People have been asking why I made the switch

What Computer Should You Buy For Music Production

You’ll be amazed to hear the music quality recorded from home recording studios.

That being said, should you go for a Windows PC or a Mac? There is a war going on because of this subject itself, but having produced on a Mac & Windows before, let me give you my insights.

Should You Buy A Mac?

Apple Mac computers are beautifully designed and you feel good owning one. I started producing music on a Mac on Logic Studio. Logic Studio was made by the same company, Apple, so I figured I shouldn’t have any problems using them both.

I’d be honest. It was much easier to work on a Mac as compared to Windows. Installing my first software was pretty easy. I could depend on the Mac at all times. All I had to do whenever I wanted to make music is just power the computer on, launch my DAW and then make music. Good when inspiration strikes and you must put down ideas quickly.

With a Mac, you get Core Audio as your built-in audio driver. Core Audio is brilliant and you have close to no issues using it with your favourite DAW or when doing screencasting. On the other hand, Windows Audio is horrible when it comes to music production and screen casting. (I even had to find a new solution when doing screencasting on a  Windows PC).

My second Mac machine was the iMac. I bought an iMac for my recording studio and continue to finish many productions on it.

Another reason why I liked the iMac a lot is because it was almost near silent-less. No noisy fans or loud spinning hard disks. That made it a perfect machine for recording in the same room if you’re recording in your home studio.

Let’s Look At Some Mac Computers You Might Buy

Macbook / Macbook Pro

Macbook Retina 2015

Macbook Retina 2015

First of all, please do not buy the new Macbook Retina 2015 for music production. Despite what people say, the Macbook Retina are not made for music production. It may be good for writers or web users on the go but not for a music producer.

On the other hand, Macbook Pros are fair for music production. Besides being portable, it has the power to take on many recording projects you throw at it. I’m not talking about big film scoring projects. For that, you’ll need a desktop machine, which we’ll get into later.

Macbook Pros also ships with a number of ports, like the Thunderbolt which is recognized by many audio hardware companies. It’s easy to find an audio interface with a thunderbolt connection.

There are a few things you have to watch before investing in a Macbook Pro. First, while it’s really fast, most Macbook Pros ship with very little hard disk storage. I find this limiting because I normally install lots of sample instruments into my computer. A Komplete Ultimate installation will take up to 320GB of space on your computer, more than what most Macbook Pros ship with.

Macbook Pros don't ship with large hard disk space sizes

Macbook Pros don’t ship with large hard disk space sizes

A solution to this would be to install all your samples into a portable hard disk in which you carry with you.

Second, Macbooks are not upgradable. That is to say you have to upgrade your Macbook to the fullest specifications you can afford on the day you purchase it. You’ll need a lot of RAM for music production and you really have no choice but to upgrade the RAM on your Macbook to 16GB.

iMac

An iMac in a home recording studio

An iMac in a home recording studio

I like the iMac a lot not because it’s really quiet, but because you get a large screen real estate. Trust me, I’ve tried working on a film scoring project with over 60 tracks on small laptop screen and though it’s do-able, I found myself squinting and scrolling all over my DAW.

As you fill your DAW with tracks, you’ll start to crave for more screens to work upon. The iMac also has lots of ports for connectivity. I like to think of the iMac as a big laptop. And oh, you have to buy as much as RAM as your budget allows when you buy the iMac. Sucks, I know.

Which iMac Should You Buy? 

It is always better to get a computer with the fastest processor, but if your budget won’t allow. You should be fine with starting off with an Core i5 at bare minimum. RAM however should be upgraded to the max. As for screens, having a big screen is nice but you can always add another screen later on.

My iMac 09′ lasted me for about 4 years before I finally grew sick of it’s sluggishness in coping with the latest softwares and projects size.

Mac Pro

All the computing power you'll ever need in the studio

All the computing power you’ll ever need in the studio

Got all the budget and want to go big? Then get the Mac Pro.

I’ve never got my hands to actually finish a music piece on a Mac Pro, but looking at its specifications I’d say it’s worth a go if you want the best on a Mac platform.

