Do you need a Mac for music production? Or will a PC do you just fine?
The computer is the most important piece of gear in the modern studio (and normally the most expensive). That’s why it takes the number one spot on my list of gear you need to build a home studio.
PC vs. Mac is a never ending debate. While Microsoft currently holds around 88% of the overall desktop operating system market share, in the creative industries alone, that figure doesn’t quite relate. The use of Macs is far higher than average in the creative industries, especially in recording studios.
But does that mean that you NEED to use a Mac if you want to engineer and produce music professionally? Let’s find out.
PC vs. Mac
On the surface, the differences between the two are clear. Apple create both the hardware and operating system for Macs, whereas Windows operating systems can run on PC hardware from many manufacturers.
Macs generally cost more and are positioned as premium products, whereas PCs can range from budget to premium options.
The nuances of using the two systems for producing music can be less clear, though. Especially for someone who’s just starting out. Let’s talk about the benefits of using one over the other.
The Benefits of Using a PC for Music Production
The most obvious benefit to picking a PC over a Mac is the cost. Simply put, you get more raw power for your money with a PC. Let’s make a direct comparison between two off-the-shelf builds of roughly the same spec and see how the price differs…
…around £600/$800 more for the Mac. This isn’t a perfect comparison as the Mac is an all-in-one and the PC is a desktop with a separate monitor. The specs are also a little different – the PC has a faster processor and graphics card, while the Mac has a higher resolution display, but in general, Macs do cost more.
This also doesn’t take peripherals into consideration. Apple tends to lean towards using bespoke connectors for their hardware, meaning that oftentimes you’ll need to purchase Apple-specific adaptors and cables which are not only pricey, but they also don’t tend to stick around for long before being superseded. Bare in mind though, that the PC shown above is a pre-built system. Building a PC from scratch tends to bring the cost down further. Which brings me onto the next point…
A PC can be built from scratch with relatively little expertise, whereas Macs aren’t well suited for custom builds. With this comes numerous benefits –
- You can choose exactly what goes into the PC. From the case that holds everything together, to everything inside it. Having the ability to pick your own case gives you control over the design, as well as the form factor, which can be useful if you’re tight on space.
- You can opt to not include certain components that you don’t need such as a graphics card or optical drive, to bring the cost and power usage down. You can even put consideration into reducing the self-noise of the machine, by opting for fan-less parts. This can be great if your machine is in your recording room.
- Many retailers offer to build a custom PC for you as well, meaning you can reap the benefits of having a custom build, without having to invest the time. Normally you’ll be paying a little extra for the convenience, though. Bare in mind that if you opt for a laptop over a desktop, your options will be more limited.
Because, as we’ve discussed, PCs are so customizable, it’s also easy to replace any parts that go wrong. If you find yourself with a power supply dying on you right before you’re about to start mixing (this has literally happened to me), a replacement power supply can be easily swapped out.
The Vast Majority of Software is Available
Whilst a few software and hardware tools are only compatible with Macs (more on that later), the majority are built for PC as well. You won’t be struggling for options.
The Benefits of Using a Mac for Music Production
Ease of Use
Macs offer an almost identical user experience regardless of who’s using one and what model they’re using. They all look the same, they all feel the same, they all use the same drivers… Whether this is a positive thing for you is partially down to personal taste, but for those who have no biases, Macs can be easier to get to grips with straight out of the box.
Mac operating systems are known for their stability. That’s not to say they never crash, they do, just like a PC does from time to time. However, the CoreAudio drivers that deal with sound for Macs are solid. PCs can have a tenancy to need a little tinkering with to get some audio hardware and internal routing working, whereas Macs generally give a more reliable plug-and-play experience.
If you want to use Logic or GarageBand, you’ll need to get a Mac. Simple as that. Logic is a very popular Digital Audio Workstation within the music production industry and is exclusive to Apple systems. Garage Band, Logic’s more basic companion, is also exclusive to Macs.
So, Do You Need a Mac?
No, you don’t NEED a Mac for music production. I’ve worked in studios that have used Macs, and ones that have used PCs. If you’re in love with the user interface and workflow of macOS, or you prefer to use Logic over any other DAW – you’ll likely want to consider one (if you can afford it). If you’re happy to use Pro Tools, Cubase, Ableton or any of the other popular DAWs, there’s no reason not to go for a PC for music production, especially if you’re on a budget.