Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (2024)

By Chris Corfield

Contributions from

Andy Jones, Matt McCracken

last updated

Discover the power that a desktop PC or Mac can bring to your music-making, with our expert pick of the best desktops for music production

Jump To:

  • Quick list
  • Best overall
  • Best budget
  • Best PC
  • Best Mac
  • Best pro option
  • Best for film
  • More options...
  • Buying advice
  • How we test

Quick Menu

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (1)

1. The quick list
2. Best overall
3. Best budget
4. Best PC
5. Best Mac
6. Best pro option
7. Best for film
8. More options...
9. Buying advice
10. How we test

Despite the recent trend for laptops as the go-to music production tool, for some setups, you'll be better off with one of the best PCs for music production. A desktop machine will typically be more powerful, have more connectivity, and in the case of Windows machines, be far easier to upgrade if you decide you need more RAM or internal storage later down the line.

We've been making music for a long time, so we've got plenty of experience using desktops for music production at home as well as in the studio. Having tested so many desktop machines, we've got a great overview of what's the best for each use case. If you just want the best overall, then we'd go for the Apple Mac Mini, which combines power with a compact size and excellent value for money. If you're not a fan of the Apple ecosystem, then the Dell XPS 8940 offers plenty of horsepower for those who prefer a Windows machine.

If you're buying for the first time or just want to know a little more about your options before you pull the trigger, go check out our buying advice section. To see the best PCs for music production available today, keep scrolling for our top picks.

The quick list

Best overall

1. Apple Mac Mini M2

Powerful yet compact, the Apple Mac Mini M2 is our perfect desktop for music production. Its discreet design is great if you don't want a huge tower dominating your space and for a well specced Apple machine, it's relatively inexpensive.

Read more below

Best budget

2. Geekom Mini PC GT13

Budget is a relative term when it comes to music production, but if you want bang for your buck the Geekom Mini PC GT13 is our choice. With plenty of CPU power and RAM, it's a great option for well below the $1k mark.

Read more below

Best Mac

3. Dell XPS 8940

A powerful Windows machine can do just as good a job as an Apple one, and we love the Dell XPS 8940. It doesn't look like much, but underneath that plain black shell is plenty of heft for the vast majority of music-making tasks.

Read more below

Best Mac

4. Apple iMac M1

If you want an all-in-one Mac to cover your music-making needs, we'd go for the Apple iMac M1. The screens on them are absolutely stunning, and there's plenty of horsepower for CPU-intensive music tasks thanks to the powerful M1 chip.

Read more below

Best pro option

5. Apple Mac Pro

It's overkill for home studios, but if you're setting up a proper bespoke studio then the Apple Mac Pro will deliver the utmost in power. It comes with a rackmount option, and you'll be future-proofed for at least the next ten years with this beast.

Read more below

Best for film

6. Apple Mac Studio

Film scoring is one of the more intense music-making tasks you'll ask of your computer, and the Apple Mac Studio has plenty of capacity. If you're making films too, it also doubles as an incredibly powerful video and photo processor as well.

Read more below

Best overall

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (8)

1. Apple Mac Mini M2

Our favorite desktop for music production

Specifications

CPU: M2

CPU Speed: 2.42 - 3.48 GHz

RAM: 8 - 16GB

Storage: 256GB - 2TB SSD

Graphics: M2

Reasons to avoid

-

Some compatibility issues

If you want a permanent machine for your studio space, we'd go for the Apple Mac Mini. Its small size combined with powerful processing power makes it a studio workhorse, and it's excellent value for money too.

It’s still the same grey square that it’s been for a number of years, but therein lies its beauty. It’s small enough that it can be tucked away from view, but powerful enough that it will satisfy the needs of many producers and musicians.

It runs ultra-quiet, making it great for home studio users who are recording in the same space they're mixing, and if you upgrade to the Pro version you get plenty of connectivity.

Read our full Apple Mac Mini M2 review

Best budget

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (9)

2. Geekom Mini PC GT13

It may be small, but it can deliver the goods

Specifications

CPU: 13th-gen i7-13620H

CPU Speed: 4.9 GHz

RAM: 32GB DDR4

Storage: 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD

Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics

Reasons to buy

+

Great spec for the money

+

Small footprint

+

Lots of connectivity options

Reasons to avoid

-

Fan can get loud under strenuous tasks

At around the size of roughly five pieces of bread stacked on top of one another, the Geekom Mini PC GT13 has a near-perfect spec for any budget-conscious producer. It's not the cheapest of course, but for music production, you want plenty of CPU power and this has got it.

