How to choose Laptop for Music Production? | Guide

Hi, I am Maslin JE, music producer  and a keyboardist. If you are someone who is looking into laptops for music production,you are in the right place . I am going to guide you on the nuances that have to be considered while making a purchase that is valuable and that is gonna last for 3 to 7 years.

music production laptop

When you really think about buying a new laptop for music production, the first question I would ask is, what am I gonna do with this laptop other than music production? 


I believe that a bunch of us are gonna be playing games or doing some other work with it too.

So it all boils down to what are your requirements. Do you want it to be a seperate laptop that’s gonna be used for music production alone? Or else do you want this to be a laptop who will be allrounder for you


Answer these major questions will give more clarity as we look into to the parameters that actually going to affect the money you will invest in this laptop for making music at home or anywhere you travel. Another question that most of these online guides won’t ask you is 

  • Where are you in your music production journey? 
  • Are you a beginner?
  • A skilled producer looking for an upgrade? 


If this is your hobby to start music production then you can go ahead and invest as much as you want. But if you are starting this music production as a music business I would want you to be real careful on which laptop you are choosing to purchase. 

Does it really matter? 


Yes it does for a couple of reasons!! 

  1. its going to be a long term investment into your business that’s is going to grow exponentially if you are putting in the hustle and work that’s required. This initial investment is so valuable that it will even be a inspiration for you to get early and work on your projects and get it done on time. 
  2. its going to be a burden for you financially if you are not stable enough to pay for this investment,I would never want you to go into debt to start a business. 


Cash is always king and debt is dumb. 


This is the reason why I have put together this guide the 400$ mark is for beginner who is starting his music business. The additional note is that don’t buy retail, buy in ebay you can get a sweet deal with double the specifications. 

The minimum Requirements for a Music Production Laptop are

  • About 2.2Ghz i5 quad-core processor
  • At least 4GB of RAM
  • 64-bit operating system
  • At least 256GB of internal storage HDD
  • At least a 13-inch screen.

But above all my goal here is to make sure that you get a clear understanding of what’s important while looking at a laptop for music production and how to approach it. 


These  Six steps will guide you to make you choose a laptop for music production

  • Budget
  • Operating system
  • Ram
  • SSD/HDD
  • Screen size
  • Battery 

Choosing your first laptop for music production must be daunting as it’s a huge investment . Making a wrong choice might break your bank and also hurt your career.

Hey for this money i would buy a Desktop?,yes you can do that .You can build a custom desktop that is more efficient than a laptop for music production.It all comes down to one question

Before we talk about the specifications of the laptop and discuss about what’s goes into selecting these parameters say for example 4gb ram or you need i5 processor , is simply because that’s how much minimum load your laptop has to take when it runs processor heavy works that involves digital audio workstations.

If you are going to use multiple tracks and multiple libraries of sounds then you will have a hard time to even work with them. Your system with 4gb ram will Never be able to work in those situations and circumstances.

Next your Processor, You cannot go below a I5 processor. These audio production work is complex and it takes a lot of power form the processor and it’s gonna be a heavy load on your laptop.

The best way to choose a laptop for music production is to look at the specifications required to satisfy your needs as a music producer. 


Budget             

   If you are someone getting started in music production this is a huge deal because the budget needs to have space for the rest of the gear you need.

If you are like me who is starting with very little in hand, don’t worry it’s possible to find a laptop that’ll work well for music production even with low specifications. 


The budget of music production laptops can be classified into three sections. 

  • 400$ 
  • 1000$
  • 3000$


No matter what’s your budget you can get an impressive laptop that’s going to work hard for you like a beast in music production. Here are some tips to craft your budget as a beginner. 


 Don’t take credit loans for buying a laptop Buy your laptop in cash. It’s okay to start with something small and scale when you start to set your business with music production.  Never go over budget . Stay true to your budget and limitations. 


Let’s talk about the budget ranges, 


400$     

 There are a lot of laptops in this range . I would never advise you to buy a new  laptop if this is your budget range . I know that when we are starting we would like to have a premium setup. I know those temptations, but hear me out on this one. 


If you buy a 400$ laptop it will be new but with enough features if you sell it after two years or a year later you will get not even half the amount in resale price. The depreciation is so high when it comes to laptops. 


