This has been going on far too long now “Macs are better because blah blah blah” “Yeah but PCs can blah blah”. The reasons people list for both are endless but there are actually very specific things a DJ needs from a laptop. So I’m going to go over why do DJs use Apple laptops and why they don’t really need to (…anymore).
Apple has been able to trade on an early reputation for superior audio integration, reliability and stability. Their laptops meant DJs could perform without worrying that software would crash or require lots of setup time. Things have changed over the years though, and Apple are not quite the industry standard that they used to be…
Why Do DJs Use Macs For DJing?
One of the main reasons DJs use Mac laptops is to do with how accessible Apple made their audio processor.
Without getting into too much of the technical aspect, they made it easy for software to integrate with their sound card.
While the way Windows is coded means that software developers often had/have to include extra drivers to create an interface. This makes things less flexible, and reliable when it comes to Windows.
This has become less of a problem over the years, as Windows got better at processing audio. A decade ago, there was no competition with Mac being the clear winner.
However, many DJs now use Windows computers.
Another reason why DJs use Macbooks will be due to their superior marketing and management of the public’s perception.
Because Macs had that reputation for industry-leading audio processing, Apple has been able to capitalize on, and maintain, that reputation.
Marketing is also easier for Apple as they are one company. Windows, however, is supplied with a huge array of manufacturers, meaning their marketing message is divided and mixed a lot more than Apple’s.
However, these days, there is no real reason why a well built, high spec Windows computer can’t match that of a Mac laptop.
Durability & Reliability
Reliability is also a factor. Macs have a good reputation for building solid, long-lasting, and durable laptops.
That said, it does seem that their quality may have reduced over the years. Reportedly some models have been known to ship with known keyboard or screen faults (see the ‘butterfly keyboard’ debacle for example, now discontinued by Apple).
These issues can be pricey, if not impossible to get Apple to fix and given the initial cost of the Machines, shouldn’t even be there in the first place.
The stability and reliability of Mac’s iOS is not in dispute, however. A large part of the reliability comes from their simplified file structure.
They are built and coded to be much less complicated than the Windows structure. This means there is less to go wrong and results in stable and reliable integration with audio and DJ software.
Latency…or Lack Of
Latency refers to the amount of time it takes for your laptop to generate audio to when it is heard, or passed through to your speakers or DJ setup. The shorter the latency the more accurate your mixing, or scratching will be.
For example, you don’t want to nudge your deck and then have to wait half or even a quarter of a second for that sound to then come out. You want it to be instant.
This is where a fast processor, high RAM, and superior audio sound card come into play. Again, for a long time, Mac was the clear standard for low latency. However, Windows have caught up and DJs can also reliably use their laptops.
DJs often use Apple laptops because many of the necessary requirements of a DJ are built into Macbooks.
For example, with Windows Machines, you often have to manually download and install separate drivers. Although drivers are still required on Mac laptops often they are already built into the operating system.
Another benefit of having drivers built into the core set up is that you do not need to mess around with specific settings to get things to work. Which you may have to on a PC.
That said, generally, once you are set up on a PC then things should run just as reliably as it would on any Mac.
Designed to Be Simple
Apple has always designed and built iOS to be simple to use. Even if there is a learning curve when you first switch from PC to Mac.
When you are familiar, however, it means that browsing, updating or installing new software can be a lot quicker and require less tweaking than on Windows.
What Are the Best Macs for DJing?
Like all computers, when deciding which Macbook to DJ with, there are choices when it comes to specs and size.
You will want to look for one that at least matches the recommended specs for the software you are planning to use. Ideally, you actually want to go for a higher spec Machine if you can afford it. This helps ensure some longevity in your laptop (i.e you don’t want the spec of your laptop to be quickly outdated by future software updates).
Then you’ll want to look at the size. I recommend the 16″ Macbook, with the absolute highest spec of both processor and RAM.
At the time of writing this was:
- Processor: Up to 8 core 2.4GHz Intel Core i9
- RAM: Up to 64GB RAM
To give you an idea of the recommended specs for audio or DJ software. These are some of the most popular options that you should consider:
|Free HDD Space
|Serato Pro DJ
|macOS 10.13 /
|macOS 10.13 /
|macOS 10.11.6 /
(8 GB recommended)
|macOS 10.13.6 /
Not available on Win
(63 GB for full sound library)
Macbook Air Vs Pro for DJing
When the Macbook airs originally came out they were very much meant for the general user. This meant there was a lot more focus on it running basic programs like web browsers or emails so the processors were never really powerful enough to reliably run DJ or music production software.
Although they have got more powerful over the years they a still a step down (in terms of processing power and RAM) than even the basic 13” Macbook Pro. So, while you could, in theory, run DJ software the Air would be running hard.
Ideally, you want your laptop to run software easily and be future-proofed again future, more power-hungry, software updates.
This is why I would advise you to still go with a Macbook Pro over an Air. While it is a bit of the shame (due to how light & portable the Air is), the power aspect wins out every time. The Air only comes in a 13” model so it is also not ideal from a screen real estate point of view.
