Best Laptop For Music Production 2017

Without doubt looking for the perfect laptop for music production is definitely the most complicated task when it comes to trying to use computer technology for multimedia purposes. There is just way too many features to take into account just to get the right performance for making music: ports, display, processing power, sound interface, external devices, audio latency, noise issues from the laptop or charger, driver compatibility and more.

That’s not all…

Software stability and the numerous choices we have today(DAWs) play a huge a role as well especially when if you are performing live.

In my experience when we start looking for the best laptop for music production….

We will also face with contradictory and poor advice from websites which haven’t really covered every aspect behind and/or are five years old in terms of updates.

Luckily….

You’ll  avoid all of those issues with this article which will go onto explaining how to look for the best laptops yourself and current 5 best laptops for music production.

How To Buy The Best Laptop For Music Production

If you are a beginner you may not want to skimp over this section to make sure you know what you are buying. However for most of you professionals out there you can safely jump to the recommended laptops section.

Software

music-production-software

What better place to start than with the software requirements from your favorite DAW?

Software CPU RAM Storage Display
Ableton MultiCore Processor 4GB RAM 3GB 1024X768
FL Studio 2Ghz MultiCore 1GB RAM 2GB
Logic Pro   4GB 6GB 1280-by-768


As you can tell the software requirements aren’t that big of a deal, I am happy to say that most (if not all) modern laptops today meet the specified specs. 

This may be enough to launch and play with a few tools and features but in reality serious music production (even beginners) needs more than that plus there’s also the fact that we must take into account external devices, latency , drivers, noise and connectivity from laptops.

Recommended Specs For Music Production

CPU

Like everything else in computing, the higher the clock speed of the CPU the better . If you run a lot of plugins and several VSTs, then you should focus on clock speed (measured in GHz) rather than the number of cores.

A fast CPU will also allow your ASIO driver to run on low latency.  How much latency you wish to obtain of course is an individual preferences and depends on the kind of work you are doing. If you are performing live, then obviously you can’t go wrong with the lowest latency.

What kind of CPU is best?

The Cache size & the Clock Speed of your CPU becomes more important than the technology behind.

Multi Core

As you may have noticed most DAWs recommend multi core processors.

If you run a lot of VST, DSP, etc on a channel more cores is essential. This is because each channel within your DAW can be assigned to a single thread(or core) for all signal processing.  DAWs and music production in general do benefit from multicore processors and hyper threading.

However…

if your clock frequency isn’t enough to keep up with the demands on a single channel (a lot of plugins, VSTs, effects), then having multiple cores isn’t beneficial.

So What’s the recommended CPU?

Dual Core or Quad Core is fine, just make sure it’s multi core(2 or 4 doesn’t matter) but focus on base frequency and cache size which are more important for the high demands you may put on each track you work with.

Luckily most laptops today do offer multi core processors (i5 or i7), so it isn’t something to worry about.

RAM

Likewise, RAM has an impact on the performance of your DAW software. It becomes more important if you are recording a lot and if you run a lot of plugins alongside. Shoot for a minimum of 8GB and if possible 16GB to be on the safe side. RAM isn’t expensive so it’s not something to restrict your laptop from having as much as it can.

Storage

Size

While audio files and DAWs don’t generally take up a lot of space as compared with video editing software and video files, you’re gonna need a relatively large size for capacity since you’re gonna be working with a lot of samples, tracks and multiple projects.

SSD 

An SSD has a faster performance in terms of reading/saving/storing and loading data whether it comes from files, Operating System, VSTs or your DAW software. Having one is a huge bonus in terms of productivity as you will see an increase in performance in all of these instances but it’s not really necessary for music production.

On the downside, they come with low storage capacities especially within laptops(256GB).

When are SSDs useful within DAWs?

Their readout speeds may become handy if you deal with a lot high resolution audio, a lot of samples or mic playbacks  running within your project. You’ll notice a huge boost in terms of loading times and general performance.

HDD

HDDs are slower in terms of reading speed but if you’re dealing with +16 tracks or so you may not notice a difference with the read out speeds of an SSD and an HDD as far as DAWs goes.

On the plus side you get a lot more storage for your money with HDD, they’re handy for backs ups and storing large libraries of samples and projects.

Recommended Set up

Get both. An SSD for OS + DAW + your most recent and current files to take the advantage of the loading speeds and a regular HDD(internal or external) for backs up and storing old files and completed projects.

Display

If you have to deal with a lot of audio tracks, then a big screen size is a huge plus. If not, just choose whatever you’re comfortable with.

