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I'm a musician and occasional composer, and a Windows PC user. I've heard a lot of times about benefits of using a Mac for these purposes. But I wonder: what are these "benefits"?

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    I've cleaned up some comments here and on the answers. Everyone, please focus on directly addressing the concerns of the question rather than getting into side discussions about hardware pricing, reliability, etc. which are simply not related to music. Those are certainly factors one would consider when it comes to actually buying a computer, but that is not on-topic. – Matthew Read Dec 14 '15 at 23:05
  • There are many clear differences, pros and cons, benefits and detractions, and issues, in hardware specifications, software, operating system support, and matters of overall design and execution. But if I were to list any of them at all, I would plunge myself into a religious flame war again. So I'm not commenting further. – user1044 Dec 15 '15 at 15:01
  • Really? Once you're running the program you'd be hard-pressed to know which platform you were on. – Laurence Payne Dec 26 '16 at 16:28
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This has been a raging debate for the past 30 years or so. There has been a healthy competition between the two platforms in an effort to corner a large segment of the market share.

In the beginning, Macs targeted the creative artsy types and the platform had features and benefits specifically geared to favor musicians and photographers and graphic artist. It was not just the hardware that favored the artsy users. For many years it seemed that most of the software geared towards serious professional music production was developed for the Mac OS. Many who were indoctrinated in the beginning, are still very brand loyal today and continue to spread the mantra that Mac is better for music production.

But nowadays, the PC has evolved and caught up with the Mac in terms of both hardware and available software. There are a few proprietary programs that will only run on a Mac, but there are competing programs for PC that pretty much do the same thing.

So capability and software availability are no longer the primary consideration when trying to choose.

In the old days, there were some compelling arguments favoring a Mac for music production. Today, the distinction is not so significant. It really boils down to personal preference and which platform you are more comfortable with. If there is a program that you want to use that only works on one platform, that could also be a deciding factor.

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    Well, my down vote explanation was deleted, but down votes without comments are a huge pet peeve of mine. It is not a matter of opinion, but is verifiable by anyone willing to take some time and spec out some systems that Macs are not generally more expensive than PCs that have the same specs. Also, it is not wise, from a security standpoint, to consider OS X more secure simply because there are fewer exploits that target it. It's almost like security through obscurity, which is not considered security at all by professionals. – Todd Wilcox Dec 14 '15 at 23:29
  • @ToddWilcox Thanks for your explanation. I agree that it is not a good idea to forego the anti-virus and I stated that in my answer. I believe it to be an accurate statement that you are less likely to be a target using a Mac - but as I said in the answer I would still want protection. I have not compared the price spec for spec PC vs. Mac but will take your word for it. But still - you can buy PC's for less if for no other reason than they are easier to find on clearance in my experience. Where I shop for computers you can usually find PC's for under $400. Not so a Mac. – Rockin Cowboy Dec 15 '15 at 8:42
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    @ToddWilcox But in the interest of improving the content of this site by improving my answer, I edited my answer to remove both of the issues to which you took exception. I appreciate your insight, wisdom and advice. – Rockin Cowboy Dec 15 '15 at 8:48
  • Down vote retracted due to edit, upvote granted due to overall point that it doesn't really matter that much. – Todd Wilcox Dec 15 '15 at 18:28
  • @ToddWilcox thanks again for sharing your wisdom. And for the upvote :-) – Rockin Cowboy Dec 15 '15 at 20:01
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One thing that no one has mentioned yet (I think) is the audio driver.

On Windows, to get multiple audio drivers you either need to use the windows driver, which in general doesn't work very well with DAWs, has more latency and limited multi-device options, or use ASIO4ALL which allows you to combine the inputs into one device and work with low-latency, at the cost of sporadic stability issues and hardware incompatibilites

OSX on the other hand comes straight out of the box with "Aggregate Device" driver which allows you to easily combine multiple devices into one that can be fed to your DAW. Hardware producers also have a much easier job targetting a very limited Mac spectrum, which in general seems to make it all more stable.

This still depends on your choice of hardware, though, so don't make a decision based just on that. There are people who had success working on Windows with multiple devices just fine, and there are cases where a device refused to work with the Aggregate Device driver on OSX as well (one case I remember was when the producer didn't choose to support it because it would mean a drop in quality IIRC).


Another thing that comes to mind is that a lot of vendors see the potential in the Thunderbolt interface. Given how scarce it is in non-Apple devices, getting one might be your only choice for using some of the hardware as well.

