Why do DJs use Macbooks?
Reasons why DJs prefer Apple MacBooks
So you’re wondering why professional DJs use Macbooks when DJing their big gigs? I get asked this a lot as there’s a high chance you own a Windows based laptop. After all Apple Macs make up only 10% of the global market share.
There must be a good reason professional DJs prefer Mac laptops. So lets take a look at why Mac’s are best for DJs and what the alternatives are.
To answer this question let’s start with what makes a good DJ laptop. What are the main requirements of any laptop when DJing professionally and what should you be looking out for when you buy a new laptop.
Operating system stability
This is my number one requirement when picking a laptop to DJ with. There is absolutely nothing worse than being in the middle of your amazing DJ set, the crowd are going crazy and then suddenly your software crashes! Oh no! Blue screen of death! Controls stop responding, the music stops, the crowd stop, the vibe is destroyed instantly.
It gives me shivers just thinking about it. So having software built on an operating system you can trust is vitally important for any DJ.
Apple MacBooks run on Mac OS. An operating system built on the very reliable Unix operating system. Its core structure has proved ultra reliable for all sorts of critical uses including cloud computing and web servers. Unlike its competitor Windows it doesn’t slow down over time and as remains widely supported for many years.
I have been using DJ software for well over a decade and have never ever had DJ software crash on me, not once. That’s an incredible feat of software engineering both from Apple and the DJ software developers.
I believe this is one of the biggest selling points of using an Apple Mac laptop to DJ with. You should never have to worry that your laptop might crash, peace of mind in critical circumstances like live DJ sets is vitally important.
Apple prides itself on creating very thing devices, whether its their iPhone, iPad or latest MacBooks. Their obsession with slimline designs makes their hardware very portable indeed.
The latest MacBooks are a ludicrously thin 0.66 inches (1.67cm) weighing just 4.7lbs (2.1kg).
Compared to the rest of the DJ gear you might be carrying around, your apple MacBook is likely to be one of the lightest and most portable items.
They’re also ready-to-go plug-and-play style devices that DJ hardware manufacturers build for, whether its controllers, mixers, midi devices or sound cards, chances are all you’ll need to do is plug it in and off you go. Apple has an “it just works” approach which is perfect for DJs with multiple technical devices they might be plugging in.
Slide the MacBook in to your bag, go to your gig, slide it out and plug it in, boom you’re good to go. What could be more portable than that?
Since 2008 MacBooks have had metal body, favoured over the plastic polycarbonate bodies of previous years. In fact many Windows based laptops still use plastic bodies which make them prone to breaking and damaging internals.
Not so with the MacBooks, their rock solid casing structures make them some of the strongest laptops available.
The “Unibody” approach means the case is made of one piece of metal, shaped perfectly to protect the precious inner workings of your MacBook Pro. This is perfect for laptops that are constantly being taken to new locations, travelling in your bag, your car, a plane, multiple DJ venues and DJ gig environments.
Its important to have a laptop you feel you can rely on that will remain in one piece and never let you down. So its a no brainer that a strong metal unibody MacBook is perfect for DJs
Because Apple MacBooks are so popular with DJs and their operating system so reliable, its no surprise that nearly all top DJ software developers support Macs.
In fact I would go so far as to say DJ software runs exceptionally well on MacBooks. Having used Serato, Rekordbox, Traktor and Algoriddm’s djay apps on a MacBook for multiple years I can confirm all work without any problems, none of which spin the fan up or cause any heating issues. Something I know can’t be said for Windows based laptops that tend to struggle with the processor demand.
This is in part because Macbook’s are built for professional creatives with high spec graphics cards, audio cards and processor bandwidth in mind. This means your powerful MacBook can easily handle what any top DJ software can throw at it.
So whatever your DJ software of choice its highly likely your Mac computer will be supported and may even have features that its Windows version does not.
If you’re using any midi controllers as part of your DJ setup then they are all supported without any additional software. Just plug in and start using in your favourite DJ app.
