How good is the M1 MacBook Air for music production?
Older Intel MacBook Air models have constantly gotten a bad rap within the producer community due to excessive fan noise and overheating.
For these reasons, some have wondered if these compact laptops are a good choice for music production.
The new M1 MacBook Air has put this debate to bed.
The M1 MacBook Air combines top-notch CPU performance with incredible energy efficiency and thermal control.
If we had to name the ideal Apple laptop for music production, it would be the M1 MacBook Air.
Most would say it’s one of the M1 MacBook Pro models.
But here’s why we disagree.
The M1 MacBook Air is the ideal Apple Laptop in terms of price for performance. It’s more affordable than the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro with the same specs. It also has great specs for most producers, at a price you won’t find in any other Apple laptop.
3 Reasons Why the M1 Mac Air is the Ideal Laptop for Music Production
1. The M1 Mac Air has Ideal Specs for Music Production
The M1 MacBook Air has ideal specs for music production.
It features the M1 chip with up to 16 GB of RAM and 2 TB of SSD storage – these specs are perfect for the average producer.
The M1 chip outperforms many 11th generation and older i7 laptop CPUs.
It’s even on par with some 10th generation i9 CPUs in overall performance.
CPU Single-Core Performance
What sets the M1 apart is single-core performance.
The 8 core M1 chip used in the Mac Air offers better single-core performance than all Ryzen and Intel processors (except the Intel Core i7-1270P).
Ultimately, Single-core performance plays a significant role in how efficiently DAWs process audio.
[Learn more about single-core performance in music production here]
In terms of memory, the M1 MacBook Air maxes out at 16 GB of RAM, which is really all you need for music production.
Some producers prefer more, but even the most intense projects use a maximum of 5 – 6 GB of RAM. It’s hard to use 16 GB of RAM even if you use large sample instrument libraries during production.
[Here’s why you only need 16 GB of RAM for music production]
Finally, the MacBook Air comes with up to 2 TB of SSD storage – 512 GB – 1 TB of storage is generally ideal for music production.
2 TB will give you more than enough space for any VSTs, plug-ins, and audio files you accumulate over time.
2. The M1 Mac Air has High-Quality Specs for a Premium Price
The 2020 M1 MacBook Air offers the best price-for-performance of any MacBook.
You can currently get an M1 Mac Air with an 8-Core CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage for under $1,300 (before tax and other fees).
In comparison, a 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro with the same specs is around $1,600- that means you’ll pay $300 more for a Mac Pro with the same performance.
Instead of buying the Pro, you can purchase a MacBook Air with 1 TB of storage instead of 512 GB for more than $100 less (~$1,450),
If you don’t care for more storage, you can purchase the latest version of Logic Pro, and your total will still be less than the Pro at around $1,500.
For the same performance and specs, the M1 MacBook Air is the more budget-friendly option.
[Read this post to learn the best specs for music production]
3. Best Apple Laptop for Beginners or Hobbyists
MacBook Airs are great for hobbyists or beginners looking to get their feet wet in music production.
You can purchase an M1 MacBook air with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage for around $900.
A new Apple laptop with this much CPU power, energy efficiency, and thermal control for this price was unheard of before the introduction of M1 chips.
The basic M1 MacBook Air is the best option if you don’t use many third-party plug-ins and want a reliable laptop for music production.
However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to upgrade specs over time like you can with most PCs. You’ll likely outgrow this computer as you develop if you’re a beginner.
[Check out the latest price of the M1 Mac Air on Amazon here]
The Mac Air has Limitations: MacBook Pro is a Better Option for Advanced Producers
While the MacBook Air is the best option for most producers, some prefer more CPU power and RAM.
The Mac Pro offers the best-performing laptops Apple has on the market.
You can purchase a MacBook Pro with an 8-10 core M1 Pro or Max processor, with up to 64 GB of RAM and 8 TB of storage.
These specs are why many producers believe the MacBook Pro is the best Apple laptop for music production.
However, the average producer reading this won’t need this level of performance.
In addition, the M1 Pro and Max versions range between around $2,000 and $6,000.
While those models are worth it for some, we believe that for most needs, the MacBook Air is the best option in terms of price for performance.
Takeaway: MacBook Air for Music Production
The M1 MacBook Air is a powerful, compact laptop.
It’s a great option if you’re searching for a laptop that can comfortably handle your workflow for a reasonable price.
Producers overlook it because it has limited specs.
If you need more than 16 GB of RAM, then the MacBook Pro is the way to go.
In this article on RAM, we give some situations when 16 GB of RAM is necessary.
Also, if you need an ultra-powerful processor for your workload, the M1 Pro and M1 Max are better options.
You can only find these processors in the 14 and 16-inch Mac Pro.
However, in our opinion, the M1 MacBook Air is the ideal MacBook to buy for music production – for the average producer.
The M1 MacBook Air is great for:
- Producers who use less than 50 tracks per project
- Heavy plug-in use especially on individual channels (M1 has high single-core performance)
- Moderate audio recording
- Home studios
- Production on-the-go
- Beginner/hobbyist producers
- Producers on a budget
The M1 MacBook Air isn’t suitable for:
- Producers who exceed 50 tracks per session and use multiple plug-ins and VSTs on majority of those tracks
- Producers who use large sample libraries and sample-based instruments (better off with at least 32 GB of RAM).
- Mixing Engineers using a lot of mixing and mastering plug-ins
- Professional studios
- Heavy audio production especially in Pro Tools (need at least 32 GB of RAM)