The Mac Pro is actually an overkill for music production. Why? I’ll lay down the pros for you.

  1. Speed – You have everything you need to record loads of tracks and plugins
  2. Storage no longer an issue – We talked about having storage issues when it comes to samples. Not anymore on a Mac Pro
  3. Mac Pros are customizable – Yes they are giving you more space for future proofing your computer.
  4. Multiple Video Cards – Multiple outputs for your screens. You’ll need more screen real estate when you go bigger.

And oh, enjoy watching the jealousy on people’s faces when they visit your studio.

Check the complete list of Mac Computers here


Don’t Just Buy A Mac Because People Say So

It said that that Mac is the industry standard for recording and music production. But that isn’t the case. Even big time composers such as Hans Zimmer and Tom Holkenberg, uses multiple linked PCs for their work. Read Inside Track – Sci-Fi Movie Divergent

Maybe a Windows PC is something never considered for music production back in the days. However Windows OS have evolved so much that it’s not an excuse not being able to make music on a Windows machine anymore.

People have been asking why I made the switch

People have been asking why I made the switch

When I made the switch to Windows, many people wondered why. The first reason I made the change was because I had lots of students who were making music on the Windows platform. I figured I had to be on the Windows platform too, so I’d be able to help them on the VSTs, softwares and plugins as we go about the music production classes.

And oh please. A Mac DO NOT sound better. Your skills makes the difference regardless of what OS you’re making music on. Period.

Why I’m Glad I Made The Switch To Windows

Call me a semi geek, but I like to have control over my computer and the systems I’m working on. In short, I love being able to customize.

When I made the switch, I had to look for a new DAW because Logic Studio doesn’t run on Windows machines. I then chose to go for Steinberg Cubase, which I bought over in Amazon.

Upon switching to Windows I quickly realized that there was so much customizing I could do. I was using the M-Audio Profire 2626 as my audio interface. So what I did was I purchased a Firewire card for my desktop PC, and voila I’m able to use the audio interface to record. The M-Audio Profire 2626 connects to the computer with a Firewire cable.

You may argue that Firewire is outdated, but being able to customize my computer to run with legacy hardware and devices was very much appreciated. So the PC allows for lots of customization and networking. You could use that to your advantage in future proofing your production computer and also to add more computing power to your recordings.

The Downside Of Windows

There are few things I dislike about Windows. There’s always going to be pros and cons, right?

Firstly, Windows Audio. Windows Audio driver is great for your everyday uses on the computer from watching videos, playing games and listening to music. But not when it comes to music production. It’ll be hard to produce music on a Windows PC without actually investing in an audio interface, acting as your main audio driver.

Secondly, there are various of motherboards and chipsets controlling things when you buy a PC, conflicts are most likely to occur. With a Mac however, you get one motherboard and everything configured for you out of the box. The solution to this problem is to do more research and make sure you know your stuff. If you’re more of a person who just want things done out the box, go for a Mac.

What Type of Windows PC Should You Buy?

I suggest going for PC makers who specialize in building PC desktops & laptops made for audio production. Browse for computers from sites such as Scan.Co.UK or ProAudioLabs. With them you’ll be sure to get a system that simply works for music production.

However that is not to say you can’t build your PC yourself. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when building your PC for music production.

1. Silent PC Casing

Cooler Master Silencio 352

Cooler Master Silencio 352

Try to get a silent casing with built in padding when you built your PC. A good case not only helps with the cooling of the computer, but it should also be silent enough. Noises are usually emitted from hard disks and fans in your computer system. If you have a one room home recording studio, getting a silent case is so every crucial.

There are many silent PC cases in the market from all ranges. If you want something that works and isn’t very expensive, I’d recommend the Cooler Master Silencio silent case.

 

2. Power Supply

Cooler Master 800W Silent Pro Gold

Cooler Master 800W Silent Pro Gold

Never skimp on power supply for your computer. Go for a cheaply made PSU unit for your computer and you might risk getting hums whenever you record. True story.

You’ll also have to look at the output capacity of your the power supply unit. It depends on the number of devices you’ll be plugging in into your computer. The more devices you plug in, the more power you’ll need. For a music production system, going for a 800W power supply will be more than enough.