Macs are built for professional use, often by creatives who edit 4k video, photoshop large print quality images and produce studio quality music. As such they always feature high spec processors, separate graphics processing chips and high quality sound too.
Macbook laptops can easily handle all of today’s modern DJ features including 4 decks playing simultaneously, scratch mixing, high quality lossless audio files, neural mixing (featured on Algoriddm’s djay software) and multiple layered effects too.
One thing you’re unlikely to run out of us computing resources, the latest MacBooks are very powerful and power efficient too.
While this isn’t exactly a critical element to owning a laptop to DJ with, it just had to be mentioned. After all I think we can all agree that DJing is a cool profession. Most DJs want to appear cool and popular, so using DJ equipment that makes them look cool is a no brainer.
Macbook laptops have had that “cool” factor for years now, considering a more premium product for serious creative types. In fact the reason you probably googled “Why DJs use Macs” is because you saw the apple logo on their laptop from a Youtube clip or instagram photo of them at work.
Its an instantly recognisable cool brand so its no surprise DJs want to be seen using the coolest laptop money can buy.
Whether this matters to you or not is entirely up to you, but it does to many DJs.
You may not be familiar with the term Latency but its one you really should know about if you’re a digital DJ.
Latency represents the performance of your DJ software and hardware, the lower the latency the better your setup will perform.
Why is this so important?
Well if you’re a scratch DJ you’ll know that precision movement of your turntables and crossfader are everything. Without a quick response from your equipment it’ll be impossible to perform any scratches.
You laptop is the machine processing the speed at which you’re changing direction on the turntable and how quickly you’re moving the crossfader. The faster it can monitor, analyse, change the track’s direct and pitch, plus volume and position of your crossfader, the better. For this you need high processor performance, the more extreme you can push the latency, the better.
So can Macs handle this super low latency DJing setup? Hell yes! They are built for performance and quite often the DJ software is optimised for Macs of Windows so you’ll get the best possible experience with a MacBook.
Do you need the latest MacBook Pro with super high spec to achieve this?
No a MacBook from a few years ago will still be able to handle high performance, low latency settings.
What about for other DJs?
So if you’re not a scratch DJ is this important? Well just ask any of the highly professional world class DJs what their setup is? Chances are they’ll tell you they modify the performance settings of their DJ software to reduce the latency as much as possible.
A crisp, powerful, highly responsive setup is always the best and gives plenty of room to be creative without any loss of performance. The kind of task Macs were built for.
What latency setting is best?
I recommend a latency in milliseconds of no more than 5. If you can go lower then definitely give it a go. You’ll soon know if your machine can’t handle it when it struggles to play 2 tracks at the same time plus effects and other loops. Put it through its paces and see what works for you, adjust until you find the sweet spot where your computer can handle the workload.
With MacBooks, especially MacBook Pros, this isn’t an issue. Just put the latency down as low as it can go and see just how well your monster of a laptop can handle it no problem at all.
Here’s a great video on how to change the latency setting on the world’s best DJ software applications, plus a host of other setting changes we recommend.
So we’ve established the key areas that are most important to DJs. Its safe to say MacBooks tick every box so its clear why so many DJs use Macs.
There is of course more than one Apple Mac laptop available right now, so which one is right for you?
Let’s take a look at the latest Apple MacBooks and compare each one.
MacBook Pro M1
Lets start at the top. The absolute daddy of laptops right now. The MacBook Pro has always been Apple’s flagship laptop, packing in as much power, capacity and memory as is possible in a thin form factor.
They come with a price tag to match, easily the most expensive laptops on the market, but all that power and space comes at a price right?
So why would you opt for a MacBook Pro over one of the more budget options? There are some clear reasons.
If DJing is just part of what you do then having all that power, space and utility is vitally important. If you want a machine you can quickly DJ on, produce music on, edit video on and blog, produce graphics content and lots of other requirements of a modern pro DJ then the MacBook Pro is easily the laptop for you.
