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I want to buy a laptop for music production: please advise!!

Lorraine McCarthy

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Much depends on the needs of the software, although laptops seem to be very popular.


Will your chosen audio interface require USB or Firewire - how many firewire and usb devices are you intending?


Please remember we're not a computer forum, so we rarely advise on makes and models - are you savvy enough to look after it yourself, or will somebody else do that? That could easily solve the problem - ask your tame technical bod.


Storage wise, most music users end up using external drives - many packages recommend using a separate drive for audio storage - and then you can always give the drive to somebody else.


To give you an idea if I was upgrading mine, I'd not worry about the make, just have plenty of ram, a biggish internal drive, at least a 500G external one to start - 4 USB2 and a couple of Firewire. A slot for an SD card would be useful, and a big screen.

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what musc software are you looking at? is it just for editing ready made tracks, or to record multiple tracks via somthing like Cubase?


TBH, you will need an external soundcard, even the better laptop card are rarely much good, theres plenty of into on soundcard on here, give it a search.


my lappy is quite old, but still runs eveything I do happlily, its stripped down just for audio, has 3Gb single core processor, 512mb ram, more would be nice sometimes.


I run cubase SX2 for midi editing, it handles 16 tracks fine, ive done 8 audio tracks simultaneuosly with no issues, I also use it with multiplay for live stuff, and also general CD burning etc.


the soundcard is quite good, but its downside, which I only found recently is it has no headphone socket, the line in/out are both on SPDIF.


downside of my lappy, with its age is the internal HDD is only 40Gb, but my external 500 makes up for it.

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I'd suggest taking a look at the PC Music section of the Sound On Sound forum at




where you will find a quite a bit of information.


Most current laptops will be fine for basic music applications. I use a 4 year old cheap Acer for editing with Adobe Audition and Reaper. For non critical listening I will use the on-board headphone output but an external interface like the M-Audio Mobile Pre will give you much better quality. If my experience with recent laptops is anything to go by, the quality of on-board sound has got worse over the last 4 years.





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Any decent laptop will probably be okay. Get one with a powerful processor to do any real time effects--at least a dual core and possibly quad core if your software can utilise it.


Uncompressed wave files are large (you WILL be working uncompressed, won't you?) so a big disk and/or an external drive.


You'll likely want firewire (see below) so make sure you have that. USB 2 is a must. Also, much music production software works best if you can spread the desktop over two screens. Most laptops can do this, but make sure.


However, the most important thing is not the laptop itself but your sound card/sound interface. Without knowing your needs, I won't even try to recommend one but, especially for multitrack work, budget for the best you can...possibly as much again as the laptop.



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I'm studying down in University Of Limerick, and the general consensus on computers it to purchase Apple Machines if you are considering buying one due to many audio applications being mac only.


Mac OS is also more geared towards media production than windows as it's not as resource hungry.


Saying that if I havn't convinced you to get a Mac, make sure you get a windows machine running windows xp.


Remember you can run windows natively on a mac but not mac on a pc laptop

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Personally I'd stick with XP unless there really is an application that you desperately need that's mac only. Without wanting to start the whole mac vs. pc argument again, there's not really much argument in the fact that equivalent spec. PC's are cheaper (especially if you can get windows for free), and this will enable you to allocate more of your budget towards the stuff you really need.


It'd be helpful to know some more info - what's your budget? is it for just basic recording or multitrack studio style work? Are you one of these people that's set down one particular route in terms of OS or are you willing to be flexible? What software are you using?


At some point in the (probably distant) future when budget allows I'm looking to build a wheeled flightcased Gentoo beast and learn how to use Ardour. But that's mainly a) out of interest and b) because I don't trust windows not to crash or play some stupid sound I'd turned off half way through a recording and c) because I've got experience with Gentoo already. That said, I'm not sure it's what you're after!


If it's really just basic purposes, most modern machines will do the trick nowadays. But you'll probably want:


- USB 2 and firewire. Most laptops come with USB2 nowadays, but double check the firewire side of things.

- An external drive. Personally I don't think there's much point going for anything less than 500GB for what you're doing, decent ones come in at well under £100. My WD 500GB external is still going strong after a couple of year's abuse (and I mean heavy abuse) without showing any signs of letting up.

- An audio interface - you will need an external one, internal sound is quite frankly crap these days. What one you need will depend on your purposes. My £30 external sound card is fine for the basic recording stuff I do - sounds great. But obviously it's basic, and if you're looking for serious multitrack recording stuff as Bobbsy said you need to shell out a lot, possibly as much as the laptop was in the first place!

- For basic stuff, RAM and processor won't really matter, anything decent will do the trick. For more serious work you'll want the most you can afford.


Hope some of that helped.

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