Why Choose a Mac for Making Music? 

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.

Stability

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.

Aesthetics

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.

GarageBand

GarageBand

GarageBand

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.

GarageBand Lessons

GarageBand Lessons

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.

Logic Studio

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.

Logic Pro

Logic Pro

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.

Logic Studio's WaveBurner

Logic Studio's WaveBurner

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.

Logic's Pedalboard

Logic's Pedalboard

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

Time Machine

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.

Support

Help and Support

Help and Support

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.

Conclusion

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!


  • anonymous

    Why last photo seems photoshopped to me? :)

    • Anon

      LOL didn’t even notice that.

  • Darren

    These arguments are pretty valid but not that strong. I’ve known several musicians who have been switching to and from between Mac and Windows and one of my musician friends recently made the switch to Hp Envy simply because the audio produced by the said laptop is unmatched even by Apple’s offerings (and this has been validated by reviews across the board) and Windows 7 these days is pretty much very stable and the fact that a careful user will less likely to get malware.

    Perhaps it’s the combination of hardware and software that makes Apple an appealing choice to the musician. I myself have been using Garageband to produce simple soundtracks and I’ve found the overall Apple package not only to be aesthetically pleasing but very usable and efficient. Even now though, I still can’t point to the primary reason musicians are attracted to the Mac platform for making music despite the rise of Windows based PCs and laptops as well as software that are geared for the musician.

    • jeezus

      I can say, as a hobbyist musician, that I used a G4 with Logic Pro (2002, Emagic version) to multitrack (simultaneously record) my entire band back in 2003 and it was perfect – no glitches, skips, scrapes, pops, nothing! That G4 was a piece of **** too! I mean like 512 ram, 20 gig main drive using an 80 gig external – a total piece! And it flawlessly multitracked 6 channels at one time! That’s why man, because “artists” who have used them know that one skip in your recording and it’s effed – gone – trash, and Macs just don’t do that to you, not even when the hardware specs are total s**t, it just won’t start recording until it’s not going to produce an error. Just absolutely top-notch for recording, and that’s what really counts to us.

  • to

    If Apple does the same thing to Logic as they did to Final Cut – you can forget about the Mac-Plattform for music production!
    And with all the toyish Lion stuff and the MAS you can bet they will.
    They will take anything away from Logic that is “pro” and make it a blown up version of Garage Band, like they did with Final Cut.
    And Logic was THE reason for me to switch to the Mac-Plattform in the first place.
    I will have some high-end Macs to sell that day…

    • Kultist

      You could also simply not upgrade and keep the version of Logic you have, you know. I mean, some people are still making music using Ataris, Alesis hardware sequencers and 12 bits samples, so I figure some could easily make music with Logic 7 and an old PPC PowerBook for instance.

  • Laustin

    Logic is nice and all, but there’s a huge selection of other software for making music: Ableton live, Cubase, Record, Reason, Audition, Studio One, Reaper… And let’s not forget the behemoth sitting in almost every professional recording studio and post-production facility in the world – Pro Tools.

    I make my living on PT9 HD|2. Great hardware/software combo for a mac!

    Also, on my laptop I use PT LE, the MBox2 I got for it is CoreAudio compatible, so I have a higher-grade audio interface than the built in output for all my other apps. When I was dual-booting with Windows XP the MBox would only work in ASIO mode, so I couldn’t play games using the MBox.

    This is one more reason why Mac is probably better for audio work than a Windows based machine, Mac uses CoreAudio only* whereas Windows has this combination of DirectX/ASIO audio protocols and not all hardware is compatible with both!

    *unless you’re using something vendor/software specific, like a PT HD interface. Firewire/USB interfaces all seem to work fine for me.

  • skzskz

    with a 1.5 year old mbp I still go to the rehearse room with it, open it (unplugged) and play with ableton live for about 4 hours. as today, you just can’t do that with any win-based laptop.

    • to

      Ah come on, i still love my Macs (that may change in the future), but on my Thinkpad T510 (2 years old) i can still get an Ableton Live Session that lasts for 8 hours – unplugged. That is less than the advertised 15 hours of battery life, but plenty…

  • George

    I wouldn’t use Garage Band to do any “professional” recording, but I love it for when I have an idea I want to get down before I forget it.

