Should I pick a PC or Mac for producing music in 2021? We’ve all seen this debate raging on for decades, often led by biased arguments and beliefs. In this article, we attempt to take a different route by presenting the facts relevant to a music producer and letting you decide which is right.
Until the nineties, Mac computers have reigned supreme in computer music production. We’ve certainly come a long way since those times, but how well does the PC hold up against the old leader? There are many aspects to consider when we are choosing a computer for ourselves. So, being familiar with these aspects is the only way to know which platform is the better choice for you.
In this article, we will be talking about:
- Compatibility & Ecosystem of PC and Mac
- Performance & Budget tendencies in PC and Mac
- User Experience in Pc and Mac
- Stability in PC and Mac
- And other differences
What Are The Differences Between PC and Mac?
The most significant differences to a music producer will be in the cost, compatibility, security, performance, and operating system. You could have Windows or Linux on a PC, whereas you can have macOS alone on a Mac.
To keep things simple, we will focus on Windows and macOS for this article. And while plenty of software is cross-platform, many are still only available for one of the two. So, if you intend to work on Logic Pro, for instance, you have no choice but to use a Mac.
That being said, due to workflow and hardware and software choices, several other variables also come into play:
Compatibility & Ecosystem
When we hear compatibility, we think of DAWs that are only available on a single platform, but it doesn’t end here. Hardware, gadgets, plugins, etc., can also be available or perform better only on a single platform. Let’s have a look at why each platform may be the right one for you.
- PCs are often open in terms of compatibility. Even if a specific old gadget is no longer supported, you can still find and install drivers to keep using the device. Similarly, if you have the latest Windows installed, most software will work regardless of their officially supported Windows version. This backward compatibility saves a lot of time and trouble.
- Most PCs come with plenty of connectivity options such as USB 2, USB 3, P/S, Thunderbolt 3 port, VGA, DVI, etc. This means that you can easily connect external drives, audio interfaces, midi keyboards, controllers, additional screens, and so on to a PC without worrying about incompatibility.
- However, being too open to compatibility also means that it is easy for a PC to run into trouble. If the driver you installed turns out to be the wrong one, you will find yourself panicking over a boot loop. Although, often, it is pretty simple to solve.
- The Apple ecosystem offers great interconnectedness between their products compared to PCs. For example, you could use your Apple iPad as a control surface with your Apple iMac computer, easing the workflow. While it is possible to have a similar setup on a PC, the procedure is far easier and quicker on a Mac.
- Software on macOS often becomes unusable when Apple releases a new macOS update. Most users overcome this problem by simply waiting for their software to be updated before updating their operating system. Therefore, software developers are forced to update their software to full compatibility on macOS, which ultimately means smoother performance. However, there is always the danger of obsolete software because of a lack of updates.
- Mac computers have a closed device ecosystem. So, more often than not, you will require an adapter for almost every external gadget you use. This could cause connectivity issues because of too many joints between devices and the computer.
Performance & Budget
The performance of a computer depends on the parts that have been used to build it. If you have a build with excellent, high-end components, you will enjoy an unequaled performance. In contrast, using cheaper parts generally means lesser performance.
- If you build a PC yourself, you could spend as much money as you like focusing on anything you want. For example, for a music producer, you will want to concentrate on getting the best possible CPU, the biggest RAM and SSD you can afford, while just investing in a moderate graphics card. The part of having this option is what makes the PC so attractive to people.
- You could also start with a cheap set of components on a PC and later upgrade various parts to end up with a colossal machine. So, the upfront investment can be as low or as high as you want.
- The performance of a PC depends on how well-matched your components are. For example, if you have a super high-powered CPU but slow RAM, you may not see an outstanding performance. Fortunately, there are websites that help you assemble PCs nowadays, though.
- All Mac computers are pre-assembled by Apple, and this means they ensure the computer performs well out-of-the-box. They use at least mid-end components even in their lowest-tier products.
- Of course, having high-end components makes for a considerable investment upfront. The most level of customization they offer is when you purchase it. While it is possible to add more RAM or SSD later on, there is not much else you can do with it. This lack of customization means that you need to have the budget and knowledge to invest in what you need before ordering the computer.
- Another thing worth noting is that everything in their ecosystem, like the computer itself, mouse, keyboard, etc., is highly convenient but may feel overpriced due to Apple’s heavy branding.
As important as the features and facilities are, it is critical to know what kind of user experience you are getting yourself into when choosing a computer. While some might prefer the streamlined workflow in macOS, others might want to customize everything to fit their needs and aesthetics.
- Generally, it is agreed that the look of Windows is not as uniform in aesthetics as macOS is. In particular, the deeper you dive into the inner settings and options, the more it feels like you are going back in time to the early 2000s.
- That being said, you do get the option to customize Windows to your liking using the personalization features Windows offers. Or, you could install third-party customization apps to tinker the look of your desktop beyond recognition.
- Installing software and getting them running is moderately smooth in Windows. In most cases, it’s a breeze, but rarely, you might run into errors where you have to find workarounds. Partly, the issue comes because of the insane amount of software available for Windows.
- Aesthetically, macOS is delightful to the eye with its rounded corners and homogeneity. Everything seems a part of the same theme and looks a lot smoother.
