There are over 16,000 audio engineers and audio engineering businesses. As an audio engineer, this means you’re facing some serious competition. In order to satisfy the artists you record, you need to have the right gear. But the hustle and bustle of the music industry means you’ll eventually have to take your work on the road. This is when you need the best laptop for recording music.
But you can’t settle for any laptop. The software you use, such as Pro Tools or Ableton Live, require specific hardware requirements.
In addition, you’ll need to have enough RAM space and overall speed and efficiency to ensure your laptop is powerful enough to handle the recording and audio editing work you’re performing.
So, which laptop do you buy?
Why You Need the Best Laptop for Recording Music
Speed and efficiency are among the most important factors. Whether you’re recording a band or mixing or mastering their album, your laptop needs to have optimum speed and performance to ensure the recordings and mixing/mastering is accurate.
This is also important if you’re a DIY or indie artist who’s recording your own album.
Even though you may not need the state-of-the-art equipment that a professional audio engineer requires, your equipment should at least have the minimum hardware requirements in order to effectively record your band’s album.
Keep in mind, these laptops aren’t usually marketed as “audio recording laptops” or “the best laptop for recording music.” You’ll either have to take a look at the specifications, which we’ll discuss later in this article, or look for powerful laptops such as those used by gamers, graphic designers, and video editors.
Features and specifications of the best laptop for recording music
When shopping for the best laptop for recording music, the first things you’ll want to check are the features and specifications.
These specifications indicate whether or not the laptop has the power and speed to record and edit music as well as meet the system requirements for audio production software (we’ll also discuss this more in-depth in the next section).
We’ll break down each feature with the generally recommended amount, type, etc. of each feature.
The operating system is the program that runs the entire laptop. The two most common and famous examples are Windows and Mac.
Either operating system is fine for audio production. The operating system you choose depends solely on your preference.
The only thing to keep in mind is that you consistently update your operating system to ensure your software, especially software updates, are optimized for your operating system.
If you’re using a Windows computer, make sure your laptop has at least Windows 7.
If you’re using an Apple laptop, use at least Mac OS X 10.8.5. Keep in mind, your new laptop will likely use the latest operating system of either platform, especially if you take your computer to a professional or Windows or Mac installation.
Random access memory, commonly abbreviated as RAM, is your laptop’s working memory. This is the system that stores data internally in your laptop.
RAM affects your laptop performance in two ways: acting as a storage system and contributing to your laptop’s speed and efficiency.
The more RAM you have, the more systems your laptop can work with. Larger RAM means your laptop can also work with multiple systems seamlessly, making multi-tasking easy.
Ideally, you’ll want as much RAM as you can get, such as 16GB. But many high-performing laptops can also run well on lower RAM, such as 4GB. RAM isn’t the only deciding factor in laptop performance, so be sure to look at the required specifications of the audio production software you’re using.
To ensure your laptop runs effectively, store music files and other important files on separate hardware. This way, you’re not using all of your RAM and your music files are backed up.
Your laptop’s processor is a small component inside of your laptop but it has a very important role.
Think of the processor like your laptop’s brain. It sends signals and outputs when it receives an input. This is why the processor handles every process of the laptop — from the keyboard strokes and mousepad movements.
Most newer model laptops have the newest and best processors. But you’ll want to choose a multicore processor. This processor ensures your laptop can send appropriate signals and function the way you need to.
The two most common processor brands are Intel Core and AMD. If you’re looking for a baseline processor, choose a laptop that at least has an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 1600.
Hard drive/disk space
Your disk space, also called the hard drive, is often confused with RAM. That’s because they both refer to your laptop’s internal memory. But each handle computer’s memory differently.
Remember how we mentioned RAM affects the functionality and speed of your laptop? That’s because RAM handles the memory of active or open programs and files. Larger RAM means your RAM can handle more active programs, software, and files.
Now let’s say you’re editing an audio file and you save the audio file on your laptop. That audio file is stored on your hard drive.
Your hard drive stores any files you save. You’ll also save programs and software on your hard drive, which is why many audio production programs require a minimum amount of hard drive space.
Your RAM also recognizes the files that are stored on your hard drive, which is why both work together.
While you should ideally have a large hard drive space, such as 15 GB, you can get away with as little as 3 GB, as long as you store extra files on a separate hard drive.
USB ports are one of the most important and overlooked aspects of your laptop. If you’re recording a band, you need to record their instruments into your computer.
Let’s say you’re recording a five-piece band. You’ll want to have five USB ports to record each member.
But wait, which audio engineer records all five members at the same time? This is true. You’ll likely record each instrument separately.
