The era of digital mixers, virtual synthesizers and guitar processors has made laptops indispensable for rehearsals and concerts, in professional and home studios, when you need multi-channel recording in the field. In this material, we are looking for the best laptop for working with sound.
What to look out for
The processor is the heart of a laptop. You can add RAM, change the hard drive, add ports and connect an external screen. But if the processor in a laptop becomes obsolete, then most often the entire platform retires with it. And if we take into account that programs for working with sound consume gigahertz with the appetite of a black hole, then it becomes clear that it is the processor that should be looked at in the first place.
The number of cores and their frequency are of great importance. For comfortable work with music applications, you need at least four cores with a frequency as high as possible. A large number of streams will also be in the cashier, since most applications have already learned how to work with them correctly.
RAM – there is never a lot of it, because for plug-ins and sample libraries, RAM is their second dish after gigahertz (and sometimes the first). At least 8 GB is required, and 16 GB is better. The type of memory also matters (almost everywhere now DDR4) and its frequency – the larger it is, the faster the samples will be loaded.
A hard drive is ideally an SSD, because it will have to work with a lot of small files. You also need a large amount of space, because the music software eats permanent memory for dessert.
Here you might already think that to work with music, you definitely need a six-core monster for gamers for obscene money. Of course, as a universal workstation, this would be very good. But, firstly, the video card is practically unimportant when creating music, unless you plan to connect the device to a dozen monitors. Secondly, musical tasks are different, and many of them do not require everything and more at once, but only a couple of quite specific characteristics. Thus, it is possible to compile a list of laptops suitable for these tasks.
For home recording
Acer Aspire 5 A515
15.6″ Notebook Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R89G black
If you are going to record acoustic instruments, vocals, electric guitars, as well as light processing, then the Acer Aspire 5 A515 will do. The Ryzen 5 3500U processor lets you mix. Operating at a frequency of 2.1 GHz, it independently accelerates to 3.7 GHz at peak loads. Eight gigabytes of RAM (DDR4 2666 MHz) will be enough for medium-sized projects. A 256 GB SSD will save time waiting for projects and samples to load, as well as give a bonus to laptop mobility and reliability.
For electronic music
Lenovo Ideapad S340-14API
14″ Ultrabook Lenovo Ideapad S340-14API blue
When you have to run several synthesizers, a sampler with a dozen libraries, a drum machine, and still pass it all through fifty plug-ins, then the lower models of processors begin to give up. But the 2.3GHz Ryzen 7 3700U eight-thread processor will keep you comfortable with heavy projects and massive synths. Eight gigabytes of RAM (DDR 4 2400 MHz) and 512 GB SSD will allow you not to wait for samples to load. However, there is a drawback – a single slot for RAM with a limit of 12 GB does not give much maneuver for upgrading.
Acer Nitro 5 AN515-54-78S8
15.6″ Notebook Acer Nitro 5 AN515-54-78S8 black
If the soul lies in the note of music, then it is worth considering that 150-200 tracks in projects is a common thing for most serious performers. As a rule, half of them are the rhythm section and percussion, another quarter are vocals, and the rest are pads, leads and various effects. Mixing this magnificence is impossible without a ton of processing, which means that the processor is critical. Suitable, for example, Core i7 9750H – a six-core monster from Intel with a frequency of 2.6-4.5 GHz and Hyper-Threading technology, which allows you to process 12 threads simultaneously. A monitor with a diagonal of 15.6 inches will allow you to work more or less comfortably with plug-ins and DAWs, although the GeForce GTX 1650 video card will allow you not to limit yourself in choosing the diagonal of an external display. This, coupled with 16 GB of RAM and a half-terabyte SSD, is enough even for channel-by-channel processing of a symphony orchestra.
To write “in the field”
Lenovo Yoga 530-14ARR
14″ Ultrabook Lenovo Yoga 530-14ARR black
For those who like to record drums in an abandoned boiler room or throat singing in a cave with six microphones, the recorder will not work. A good solution would be a lightweight convertible laptop with a touchscreen, which allows you to comfortably work with it even on weight. The device is not very powerful, but you don’t need a lot of calculations to record, but fast RAM and SSD allow you to record many streams at the same time. A powerful 5730 mAh battery will last for many hours of operation, and the small size and light weight of 1.67 kg give a bonus to portability.
