The Apple Mac has become the computer of choice for many creative people thanks to its slick operating system, high CPU power and wide range of configurations. Put simply, there is a Mac for every creative situation, every user and every need. Choosing the best Mac for music production can be confusing, however, as you can pay anything from just $/£649 to a huge $12,299/£12,499 for a Mac. However, you needn't worry, because with this guide we can help match you with your perfect music making Mac.
Macs and music production go hand in hand, and while we're not saying that PCs won't run perfectly great software for music production - comparing Macs and PCs is a debate for another feature - the Apple Mac has become the first choice computer for many musicians because it delivers the speed, ease of use and style you need to put great tunes together, fast.
Macs and musicians have also long been matched together thanks to the presence of Logic Pro, a Mac-only digital audio workstation packed with every sound, instrument and feature you could possibly ever need for pro music production, and all costing just $/£199.99. Logic's very presence as a Mac-only DAW has tempted many computer users to buy Apple hardware simply because a Mac married to Logic is the perfect production set-up for music creation in any style. So if you have set your heart on a Mac and Logic, you have made the right choice.
For this feature, we'll assume you have made that Mac hardware choice - possibly because you are a Logic user or just about to become one - so now just want to know which model to get. We'll guide you through the Mac range, explain the pros and cons of each current model and set you on a path to Mac music making heaven.
Andy has been writing about music production and technology for 31 years having started out on Music Technology magazine back in 1992. He has edited the magazines Future Music, Keyboard Review, MusicTech and Computer Music, which he helped launch back in 1998. He owns way too many synthesizers and is very familiar with Apple machines, having tested many of the latest models himself.
Best Macs for music production: Quick list
Want to cut to the chase and find out exactly which we think are the best Macs for music production right now? Below, you’ll find a round-up of our top choices. You can jump to a more detailed review of every pick, along with our price comparison tool to help you find the best deals.
Best on a budget
The Mac mini is Apple's no nonsense, compact Mac where you get a choice of core computer and add the keyboard, mouse and monitor yourself to save costs on the original machine. The mini is available with a range of specs to suit your needs and overall the performance is excellent.
Best on the go performance
Apple’s laptops are well engineered, beautiful devices that perform very well. Our review 14” MacBook Pro is likely the most powerful laptop we’ve ever used. Of course you pay for this power, but there’s no denying the latest MacBook Pros deliver incredible performance.
Best compact option
This machine perfectly bridges the gap between the mini and the Pro to make it a fine choice for music production. If you are in the market for a powerful and very serious desktop Mac for music, then this is the best high-end choice.
The M2 MacBook Air is beautiful, powerful and just about the best silent laptop you can buy for music production. The sound emanating from the Air's four speakers (which also support Spatial Audio) is so much better than a small form device like this should be capable of and the battery life of the Air is really good.
Best Mac for style
Through various incarnations, Apple's iMac has become the style icon in the Mac range. While now not the most powerful Mac, the current iMac – with its seven colour finishes – is easily the most striking. Thanks to the gorgeous 4.5K Retina screen, great speakers and webcam, working and creating on this iMac is a joy.
Best MacBook Pro alternative
The MacBook Air M1 has the power, albeit from an M1 chip compared to the M2s you'll find in virtually every other Mac these days. Add that slim form factor and light weight and you’ve got a pretty formidable production machine, particularly if your workflow involves travelling around.
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Best music Mac overall
The Mac Pro boasts Apple's M2 Ultra processor as a standard (whereas it's an option for the Studio) and the Pro has many more connectivity options. The Pro is designed for those who require the absolute peak of processing power. So think animators, visual effects producers, 3D processing…
The best Macs for music production
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Below you'll find full and detailed write-ups for each of the best Macs for music production in our list.
Best on a budget
The Mac mini is Apple's no nonsense, compact Mac where you get a choice of core computer and add the keyboard, mouse and monitor yourself to save costs on the original machine. The company's latest Mac mini range retains this ethos – there are still cheap machines available to buy and if the spec of the latest M2 base model fulfils your needs, then $/£649 is a great price to pay. However, the range has also very much expanded upwards and the sky is the limit in terms of power and price.
Two main types of Mac mini are now available, with specs that in many cases are indistinguishable from the new MacBook Pros. The two different designs are built around the M2 and M2 Pro processors, although there are many available spec options around these to choose from.
