Our Picks

Best Desktop Mac for Audio   
iMac 27-inch    

Best Mac Laptop for Audio   
MacBook Pro 16-inch   

Creative people seem to love Macs. They’re dependable, look amazing, and offer little friction to the creative process. For those who get creative with audio, they’re a great choice, and you’ll find them in many recording studios.

That’s not to say PCs are off-limits. You should consider your needs (both software and hardware) before making a final decision. There’s a wider range of PCs available, their prices start lower, and many people are already familiar with the way Windows works.

But you’re reading this review because you’re considering a Mac, and I think that’s a great idea. There’s a wide range of software and plugins available for the platform, the system is quite stable, they’re durable and high quality.

But which Mac should you choose? In this roundup, we only consider current Mac models, but we consider all of them. Without compromising on performance, the models that give you the best bang for the buck are currently the iMac 27-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch.

Both offer specs high enough for frustration-free work with music production software, as well as plenty of screen real estate so you can see what you’re doing when scrolling through all of your tracks. They offer enough ports for your peripherals and enough storage space for the audio projects you’re currently working on.

But other Mac models may suit you as well. We’ll take you through all of the options and explain what makes them great or not-so-great when working with music production.

Quick Navigation

// Why Trust Us
// The Computing Needs
// How We Tested
// The Winners
// The Competition
// Other Gear

Why Trust Us?

My name is Adrian Try, and I’ve been a musician for 36 years and was the editor of Audiotuts+ for five. In that role, I kept up with trends in audio hardware and software, including the choice of the right computer for music production.

I’ve used quite a number of computers for music production myself, starting with the Yamaha C1, a DOS-based laptop released in 1987 (well before USB ports were invented). It featured eight MIDI ports on the back as well as built-in sequencing software. The audio recording wasn’t done on the computer itself, and I opted for a Yamaha MT44 four-track cassette recorder.

In the 1990s it was common to see a tiny Toshiba Libretto computer on top of my digital piano. It ran Band-in-a-Box and other Windows sequencing software that controlled a General MIDI sound module. I have quite a bit of experience using Windows and even Linux for music production before moving over to Macs.

Six months ago I finally upgraded my ten-year-old iMac, and one of my criteria was that it be suitable for music production and live playing with MainStage. The decision wasn’t hard, because most Macs are quite reasonable when it comes to audio, but I wanted a frustration-free experience. The last thing you want is for your CPU usage to peak at just the wrong time, no matter how seldom it happens!

So, based on my research, here are the best Macs for music production.

What Are the Computing Needs of Someone Working with Music Production?

Professionals that work with audio are not all the same. There are music producers, podcasters, those who create voiceovers, foley engineers for film, and sound designers. What they need from a computer can vary.

Some work with audio completely “in the box”, using sampled sounds and virtual software instruments to create sounds completely in the digital realm. Others record with voices and acoustic instruments, plugging microphones into audio interfaces. Many do both.

Many work out of a home studio while others use world-class studios with gear that costs millions. Some work on-the-go, preferring a minimalistic setup, quality headphones, and a small laptop. But despite these differences, there are some common needs that all music producers have.

The Space to Create

Not everyone who works with audio is a creative, but most are, and they need a system that stays out of their way to give them space to create. That begins with a computer system they’re familiar with that can offer a friction-free and frustration-free experience. That’s what Macs are famous for.

That’s not to say that PCs aren’t up to the job – but I recently heard a well-known producer complaining on a podcast that his PC refused to start up until it installed hundreds of Windows updates. That’s a frustration you won’t meet on a Mac.

Space to create can depend on lots of screen real estate. It’s not uncommon to work with dozens of tracks as well as a mixer window and plugins all at the same time. I recommend getting a screen as large as you can, and a Retina display will be able to show more detail in the same space.

The same goes for disk space. You don’t want to run out of storage halfway through your project. You really only need your current projects stored on internal storage—everything else can be archived to a large external hard drive. The Make That Beat website recommends a 500 GB SSD drive for beatmakers, and that should be sufficient for most other audio tasks as well. Unless your audio projects are huge, you may even get away with 250 GB, but bigger is better.

Besides all of that, you’ll need some actual space—a room—where all of this creative work can happen. You may want to soundproof the room so you don’t annoy the neighbors, but even more important is that the room is isolated from outside noise so that it’s not picked up by your microphones. Finally, you may want to treat the room so that its shape and surfaces don’t affect the EQ of the sound you’re recording or playing back.

