Music Producers: Should You Buy The New Macbook Pro?
For the music producer, Apple’s new Macbook Pro 2016, requires quite a bit of upfront investment.
The first thing I wondered when I saw the Macbook Pro being introduced is how am I going to plug in my Cubase dongle? Let alone the many other audio hardware a typical music producer owns – from audio interfaces, MIDI controllers to drum pads & DJ controllers.
The Macbook Pro has been stripped off all traditional USB ports USB-C ports instead.
Well to use the latest Macbook Pro for music production, you’ll have to invest in about $250 of dongles & special cables.
The New Macbook Pro For Music Production
How will the new MacBook pro do for music production? It’s lighter, thinner and it comes with a nice new ‘touch bar’. The MagSafe power connector is gone, which is a shame really as it was a useful safety feature, so your Macbook does not fly off the stage if someone happens to trip over the power cable.
You can still use traditional USB2.0 & USB3.0 devices with USB-C
I don’t know what type of musician or producer you are, but you’re bound to have some controller or audio device that connects to your computer via USB. How to connect your USB devices like audio interfaces and controllers to the Macbook Pro then?
The good news is you can buy a USB-C to USB 3.0 cable, which would work with USB2.0 devices as well. But this means changing all the cables you have in your studio, which can get pretty costly.
Another alternative is to buy a dongle like the USB-C Hub to USB-A, for all your connection needs.
It does not end there. Those dongles are needed to connect your audio devices. What if you take pictures as well or have an audio recorder like the Zoom H6 that uses SD cards? Well, another SD card USB-C card reader dongle for you.
You plan to connect your Macbook Pro to an external monitor in your studio? Yup, another USB-C to VGA adapter for you unless you’re waiting for the said new LG monitors that will be built with Macbook Pros in mind.
This might not be a deal breaker for many music producers, but I don’t like the idea of carrying so many different dongles. They get broken quickly and worse, you’re bound to forget a dongle and mistakenly leave it behind when you travel.
What about the new “Touch Bar” for music production?
Since Apple developed Logic Pro X, we would think some kind of Touch Bar feature will be built for it. But it seems like while every creative app, like Final Cut X, Numbers & Pages got updated with Touchbar support, Logic Pro X did not.
I must say, the Touchbar feature looks amazing and cool. There are so many features that I could think off, would be really cool on the Touchbar. For example, imagine using the Touchbar as a transport bar, MIDI controller or a mixing control surface to mute/solo or perhaps tweak some pan pots.
Touchbar seems like a nice feature for the music producer, but do you really need it? I figured using a touch screen to control the knobs and faders on a DAW would be much more intuitive than trying to fiddle on a thin Touchbar strip.
The new Macbook Pro can only have max 16GB RAM
As a music producer, producing with lots of VSTs and effects through the years, you probably know how important RAM is for your setup.
Before you throw hate on Apple, understand that the Macbook Pro is a laptop. It is designed to be small and portable. If you’re looking for super serious production work, it’s best to get a desktop unit or something like the iMac 27.
The reason why the Macbook Pro only limits up to max 16GB of RAM is possibly to make up for its higher battery life. Some users also noted that the MacBook Pro is using an LPDDR3 RAM which uses more power as compared to DDR4, in which surprisingly Apple did not put in.
However that being said, it’s still possible to do serious production work on a Macbook Pro. The SSD speeds on the MacBook Pro will aid with any heavy audio recording or processing in the studio or on the roads.
It also has a bumped up battery life to 10 hours between charges, so producing music on the road will be a breeze.
Isn’t the MacBook Pro a little expensive?
The standard 13-inch MacBook Pro (without the Touchbar) starts at $1499 instead of the previous pricing of $1299. And this model is without the TouchBar, which in my opinion, kind of defeats the purpose of upgrading to the new MacBook Pro. Besides, the entry Macbook Pro also comes with only 2 USB-C ports which is quite a deal breaker for music producers.