A silent and efficient power supply is what you need for a good music production PC. I’d recommend going for the Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 800W 80 PLUS Gold Power Supply with Modular Cables (RS800-80GAD3-US)

3. Motherboard

There are various kinds of motherboards you can get out there – no restrictions for this. A rule of thumb when getting a motherboard for music production. Lower temperatures of CPU means a quieter PC – the coolers need not work so hard to cool the CPU. Get a motherboard with good voltage regulations.

4. RAM

As always, get as much RAM as you can. Sampler instruments and plugins are always RAM-hungry, so you make sure you have enough RAM for a smooth producing experience. There are few things to look into RAM. Make sure it has a frequency of at least 1600Mhz.

Audio Mentor prefers the Crucial 16GB Kit (8GBx2) DDR3/DDR3L-1600 MHz

5. Hard Disk Drives

Other than just SSD, normal Hard Disk does a great job for storing data

Other than just SSD, normal Hard Disk does a great job for storing data

If you have budget, use an SSD for your main operating system and DAW. Then use HDD with at least 7200rpm for your project files and samples.

I find this to be the best setup for music production on a PC. This setup ensures your system is blazing fast while you have enough space for the other samples. Audio Mentor recomends the WD Green 2TB Desktop Hard Drives

6. Processor

Always go for Intel processors. They seem to work the best with DAWs and you’re better of with an Intel processor over and AMD processor. For recording music, I always advise getting an i5 processor as a minimum.

 

Bottomline: Focus On The Music

I hope I covered enough for you to get started in recording and producing music in your home studio. There would be an endless debate on which operating systems and hardwares are better for producing music, but most importantly, you should focus on your music and skills.

Don’t waste time meddling with too much technical stuff when buying or building a computer. Get one that works for you then jump in right in to producing.

What are your current setup? What are some hardware or setup you can recommend? Comment below.

  • Damian ibarra

    Your a moron whom thinks macs are better than pcs for music,yet act as if you know the first thing about recording.If you did you wouldnt be spewing nonsense about pcs being horrible for recording audio.A 500 dollar pc is 10x better for production than a 1300$ mac,mac is overpriced non upgradable garbage,ive owned many of both and the new macbpro unibodys are junk,just google it and youll fing thousands of people who have had the problems I have and apple even admits that millions of them used a junk solder that fails after 1 and a half years rendering it a paperweight,try replacing the battery once it fails by sending it in or fixing yourself and youll be one of thousands who are told theres nothing that can be done.also pcs have no problem with asio or anything else,thats bs,asio for all is just as good as coreaudio.and pcs are way more powerful,for less and unlike apple you can upgrade them forever,apple doesnt allow you to upgrade the os after 4 yrs,though they claim 5,so now even though my macbook pro from 2011 is functionally capable I cant download any new apps from their app store because its not running latest os,even though it was able to download those exact same apps before they updated the os,but now because im 2 versions behind i no longer can.apple is garbage for music,they once were the best but no longer.

    • Sense lots of rage coming you. If you read my article, I wasn’t siding any platform. I was merely pointing out the pros and cons I’ve experienced for both computer platforms, not acting like i know everything about recording. I admit I’m learning everyday and so are you.

      I would say both are the same. It’s just that using Windows Audio always made me wish I have Core Audio. You could argue ASIO works the same as Core Audio but you can’t use ASIO simultaneously on few softwares at one go could you? What if you are producing in your DAW and wanted to reference a track from the internet or from windows explorer?

      Think about it. And again I wasn’t siding any platform… It was experience. 🙂

      • I was about to defend that. How are you Reuben?

        • I’m doing great Herbert. I see you’ve been busy too!

          By the way, I’m looking for contributors to expand and enrich the music community. I know you have lots of knowledge, would you like to contribute something? I’ll talk to you via email.

      • Keith Cetra McClellan

        Eh, I can reference tracks all day with Cubase 8 open.. You know depending on your audio interface and daw you can set it to release the audio drivers in the background when using other apps.

