4+ BEST Macs for Music Production (Mac Mini, Mac Studio, etc…)

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You’d definitely be choosing style AND comfort by using a Macintosh for music production.

You’ll definitely be needing one if you want to use Logic Pro X as your DAW.

It was one of the best moves I made for my music career after dealing with Windows for my entire life prior to my switch. It’s just my personal opinion though, PC still gets the job done!

However, we’ll be focusing exclusively on the best Macs for music production today.

Yes, I also believe the M1 (and M1 Max/Ultra) are game-changers.

That being said, I also believe that there are only a few Macs you should know about if you’re into music production. I’ll even talk about the Mac I’d go with for sound design.

With the affordability of the new M1 chips, you definitely won’t need to break the bank!

Let’s look at the best Macs for music production starting with the most affordable option…

2018-2020 Mac Mini i3 – Best Budget Mac for Music Production

Apple Mac Mini Desktop - Intel Core i3-8GB Memory - 256GB Solid State Drive (Renewed)
You can get a 2018-2020 Mac Mini i3 renewed/refurbished for an amazing price on Amazon (amazon.com) or you can also find some second-hand on OWC (macsales.com).

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core i3-8100B (4-Core)
  • GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • RAM: Go with 16 GB
  • SSD: Go with 256 GB
  • USB: 2x USB-A 3.2
  • Thunderbolt: 4x Thunderbolt 3 (or USB-C)
  • HDMI: 1x HDMI 2.0
  • SDXC: NO
  • Ethernet: YES
  • Headphone Out: YES

Pros and Cons

  • Upgradeable RAM
  • Works with external GPUs
  • Bluetooth isn’t 100% reliable

Issues and Troubleshooting

You’ll often hear users of the 2018-2020 Mac Minis talk about wireless performance being an issue when using too many Bluetooth devices at once.

I confirm, but it can definitely be improved if you optimize your setup.

Higher CPU-loads also impact the performance of wireless communication.

The worst I’ve experienced is my Bluetooth mouse/keyboard dropping out when working on bigger Logic Pro X sessions. I would disable my Wi-Fi to get more reliable performance.

Is the 2020 Mac Mini i3 good for music production?

Funny story about this one… I actually sold my 2018 Mac Mini i3 to finance my 2020 Mac Mini M1. Well, the man who bought it ended up becoming one of my best clients!

He actually produced his 1st album on that computer. I mixed and mastered it on mine!

So, is the 2018-2020 Mac Mini i3 good for music production? YES.

And yes, I am talking about the base model (I’d upgrade to 16 GB of RAM though).

It definitely has its limitations though, especially when it comes to plugin-heavy Logic Pro X sessions. Also, you won’t be able to do things like a live stream while using Logic Pro X without the Mac Mini getting as hot as a stovetop.

Yup, that’s how I knew I needed to upgrade to the 2020 Mac Mini M1!

That’s what we’re talking about next…

2020 Mac Mini M1 – Best Mac Mini for Music Production

Apple Mac Mini with Apple M1 Chip (16GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage) - (2020) - Z12N000G0

Specifications

  • CPU: Apple M1 (8-Core)
  • GPU: Apple M1 (8-Core)
  • RAM: Go with 16 GB
  • SSD: Go with 256 GB + External Storage
  • USB: 2x USB-A 3.2
  • Thunderbolt: 2x Thunderbolt 4 (or USB-C)
  • HDMI: 1x HDMI 2.0
  • SDXC: NO
  • Ethernet: YES
  • Headphone Out: YES

Pros and Cons

  • More powerful and affordable than Intel-based Mac Mini
  • RAM isn’t upgradeable
  • Doesn’t work with external GPUs

Issues and Troubleshooting

Honestly, I still haven’t experienced ANY issues with the 2020 Mac Mini M1.

It’s still not recommended to use too many Bluetooth devices at the same time, but the wireless performance is much better than the 2018-2020 Mac Mini i3.

It works great with a Bluetooth mouse/keyboard and a Wi-Fi internet connection.

I only start experiencing dropouts when adding another Bluetooth device to that (like a speaker).

Is the 2020 Mac Mini M1 good for music production?

YES, it’s been my weapon of choice since 2021 and still is!

The 2021 Mac Mini M1 is seriously powerful and incredibly affordable!

Most of the popular audio plugins and recording software have been optimized for the new M1 architecture, so it’s becoming even better to use an M1-powered Mac.

It can definitely handle larger projects better! You know…

If you’re making orchestral/cinematic music that exceeds 16 tracks, that is.

The 2020 Mac Mini M1 is also great for live streaming and running other applications simultaneously with your DAW. It’s also great for processing video!

So, I’d say the 2020 Mac Mini is perfect for 99% of music producers.

What if you need something more portable though?

2020 MacBook Air M1 – Best MacBook for Music Production

2020 Apple MacBook Air Laptop: Apple M1 Chip, 13” Retina Display, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage, Backlit Keyboard, FaceTime HD Camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; Gold

Specifications

  • CPU: Apple M1 (8-Core)
  • GPU: Go with 8-Core
  • RAM: Go with 16 GB
  • SSD: Go with 256 GB + External Storage
  • USB: NO
  • Thunderbolt: 2x Thunderbolt 4 (or USB-C)
  • HDMI: NO
  • SDXC: NO
  • Ethernet: NO
  • Headphone Out: YES
  • Battery Life: Up to 18 Hours

Pros and Cons

  • More powerful and affordable than Intel-based MacBooks
  • Screen is VERY fragile
  • Bluetooth isn’t 100% reliable
  • Limiting in regards to connectivity

Issues and Troubleshooting

The main issue you’ll ALWAYS hear about when it comes to MacBooks involves displays.

