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Is macbook the best laptop for home recording?
April 28, 2010 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Is a Macbook with Garage Band the best foundation for a home studio?

I have finally amassed all the instruments I want (guitars, bass, amps, electronic drum kit, and a vocal mic) and its time to move on to making my own personal "studio."

In the past I recorded music using a computer microphone next to my amp and recording with Sony's ACID Pro, which I found easy to use. Now I have an M-Audio ProFire 610 audio interface, which I understand works with everything from Pro Tools to Garage Band and connects to the computer via firewire. I have looked through several brands of laptops but I can't find any that are built primarily with home recording in mind.

To be honest, I don't care for mac computers, but as this laptop will be strictly for recording and editing music, I guess it doesn't really matter. I don't need a nice software package because I can just get it from the internet.

It would be great if you could point me to specific laptops I can look up online, but I suppose telling me "get a laptop with this this and this specification" is fine too. I am willing to spend $1500 give or take, I want quality, but I don't need bells and whistles if a cheaper computer will suffice.
posted by ReWayne to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
A macbook is fine for audio production. Garage band is a decent place to start, but you may find that you want to move up to Logic.

I mostly work with soft synthesizers, so Logic Studio is great for me. If you are mostly recording instruments and have hardware effects (and don't want to mess with effects in post), then Logic Express would be fine.

But don't go buy Logic right now, try GarageBand out and see if it does what you need.

If you really don't like macs, then don't go down the GarageBand/Logic route - Logic isn't available for Windows anymore, and the version that was available for Windows is ancient.

Depending on what you want to do, you may find better information over at TapersSection or GearSlutz.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:48 PM on April 28, 2010


A MacBook with Tracktion and an external hard drive is a pretty good workhorse.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:05 PM on April 28, 2010


Actually, you'll need a laptop with FireWire if you plan to use the M-Audio interface. The MacBook doesn't have FireWire. The 13" MacBook Pro does and runs about $1200 — less if you buy it through educational channels.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:09 PM on April 28, 2010


I'm sorry, I didn't realize there was a difference between macbook and macbook pro. I had the macbook pro in mind when I wrote this post.
posted by ReWayne at 7:29 PM on April 28, 2010


I've recorded plenty of stuff via garageband... protools hd... ableton live (lite and not)...

get your feet wet and go for it!

GarageBand is a great start.
posted by nutate at 7:29 PM on April 28, 2010


Go here to listen to some Garageband examples that show what it can do:

http://www.macjams.com/artist/Parichayaka

The site is "Macjams" and has a lot of downloadable music that is interesting from many users. Parichayacka is one of the more accomplished users, listen to some of his tracks and then check out his favorites (other users music.)
posted by leafwoman at 7:41 PM on April 28, 2010


Thanks for the software recommendations, but more important is the laptop. Is the mac pro the standard bearer for laptops used for personal recording ?
posted by ReWayne at 7:46 PM on April 28, 2010


My guess would be that the Macbook Pro is the standard bearer amongst people who are involved enough with both personal recording and internet boards to post anything about standard bearing, but that net-net, the bulk of home music production is done on Windows computers. Even if you don't buy PT LE or a Digi 00x, the barrier is pretty low with cheap laptops and stuff like Reaper. Or, if you had to pick any one laptop that was the most popular, it would be the Macbook Pro, but the aggregate amount of Dells and netbooks and Lenovos and Sonys would overwhelm the MBP contingent.

I have a Macbook Pro, and I record music on it. I think its great. If I had to buy another computer to record music on tomorrow, I would get a Macbook Pro. I also like Macs. If you don't like them...I don't think you will really be screwed by buying whatever passes for Macbook Pro quality on the Windows side of the fence (naturally, I think there are large compromises, but they are the types of compromises someone who already prefers Macs would point to).

I realize this isn't really what you asked, but if you already have some kind of a computer, you'd probably be better off just using whatever that computer is until you hit some specific limitation (A/D/A conversion, disks, microphones, preamps, software, or maybe even the computer) and putting your budget towards that, rather than buying a pricey computer that runs an OS you already don't like. Seriously, its crazy how fast stupid stuff like cables eats up the budget.

To my mind, people have a tendency to overfocus on some spec of their setup when looking at this stuff, and ignoring that like...anything that gets in the way of you putting sound on disk is bad. If you dont have enough cables so you always have to switch stuff around and it takes you out of the flow, that's bad. If your desk is too small, that's bad. If you have no mic stands and have to carefully balance mics on chairs and stuff, same thing. If using a Mac is a constant annoyance for you, you will be better off with Windows, even if to most people, Mac is easier/the reference standard.
posted by jeb at 8:06 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Consider that you could do a lot of audio production with an 800 MHz Pentium III with 512MB of RAM and a 40 GB hard drive in 2002 or so.

Pretty much anything you can buy new today is capable of mixing down some audio. A netbook wouldn't be a great choice, but I'd be shocked if you can't do a four-track mixdown on a netbook.

Macbook Pros are great for audio. I run Logic with lots of audio tracks, lots of soft synths, and some ugly Reaktor ensembles without breaking a sweat.

I would be more concerned with picking a machine that has extremely quiet fans.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:30 PM on April 28, 2010


If you don't really like Apple Computers I'd advise against getting a MacBook.

Garage Band is pretty um well unprofessional.. but is quite easy to use.

Another thing is that if you are doing a lo tof Digital Audio Tracks as it sounds like it from that setup you will probably need a faster Hard-Drive 72000RPM say to get a higher number of tracks on Playback.

Another thing is; Why are you getting a laptop anyway for a 'studio' computer? you could get a cheap Windows Desktop Computer (with Quiet fan if possible) add two large monitors (which is handy for Audio Apps) and then install the free Reaper Digital Audio Workstation. or buy a copy of Pro-Tools M-Powered to use with that M-Audio Interface.

this might be cheaper and more powerful.
posted by mary8nne at 6:27 AM on April 29, 2010


Actually, you'll need a laptop with FireWire if you plan to use the M-Audio interface. The MacBook doesn't have FireWire.

This depends on what MacBook he has. The new unibody MB's don't have FW. However, the previous, non-unibody MacBook (Spring '09 model) has FW. He can find a lot of those previous models for sale online. The internal specs are pretty similar.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:14 AM on April 29, 2010


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