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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 2021.

Whether you want a touring laptop or a studio machine, we’ve looked at the best Macs for audio production of all kinds.

We think that Macs are by far the best computers for music production and all 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 and sleek design.

However, with so many Macs on the markets including MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Pro, it can be difficult to know which is the best setup for music producers.

Best Macs For Music Production: M1 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.

The M1 chip is made by Apple and is much faster than the Intel chip. Most model of new Macs sold by Apple now come with the M1 processor and we strongly recommend choosing an M1 Mac over buying an older Intel Mac.

Older Intel Macs have anything ranging from an Intel Core i5 to i9 all of which are suitable for music production on macOS.

However, the thing to bear in mind is that some music production software or Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) haven’t released an M1 compatible version yet.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t use them on M1 Macs as macOS uses a clever system called Rosetta to translate them to work on M1 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 chip, especially when using plugins.

Notable music production software that currently do not have an M1 compatible version include Cubase, Ableton Live and Adobe Audition.

Others such as Apple’s Logic Pro X and GarageBand both support M1 chips natively so you’ll enjoy the full performance benefits of the M1 chip with them and add as many plugins as you like without affecting performance.

Another thing to consider is that if you require multiple displays, M1 Macs can only support a maximum of 2 displays at once although there are still ways to connect multiple monitors to M1 Macs.

It’s also worth remembering that Apple will release the M1X chip probably sometime in 2022 which will be an even faster version of the current M1 chip.

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Best Music Production Setup For Macs

Apart from your choice of Mac, here are some things to consider when creating the best music production setup on your Mac.

  • Music Production Software

The music production software or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) you use is probably more important than the actual Mac you choose to run it on.

Apple has its own M1 chip compatible music production software for professionals Logic Pro X as well as GarageBand which is aimed more at beginners to music production in macOS.

Depending on your level of expertise, there are many music creation software available for Mac nowadays including Cubase, Adobe Audition and Ableton Live.

As mentioned earlier though, although all of them run on the latest M1 Macs, not all will be able to harness the full power of the M1 chip and if this is important to you, it will dictate whether you go for an Intel or M1 chip Mac.

Note that you can’t enhance the performance of an M1 Mac with an eGPU but you can get an eGPU for Intel Macs which will speed-up the graphic handling capabilities of your Mac when using music production software.

  • RAM

Like video editing software, 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 processor is faster and utilizes the RAM far more efficiently, they are quicker and we’d still recommend going for an M1 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 although 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.

With this in mind, here then are the best Macs for music production in 2021.

1. MacBook Pro (Best For Live Performers)

Apple MacBook Pro 13.3" with Retina Display, M1 Chip with 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU, 16GB Memory, 512GB SSD, Space Gray, Late 2020
  • BTO MacBook Pro 13.3" with Retina Display - 61W USB Type-C Power Adapter - USB Type-C Charge Cable (2m) - Apple 1 Year Limited Warranty with 90 Day Technical Support
  • Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • 16GB unified memory
  • 512GB SSD storage

The 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.

It’s important to be aware however that only the 13 inch MacBook Pro has the M1 chip. The bigger 16 inch MacBook Pro only has Intel Core i9 processors.

The 13 inch is also more compact for live music production as its lighter.

You can customize the storage capacity of the M1 MacBook Pro up to 4TB which is incredible for a compact laptop.

It’s only a matter of time before all music production software runs natively on the M1 chip which delivers much better performance so we’d still recommend going with the smaller 13 inch model.

The 13 inch model also only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports compared to four on the 16 inch model which is worth bearing in mind if you need to connect lots of external devices such as DJ controllers and external hard drives.

