I know why I use a MacBook for DJing and I wanted to know if other DJs use MacBooks for the same reasons. So I did a little research to find out more and add my opinion to the mix (yes, pun intended!)
So why do DJs use MacBooks?
I found that the #1 reason why DJs use MacBooks is because of their audio processing capabilities. You can take a brand new MacBook out of the box and connect it to almost any audio device and it will just work. There is no need to install any additional drivers.
Many users of MacBooks take it for granted that their computer has superior audio processing without knowing exactly why. It seems that Mac OS is created with audio in mind and it is useful to know how and why.
The power of the MacBook
There are many reasons why the MacBook is trusted by a lot of DJs. Let’s take a closer look:
- Operating System
When opting for a MacBook, you will use the Mac OS operating system by default.
Mac OS is written with simplicity in mind. The unneeded clutter is very limited and it is very easy to use, so it can be adopted by users of all different experience levels.
In addition, if you also own other products within the Apple range, integration of those devices is effortless.
Whatever DJ software you use, take a look in the settings and there will be a section where you can alter the latency or buffer settings. Audio latency is the delay in between the audio being created and being heard. It is usually measured in milliseconds.
The lower the latency, the quicker the audio signal will route through the system, resulting in a faster response time.
You can put this into practice by checking how quickly the audio is triggered when using the jog wheels or performance pads on your DJ controller. If the audio is instantly triggered, then the latency is likely to be lower. If there is a small gap in the time it takes the audio to be triggered after engaging the jog wheel or performance pads, then it is likely that the latency is higher.
Mac OS includes “Core Audio”, which is used for playing, creating, recording and editing audio on your Mac. Many third-party developers of audio hardware and software for Mac use Core Audio when developing their products, rather than creating secondary drivers. By using Core Audio, they achieve low latency as standard.
Many DJs like to incorporate MIDI controllers into their sets for added performance enhancements.
Secondary MIDI controllers such as keyboards, additional pad controllers and rotary mixers are easily assigned within your DJ software and can be used to trigger hot cues, cue points, loops and sync functions.
Mac OS is written so it natively supports a vast majority of MIDI controllers, making those creative routines a real possibility.
While it is often believed that MacBooks don’t require drivers, this isn’t actually true.
However, the “drivers” (or kext files as they are known as within Mac OS), are actually pre-written into the operating system for most well-known devices. When connecting new hardware for the first time, it is likely that it will work straight away.
With Mac OS being written to include the kexts (drivers), it eliminates the possibility of your system slowing down or crashing due to driver updates, driver conflicts or reinstallation of drivers.
Viruses: Which platform is more secure?
Years ago, the “Macs can’t get viruses” claim was a little more credible than it is now. Certainly, Mac OS is less susceptible to viruses than what other operating systems are, but I believe that is largely because there are so many computers that use other operating systems in comparison to Mac OS.
In September 2018, StatCounter published these figures which shows the gulf in numbers:
According to those statistics, for every person using Mac OS, there are 6 people using a Microsoft Windows operating system. Therefore, it is no surprise that more Microsoft Windows-based systems get infected with viruses.
Do some DJs use MacBooks because they look better?
I think there is definitely a certain “status” about having that glowing apple on display. (Unless, like me, you have it covered with your own logo printed on an opaque cover).
If you haven’t already, make sure that you do this. It is possibly the best way to advertise yourself offline.
Apple has always invested heavily in research, development and design, so it is no surprise that all of their products are pleasing on the eye.
Aside from glow-in-the-dark logos, the aluminium body on a MacBook is definitely very strong and will almost certainly take more of a beating than the flimsy plastic cases I have seen on some Microsoft Windows-based laptops.
Can I use a Microsoft Windows laptop for DJing?
The short answer to this is, absolutely!
While I was in the middle of an outdoor gig in Abu Dhabi, UAE in 2014, a freak downpour left my 2009 MacBook exposed to the elements and it got wet. The damage that it sustained meant that it wasn’t economical to repair, so I had to wait for the insurance policy to pay out for the replacement.
To cut a long story short, I was left with no option but to use my everyday Lenovo laptop as a temporary measure. It was running Microsoft Windows 8 and it worked like a charm!
At the time, I was using Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ software. To my knowledge, Rekordbox is not a processor intensive piece of software. Regardless, I transferred all of my music onto my Lenovo laptop from one of my backup drives, and I carried on as normal without any problems at all.
I personally know many DJs who use Windows-based laptops for DJing and music production. They all say how good the performance is and are generally very positive. I cannot remember the last time anyone reported a crash on either Microsoft Windows or Mac OS.
The main consistency that I see among my peers is that they don’t tend to use budget systems. I generally see Dell Alienware, Lenovo Thinkpad, Dell XPS and even Microsoft Surface among the chosen solutions for those wanting to run a Microsoft Windows-based setup.
Should I use a laptop for DJing or should I play from USB?
This totally comes down to personal preference.
When I am playing at a gig that requires me to play several different genres of music, I tend to use my laptop as it makes it easier to search among the different tracks.
Alternatively, when I am playing at a gig that only requires one genre of music (i.e techno or trance), I tend to use a USB that I have prepared in Pioneer’s Rekordbox software.
Having said that, I also know DJs who prefer to play open format sets solely from USB and others who like to play single genre sets from their laptop. As I say, it all comes down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable with.
Better DJing Top Tip
When choosing a laptop for DJing, you must consider what you need from that laptop. Can you afford a separate laptop just for DJ use? Do you need to use it for everyday tasks as well?
It is also worth thinking about what software you intend to use and if you will use the laptop for music production as well. The reason that I say this is because there are certain pieces of software that are written exclusively for Mac OS and others that are written exclusively for Microsoft Windows.
A MacBook is a fantastic piece of kit, no doubt about it. They look good, they perform well and, if you look after them, they will last you a long time.
Having said that, Microsoft Windows-based laptops are no slouches either and will provide you with more value for money when comparing similar spec laptops with their MacBook counterparts.
Whichever option you choose, make sure that you test it thoroughly with your software of choice prior to using it at any gigs.
I hope that this article has helped you in some way. If you have any questions or any suggestions regarding best practice when using a MacBook or a Microsoft Windows-based laptop for DJing, please feel free to leave a comment.