The magic of music production has gone a long way. Way back you have to haul yourself in a big studio with all your equipment and undergo a lot of painful takes before you get the mix right. And then there’s the problem of recording live performances where which you’d get as much noise as there is sound from the instruments and will have little or no editing control over them.
Thanks to modern technology, your laptop can be transformed to the most sophisticated, fully equipped studio/music production machine. But of course, not all laptops will produce the same quality recording and in the shortest time period. So what are the necessities one should look for when purchasing a laptop for music production/recording/mixing?
Speedy drives: This part is essential especially if you are planning on having live recordings on your gear. The ideal speed of the hard drive incorporated in your laptop should at least be 7200 RPM of SSD of course. This does not only mean that it will save you power essentially lengthening your battery life, but will also secure that your machine will keep up with the audio stream. Some manufacturers offer a second provision for internal hard drives, but most users prefer having external disks as storage not only for portability in transporting your files but also as a means of backup in case something goes wrong with the machine.
Fast thinkers: The CPU is the “Brain” when it comes to laptops. Most audio recording packages supports multi-threading so it’s an advantage if you’ll get your hands on multi-core processors such as Core2 Duo / Extreme models. Remember, you can only capture the magic of music once; there are no second takes.
Sharing is caring: This goes for the available connections in the laptop. How many USB provisions does it have? What are the available video outputs in case you want to use a bigger monitor or extend your screen? On another note, make sure that your get one with a Texas Instrument 1934 chipset since most manufacturers of firewire audio interfaces indicates that their product works well with this particular chipset.
Power hunger: Well this one is a given for all laptops. Longer battery life equals higher productivity. Remember that a 2-hour usage on standard internet browsing will definitely run shorter if you are going to use it on heavy editing programs.
Keeping all of these pointers in mind, here are our takes on the best laptop for music production, mixing and recording music.
Best laptop for music production/recording/mixing under $700
Lenovo Premium 15.6″ Full HD High-Performance Laptop
Pro: The i7 Dual core processor ensures smooth sound processing
Con: Only has 1 available USB 2.0 port
Lenovo is one of the companys that recognizes the needs of a modern consumer; powerful specs at a healthy budget. With this in mind, their Flagship Edition is born. With a 15.6 inch screen, it is more than enough to have you running multiple editing software at once without literally missing a beat. The dual-core i7 processor ensures that your system won’t crash even when you’re running Pro tools with 30 tracks open on Adobe Audition. The keyboard lighting is a welcome feature, especially if you’re burning the midnight oil polishing those tracks. The only downside I see is that it only has 1 available USB 2.0 port. All in all, the Flagship edition from Lenovo is one of your best bet in terms of processor speed, screen size, and storage space.
HP ENVY 6-1111nr Sleekbook
Pro: Very loud, crystal clear sounding speakers which gives you a full sound.
Con: The gloss finish on the screen tends to get reflective especially if you are going to use the ENVY 6 outdoors or near windows. It also does not have a DVD drive.
The ENVY 6-111nr from HP is almost identical to its predecessor the HP ENVY 4 with a few distinct features. First and foremost the brushed matt black aluminum top and ruby red bottom definitely gave this laptop a touch of elegance. The left side features a retractable internet port, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, and an SD card slot. On the other side is a microphone and headphone female jack, USB 2.0 slot, and the charging port. The keyboard has a back-lit touch feature, which is very handy for those extra hours of editing work. The onboard Beats Audio delivers a very clear and defined sound which is a good thing especially if you want to hear some post production work you are doing in an open air ambiance.
The battery life is a standard 4-hour charge applicable for net browsing and similar stuff but tends to shorten if you will use some heavy music editing and sampling programs. One of the downsides I saw in the ENVY 6 is that the gloss finish on the screen tends to get reflective especially if you are going to use it outdoors or near windows. The AMD Dual core A6 – 445mm 2.1 GHz processor is good for standard music recording functions, but may lag a little if you will run some heavy programs at the same time. All in all the HP ENVY 6 is a pretty decent laptop which is sure to accomplish your entire editing task and is a very good deal for its price.
Dell 17.3in Gaming Laptop with 16GB RAM and 2TB HDD
Pro: The 17.3 inch HD display and Quad core processor make editing a breeze.
Con: The battery life only lasts up to 2 hours on normal usage which tends to get shorter if you will run those heavy editing tools.
This Dell 17.3 inch gaming laptop features one of the biggest screen available in the market today. It is equipped with an HD cam and a DVD drive which is very good for burning your completed works of listening to a sample cd. It has a USB 3.0 port which is a great update from the 2.0 at 10 times faster file transfer speed. On the left side is an SD card slot, HDMI port, and an Ethernet port. The quad-core processor is more than enough for your standard music production software like Pro tools or Sonar and makes music editing a breeze because of its 17.32 inch HD screen.
The only downside is that the battery life only lasts up to 2 hours on regular usage and is definitely going to get shorter if you will use heavy editing tools (better have this beast plugged on if you are planning on staying up all night to lay down those tracks). Rest assured, the Dell 17.3 inch laptop is a great buy for those who would be using it at home or in the studio wherein you have readily available power outlet, otherwise you would have to buy a laptop power bank for on the go music recording/production/mixing purposes.
Best laptop for music production/recording/mixing for Professionals
Pro: The 512 GB SSD is a safe lock of fast data transfer and storage.
Con: Not so good speakers.
The ASUS UX501VW is one of ASUS’ flagship Ultrabook / Laptop. This laptop features a brushed aluminum finish and has a good solid construction. On one side it has 2 USB 3.0 ports, and SD card slot, and a headphone/ microphone female jack. On the other side is a USB 3.0 port (giving it a total of 3 USB ports available), HDMI, micro USB port, and power supply port. For storage, it has a 512 GB SSD which proves to be quite fast. The quad-core i7 Skylake processor ensures that this machine can process anything you throw its way without any hitch. The keyboard is back-lit and has varying degrees of brightness available. And with its size and weighing less than 5 lbs. it is definitely portable and is good for any recording situation you might get yourself into.
Apple MacBook Air 13.3-Inch Laptop
Pro: Has a battery life of up to 12 hours on normal usage.
Con: The 4 GB ram present is not sufficient if you are planning on using it on some heavy processing stuff; should upgrade it to at least 8 GB.
This MacBook Air from Apple is a clear upgrade from its predecessors, having a 4GB memory and a 128GB of flash storage which is a huge jump from the 64 GB storage its predecessors have. It runs the newest OS X Mountain Lion and features a 4th generation Intel graphics card which gives this an incredible battery life of up to 12 hours on normal use. It is very thin and lightweight so you should have no trouble carrying it with you from studio to home to live recording venues. The keyboard is illuminated and the touchpad is not forced-touch but click-in which gives the user a more natural feel when using it.
The MacBook Air’s advantages over the MacBook Pro is its i5 processor which gives it more processing power and is much more reliable because it has more ports available for connection. It has 2 USB port. One on each side, a female headphone jack, an SD card slot, and a MagSafe 2 port. One of the downsides is that the 4GB RAM present in this MacBook Air is not sufficient if you are planning on using it on some heavy processing stuff. Overall, the MacBook Air is a laptop that is good for standard song editing/recording which does not require a lot of other heavy programs running at the same time.