Over the years, I have owned both Windows-based PCs and Apple computers. My preference for DJ performances has been Windows-based laptops, specifically Dell computers. In this blog article, I highlight some of the important differences between Macs and PCs, and answer the question, “do you really need an Apple MacBook Pro to rock a dance floor?”
Over the past ten years, the vast majority of mobile DJs have transitioned to digital DJ setups with a laptop computer paired with a variety of MIDI controllers used to play back and mix digital MP3 files. Prior to the digital DJ revolution, DJs used CDs or vinyl and were forced to carry cumbersome cases/crates of music to parties. While performing from a laptop is incredibly empowering to a DJ, it’s critical to have a reliable laptop computer that doesn’t crash during a hot dance set or while a wedding couple is sharing their first dance together as husband and wife.
From time to time, I receive comments from party guests who are astounded to learn that it’s possible to DJ without an Apple MacBook Pro – you know, the one with the glowing Apple logo on the back.
Well, I’m here to tell you that, YES, it’s possible and Windows-based computers work great with popular DJ software programs like Serato DJ and Virtual DJ. I also far prefer the Word Processing and Spreadsheet programs (Word and Excel, respectively) of Windows over their mediocre Apple counterparts (Pages and Numbers). On the other hand, what I most enjoy about Mac over Windows is the simplicity of design and more intuitive feel of their products.
Fans of Apple laptops will mention that Macs are free of computer viruses, and that they play music better. Other benefits as per one commentator, “with a Mac, you are guaranteed a high standard of construction, and they have universal audio drivers so you don’t need to mess around installing ASIO drivers to get your computer’s sound card to work with them as you have to for some hardware when using a PC.”
Contrary to popular belief, Mac computers can experience problems that put a DJ’s performance in peril (e.g. computer crashes and the spinning pinwheel of death). Numerous DJ peers of mine have experienced serious problems with their MacBooks that required professional repair at the Apple store.
As a rule, for all of my DJ laptops, I use them exclusively for music. I purchase laptops with fast processors and lots of RAM. I remove as many programs as possible from the computer that are unrelated to music. I don’t want other programs placing a drain on the processor to interfere with its sole purpose of running my DJ software without any glitches. Importantly, I do not surf the internet with my work laptop. This virtually eliminates the risk of contracting a computer virus from the worldwide web. Finally, I am reluctant to install software updates once I have my computers running smoothly.
The cost savings from using Windows-based laptops versus MacBook Pros can be significant. For identical specifications, Macs command a substantial premium. A 15 inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB hard drive is currently listed online by Apple for $2,499. A 15 inch Dell Inspiron 7000 series with 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive plus 128 GB Solid State Drive is listed on Dell’s website at $1,299. In this case, a similar Apple product costs double the price of the Windows based alternative. How much of this premium is attributable to performance versus branding?
Speaking of branding, why as a DJ should you promote Apple’s brand with their glowing Apple logo? You’re not endorsed by Apple and receive no compensation to ‘place’ the brand as is common in Hollywood movies. If you’re going to decorate your laptop computer, why not use a custom skin promoting your own DJ brand? That’s what two-time DJ Times DJ of the Year Jack Bermeo of LJ Productions did (see photo below).
Cool factor? Yes, Apple is cooler than Dell, HP and the other popular PC brands. However, a skilled DJ can deliver a cool performance on any brand of computer laptop – MAC or PC. A computer is merely a tool of the trade. Keith Richards would be formidable with a toy guitar, and Roger Federer would still beat a recreational player using a wooden tennis racket.
If cost was no object, would I opt for an Apple MacBook Pro? Most likely yes, but not definitely. I’ve been very happy with the stability of my PCs out in the field. The MAC versus PC debate is a personal decision – you should use whichever brand fits your image, performance needs, and budget.
Please leave a comment below to let us know where you stand on the Mac versus PC debate. Which do you use to DJ, and why? For those who attend DJ set as guests, do you perceive DJs differently based on their laptop brand or custom skin?