You can easily produce new unique loops for your sets, remix tracks with pro level performance. Create videos for your social media channels to promote your DJing skills. All with the robust operating system and super fast performance that’ll help you get the job done quicker. Time is money after all.
Screen size is also key here, with a 16″ model available as well as the smaller 14″ and 13″ versions. The bigger the screen the more real estate you have for your software to fill. Great in high intensity situations like DJing at gigs. Larger laptops have the added benefit of larger storage capacity, larger CPUs, larger batteries too.
There’s a simple rule when it comes to computers, always buy the highest spec you can afford. Its all too easily to cut the budget and go for something low spec to save money but you’ll actually end up needing to replace your laptop sooner than you think. The higher the specification, the longer you’ll keep the computer so you can actually save money in the long term.
This is the reason I’ve opted for MacBook Pros all my professional life and recommend them over all others. My current MacBook Pro is 6 years old and still as fast as the day I bought it. The huge capacity and speed means I’ll probably use it for another 3 years at least. My wife’s MacBook Pro is turning 10 this year and is still an absolute beast of a machine.
This video is a must for an in-depth look at why MacBook Pros are the absolute boss.
Apple used to sell both MacBook and MacBook Air laptops, the air being the thinnest laptop on the market. They’ve since discontinued their MacBook range now that all of their laptops are super thin!
The latest MacBook Air is a wonder of modern engineering and design. Its size and weight make for some impressive reading. Just check them out.
- Height: 0.41–1.61 cm (0.16–0.63 in)
- Width: 30.41 cm (11.97 in)
- Depth: 21.24 cm (8.36 in)
- Weight: 1.29 kg (2.8 lbs)
So this laptop well and truly ticks the “portable” requirement.
Its price tag also suits a lot of people’s budget too with powerful specs that can easily handle the latest DJ software and hardware.
The smaller size screen may not be ideal for DJs as the larger displays of the MacBook Pro are definitely a bonus when performing at any gig. If your less reliant on laptop screen for your DJ setup then this laptop may work well for you.
So the subject of longevity is one that should be mentioned as we did for the MacBook Pro roundup. Don’t get me wrong this laptop will undoubtably work well as s DJ laptop and beyond and if your budget is tight right now it makes perfect sense for many. Just be aware you’ll probably find yourself wanting to upgrade within 4 years or so as software becomes ever more powerful and requires more speed.
MacBook Air performance
Here’s a great video that outlines what you need to know about computer performance and how it affects DJing performances, with an emphasis on the MacBook Air. Definitely worth a watch.
Which would I pick?
Its probably no surprise to you that I’d pick the MacBook Pro. Its solid build, super high spec and longevity of use make the extra spend a no brainer. If you’re serious about professionally DJing then you need pro quality equipment. As a quick comparison the MacBook Pro model is up to 4 times faster than the MacBook Air model so you can see how my Pro machine is going to last much longer and will always be able to handle whatever I throw at it. For me that’s key when DJing professionally.
This is exactly why so many Pro DJs use a MacBook Pro when they DJ. They require a laptop that can handle literally any setup that they want, giving them ultimately creativity without any compromise.
You want 8 different midi controllers, external drives, 4 decks, a pro grade mixer running Rekordbox and Albeton Live with a multitude of plugins, all during a live gig to 4000 people?
No problem for a MacBook Pro.
As you’re here wondering why DJs use MacBooks when they DJ you’re no doubt wondering how Windows based laptops stack up against the Apple Macs. So this section will explain the differences and show you just why Pro DJs use MacBooks.
How Windows laptops differ from Apple MacBooks
The key difference you need to know about is the relationship windows has with the machines its running on.
Windows is an operating system built by Microsoft and licensed to work on a multitude of different manufacturer’s hardware. There’s hundreds of manufacturers and literally thousands of models that Windows has to be compatible with.
