With a multitude of free and paid Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and Virtual Studio Technology (VSTs) now downloadable off the Internet, gone are the days that music could only be professionally produced in a high-end studio decked out with awkward and expensive equipment. Pick the right laptop, and you’ll be able to set up your own studio at home or on the go, composing your next single on Cubase or Logic Pro or prepping for your next live gig as a DJ.
Of course, because of the size of the files you’ll be working with, saving and transferring, not to mention the complexity of the software you’re going to run along with the supporting applications needed to supplement it, the specs of your laptop need to be up to the task. Higher chunks of RAM, faster processing and good storage are all critical components and considerations in what makes a good laptop for music production. We’ve narrowed down our picks for the best machines for the job.
Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip
Macbooks are generally lauded for their stability and compatibility for music production, but Macbook Pro is our all-time favorite pick for starting off your portable music studio. This earlier model does not come with the requirement of needing or separately purchasing dongles to make use of USB ports, which are going to be handy for hooking up external microphones, speakers and of course storage devices, but that’s nowhere near the best of what this unit has to offer.
The machine boasts immense processing power thanks to the quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, capable of shouldering the operation of your DAWs and VSTs without giving you a headache dealing with glitches, lags and freezes, while the ample RAM size of 8GB is brilliant for running multiple applications, plug-ins and heavy-duty software you’ll be needing to professionally set down your music. The SSD hard-drive has a capacity of 512GB, which is plenty considering SSDs are usually not that big on storage space – nonetheless, they’re much faster than traditional hard-drives and make for smoother, swifter and more efficient operation and execution of commands, always handy when we’re transferring files on to external storage devices and running heavy software.
The roughly 15-inch wide screen has incredible resolution up to a maximum of 2880 x 1800, the width and sharpness of screen clarity extremely useful when tinkering about the complex set-ups of audio software, going easier on the eyes and giving you better control and precision when working, too. The battery life is a reasonable 9 hours.
At 4.5 pounds, this may not be the lightest or most portable laptop Apple’s come out with, but it certainly wins on all fronts when it comes to music production, especially thanks to the variety of DAWs available both free and purchasable for Apple products, including GarageBand and Logic Pro.
KEN’S BUDGET PICK
Lenovo Legion Y520
A heavyweight of a gaming laptop, this machine comes with all the qualities you’d want from a good music-producing device, all under a reasonable price to boot. With the classic, edgy black-and-red aesthetic that Lenovo has at this point totally perfected, this rugged machine is outfitted with a powerful Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, great for handling your DAWs and applications, while the NVIDIA GTX 1060 discrete graphics capabilities lend you some extra GPU-power which not only lets you get in some high-quality gaming, video- or photo-editting, but also helps run your audio and music software as well. The 15.6 inch screen is plenty wide to let you comfortably accommodate complicated interfaces and navigate them with ease, a high-definition (HD) resolution of 1920 x 1080 just right for going easy on your eyes and giving you better control over what you’re doing.
You can have your pick from a 2TB HDD, a 256GB SSD or a hybrid system when it comes to hard drives, depending on your needs, though for music production we recommend going with the faster processing power of the SSD system and making use of Cloud storage and the laptop’s USB ports to store your files in backup, also lightening the load your laptop will be carrying.
The battery life – just 4 hours – leaves a little to be desired, but it’s a small trade-off considering how budget-friendly and heavy-duty this laptop is, perfect for keeping plugged in at your home- or work-studio, an efficient and in-built cooling system keeping your laptop from getting overworked and overheated.
Acer Aspire Vero AV15-51-7617 Green PC
A great laptop for a beginner to music production, and/or for someone who’s on a bit of a budget, this Intel Core i7-powered machine comes with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD to ensure the smoothest experience as you create and compose your music. As with our previous options, the SSD hard drive system skimps on on-board storage but does ensure faster and more efficient operation, and backing up your tracks in external devices is a great safety practice when it comes to large audio files you spent painstaking hours on that you can’t risk getting lost or corrupted.
The 15.6 inch screen and HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 is great for keeping it easy on the eyes and fitting your software interfaces comfortably on the screen, making navigation effortless, while powerful graphical capacity thanks to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti gives you the firepower for video-editing and Photoshop as well as an extra boost to the running of most DAWs. The unit has a battery life of 6 hours.
HP Spectre x360
This is the perfect laptop for the composer on the go – a sleek, lightweight but very well-built laptop, this dual-core, Intel Core i7 processor-powered gadget is slim enough to slip into your carry-bags, weighing a little over 4 pounds, with the most impressive battery life on this list, at 16 hours. 16GB of RAM make this just right for running your heavy-weight software and applications without fearing your laptop may slow down or get overworked, faster and smoother operation also ensured by the 512GB SSD and the graphics processing power of the NVIDIA GeForce 940MX. The 15.6 inch screen boasts incredible resolution of 3840 x 2160, making this not only more than enough for comfortable music composition but also for gaming, video-editing and streaming Netflix. The versatile laptop can be used as a tablet and in ‘tent’ mode, too.