However you do need to watch out for resolution. Don’t go below full HD(1080p) as you’ll have issues trying to fit in your DAW and multiple windows within it. Going further than full HD may be counterproductive too as some software manufacturers may not have updated their products to take advantage of higher resolutions so you may even see issues with their interfaces.

To be on the safe side, stick with 13-15” as minimum and full HD.

Ports

It really comes down to what you really need from your Audio Interface and external storage devices.

USB: You’ll find USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports on almost all newer computers, both Macs and PCs. Many of the interfaces designed to work with USB draw their power from the computer or other host devices making them ideal for for mobile recording rigs. If data transfer speed isn’t a top priority.

Thunderbolt: It offers excellent data transfer rates and very low latency for the most demanding computer-based recording. This is the best choice if high data transfers are a priority for you. It also allows you to connect multiple external monitors to a laptop.

Design

When it comes to music production it’s not all just a matter of specs and raw power and getting the latest features as mentioned before. You need a well designed and high quality system to avoid the following:

Noise

Background noise coming from the fans or the power adapter can be very inconvenient for some of you. This is not something that manufacturers would list on their websites or right next to their products.

The more your CPU has to work, the more the fans will start to work hence the more sound they will introduce into your recordings. You can always prevent all of these issues by buying high quality systems that have been tested and designed to minimize noise. You will have to rely on third party testers and reviews to find this one out.

Ideally you would want a well designed laptop that will minimize all of these issues, the MacBook Pro is one of the reasons why musicians choose it over others as Windows based machines generally don’t have multimedia performance in mind when it comes to their design.

Stability

Even if you have the latest and best features for music production, it can all be useless if your system crashes and gives you latency issues. There is no perfect system out there. All high quality systems including Macs are susceptible to this but they are extremely less likely to happen with them.

If these are super important to you and your work requires utmost precision and stability then you can go over to the manufacturer of your software and ask for recommended system or you could go with the recommended systems below

Top 5 Best Laptops for Music Production

Here you’ll find the 5 best laptops from different manufacturers and for whatever kind of producer you are: beginner, professional or a live music performer.

Best Laptop For Music Production And Recording 

MacBook Pro

macbookpro-for-music-productio

 

CPU: Intel Dual Core Core i5 2.9-3.3 GHz | RAM: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD | GPU: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | Display: 13.4” Retina Display IPS 

If there’s one thing you should know about MacBooks and Music Production is the fact that  you can’t never go wrong when buying them.The MacBooks in general have a lot of popularity among musicians and music producers as you may have noticed already. 

The reason is of course the fact that MacBooks are designed with multimedia users in mind. Because every part is made from the same manufacturer (which takes into account software and hardware compatibility) , you will minimize driver issues, compatibility issues if you get one and will also the best latency and stability as far as consumer laptops are concerned.

This particular model has more than enough power to blaze through all of your DAWs flawlessly and all of your projects filled with plugins and VSTs no matter how heavy they are. Although it’s got an i5 processor, it’s still a dual core and has a high base frequency at 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost although higher models offer with more this is sufficient for music production.

The RAM is plenty (8GB) and if you think ever need go for 16GB (if you are recording a lot it may be useful) then you can opt to choose the 15” inch version but that could be unnecessary and way out of our budget. 

Another huge bonus of the MacBooks are their storage devices, they come with the latest and fastest technology available. This model has 512GB SSD (PCIe based) . SSDs generally do not come with 1TB so you will have to invest on an external hard drive if you want to take advantage of their speed and you deal with a huge amount of tracks and samples.

If you plan on recording with the MacBook, I’m delighted to tell you there’s probably no better choice. Its design actually minimizes noise coming from fans (its alluminum chasis for example acts as a heat sink) when you’re trying to run something CPU intensive.

Lastly, as long as you stick with this version(2015), you get all the ports you need for peripherals and external devices : plenty of USB 3.0 ports (x2), thunderbolt for high data transfers and external monitors too.

For those of you planning to work with other musicians and share your files and projects, you will have an easier time with a Mac(since probably everyone else has one). Definitely the top choice as far as music production goes. This is also the best laptop for those who want to wish to perform live.
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Best Windows Laptop For Music Production

Dell XPS 15

Dell XPS Windows Music Production Laptop

CPU: Intel Quad Core i7 up to 3.5GHz  | RAM: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M | Display: 15.6″ Full HD

For those apple haters out there , you’d be happy to know the DELL XPS series actually outperforms the MacBook in several areas (not its price unfortunately) as far as Music Production goes.

It has better a display size than the 13” MacBook Pro with an i7 core processor and 3.5GHz clock speed along with 8GB  which can be configured or upgraded to 16GB.

