Music production is a CPU intensive process that requires a laptop with a list of recommended specs to run most music software comfortably. But with so many laptop models and specifications on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.
This article discusses the specifications to consider if you plan to use your laptop to produce music. From processing power to storage space, here’s a list of key specs to look for in a music production laptop.
1. CPU (central processing unit)
The processor, also known as the CPU, is the brain of your computer, which is responsible for controlling all important tasks. A laptop’s processing power is important for music production, as it determines the speed and number of tasks your computer can handle.
Whether you’re recording multiple tracks or mixing tracks with a digital audio workstation (DAW), you need a computer with a powerful CPU.
CPU performance is measured by the number of cores and the clock speed. Therefore, more cores often means better performance in apps that support multithreading.
The higher the clock speed, the faster your processor can execute instructions. Anything above 3.0 GHz should provide enough juice to help the CPU retrieve and interpret instructions quickly.
The number of cores you need for music production depends on what your DAW is optimized for. Many DAWs recommend a multicore processor as the minimum requirement.
DAWs use multiple cores to run different tasks in parallel, and a modern multicore Intel Core i7 CPU is optimal. A modern Core i7 CPU will work well with your DAW’s default settings to allow efficient simultaneous processing of multiple tasks, and you can run lots of plugins and a higher track count.
Note that adding cores increases processing power, but more isn’t necessarily better after a certain point. It’s also nearly impossible to upgrade your CPU down the line; when in doubt, choose the most capable option within your budget.
2. RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM is the memory in your computer where program data and other instructions are temporarily stored. When your laptop is working, the RAM is filled with data that your apps and CPU may need, giving you quick access to much-requested or useful data.
The more programs you run at once, the more RAM you’ll need. Aim for a laptop with at least 16GB of RAM to run most music production software efficiently. It is the amount recommended by developers of the popular DAW, ProTools.
It also helps to find out if your laptop supports RAM upgrades. Many Windows and Linux laptops allow you to upgrade your RAM. On the other hand, the latest Macs don’t allow you to upgrade the RAM yourself. Even then, you can add or upgrade RAM on some Macs.
3. Operating System (OS)
There is no “best” operating system for music production, as each operating system is better for one producer than another. Some good contenders are the latest stable versions of Windows, macOS, and Linux. Your preferred operating system should also be compatible with your music production software.
Whichever platform you choose, make sure you’re running the 64-bit version of the operating system to get more of your laptop’s resources. An important advantage of a 64-bit processor over a 32-bit version is the ability to access more RAM.
A 32-bit OS can access up to 4 GB of RAM, while a 64-bit version can support more than 4 GB of RAM, making it the most capable option. In addition, the most popular DAWs, including Avid Pro Tools and Logic Pro X, support it.
Lossless and high-res audio files take up a lot of storage space. Aim for a minimum of 1TB to store your music files, samples, and projects to minimize the possibility of running out of storage space while making music. If your laptop has a single drive, make sure it’s an SSD.
Laptops with SSD can read and write data faster and are more reliable than an older HDD. However, they are more expensive than their HDD equivalents.
If your computer has two drives, consider installing the OS and apps on an SSD and store your audio files and finished projects on the regular hard drive. And should you decide to expand your storage capacity, you can purchase external drives that plug directly into your laptop.
Music production software like DAWs usually have a complicated user interface, so a large screen is important to keep everything in view with minimal scrolling. In addition, a large screen size means you can arrange DAW windows and place more plugins on the screen at the same time.
Laptops with 17-inch displays should provide a good overview of your timeline for a faster workflow. However, if you want to monitor dozens of tracks at once, you’d want a laptop with a bigger screen (yes, 18.4-inch laptops exist!).
Considering how producers spend long hours looking at the screen, it’s important to have one that’s easy on the eyes. Preferably choose a laptop with a high brightness and an anti-glare screen to protect your eyes.
While not essential, a durable laptop is important if you plan on using it for years without worrying about breakdowns. For example, a laptop with Gorilla Glass display will help you keep your work safe when you are traveling and accidentally bumped.
A laptop’s ports determine the kinds of accessories you can plug into it and how they can reproduce elements such as sound and graphics.
The ideal laptop should have many ports to connect audio devices (microphones and keyboards) and storage drives for your recordings. You’ll want to look for a laptop with at least one port for every device you need: USB Type-C, USB Type-A, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port.
You can always add more ports to your laptop by using a USB-C hub or adapter. USB-C is a small and versatile port with a variety of uses, including connecting displays and peripherals.
Laptops vary in weight depending on their design and material. Look for a lightweight model, ideally no more than three pounds, if you plan on taking it out often.
8. Battery Life
And finally, be sure to check out the machine’s battery life. You don’t want to be stranded with a broken laptop during a recording session.
Some laptops have longer battery life than others, so it’s important to do your research before making a purchase decision. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least eight hours of battery life.
Which laptop do you use for music production?
While you can use a laptop to create, mix or master great music, the best laptop for music producers will be different for each individual. Some important factors to remember when shopping are CPU, RAM and storage.
Now that you know the important specs, it’s time to decide which laptop you need. However, before making a purchase, check out other reviews and specs available to ensure your choice is the best fit for your needs.