    • Aquaviva

      @Damian Ibarra….. Dude, when you read things does your brain actually absorb and comprehend the information you are reading? Reuben was not saying a Mac is better than a PC. Reuben was clearly giving everybody who was reading the pros and cons of both systems. You should say thank you and take the information you read and use it for what’s best for your own personal situation. You just sounded like a ignorant dumb ass! Now going back to music production and recording. I personally have a 2011 early MacBook Pro 15 inch with 16GB of ram. Apple has recalled those 2011 MBP as well as some other MBP and they are replacing the old logic boards with a HD video card and on the new logic board, the super drive is 6gbs instead of the original 3gbs. So after Apple replaced the logic board for free, I opened up my MBP took out out my SuperDrive and added a data doubler as well as replacing my 1TB HDD. I replaced my 1TB HDD with a 2TB OCC extreme 6gbs SSD and added a 1TB OCC extreme 6gbs in my data doubler. I got an external USB SuperDrive enclosure so when I produce my beats at home I can burn them on to cd. When I DJ at my residency in my hometown of NYC and wherever in the world I perform. I use my 2x techniques 1200’s (Vinyl is my foundation of my sets) 1 or 2 pioneer CDJ’s and my Ableton Push.
      I have the complete set of Roland Aira too as well as my Akai MPC Renaissance and all of my old Analog equipment from 25 years ago. When I was DJing Detroit Techno and Tech-House at real raves with my peers back in the early 1990’s strictly with VINYL, 3 tech 1200’s, a Rane 4 Channel mixer and my Roland groove box, thats all we needed to get the party pumping till 4pm the following day. Unfortunately those days and those vibes will never reappear, they are dead forever. This younger generation has auto sync when they DJ and if you ask them if they know what beat matching is they say ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!! But going back to the topic we were discussing while I’m on the shitter. It’s everybody preference what they use and what they are used too. What matters is that the final product sounds amazing and you made the music from your heart and soul! I personally do not like most of the Apple Products. I have a few back up Mac Pro’s with spare parts for my studio and a few back up MacBook Pro’s with parts for live performances.

    • db

      I use windows, and I’ve been using it since XP, and no, YOU CAN NOT UPGRADE THEM FOREVER. Read, learn, then make an opinion. If you’re using an usb audio interface to work on music production, yes, a PC (and I mean desktop) is better than mac, just you can change a lot of things, BUT NOT FOREVER. If you’re using firewire interfaces, no matter what kind of computer you’re using, they will work the same, but always depending on factors like how much temperature will it get while working (that’s why desktops are better than laptops), or how much space do you have for hard drives (if you work in large projects), or how many ram do you need, or even processor (YES, YOU CHANGE RAMS, PROCESSOR, OR HARD DRIVES IN PCS AND MACS TOO, AND ALWAYS DEPENDING ON WHAT PIECES DO YOU HAVE INSIDE, NO MATTER IF IT’S PC OR MAC). If you’re using thunderbolt interfaces, you will need a Mac, cause unfortunately, almost every brand of audio interfaces that use thunderbolt connections, they build the products for Mac and no for PC, BUT there’s a lot of PCI cards for PCs that have thunderbolt and they work well (have some friends that use thunderbolt in PCs), but the brands of audio interfaces don’t give support in thunderbolt products for PC, but only for Mac. That being said, a PC is cheaper than mac to change pieces, if you don’t know how to do it, and you have to go for tech service. I use mac too, when I’m mixing, works properly with my thunderbolt interface (I tried it with Windows and it wasn’t good at all, no matter what Windows you have 7, 8, 10, 32/64 bits), but for recording, as sometimes I have to go to locations to record bands, instead of using the equipment of the studio, I prefer to go with my macbook pro with windows in it (not bootcamp or parallel, JUST WINDOWS), I have more control on the temperature, and I can modify whatever I want to run other interfaces, even consoles, in Mac is hard to do it cause the OS itself is more automated.
      Cut the angry, cause being in love with Mac doesn’t help in your final product, and hate it cause you don’t have the money to get one, doesn’t help neither, even if you prefer having PC runing Windows, or if you love Windows more than anything in your life, is a matter of reading what is the best for you, the same with softwares (everybody wants to say they use pro tools cause is the standar, and they’re right, but say that sounds better? That job is for interface itself, and word clock, and converters; and in the other hand there’s some saying than Cubase is better and affordable, and f@#k the standar, I use both, and in both OS; the only thing matters is that you have to use the tools properly to get a good product), and Reuben wrote about different things and how to get to work on music production with a minimum. so, Cut the cr#p and read to get better results, don’t be in love with a brand, they’re just tools.

