Best Apple Laptop for Music Production | MacBook Pro 13-inch

best apple laptop for music production

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Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (mid-2019)

8.8

Performance

9.0/10

Overall Quality

8.0/10

Connectivity

9.0/10

Storage

8.5/10

Battery Life

9.5/10

Pros

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-827U 2.4 GHz (4-cores)
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • SSD: 256 GB
  • 2x Thunderbolt 3
  • Touch Bar

Creating music outside of your recording studio can be quite a challenge, but not anymore. If you’ve been looking for the best Apple laptop for music production, you’ve found it.

Apple computers have always been a standard in the music industry, but why would you consider a MacBook Pro? If making music on-the-go is essential to you, then you’ll definitely benefit from the advantages of Apple’s MacBook Pro. As you may know, Apple makes it easy for each user to customize their iDevice, so which specifications are we looking for exactly? That’s where I come in!

The best laptop for music production is a MacBook Pro

Why not a MacBook Air? What about non-Apple laptops? I recommend the MacBook Pro for those of you who are serious about music production.

best apple laptop for music production - this music producer is using his macbook pro for his live performance

Technically speaking, you could produce music on pretty much any desktop/laptop.

However, we’re looking for a laptop that will compete with a desktop suitable for music production. The last thing we’d want to do is limit ourselves by making compromises to our flexibility.

Here’s what music producers need from their laptop:

  • Powerful CPU | We’re looking for a quad-core, although hexa-core and/or octa-core are options as well. For processing audio specifically, we need superior single-core performance (more on that later).
  • Abundant RAM | We’re looking for at least 8 GB of RAM, although more is always better. Speed is also a variable we need to take into account (DDR3, DDR4, etc…).
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) | We’re looking for the quickest type of memory to speed up load times. It’s more of an asset to the computer since external hard drives (HDD) have become quite reliable.
  • Battery Life | We’re looking for an average battery life of 10 hours, so don’t settle for less. The last thing you’d want is to rely on your charger to operate.
  • Thunderbolt Ports | We’re looking for a laptop that features Thunderbolt ports because it’s quickly becoming the new standard. It’s actually exclusive to Apple computers and it provides the BEST performance (more on that later).

The latest MacBook Pro fulfills all of these needs with ease. The entry-level model is suitable for most music producers.

However, we don’t need to opt for the largest display. The Retina display will provide ample clarity even on the smallest screens.

And the new Touch Bar really caters to music producers. It’ll really enhance your experience if you use GarageBand and/or Logic Pro.

If you’re not willing to compromise, I guarantee you’ll be satisfied with your purchase.

Is the MacBook Pro really worth the price tag?

Apple products are often viewed as overpriced, so can that be justified? I believe it can, considering the value Apple includes with each of its products.

best apple laptop for music production - this macbook pro is running ableton live

Apple’s future operating systems won’t cost you a dime, unlike Microsoft’s (well, up until Windows 10).

If you’re just getting started as a music producer, you may be aware that GarageBand is included with every Apple product. You’ll instantly benefit from an enormous library of sounds exclusive to Apple.

I’m not even going to cover all the FREE software Apple includes with its products. We should simply acknowledge the fact that it will save us the expense of a DAW. And honestly, an upgrade to Logic Pro is much less expensive than any other DAW out there.

Considering the quality of the hardware/software, you may actually be saving yourself some money down the road.

I guarantee you could find a similar laptop at a lower price, but you’d be missing out. And this is coming from a man who used to build his own computers. Upgrading to an Apple computer is one of the smartest moves I made for my music career.

To save some cash, I simply bought mine used/refurbished. You can even buy a model from a previous year (like 2013) to potentially save hundreds of dollars.

As it turns out, Apple products were much more durable back in the day (advice from a used computer salesman)!

The best laptop for music production requires optimal single-core performance

I mentioned earlier that single-core performance is extremely important for audio processing. This is because audio data is processed in a sequential manner, not necessarily in parallel.

In other words, a single-core needs to be capable of handling multiple audio processes simultaneously (i.e your tracks).

Using multiple cores (quad, hexa, octa, etc…) will obviously spread the workload from other processes more efficiently, BUT…

It won’t help your audio process any faster. You’ll be pleased to find out that the Intel i5-8279U at 2.4 GHz (8th generation) has an excellent single-core benchmark score. 

If we compare it to my iMac on the Geekbench Mac Benchmark Chart, you’ll see that an entry-level MacBook Pro is pretty powerful.

