Music production is a CPU intensive process that requires a laptop with a list of recommended specifications to comfortably run most music programs. But with so many laptop models and specifications on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.
This article looks at the specifications you should keep in mind if you are planning to use your laptop for music production. From processing power to storage space, here is a list of the key specs you should look for in a laptop for music production.
1. CPU (Central Processing Unit)
A processor, also known as a central processing unit, is the brain of your computer, responsible for controlling all of your most important tasks. A laptop’s processing power is important to music production as it determines the speed and number of tasks your computer can handle.
Whether you’re recording multiple songs or mixing tracks with a digital audio workstation (DAW), you’ll need a computer with a powerful CPU.
CPU performance is measured by the number of cores and clock speed. Therefore, more cores often means better performance in applications that support multithreading.
The higher the clock speed, the faster the processor can execute instructions. Anything above 3.0 GHz should provide enough juice to help the CPU quickly retrieve and interpret instructions.
The number of cores you need to produce music depends on what your digital audio platform is optimized for. Many audio platforms recommend a multi-core processor as a minimum requirement.
DAWs use multiple cores to run many tasks in parallel, and a modern multi-core Intel Core i7 CPU is optimal. A modern Core i7 CPU will work well with your audio work platform’s default settings to allow efficient simultaneous processing of multiple tasks, and you can run a lot of plugins and higher track counts.
Note that adding cores increases processing power, but it’s not necessarily better to go beyond a certain point. Also, it is almost impossible to upgrade your CPU down the line; When in doubt, get the most capable option within your budget.
2. RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM is the memory inside your computer where program data and other instructions are temporarily stored. When you turn on your laptop, it fills the RAM with data that your apps and CPU may need to use, giving you quick access to much needed or useful data.
The more programs you run simultaneously, the more RAM you need. Aim for a laptop with at least 16GB of RAM to run most music production software efficiently. It’s the amount recommended by the developers of the popular DAW software, ProTools.
It will also help to check if your laptop supports RAM upgrades. Many Windows and Linux laptops allow you to upgrade your RAM. On the other hand, the latest Macs do not allow you to upgrade the RAM yourself. Even then, you can add or upgrade RAM on some Macs.
3. Operating System (OS)
There is no “best” operating system for music production, as each operating system is better for one product than the other. Some good competitors include the latest stable versions of Windows, macOS, and Linux. Your preferred operating system must also be compatible with your music production software.
Whatever platform you choose, be sure to use the 64-bit version of the operating system to take advantage of more laptop resources. The main advantage of a 64-bit processor over a 32-bit version is its ability to access more RAM.
The 32-bit operating system can access up to 4 GB of RAM, while the 64-bit version can support more than 4 GB of RAM, making it the most capable option. Besides, it is supported by the most popular audio working platforms, including Avid Pro Tools and Logic Pro X.
High-resolution audio files which do not lose much storage space. Aim for at least 1 TB of storage for music files, samples, and projects to reduce the possibility of running out of storage space while composing music. If your laptop has one drive, make sure it’s an SSD.
Notebook computers with solid-format memory (SSD) can read and write data faster and more reliably than older hard disks. However, they are more expensive than their HDD counterparts.
If your computer has two drives, consider installing the operating system and applications on the SSD and storing audio files and completed projects on your regular hard drive. And if you decide to increase your storage capacity, you can buy external drives that plug directly into your laptop.
Music production software like DAWs tend to have a complex user interface, so a large screen is important to keep everything in view with minimal scrolling. In addition, the large screen size means that you can arrange DAW windows and fit more plug-ins on the screen at once.
Laptops with 17 inch screens should provide a great overview of your schedule for faster workflow. However, if you’re going to be watching dozens of tracks at once, you’ll want to get a laptop with a bigger screen (yes, there are 18.4-inch laptops!).
Given the way producers spend many hours looking at a screen, it’s important to have a screen that is comfortable on the eyes. Ideally, get a laptop with high brightness and an anti-glare screen to protect your eyes.
While a durable laptop isn’t necessary, it’s important if you plan to use it for years without worrying about it breaking down. For example, a laptop with a Gorilla Glass display helps keep your work safe while traveling and taking accidental hits.
Laptop ports determine what kind of accessories you can plug into them and how they can output things like sound and graphics.
The ideal laptop should have several ports for connecting audio devices (microphones, keyboards) and storage drives for your recordings. You’ll need to look for a laptop that has at least one port for every device you’ll need: USB Type-C, USB Type-A, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port.
You can always add more ports to your laptop with a USB-C hub or adapter. USB-C is a small and versatile port that has a variety of uses, including connecting displays and peripherals.
The weight of laptops varies by design and materials. Look for a lightweight model, ideally no more than three pounds, if you plan to take it on the road frequently.
8. Battery life
Finally, be sure to check the device’s battery life. You don’t want to be stranded with a dead laptop during a recording session.
Some laptops offer longer battery life than others, so it is important to do your research before making any purchase decision. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least eight hours of battery life.
What laptop do you use for music production?
While you can use a laptop to create, mix, or master great music, the best laptop for music producers will be different for each individual. Some of the key factors to remember when shopping include CPU, RAM, and storage.
Now that you know the important specifications, it’s time to decide which laptop you need. However, before making any purchase, check out the reviews and other specifications available to make sure your selection fits your needs.