The Mac mini comes preinstalled with Mac OS 13 Ventura and this is the minimum supported OS. For music production, it’s very important to check that any plugins or apps you want to use support this OS and Apple Silicon.
As you can now supersize the spec of your Mac mini into something altogether different, the 'mini' name almost does the range an injustice. 'Mac mini XL' or 'Mac maxi' might be a better description.
Inevitably, any upgrades and additions all come at a price and, much like the M2 MacBook Pro, that price rises sharply as you bump up the spec of the memory and storage. Even so, and despite the non-upgradable design, there can be no denying that the new Mac mini offers an excellent performance.
Read the full Apple Mac mini M2 review
Best for performance on the go
The MacBook Pro is Apple's highest spec'd laptop. The range has three M2 machines in 13", 14" and 16" screen sizes.
Really the two latter models are where things get super serious – and super expensive. The memory and storage options for the 13", for example, are 8-24GB RAM and 512-2TB hard drive respectively. Leap over to the 14" and you start at 16GB RAM with options up to 96GB, while storage goes up to a massive 8TB if you need it (and can afford it).
The larger models also offer bigger processing with M2 Max and Pro options. If you max everything out and really go for the biggest RAM, storage and CPU options, you are looking at $6,749/$6,500 for a top end 16" MacBook Pro. That's probably the most expensive laptop in existence, but one that will run anything you throw at it, probably faster than you wish for.
Apple’s laptops are well engineered, beautiful devices that perform very well. An M2 Pro-equipped machine can support up to two additional monitors and the M2 Max up to four. You also get the six-speaker sound with force-cancelling woofers. These sound pretty good for a laptop and also support Spatial Audio for Dolby Atmos content.
Our review 14” MacBook Pro is likely the most powerful laptop we’ve ever used, and it’s not even close to being a maximum spec machine. Of course you are paying for this power, and beyond the base model the price quickly creeps up, but there’s no denying the latest MacBook Pros deliver incredible performance.
Read the full Apple MacBook Pro M2 review
Best compact option
In many ways Mac Studio is our first choice Mac for music – it starts off at a reasonable $1,999/£2,099 for a base machine that has a decent 32GB memory and powerful M2 Max processor, and this standard machine sits perfectly at the top end of the Mac mini range in terms of price and specs (as Apple has clearly planned it to).
As ever with Apple, it's those tempting upgrades where things might come undone and your bank balance comes under threat. Upgrading to the M2 Ultra chip – as found in the Pro – essentially doubles the price in an instant, but is still a way away from the cost of the Pro. And maxing out the storage adds a huge $/£2,400 for 8TB, so you're seriously better off investing in a fast external drive for this.
And like the mini, you will need the extras – keyboard, mouse and monitor – with the Mac Studio so you'll need to factor these in. But this machine does perfectly bridge the gap between the mini and the excessive Pro (see below) to make it a fine choice for music production. If you are in the market for a powerful and very serious desktop Mac for music, then this is the best high-end choice.
Read the full Apple Mac Studio review
Best lightweight option
Apple's latest M2 MacBook Air is now available in either 13.6" or 15.3" options. Other than screen size all the other main specs are the same, so optional memory and storage upgrades between the machines are identical.
The sound emanating from the Air's four speakers (which also support Spatial Audio) is so much better than a small form device like this should be capable of. You're not going to be using it for detailed mastering, granted, but it's almost good enough to mix with and very decent just for music listening.
The battery life of the Air is good, although at a quoted 18 hours it's not quite up there with the 20 hours you get on an M2 13-inch MacBook Pro. You also only get two Thunderbolt USB 4 ports on the MacBook Air (you get three on the larger Pros), so if you want more than a monitor and said interface connected, you might need to think a little outside the box.
Some have said that not having a fan to cool it down is a big disadvantage when you compare this MacBook Air to the latest MacBook Pro. As music producers we'd disagree, to a point, and say that having no fan is a huge advantage, just in terms of noise. Does the new Air get hot though? For performance tests, we used the benchmark projects from logicprohelp.com and music-prod.com and during these tests the Air did get warm, but not spectacularly so.
The M2 MacBook Air is beautiful, powerful and just about the best silent laptop you can buy for music production.