    I write by picking up my guitar and playing/improvising. Too many times in the past I would come up with something really great (or, at least really good), only to forget it the next time I picked up my guitar. (Sometimes, even writing it out didn’t help, as I’d forget the little nuances in playing it that made it sound so cool to me the first time.)

    Now, whenever I play something I like, I just fire up Garageband and get it down. This has the added benefit that I can immediately expand on it; I can add other parts, or add a chorus/bridge, whatever. (Not to mention play around with different amps/effects, or adding different drum beats.)

    In short, Garageband is awesome as a song-writing tool.

  • dre

    Software and hardware is gonna come and go. But most people use (and stick) with Macs due to their stability, plain and simple.

    Nobody wants to lose their work, or have their computer freeze due to another app. Windows 7 can very well be stable, but all the people that I know won’t go near a winpc due to their past experiences.

    Actually, I was a hardcore winpc user and Apple basher, until constant issues, crashes and eventually a complete loss of all my work made me buy a Mac. I never looked back since then.

    I worked at a college music dept, and all the winpcs got replaced with iMacs because winpcs were highly unstable. These impressions last forever and make one cautious to switch back to Windows. Who wants to run the risk of losing everything just to see how good it is, knowing Windows’ given history? I know I don’t wanna take that chance, and neither do most users.

    • http://raweden.se Raweden

      Could not agree more! almost every music project i have been involved in that have been done on a windows have ended up with the software crashing course the unstableness of the winpc which led to a great pain in the ***.

    • Love2Record

      I hear people say that, but then again, people tend to repeat things over and over without really giving them full thought. Or, they don’t weight out other options like using a windows machine. There is no such thing as “plain and simple” unless you are trying to sell macs for apple. Saying people won’t go near a windows machine due to past experiences is one of those unquantifiable type statements that are poorly thought out. And which people? What about the people that won’t go near a mac again due to its crashes and spinning balls of death? And yes, I’ve seen horror stories about crashed PC’s, but let’s not act like there aren’t problems with Macs. All one has to do is google, “HELP, My Mac crashed”. or “Help my Mac has a virus”. Or “Problem with my Mac”, and even though there are only 10% macs compared to pc’s, a bazillion pages will pop up with people that are having problems on mac. Or people trying to get a studio program to load, yet it crashed.

      The same thing could have been done with windows had microsoft planned the advertising like apple did theirs. Just keep lying, and acting like they are superior, and virus free etc, even in the face of imminent embarrassment such as Mac Defender and Mac flashback and more. Once something gets started, especially with a small cult following, it’s easy to keep repeating and chanting those fake mantras like “It just works”. YES, I know it works, but so does windows. So that is bull. You say you were a hardcore pc user. Well It couldn’t have been for too long. And with your description of constant issues and crashes, that lets me know you couldn’t be for real, unless you are counting one computer. You don’t describe what issues either. Let’s put it this way. There are PC’s that are of superior build quality to any mac on the market, and windows 7 is perfectly stable. If you were crashing, it was due to some junk pc you chose to use. It seems the biggest mistake mac users mac is to compare a nice shiny new mac to some piece of junk pc it can easily beat.

      As for crashing, here’s an article title for ya. “A fix for Logic crashing in Snow Leopard”, “Lion randomly crashes – black screen”, “Logic Pro Help View topic – Loading particular song always crashes” – Again, no one wants to lose all their work when using a mac. You see? It works both ways. I’m not trying to sound harsh. Seriously. I am trying to show that this sentiment where people think the mac ALWAYS does music studio work better is BULL! Then they say PC’s are great for business. more BULL. Neither are better at anything. They BOTH can do the same jobs in fact. Also most of the same programs run on both machines. And both machines are intel x86 based! I could go on. Again, these empty comparisons are meaningless as both platforms work equally as well. But only one cost $1000 less and is more popular and that is windows. And THAT is the truth. not bashing.

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  • garry

    hi im just getting into ableton live and going through a focusrite soundcard,im wanting to change to a mac laptop my budgets 4 to 5 hundred pound can you give me any guidance on what to get,im a musician but haven,t got much of a clue on the recording side

    • Love2Record

      You have a budget. If I were you, I’d first look at the nice and powerful PC’s you can get. Also look at all the software and equipment available for them. I’m not starting out and have been in studios for decades. Today while I have access to both kinds of machines, I primarily use a PC with windows 7. You say you haven’t much of a clue about recording. What advise I’ve given you can provide you an excellent studio experience. But if you still want to spend that much more and buy mac, then do that. But remember, it’s not going to make you sound one bit better.