Equipped with a 13th-gen i7-13620H it's got plenty of oomph for running multiple VSTs with plenty of plugins stacked on their channels. 32GB of DDR4 adds to the speedy feel of using the Geekom Mini, making it a great choice for Windows users who don't want to go down the Mac Mini route.

It's got a 1TB SSD which is plenty of space for a DAW and a myriad of instruments and plugins, and loads super fast. We love having four USB-A slots and two USB-Cs for connectivity. The fan does get a little noisy when it's under intensive tasks, so something to bear in mind if you record in the same room that you mix.

Best PC

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (10)

3. Dell XPS 8940

Deceptively powerful desktop from Dell

Specifications

CPU: Intel i7 to i9

RAM: 16 – 32GB

Storage: 500GB to 1TB

Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 - 3080

Reasons to buy

+

Powerful enough for music production

+

Excellent warranty and support

+

Bags of connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-

Not the most inspiring visually

It used to be that Apple dominated the world of music-making machines but more and more users are returning to Windows machines, thanks to their software flexibility and ability to upgrade. The Dell XPS 8940 is a great option for those that want to go the PC route, but don't want a garish looking gaming PC.

Sitting above its Inspiron tier of everyman desktops, the Dell XPS 8940 might look fairly unassuming but under the hood is a very nicely spec’d desktop PC which will excel at music production. We particularly like the high number of connectivity options, with four USB 3 slots on the front of the machine, meaning there’s less reliance on dongles and hubs than you might normally encounter.

If you’re looking for a flashy machine you can show off in your YouTube videos, this isn’t it. But if it’s a powerful, trustworthy beast of a desktop PC that will devour renders, plugins and other processes, then the Dell XPS 8940 is a very safe bet indeed.

Best Mac

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (11)

4. Apple iMac M1

A different kind of power, but is it suitable for music?

Specifications

CPU: M1

RAM: 8 - 16GB

Storage: 256GB - 2TB SSD

Graphics: M1

Reasons to buy

+

Superb design

+

Powerful (but with caveats)

+

Snappy response times

Reasons to avoid

-

Can’t be upgraded after purchase

Apple’s famous all-in-one series has history in the colour stakes, with the old iMac G3 range introducing the idea that computers didn’t have to be black or beige. With the Apple iMac M1 line-up, it’s gone back to that playful attitude, only this time there have been some serious changes under the hood. This is down to the M1 architecture employed by Apple, which is both good and (potentially) not-so-good news for music production.

The good news is if you’re a Logic Pro X user; Logic and the M1 chip have been optimised to kingdom come, so the user experience there is flawless. Where we’d normally frown at trying to produce tracks using only 8GB of RAM, with the M1 range it works as well as any 16GB+ system we’ve used in the past.

The downside is some DAWs and plugins haven't yet been fully optimised and with every OS update, there's a potential that you'll nerf your favourite software. We'd recommend turning off automatic updates for this kind of machine, and waiting til you know for sure your software is compatible before installing.

Best pro option

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (12)

5. Apple Mac Pro

This desktop computer is Pro by name, pro by nature

Specifications

CPU: up to 28-core Intel Xeon W

Graphics: up to two Radeon Pro Vega II Do with 2x32GB HBM2 memory each

RAM: up to 1.5 TB (12x128GB)

Storage: up to 8TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+

Unprecedented levels of power

+

Rack-mount option

Reasons to avoid

-

None, if you can afford it

It seems churlish when talking about the new Apple Mac Pro, this high peak of consumer computing excellence, to refer to it as the ‘cheese grater’. You have to admit there’s a resemblance though.

Put that to one side, however, and marvel at that potential spec sheet. It is, frankly, nuts. Fun game; visit the Apple website and max out the potential specs. We did, and got a final cost of over $64,000. For a computer. What a computer though!

This is a machine strictly for professional-level music makers, packed with enough power to handle any music-making task you can throw at it. Safe to say the new Mac Pro will be more than you would ever need, and that statement will probably still be valid in 10 years’ time. Nice to dream though, right?