Screen Shot 2019 10 11 at 9.08.32 PM
Screen Shot 2019 10 11 at 9.06.38 PM

Once again, this is how a laptop competed with a desktop suitable for music production (my rig). The numbers simply reflect their score regarding single-core performance.

Higher clock-speed doesn’t mean better single-core performance. We need to pay attention to the generation of its processor.

I wouldn’t object to the idea of replacing my iMac with a MacBook Pro that could outperform it.

Music production requires 8 GB of RAM, but what about storage?

It’s pretty much understood that 8 GB has become the norm for most computers recently. The advantage of these new MacBook Pros is that you can upgrade them to 16 GB.

Either way, you’ll be perfectly functional with 8 GB. 

We need to consider our RAM’s speed. The current standard for entry-level is LPDDR3 at 2.1 GHz which is acceptable. I currently use 8 GB DDR3 at 1.6 GHz.

Screen Shot 2019 10 11 at 8.04.33 PM

In music production, RAM is used to run large sample libraries (Kontakt, EastWest, Steven Slate, etc…).

Think about it… The average size of a sample library is 2 GB, so using FOUR of them simultaneously could max out your RAM. If you ever experience this, you could upgrade at any stage.

In other words, you’ll be capable of running massive sample libraries on your MacBook Pro. Especially with this 1TB Thunderbolt 3 solid-state drive, because as you may have noticed…

You exchange storage space for a lightning-fast SSD with much less capacity. I think it’s much better this way. Your “main software” will run much more efficiently installed on SSDs.

You’d basically use your internal memory to install the software (128 GB is plenty). External memory would be used to install sample libraries and save projects.

We’ll be talking about the Thunderbolt protocol a bit later… You’ll understand why this system will be more efficient.

Apple’s new MacBook has an extended battery life

In the past, laptops have never been known for their battery life. In fact, it’s been one of the biggest disadvantages of using a laptop.

best apple laptop for music production - this music producer is using his macbook pro to power his entire studio

Running demanding software like DAWs can drain your battery’s life pretty quickly.

I personally own a Chromebook simply for the fact that its battery exceeds 10 hours. However, Apple has caught up and offers a similar average lifespan; 10 hours!

This is a HUGE upgrade on these new MacBook Pros, they’ll last as long as your cellphone. But keep in mind that running demanding applications will shorten that lifespan considerably.

Even if you had 5 hours to work with, it’d be more than enough time. You could always recharge, or carry a portable battery with you.

Either way, you won’t find much better than this in the laptop world. I think Chromebooks are in the lead because they run less demanding software.

The USB-C 61W power adapter also guarantees quicker recharge times.

Thunderbolt technology is revolutionizing music production

It’s a well-known fact that audio and video are the TWO most demanding applications for computers. USB 3.0 hasn’t really brought anything new to the table, but Thunderbolt ports have.

tobias nii kwatei quartey ShuxEj0pFT8 unsplash

With lightning-fast data transfer rates, there’s no competition.

What I find the most interesting about Thunderbolt is its efficiency. Unlike USB protocols, which rely on drivers, we get a dedicated path for audio/video data transfers.

What this means is that your Thunderbolt technology can communicate directly to your CPU. This guarantees the most stable performance currently possible.

Thunderbolt audio interfaces are quickly becoming the new standard and guess what… They’re becoming pretty affordable as well!

The Thunderbolt protocol also allows us to “daisy-chain” multiple devices simultaneously. 

Remember those Rugged Thunderbolt Mobile Hard Drives I was talking about? They’ll work perfectly with your audio interface, providing the highest data transfer rates possible.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro will feature TWO Thunderbolt 3 ports which will be sufficient for our needs.

And once again, I guarantee all of this is way ahead of my current 2013 iMac.

Which Apple laptop is best for music producers?

The best Apple laptop for music production is definitely the MacBook Pro mid-2019 i5-8279U 2.4 GHz (4-cores). However, I didn’t mention that their CPUs can be overclocked, so you can save some cash with the MacBook Pro mid-2019 i5-8257U 1.4 GHz (4-cores).

These are both entry-level models, but they’ll outperform certain desktops.

Remember, single-core performance should always be something you consider when looking at CPUs. The fact that you can overclock a MacBook is pretty neat, but I’m sure it significantly lowers battery life.

Switching over to Apple computers really changed my perspective on content creation. It’s an incredible experience to work with such an advanced system. It simply works!