So here is the plan. Buy a used laptop that comes with specifications that I will be sharing in this article. It will serve you for two years also it will give you more Specifications for 400$ . 


1000$ 


If this is your budget you should buy a new laptop. Don’t go for mac books/apple products if you are in 1000$ range. They don’t provide the same performance for 1000$ . 


A decent windows laptop will give more performance than a 1000$ mac book air. 


Performance and specifications matters more than which brand it is 
If you are an apple fan boy. You gotta hold your horses. Once you expand your music business you get a max out imac . If you are starting ,not a good decision to do that . 


3000$ 


Ooooooh yeah!! Now we are talking. This range is good if you are established and ready to expand. Don’t get carried away by the specifications if you are in this category. 


Read this article thoroughly to get clarity about what should be the actual needs of a music production laptop. 


The reason why I am saying this is because, I want you to take the decision by educating yourself rather than going off based on someone’s recommendation.

It’s not bad to go with recommendations but when we make a proper decision based on what we need it’s the best thing ever. 


Operating System.

 
This won’t be confusing if you are in a budget that is below 1000$ but if your budget is above 1000$ then you should be careful about which operating system you are opting for your laptop. 


Operating systems play a major role In choosing your laptop for music production because of following three reasons. 

  • Reliability
  • Compatibility
  • Performance 

Reliability

Reliability of an operating system without crashes when extreme loads of samples and plugins are used. 


Compatibility 


This is a huge one, most plugins and DAWs work both on windows and MAC, But some of them are made for only MAC ,some of them are made for only windows. 

Performance 


Why should we talk about performance, it’s because laptops get faulty all the time. No matter if it’s  windows or MAC. Sometimes people might even encounter problems like audio drops while recording. 


This is the reason you should be careful. About which operating system you are choosing for your laptop. 


RAM


Random access memory called as RAM is the next parameter that you should look at when you are searching for a laptop for music production. 


Why should we worry about RAM? 

It holds the memory needed for virtual instruments and all the samples loaded in your laptop. The minimum required RAM is about 4GB and below that your DAW will definitely crash if you load a plugin. 


So what’s the optimal requirement It’s about 16gb . Unless you are using multiple plugins and multiple sample libraries you don’t need ram more than 16gb.


If you are not sure about what RAM is , think of it as a temporary storage system to access your files. Let’s look at the next parameter , 

SSD/HDD 


SSD is nothing but solid state drive, HDD is hard disk drive, both of them provide space for your plugins and samples. SSD is faster in comparison with HDD but SSD’s are expensive. The minimum storage required for a music production laptop is about 1TB.There are hybrid laptops for music production with both SSD and HDD. 


You can buy a laptop with 256gb SSD and 1 TB HDD or.. Just 1 TB of SSD. 
Make sure you have enough storage for plugins and samples libraries. The reason why you should go for SSD’s is because of the fact that they are fast. I mean they are really fast. \


Say for example you have a 3gb sample library in your HDD it will take longer to load than the SSD which is gonna load this in seconds. 

Difference between a HDD and SSD? 
HDD is a mechanical hard drive disk that’s going to spin inside your laptop. It’s slower than an SSD. Whereas SSD’s don’t have a spinning disk inside them so they function faster. They are quite expensive. 


If you can’t find or afford to buy a laptop with SSD go for a HDD with higher read rate such as 7200rpm . 


Do you really need a SSD for music production? 
It really depends on where you are on your career. If you are doing a lot of client work, then you definitely need a SSD because time to finish your project within the deadline is crucial in your case. 


If you are a beginner with no money in hand , don’t think about them now. You can gradually build yourself. 

Drivers :

I can go on and on about this one. I am going to keep it short and tell you about a story that happened to me.

When I started music production I didn’t have much money to spend, not even 100$.I bought the cheapest audio interface with good specifications. (You can check my article of how I choose that audio interface here). The company that made that audio interface is zoom.

Before I went on to buy that audio interface zoom-U22. I searched online for reviews. All I got was guys saying “it’s not working”
“It says to install drivers” “It’s a worthless gear”.

I was skeptical that maybe it won’t work, that’s why these guys are saying this. I took some courage and ordered it because I don’t even have an extra penny to spend on audio interface. 60 dollars was all I had.

I got the audio interface in mail and I connected it to my laptop. It automatically installed the drivers and it was good to go within 5 mins. I was amazed that it had negative reviews because people don’t know how to work through driver installations.