Stability and Reliability

Stability and reliability are important when choosing a computer for music production. You don’t want your CPU to max out, or run out of RAM when recording an important track. You might ruin your best take!

Macs are well-known for providing a stable platform. They’re very reliable—I used my last iMac for a decade, something I never achieved with the PCs I used previously. There are also things you can do to keep your Mac running even smoother.

First, consider having a dedicated computer for music production. You don’t want any unnecessary background processes running when you’re trying to work, so forget about having Facebook or your favorite chat program running. You may even want to stay permanently disconnected from the internet to keep things more predictable. Or, instead of using a separate Mac, boot up to a lean and mean set up on a different partition that just contains audio software.

Second, don’t upgrade to a new version of macOS as soon as it’s released. These can cause compatibility issues that leave you without a key piece of software or gear, and in the first few weeks, there may be serious bugs that are yet to be found. If your music production machine is already working well, don’t risk it. Wait a few months, then test the new version on a different partition or machine. The same goes for updates to your software and plugins.

Battery life may come in handy for portable gigs or getting work done in coffee shops, though most serious work will be done plugged into power. But if you’re likely to work unplugged from time to time, take battery life into consideration.

A Computer That Can Run Their Audio Software

There are quite a number of excellent digital audio workstation (DAW) apps available for the Mac. Make sure the Mac you choose has the necessary specifications. Remember, these are generally minimum requirements, and not recommendations. You’ll have a better experience using a Mac with higher specs.

Here are the system requirements of a few popular DAWs:

  • Logic Pro X: 4 GB RAM, 63 GB disk space,
  • Pro Tools 12 Ultimate: Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM (32 GB recommended), 15 GB disk space, HD Native Thunderbolt or USB port,
  • Ableton Live 10: Intel Core i5 recommended, 4 GB RAM (8 GB recommended).

Note that none of these audio apps mention special graphics card requirements. Normally any graphics system will do.

If these are the minimum requirements, what are the recommended specs you need when choosing a Mac? Ableton’s website is helpful. It has a page that offers more optimal guidelines about which computer you should buy:

  • A multi-core processor that exceeds 2.0 GHz, including the Intel i5 or i7, or the higher-end Intel Xeon.
  • An SSD, especially for larger projects where disk access is a greater factor. For serious studios, multiple drives will further optimize your Mac’s performance.
  • A minimum of 16 GB of RAM.

But that’s just for the DAW software. Audio plugins that run alongside your DAW can also have quite high system requirements. For example, the OmniSphere synthesizer requires a 2.4 GHz or higher processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or higher recommended), 2GB RAM minimum (4GB or more recommended), and 50 GB of free space. So be generous when deciding on the specs you need.

Ports That Support Their Hardware

The computer is just the starting point. Music production often requires additional gear, and you’ll need the correct ports on your Mac to be able to plug it all in.

If you produce music you’re likely to need a MIDI controller keyboard, and these normally require a normal USB-A port. You’ll need an audio interface for recording vocals and musical instruments, as well as listening back to your recordings at the highest quality. Older units also use normal USB, while more modern units require USB-C.

You may also need a MIDI interface, especially if you have some older synthesizers as well as studio monitors and quality headphones. We’ll list some gear recommendations briefly at the end of the review.

How We Tested

Hardware Specifications

We’ve already covered the system requirements of typical DAW software and plugins. Based on that research, we recommend:

  • An SSD (solid-state drive) to minimize file access time,
  • SSD capacity of at least 512 GB of space so you have plenty of room for your software and working files,
  • At least 16 GB of RAM so that your software and plugins won’t become bogged down while recording,
  • A 2.0 GHz multi-core i5 processor (or higher) to power it all.

In “The Competition” we’ve included a couple of Macs with lower specs for the budget-conscious. If you rely on some specific, powerful audio plugins, check their system requirements before deciding.

Choose the configuration you need upfront rather than planning to upgrade it down the track, especially when buying a MacBook or 21.5-inch iMac. According to iFixit, since 2015 both RAM and SSDs are soldered to MacBook Pro motherboards, making them virtually impossible to upgrade.

Hardware Ports

Most MIDI controller keyboards expect a standard USB-A port, as do many of the older audio interfaces. Newer interfaces use USB-C.