Why Do DJs Use Laptops?
Just as powerful as…
There are several reasons why DJs use laptops, the most obvious of course being portability. Back in the day, laptops were not powerful enough so you would sometimes have DJs taking their full tower setup to a gig.
I know this because I used to do it. Trust me it was a pain in the ass.
These days however with laptops being far more powerful, DJs can run software reliably while having the storage space needed to store virtually unlimited tracks.
(Virtually) Unlimited storage
That would be one reason why DJs use laptops because it allows them to take their entire music library with them to a gig. When using USB, although they may be able to store hundreds or thousands of tracks, a DJ will often have to pre-select the music to go on there. Taking their laptop means they can take the entire library.
Note: It’s worth having a full backup of your music library in case your laptop or USBs go missing. I use and recommend pCloud as you can get 2TB of cloud storage for a one-off cost instead of Dropbox’s ongoing monthly fee.
The other reason DJs use laptops is that the software can give them any more options than decks or a controller for example.
Software can actually have virtually unlimited decks so while the DJ may only have two physical decks in front of them, the software may have many more. It is not uncommon for DJs to mix on four decks at a time.
Takeaways: Why Do DJs Use Laptops?
- Far more portable than towers
- Decent laptops have the same processing power as towers
- A DJ is able to take their entire music library everywhere they go
- DJ software used on laptops gives many more options than physical decks or controllers
- Some DJs also do VJ sets and the video is handled by the laptop
Viruses: Which Platform Is More Secure?
There is a common myth with Macs that they do not suffer from viruses. While this may have been true in the early days sadly it no longer is.
The myth came about due to the fact that Macs are programmed entirely in-house by Apple, therefore, making them more secure.
PCs are built by various manufacturers and while Windows is the operating system, many 3rd party developers add functionality to it (think download virus software or installing drivers). This means there are more opportunities for hackers or malware to exploit the system.
However, according to the Malwarebytes State of Malware Report 2020, the amount of malware attacking Macs has outpaced Windows for the first time.
For years Windows dominated the market share which meant they were a far bigger target for hackers. However, as Apple has grown in popularity so has the number of attacks.
This means that any DJ or even general users of Macs should be just as wary, and careful, as a Windows user.
The best way to protect your laptop against viruses and malware is:
- Be careful of any program you download – ensure it is coming from an official, trusted source
- Be particularly wary of free software – these often collect and sell your data as a way to pay for the program
- Do regular updates – to ensure you have the latest security patches
- Install and use virus protection software – again a premium paid/product will serve you better than a free virus protector
Takeaways: Which Platform Is More Secure?
- Remember the belief that Macs do not get viruses is a myth
- According to Malwarebytes 2020 report, Mac malware now outpaces Windows malware
- Regular updates and being mindful of what you install on your Mac laptop is the best defense against viruses or malware
Do Some DJs Use Macbooks Because They Look Better?
While I am sure that some DJs do use Macbooks as a status symbol, I think it’s rare this would be the only reason someone might purchase one.
Not least because Macbooks tend to be much more expensive than an equivalent Windows laptop.
It is much more likely that a DJ will consider their budget and specification requirements above the look of the laptop when they are on stage.
After all, if a DJ is putting on a good show and playing great music then the audience doesn’t care what laptop is running the DJ software.
Takeaways: Do Some DJs Use Macbooks Because They Look Better?
- Some will but the actual percentage of DJ’s doing so will be tiny
- Budget and required specs play a much larger factor than how a laptop looks
- Audiences generally don’t care what laptop a DJ is using
Can I Use a Microsoft Windows Laptop for DJing?
Yes absolutely. All DJ software is compatible with both iOS and Windows. Meaning this question really comes down to specs.
When purchasing a laptop for DJing you need to make sure the laptop is capable of comfortably running any software you want to use.
Therefore before buying a laptop for DJing make sure you look up the software manufacturer’s recommended specs to run as it will vary from program to program.
Even if you don’t own a particular software at the time of buying the laptop consider which programs you may want to use in the future.
For example, if you are thinking you might like to make music in the future then look up the required specs needed to run Ableton for example.
When in doubt…
Always go for the highest specs you can afford. Generally, the higher-spec you get, the longer your laptop will last you.
So get way above the recommended specs for any particular software. This means that when the software is updated and gets more power-hungry (which it will), your laptop will be able to cope with the higher demands.
Takeaways: Can I Use a Windows Laptop for DJing?
- Yes absolutely
- Buy the highest possible spec you can afford
- The higher the spec the longer your laptop will last
- Consider what software you might want to run in the future and ensure the laptop you purchase can handle it
Should I Use a Laptop for DJing or Should I Play from USB?
This comes down to personal preference, your style, and also what you are hoping to achieve in your sets.
You cannot beat the portability of USBs, given that they fit in your pocket and there is no individual setup or power required. You simply plug your USB into the decks and you are ready to go.
The downside of playing from USB is that you are limited to the setup that a particular club may have. For example, you may be used to DJing over four decks, but a club may only have two.
