Can You Run Pro Tools On A Macbook Air in 2024? (We Checked)

As 2024 rolls on, many musicians and producers are wondering whether they can run Pro Tools on their MacBook Air. 

It’s no secret that Apple continues to innovate and improve its Mac OS line of computers. The entry-level MacBook Air is always under scrutiny regarding performance.

In this article, we’ll get into whether you can run Pro Tools on a MacBook Air and if it’s capable of handling the demands of a professional DAW.

Let’s jump in.

You’ve Probably Heard Of Pro Tools

If you haven’t heard of it, its a powerful recording software and digital audio workstation that helps professional musicians and beginners alike.

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It excels at tasks such as audio engineering, mixing, mastering, and MIDI integration, to name a few. Pro Tools was designed for both studio recording and live performance settings.

This DAW offers users a comprehensive set of tools for multitrack recording, music editing, and real-time processing. 

The software features the added flexibility of plugins, virtual instruments, and a range of audio effects. Mastering the art of audio production has never been more efficient and customizable.

In beating making, audio mixing, and sound design on a MacBook Air, Mac compatibility is a concern. 

This is because the overall performance must be taken into consideration. In recent years, Apple’s lightweight and portable MacBook Air has made strides in terms of processing power.

This makes MacBook Airs capable of managing audio tracks, MIDI controller integration, and even real-time processing of audio effects. 

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Apple has continued dedication to improving its Mac OS line. The MacBook Air might just be the go-to choice for audio professionals seeking power and portability.

Check Out: Is Omnisphere Still Worth It? (Answered for 2024)

MacBook Air Models: M1, M2, and Intel

Best MacBook For Pro Tools

  • M1 MacBook Air

The M1 MacBook Air, released in 2020, features Apple’s first custom chip for Macs. This chip enables the MacBook Air to run Pro Tools 12 efficiently.

This may bring up some limitations compared to a desktop computer. The M1 MacBook Air has 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of SSD storage. 

With Thunderbolt and USB 4 ports, it offers excellent connectivity for audio producers who need to use external drives for their music libraries.

  • M2 MacBook Air

The M2 MacBook Air, released in 2021, is an upgraded version of the M1 MacBook Air. It offers even better performance.

It is also compatible with Pro Tools 12 as well as other DAWs and plugins. 

The M2 MacBook Air features 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of SSD storage. Like the M1 MacBook Air, it has Thunderbolt and USB 4 ports for excellent connectivity.

  • Intel MacBook Air

The Intel MacBook Air is the older version of the MacBook Air, featuring Intel processors instead of Apple’s custom chips. 

While it is still possible to run Pro Tools 12 on an Intel MacBook Air, the performance may be significantly less impressive. 

Intel MacBook Air models have 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage.

Check Out: 11 Common Problems With Pro Tools 12 (Solved)

Performance Comparison: M1/M2 MacBook Air vs. Intel MacBook Air

When we compared the performance of Pro Tools on the different MacBook Air models, the M1 and M2 models stand out as the clear winners. 

They show a significant improvement in running DAWs, VST plugins, and handling orchestral libraries.

The M2 MacBook Air, in particular, offers a seamless experience for music producers and audio engineers.

DAWs and Plugins

The compatibility of DAWs and plugins is a crucial factor for music producers. The M1 and M2 MacBook Air models show a better performance.

MacBook Air Compatible DAWs:

MacBook Air Compatible Plugins: 

omnisphere 2
  • Izotope Ozone 10
  • Diva
  • Massive X 
  • Serum 
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  • Fabfilter
  • AutoTune
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  • Kontakt Player

Both the M1 and M2 MacBook Air perform more efficiently than their Intel counterparts.

Check Out: Is Serum VST Worth It? (Answered For 2024)

What About Orchestral Libraries?

If you work with orchestral libraries, the M1 and M2 MacBook Air models offer a significant improvement. over the Intel models. 

They can handle large sample libraries, multiple mic placements, and complex mic positions with ease. 

This enables a more efficient workflow for film and TV scoring using orchestral templates.

Can MacBook Air Handle CPU-Intensive Plugins?

Yes, the M1 and M2 MacBook Air can handle moderately CPU-intensive plugins well and might handle highly intensive ones with some limitations.

According to some user experiences shared on forums, MacBook Air may struggle with some CPU-intensive VST plugins, especially when multiple instances are used. 

Handling softsynths such as Omnisphere and Serum is another area where the M1 and M2 MacBook Air models are unpredictable. 

The Mac Airs can run CPU-intensive softsynths like U-he Diva and Massive X more smoothly than the Intel models, enabling a better music production experience.

However, the performance can vary depending on the specific model and configuration of the MacBook Air.