However, the instrument isn’t the only item plugged into your laptop. You’ll also want to plug in your hard drive, a separate mouse, studio monitors, an audio interface, and a MIDI keyboard/controller.
That is why your laptop should have as many USB ports as possible. Aim for five ports. Keep in mind, older laptops usually have two USB ports. You can also buy a USB hub to attach more USBs to your laptop.
Laptop compatibility with different audio production programs
The two main audio production programs you’ll use are either Pro Tools or Ableton Live. Before purchasing your laptop, ensure the laptop has the minimum system requirements for both programs.
Pro Tools 12
Pro Tools is one of the leading digital audio workstation (DAW) brands and dominates the audio industry. This software is used for a variety of different audio recording and production purposes. Pro Tools 12 is the latest version of Pro Tools.
Here are the Pro Tools 12 system requirements:
- Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8.5 \ Windows 7
- Processor: Intel Core i5 \ AMD equivalent
- RAM: 16GB
- Disk Space: 15GB
- USB Ports: Two ports (or FireWire)
- 64-bit AAX plug-ins
Ableton Live 10
Ableton Live is a more diverse DAW than Pro Tools. That’s because it also serves as a tool for live sound engineering as well as used by DJs and turntablists. Audio engineers can record, arrange, mix, master, and compose with this software as well as creating and adding effects.
Ableton Live 10 is the latest version of Ableton Live.
Like Pro Tools, Ableton Live has certain system requirements. If you’re using Ableton Live 10 for audio production, make sure the laptop you choose has these requirements:
- Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7 \ Windows 7
- Processor: Any multicore processor
- RAM: 4GB
- Disk Space: 3GB
- USB Ports: As many as you need for your gear
Benefits of Using the Best Laptop for Recording Music vs. Another Laptop
There are more benefits of using the best laptop for recording music, aside from the system requirements. Here are a few benefits you’ll experience.
One of the benefits that a laptop offers is flexibility. While your laptop should have the basic requirements mentioned previously, your laptop can offer more that will benefit your audio production efforts.
For example, you can customize your laptop, adding more features such as more RAM space and improving sound quality. You can also make upgrades such as updating the graphics card.
Working in the music industry means you’ll likely have to travel. Whether you’re attending a major music convention such as NAMM or you have to travel to record your clients, bringing your audio production efforts on the road is a great idea.
This is also ideal if you’re a touring musician who takes recording and mixing/mastering clients on the side or you handle all audio production for your band.
While there are many benefits of choosing a desktop for audio production over a laptop, your desktop isn’t portable like your laptop.
Audio engineers and musicians will need to spend more on a laptop than the average person.
However, laptops are generally a more affordable option than a desktop. Desktops require separate components and audio engineers will often purchase extra components such as two monitors to ensure their workspace is optimized for audio production.
Laptops offer a convenient all-in-one purchase, helping you save money for essential equipment. In addition, many laptops are as powerful as desktop computers and a high-performing laptop can last you for several years.
Better power and speed
As mentioned previously, the best laptop for recording music has better power and speed than the average laptop. They’re faster, optimized for more functions, and have more space and memory.
Should you use a laptop instead of a desktop?
If you don’t have a current system for audio production, you’re probably wondering if a laptop or desktop is the best option. First, it’s recommended every audio engineer has the best laptop for recording music to ensure you can record/mix/master on the go.
But should you only settle for a laptop or should you use a desktop for your main studio? This depends on the engineer, the skill level, and how often you plan on producing audio.
Most desktop computers are more powerful than laptops, especially when you upgrade your computer and update certain components and technologies. However, more laptops are increasing in performance and function and are comparable to desktop computers.
The main factor you need to consider is your working situation. Are you mainly working from your home studio? Or are you constantly traveling, such as touring in a band?
If you’re always on the road, you’ll experience more benefits when investing in a powerful laptop. But if you mainly work from a home studio, you should purchase a desktop but have a laptop as a backup or if you do need to travel.
Mistakes When Buying a Recording Music Laptop
It’s important to highlight the best practices when shopping for the best laptop for recording music. But it’s also important to highlight common mistakes that audio engineers make when laptop shopping.
Cost is an important mistake. It’s easy to want to settle for the cheapest laptop. However, you also may think the most expensive laptop has the most features. It’s best to set a budget but to understand the best laptop for recording music is pricier than the average laptop.
With that said, take a look at the specs and ensure your laptop has the required hardware before taking a look at the price.
With that being said, ignoring the different specifications and audio production system requirements is also a common mistake. Ignoring reviews is also another common error.
You should also focus on the longevity of a laptop. Even if you mainly work on a desktop computer, your laptop should last you several years.
How We Reviewed These Laptops
With each laptop, we took a look at the required specifications mentioned previously as well as price and reviews. Certain brands also resonate better with audio engineers and receive higher ratings than the competition.
