Your First Recording Adventure: Mac or PC, Desktop or Laptop
More people than ever before are looking for ways to occupy their extra time indoors. Let’s face it – there are only so many puzzles you can do or reruns of Gilligan’s Island you can watch before going stir-crazy. Eventually, we are forced to reach down deep inside and ponder what it is we have always wanted to do but never had the time. For some, it is finally trying their hand at recording their own music.
If you are one of these people, and your quest has just begun, you may be asking yourself, “is a Mac or PC better for recording?”
It’s a valid and understandable question, but like most things in life, the answer is not all that simple. In fact, there are several things to consider:
- How much you are willing to spend
- How much processing power you will need
- Your connectivity needs and other expansion options
- Your desire to be portable or stay put
But it’s also not a complete drudgery figuring out which is best for your situation. Hopefully, we can help you narrow it down a bit.
Mac or PC
It’s safe to say that you can probably begin recording with whatever computer you already own if you are truly just starting out and on a minimal budget. Whether Mac or PC, there are software and hardware options for you. However, if your system is getting well on in years, you may find that you will quickly outgrow your needs as you hone your craft, and your productions become more advanced.
If you are planning on sticking with it for a while, it’s helpful to know that the platform of choice for professional studios worldwide is Mac. This is good to know because if you are in the market for a computer to record with, and want the most flexibility and available resources, you can’t go wrong with a Mac. But don’t let this scare you if you already own a PC, or hinder you if you’d prefer to stick with Windows – the most important thing is to start letting the creative juices flow!
That said, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of Mac vs. PC and desktop vs. laptop for creating music.
Pros and Cons for Recording on a Mac
- Macs are considered by many to be the ideal creative platform
- They retain their value very well on the used market
- Apple’s operating systems and hardware are very stable
- There are many more software options available compared to PC
- Macs are more expensive than PCs
- More recent models are far less user-upgradeable compared to older machines
Pros and Cons for Recording on a PC
- You have many manufacturer options from well-respected names such as Dell, Lenovo, and HP
- They are typically less expensive than Macs
- You can save a lot of money by building your system if you have the knowledge and time
- If you are used to working with Windows, there may be less of a learning curve
- Most PCs, especially desktops, are easily upgraded
- Some software you may want to use is Mac only
- You need to make sure your PCs components are high-quality to keep up with the rigors of music production
- The vast majority of the audio recording world is Mac, so you’ll be in the minority
Laptops vs. Desktops
The flexibility to record and edit virtually anywhere may make hooking yourself up with a new laptop seem worthwhile. And for you and your needs, it might be. Modern-day notebooks are typically well-equipped with high-performance, desktop-class connections like Thunderbolt. They will suffice for many of your expansion needs – especially if you are just starting out. This wasn’t always the case, and it certainly may be a viable option for you.
However, if you are looking to dedicate a machine solely for your music studio needs, consider why desktop computers adorn professional studios’ consoles.
Desktop computers are faster.
In general, desktop computers use components that are simply faster and more powerful than laptops. From processors to memory, things are generally a class above what most laptops have to offer. And when you start getting adventurous and begin layering more and more audio tracks and using more processor-intensive plugins, you will notice the difference.
Desktop computers have more connectivity options.
Right out of the box, desktop computers will have more built-in connectivity options than your typical laptop, including additional USB and Thunderbolt ports. This will be helpful as you expand and start adding things like USB midi devices, mixing control surfaces, and various other gear.
You can add expansion docks to laptops for additional connectivity options but may be limited by what the dock can provide and what the computer itself can handle.
Desktop computers allow for more upgrade options.
You may find yourself needing additional RAM to handle more plugins or another SSD to improve load times and overall performance. You may even want to swap out your video card at some point. A desktop computer is better positioned to handle these scenarios because a laptop may be more difficult (or impossible) to upgrade. Even still, a fully loaded laptop’s ability won’t come close to what a desktop can achieve.
For example, Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro is available with an impressive 64GB of RAM. But by comparison, the 2019 Mac Pro can handle an incredible 1.5TB of memory!
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if a laptop’s portability is more important than the performance and customization options a desktop computer offers. Many smaller project studios use notebooks as newer models offer adequate horsepower to run most of their sessions. But a desktop machine will give you a higher level of performance and better position you for expansion and growth.
And remember, you don’t have to buy a brand-new workstation to start recording and editing. To save yourself some cash, think about getting something a little older and upgrade if needed. You can browse around eBay and Craigslist to find great deals, but it’s also worth considering something certified and refurbished from a site like MacSales.com for a little more peace of mind.
Regardless if you go Mac or PC, desktop or laptop, the most important thing is just to get started!