Pros:

  • Powerful mobile music production machine
  • Ideal for music producers that travel between studios
  • Very high specs
  • Huge storage capacity for a laptop

Cons:

  • Not upgradable after purchase
  • Similar price range to more powerful iMac

2. Mac Mini (Best Budget)

Apple BTO Mac Mini Desktop Computer, M1 Chip with 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU, 16GB Memory, 1TB SSD, Gigabit Ethernet, Late 2020
  • BTO Mac Mini Desktop Computer - Power Cord - Apple 1 Year Limited Warranty with 90 Day Free Technical Support
  • Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • 16GB unified memory
  • 1TB SSD storage

The Mac Mini is the smallest Mac you can get but it packs an incredible punch. It’s also the cheapest Mac for music production with the basic model starting at just $699.

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 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.

However, since it has no monitor, keyboard or mouse, you’ll have to buy them separately although you can use any monitor, keyboard or mouse with it.

Pros:

  • Beginners or Amateur Musicians
  • Logic Pro X or GarageBand users
  • Musicians or Producers on a Budget
  • Can support 2 displays simultaneosly

Cons:

  • Not available with premium specs
  • Requires purchasing of keyboard, monitor and mouse

3. MacBook Air (Best Portability)

Apple BTO Mac Mini Desktop Computer, M1 Chip with 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU, 16GB Memory, 1TB SSD, Gigabit Ethernet, Late 2020
  • BTO Mac Mini Desktop Computer - Power Cord - Apple 1 Year Limited Warranty with 90 Day Free Technical Support
  • Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • 16GB unified memory
  • 1TB SSD storage

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 chip however so it 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 M1 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.

Pros:

  • Incredibly light and portable
  • No fans makes it totally silent
  • Good value for money

Cons:

  • Lacks power and spec of the pro version
  • Not upgradable after purchase

4. iMac (Best For Home Studios)

2021 Apple iMac (24-inch, Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU and 8‑core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB) - Silver
  • Immersive 24-inch 4.5K Retina display with P3 wide color gamut and 500 nits of brightness
  • Apple M1 chip delivers powerful performance with 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU
  • Strikingly thin 11.5 mm design in vibrant colors
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera with M1 ISP for amazing video quality
  • Studio-quality three-mic array for crystal clear calls and voice recordings

If you’re going to be making music professionally mainly in a studio or at home, then look no further than the iMac.

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 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.

Pros:

  • Ideal for recording artists and engineers
  • Amazing 5K display
  • High specs for professional music production

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not portable

5. iMac Pro (Best For Pros)

Apple iMac Pro 27in All-in-One Desktop, Space Gray (MQ2Y2LL/A) (Renewed)
  • This Certified Refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The refurbishing process includes functionality testing, basic cleaning, inspection, and repackaging. The product ships with all relevant accessories, a minimum 90-day warranty, and may arrive in a generic box. Only select sellers who maintain a high performance bar may offer Certified Refurbished products on Amazon.com
  • 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor w/Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
  • 32GB 2666MHz ECC memory
  • 1TB SSD storage, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports, 10GB Ethernet
  • Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 memory

The iMac Pro is Apple’s high end iMac and is really only suitable for professional studio producers, engineers or artists that need an incredibly powerful DAW.

The iMac Pro looks just like the regular iMac but inside is supercharged with a 10-core Intel Xeon W CPU (3.5 GHz), an AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics card with 8GB of HBM2 memory, 32GB of DDR4 RAM and support for either two 5k or two Pro Display XDRs.

In terms of connectivity, it doesn’t get better than the iMac Pro either with four Thunderbolt 4 ports.

The amazing thing is that even when performing at its limits, the iMac Pro is incredibly cool and quiet and this is all without an M1 chip which isn’t available in the iMac Pro yet.

The iMac Pro is definitely more than most people looking for a computer to produce music on their Mac need but for those with a big unlimited budget, it’s the ultimate iMac.

Pros:

  • Unbelievably fast and powerful
  • All the advantages of the regular iMac and more
  • Silent performance

Cons:

  • Very expensive

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 only advantage the MacBook Air has over the Pro when it comes to music production is that it has no fans so it’s completely silent and being lighter, it’s 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 M1 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 chip.

It’s expected that by the end of 2022 the Mac Pro will have an M1 chip but since the M1 chip delivers performance beyond what the Mac Pro can do.

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