Shopping for a computer? But not sure which one to buy?
It’s a problem everyone struggles with early on…
You want the best computer for your money, but you’re scared to death of choosing the wrong one.
Need some help?
Well in this post, I reveal my top 4 computer recommendations to anyone starting a home recording studio.
First off, you’re probably wondering…
What features should you be looking for?
A good recording computer requires the following 4 features, in order of importance:
- Affordable Price – If you can’t afford it, nothing else matters.
- Fast Processing – Today’s computers are fast, but recording software often demands really fast.
- Screen Space – Once you start mixing, and your small monitor is crammed full of tracks and plugins, you realize the importance of having lots of screen space (both size and resolution).
- Customization – Once you start upgrading your studio with gear such as Pro Tools HD, customization becomes a necessity.
- Portability – It’s not important to everyone, but some guys like to keep their studios mobile ready.
Next, let’s narrow down your purchase options by settling an age-old debate…
Which is Better: Mac or PC?
Ask this question to enough “recording guys” and the vast majority will tell you: Get a Mac.
I agree. And here’s why:
Back in 2006, I needed a good computer for my first studio. After researching online for several weeks, I found that not only were the big studios using Macs…home studio guys seemed to prefer them as well.
But it was still a tough call. Back then, Apple wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. Not one other person I knew had a Mac. Everyone had a Dell. Still, I trusted the research, and chose a Macbook Pro.
It was the best computer I ever had. And Apple remains the industry standard in music recording, even today. So go with a Mac…you won’t be sorry.
Now, assuming you trust my advice, the next question is:
The four current Mac models I recommend are:
- the Mac Mini
- the Macbook Pro
- the iMac
- the Mac Pro
Now let’s look at the pros and cons of each model.
1. The Mac Mini
For the average guy starting his first studio, the Mac Mini is the ideal option.
Why? Because it’s cheap.
It may not be as fast as the other Macs. And it doesn’t include a monitor. But early on, it’s more than sufficient.
You get all the benefits of working with the Mac OSX, for an insanely modest price tag.
Couple it with the Mbox Mini, and you’ve got yourself a very respectable first studio.
However, budget permitting, a better option might be…
2. The Macbook Pro
Compared to the Mac Mini, the Macbook Pro offers two major improvements:
- It’s faster
- It’s more portable
- It features the high resolution Retina Display
My best guess is…the Macbook Pro ranks as the single most popular computer for home recording.
If you want to keep your studio light and mobile, it’s the obvious choice.
If portability isn’t a priority…here’s an even better option:
3. The iMac
Compared to the Macbook Pro, the iMac offers 3 added benefits:
- It’s faster than the Macbook Pro.
- It looks awesome at the center of any recording desk.
- It has a much larger screen.
If you can afford the extra couple hundred bucks, and you don’t require the portability of a laptop, the iMac is your perfect option.
The only computer I recommend more than the iMac is:
4. The Mac Pro
Peek your head into any pro studio…odds are you’ll find a Mac Pro.
That’s because for music recording, there’s nothing better. Here’s why:
- Blazing speed – This allows you to record with lots of tracks and plugins.
- Huge storage capacity – This allows you to store a virtually unlimited number of recording sessions on your hard drive.
- Customization options – These allows you to add more RAM, more storage, and more processing cards as you upgrade your studio.
- Multiple video output – This allows you to have multiple monitors at various locations in your studio.
- Tons of inputs/outputs – This gives you lots of flexibility when connecting auxiliary devices.
Perhaps the most notable benefit of the Mac Pro, is that once you upgrade to Pro Tools HD, it’s essentially your only option.
Stick with recording long enough, and I promise you will be using a Mac Pro eventually.
Now there’s just one more thing…
The 3 Essential Computer Accessories
Once you’ve invested some good money in a computer…the next step is adding some ACCESSORIES.
For recording, there are 3 accessories in particular that will elevate your game to the next level. And they are, of course: the keyboard, the mouse, and the monitor.
And up next I’ll show you what to look for from each one, starting with…
1. The Keyboard
Ideally, your keyboard should offer 3 features:
- DAW shortcut markers – Memorizing all those DAW shortcuts seems impossible sometimes, right? Well with these markers it’s easy.
- A number pad – In Pro Tools and other DAW’s, the number pad carries a ton of essential shortcuts.
- A wireless connection – It’s not a must-have, but we all hate that stupid cable…right?
So if your current keyboard is lacks any of these features, here are some other options:
a. The LogicKeyboard Logicskin Keyboard Cover
This simple keyboard cover teaches you al the essential Pro Tools shortcuts, quickly and easily.
And if you use a PC, or a DAW other than Pro Tools, there’s a good chance LogicKeyboard makes a version to match your setup.
So that solves the shortcut problem.
Now here’s a similar product that includes a number pad as well…
b. The LogicKeyboard Pro Tools Advance Line Keyboard
Modeled after the latest Apple keyboard…
This product comes shipped with the standard Pro Tools shortcuts already included.
And it’s the IDEAL keyboard I recommend for most studios. Click here to see the current price.
If that’s too expensive, here’s a cheaper alternative offering the same results: Add this skin version to the standard keyboard that came with your Mac.
Now, for those of you who still demand the wireless option…check this out:
c. The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard
Besides being a full wireless keyboard w/ number pad…
One interesting feature of this product is that it’s solar powered. So no batteries necessary.
Now some folks might call it the perfect keyboard. Personally, I’m not a fan of solar powered keyboards.
But if it appeals to YOU, here’s a little warning:
While the layout appears “similar” to a standard Apple keyboard, it doesn’t state where or not it’s identical. So I question whether or not it will be compatible with any Logicskin covers. But if you’re still interested…
Now on to the next accessory…
2. The Mouse
So why is one mouse better than another, you ask?
Because easy access to Pro Tools shortcuts can speed up your workflow on a mouse as well.
Think about it…
- Don’t you use the same 4 or 5 shortcuts 90% of time?
- Wouldn’t it be nice if they were always at your fingertips?
Well they CAN be, if you use a mouse with programmable buttons.
My personal favorite is the Logitech Performance Mouse MX. If you’re not sure what to get, I highly recommend it.
Now let’s wrap things up with the final accessory:
3. The Computer Monitor
So besides being big and pretty…
What exactly can a GOOD monitor do for you, that a cheap one can’t?
After using several “less-than-ideal” monitors, I’ve noticed 3 problems:
- Screens with fewer pixels can only display a small number of tracks at once.
- Flat screeen TV’s often look pixelated, and are awkward to view from close up.
- Screens with slower refresh rates can’t display level meters in sync with the track.
Any one of these problems alone is annoying. All 3 together will drive you crazy.
The obvious solution is investing in a better monitor. And there’s really none better than the Apple Thunderbolt Display.
Even with a laptop, this monitor is perfect for running multiple displays.
For example, the Thunderbolt Display could act as your primary monitor for the edit/mix windows, and your laptop could act as the secondary monitor for plugins.
Once you’ve tried it, you will likely never go back.
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