- To achieve the smoothness it offers, macOS has had to forego a lot of customization options. Of course, there are basics such as changing the wallpaper, removing/customizing the dock, etc. However, if you want any more than that, you will have to use third-party software, some of which are paid. And even then, you reach nowhere near the level of customization Windows offers.
- Having a carefully monitored Appstore means that every software you can get is fully compatible and trouble-free for your Mac. Because of this, however, less software is available for macOS.
Security can imply online security from data leakage, hackers, etc., and data security from viruses, malware, etc. They can be connected, too, as malware is often intended to aid hacking. However, there are still two sides to this that we will be covering.
- In Windows, Microsoft doesn’t oversee every software that you can install on a PC. There is far too much software to even count, in fact. This means there is the chance that you will download and install a virus or malware accidentally. Similarly, there is also the risk of getting infected by malicious emails.
- Windows’ recent security updates have closed off a lot of previously prevalent security threats. However, due to the popularity of Windows, it is bound to get a lot of malware attacks. So, staying up to date on antivirus and Windows updates is essential.
- In the case of Mac, all hardware and software are watched closely by Apple, which makes installing a virus from their official store impossible. However, this doesn’t mean that you couldn’t get infected by malware from a malicious email or website.
- The consensus used to be that the macOS didn’t get as many malware attacks as Windows because it was simply far less popular. However, this has changed since. So, as with Windows, if you are going to use your computer online, it is highly recommended to use an up-to-date antivirus at all times. And if you skip it as an offline user, remain cautious about other people’s flash drives, external drives, etc.
A smooth, stable experience on any computer comes from good, compatible hardware, well-coded software, and components free of damage. However, it’s not entirely black and white either — there are positive and negative points for both PC and Mac.
- Windows is unmatched at managing virtual RAM. So, if your PC lacks enough RAM, it will get slower, but it will never be unreliable. With modern features like memory protection and paging, Windows rarely crashes due to programs alone.
- Another thing worth noting is that if you ever get issues due to hardware, it’s effortless to swap out the faulty component with a new one without visiting a repair shop. This makes for a great timesaver, especially if you keep extra components that often get damaged over time, like PSU, RAM, etc.
- Despite the extensive features to prevent issues, Windows sometimes suffers from bad drivers or buggy audio plugins, as there is so much software available for Windows. So, if you aren’t prepared to learn about dealing with errors, Windows can cause headaches. However, this doesn’t mean you will be repairing your PC every week; a well-setup PC usually never gives any issue, even after years.
- Certain software that originated from macOS can be troublesome for Windows. For example, Pro Tools and Digital Performer users report more stability issues on Windows than macOS. Although, it is likelier to have occurred due to their specific PC components rather than the OS.
- The greatest strength in a Mac in terms of stability comes from its closed ecosystem and fully compatible hardware components. Since Apple controls every software in their store, there is no risky download in macOS. The same goes for its internal components and hardware gadgets like audio interfaces. In fact, you needn’t even worry about device drivers at all.
- If you ever run into problems with your Mac computer, you can take it to an Apple store to get it repaired. However, we should mention that repairs can get relatively more expensive.
- It is also worth noting that instability on a Mac can arise, especially after an OS update. Or, for complete stability, you might be forced to wait on a complete software update before you can resume your projects or update your OS.
Here, we will talk about some minor to medium differences you will find between the two platforms. They may or may not alter your decision.
- There are thousands more free software and plugins available for Windows compared to Mac. If you go over to a plugin store, you will find that almost every plugin available for Mac is also available for Windows but not vice versa.
- Using Windows means you will have a bigger community of users. There are way more users of PCs than Macs, so if you ever head over to a forum for help, you will be greeted by plenty of power users only too happy to help.
- If you are on a tight budget, you will find many used PC components on sale because they are much more popular.
- Mac computers come with 90 days of free support. So, if you aren’t a computer-savvy person, setting up a Mac should be very easy with the offered assistance.
- If you ever decide to sell your Mac computer, it often has a better resale value than a PC.
- Mac computers can repair themselves by using a recovery mode. While the same is true for Windows, Mac does it better because it stores its repairing OS on a separate drive, so corruption is generally impossible.
How do I make the decision?
You can decide between Mac and PC by considering the aspects listed above and choosing which seems a better fit for your workflow. For example, if you have just started and you enjoy customization, you will probably want to check out free plugins and cheaper gears at first. In such a case, a PC would be the right choice for you.
In contrast, though, if you prefer a good out-of-the-box experience and want to get started with what’s offered with no care for customization, you should choose a Mac.
We all feel like a child trying to decide on an ice-cream flavor when choosing a computer platform. However, we hope that this article helped you figure out what you are looking for and which of the two feels right.
Other than pure preference, there are a few details, seemingly unrelated, to consider too. If you enjoy gaming alongside music production, then a PC is a natural choice. For larger studios, we would actually recommend getting both in the long term. Clients can bring in projects that could require either platform. So, instead of limiting yourself to one, why not embrace both?
K. M. Joshi is a multi-award-winning composer and sound designer, specializing in film, game, and TV audio. He enjoys making cinematic music, rock, blues, and electronica.