  • pearlsadj

    I’m pretty sure that most of the world premier DJ’s and Producers are not morons but are still using Macs. Anyway… Macs are really over priced and I’m really annoyed to find myself and millions of other little drones forever fixated on i-phones… £700 my arse!! And so for that reason alone my next purchase will be a PC. However, many thanks for this article Reuben it helped me during the last stages of my research. I actually now think that the DAW you use and are most comfortable with will point you in the direction of computer you should have as the hub

    • From experiences of seeing the evolution of Mac OSX & Windows, for me I’m sticking to Windows. More work on Windows but flexible, OSX are getting less convenient. Not to mention the recent upgrade of iTunes 12.2.1 has messed up tracklists for DJs that uses .XML for their arrangements. Yup, many Traktor & Serato based DJs are on Mac simply the sum of convenience, but as the recent upgrades, seems like its giving more headaches. Not sure when will this ends.

  • Jacob Smith

    Thank you for your honesty when it comes to Mac and PC’s. I’ve had people walk up to me while working on music with my i7 Dell with 256 SSD teling me I should get a Mac and they don’t even know what I’m working on.

  • Rashad Coes

    I’ve used PC’s for ALL of my production work. In fact MCA recording studio in Los Angeles used a PC running Nuendo as its main recording rig for most of the early 2000’s! I have several songs recorded and mixed in the box on records and no one ever said to me, “That sounds like you did it on a PC.

  • Gustavo Ferrari

    Dear Reuben, many many thanks for this great article! I’m a Brazilian drummer and I’ve started to do some research about home studio recording. iMac is very expensive in my country, and even so, it seems that PC is the best option. The other article about building a home studio is very good too!

    • Hi Gustavo, thanks for reading. I hope the process of building your home studio is going strong!

  • im buying a new macbook tomorrow for my music studio… why is the retina 9the new macbook pro0 not suggested ? it has better specs just a different screen am i wrong? some one help clearify!

    • Hey Kenneth, sorry for missing that out in the post. Well, I’d recommend the retina anytime, but I’d suggest you go for the 15inch macbook pros. Those are much faster than the 13 inch variants and have 16GB of RAM installed to start off with.

    • Not sure if you bought your Macbook pro, but I did!

  • Funkmonkey

    I am sorry but regardless of which are better computers, you just have to look at Apples recent attitude to creatives. Discountinued Aperture for photographers, cripped logic and final cut pro. There are no longer interested in creatives, only consumers who want to pretend to be creatives. If you are serious and want to be able to build a system that will last you 5-10 years and grow and not become obsolete get a PC. I have a PC that I bought for £1200 uk with a quad core processor and 6 gig ram back in 2010 I upgrade in 2014 to 24gig of Ram and a larger power supply and moved to WIndows 8, then in 2015 I moved to Windows 10, the machine is still going strong, runs the latest version of all my software and peripherals and I have had 0 issues apart from with Protools and thats just because AVid are a shower and my issues are not platform specific. in that same time I would probably ahve had to buy 2 -3 MAC machines at a cost probaly in the region of £10000 my expenditure including original outlay and upgrades is £1500 in the same time period. You do the math.

  • Kareem O’Wheat

    Music Production is just fine on a Window based machine. To say otherwise is to advertise your ignorance.

  • Thanks for the advice Reuben. This article clearly shows you know what you are talking about and your honest about your experience from both the PC and Mac point of view. I like that.

    • Thanks Charlice. Being a user on both the platforms, I can point out the good and bad of both. I recently switched to a Mac though.

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