So what’s a driver?

It’s nothing but a piece of software that makes the communication with your hardware and laptop’s operating system to be smooth.

Is it hard to install a driver in a laptop?

No not at all. It’s super simple and straightforward. If you are really distrubed by this you can go for a MAC that’s gonna help you do this without downloading any drivers.

Now comes the argument which one is good?

MAC or Windows laptop

Answer is simple.

It depends on three things

  • your user experience
  • simplicity
  • customization

User experience

This matters a lot because, you may have a different view about MAC’s unless you use them you won’t understand the user experience that it gives. If you have a negative view on windows laptop but if you haven’t used it before you won’t understand the functionality and efficiency of it.

Simplicity

What does simple mean to you, is it less options or is it easily accessible. This question has to be answered when you for MAC vs windows.

MAC’s are less options
PC’s are easily accessible.

Customization

How much can you customize in your laptop? How far does the operating system allow you to do that? . The answers to these questions will give you a right solution not because some windows or apple fan boy told you this is best or that is best.

Let’s answer one other controversial question as well. 😂😂

Desktop vs Laptop ?

People have these weird questions, like should I buy a desktop, will I be getting more value for the same price or should I go for a laptop?

I had the same trouble, I am no stranger to this agonizing doubt in my heart 🤣🤣.

You have to keep it simple when you answer this question

How much money do you have?

500$ .

Does a 500 dollar laptop fulfill my work requirement?

Yes

Do you want portability or stability to upgrade year after year?

Portability.

So here you can see that you arrived at an answer so easily. So it’s not at all about whether it’s a laptop or a PC. It’s all about user experience and productivity.

One guy’s experience will be different from the other so cycle in all the factors before you make a choice  .

You might also have a question,

Should I really need to allocate more a big chunk of my budget to a laptop?

Yes you do!! A music production Laptop is going to be the biggest investment that you will ever make when you are starting your music production journey. It’s going to the brains of your operation. Hence don’t hold back on allocating a big portion of your budget to your laptop.

You can always upgrade the other gears that you might need in your studio later. You can always switch laptops because they are huge investments. 

Screen size:


There are laptops with varying screen sizes ranging from 13″ To even 17″ Even some of them have 21″.


Why does screen size matter? 
The more real estate you have on your laptop the more you can work on it. 
Lemme explain this a bit. If you are using say ableton or fl or even logic, if your screen size is small it’s hard to navigate and it will really hurt your productivity.

That’s the reason why you should go for a big screen laptop. Big screens also allow you to look at the projects and will give you an birds eye view to overlook and correct mistakes easily. 

Can we use notebook type laptops for music production? 
This question comes from the same place as well. Most of these notebook type laptops have below 13inch screen sizes they are hard to use and navigate. The real answer to this question is it depends based on the workload you are going to throw at it and the specifications that it already has. 


13inch laptops :
These can be used for live performances where you don’t need to look much into the screen and your concentration is on the midi keyboard or console you are using to perform. 13 inch laptops are really smaller which affects plugins as well if they are on vector form.


15inch laptops :
Ideal for home uses and for travel as well but these laptops can handle more since it has a huge screen space to work.


Can we use gaming laptops for music production? 

Yes of course you can. If you have a decent gaming laptop you will have enough specifications to use it for music production. Gaming laptops can handle most of the audio production work but one should keep in mind that these laptops are built around graphics power and not processing power. 


Let’s look at the next parameter.

Processors :


On one side we started to hear about cores where Intel and AMD the big microprocessor manufacturing companies are fighting to add more cores and more threads to a processor. 


What exactly do we need for a music production laptop? 
We need a minimum 4 cores!!! 
Yes ! The audio signals and process are really complex. Most folks think it’s like playing a song. No not at all. If you can increase the cores go for it. 


What is a core ? 
It’s nothin but how many Simultaneous actions can be done at a single instance. If you have 4 cores you can do 4 simultaneous processes at a time.

 
What is Operating frequency? 
This is the number you see after the chip name say for example, 
I5-UIO78- 3.4Ghz
Here the 3.4Ghz is the operating frequency. It directly deals with how much operating power a single core can yield. 
Nowadays you should go for above 3 Ghz processors. 