To be more specific, the 2020 MacBook Air M1 (and 2020 MacBook Pro M1) have had many reports of screens cracking overnight.

Could it be the users’ fault? That’s yet to be determined.

It’s one of the reasons I’d never personally use a MacBook but if you do, just be careful!

Also, Bluetooth performance is definitely worse with MacBooks in general.

Is the 2020 MacBook Air M1 good for music production?

In regards to specifications, the 2020 MacBook Air M1 is identical to the 2020 MacBook Pro M1 and even the 2020 Mac Mini M1.

It’s just less expensive and lighter than the MacBook Pro.

Personally though, I still prefer desktop rigs for music production, especially if you’re using lots of hardware (audio interfaces, USB/MIDI controllers, etc…).

Unless you do most of your music production on the bus or airplane, you can just as easily use a portable screen like the Asus ZenScreen and a portable power station to power it all.

That being said, I think the 2020 MacBook Air M1 is still the best option if you want something more compact. You know, that fits in ONE bag and not many.

What if you need even more power and performance though?

Maybe you’re more into cinematic sound (sound design, ambisonics, etc…).

You’ll need a powerful machine for that!

I guess that’s why Apple decided to create the Mac Studio…

2022 Mac Studio M1 Max – Best Computer for Music Production and Sound Design

apple mac studio 1 - Decibel Peak
For the time being, the only place to purchase a Mac Studio is directly from Apple.

Specifications

  • CPU: M1 Max (10-Core)
  • GPU: M1 Max (24-Core)
  • RAM: 32 GB
  • SSD: 512 GB
  • USB: 2x USB-A 3.2
  • Thunderbolt: 6x Thunderbolt 4 (or USB-C)
  • HDMI: 1x HDMI 2.0
  • SDXC: 1x SDXC
  • Ethernet: YES
  • Headphone Out: YES

Pros and Cons

  • More affordable, powerful and portable than Intel-based Mac Pros
  • Lots of options in regards to connectivity
  • The cooling system can be noisy on the M1 Max

Issues and Troubleshooting

The only issues I’ve read about in regards to the 2022 Mac Studio M1 Max (not the M1 Ultra) involve the cooling system.

To be more specific, the fan has been known to make a high-pitched sound.

We need our Macs to be quiet for music production, so this is one of the reasons I’m holding back for the moment. However, the M1 Ultra doesn’t seem to have any noise issues.

Is the 2022 Mac Studio M1 Max good for music production?

The 2022 Mac Studio M1 Max is definitely more than suitable for music production.

However, it’s also powerful enough for sound designers and cinematic sound production in general. The best part… It’s Mac Pro performance at a fraction of the cost!

I’m personally planning to upgrade to this in the near future.

I just can’t recommend for most music producers. It’ll simply be too much and I’d be misleading you into believing that you need such a machine to produce music in 2022.

The M1 is more than powerful enough, so I’d start with that if you have a good enough budget!

What about the Mac Pro? WAY too expensive for musicians and not using the M1 yet.

The iMac? I’d always go with the Mac Mini or Mac Studio with a screen. There’s no significant advantage with an iMac, especially since it isn’t using the M1 yet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Best Macs for Music Production

Why do most musicians use Apple computers?

It’s pretty simple… Creatives want to spend more time creating instead of troubleshooting. macOS is much more stable than Windows (especially Windows 10) and each Mac uses the same parts, so it’s much easier to get support. It’s not that Apple computers are perfect, but they’re significantly less faulty when it comes to the OS and the user-interface is much more intuitive.

Is it easy to switch from PC to Mac?

I’d say it’s easier to switch from PC to Mac than the other way around. Of course, you’ll need to get used to macOS, but it’s much more intuitive and user-friendly. Most applications that you’re used to working with on Windows are also on Mac. Your biggest challenge will be transferring your data!

Why do Macs last longer than PCs?

On average, a Mac can easily last 5-7 years (and most of them outlast even that) while PCs average 4 years. Sure, you’ll pay more for a Mac, but that’s because they’re actually made with high-end components and designed to be reliable/durable. Now that Apple started producing their own CPUs, the costs of Macs have actually dropped so it makes more sense than ever to use a Mac for music production.

Summary: 5+ BEST Macs for Music Production (Mac Mini, Mac Studio, etc…)

So, which Mac are you going to use for music production?

Do you also want to accomplish other tasks with it? All things to consider!

Personally, I’d go with the 2020 Mac Mini M1 if you’re just getting started. It’s what I’m using right now and plan to keep using it until I upgrade to the 2022 Mac Studio M1 Max.

However, you’d only need that for advanced-level sound design and heavy video processing.

If you’re on an extreme budget though, I’m sure you can find a second-hand 2018-2020 Mac Mini i3. I wouldn’t go any lower than that though, please.

Do you still need more help making a decision?

Feel free to leave me any questions you might have in the comments!

Related Articles

https://decibelpeak.com/mac-mini-m1-review/

https://decibelpeak.com/mac-mini-m1-vs-mac-mini-i3/

https://decibelpeak.com/mac-mini-i3-review

Sources

https://www.apple.com/ca/mac-mini/

https://www.apple.com/ca/macbook-air/

https://www.laptopmag.com/news/m1-macbook-air-reports-of-self-destructing-displays-are-piling-up-and-users-are-baffled

https://www.apple.com/ca/mac-studio/

https://www.macrumors.com/2022/05/09/mysterious-noise-sparks-complaints/

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