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.
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.
What better place to start than with the software requirements from your favorite DAW?
|Ableton||MultiCore Processor||4GB RAM||3GB||1024X768|
|FL Studio||2Ghz MultiCore||1GB RAM||2GB||—|
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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).
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.
- I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.