Is MacBook Air Good for Music Production? (Latest Generation)

Author: Tomas Morton | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

So, a few weeks back, I got this email saying that Avid Pro Tools is now up and running with Apple Silicon thanks to their latest Pro Tools 2023.3 release. As a die-hard Pro Tools user, I was over the moon.

Now, I don’t really need more power for my regular studio computer desktop as I already use Pro Tools HDX and UAD cards to handle all my plugin processing tasks.

But, thanks to the pandemic, I ended up buying an M1 MacBook Air for remote Zoom sessions and basic production work from home, and I gotta say, it’s been pretty darn impressive.

With everyone now shifting to remote work, even music producers, I just upgraded to a MacBook Air M2, and It’s ridiculous! I used to think that producing music on a laptop wasn’t as “pro” as using a desktop, but maybe we’re finally at a point where both are equal.

So, let’s check out the options and performance differences from a production standpoint, shall we?

M1/M2 MacBook Air vs. Intel MacBook Air

I snagged the 13.3-inch M1 MacBook Air model with 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD storage. It’s been my go-to gadget for remote sessions and gigs on the move.

I pitted it against my old Intel i7 1.2GHz quad-core edition, which boasted identical specs. The M1’s ports are stellar, with Thunderbolt and USB 4 onboard.

Not everyone will be hyped about that, but as a producer, I tote my Thunderbolt external drives with me everywhere to keep my massive music library close (even when I’m jetting from the studio to home sweet home).

Using Orchestral Libraries

I got my orchestral Kontakt libraries and one-shots all set to go in my Ableton drum racks. To make it easier to load those libraries, I set the buffer sizes lower.

And get this, even my EastWest Hollywood Strings worked like a charm!

Running those sample libraries with multiple mic placement options can be a real pain in the neck for most laptops. The M1 still struggles with instances of EastWest Play and Spitfire Symphonic strings, either because of insufficient processing power (only because the Air model lacks a dedicated CPU cooler fan unlike the MacBook Pro) or because the DAW is lagging.

I’ll give you more info on that later.


So I tried out a bunch of different software: Pro Tools, Ableton, Izotope Ozone 10, Logic Pro, and Reason 12. I tested them on both an M1 and Intel.

The M1 handled Link like it was nothing, but the Intel had some trouble even with high buffer settings and ended up crashing. Izotope Ozone 10 was a bit of a pain on both machines, especially when it came to oversampling.

Logic Pro and Reason 12 did pretty well with MIDI, but they had some trouble when it came to bigger audio sessions and libraries.


I tested the monsters U-he Diva and Massive X plugins and they run way smoother on the M1.

These things can be a real drag on your CPU, especially Massive X with its fancy Intel AVX plugins.

But don’t sweat it, the M1’s Silicon has got you covered.

M1 MacBook Air vs. M2 MacBook Air

Now let’s get to the really good news. The M2 is an absolute beast. Everything mentioned above changed completely with the M2 chip.

First off, as a keyboard player, I always aim to play beautiful libraries like Spectrasonics Keyscape and Synthogy’s Ivory at a buffer size of 64. This is the first time in my life that I haven’t needed to switch to 128 or 256 buffers on a laptop.

That right there is worth the whole price tag to me.

Now that Pro Tools is fully Apple Silicon compatible, the degree of improvement is staggering.

I recently did a mixed edit with over 95 tracks with plugins from across the spectrum, including UAD and Izotope’s Ozone, without a single crash.

M2 With Orchestral Libraries

So, get this: I totally pushed the limits and added all the Hollywood Orchestra mic positions, no sweat. And you know what? I had never been able to use all the piano mics on the EastWest Piano library without bumping up to 1024 buffers.

But with the M2, it’s a breeze for anyone with big orchestral templates for film and TV scoring.


The M2 model has very good memory handling, which is awesome for DAWs like Pro Tools. These programs use a lot of RAM, leaving little for loading samples.

Although libraries usually stream from disk now, some features still need to access RAM. These include mic position recordings, convolution reverbs, and real-time operations, which were impossible to use on MacBook Airs before.

But now, they’re like no big deal on the M2, especially on the 16GB RAM variant.

The Sound of Silence

Alright, listen up, folks! No more annoying fan noise! MacBooks used to heat up like crazy, so fans were put in the Pro models to keep them cool.

And get this, if you recorded anything near the computer, the noise and hum were unbearable! The Air was practically unusable once it overheated.

Guess what? Those days are over. The Air now lacks a fan altogether, so there’s no scope for any kind of noise.

On the downside, this means Air models are unable to sustain peak loads (high CPU usage) for long periods of time since they need to be throttled more aggressively to prevent overheating.

Pro models offer better performance despite often boasting the exact same chip, because of the presence of external cooling which helps the laptop handle demanding scenarios for longer without slowing the processor down.

Final Thoughts

I used to have some major issues with delays when tracking on Apple laptops. It messed up virtual and real instruments, especially for vocalists – a total bummer.

Latency is simply the delay between what you play and what you hear. The bigger the buffer size, the less CPU usage you get, but it also means more delay, which can be super frustrating.

The UAD console was used to reduce latency, but it only worked with UAD-specific interfaces and had some system struggles – not cool.

But hey, good news! This isn’t a problem anymore when tracking, which finally makes laptop professional productions the real deal.

So, I gotta say, the M2 MacBook Air is an absolute dream to work with. No more headaches, just smooth sailing.

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About Tomas Morton

Tomas is a record producer, engineer, and synthesizer enthusiast based in Pasadena, CA. He received training at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. When not in his studio, he can often be found scouring garage sales or Craigslist ads for vintage gear treasures.

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