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September 2, 2012

Should I get a PC or Mac for recording music?

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Written by: jay

The old Mac vs PC debate goes right back to the start of the computer industry. Both sides consider each other polar opposites. The mac users, often loyal Apple customers, consider PC’s a waste of time. Mere toys and time wasters comopared to the potential the could have had. PC users on the other hand consider Apple’s range of computers overpriced, over hyped, and over marketed and little better than a PC you could get for a fraction of the price? So which should it be? I for one have both a PC and a Mac and use both for music production, so I can consider the benefits of both without getting too ‘polarised’ about it. One thing which I will not do is tell you which one you should get. To decide, is to weigh up what is best for you.


When we say PC we’re not talking about PC’s in general, but basically anything that isn’t a Mac. This includes Dell, HP, Asus, Sony, Lenovo, and all of those other players out there. Immediately, I can tell you that if you are going to be doing serious music production none of those brands are what you want (unless you’re getting a laptop, of course).

Benefits: The main benefit of PC’s is their customisability to price ratio. If you want to build a computer for doing some serious music production, but don’t want to shell out $4000 for a mac pro, you can either build one yourself or have one built for you. The main benefit of this is that you can control the quality of the components in the system and ensure that you get exactly what you want. This is the key to running a successful music production PC. If you get a desktop from almost any major brand then they will skimp on the quality of any component which isn’t listed on the specs card, and your PC experience will suffer. You will also be able to shovel in gigabyte after gigabyte of RAM for a comparatively very little cost. Your software options will also be a bit more broad, however, all of the main software DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstation) are also available on the Mac.

Cons: The main downfall of PC’s is because anyone can make them, whether it be a large corporation or a small computer store, and such a large amount of parts it can be hard to keep track of what is being put into it. Think of it like a dim sim. If you buy a dim sim from a dodgy looking street vendor in Shanghai, who knows WHAT the hell he has put in it. If you buy a dim sim from a supermarket it’s probably little better than the street vendor, but if you pay a little extra and buy a dim sim from a nice restaurant you can be pretty certain that your experience will be a good one. If you don’t put this extra effort and extra money into purchasing a good ‘Mac quality’ PC then your experience will be a bad one, and you will no doubt be cursing yourself for buying a Mac. If you spend the money and build a great quality PC you will be laughing all the way to the bank for getting a comparable computer which will serve you well for years for sometimes half the price of a comparable Mac.



When people think of Apple Mac’s they usually think of one or two things. Overpriced computer, or the next saviour of all mankind. People who buy macs don’t tend to just like them, they love them. This is because it’s such a complete solution, and the user experience is highly focussed on quality and reliability.

Pros: When you buy a mac you will take it out of the box and be astonished by just how luxuriously expensive it looks and feels. Every detail has been considered, from the near silent almost fan-less designs where the heat is dissipated through the body rather than with noisy and dusty fans, or the battery indicator lights on the side which are drilled so finely that they are invisible until the light is turned on. Some people might consider these unnecessary gimmicks, but like Van Halen’s famous brown M&M’s on his technical rider if they’ve put that much effort into these considerations they’ve probably put as much into everything else.

To put it simply your Mac will be very reliable and do what you want it to do. You can use any of the main DAW’s (ProTools, Cubase, Sonar, Logic Pro) and because Apple has built itself on the creative professional community, you will be compatible with majority of the music industry and recording studio systems. Generally for the extra money you get a higher quality screen, keyboard, case, motherboard, and all those other things that don’t come up on ‘spec sheets’. Sounds pretty good… What’s the catch?

Cons: Apple computers are fairly ‘hacker friendly’. They allow linux style scripting through the ‘automator’, terminal access, and the general preferences and generally aren’t given as much credit as they deserve by Apple critics. Where they do deserve their anti-customisability reputation though is the upgrades. The cost of simply adding an extra hard drive or memory can effect the price phenomenally. The Apple upgrade pricing can be double or triple that of what you can get on a PC, and when it comes to hard drives and memory they are literally the same models that you would put in a PC by the same manufacturers.

Apple is known for luring people into their ‘ecosystem’ and then flogging them for cash at any opportunity. This is fairly true, and while they like you to use Apple’s ‘one shop for all’ approach, you can also get locked into their proprietary systems. If you get all your music on iTunes they will control where and how you will use it, and if you get an iPhone or an iPad forget about third party features and hacks unless you jailbreak it and risk being ‘locked out’ of it by Apple. The same goes for Mac’s, while you can upgrade the hard drive and ram yourself without voiding the warranty, it is generally frowned apon and you might find yourself smited by the mighty hand of Apple and being told to buy another computer or pay through the nose for repairs. In summary, there is only one person to turn to and you’d better be in their good books!

Summary:  So which is better? It’s really up to you. Generally, the more tech savvy and confident the better option PC’s can be. I myself produce most of my music on a custom built PC, one of many that I built myself, and have found it to be a very cost effective and targeted solution. It hasn’t however been without it’s problems at times. If you are a ‘music but not technology’ kind of person then you will be glad you spent the extra money to get a high quality, out of the box solution such as a Mac. Some people will probably argue with me on this one but I’ll stick to my guns, but if you are buying a laptop of any kind make it a Mac. I have repaired that many major brand laptops that have simply not had even close to the amount of design time put into them and things like air vents have been left off where they appear on the service manual. This almost always leads to utter disappointment, data loss, frustration, and more often than not – a new Apple customer.

‘OK we get it, enough about the hardware – tell us about the software!’ I hear you cry. Quite simply, the software doesn’t come into it. Each user experience is much of a muchness, and DAW software is available on either platform (except for Logic Pro which is only on Mac).

And one more thing to remember: don’t let anybody tell you that you ‘need’ to use one or the other. You are a musician not a software engineer. Ultimately what it comes down to is the music, and you can do anything you want on either platform. Don’t let your computer choice own you or loom over you. It’s just a computer. What really matters is what you do with it.


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