Identify Your Needs – A producer, instrumentalist, songwriter, and DJ are all going to need very different laptop specs. Plan out exactly what you want to do or may want to do in the future before selecting your computer to save yourself valuable time and money.
Laptop for Music Production Buyers Guide
Unless you are particularly technologically inclined, scrolling through the specifications of computer devices can be confounding and maybe even daunting for some. So in an effort to make the market more navigable you may find the following to be useful.
What Laptop Should I Buy For Music Production?
Finding a suitable laptop for music production use, basically boils down to a few important factors, which digital audio workstation you plan on using and what operating system you prefer to use is the most important.
Firstly let us take a glance at some of the recommended specs for 3 of the most popular DAWs
+ 64-bit operating system (which most are these days)
+ Intel or AMD Multicore (i5 or faster recommended)
+ 8GB RAM (the faster the better)
+ 18GB hard drive space (you will need more for additional content)
Logic Pro 10
+ MacOS 10.12 or later (only).
+ 2.3GHz i5 or higher.
+ 4GB of RAM.
+ 6GB install disk space, up to an additional 57GB for the full sound library.
+ Windows 7/MacOS X or better.
+ 64bit Intel or AMD multi-core (i5 or faster recommended).
+ 4GB minimum RAM, although 8GB recommended.
+ 3GB basic installation, 5-76 GB for additional sound content.
As you can see each DAW will have its own individual set of specifications required to run it, but sometimes that doesn’t take into account any add-ons you might need to run or external plugins you may use. VST instruments can become difficult to run if they are heavily layered and this is especially true of orchestral suites.
The samples and loops you use will also need a large amount of space to store and ideally, this should be from a solid state drive as they can open and access much more efficiently.
Generally speaking, you should be looking at around 16-32GB RAM with decent clock speeds, there are some DAWs that work fine and use 8GB RAM as a guideline, and for the majority of hobbyists this will be ample, but for improved performance, you are going to likely want something more.
The majority of popular DAWs will not run on anything less than an i5, 2.3 GHz dual-core processor. So the processor your laptop has really is paramount to its performance for audio production.
The OS choice is sometimes restricted by the DAW itself although there are a number of software solutions, such as virtual machines to emulate other operating systems which could be a workaround if you re tech savvy enough and have no alternative.
The OS you go for is literally down to preference and though there are many who argue Mac is the musical mac-daddy most DAWs will run on the majority of operating systems. There is very little technical difference and to set the record straight and lay some misinformation to rest Macs are just as prone to complete data loss and crashes with hard reset being the only viable option. We also ought to add that MacBooks can overheat after prolonged use and sometimes require adapters for non-Apple compatible devices.
Next, you have to consider the I/O capabilities you won’t have to plug in a mouse or keyboard but you will need to have a long think about what you will want to connect to operate within your chosen DAW. (Some people will prefer an addition of a traditional mouse as they find them easier to use than a mouse pad, in this case, you will already be down one USB connection to start with most DAWs will need an Audio interface to record an audio track line-in from an XLR or TRS, these are typically Bus powered so will require one high powered, high speed connection. Typically USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt is recommended Some MIDI interfaces or Audio interface controllers can be plugged directly into your Audio interface but others require their own separate USB power.
There are a number of suitable models out there and those we have reviewed are each suited to their own level of music production. We have tried to pick those whose audio production capabilities you have inquired about but some outshine the others If you are serious about music production you will likely be looking at around the $1200 + mark.
Obviously, that is a huge chunk of information and we are not a fan of large texts so to summarize the key factors a little more clearly;
- Have a digital audio workstation in mind before you buy to narrow down the OS requirements.
- Pick out a model with an i5 dual-core processor minimum, i7 if possible.
- Make sure it has an abundance of SSD storage on board.
- It is always better to have a little excess RAM than the DAW specifies to keep options open for the future.
- RAM should be above average speed (1600MHz +)
- Ensure it has 2 or 3 up to date USB ports.