Other factors we took into consideration include Amazon recommendations and additional useful features such as long battery life. We used all of these factors to find the best laptop for recording music.
The Best Laptop for Recording Music: The 5 Best Options
These 5 laptops are powerful enough to aid your audio production efforts. In addition, we catered to all audio engineers — from professional producers in need of a sturdy laptop to DIY musicians who are getting their start in audio production.
1. Apple Macbook Pro
If you prefer the Mac operating system, the best Mac laptop is the Apple Macbook Pro. That’s because of the impressive features this laptop offers:
- Processor: Quad-core Intel Core i5 – i7
- Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
- RAM: 8 GB
- Screen: 13.3-inch, (2,560 x 1,600) IPS
- Storage: 128 GB
The Macbook Pro includes essential specs such a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor, and 32 GB of hard drive space and 8 GB of RAM.
The Macbook Pro also has other features audio engineers will find useful. This includes high-fidelity audio, security, twice as fast as the competition, and 10 hours of battery life.
While Apple products tend to be pricier than Windows, you’ll find the Macbook Pro at a reasonable cost — around the mid-range in comparison to the higher range.
Amazon customers rated the laptop 4.3 out of 5 stars.
2. Eluktronics Pro-X N857EK1
Eluktronics is a new name, compared to the others on this list. However, you won’t be disappointed with this laptop. This laptop offers:
- Processor: 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard drive: 32 GB
- Display: 15.6″ Full HD 120Hz IPS-Type LED Anti-Glare
- Backlit keyboard
The Eluktronics Pro-X N857EK1 has a 4.4-star rating out of 5 on Amazon and has overall received incredible reviews.
Eluktronics is a gaming laptop. If this laptop can stand for hours of gaming, it can stand for hours of audio production. It has an Intel Core i7 Quad-Core processor and 32 GB of RAM. This means this laptop has incredible speed and efficiency, keeping up with all audio work you need to do.
3. Lenovo ThinkPad P52s
Lenovo is known for producing laptops that are absolute beasts. The specifications are the secret behind the performance:
- Processor: 8th Generation Kaby Lake R Intel Core i7-8550U Quad-Cores
- Display: 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS Technology LED Backlight
- RAM: 16 GB
- Hard drive: 512 GB
- Operating system: Windows 10
The Lenovo ThinkPad P52s is no exception. This baby boasts an Intel 8th Gen i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB SSD of hard drive space. This laptop not only excels in speed and efficiency but also offers plenty of space for multitasking and saving files.
4. Acer Predator Helios 300
The Acer Predator Helios 300 is one of the lowest-priced options on this list, but that doesn’t mean it falls back on quality and performance. Here are some of the specs it boasts:
- Processor: 9th Generation Intel Core i7 9750H 6 Core
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Graphics with 6GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM
- Display: 15.6 inches Full HD
- RAM: 16 GB
- Hard drive: 256 GB
- Backlit keyboard
Like many other laptops on this list, Acer made this laptop for gamers. Which means this laptop has the power to accommodate your audio production needs.
This laptop has the new 8th generation 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of hard disk space.
This laptop also offers another benefit for audio engineers: Waves Maxx Audio. This technology enhances the sound from the laptop speakers. While you’ll probably still want to use studio monitors, this technology gives your laptop speakers a little extra oomph.
5. Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
This is by far the cheapest option on this list. If you’re a professional audio engineer who needs a powerful laptop, you should opt for another laptop on this list. But if you’re only a DIY band recording your music, an audio production hobbyist, or you’re just a beginner, this laptop is a good choice. Here’s why:
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core
- Display: 15.6 inches Full HD
- Operating System: Windows 10
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard drive: 128 Gb
For a laptop on the lower price, it’s pretty powerful. This laptop offers 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of hard drive space, which is pretty impressive. You can also easily upgrade the RAM.
This laptop also offers over seven hours of battery life, which is more than what many higher-priced laptops offer.
While you should invest in studio monitors, you can get away with mixing and mastering on the impressive speakers of this laptop. The Acer Aspire 5 uses Acer TrueHarmony technology to increase the volume and the bass on your audio.
The only downfall of this laptop is the processor. The Acer Aspire 5 offers the AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor. While this is a powerful processor, it may not be enough for serious audio production.
It has an Amazon rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars.
Slay the Audio Game With the Best Laptop for Recording Music!
Do you now know the best laptop for recording music? While there are many great laptops out there, these five dominate our list. Now that you know the best laptop for audio production, it’s time to set up your studio and get to recording, mixing, and mastering!
Did we forget a laptop? Feel free to comment with further suggestions and advice!