So if you’re serious about “mobile” music production, consider one of these MacBooks Pros. You can even look around on Amazon to see if you find any refurbished models. You’ll save so much, see it for yourself!

Once again, here is the model we covered today, along with the alternative:

My personal recommendation…

The alternative…

And here’s what you’ll need for storage…

I hope this review has been insightful to you and if it has, consider passing it on! If you have any questions before purchasing, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be more than happy to shed some light on a model I didn’t cover in this review.

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17 Responses

  1. A very interesting read. I’m a bit of a techy myself (at least that’s what i think) and this is an all round review of the 13- inch macbook pro. I don’t own a mac at the moment but after reading through I may consider getting one in the future and maybe try out producing music. Despite all the technical jargon, you still break down those terms in simple words and easy to understand.

  2. Hi! I had heard good reviews of the MacBook Pro, but hadn’t specifically linked it to music production. I know it has a powerful CPU. And I know Apple products are very durable if we constantly must be taking our laptop from one place to another. So this makes it a good choice for those musicians that are constantly on the road.

    1. Hey Henry,

      There are plenty of artists who rely on their MacBook Pro for live performances, it’s an industry standard. However, the Retina Display is more fragile than previous models, so I always recommend signing up for Apple Care. You’ve got insurance for the road!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  3. I like music and I’m into beats a lot. I like to listen to instrumental music and it makes me wonder how good I could be if I give it a try. I guess the first thing I should do is to get some equipment. MacBook Pro seems like a great for starters. I’ll consider this one for many other reasons. Thanks for sharing your expertise. 

    1. Hey Ivan!

      What I like most about Apple computers is that they include Garageband. This free recording software allows even absolute beginners to make music.

      All you need nowadays is a computer. The touch bar feature can also substitute for an actual MIDI/USB keyboard.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  4. Many thanks for your nice post about apple laptop(Mac pro 13). Apple products are always good to use. From your article I have learned that it is good to use for making music. You have shown that this laptop has good CPU, good ram and also long battery life. It attracts me a lot. I was looking for this kind of laptop for a long time. I will buy it as soon as possible.

    Thank you again for outstanding post. Your post is really educative. Many people will buy that product. Soon they will share their experience with you.

    1. Hey Tashibaarzu!

      I’m glad you found everything you needed. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything else.

      Thanks for writing!

      – Stefan

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful article with us. I bought the MacBook Pro laptop from Amazon a few days ago. Frankly, the laptop is awesome and I’ve been comfortable with using the laptop. Battery of MacBook Pro laptop provides good service for a long time after charging.
    Can I share this article through my social media?

    1. Hey Tasmia!

      I’m glad you’re appreciating your new MacBook Pro. The battery life is one of the main advantages of this laptop in my opinion. It used to be the biggest disadvantage for laptops in general!

      You can totally share this article through social media. There are buttons at the top and bottom of each post or you can simply copy/paste the URL to your social media profile.

      Thank you, have a nice day!

      – Stefan

  6. Hi. First of all thanks for your review of macbook pro. I really like it. I want to buy a macbook pro soon and the newest macbook pro 13′ i5 ghz 10th gen with 2.0 ghz 16gb of ram and 512 ram storage is one that I’m looking for. So I just don’t know if it would be powerful enough cause I will use maschine mk3, kontakt libraries maybe in future omnisphere…these are cpu heavy vst’s especially omnisphere so I don’t know if it would be enough with all the plugins I would use. Some say yes some say no so I’m not sure anymore. What do you think? I would buy refurbished one but where I live it is to expensive, in USA deals are so muh better but I live in Europe so that sucks. 🙂

    1. Hey Vlatko!

      As far as RAM is concerned, you’ll have nothing to worry about with 16 GB.

      The model you’re talking about also uses a solid-state drive (SSD) which is perfect for your sample libraries (Kontakt and Omnishpere). CPU isn’t the only important component to consider, storage also plays an important role with these sample libraries. If you’ll be installing them on this drive, it’ll work out great!

      When it comes to CPU, believe me when I say you’ll have absolutely nothing to worry about. These new MacBook Pros use 10th generation Intel processors (which is overkill). Did you read the section on single-core performance? Basically, the higher the generation, the higher the single-core performance will be.

      Whether it’s i5, i7 or i9 and whether it’s 1.0 GHz, 2.0 GHz or 3.0 GHz doesn’t have as much of an impact (for music production) as CPU generation.