Read the full Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) review
Best for style
Through various incarnations, Apple's iMac has become the style icon in the Mac range. While now not the most powerful Mac, the current iMac – with its seven colour finishes – is easily the most striking.
The 2021 release iMac features an M1 processor, crystal clear display and an ultra thin and compact design that makes you feel you are getting a lot of screen real estate in not a lot of space.
Thanks to the gorgeous 4.5K Retina screen, great speakers and webcam, working and creating on this iMac is a joy. But it has to be said that, along with the original M1 Air (below), its processing power is starting to look a little rusty compared to the latest souped up M2 chips that power the rest of the current Mac range. So even though using this iMac feels like a seamless, creative experience, we can't help thinking that an M2 version is imminent, and will probably top our go-to Macs for music when released.
Best MacBook Pro alternative
The M1 Apple MacBook Air is the first laptop that Apple produced as a serious contender to its own Pro range. It has the power, albeit from an M1 chip compared to the M2s you'll find in virtually every other Mac these days. Add that slim form factor and light weight and you’ve got a pretty formidable production machine, particularly if your workflow involves travelling around.
If we were being picky we could say it’s slightly disappointing there hasn’t been a design revolution – it looks largely the same as the Air range always has – and a few more USB ports would always be nice, but opting for Apple’s cheaper model no longer means missing out on production performance in the way it once might have done.
You should now consider the M2 MacBook Air M2 over this M1 Air as this machine is feeling a little old compared to other Mac models. However, the Air M1 is still the cheapest mobile route into Apple's more stylish world of music production.
Read the full M1 Apple MacBook Air review
OK, so here we are at the top of the Apple Mac tree with a machine that, on the face of it, boasts many of the same specs as the Mac Studio – the storage and memory options are the same, and if you want to, you can even spec the processors up to be similar. The difference is that the Mac Pro boasts Apple's M2 Ultra processor as a standard (whereas it's an option for the Studio) and the Pro has many more connectivity options.
However, even Apple admits that the Pro is designed for those who require the absolute peak of processing power. So think animators, visual effects producers, 3D processing… any and all kinds of video production, basically, where the number crunching needs this kind of power to back it up. Music producers, even at the very highest level, don't really require this kind of power or, more importantly, can get much of it cheaper in Apple's existing range.
And that's where Pro slightly falls down. As incredible as this machine undoubtedly is, it's the price hike between this model and the Studio (and top end MacBook Pro) that puts it out of any league or recommendation. The base model of the Pro, for example, is $6,999/£7,199 whereas you can configure a Studio up to a similar spec for $3,999/£4,199. Yes, you get extra connectivity, but that is a huge difference in cost for that 'Pro' label.
So unless you are making more money than you can spend in music production – and if you are, we'll send you our address details – then you should really consider the Mac Studio as your Desktop Apple ceiling. And just to finish, for your information, if you want the fully maxed out Mac Pro, it'll cost you $12,299/£12,499. We'll take two.
Best Mac for music production: Buying advice
How to choose an Apple Mac for music production
As we say in our introduction above, Apple has produced a Mac computer for every task and occasion. While the range can be initially confusing, there is some logic to it – of course, there is! Once you have made some key decisions, you should find that you quickly hone in on the correct Mac for your music making. So let's look at those buying decisions.
Do I need a laptop or desktop model?
You should start by deciding whether you need a mobile Mac or a desktop model. Once you have made this choice, you are automatically cutting out a large chunk of the Apple range to narrow down those buying choices. So which should you go for, desktop or laptop for music production? The answer – as with all of these decisions – will very much depend on your personal circumstances but there are definite pros and cons to buying a Mac laptop that you need to weigh up first.
Portability is obviously the biggest advantage of a MacBook, but with the latest M range of chips built in to most models, you also get mobile power. You can easily spec up a machine – as we prove above with the MacBook Pro – which will be the match for any desktop computer in terms of power. But be warned, you are paying for portability and you could easily pay between 50 and 80 per cent more for a laptop's mobility compared to a desktop machine of the same spec.
Then there is the screen size. You could be attracted by a 13.3" MacBook Air or Pro because of their compact and easily portable designs, but the real estate afforded on either's screen is nothing compared to a 24" iMac which might well cost you less for similar power!
If after weighing up price and power you still want an Apple laptop, your choices are the Air and Pro. Now it's just a case of weighing up whether you need the sleek and light design of the former, or the power, pro features and price of the latter.