Best for film

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (13)

6. Apple Mac Studio

Monstrous power with a price tag to match

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2 Ultra or M2 Max

Graphics: Integrated

RAM: Configurable up to 192GB

Storage: Configurable up to 8TB

Reasons to buy

+

Insanely capable

+

Small footprint

+

Configurable

Reasons to avoid

-

Can’t be upgraded

For the serious (and the semi-serious) music producer, a well-specced Apple machine has always been a solid option. And, while it hasn’t formally killed the veteran Mac Pro, Apple has introduced a smaller, more studio-focused machine for audio, video, design and other creative pursuits.

The Apple Mac Studio is small, for a desktop, and can be configured to some pretty mind-blowing numbers - does anybody yet need 192GB of RAM? If your scoring for film then it would be our number one choice as it will easily handle a huge amount of tracks with virtual instruments, as well as being a fantastic video-processor in its own right if you want to up your YouTube or social media game.

It’s worth pointing out that the upgrades and enhancements can only be ordered upfront - everything is soldered down the minute it leaves the factory line so choose your spec wisely - but there’s enough power here to satisfy even the most process-hungry producer for a good while yet.

Read our full Apple Mac Studio review

More options...

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (14)

7. HP Envy TE02

Great value and easy to configure

Specifications

CPU: Configurable up to Intel i9

Graphics: Configurable up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070

RAM: Configurable up to 64GB

Storage: Configurable up to 1TB Hybrid

Reasons to buy

+

Good bang for buck

+

Attractive case

+

Upgradeable

Reasons to avoid

-

Top-mounted USB slots aren’t to everyone’s taste

A great option for budget-conscious studio owners who aren’t interested in anything super complex or technical is to choose one of the big PC names and go from there. The HP Envy TE02 would make an ideal first home studio PC and is configurable up towards some pretty impressive specifications.

While the base unit would be perfectly capable for a lot, we’d advise pushing the boat out and upping the RAM towards 32GB and, if you can, consider employing the hybrid storage for a nice combination of size and speed.

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (15)

8. Microsoft Surface Studio 2

One of the best PCs for music production – but power and performance costs

Specifications

CPU: Intel i7

Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB

RAM: 32 GB

Storage: 2TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+

Huge power on tap

+

Built for creativity

+

Touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

-

Better suited to design than audio

As if to prove it isn’t Apple that has the monopoly over elegant computers that cost the same as some cars, Microsoft offers up the Surface Studio 2. Now in its second iteration, this is some machine.

Centre stage is the 28” PixelSense display, which can be titled downwards so it becomes like an enormous, hugely powerful tablet. We can see the benefits for DAW users of having effectively their entire session laid out in front of them, ready to be tweaked intuitively by hand, rather than mouse and keyboard. It’s all rather futuristic, we think.

That said, innovation like this is going to cost you. That blow is softened when you consider the power this thing is packing – 32GB of RAM will give you confidence running huge multitrack sessions, while the 2TB SSD ensures buttery smooth access to your sample libraries.

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (16)

9. Beelink SEi11 Pro Mini PC r

A desktop mini PC with more power than you might expect

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-11320H

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics

RAM: 16GB expandable to 64GB

Storage: 500GB SSD

Reasons to buy

+

Mini PC with good power

+

Very portable

+

Upgradable

Reasons to avoid

-

Laptop might deliver more clout with portability

Intel's NUC (Next Unit of Computing) spec has resulted in smaller PCs but that doesn't mean less power as this Beelink SEi11 Pro Mini PC proves. It can do all the tasks that a regular desktop machine can handle as it offers the full four-core and eight-thread power of a Core i5 processor. With plenty of memory and an NVMe main drive, the result is a highly responsive machine that runs like something much larger, so will handle many music tasks.

The SEi11 can have its RAM expanded to 64GB and multiple USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports also allow the attachment of plenty of external hardware, including music peripherals. The asking price is higher than some mini PC options, but there is more power here too. A good compact choice.

Buying advice

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (17)

What makes a great music production PC?

Desktop PCs are a great choice for music production because they can offer, pound for pound, more performance than laptops. What they lack in portability they more than make up for in sheer performance and future-proofing. More on that later. In general, the three most important specs you should be looking out for when choosing a music production PC are the processor, RAM, and storage.