All desktop Macs provide both, but current MacBooks now only have Thunderbolt (USB-C) ports. That means you may need to purchase a dongle, USB hub or new cable in order to use USB peripherals.

Other Features that Support Music Production

We prioritized Mac models that offer features most appropriate to music production. That includes:

  • Larger monitors that provide more space to work with your tracks. We prioritize 27-inch iMacs over 21.5-inch models and the 16-inch MacBook Pro over the 13-inch model. If you are short of space or prefer greater portability, those preferences may not be best for you.
  • A minimum of 512 GB of storage, and an SSD rather than a spinning hard drive. Not all Mac models offer those specs, particularly when purchasing from Amazon.
  • A multi-core i5 processor or above, running at around 2 GHz. Slower processors may not offer a reliable experience, and unless you work on huge projects, the faster, more expensive processors probably won’t offer enough added value to justify the jump in price.

The Winners

Best Desktop Mac for Audio: iMac 27-inch


The iMac 27-inch is my first choice for music production in a home studio. It offers plenty of ports, both USB and USB-C, and more than enough power to run today’s DAW software.

Its large screen can display a huge amount of information, yet it takes up little area on the desk because it’s so thin. Because the computer is built into the display, it doesn’t take up any space on your desk either. That leaves plenty of room on your desk for a MIDI keyboard and other peripherals. However, the iMac is not particularly portable—it will be most at home living its life on a desk in your studio.

Get It on Amazon

At a glance:

  • Screen size: 27-inch Retina 5K display,
  • Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended),
  • Storage: 1 TB Fusion Drive,
  • Processor: 3.0 GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5,
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm,
  • Ports: Four USB 3 ports, Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, Gigabit Ethernet.

I strongly recommend the 27-inch iMac even though it’s a little more expensive than its smaller counterpart. The 21.5-inch model won’t save you much space, offers lower maximum specs, and the smaller screen may leave your software feeling cluttered. There’s a lot to look at when working with audio, and the more you can see on the screen at once, the better.

While there are plenty of ports for your peripherals, they’re all on the back where they’re difficult to get to. If you’re the type of person who’s continually plugging things in and out, you’ll want a USB hub that faces you for easy access. For example, Satechi offers a quality aluminum hub that mounts to the bottom of your iMac’s screen and Macally offers an attractive hub that conveniently sits on your desk.

Apple offers models with better specs than are currently available on Amazon. The model we link to above comes with 8 GB, but fortunately, it’s easy to upgrade this to 16 or 32 GB. And it comes with a Fusion Drive rather than an SSD. This can be upgraded as well, though it’s not easy to do on your own, and not cheap. Alternatively, you could use a USB-C external SSD drive, though it won’t be as fast as an internal drive.

For those wanting to max out the performance of their machine, Apple offers a model with a 3.6 GHz 8-core i9 processor. This would be ideal for music producers who need more power but aren’t ready to spend twice as much money on an iMac Pro. But again, it’s not available on Amazon.

And while the iMac 27-inch is a great option, it’s not for everyone:

  • Those who value portability would be better served by the MacBook Pro 16-inch, our winner for those who need a laptop.
  • Those on a tight budget will find a MacBook Air easier to afford.
  • Those who want a more modular system (where the computer isn’t housed inside the screen) may be better served by a Mac mini.
  • Those interested in a similar computer with more power (and a significantly higher cost) should consider the iMac Pro, though it’s overkill for most producers.

Best Mac Laptop for Audio: MacBook Pro 16-inch


Our portable recommendation is the MacBook Pro 16-inch. It has all the power you need to run your software, quite a large screen (and it’s deceptively larger than the older 15-inch displays). When you’re on the go, its battery boasts 11 hours of use, but that varies depending on how hard you work the machine. In music production, that Touch Bar may finally become useful.

Get It on Amazon

At a glance:

  • Screen size: 16-inch Retina display,
  • Memory: 16 GB,
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD,
  • Processor: 2.3 GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9,
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm,
  • Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch offers Apple’s largest display on a laptop. While it doesn’t compare with the iMac’s 27-inch screen, it significantly outdoes the smaller MacBooks while remaining very portable.

While you’ll normally use studio monitors or quality headphones to listen to your tracks, this MacBook Pro offers a six-speaker system with force-canceling woofers. It’s not a bad sound when you need to listen to something and you’re out and about.

