Music production is a creative process that can be done with little to no knowledge of the technical aspects. However, there are a few things to know when deciding what type of laptop is best for you and your needs.
The processor type and speed will determine how much power the device has and how smoothly it can handle multitasking.
You also want to see how much RAM the laptop has and if the laptop has an adequate graphics card for video editing and rendering.
The hard disk size is also important to consider.
A lot of files may take up space faster than you expect, so it’s important to make sure you have enough space for all your projects before investing in a computer.
Another thing to think about is what software you’re going to use for music production.
Some computers use specific systems, such as Mac or Windows, which you need to take into consideration when purchasing a laptop.
Can I use my laptop to record music?
Yes, you can use your laptop for music production. I recommend a DAW, such as Studio One or Logic Pro, if you want to do more advanced stuff.
You can also use a program like Audacity for basic production.
A computer has sophisticated software that can shape your sound and change things for the better in a mix.
Take this for example, have you ever taken a photo and you liked it but wanted to bring out the colors a little more?
So you put the picture in a piece of software, push a button, and BOOM it is like 50% better than before.
That’s how I look at recording on a laptop.
For example, think about the kick drum sound, it might sound OK, but let me tweak it and double the track up real quick, and wow, that kick drum is much better.
I love that, and it only takes a few moments to EQ a track using recording software.
It indeed is way too easy these days to make music on a computer.
OK let me shoot a few more facts out before we get to the reviews…
How can I record my own music at home?
There are 3 pieces of equipment you need to record your own music at home:
- Microphones or insturments
- Computer with recording software
- Audio interface
Microphone – You’ll want a dynamic or condenser mic for vocals and an instrument mic for electric guitars, keyboards etc.
Dynamic mics tend to be less sensitive than condenser mics so they pick up less room noise but they also sound ‘dull’ compared to condensers.
On the other hand condenser mics can give much better detail and warmth but don’t fare as well in high volume situations because they’re more sensitive and susceptible to distortion.
If you’re just doing vocals, a dynamic mic is probably the cheapest and simplest way to go.
Condenser mics typical start at around $150 US or you can get a nice sounding one for less than $300.
Computer with recording software – This is where you’ll be putting in your instrument (mic) and turning it into a song!
You need some sort of recording software like Garageband which comes free on Macs or Cubase LE which is available for under $100 (less than half that if you shop around online).
Audio Interface – If you’re using an instrument or voice mic, you need to connect it to your computer through this box.
It has INs and OUTs i.e. if the IN is a microphone then the OUT is where you’ll hear what you’re recording through speakers at home (or headphones for more accurate monitoring).
Audio interfaces come in two types USB or Firewire which are relatively similar in function but tend to be more expensive if they have Firewire connectivity so stick with USB unless you a good reason for Firewire such as compatibility with your existing Firewire devices.
Hooking it all up is very simple and only takes a couple minutes to do.
Just get your instrument or voice mic, computer with recording software and audio interface then plug the mic into the INs on the interface, connect that to your computer via either USB or Firewire cables then connect speakers or headphones into the OUTs on the audio interface.
You’re now ready to record!
What kind of laptop do you need to record music?
Generally, the more RAM, the better.
If you’re doing any sort of mixing or recording multiple Instruments, then getting lots of RAM (8 GB+) is highly recommended.
It’s also helpful to use SSDs for your system drive because the faster the data can be read, the faster DAW projects will load.
Using a laptop optimized for music production can help you get better performance out of your machine by reducing CPU/RAM utilization and maximizing battery life (improving stability).
- Budget – You can get a great laptop for $600 if you follow these steps, but If money isn’t an issue, you should invest in the great Laptop.
- Monitor – How big is the monitor? For recording music, you need at least a 14″ screen. I use a 17″ because I have more tracks of music going at once.
- Hard Drive(HD) – You’re going to need at least 120 GB, but go significant, keep in mind you can always get an external HD super cheap these days.
- Processor – DO NOT SKIMP ON THIS ONE (This is your computer’s brain, and for recording music, it needs to be a good one.) Here’s why, recording music with simultaneous tracks going, and on top of that you will have plug-ins added to each track to enhance the quality, like reverb, etc. With this in mind, does that sound like a lot to do? Heck yes, it is, and that’s why it is really important to get a great processor. You don’t want to bog down every other second.
- RAM (Random Access Memory) – Also super important for recording music, You need as much RAM as you can get. At the very least 8GB, but if you can upgrade if not right away, then somewhere after you buy your computer. I would go for at least double that so that 16GB would be epic.
- INPUTS AND OUTPUTS – Make sure you know what comes on your computer and how many there are. USB ports, HDMI, media card, etc.)
- DVD – More and more laptops are being made without a DVD drive, I personally really like to have one on board. But if you don’t, just know that you will be downloading hours of software for recording.
What’s going to work for you?