HP Pavilion x360 14-dh0041ur
14″ Notebook HP Pavilion x360 14-dh0041ur silver
Live music players often need a laptop to play metronome, playback, process instruments, record rehearsals, jams and demo tracks. Accordingly, the device must be powerful enough not to fail during the recording of that very ideal take. At the same time, it is light and thin, so that it is convenient to carry it on turnips, because in addition to it, the musician will most likely carry an instrument, and it is unlikely that this is a piccolo flute. Meets the criteria, for example, HP Pavilion x360 14-dh0041ur. A 1.6 GHz Core i5 processor (3.9 GHz peak), 8 GB of 2400 MHz memory and a 512 GB SSD are enough for any task. A touchscreen is a bonus, which will allow you to control the device even while performing your own repertoire.
12.5″ Notebook Lenovo ThinkPad A275 black
At concerts, as well as at rehearsals, a metronome and substrates are launched from a laptop, sometimes they do some processing and are used for recording. However, life in suitcases, trips on all possible modes of transport, kicks, falls and other hardships will effectively ruin any device in a couple of months. Therefore, reliability comes to the fore here. The Thinkpad series of laptops has a reputation for being one of the most reliable and indestructible on the market. To some, their case may seem angular, but thanks to this design, it best protects the stuffing of the device.
The ThinkPad A31 and P31 models are used on the International Space Station. If we talk about the A275, then its characteristics are more than enough for the tasks of a touring musician. A small screen gives a plus to mobility and reliability, and a 4140 mAh battery allows the device to work through the entire concert, even if you forget to plug in the power supply in a hurry.
For studio work
Lenovo Ideapad L340-17IRH
17.3″ Notebook Lenovo Ideapad L340-17IRH black
No less powerful than for information, but somewhat more versatile solution based on the Core i7 9750HF processor, which is identical to the model without the letter F and differs only with integrated graphics disabled. In theory, thanks to this, the processor should consume less watts, respectively, the laptop will heat up and make less noise.
Also, in addition to the 256 GB SSD, there is a regular terabyte HDD to store old projects. The 17-inch screen will allow you to work quite comfortably with DAWs and mixers. Two USB ports can be a pain, but you can always buy a hub. The rest is a universal model for many studio tasks.
Apple MacBook Pro Retina TV 2018
13.3″ Laptop Apple MacBook Pro Retina TB 2018 (MR9R2RU/A) gray
Sometimes a laptop can be used as a musician’s working tool. This can be seen especially often in electronic music – a minus is played on the device, and at this time the performer plays the lead on the midi keyboard, taps the pads or picks the remote. All musical peripherals are connected to the laptop. And this is where most musicians prefer to use Apple technology.
Due to the good optimization of software and drivers, the music peripherals connected to the MacBook rarely fall off or freeze, and a large number of different plug-ins do not force the DAW to capitulate. Therefore, macbooks, sometimes inferior in hardware performance to solutions in a similar price category (take at least DDR3 memory, which can only be found in macbooks today), in the end turn out to be more productive due to better optimization. If you choose from models, then the Pro series is best suited for the tasks.
ASUS StudioBook W730G5T-AV009T
17.3″ Laptop ASUS StudioBook W730G5T-AV009T gray
If the cost is not a problem and you need an uncompromising option for any creative tasks, while you do not want a MacBook Pro, then you can look towards the ASUS StudioBook. The name, as it were, hints at the scope, and in the reviews it is called the most powerful laptop in the world.
The specifications speak for themselves – the Xeon E-2276M server processor is equipped with 6 cores and will provide 12 threads at a frequency of 2.8 (4.7) GHz. 64 GB of RAM with a frequency of 2666 MHz and 4 TB SSD allows you to feel free to experiment creatively, store an incredible amount of samples on board and download as many processing as you like. The bonus is a professional video card Quadro RTX 5000, with which you can not only drive games, but also do video editing or 3D modeling at your leisure. In a word, this laptop can become a working tool for those who successfully earn money on their creativity.
Today, even the power of junior budget models is enough to try to write your first track. If there is an interest to develop in this direction, then advanced models allow you not to lose it on the road and perform tasks with comfort. In turn, the solution of professional tasks will require even greater investments, but they will pay off with the reliability and durability of the device, the advanced filling of which will allow you to forget about replacing a laptop for many years.