If you had a laptop, however, you would be able to use virtual decks in your DJ software to still mix as you would normally.
The same applies if you do video mixing, this is not possible with USBs and requires a laptop to run video-enabled software.
If you are just starting, or are on a budget, then I would suggest mixing purely from USB.
While you will always need a set of decks (see our recommended decks here) or a controller to DJ a laptop is not essential, to begin with. So you can save money by not having to purchase a laptop or DJ software.
Takeaways: Should I Use a Laptop for DJing or Should I Play from USB?
Benefits of DJing with USB
- Unbeatable portability – fits in your pocket
- Good sized USB – can hold thousands of tracks
- You can set up your record library at home and it will load in a club
- Can save you money when starting – no need to buy a laptop or DJ software
Cons of DJing with USB
- You are limited to the setup each individual club has
- You will not have access to software-specific features such as virtual decks or video mixing
Benefits of DJing with a laptop
- You can take your entire music library with you wherever you go
- DJ software has extra features like virtual decks, FX and video mixing
Cons of DJ and with a laptop
- Extra expense when starting
- Laptops add an extra element of failure to your setup i.e viruses
What Are People’s Opinions on Laptop DJs?
There used to be a debate in the DJ world whether laptop DJs were “real” DJs. Laptops were seen as cheating because the software could do some of the work for you i.e sync tracks.
However, since DJs have got more creative with their mixing and such features have found their way into decks themselves, this debate has died down a lot.
Now it is very common to see professional, big-name DJs have a laptop as part of their setup.
The debate now (and really always has been) around whether a DJ actually has the skills to still mix if the laptop was taken away from them. And that is a debate that will rage until the end of time.
It is my view that any DJ that hasn’t learned to beatmatch by ear and instead relies on the sync function, hasn’t truly taken the time to master their craft.
Having a laptop or not doesn’t really come into it.
Takeaways What Are People’s Opinions on Laptop DJs?
- Many functions previously exclusive to laptops are now also found in decks
- Many professional DJs now have laptops as part of their live setup
- A true DJ should still be able to mix by ear without the help of a laptop
Macbooks – What are the Advantages?
Macbooks tend to be better at handling audio out of the box.
In that, the builtin sound card is very capable of handling high-quality audio.
Windows machines on the other hand often require high-quality sound cards to be put in as an optional extra or to use an outboard audio interface.
That said, many DJs and producers will still use an audio interface with their Mac. This gives them extra options, like a wider variety of connections that their laptop does not have built-in i.e RCA or mic inputs/outputs.
In theory, Macbooks also tend to have a longer life than PCs.
Superior build quality means that a Macbook that is well cared for can last for several years.
For example, the Macbook that this article is being written on is 7 years old yet is still going strong and is capable of running the latest DJ software.
It is fairly uncommon for PCs to last that long. The average lifespan of a PC being approximately 3 to 4 years before needing to be replaced.
Macbooks also tend to be more reliable and crash less often than their PC counterparts.
This is due to how tightly Apple controls the development of iOS and the fact that Macbooks are built with the creative in mind.
This makes them more resilient to the demands and strains of music production and DJ software.
PCs are made largely for general users. Meaning there is less of a focus in being built to run high-performance software.
Macs get fewer viruses…or do they?
The general misconception that Macs do not get viruses is not true (and is discussed elsewhere in this article in detail).
They do, however, tend to require less maintenance when it comes to security than Windows.
By regularly updating your Macbook and being mindful of what you install, you will be protecting yourself against malware and viruses.
Takeaways: Macbooks – What Are the Advantages?
- Excellent onboard soundcard makes them ready for DJing or producing out of the box
- Macbooks tend to have a longer lifespan than PCs
- They are more reliable when running high-performance software
- Requires less maintenance to keep secure
What Size Macs Are Good for DJing?
While this will eventually come down to personal preference, a DJ should consider a balance between portability and usability.
The 13” Macbook may be highly portable yet the smaller screen makes it more difficult for DJs to quickly see information while in the mix.
This makes the 16″ is a logical compromise. It is small enough to fit in most DJ booths while the screen is still large enough for you to easily see what is going on during your set.
Takeaways: What Size Macs Are Good for DJing?
- You will want to strike a balance between portability and viewability
- The 16” Macbook is a good compromise and is perfect for the gigging DJ
Conclusion: Why do DJs use Apple laptops?
As discussed further up the article Macbooks tend to be more reliable and quicker to get up and running straight out of the box.
Their reputation for audio processing and reliability has also stood them in good stead to become the staple of the DJing world.
However, Windows PCs have come a long way throughout the years and can now comfortably compete in power and stability with Macbooks. That is, as long as you, as a DJ, go for a reliable manufacturer and high spec laptop.
I personally don’t see Macbooks as a status symbol for DJs in the way the same they used to be. This is because Macs are much more common these days. It is no longer just creative people that have them, many people have them for general use also.
I feel with the cost of Macs consistently going up, and quality reportedly dropping, that you will see an increasing number of Windows laptops being used within the DJ world.
Meaning it would not at all surprise me to see Apple’s market share drop within the DJ industry.