Though Apple have long attracted creative computer use, in the decade since the purchase of Logic Pro from German company Emagic in 2002, Mac has become the premium platform for sound design, recording and studio work, to the point that Apple have become almost synonymous with high quality audio.
Below I hope to make the case that, when it comes to making music with the aid of a computer, a Mac is by far the best choice currently available.
Compared to Windows, OS X offers a more stable platform overall, which is probably the single biggest reason to use a Mac for audio work. By keeping such complete control over which hardware to support, Apple can offer a highly reliable environment, enabling the user to keep the focus on creation, rather than maintenance.
In addition, though Macs are not completely immune from malware, viruses and trojans, they are still far less likely to contract such problems than their PC counterparts. When setting out for a gig or hosting a session in the studio, musicians, DJ’s and recording engineers need to be able to work with the confidence that their gear is absolutely dependable. You can’t very well stop mid-performance to reboot your computer or install a driver.
Admittedly this argument is contentious, but I would still like to make it. While taste is subjective, one may reasonably assert that most other computers are simply not as beautiful as your average Mac. There is an experience often felt when using Apple’s products which is difficult to put into words, but important nonetheless and it is a mistake to dismiss this experience as shallow.
For the same reason that some musicians will spend hours cleaning and polishing their 1970′s era Les Paul or carefully consider every shade of finish on their Fender Stratocaster, a beautifully crafted machine like a MacBook Pro will inspire one to create. After all, even the legendary Dieter Rams has cited Apple as the only company currently designing major products according to his principles.
Often cited by musicians as a key reason in favour of making the switch to Mac, GarageBand has enabled a legion of hobbyist musicians and podcasters to create high quality audio recordings with a minimum of fuss. As each new version is released, developers strive to add extra features and flexibility without sacrificing GarageBand’s core strength; its intuitive UI, which hides a wealth of loops, synthesisers and accurate approximations of real world instruments, in addition to an excellent host of lessons from recognised artists, broken down in easy to digest segments.
There is simply nothing quite like this on any other desktop platform and with iOS now hosting a version of GarageBand, full seamless integration is surely on the horizon. Once the beginner has learned the basics with GarageBand, they can then move on to Logic Studio if more power is needed, finding the same basic principles at work in the powerful and flexible suite of tools.
The pro choice for music creation, Logic Studio is an unmatched Mac-only suite of tools which includes Mainstage, WaveBurner, the entire five flavours of Apple’s Jam Packs and, of course, Logic Pro itself.
Though more complex to navigate and use than GarageBand, Logic Pro still does conform to Apple’s UI norms and somebody familiar with GarageBand will be able to begin recording basic tracks with Logic in a very short time. This is just a small percentage of what Logic Pro is capable of though and the software is particularly adept at handling midi controlled soft-synths when compared to other DAW’s on the market – perfect for scoring soundtracks and the like.
Also of note are Logic’s on-board software effects, which challenge preconceptions of what a computer is capable of recreating. Software translations of classic 1970′s Marshall stack driven Rock, 60′s Merseybeat and reverb-heavy 90′s Shoegaze tones are all available and more besides. Once one considers these features along with others such as Logic’s Flextime, its advanced mixing and Varispeed, in addition to Mainstage for live performance, it is clear that Logic Studio has the capability of being a one-stop suite for your audio needs.
Lying somewhere in-between GarageBand and Logic Studio is Logic Express, which offers much of Logic Pro’s features, but at a more affordable price
While I can’t quite bring myself to get excited about a digital chore as mundane as backing up files, Time Machine at least makes the process simple, with its easy to use system of archiving. Every musician who uses a computer as part of their creative process dreads a catastrophic hard-drive failure wiping out a song, or even and entire album, but responsible use of Time Machine should prove a cornerstone of your backup routine.
Praiseworthy customer support is not unique to Apple but you would be hard-pressed to find any other computer hardware or software company which provides such resources for helping users get the most out of their machines. Free workshops are available from your nearest Apple store, offering advice on managing data and safely backing up files. Though expensive, the extended Apple Care coverage is an excellent warranty and repair service.
The above should not be taken as a dismissal of other hardware and software options. Windows is also host to software which is only capable of running in the Windows environment (such as Fruity Loops Studio) and there is also something to be said in favour of adopting a more widespread OS for your music creation.
The leading Linux flavours, such as Ubuntu, offer a more ‘Mac-like’ computing experience and also come with a very knowledgeable online community, with the additional bonus of having a commitment to staying open and free. However, though the Linux music software scene is burgeoning and may well prove to be a competitor in its own right, the platform isn’t quite there yet in terms of quality audio software.
So, why should you choose a Mac for making music? Any one of the reasons above might not be enough to convince you and may not even sound truly unique among computing platforms. However, when taken in as a whole package, these features together comprise a strong argument for using a Mac as your ultimate music hub. I’ve yet to meet a musician who has made the switch and regretted it!