I'm looking into the possibility of getting a Mac. My question is which kind of Mac do you feel is most beneficial for a sound designer?

The Mac 21.5-inch: 3.06GHz with the big screen and high spec? I feel this would be a great bet for myself but would you recommend the portable option of the Mac Book or Mac Book Pro?

Updated Question: I have got it down to a 27" iMac (2.93 Intel i7) or 17" MacBook Pro (2.53 Intel i5) maybe with a added 24" screen.

Can people share their reasons for getting a MacBook Pro not just the portability of a laptop but what do you do with it when your out and about? Show stuff to clients? Edit on the go?

I won't be travelling around the world just yet but is a good idea to get one for the future?

Thanks in advance.


10 Answers 10


Mac Pro with dual monitors works for me. I have the Quicktime on the second monitor and devote the main screen to the edit window. I have also worked on a 24" iMac with a second display and that was fantastic as well. 24 inches is a lot of screen real estate and really nice to have to avoid eye fatigue.


17" MacBook Pro with an external 22" 1080p monitor here, with all data storage external except for applications. It's getting a bit old, though, so newer apps are just now (late 2010) starting to chug a bit. At some point I'll move to an i7 laptop or finally going back to a Mac Pro tower is probably my next move. All MacBook Pros are fully capable of most pro-level work (within reason).

The 17" form factor is a great "desktop replacement" for those odd times you need to work remotely or onsite, but trust me, after 6 years with 17-inchers, you really can't work comfortably while on the go or actually in transit with one (on the plane, for example).

Apple displays are indeed the bee's knees, but I've had great luck with the mid- to high-end Dell monitors (the lower-end Dells often have pretty poor color and quality control in my 10+ of experience with various Dell displays). I can't do serious work on a single screen anymore. If I had my druthers and infinite budget, the boot drives in all my Macs would be solid state hard drives, while leaving eSATA and FireWire standard drives in the externals and RAIDS.

  • 1
    I currently use a Samsung Syncmaster 226BW 22", I love the clarity of that, I agree Apple displays are very good. Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 1:23
  • I have got it down to a 27" iMac (2.93 Intel i7) or 17" MacBook Pro (2.53 Intel i5) maybe with a added 24" screen. Have you found it useful to have a MacBook Pro over a iMac? Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 14:19
  • The MacBook Pro has one obvious advantage: You trade a little processing power for the ability to run off battery and to be able to work remotely or onsite for clients. I've used laptops exclusively for all my work for the last 8 years, and while I've been yearning for more firepower recently, it's worked for me. Your mileage may vary, though, based on your needs and goals. Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 21:04

I use a 24" core-duo iMac with 4GB memory and am very happy with it's performance. I think that the i5 & i7 Macbook Pros are a great option as well. Just be aware that if you intend to use a Macbook Pro with a display at home/studio (i.e. like a desktop), it's well worth taking out the battery and running off the mains only. This will preserve the battery life when you do take it out in to the field. I have an old G4 Powerbook that I can only use plugged in to the mains. The battery has completely died on me due to being plugged in to the mains too much. It's an old machine and I'm sure the new batteries are much better, but just something to be aware of.

  • @Colin Good idea to note on the battery idea. Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 9:24
  • Battery tech has moved on since the G4 Powerbook days. Apple have moved on since the days their batteries were made by Sony and lasted on average some 60 cycles.. Apple notebook batteries are no longer removable.
    – georgi
    Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 17:11

hi Ade

you can definitely do a lot of work on a Macbook Pro (especially a newer i5/i7 model) and it would be beneficial to hook it to a large external display. The imac has a nice comfortably big screen and a faster hard drive at the expense of not being portable. The ideal non-portable solution is still a Mac Pro but that's not within everyone's reach....


I just bought one of those iMac 21.5". Will be MORE than strong enough to do any sound effects creation and editing.


  • @Joe Do you run audio from the SDXC card/slot? I'm looking at buying one of these soon and wanted to know if I could for example run a PT session on it?
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Dec 2, 2010 at 15:02

I use the 21.5" Imac. Runs fine for sound design and has a nice size screen. I also have a macbook and it runs just as good as the Imac but the screen size is just to small for my taste.


2,4GHz Core Duo iMac (I think two years old). If I had the money i would buy myself a Ma Pro, not because it has more power, but due to the fact that the fan build into my iMac can be pretty annoying.


Get the mac pro and don't skimp on your real estate! Or get a mac pro and get a seperate monitor. 2 screens would be sweet. My friend has a big screen mac pro and it is a huge difference, mine is like 15 inches and compared to the small screen ones i'm super glad that I have this one. Plus you have an extra USB port on the bigger ones I think. If you've got the loot, go for it! It's cheaper to install the RAM yourself though i have been told than get it factory direct.

The most beneficial thing for a sound designer though is having computers installed in your brain!

  • I can chime in on the RAM thing and extend it: IF you decide to get a Mac Pro, don't get extra RAM, extra Hard Drives or a better/extra video card from Apple. Those are all very easy to purchase and install yourself without loss of warranty.
    – EMV
    Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 20:00
  • [character limit on previous comment reached...why is there a limit anyway?] The RAM thing is valid for all Macs by the way, even laptops. I put in extra RAM and a new Hard Drive (the hybrid Seagate Momentus XT - which is 500 gb plus 4 gb of flash memory where the most used files are written to automatically | the HD replacement was not for the faint hearted though: 28 screws!) in my Macbook pro, and extra RAM and additional hard drives in a Mac Pro at work. Besides that: @Chris You're talking about a 'big screen mac pro'. As Mac Pros don't have screens, I'm assuming you mean iMac, right?
    – EMV
    Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 20:01

I use Mac Pros and MacBooks. I prefer using smaller screens for audio editing as this makes me attend to more of what I am listening to rather than reading values. You obviously need a large screen for the video though. My recommendation is the laptop with a large external monitor for video.


So..what did you end up buying @Adrian???? I'm pretty intrigued :P

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