Should I choose 32 bit or 64 bit? 
Nowadays all systems come with 64bit chips so you don’t have to worry about it. 


So what’s actually 32bit and 64bit? 

If you remember old video games they were in 8bit processors they had only a little amount of data in them. With 64bit things are taking three dimensional forms. 


Battery:


Oooh yeah!! . This will matter to you if you are always in a constant travel mode and want to work on projects during travel. 

Some laptops come with 6 hours of battery life some with 12 hours of battery life. It totally depends on the manufacturer but make sure you are buying a laptop that fits your needs  . 

Imagine this, 


You are playing at a venue and all you have is your laptop and you don’t have your power brick or so called power adapter.what are you going to do? 


The only thing we can do is to hope that the power stays long as possible. 
This is where having a laptop with more than 6 hours of battery comes into play.

My Recommendations

All of these recommendations are based on current month, I would always want you to do the research and pick the right laptop that you need. 


Why so? 
Reading a long guide is not to ask someone to make a decision for you; it’s you who has to make the decision. 

(Anyways I will be updating this every 3 months since laptops are getting advancements and becoming cheaper day by day) 


Don’t think that hey maslin is asking to buy these exact same laptops?? .. 


Hell No brother!!! 


Look at the specifications in each laptop category and understand how much you should go for as you start your music business / hobby. 
The ultimate goal is to give you enough information so that you can make a wise choice based on your interests and Requirements. 

Three laptops that i recommend on each category are

 Lenovo IdeaPad 3 – 400$

  • 39.62cms (15.6) entry-level laptop you can count on
  • Latest Intel® Core™ processors
  • Great for everyday work
  • Up to 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i7
  • Up to Windows 10 Pro
  • Up to 39.62cms (15.6) FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS
  • Up to 12GB DDR4
  • Up to 7.5 hours
  • Starting at 1.85kg / 4.07lbs

should you buy this laptop for retail?.i wont advice that at all.I would ask you to buy a second hand laptop with the same above specifications.

Dell G7 15 – 1000$

  • up to 9th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processors and optional Intel Optane™
  •  Including dual drives with SSD options, plus M.2 NVMe PCIe.
  •  USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-CTM port, capable of 40Gbps transfer speed
  • DisplayPort v1.2 output enabling one 5K or two 4K displays.

MacBook Pro 16″ – 3000$

  • 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory
  • 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory
  • 1TB of SSD storage¹
  • 16-inch Retina display with True Tone
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports

My first laptop Specs:

it was a HP Notebook laptop with the following specs:

1.Intel i5-4210u – upto 2.4Ghz

2.4gb RAM

3.1 TB HDD

4.15″ Screen

i was running kontakt with 30gb sample libraries it ran as smoothly .The one area it was stuck is when we load multiple kontakts were the ram isn’t enough and system started to slow down .So what i would do is print it down into another track and load another library in same track and work again.

Is it really possible? 


If you are in doubt and filled with questions that hey 400$ is not enough to buy a new laptop. It won’t get me a good enough laptop. You are wrong ❌. 


Yes it is possible !!! I wanna show you a video and a post of SanjayC who did an experiment to find out whether people can build a home studio in 350$ . 
He did it successfully and even made a song with it. He installed a lot of plugins and libraries as well, that laptop handled it all without any troubles. 
He explains his process very well on how he chose each component and how he purchased them as well. If you are a beginner you must check him out. He helps a lot of producers as well. 


The main takeaway should be can music production be done cheaply without investing much money and resources ? 
Yes it is. 

Conclution:

It doesn’t matter which laptop you choose.the only thing that matters is your journey of music production.Putting in the hustle and hard-work will give you more satisfaction than having a fancy gear.

here are some pointers for picking your LAPTOP for music production

  • 1,stay true to your budget
  • 2.Don’t wander because something looks sleek.
  • 3.Make sure it provides enough value.
  • 4.Make sure your long term goals align with the Laptop for music production if you are purchasing in 3000$ range .(its expensive _)

Check my article on How to produce music at home? and how much music producers make? if you are beginner it would give you some insights on these topics.

here is my article on how to choose your first midi keyboard as well.

i have also written an article about how to choose your first audio interface

If you are starting in music production here are my two golden mantras

DONT STRESS YOURSELF ON SOMETHING!!

WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE!!

REST WILL FOLLOW!!