Do I Need A Mac For Music Recording?

Updated On
14-Mar-2022
By

No. You do not need a Mac to record music in 2022. This is a myth that has persisted since the late 1990s.

Why am I bringing this up now?

I have a very talented singer/songwriter friend who has decided to set up a home recording studio. She asked a couple of musician friends about how to get started. And apparently they all said "get a Mac with Logic Pro." My wife read the post on Facebook and I said "nooooo." So my wife replied to the post saying "my husband just said "noooo,"" which started quite the conversation :-P.

I jumped in and explained that I wasn't slamming the choice of a Mac, or her choice of recording software, which was Logic Pro. Heck, I am typing this RIGHT NOW using my Macbook Air.

I went on to clarify that if she already had a Mac, or was planning on getting one anyway, then her choices were awesome. Logic Pro is widely known as being fabulous software for recording music (or anything) in a home recording studio. I can't really say much about it because I am a Reaper user (see my article Why Reaper Rocks As A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)). I see no reason to switch to Logic Pro on my Mac. Besides, my Mac is a laptop and probably isn't the best thing for full-fledged music production. But I digress.

My reaction was a long-ingrained knee-jerk about people thinking that only Macs are good at recording music on computers. I thought that might have been why my friend was convinced to get a Mac when she didn't already have one. But that turned out not to be the case. More details on her decision below.

It Used To Be True

Back in the late 80s, Pro Tools came out (starting out as Sound Designer). And it only worked on Apple computers (Macintosh II). It was amazing stuff at the time. So yes, in 1990, if you wanted to set u pa home recording studio on your computer, Mac was the way to go. In fact it was pretty much the ONLY way to go.

Things Changed in the 90s

I started my music recording career on a 4-track tape machine (if you don't count using 2 boom boxes back in 80s high school :-P). In the 1990s I went digital by purchasing a Roland VS-880, which allowed me to record 8 tracks DIGITALLY (goodbye noisy hiss from tapes!). Such a step up in quality!

Then I learned about Cool Edit, by Syntrillium. I could connect my VS-880 to my PC and edit VISUALLY on a computer for the first time. Then when Cool Edit Pro came out, which allowed multitrack recording with UNLIMITED tracks (!), I immediately abandoned my poor VS-880 and jumped into computer recording exclusively.

So around 1999, I was recording full albums on a PC using Cool Edit Pro. And it was around then (actually 1997) that Pro Tools became usable on PCs. but boy was it expensive. It wasn't just software. You had to buy specific hardware to go along with it. that put it out of reach for a lot of people on serious budgets, like me :-P.

So I carried on using Cool Edit Pro until Adobe bought it and turned it into Adobe Audition. In 2006, I made the jump to Reaper and have not looked back. I still do subscribe to Adobe Audition (it's part of Adobe's Creative Cloud now, exclusively). But I only use it for its editing capability, which is superb. But all my multitrack recording and mixing (about 90% of the job) happens in Reaper. Then I jump to AA for editing and finalizing the final stereo mix-down of my songs.

It Hasn't Been True Since The Late 90s

The idea that "if you want to record music on a computer, you need a Mac" hasn't been true since the late 1990s. And yet some 25 years later, it seems to persist! I have nothing against Macs, as I said earlier. I love my MacBook Air, even though my studio computer is a PC desktop. But if you are just starting out, and you do not already have a Mac (or were not planning on getting one), then don't buy into the idea that you NEED to get a Mac for music recording.

BTW, my friend told me that she did not order the Mac based on that old myth. It was the benefits of Logic Pro (Mac only) recording software, PLUS the fact that other musicians she works with use Logic Pro. So it only makes sense for her to go the Mac + Logic Pro route. She made the decision based on logic (no pun intended :-P), and not on a myth.

My Home Recording Setup

Someone on that Facebook thread asked me what my setup was after the "noooo" comment was posted. So I figured I'd answer that here as well.

Hardware

I use a few different kinds of microphones. For vocals, it's usually a Rode NT2-A. But sometimes lately, I've been using the Electro-Voice RE20. For guitars, I use a Shure SM81. And for percussion, I use a Shure SM57 or 58.

I plug those microphones into a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. This little box then connects to my computer via USB. That's how the high quality audio enters the computer.

I also have a MIDI keyboard (a Korg MicroKontrol, which I don't think is available any longer) hooked up to my computer via USB. This allows me to "play" virtual instruments and drums.

Software

As I mentioned earlier, I record with Reaper. I record all my tracks (overdubbing vocals instruments, etc.) in Reaper. Then I add effects to tracks and mix everything in Reaper.

I also have many 3rd-party plugins I use in Reaper, such as reverb effects, audio repair effects, and virtual instruments. Reaper also comes with MANY plugins built right in, such as very good compressors, limiters, EQs, etc.

Summary

I wrote all that just to possibly help dispel the myth - somehow still around in 2022 - that Macs are inherently better for recording music than PCs/Windows. I'm not saying NOT to get a Mac for music recording. Just make sure you have good reasons for that.

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