Which leaves the desktop choice, and here is where it can get tricky. The iMac is a beautiful machine, well priced and well spec'd and the design dream all-in-one computer solution that, in many ways, Apple made its name on. However, its M1 chip is looking a little dated so it may well be due a refresh later this year or early next.
With so much power available at the top end of the Mac range with the Pro and Studio, it's tempting to head upwards, reasoning that investing in newer models like this will future proof you as a music producer – no matter what your future needs, these models will have you covered.
However, as much as the Mac Pro turns heads, the clue is in the name here. We think the Pro is only really aimed at professional studios, film score producers, serious number crunchers and big league players making the serious money required to buy a machine like this in the first place. Really, in our opinion, the Studio is the top end Mac for music making, with enough memory, ports, power and storage for music production even in the base £1,999/£2,099 model.
Which leaves us with the Mac mini. In many ways, this has always been the forgotten gem of the Apple range and we still believe this is the case. It offers a similar level of portability as a laptop in terms of moving it around (although obviously you can't use it out and about), yet boasts the power and specs of a desktop machine. With its M2 chip it is likely to be around for a while and there is a model for every occasion. Remember, though, you will need to add the extra screen, mouse and keyboard.
What do I need to know about Apple's Silicon processors?
The Apple Silicon range of chips has revolutionised the brand since its introduction in late 2020. It started with the M1 processor and the current line up is the M2, M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra in ascending order of power. These have gradually replaced the original M1 range (M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra) which is now only featured in the 2021 Air and iMac computers.
All of these processors feature different numbers of 'cores' for CPU and GPU (graphic) processing performance, the higher this number, the more power you get. So, for example, the current M2 chips starts at 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU while the maximum M2 Ultra features up to 24-core CPU, 76-core GPU. While there are no specific numbers of cores required for music production – all M range computers will handle most music tasks – aim for higher cores if you want more power, but expect to pay more the higher you go.
What other spec do I need to consider?
With memory and storage, the bigger the number the higher the cost too. We recommend 16GB RAM minimum for music production and most Macs now deliver this on their base models. As far as storage goes, go for 512GB if you can. We don't recommend paying the often huge amounts to up the onboard storage (up to $/£2,400 for 8TB!) and instead recommend buying a fast external SSD drive for music for much less outlay. We have some recommendations in our guide to the best external hard drives for music production.
As far as connections go, aim for as many as you can so that you can connect devices such as audio interfaces. Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C/4) ports are the most common and all Macs in the range feature them, with the Airs and smallest Pro having just two, larger Pros having three and some of the more expensive desktop machines boasting up to eight. Some Macs, notably the Pro, even have the older USB-A ports – although these are being used less and less.
How we test Apple Macs
When testing Macs – any computer, in fact – we look at the overall product design, specs, value for money and, if relevant, how easy the system is to set up and get up and running.
With so many different Macs in the Apple range, we'll also see how they work in the environment for which they were designed, so portable Macs are tested for mobility and durability, while desktop Macs will be tested for the amount of noise they make and whether they produce excessive heat under duress.
And it's this musical number crunching that we test for the most, with a number of different tried and tested methods employed to measure a Mac's performance. The first is to download the Logic or Ableton Live benchmark projects from www.logicprohelp.com and www.music-prod.com. With these, you load up the project and then add tracks on until 'System Overload' is achieved. It therefore gives you comparable benchmark numbers for each Mac tested so we can reveal how upgrading your Mac to a better processor will impact your music production.
Similarly a music producer's DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) has a performance which can be slowed down by CPU-intensive plugins such as reverbs and software synthesisers. We therefore often insert multiple instances of Logic Pro’s ChromaVerb on multiple audio tracks to get a measure of a particular Mac's performance so we can then tell you how each Mac compares with another. See our full reviews via the links in the shorter reviews above.
Read more about how we test music making gear and services at MusicRadar.
Related buyer's guides
- Smaller budget? Explore the best budget laptops for music production
- Going the desktop route? These are the best PCs for music production
- Best budget PCs for music production: power and performance for less
- Best mouse for music production: top choice mice, trackpads and trackballs
- Best computer monitors for music production: DAW-friendly displays
- Best studio desks: budget-spanning options for organising your studio