When using the Touch Bar with Logic Pro X, six modes of operation are available, allowing you to navigate your tracks, select buttons that turn into horizontal faders, use it as a MIDI controller, and more. With other DAWs you can use BetterTouchTool to map your favorite commands to the bar or use a free plugin to turn it into a MIDI controller.

I’m glad that Amazon offers a configuration ideal for music producers—16 GB RAM, a huge SSD, and a fast eight-core i9 processor. This is a computer capable of running any audio software out there. I wish they’d offer other Macs with that much RAM.

It’s also available in a less expensive six-core i7 model (which also comes with 16 GB of RAM on Amazon), but unless you’re stretched for money, I strongly recommend getting it with the i9 processor. It’s honestly not that much more expensive.

The only thing it’s really lacking is a good collection of USB ports. It does offer four USB-C ports, enough for most situations, but to run USB-A peripherals you’ll need to purchase a dongle or different cable. A better option may be Purgo’s aluminum USB-C hub adaptor. It’s designed specifically for MacBooks, looks great, and offers additional connections, including USB-A.

While I believe this Mac offers the best experience to those wanting a more portable computer for audio editing, there are other options: The MacBook Air offers a more affordable alternative, though with a smaller screen and less powerful processor; The MacBook Pro 13-inch offers a more portable option; These days an iPad Pro offers a genuine portable alternative, though without the same range of powerful software options.

The Competition

1. MacBook Air 13-inch


The 13-inch MacBook Air is the baby in Apple’s Mac lineup. It’s small in stature and small in price. While it’s not available with our recommended specs, it does meet the minimum system requirements of a lot of audio software. If you have modest needs—say recording a podcast or even basic music production—the MacBook Air will do everything you need, and be easy to carry around as well. Just add an app and a USB microphone.

At a glance:

  • Screen size: 13.3-inch Retina display,
  • Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended),
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD (512 GB or more recommended),
  • Processor: 1.6 GHz dual-core 8th-Generation Intel Core i5,
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm,
  • Ports: Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports.

The MacBook Air will run a lot of audio software out there, especially if you don’t throw a lot of tracks and plugins at it. It meets the minimum requirements of Garage Band, Logic Pro X, Adobe Audition, and Cockos REAPER, which is a powerful and inexpensive alternative that should be better known.

The largest SSD Apple put in a MacBook Air is 512 GB, but unfortunately, 256 GB is the largest you can purchase on Amazon, and only with 8 GB of RAM. If your needs are modest and you’re working on projects without too many tracks, that should be more than enough. Or you could use an external SSD, though it won’t be as fast as an internal one.

A number of producers on the Ableton subreddit use MacBook Airs successfully. When you need to, you can reduce the load on your RAM and CPU by freezing tracks. This temporarily records what your plugins are doing to audio so that they don’t have to run dynamically, freeing up system resources.

This is the most portable MacBook currently available, and also the least expensive. Its 13-hour battery life is impressive. It will suit many users, especially those on a budget. But it’s a compromise for those who value maximum portability or the lowest price.

2. MacBook Pro 13-inch


The MacBook Pro 13-inch isn’t much thicker than a MacBook Air, but it is much more capable. Its configuration options leave you with no compromises, and it offers twice the number of USB-C ports as the Air. Its 10-hour battery life is impressive. It’s a good choice for those who need more portability than the 16-inch MacBook Pro and more power than the Air.

At a glance:

  • Screen size: 13-inch Retina display,
  • Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended),
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD,
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz 8th-Generation quad-core Intel Core i5,
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm,
  • Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The 13-inch model is a generation older than the 16-inch MacBook Pro which was released in 2019, and it can’t be specced quite as highly. Still, it offers more than enough power and storage space for most audio professionals.

The smaller screen may leave you feeling a little cramped, but some will find the added portability makes the trade-off worthwhile. If you use the same machine in your studio, consider an external monitor.

Unfortunately, only a limited number of configurations are available from Amazon, and if you want more than 8 GB of RAM you’ll have to look elsewhere. That’s important because you can’t upgrade your RAM later. While the machine can be configured with a 2 TB SSD, the largest available from Amazon is 512 GB.

