mac Pro will have an M1/M2 chip added in 2023 but since the M1 and M2 chips deliver performance beyond what the Mac Pro can do, we can’t recommend it for music production at the moment.
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