The Basics.

Which is better; PC or Mac? This is a question, much like the similar battle between iOS and Android, which has caused countless arguments over the years and still does to this day. Apple fanboys are very protective over their beloved iBrand and gaming geeks all over the world swear by the customisation properties of a home made Windows machine. As a keen user of both Windows 10 and Mac OSX, I believe they each have their strengths and I don’t think there is a correct answer to this question but which is better to use to power your home studio?

In this article, I will explain my views on what hardware you should have installed if you want your machine to be capable of recording sound. I am also going to go over the pros and cons of each operating system and their respective hardware. It’s probably worth noting that you get a much wider choice of components with a Windows machine due to the fact that the only computers which run Apple’s OSX are the ones built by Apple themselves. This has always been a major selling point for Apple in that their operating system is designed specifically for the hardware they build whereas Windows can be installed on a machine which is technically not powerful enough to run it. This is true and when people ask my advice on “which laptop should I buy”, I often have to explain that the cheapest portable PCs by brands such as Acer and Toshiba will try to fool you into thinking you’re getting a good deal by installing 8gb or 16gb of RAM and a 1TB hard drive but they tend to really save money on the rest of the components.

I personally like to have a Core i7 from Intel installed in all my machines, just so that I know they can cope with whatever I throw at them.

What do I need in my home studio computer?

Anyway, with regards to what you need for a decent home studio machine, your processor and memory should be of high importance. Apple don’t tend to put anything terrible into their products but a low-end MacBook may not be sufficient depending on how many tracks you’ll typically record and how heavy you’ll go with adding VST effects. I personally like to have a Core i7 from Intel installed in all my machines, just so that I know they can cope with whatever I throw at them. Now, this component isn’t cheap but Apple will charge you an extra €240 to upgrade from an i5 to an i7, an additional charge which is steep at best. Next, the amount of memory installed in your home studio computer should be no less than 8gb. There are other sources out there which say otherwise but I had a PC setup with 4gb RAM and it couldn’t handle more than about 6 tracks with basic EQ and Reverb playing in my DAW. I used to get this awful cracking sound which would occur when the track levels passed anything above half way. For a PC setup, RAM is pretty cheap and can be installed with relative ease. Apple, on the other hand, tend to massively overcharge for extra memory and I’ve never been sure why. At the time of writing this, an upgrade from 8gb to 32gb in a new iMac costs €720. To give you some idea, 32gb of the RAM I use in my PC costs €330 and that’s not counting the 8gb you’re replacing with this upgrade. Maybe the RAM used by Apple is superior to the Ripjaws by G.Skill that I’m using but I’m fairy confident that it can’t be €400 better.

A way of adding additional speed to your system is to store your operating system, program files and VST plugins on a solid state drive (SSD). Unlike a hard disk drive, a solid state drive has no moving parts which not only means it’s silent, it’s also super fast. As an SSD is more expensive than a standard HDD, I would recommend installing a few terabytes of HDD storage for files and folders you don’t need to access every day. In my PC setup, I have a relatively cheap graphics processor installed for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I used to work on a triple monitor setup and this was the only way I could run all 3. The second reason is that aside from website design and sound recording, I am also a film enthusiast and my graphics card allows me to speed up rendering times when I have finished editing a short film, tutorial or vlog. For a home studio setup, this isn’t vital but I would recommend a dual monitor setup as it gives you more screen space to display your track sliders, waveforms and effects etc. A Mac setup will offer a way of connecting an additional monitor, whichever way you go and a PC will generally have both VGA and DVI.

So which is better for my home studio?

I’m going to assume that price is a factor here and that you’re trying to get the most performance out of your relatively low budget. If this is the case, PC is almost definitely your best option. My PC has double the memory that my MacBook has and a faster processor along with 5 terabytes more storage. Granted, I had to build my PC myself but it cost virtually the same and I had loads of fun doing it. The thing with building a PC is you know what components you are installing. They are desktop-grade and cost half what Apple would charge you for them. The fact that the entire MacBook range uses laptop-grade components is hardly surprising but you should definitely be aware that the next logical step up, the iMac, also uses laptop-grade components. The fact is, unless you are buying a Mac Pro (which start at €3,500), you are getting a system made of laptop-grade components from Apple. That’s just a price you pay for that sleek all-in-one design.

If you have never used DAW (digital audio workstation) software before, you will find it just as easy to learn Cakewalk Sonar or Cubase as you would to learn Logic. Granted, if you intend to send your recordings back and forth to other studios for different engineers to help with mixing and mastering, it could be that they use Logic so you should check first that your Sonar file is ok but we’re taking home studios here. This is going to be used primarily for demo recordings but in saying that, there are far more online tutorials for Logic than any other DAW out there.

Home Studio PC or Mac

My Conclusion.

It’s true that Apple make very beautiful products. They really do just work intuitively straight out of the box. I own a MacBook Pro and will probably never buy a Windows laptop again. This isn’t because of its performance though. My preference of Mac over PC as a laptop is 90% based on its battery life. I love that I can go out to meet a client with my MacBook and never have to worry about being near a power outlet. With regards to value for money when it comes to performance, Windows comes out on top every time. Sorry Apple fanboys, that’s just how it is.

My PC cost me about €800 to build and it easily outperforms my MacBook Pro which cost about €1,500. Ok, my Mac is getting on a bit now (it’s a 2013 model) but that’s another strength of my PC. If I need more RAM, I can go out and buy another 16gb for €80 and fit it myself. As a desktop computer which I don’t need to be portable, I love my PC setup.