3. iMac 21.5-inch


If your desk space is at a premium, you may prefer a 21.5-inch iMac to its larger 27-inch sibling. It comes with the same number of USB and USB-C ports on the back and many of the same configuration options, though you can’t take the specs quite as high.

What you do get is a smaller screen that will fit into on a smaller desk, though space would have to be pretty tight to make that decision. I find a large screen makes working with audio a lot easier, especially with a lot of tracks.

At a glance:

  • Screen size: 21.5-inch Retina 4K display,
  • Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended),
  • Storage: 1 TB Fusion Drive,
  • Processor: 3.0 GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5,
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm,
  • Ports: Four USB 3 ports, Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, Gigabit Ethernet.

The 21.5-inch iMac has many of the benefits of the 27-inch model but at a cheaper price point. But other than the screen size, there are other differences. You’re more limited in the configurations options that are available and (as you’ll see below) you can’t upgrade as many components after the purchase.

Like the larger iMac, the USB and USB-C ports are on the back, and difficult to reach. If you find yourself constantly plugging peripherals in and out, you may like to consider an easier-to-reach hub (we covered a few earlier in the review).

But unlike the 27-inch iMac, you can’t add more RAM after your purchase. So choose carefully. Only 8 GB models are available from Amazon, so if you need more you’ll have to look elsewhere. Amazon also doesn’t offer models with an SSD. While that is something you can upgrade later, you may find it cheaper to purchase the configuration you want the first time. Or consider using a (slower) external USB-C SSD.

Finally, if you’re considering the 21.5-inch model because of space constraints and greater portability, you also consider the MacBook Pro 16-inch. It has great specs and is even more portable.

4. iMac Pro 27-inch


Is your motto “No compromise”? Then this might be the music production machine for you. The iMac Pro has the same sleek form factor as the standard 27-inch iMac, but with a cooler ‘space gray’ finish and lot more power under the hood. It’s also incredibly expensive, but if you make a good living by working with audio, that may be an easy decision to justify.

At a glance:

  • Screen size: 27-inch Retina 5K display,
  • Memory: 32 GB,
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD,
  • Processor: 3.2 GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W,
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm,
  • Ports: Four USB ports, four Thunderbolt 3 (USB‑C) ports, 10Gb Ethernet.

Mark Wherry from Sound On Sound asks about the iMac Pro: “Is it the computer that Mac‑based musicians and audio engineers have been waiting for?” He concludes that if you’re willing to pay for it, it may well be.

They are expensive and overkill for most music producers. When MacProVideo asked if the iMac Pro would become the center of their readers’ music studios, most commenters said that it wouldn’t, and almost universally that was because of price. For most music producers, the less expensive Macs work just fine.

But successful music producers can make more than enough money to justify the purchase, and all of that power can make a real difference in their day-to-day work. According to the Sound On Sound article, Grammy-award-winning record producer Greg Kurstin found it to be incredibly fast, and all he needs to do an entire production. And he’s used to a Mac Pro!

And that brings us to another (even more expensive) option. I haven’t included Mac Pros in this review because they offer more than what most music producers need, and they’re new and not widely available at the time of writing (for example, they’re not yet available on Amazon). But they do the job well and suit high-end studios.

MacWorld names the Mac Pro as the best Mac for musicians “if money is no object.” When Ask.Audio asks, Is the new Apple Mac Pro the ultimate music production workstation? they sound enticed and point out that Apple has teased an update to Logic Pro that’s optimized for all that power. Can you afford one?

5. Mac mini


The Mac mini had a huge spec bump in 2018. Does this little machine now offer enough power to do serious work with audio? Tests at ProToolsExpert show that it does. Geekbench scores place it higher than a 2013 Mac Pro, and it easily held its own as the team threw 128 tracks and a bunch of plugins at it. If you’re after an audio computer with a small footprint, it’s a good option.

At a glance:

  • Screen size: monitor not included,
  • Memory: 8 GB (16 GB recommended),
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD,
  • Processor: 3.0 GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i5,
  • Headphone jack: 3.5 mm,
  • Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, two USB 3 ports, HDMI 2.0 port, Gigabit Ethernet.

If you choose a Mac mini you’ll also need to purchase a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse, along with any audio-related peripherals you require. That’s not all bad, because it gives you the opportunity to choose the ones that suit you best. With other Macs, you’re stuck with the monitor that comes with the computer.