      I use sample libraries as well. EastWest’s Composer Cloud (which is probably more demanding than Kontakt), runs very smoothly on my 2018 Mac Mini (here’s my review) which uses the 8th generation i3-8100. If you’re looking for something affordable, the Mac Mini I’m talking about is less than half the price of the 2020 MacBook Pro.

      If you need something portable though, I would consider going for an older refurbished (or brand new) MacBook Pro that used an 8th generation CPU or above. You can always go with the model you have in mind, but if you want to save some money, I don’t think you’ll need that much power (it never hurts though)!

      Here are the models I recommend from OnBuy (the Amazon of the UK):

      MacBook Pro
      Mac Mini

      I couldn’t find anything refurbished at the moment, but these two models are much more affordable and can certainly handle your needs. If ever you feel like it’s not enough,you can always return the item. If it’s good enough for me, I’m sure it’ll be for you as well!

      I hope that helps Vlatko, feel free to reach out if you need anything else!

      – Stefan

      1. P.S.: Be mindful of storage space as well. However, you can always purchase an external SSD (Thunderbolt 3 preferably) if ever you need more space in the future.

  7. Thank you for the great insights! My mid-2012 MacBook 15 inch 8 GB RAM (with SSD) is stll running great with Logic Pro X!
    Even the MacBook Air 2014 (4GB RAM) is working with Logic. But the small 128 GB ssd prevents it from running smooth.
    You can say I am very impressed by these machines durabilities. So much that I wonder why I should need the latest and fastest computers. And this I say with a 2019-13 Inch MacBook Pro with the 1,4 ghz processor (8 GB RAM/512 GB SSD) in mind to replace the MacBook Air. Any idea how much the 2019 MBP is outperforming the 2014 MacBook Air (specs not aivailable right now but it was the cheapest model….). No big samole libraries are used btw.

    1. Hey Humphrey!

      I absolutely agree about the durability, especially for those older models (the new MacBooks aren’t as durable in my opinion). I’m glad you’re still able to get work done using Logic Pro X. It doesn’t surprise me because I was rocking a 2013 iMac less than a year ago, but I have to admit it was INCREDIBLY slow compared to my new 2018 Mac Mini.

      To answer your question, it really depends on what you’re doing.

      For example, one of the main reasons for upgrading is to have access to the latest Thunderbolt technology. I’m pretty sure the 2012 MacBook uses Thunderbolt 1 which is not compatible with most hardware. Anything post-2013 uses Thunderbolt 2 which is the minimum requirement.

      If you’re not familiar with the advantages, I talk about it in this article about the audio interfaces I use.

      Another important reason for upgrading is the single-core performance. There’s an entire section in this review about that. I suggest using the benchmark I linked to verify your two MacBooks’ single-core performance compared to the newer ones (I guarantee it’ll be significant).

      If you want to know why single-core performance is extremely important for music production, reread that section, please.

      To summarize, it really depends on what kind of work you’re doing. I produce music professionally and use lots of demanding plugins and other software. The increase of performance from my 2018 Mac Mini was like day and night! Logic Pro X projects that include sample libraries, multiple mixing plugins and mastering load within less than a minute (my 2013 iMac took about 5 minutes, no jokes).

      My advice… Purchase one to see if you notice the difference. You can always return it if you’re not satisfied!

      Thanks for writing, I hope that answers your question Humphrey. Let me know if you need anything else!

      – Stefan

      1. Thank you for your reply Stefan!

        Did some research as you suggested (compared all kinds of processors etc). And I came to the same conclusion. Even checked refurbished ones (from 2015 – 13 and 15 inch) but they hold their value really (too) well in The Netherlands.
        So getting a new one (2020-MBP 13inch 1,4 GHz-16 GB RAM-256 GB SSD) seems more sensible now!

        Regards

        1. My pleasure!

          I’m glad that you understand the difference now. I used to only consider the clock-speed of the processor (eg.: 1.4 GHz), but I eventually realized that there was more to it. The generation of the processor (eg.: 9th) is my #1 deciding factor when choosing processors now.

          For music anyway!

          Apple computers do hold their value! You could perhaps try selling your older MacBooks to finance your new one. I don’t recommend selling it back to Apple though (they have the WORST rates). There are other companies out there who also buy back used Apple computers to refurbish/sell them. I’m not sure about the Netherlands, but there are a few in the US. It’s worth looking into!

          Anyway, I’m glad you’re all set. Take care Humphrey, until next time!

          – Stefan

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