    • william

      gumtree.com is a great place to find bargain macbook pros…

  • Love2Record

    If the above doesn’t look like an advertisement.. . Ok, I can write one too. – “Stability”, AHAhahaha. What over windows 7? I haven’t seen windows 7 crash once. What am I supposed to do, pick a Mac over a PC because if it doesn’t crash in two years, maybe it will take three? Point is, in order for me to pay $1000 more there needs to be big reasons, and big differences, and there are none. THAT is the problem. But notice how apple advertisements and it’s fans always cite really vague reasons that are hard if not impossible to quantify as the reason to buy one. Ok, yes, of course I’ve used apple’s in many times in the past. With over 35 years computer experience as a programmer and running a studio you’d think I would have. Point is, the mac has never done anything for me that helped me to better write music, or to do my work than a PC(and some others) could offer.

    Especially now in modern times, where I have an i7 based PC at 4ghz. Not that I needed to run it at 4ghz, but point is I can ALSO have the option to do that. Also the fact that I had an $700 i7 based PC more than 1.5 years BEFORE apple even brought them to their iMacs at $1999. You read that right. Apple brought the i7 late, at the last minute, because it was becoming apparent that core2duo macs were so slow it’s users were unhappy. Why is that important to a digital studio operator? I don’t know about you, but I DO NO LIKE WAITING for videos to render in a video editor. Nor do I like not being able to run TONS of studio plugins. THAT is why I chose PC. Sure go ahead and get a mac if you like, but that doesn’t change that everything they claim is in macs favor are big over exaggerations or subjective.

    “Aesthetics”, Yes, they’d like for you to believe that looks is so important that it should be listed 2nd. However, nothing about the looks of any computer has ever made recording studio software, or anything else, any better. And if you ask me, the iMac is actually very ugly in terms of computer looks. Here’s why. In order for a computer to function to it’s maximum, it needs space to breath in such as a good case. In fact a good case also should allow for easy upgrades of memory, CPU, fan, video cards and more. The typical iMac shoves the poor motherboard into the back of the monitor where the heat from the monitor is shared with that of the computer. Not good! Also there is little to no chance of simply turning up the speed if someone chooses to because the excess heat is poorly ventilated on an imac. Also the nicer PC fans are nearly silent and are more quiet than any fans from say a mac mini. Besides some PC’s are like works of art with their cool cases. But for me? I don’t really care all that much. I just want my machine to do its job and do it well.

    Garage Band is a reason? In other words, not the mac itself, but the bloatware included with it? Well for starters, for you guys/girls wanting to get started with music, GB is a very primitive tool apple stuffs into it’s imacs. I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole if I wanted to get serious work done. Can it be used? Yes, ok it can and it does have some pretty nice features. But if you really were to suddenly begin to imagine saving $1000 by getting a well chosen PC that is more powerful than that mac you were going to get, it would put you ahead of the game. Now with the $1000 left over, you can easily choose something more powerful than garage band for under $100. Even if you spent $200 or $300, you’d still be $700 ahead. Add a $150 SSD and now the faster PC becomes even more fast and responsive as applications load twice as fast. Programs like Sonar, Vegas, Pro Tools, Logic and far more than what’s available on a mac, just spring to life, making recording more productive. Still lots of cash left over to buy cool AD or DA converters, extra speakers, amps, controllers and so on. THAT is why I like PC.

    Time machine – well I agree. Everyone should backup their stuff. One faulty drive and you are out of luck. But backup software is not only free with windows, alternate versions are very cheap. Conclusion – This article, or AD has provided very little EXCELLENT reasons to spend that much extra money for a mac. Especially when apple who pretends to be the center of innovation and the future, often has hardware that is behind the curve in comparison to windows PC’s. Don’t compare a Mac to a lousy PC. Compare it to a high end PC that happens to cost under $1000 (if you shop around), and you’ll see it’s a very excellent choice for studio, video etc.. And of course this shouldn’t be taken as a dismissal of other hardware and software options. But I often find anything that needs to be done works fine on just a PC, including many titles listed above. And again, those are just a few REAL and GOOD reasons to choose a PC.

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