There is a difference, and it would be easier if there were only one laptop out there. But there a 100’s and I’ve narrowed it down to you. But first I want to stress the importance of the quality of the laptop.
All types of musicians use laptops, and I have seen this mac as the most popular one used. Why? They don’t crash, they are reliable, and they are made for music production.
Being a live sound engineer, I see lots of MACS. DJs, bands, and house mixers use them. I ask them often, how do you like your mac. And they always say, it’s the best thing out there.
Imagine playing life or in the middle of a recording session and your laptop bogs down. That’s why they use macs; they are great machines.
But, I have seen PCs used live too, so let’s not be biased. PCs are great; I use them all the time. So, I can honestly tell you, just find a great machine and you’ll be set.
My Favorite laptops
There will always be the argument MAC vs. PC for music. So, I’m going to list only 2 of the best, the mac and the pc. I’ve done the research, and I’m currently using one of them.
As I mentioned above, I kept those specs in mind when searching for my laptop. Price was a factor as I did set my budget for so much.
My favorite computers specifically for making music with are:
- 2015 Newest Model Dell XPS13 Ultrabook Computer
- Apple iMac MF885LL/A 27-Inch Desktop- <<——-My Personal Computer right now.—>>
- Apple MacBook Pro MJLQ2LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop with Retina Display (256 GB)
The iMac isn’t a laptop, but it is portable and all in one unit. I like using it for music production as well as many other things I use it for. Photoshop, pro tools, video editing. So, that is my favorite pic. My second runner-up is the MacBook, without a doubt this is my favorite.
Best Laptops For Recording Music
Apple MacBook Pro Review
This is a sweet laptop from Apple. The MacBook Pro has a powerful processor that was completely designed to reduce power consumption while boosting performance.
Having a solid-state hard drive has made a significant impact on the reduction of overall power. Also note, it gives off less heat too! This technology is 22 times faster than the typical hard drive. FAST FAST FAST! I like that there are no bog time in-between takes.
Thunderbolt ports deliver up to 20Gbps of bandwidth per device that is plugged into it. It moves data 4x faster than a USB transfer. In other words, if you’re uploading or transferring to an external hard drive, it’s going to be fast!
This would be the best laptop for music production in my opinion.
Using the specs I laid out above, here is where the MacBook lines up:
- Budget – $1500-1800
- Monitor – 15.4-inch screen with retina display
- Hard drive – 256GB Solid State Hard Drive
- Processor – 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Crystalwell), Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz
- RAM – 16GB 1600MHz RAM
- INPUTS – 2 Thunderbolt inputs
- DVD – NO, but you can add when externally
When it comes to recording music on a laptop, this is the one I highly recommend. It’s a great machine with a lot of power. So important when editing music. I want to stress the point again.
When mixing, recording, or editing on a laptop, you don’t want the computer to stop and think all the time. I guarantee this one will be a smooth session almost always.
I also want to add that the retina display is really good. If I’m going to be staring at the monitor for hours on end, I want it to look good and not that dull-looking screen on some computers. So, overall this laptop has beyond over a top display.
I love this laptop for recording music, and I would recommend this to anyone who wants to take it to the next level.
Apple iMac MF885LL/A 27-Inch Desktop
This is my personal computer. I do everything on this iMac now. It is not a laptop. However, I can pick it up and take it anywhere. It is an all-in-one unit. The computer is built into the monitor like a laptop.
The keyboard and mouse are wireless, running on blue tooth technology and a couple of batteries. I moved my pro tools software to this machine. Let me explain the power this has.
It is ultra-slim, how the mac has done this I don’t know. But I love it! Taking up very little space it 6.9″ deep with the stand base on the bottom. It stands about 21″ high. My screen is 27″, but you can get a smaller one if you prefer. I say go big; you’ll thank me later.
It has a beautiful 5K display resolution. What this means is, do you have an HDTV and have seen some really good-looking HD movies, well times that by 7 and you’ll get the 5K display.
Fast i5 processor, dual-core or quad-core with turbo boost. Another fast computer that uses less energy, Apple has done it again!
It has four USB ports and Two Thunderbolt ports for super-fast transferring.
Here is where the specs line up for the iMac MF885LL:
- Budget – $1100-2000
- Monitor – 27-inch screen with retina display
- Hard drive – 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive
- Processor – 3.3GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 Processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz)
- RAM – 8GB 1600MHz RAM
- INPUTS – 4 USB, 2 Thunderbolt inputs
- DVD – NO, but you can add when externally
I love this iMac, as many do. But it’s more than just a computer for music production, I use it for everything else. Graphic design, web design, Photoshop, etc. Movie editing and all that great stuff.
I can sync it with my iPhone and take my work with me or transfer it to the computer.
The price is a little slower than the MacBook Pro, and that is huge. Really for the money, this is portable, it is fast, it looks great and it’s a workhorse of a computer.