It’s storage device doesn’t fall behind either, it’s as fast as the MacBooks and although this model has 256GB it can be configured to 512GB but this may not be necessary if you use an external hard drive to read out all of your sample and audio tracks leaving the OS, DAWs, plugins, etc, on your SSD.

Unlike other laptops made by the same company, the XPS series have the best quality you can get from them. Their design is solid and sturdy. You will have less issues with latency and stability if you decide to go with it.

As a bonus, if you stick with the full HD version and ditch the touchScreen display(which is more expensive and with unnecessary resolution), you will also have a long battery life(10 hours) while being very portable at the same time 3.9. Plus,  most DAWs arent great using a TouchScreen and you’ll be stuck with a keyboard and mouse anyways.

For those looking for a more powerful windows alternative to run the heaviest plugins out there on an extremely portable laptop, you can’t go wrong with the DELL XPS 15. If you can’t choose the highest configuration, you can upgrade this model by yourself by installing an extra 8GB RAM to it.
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Best Music Production Laptop For Beginners

MacBook Air

macbookair-music-production-beginner


CPU: Intel Dual Core Core i5 1.6-2.7 GHz | RAM: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | Display: 13.3” LED-backlit Glossy Widescreen Display, 1440 x 900 resolution

If you are wondering why the MacBook Air even made it here. The reason is simple, not every musician out there needs the baddest and fastest laptop. If you are mostly doing music production on your own or just getting started and in need of a portable machine. The MacBook is more than enough.

Just be sure to max out on the specs. The good thing is the price which isn’t as bad as the MacBook Pros. This particular model has a dual core i5 2.7Ghz processor and 8GB RAM which should be enough for several tracks filled with audio, guitar, drums, virtual instruments, effects,etc.

Like The MacBook Pro you can confidently get a MixDown on your MacBook without getting glitches,drops,errors with pretty much every DAW available on a Mac. You won’t having to restart your entire recording with other cheap unstable laptops. That’s one of the advantages of Macs over PCs which is expected, again, because everything is built and designed by the same company.

You have more than enough storage which is the same technology (PCIe Based) making VSTs, OS, plugins and read your tracks faster.  The only downside is the display though it’s above the required resolution by DAW softwares, it isn’t full HD but it’s more than enough as far as music production goes. There hasn’t been any complaints from those using it for music in general. But this is also the reason why it has one of the longest battery lives(if not the longest) as of 2017 from ultrabooks, +13 hours. 

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Best Laptop For Music Production on a Budget

ASUS ROG GL552VW

ASUS-ROG-GL551JM-Music Production

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6-3.5GHz | RAM: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD + 128 SSD  | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB VRAM | Display: 15.6 inches Matte IPS FHD display

Yes this is a gaming laptop but the reason why it made it to the list is the fact they do come with the highest CPU speeds and extra RAM for those planning to run several dozens of VSTis and tracks filled with the heaviest plugins and effects. 

There’s a few reasons why the ASUS GW52 made it to the list from all the gaming laptops out there besides the fact that it’s quite affordable.

For starters it’s got the CPU on this list, an i7 Quad Core processor with 2.5-3.6GHZ(Turbo Bost) for clock speed. It comes with enough RAM for the heaviest and most demanding complex projects out there including heavy DAW software and plugins at 16GB RAM. But the best part of this model is its storage, there may not be a need for an external hard drive since you have both of best worlds with this one: an SSD for your DAW, OS and plugins and an HDD with 1TB for all of your samples, tracks, audio files.

On the downside, it’s a gaming laptop, so it has a dedicated GPU which for music production isn’t necessary and it’s battery life isn’t great either. However if you are looking for a laptop with one of the highest specs for music production while remaining quite affordable at the same time, this is probably your best choice (as long as you don’t mind the huge gaming tag on it).

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Lenovo Y700

lenovo-y700-music-production

 

CPU: Intel Dual Core Core i5 1.6-2.7 GHz | RAM: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | Display: 13.3” LED-backlit Glossy Widescreen Display, 1440 x 900 resolution

When it comes to getting real work done, reliability and durability, you can’t never leave Lenovo out of the picture. 

For those lenovo fans out there here’s a one of the best performance laptops with more than enough power for the heaviest plugins and VSTs out there. Don’t be fooled by its gaming look, it’s got everything you need for music production too.

The processor is also the fastest on this list: core i7 quad core with up to 3.5Ghz with plenty of RAM (8GB) which is easily upgrade-able (16gb) and a sweet storage set up just like the ASUS: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD for the best workflow of your software (SSD) and a large storage capacity for the rest of your files. All other features are just about the same as the ASUS Rog while also being about the same price.

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