Because of this the Windows architecture is designed for compatibility in mind. You can run windows on thousands of PCs, while Apple’s Mac OS only works on a handful of devices.
This compatibility comes at a price, namely performance. Windows is a bulky operating system built to work with almost any hardware you can throw at it, in fact Apple’s MacBooks can actually run Windows too if you so desired.
All this extra bulk means the operating system requires drivers, specific software that translates all the different possible hardware from the many manufacturers of windows compatible laptops, in to the language that Windows understands. This is why almost all hardware comes with Windows drivers.
Coupled with the fact that Windows relies on a registration library to handle every software application and driver thats every thrown at it, you often get the dreaded windows slow down after 6 or so months of use. Something that requires constantly cleaning up of old files and applications, often resulting in you conducting an entire rebuild of the operating system once a year.
This is obviously not ideal for DJs and to make matters worse all the drivers used to make hardware compatible with software means your CPU usage will increase. The more you use the more likely you are to suffer performance problems and quite possible software crashes!
DJ Software for Windows
Because Microsoft Windows remains the most popular operating system in the world its no surprise that all the major DJ software developers produce a Windows version. So if Windows really is your preferred DJ operating system then you’ll still have plenty of options.
The big 4 of Traktor, Serato, Rekordbox and Agoriddm djay are all available along with a host of other DJ apps. In fact you’ll find a few of the smaller developers producing for Windows only due to its popularity with mainstream PC owners.
Can I still use a Windows Laptop to DJ with?
Oh most definitely! With so many Windows compatible laptops out there, plenty of DJ software options and extensive hardware compatibility its definitely possible to DJ with a Windows laptop.
The problem is when trying to tick all the boxes for DJ hardware requirements. Is it stable enough to DJ professionally with? In my opinion its not. I just don’t trust Windows enough to handle all of my DJ hardware and software needs in critical situations.
Coupled with the headache of dealing with drivers, updates and slow downs over time, it all leads to a less than optimal experience when trying to be creative and professional. You’ll want to be free to be as creative as you want, while your client’s want you to be as reliable and professional as possible. Is that something a Windows laptop can truly offer? Personally I think not and as a pro DJ I just couldn’t trust it.
This is something I’ve been asked a lot more recently as Chromebook laptops become ever more popular. They are a cheap alternative to Windows laptops and Apple MacBooks, where all applications run through the Chrome browser rather than individual software.
Because of this its unfortunately a big No from me. While its technically possible to DJ with just a laptop using a Chrome Extension, its really a very limited experience and definitely not one to be using professionally. If you have a Chromebook all is not lost. We’ll have more on this topic in an upcoming article so watch out for that.
My advice, save your pennies and get a laptop worthy of your DJ skills.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand why Macs are considered the best laptop for all professional DJs.
Its probably no surprise that I use a MacBook Pro to DJ with and absolutely love my chosen DJ laptop. I am fully aware that modern Windows based PCs are definitely powerful enough to use to DJ with but for me the robust build quality and reliable operating system make buying and using a MacBook to DJ with a no brainer.
Every time I pack my gear ready for my next gig my DJ hardware has always worked perfectly
I’ve travelled the world with my Macbook Pro, in backpacks and suitcases, on planes and boats.
I’ve DJed outdoors in tropical locations and indoors in dark and dirty ones too. My MacBook has worked flawlessly
I’ve happily used the same MacBook for nearly 6 years now and its more than capable of handling everything I’ve thrown at it over the years.
I’ve used multiple midi controllers via USB and have never had any problems just plugging them in and instantly working with my DJ software of choice
I’ve even produced some dance music tracks with my MacBook, made with creative tools that are optimised for Macs. Allowing me to be as creative as I want to be without compromise.
For me as a pro DJ, this is why I and most Pro DJs us Macs.
Settings for your MacBook.
Macbooks are awesome right out of the box but if you’re wondering what settings are best take a look at this video from the guys over at We Are Crossfader.