Now that you are a little more clued in you may see some of the products you asked us to review simply won’t cut the mustard for more multi-instrumental producers. Of those we have reviewed today the DELL XPS Thin and Light makes for an exceptional choice, it is definitely one of the best music production laptops on the open market. It does have a rather alarming price tag, largely due to its touchscreen nature. If this isn’t of importance to you they do make a high spec LCD screen version which is slightly more modestly priced.
Other top recommendations from today’s article would be the Alienware, the Asus Rog Strix or the Razer blade stealth products.
Best Budget Laptop For Music Production?
Unfortunately in the world of audio production the faster the better, so as to avoid crashes and glitches or latency loss in the middle of recordings. The top laptops for audio production we have looked at in this article all make for reasonably priced budget options.
The best value for money in our opinion would be the Alienware or the Razor Blade Stealth, each are gaming laptops with high-end graphics that have good sound processing capability, they have superior CPUs and great clock speeds and fair RAM and storage. They aren’t however exactly cheap.
The cheapest option on our list is the tablet option, the Lenovo yoga book, but it only runs an Android operating system so won’t manage most full DAW. It makes for a good option if cash is of concern, for younger users and those just curiously branching out into songwriting. There are a decent amount of Apps that have great content for basic audio production. If your budget simply won’t stretch to the $1000 dollar mark this might be an ideal starting point for you.
Which Is Better For Music Production – Laptop or Desktop?
Ultimately a desktop is better for music production especially considering that they can be upgraded and built-on with relative ease. Though much more capable, they have their drawbacks meaning they need to be set up and remain where they are located. They are a worthy investment if you’re serious about setting up a home studio, however, we live in a modern world that is constantly on the move and being able to take your work with you is every bit as valuable.
If you already have a studio set-up a laptop for music production essential tools for taking those hours of endless editing home with you to be done in more comfortable surroundings.
There are some great laptops around which bring with them their smaller footprint and the convenience of being able to set up shop at a moments notice in any situation, however, the truly capable ones with the ideal set of specs can set you back in excess of $2500.
If you are investing in a new laptop that can specifically handle your DAW workloads you will need one with a good number of USB ports (ideally 3.0 or Thunderbolt), a great processor, fast memory speeds, 16+ GB of RAM and a decent amount of SSD storage.
When considering a more costly investment such as a good laptop for audio production, you are going to want to make a well-informed decision before you part with a large amount of cash.
Today’s buyers’ guide has admittedly been on the heavier side to ensure you have all the necessary info presented in an understandable way. Computers are of a complex nature so there is a lot to cover.
Many of the laptop we have chosen to review have attributes we haven’t delved into in an effort to keep specification breakdowns relevant to audio production purposes. We have also aimed to surmise in concise terms all of the more vital aspects you will require to get a laptop with optimum performance when running a digital audio workspace.
Whilst many of those we have looked at are capable of installing and running them fairly competently we have chosen to be very honest and clear as music production software can be very demanding of your computer as your production skills and methods evolve.
With technology improving at a steadily increasing rate, the modern market is awash with high-performance laptops so as long as you know which DAW you wish to use and how you intend to use it you should find a suitable laptop to meet its requirements.
To find the best laptop for audio production your primary concerns should be processing power and the correct OS. Once you have narrowed it down then all you need is to find one in your price range, that is as rich in rapid RAM as it is stuffed with sufficient SSD storage for speedy retrieval.
If you have a copious amount of cash to throw at a laptop investment PCAudioLabs make some fantastic laptop specifically aimed at audio production, their high-end models feature profuse processors and generous gigabytes. They are a fantastic option because they are built with producers in mind they are more tailored to musical use start to finish.
Did You Know?
You will find that there is an armada of Android audio production Apps available to provide access to basic music making at your fingertips. If you aren’t planning on going platinum you may find a cheaper tablet device will jut about suffice.