It’s recommended to optimize the settings of the DAW and the VST plugins to reduce CPU usage.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Check plugin compatibility: Ensure the plugins you want to use are compatible with your specific MacBook Air model and operating system.
  • Start with fewer plugins: Begin with a single plugin and gradually add more while monitoring CPU usage.
  • Optimize DAW settings: Experiment with buffer size and sample rate to find a balance between performance and audio quality.
  • Consider alternatives: If your workflow heavily relies on demanding plugins, explore more powerful laptops like the MacBook Pro or consider cloud-based solutions.

Remember that it’s always best to research specific plugins and user experiences with your MacBook Air model before making a purchase.

Online forums and reviews can offer valuable insights into individual plugin performance on different hardware configurations.

Check Out: Are Gaming Laptops Good for Music Production? (7 Considerations)

Is Pro Tools a RAM Hog?

Pro Tools can be a RAM hog depending on the specific project and plugins being used. However, the amount of RAM that Pro Tools can access is not limited by the software itself, but rather by the hardware of the computer running it.

While Pro Tools isn’t inherently a RAM hog, it can become RAM-intensive depending on your specific workflow and project demands.

The M1 and M2 MacBook Air models have better memory handling. This is increasingly essential for running DAWs like Pro Tools 12 that use a lot of RAM. 

It allows for more efficient loading of samples and improved performance of features.

Features such as convolution reverbs and real-time operations can be CPU-intensive in and of themself.

To optimize performance and avoid system overloads, it’s recommended to adjust settings such as buffer sizes, sample rates, and automation options, as well as using send effects and freezing tracks.

How Loud Is The MacBook Air Fan?

One of the most significant advantages of the M1 and M2 MacBook Air models is their fanless design. This eliminates the noise and hum associated with fan noise. 

This makes Macbook Airs ideal for music production and recording. However, the lack of a fan also causes other latent issues. 

These models may not be able to sustain peak CPU loads for extended periods, potentially throttling performance in demanding scenarios. 

The MacBook Pro models, which include a cooling system, may offer better performance in these situations.

Is Pro Tools Compatible with Apple Silicon?

With the release of Pro Tools 2023.3, Avid announced full compatibility with Apple Silicon. This includes the M1 and M2 MacBook Air models. 

The update allows music producers and audio engineers to take full advantage of the performance improvements. 

As a result, the latest MacBook Air models work smoothly when running Pro Tools.

What About Pro Tools Latency Issues?

One of the long-standing issues with running Pro Tools 12 on Apple laptops has been latency.  Latency issues can cause delays when tracking virtual and real instruments

The M2 MacBook Air, in particular, has managed to reduce latency significantly. 

We’ve noticed that this makes laptop-based professional productions more viable than ever before.

Check Out: 11 Common Problems With Pro Tools 12 (Solved)

Advantages of Portability with the MacBook Air

The MacBook Air’s portability offers many advantages. It’s great for music producers and audio engineers who need to work remotely or on the go. 

It comes with significant performance improvements for the M1 and M2 models. 

It is now possible to achieve a professional music production setup without the need for a desktop computer.

Compatibility of Pro Tools with MacBook Air

In audio editing and music production, Pro Tools is a heavyweight in the industry. It’s a popular DAW used by numerous professionals to create high-quality music and audio projects. 

As for the MacBook Air, it’s a lightweight, portable laptop that’s gaining popularity among content creators and audio engineers. 

Will these two work seamlessly together? 

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of Pro Tools compatibility with MacBook Air.

The first question to tackle is whether the MacBook Air can handle the demands of audio engineering and recording software like Pro Tools 12. 

Apple understands the creative community’s needs. 

It’s why they consistently update their Mac OS to perform optimally with industry-standard tools like Pro Tools. 

It’s important to mention that Mac compatibility is a given. This is because Pro Tools is designed to run on both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Factors worth considering for music production on a MacBook Air include the device’s processing power and storage capacity. 

Modern versions of the MacBook Air come equipped with powerful processors and ample SSD storage. 

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Powerful processors allow you to work with a multitrack recording setup, audio effects, virtual instruments, and MIDI controllers with relative ease.

 Add to that the MacBook Air’s portability and long battery life, and it can be a great option for on-the-go studio recording sessions.

Of course, high-quality audio production requires more than just a laptop and recording software. Audio interfaces and real-time processing capabilities contribute significantly too. 

If you’re working with a MacBook Air, you’ll need to invest in some basic audio equipment. 

Get your hands on an appropriate audio interface that features Thunderbolt or USB-C connections to accommodate the laptop’s available ports.

Pro Tools is known for having a vast array of audio editing tools. These include mixing, mastering, audio tracks, and plugins. 

The MacBook Air is capable of running these tools.

The level of efficiency might vary depending on the specific model and its hardware specifications. 

It also depends on the complexity of the audio projects you undertake.

For example, you might be doing resource-intensive tasks like sound design, beat making, and audio mixing. These tasks almost always pose a challenge for older MacBook Air models. 

On the bright side, newer models are better optimized for such audio processing tasks.

