Which Macbook for Music Production?
June 10, 2008 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Macbooks; I'm going to university this September to study a music technology course, all their computers are macs, I'd like to buy one so I can take my work home. For music recording and production, which macbook is most suitable for me?

I'll be using ProTools, Logic, Ableton Live and Reason, and will need a moderate amount of hard drive space. It would be good if the computer has meaty enough hardware for games too (under paralells) but that's not essential.
I don't really want to spend much over £1,000 ($2,000) if I can avoid it.
Which macbook would be best?

Thanks in advance
posted by ilumos to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
 
MacBook Pro

as heavily equipped as you can afford
posted by Oktober at 3:43 PM on June 10, 2008


The cheapest (non-refurb) Macbook Pro is $2000 - I'd recommend getting a midrange Macbook ($1300) and maxing out the hard drive, and buying an external monitor with the remainder.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:49 PM on June 10, 2008


A normal macbook will be able to run most ProTools projects without a problem. I can't speak for the other software. Max your RAM, then throw any leftover money at a hard drive.
posted by tylermoody at 3:51 PM on June 10, 2008


Any of the current models are fine.

The MacBook Pro is available at an entry level price of $2000 right now. Up to $500 less if you buy refurb.

A MacBook Pro may not be necessary, howerver. MacBooks have more power than the G4 Powerbooks did, and I've run Pro Tools, Live, and Reason comfortably on those. (Especially Reason, which is darn efficient.) Plenty of HD space, plenty of processing power, lots of RAM.

This isn't to say you'll be sorry going for the higher model. Just that even consumer models of laptops now have plenty of resources for handling digital audio.
posted by weston at 3:55 PM on June 10, 2008


To clarify: The processor differences between the "consumer" and "pro" macbooks are actually very, very minimal. Not zero, but - IMHO - not even remotely worth the price of the upgrade if you're on a budget.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2008


(The big advantage of the MBPs for me is the greater screen real estate. That, and I don't like glossy screens.)
posted by weston at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2008


If your budget is limited and a MacBook Pro is out of range, maximize your RAM and buy an external Firewire hard drive. An internal laptop hard drive is not made for multitrack recording.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2008


I'm looking at the lowest model of standard macbook with 2GB RAM, no other extras, for £775 ($1600).

Thanks for your help guys.
posted by ilumos at 4:06 PM on June 10, 2008


Assuming you are attending a qualifying university, Apple offers education discounts for students. If you hit up the main Apple online store site, you can access the Education store from there. The discount on the entry level MacBook Pro is $200, and they are currently offering a mail in rebate for a free iPod Touch 8GB.
posted by BryanPayne at 4:20 PM on June 10, 2008


Didn't notice you were in the UK. My bad. Not sure if there are similar education discounts available there.
posted by BryanPayne at 4:28 PM on June 10, 2008


You really don't need a macbook pro to do audio work. (Though it would be better for games.) Even the slowest macbook is probably faster than a G5; these were the studio workhorses pre-intel-mac, and I have the impression that in some places, they still are. Just get at least 2GB ram, and maybe a fast external drive. Screen real estate is important too, but I think to get that you would be better served spending the difference between a macbook and a mbp on an external monitor. Also, you probably will eventually need an audio interface and maybe some kind of midi controller, which would be alternative ways to spend the difference.
posted by advil at 4:55 PM on June 10, 2008


Screen real estate is important too, but I think to get that you would be better served spending the difference between a macbook and a mbp on an external monitor

This is key, and all macs have DVI out so the external monitor thing is easy to setup and use.

I hate to say it, but the black Macbook is perhaps worth the $100 price premium over white. I wish now I had gone with the black, since the white is kinda girly and all.
posted by tachikaze at 5:48 PM on June 10, 2008


I'm looking at the lowest model of standard macbook with 2GB RAM
Standard Mac-buying advice applies here: buy the cheap Macbook with base memory, then upgrade with 3rd-party RAM. Apple charge out the wazoo (and then ream you on the way back in) for RAM.
posted by Pinback at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2008


I've been looking at Apple laptops for music too, and I've opted for the Pro, and here's why -

The MacBook has no dedicated VRAM but the MacBookPro does. OS X eats graphics resources for breakfast. I'm not interested in losing power mid-recording just because the OS or an app thinks it needs to be pretty. I'd imagine that you'll notice this even more when you're playing games.
posted by lekvar at 7:17 PM on June 10, 2008


The MacBook has no dedicated VRAM but the MacBookPro does. OS X eats graphics resources for breakfast. I'm not interested in losing power mid-recording just because the OS or an app thinks it needs to be pretty.

This is simply not a factor for anything but 3-d graphics, not even for gen 1 macbooks which have less shared VRAM than current models. And definitely not a factor for audio software. The limiting factors will most likely be disk access, and bandwidth to the audio interface.
posted by advil at 8:43 PM on June 10, 2008


2 years old white MacBook here, external FireWire hard disk and maxed the ram to 2GB from Crucial) (link goes to their UK site [and no, I'm not affiliated with them]). Never ever pay the Apple tax on RAM.

I've had no problems running fairly complex arrangements and projects using Logic and Live. Sure the bigger screen would be nice, but the pure CPU grunt and the HD access speed (with an external drive) is not that much different between the plain MacBooks and Pros.

Remember to budget for an audio interface, though.
posted by phax at 2:47 AM on June 11, 2008


Didn't notice you were in the UK. My bad. Not sure if there are similar education discounts available there.

There are.

I got my mbp whilst at uni with the educational discount. Think it saved about £200.
posted by tanc at 3:00 AM on June 11, 2008


My son is a composer and a doctoral candidate in music composition, and routinely runs Finale, ProTools, and who knows what other other composition, mixing, sampling, and recording software.

He gets along just fine with a current model MacBook (non-MBP) with three gigs of memory. Up until January he got along just fine with a G4 iBook with one gig of memory.

When he upgraded the memory on his current computer from one gig to three gigs he noted a significant increase in performance with both ProTools and Finale.

He likes the form factor of a small laptop since his is frequently sharing desktop real estate with synthesizers, an external mixer, patch bay, and other hardware. He has no desire for a larger screen.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:53 AM on June 11, 2008


Cheers for all the help guys, I'll probably be doing what these guys said:

Blazecock Pileon:
"If your budget is limited and a MacBook Pro is out of range, maximize your RAM and buy an external Firewire hard drive. An internal laptop hard drive is not made for multitrack recording."

tachikaze:
"I hate to say it, but the black Macbook is perhaps worth the $100 price premium over white. I wish now I had gone with the black, since the white is kinda girly and all."

phax:
"2 years old white MacBook here, external FireWire hard disk and maxed the ram to 2GB from Crucial) (link goes to their UK site [and no, I'm not affiliated with them]). Never ever pay the Apple tax on RAM.

I've had no problems running fairly complex arrangements and projects using Logic and Live. Sure the bigger screen would be nice, but the pure CPU grunt and the HD access speed (with an external drive) is not that much different between the plain MacBooks and Pros.

Remember to budget for an audio interface, though."


imjustsaying:
"He gets along just fine with a current model MacBook (non-MBP) with three gigs of memory. Up until January he got along just fine with a G4 iBook with one gig of memory.

When he upgraded the memory on his current computer from one gig to three gigs he noted a significant increase in performance with both ProTools and Finale.

He likes the form factor of a small laptop since his is frequently sharing desktop real estate with synthesizers, an external mixer, patch bay, and other hardware. He has no desire for a larger screen."




Cheers guys :)
posted by ilumos at 1:39 PM on June 21, 2008


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