There is no doubt about it; Apple makes great computers especially for editing. I would recommend this computer for sure to anyone who wants to record music onto a mac. If your budget doesn’t allow you to get the laptop, go this route.
Dell XPS13 Ultrabook Computer
For the PC lover and someone who might not want to go the mac route, here is the Dell XPS13 Ultrabook Computer.
Why I like the Dell Ultrabook is the super-slim, easily portable and it takes up less energy. Is it fast, yes it is thanks to a Solid State hard drive and the i5 processor.
For the price, this laptop is beautifully designed. What I like about it most is it is super portable. I love that because I go out to gigs or friends’ houses and cabins to record. I can flip the lid right out of the case, and my studio is set up and ready to go.
It has the power needed to record lots of tracks.
The display is really good too; Dell says it’s the world’s first infinity display (1920 x 1080).
Using the specs listed above, here is where the Dell lines up:
- Budget – $900-1000
- Monitor – 13.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080)
- Hard drive – 128GB SSD
- Processor – 5th Generation Intel Core i5-5200U 2.2GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.7GHz
- RAM – 4GB Dual Channel DDR3L-RS 1600Mhz UPGRADE TO 8GB Right away
- INPUTS – 2x USB 3.0,Mini Display Port ,Memory Card Reader ,Microphone Input / Headphone Output Combo Port , HDMI®
- DVD – NO, but you can add when externally
The battery should be noted here, it has an average battery life cycle of 15 hours, not bad if you need to be unplugged for a session, or you want to go edit at a coffee shop. Not likely, but you know, it has the power to do it.
I would recommend this laptop for music editing to anyone who is a proud PC user and wants to make music on it. It is nice and lite, fits right in your backpack, and you’re ready to go. For the price point too, you get a powerful computer.
How to record music on your laptop?
There are a few things that you need to do before you can start recording your music on your laptop.
You will need to purchase the equipment that is needed to record such as a microphone and sound editing software.
You will also need to download any necessary audio and video drivers onto the laptop so you can use it properly.
You have endless amounts of fun things you can do to your music. Are you a one-person band?
No problem, check this out. You start with maybe a guitar part that you have always played, but by yourself.
Ok record those tracks and now play it back. No, you hear yourself, and you start to strum a second part to the rhythm guitar. Nice, why not add some bass, maybe some keyboards.
Finally, you can add some vocals to your recording. Now it gets fun, double-track it, and harmony’s whatever. It is endless what you can do on your laptop.
Making hip-hop beats on your laptop is super easy using a midi keyboard and your software on the laptop.
How that works is you start a looping track usually a 4/4 beat. Add kick/snare/kick/snare.
Cool, now that is looping back at you, add some high-hats. Nice, now add the bass line, and boom!
Super easy and fun. Now, spit fire at that loop, and you’re the next Kanye!
Some other things I recommend for home recording studios
So you have a laptop or not yet, you’ll need one. Besides your instruments, you might eventually want to invest in some other gear.
Things I had in my studio when I started were pretty simple, yet I needed them.
Microphones– yes, get yourself a decent microphone for recording. I’d spend about $100 on a condenser microphone. These are super lovely sounding mics; they pick up everything well. I’d also get a Shure sm-57, this is a workhorse microphone. We put these on snare drums because they sound good and can take a beating. Not that I recommend that, but they are hardcore.
Monitors – Studio monitors are different from headphone monitors. These are the loudspeakers that have a pretty balanced EQ. I started with a small pair of monitors that could barely make any good playback. So I bought a couple of Mackie monitor ones. So awesome, best monitors if you ask me.
Headphones – You need headphones, especially if you are isolating music. If you’re going to record vocals, then you need to be able to hear the music without the music being recorded. So, invest in at least one good pair of headphones, and if you need extra, you can just get some cheap ones. But, get ONE good pair of headphones for sure.
Cables – You’re always going to need a few extra xlr cables for your microphones and maybe a guitar or midi cables. Conquest sound has the best prices online for cables. We buy all ours there for live music.
That’s just a quick little studio essential. There are way more things you can add as you go, but a few of those tips above might help you out as it did for me.
To wrap up and conclude
Ultimately it’s up to you what’s the best laptop for music production is. I’ve used many different machines to record on in my 20+ years of music, including cheap laptops and high-end ones.
I have pointed out my Top 3 best laptops for music production. I threw in the iMac because why not. It’s not a laptop, but it is portable as a laptop. And to be honest, it feels like a more professional studio being set up.
If you don’t like the top 3, please just take the specs to guide you to the store. That is the most important part of this article; you need to make the minimum requirements for a laptop at least to work well for you in the studio.
I’m here for you, so if you have any questions, please contact us.
Thanks again for stopping by home recording we appreciate it and feel free to leave a comment. Let us know what your best laptop for music production is.
Now record some great music!