Elsewhere, you’ve got a bit of freedom to choose. You might favour something with flashy RGB lighting, or you might look for something with a small footprint. What is important, however, is to look at the machine’s long-term potential. While a flashy all-in-one machine might look incredible on paper, it might not be easy to upgrade in the future which means you might find yourself back at the drawing board in a few years. The smart money is always on buying a machine that can grow with you.

With the right specs for the short term, and the potential to increase its performance in the future with a few key upgrades, a desktop PC can be a great investment for music production.

What CPU do I want in a music production PC?

The processor (or CPU) is the brain of the computer and, for non-Apple buyers, you should be looking out for at least an Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5. A slower processor will make everything take longer, such as freezing tracks, rendering mixes, and using complex plugins. Cheap out with the processor and you can expect to spend many an hour staring at a progress bar. RAM is important for music production, particularly if you’re employing sample-based virtual instruments. As an absolute minimum look for 8GB, but ideally, you want 16GB or upwards. Thankfully, this is one of the simplest parts of a PC to upgrade yourself, so if you find your sessions are spluttering down the line you can quickly add some extra RAM and see an instant boost in performance.

Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (18)

Is cooling important with a music production PC?

Also of importance regarding CPUs is the issue of cooling. Desktop PCs are typically larger in size than laptops, and therefore have superior options for cooling. Processors give off plenty of heat, after all. A choice you may have to make is between fan or water cooling. Both have advantages and disadvantages; however, the reduced noise from water cooling gives it an edge in environments where volume levels are a factor, e.g. recording booths.

How much RAM do I need?

RAM is also hugely important. It’s here that the computer holds relevant data and makes it available to access quickly. For audio production that means sample files, bounces and other important data. Thankfully, most desktop computer builds are capable of being upgraded - best to check before you buy - as this does at least allow you to boost its capability in the future. It’s usually fairly inexpensive to do this too. As a minimum, however, we wouldn’t advise starting out with less than 8GB of RAM installed, even 16GB if you can afford it.

What type of storage do I need?

Storage is the other key ingredient. For audio work, we’d recommend a hybrid approach. Regular hard disk drives (HDDs) offer huge amounts of storage, but lack in the speed department. Solid state drives (SSDs), on the other hand, are much quicker at accessing data making them ideal for storing sample libraries but are usually more expensive. Combining the two is often a good solution.

You may have noticed we haven’t mentioned audio capability in a desktop computer – pretty fundamental, you’d think? The simple reason is that music and audio production requirements – i.e. plugging in recording microphones or guitar cables – are better handled by external audio interfaces and that’s an entirely different conversation which we won't cover here.

Whichever option you choose, from pre-made to custom builds, desktop PCs are still very much an attractive proposition for music production. Providing you know the specs you should be looking out for, you’ll be sure to find a machine that will keep pace with you for years to come.

How we test

Music production PCs require a certain degree of performance if they’re being used for music production. You can look on a spec-sheet, or a build list, if you want a theoretical metric for how a machine will perform but in the real world, it’s only when a PC is put under duress that you will see how it will cope with your musical projects.

We carry out a variety of tests when we’re evaluating the best PCs for music production, including standard trials to see speed and performance capabilities when you’re recording, mixing, tweaking and generally navigating your way around a large DAW session. We’ll check the connectivity options, to see if users with large sample libraries on external storage will be happy. And we check the overall snappiness of the PCs actions, from its initial boot-up time through to how quickly and easily it copes with changing external hardware like audio interfaces.

A good machine should be able to breeze through these checks, or it won’t make the list. Finally, we try to get an understanding of the PC’s potential longevity; can it be upgraded with new components and, if so, is that process simple enough? Then, and only then, do we consider a PC suitable for our list.

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.

  • Our pick of the best Macs for music production
  • Our guide to the best budget PCs for music production
  • Store your sessions: best external hard drives for music production
  • Go mobile with our pick of the best laptops for music production
  • The best computer monitors for music production: DAW-friendly displays
  • Organise your recording space with the best studio desks
  • The best studio chairs: are you sitting comfortably?

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Best PCs for music production 2024: Apple Macs and Windows machines for your home studio (19)

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World, Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar and bass gear, to synths, microphones, DJ gear and music production hardware.

With contributions from

  • Andy Jones
  • Matt McCrackenJunior Deals Writer

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