  • I've never experienced any of that on either the Mac or Windows side. CoreAudio (the Apple audio API that vendors must use) does have a different feel from DirectSound (the optional Windows API), but I've never had to use ASIO4ALL or even an ASIO (an API developed by Steinberg) driver. I've not experienced Windows drivers that don't "work very well with DAWs" or have "limited multi-device options". I've had major driver and firmware problems with my newest Thunderbolt interface on my Mac, requiring two separate support calls. There's no advantage Mac here, in my experience. – Todd Wilcox Dec 15 '15 at 18:18
  • @ToddWilcox that plainly means you didn't have to use multiple devices at the same time - because the WDM shared mode is absolutely not enough for any real use. Core Audio allows you to configure buffers and even intricacies as clock sources for the devices; what Windows offers isn't even remotely comparable. Without ASIO the latency is way too big even for scenarios as simple as playing a midi keyboard. And with ASIO enabled the exclusive mode is just a pain to work with. I also had numerous devices refusing to work with DirectSound outright. – Bartek Banachewicz Dec 15 '15 at 18:20
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    Well, I have used multiple devices at the same time but in general I do not use software synths and I don't monitor through the computer but rather through an external mixer. So I will retract my down vote and leave my comment with the addendum that, "this might not matter to you depending on how you build your DAW/computer setup". Except I can't retract my down vote? Sometimes SE is weird. – Todd Wilcox Dec 15 '15 at 18:24
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    @ToddWilcox It requires an edit to be made before you can change your vote (which yeah kinda doesn't make sense because of the comments). I'll incorporate the addendum and then you can make your choice again. I didn't really want to sound Apple-biased here, but I've been working with multiple devices on a PC a bit and even in simple scenarios this has proven to be at least tricky - I'm a recent Mac owner and so far it seems to confirm the "urban legend" that they're better prepared for that. – Bartek Banachewicz Dec 15 '15 at 18:33
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The only difference between using a Mac versus a Windows computer is that with a Mac you can run Apple OS X which is required for a very few pieces of software that some musicians really like, and Windows is required for a few other packages and Windows is more affordable when purchased with a Windows computer. Particularly, I would say Apple Logic Pro and Apple Mainstage are very nice products (although they are not very intuitive to use) and are of course OS X only. Cakewalk Sonar and FL Studio are major audio workstation packages that are only available for Windows. You can use BootCamp to boot a Mac computer into Windows in order to run Windows-only programs on a Mac, but the extra cost to buy Windows to add to a Mac (Windows 10 Retail is USD 120 at this time) is a noticable difference. You cannot boot a Windows computer into OS X. So with a Mac you have the possibility of running any software package (for a price), while with a Windows PC you will not be able to run any OS X-only software.

The hardware possibilities are pretty much identical, so it's only the operating system that is the essential difference between the two right now.

In the past I have worked on the exact same project on both a Mac (in the studio) and a Windows computer (at home) and found no noticable difference in the process that was related to the computer in question. I've also started a project on a home Windows computer and finished it on a home Mac computer.

One could argue that there are advantages to the Core Audio API and the Audio Units plug-in format (both Mac/OS X specific and not available on Windows), particularly compared to VST (which is platform independent). This forum thread seems to indicate that plugins which are available only as VST and AU formats might work better in AU format, which means you would have to use them on a Mac to get the "better" version. Personally I have not really noticed the AU version of a plug-in working better than the VST version of the same plugin. As far as I know, the Apple plug-ins are the only ones that are only available in AU format (and therefore require a Mac to use them).

The reason why I personally buy and use Apple computers is that I prefer the quality of Apple displays and for some reason it doesn't seem like anyone else makes a display that I like as much. I do also like Logic Pro X, especially for the price, but I use Reaper more often and that is available on Windows also. My favorite software remains ProTools which is available for both and has its own plug-in formats, but I currently do not use ProTools because it has not been affordable for me in recent years.

  • I would also add having GarageBand included with every Mac gives a very good impression that Mac is music production friendly even though most people don't use it for pro production. – Dom Dec 14 '15 at 16:15
  • I find GarageBand to be very hard to work with - I'd rather work with ProTools! It's almost a strike against Apple IMHO that GarageBand seems like it's enabling music production for everyone but in fact doesn't really help much. – Todd Wilcox Dec 14 '15 at 16:28
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    I know and I and most of the music production community agrees with you, but perception matters a lot here since there really isn't much difference in the specs. – Dom Dec 14 '15 at 16:30
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    I'd just like to mention it's technically possible to boot OSX on a non-Apple machine, but that's AFAIK illegal and not really convenient or viable. – Bartek Banachewicz Dec 15 '15 at 15:12
  • Also, it seems the #2 DAW out there used professionally is Logic (Scoring and composing, anyway) which gives the Apple ecosystem a huge leg up (still) that it's the "most qualified" (whatever that means). – user6164 Dec 17 '15 at 20:42
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Well, it depends what tools you need when composing music on a computer. For me - as I often make compositions for projects on a tight budget - I like to have a large set of virtual instruments. After 10 years of using Cubase on Windows, I switched to Logic on Mac. A switch I never regretted since!

With Logic you pay 500€ for 40Gb of instruments and audio effects. Add to that 2000€ for a performant Mac computer, and you're well set for 2500€. On the other hand with Cubase you'll easily loose 2000€ on a decent VST instrument; and then we're talking about a few instruments only.

This was something like 10 years ago, prices has changed a bit but the overal idea remains: on Mac platforms you pay for hardware and on Windows platforms you pay for software. And I have to admit I became a Mac fan since, for its sleek user-friendliness.

  • I don't understand what you mean by "you'll easily loose 2000€ on a decent VST instrument"? There are dozens of great VST instruments available for very little money, and even many good free ones. – topo morto Dec 17 '15 at 23:30
  • Probably that's also a bit a matter of taste and what you need. I mainly need orchestral instruments, and these are very expensive if you want to get some that sound a bit like the original thing. – freddieknets Dec 18 '15 at 11:01
  • If you're saying that a Mac and Logic is a particularly cost-effective solution specifically for writing orchestral music, it might be worth making that clearer in your answer. As it is, it looks like you're saying that each VST instrument costs 2000€! – topo morto Dec 18 '15 at 11:12
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Go Mac if there is some particular software that is only available on Mac. In the true professional theatre/audio/video world this can still be an issue. In the home studio, I'd need a better reason than Logic Pro.

protected by Community Sep 21 '17 at 2:51

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