Let’s help you make an informed decision on whether the MacBook Air is suitable for your Pro Tools setup.

MacBook Air models and specifications:

ModelRelease DateDisplayProcessorRAMStorage
MacBook Air (M2, 2022)March, 202213.6-inch Liquid Retina displayM2 chip8GB
16GB
24GB
512GB
1TB
2TB
4TB
MacBook Air (M1, 2020)November, 202013.3-inch Retina displayM1 chip8GB
16GB
256GB
512GB
1TB
4GB
MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2019)July, 201913.3-inch Retina displayCore i5
Core i7
8GB
16GB
128GB
256GB
512GB
MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)June, 201813.3-inch Retina displayCore i5
Core i7
8GB
16GB
128GB
256GB
512GB
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2017)June, 201713.3-inch Retina displayCore i58GB128GB
256GB

Some additional points to consider include:

  • Opt for at least 16GB of memory (RAM) for better performance in audio engineering and music editing tasks
  • Choose an SSD with ample storage capacity to accommodate large audio files and virtual instruments
  • Keep your Mac OS and Pro Tools 12 software updated to ensure smooth functionality and optimal performance

With that said the MacBook Air can indeed run Pro Tools for a range of audio production tasks. 

This is especially true if you’re using a newer model with sufficient processing power and storage capacity. 

Carefully consider your hardware needs and the investment in compatible peripherals. Then you’ll be well on your way to creating impressive audio projects with Pro Tools on a MacBook Air.

Performance Expectations for Pro Tools on a MacBook Air

When we tested Pro Tools on a MacBook Air, many factors contributed to the overall performance. 

We needed to check this because music producers and audio engineers increasingly rely on this DAW for their projects. 

Understanding what to expect is essential.

MacBook Air has come a long way since its first iteration. Its specs in 2023 might provide adequate power for some Pro Tools audio projects you’re faced with.

However, the level of complexity in your audio editing and music production projects will impact your experience. 

For example, if you’re working on a full-scale studio recording, the MacBook Air might struggle to keep up.

It might struggle with multitrack recording and real-time audio processing demands.

What to Expect from Pro Tools:

  • Recording software: As long as the latest version of Mac OS supports Pro Tools, you should have no trouble installing and running the software on your MacBook Air.
  • Audio tracks and virtual instruments: The MacBook Air can handle basic audio production tasks like syncing audio tracks and using VSTs. 

However, larger sessions with lots of audio tracks and plugins might push the limits of the MacBook Air’s processing capabilities.

But if you’re looking for an optimal experience with heavy plugin usage or high track counts, you might need a more powerful Mac.

Pro Tools on a MacBook Air can be suitable for:

  • Editing podcasts
  • Beat making and basic music production
  • Audio mixing for smaller projects
  • Sound design and audio effects (within reason)

You might encounter limitations with:

  • Large-scale multitrack recording projects
  • Complex music editing with many virtual instruments and plugins
  • Demanding audio post-production work
  • High-resolution audio formats

For better performance, it’s crucial to use compatible hardware. 

This can include equipment such as an audio interface for lower latency, and a MIDI controller for easy input. 

Keep in mind that as software and plugin developers create newer versions, the performance demands may also increase.

On top of that, the MacBook Air’s limited user-upgradable components make it a less flexible option for long-term use. 

Eventually, CPU, RAM, and storage upgrades may become necessary for meeting Pro Tools’ requirements.

With that said the MacBook Air can handle basic Pro Tools 12 tasks in 2023. 

More demanding audio editing and music production projects may require a higher-spec MacBook for smooth performance. 

Consider the nature and scale of your work before deciding if a MacBook Air is the best fit for you.

Is The Apple M1 Chip Good Enough For Pro Tools 12?

Yes, all your existing Pro Tools 12 projects will work on the Apple M1 chip. They may even run faster and smoother than they did on your previous computer.

Avid released a native version of Pro Tools for Apple Silicon in March 2023. This means that Pro Tools 12 can now run directly on the M1 chip. 

The M2 chip is a significant upgrade over the M1 chip. It offers up to 18% faster CPU performance and up to 35% faster GPU performance. 

This means that Pro Tools 12 will be able to handle even the most demanding projects with ease.

The new chip results in significant performance improvements, especially for tasks such as loading large projects and processing plugins.

The Final Verdict

Considering the aspects discussed above, my conclusion is that a 2023 MacBook Air can run Pro Tools efficiently. That is, provided it meets the software’s system requirements. 

It’s worth noting that the MacBook Air may not be ideal for professionals working on extremely complex projects. 

This is because it might have limitations in its processing capabilities compared to other machines specifically designed for audio production.

The advantages of portability and silent operation make the MacBook Air an attractive choice for many professionals in the music industry.

Sources:

Pro Tools Operating System Compatibility Chart

Mac OS Requirements — Pro Tools

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