Buying a Second hand Mac for Music Production
Updated: Jan 6
Most people watching my YouTube channel are perfectly happy with what ever Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) they use and all my lessons are applicable to any of the major applications. However, there are some of you who might want to follow along exactly with my lessons so I am making this guide for those on a budget who wish to get a cheaper second hand Mac,
Personally, I have bought hundreds of Macs over the years, both to use myself and to resell using eBay. I am only mentioning this so you know I have a fair amount of knowlege on the models and their specs. Obviously if you can afford it, then buying a brand new desktop or laptop would be optimal but Apple don't really do cheap and some of you might be perfectly happy with your PC, but just want to test the waters with a second hand model.
What to look for
Whether you use eBay, Facebook Marketplace or any of the other places Macs are listed, let's make some basic rules of what to search for, starting with the age. As a rule, any Mac 2012 or newer can run the latest operating system and version of Logic Pro (using opencore legacy patcher, which we will discuss later), so you can narrow your search with that first. Next let's specify the minimum specs:
Any Intel i5, i7 or i9 processor
8GB of RAM minimum
Any graphics card (if you are using it just for music)
And most importantly an SSD for storage!
I will emphasise the last one as it will make or break your experience using the computer. DO NOT buy a Mac with a hard disk drive unless you are technical and happy to fit in a solid state drive (SSD) yourself.
What will the above spec get you? A great experience using Logic Pro with it's built in plugins and not too taxing third party plugins (Sylenth for instance is ultra efficient but some Kontakt libraries such as Pharlight are horrible on the CPU). I would say this should get you from beginner to earning money and at that point you can then decide to upgrade.
But what if you want to use more! Well there definitely comes a point of diminishing returns when buying Intel models. The new M1 chip Mac Mini's can be bought on eBay from around £750 with 16gb Ram in the UK so if that were my budget, I'd go there. If you are looking at Intel models though and want to run more demanding plugins well then I can recommend what I am currently using, a 2013 iMac that is fully specced out and (just having a look online) you can get for around £450. But lets add some additions to the above for what I would recommend spec wise for a very good Logic + third party plugin experience:
A quad core (or above) processor
16GB of RAM (32GB if you are using lots of orchestral libraries)
Still no special graphics required
And of course an SSD as large as possible but you will almost certainly need an external 1TB or more external SSD to store your sound libraries
How to run the latest MACOS
Most of the Macs post 2017 will run MacOS Ventura out of the box, but older models may not. If you are just using the Mac to run Logic Pro (or Garageband) then the latest version of Logic nearly always works on one version of MacOS older than the current release (currently, in early 2023, that's MacOS Monterey). So what to do if you are on an older Mac that's unsupported? Well if you use a clever (and easy to use) piece of software called Opencore Legacy Patcher, you can easily install the latest version of MacOS. Here are the links:
The instructions are clear on the first link but if you need me to do a guide then I certainly can in the future! Note, I am in no way affiliated with the team making this and it is possible you can run into problems, however, it is working perfectly on my 2013 iMac and was working on my 2009 Mac Pro before I sold it, so it's been great in my experience.
If you want to get a Mac for the purpose of using Logic Pro X and don't have a massive budget, I think going second hand is an excellent idea. If, however, you are a PC user and are already happy with Windows and are using a compatible DAW, then there is no real reason to get a Mac other than for curiosity. They ultimately do the same thing and I find both Windows and MacOS to be reliable. If you have any questions then get in contact, thank you for reading!