I used to recommend fellow music producers who wanted a Macbook Pro, to go for the base 15-inch model as it comes with higher disk space and also with a maxed out 16GB RAM. It wouldn’t be worth the price difference if you were to get the 13-inch model and upgrade the disk space and RAM.
However, the new MacBook Pro 15-inch model now starts at $2300 and even higher for people in Europe at €2799 (which is reported to be a 50% increase in price from the last pricing).
Even though Apple is a company that prides on their higher priced products, the price increase this round has caused lots of grumbles. Many users are talking about going back to run on a refurbished 2015 unit instead of getting the new Macbook Pro 2016.
Switch To Windows For Music Production?
Mac used to be the computer you want to get if you are into music production. But that isn’t the case anymore these days. There is no reason why you can’t produce great music on a Windows based computer system.
In fact, I’m using both the Mac and Windows for music production. The ONLY complaint I probably have for a Windows machine is the absence of a robust audio driver like CoreAudio on a Mac.
There is also a few great reasons why you would consider the switch to a Windows machine. Again, I’m not biased and this is not a Windows to Mac debate, but it’s cheaper to start off your music production journey on a Windows machine. You get more power for the price you pay for in most Windows based machine.
Some MacBook Pro alternatives for music production
Here are some great laptops you can consider if you’re in for the switch to Windows. The laptops recommended here are near the Macbook Pro in terms of portability and battery life.
Coming with a new 7th generation processor, this is one of the best MacBook Pro alternatives you can find for music production. The Dell XPS is super portable, and it also comes with an excellent battery life, said to last up to 14 hours on web browsing – better than a Macbook Pro.
The laptop also comes with touch display, which can be used to control your DAW. For $1399, the highest model, you get an i7 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and a beautiful 3200 x 1800 touch display.
If you’re into full portability, consider the Surface Book i7. The Surface is easily mistaken as a tablet PC with touch display but is in fact pretty powerful for music production.
The Surface more towards a mid-range to a high-end computer but you get lots of performance while it being extremely portable as well with 12 hours of battery life. At $2699, you get an i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD and also a NVIDIA graphic card.
The Surface wouldn’t be a great choice if you’re into high graphic work, but for music production, the touch display and the performance it comes pack with are superb.
3 – ASUS GL552VW
This laptop packs lots of power at the expense of having less battery life. It’s a gaming laptop but a good choice for music production as well.
It comes packed with an i7 processor and RAM upgradable up to 32GB, and this laptop is a powerhouse when it comes to processing and recording audio. Another thing to note is that it comes with an SSD and also a 1TB mechanical hard disk. This means you can put your system files on the SSD and your samples on the mechanical hard disk.
The cons to the ASUS GL552VW ROG is sadly that ASUS shipped many laptops that had graphic driver issues. I suspect it’s a hardware issue, but there is no solid answer. Just make sure you test the laptop thoroughly to check for any fault when you receive it.
Not a portable computer but it definitely caught the eye of many creative professionals. It looks near to an iMac, but it’s more than just a regular computer.
The Surface comes with 28″ touch display, giving you lots of display screen real estate. The 4500 x 3000 Pixelsense display also gives you true colors, which would be amazing for design – showing you the actual colors. Upgradable up to 32GB RAM and has plenty of ports of all your audio hardware, it also comes pack with lots of CPU power with a
What really makes the Surface studio shine, is the Surface dial. It’s a new accessory that works with the Surface studio by just placing it on the display.
Imagine the things you could do with the Surface dial, from drawing in automations, using it as a fader and more. We don’t know the possibilities that it can do for now, but pretty sure more support for it will be launched soon.
Your Turn – Thoughts For The New MacBook Pro for Music Production?
What do you think about the new MacBook Pro and how will it fit into your studio?
Let us know in the comment section below. Will you stick to Apple and buy the MacBook Pro or is it time to look for an alternative?