The Mac mini comes with plenty of ports for your audio interface, MIDI controllers and other peripherals. And it has the same processor you’ll find in an iMac, which can be upgraded to a 3.2 GHz 6-core i7.

Unfortunately, that configuration isn’t available on Amazon, and they only offer 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB hard drive. More of each would be better. Fortunately, the RAM can be upgraded at an Apple Store, but the SSD is soldered to the logic board and can’t be replaced. Your only option is an external SSD, but they are not as fast.

For maximum portability, you can use an iPad as a display for the mini using a Luna Display dongle. And speaking of iPads, they’re a useful tool for working with audio in their own right.

6. iPad Pro 12.9-inch


Our last option isn’t even a Mac. iPad Pros have become quite capable audio devices, but they require you to change the way you work. They’re highly portable, work with a wide range of audio interfaces, and offer a growing selection of audio software. You may not be ready to replace your primary Mac with one of these, but they make a good portable alternative.

At a glance:

  • Screen size: 12.9-inch Retina display,
  • Memory: 4 GB,
  • Storage: 512 GB ,
  • Processor: A12X Bionic chip with Neural Engine,
  • Headphone jack: none,
  • Ports: USB-C.

iPads have come a long way since I wrote about them in 2010 and 2014. The new iPad Pros are as powerful as laptops, offer (just one) standard USB-C port, and offer more serious music production apps every year. I use one myself.

Its most obvious limitation is that it only has a single USB-C port and no headphone jack. That’s not enough if you use both an audio interface and MIDI controller, but there are a few solutions:

  • Use Bluetooth MIDI. There’s actually very little latency.
  • Purchase a powered USB hub.
  • Purchase a USB-C adaptor that includes USB, a headphone jack, and more, like this one from HOMFUL.

A number of full-featured DAWs are available, including Steinberg Cubasis 2, Auria, and FL Studio Mobile. AUv3 plugins are now supported, and Apple’s inter-app audio (IAA) lets you route audio from app to app. Software is significantly less expensive than on a Mac. However, I remain disappointed that while Apple has made Garage Band available for the iPad, there’s not yet a mobile version of Logic Pro.

For casual use, the four built-in stereo speakers are quite good, and the 10-hour battery life allows you to work out of the office for most of the day. For an even more portable experience, an 11-inch model is available.

Other Gear

Your Mac is just the start of your music production system. Here are a few other things you may need.

Audio and MIDI Interface


When listening to an MP3 file, your computer needs to convert a digital signal into an analog (electrical) signal that can be played through your speakers or headphones. The reverse happens when you record: the analog (electrical) signal produced by your microphone needs to be converted to a digital signal that can be saved in a file.

But the analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters (DACs) built into your Mac are not good enough for serious music production. You need an audio interface that does a better job, and there’s a wide range available at all different price points. Here are a few to consider:

There’s a second type of interface you may need: MIDI. Older keyboards didn’t come with a USB interface. Instead, they used a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) interface with a 5-pin DIN connection, and these are still available on many modern keyboard instruments.

If you have a keyboard that has MIDI ports but not USB, you’ll need a MIDI interface. Fortunately, many audio interfaces include a basic MIDI interface too.

Monitor Speakers


You also need better speakers than those built into your Mac. Studio monitor speakers are designed not to color the sound you’re hearing, which is particularly important when mixing and mastering. There’s a wide range at a number of price points, and here are some you could consider:

An alternative is to use quality wired monitor headphones. Bluetooth headphones introduce a delay before you hear the sound, and are not suitable for professional audio applications. We’ve rounded up the best headphones in this review, which includes a number of monitor headphones.

MIDI Controller Keyboard


If you need to play some notes on a virtual instrument plugin, you’ll need a MIDI controller keyboard. You could choose a small two-octave keyboard for basic playing, though keyboard players generally prefer at least four-octaves. Here are a number that you can consider:

Some of these include additional knobs, sliders, and pads that can be used to control your audio software.

Microphones


If you need to record vocals, the spoken word, or acoustic instruments, you’ll need one or more microphones. Condenser mics are good when you want to pick up just about everything in the room, while dynamic mics are more directional and able to cope with louder signals. Both types normally use an XLR cable that will plug into your audio interface. Here are some of my favorites:

Many podcasters use a USB microphone instead. These plug straight into your Mac and don’t require an audio interface. Here are two popular models: