What is an audio driver in a laptop, and how does it work?


I am into music production, and I always see that macs are better for this than PCs, even when the on-paper specs of the PC are better.

Often, people refer to the audio-driver and something about coreaudio. They say that the audio is on top of the OS for PC, and within the OS for Mac. I am so confused.

Please explain like I am five.

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Also, people always say that Macs have lower latency?

I can’t speak to what you’ve heard people say.

But a “driver” is a piece of software that tells the OS how to interact with the hardware. In this specific case, it would tell the OS how to talk to and use the audio hardware in a laptop.

The big difference you’re referring to between Macs and PCs in this regard is that Apple controls all of the hardware AND the OS. There are still drivers, but things are more tightly controlled by the Manufacturer, in this case Apple.

By comparison, Microsoft writes the Windows OS and it gets sold along with a wide array of hardware. Same OS/Driver process, just less controlled by the OS maker.

A driver is a piece of software which makes the main OS recognise some extra hardware.

Apple Macs have a restricted range of options, but you can be sure that MacOS / OSX already has the driver built in. Windows can accept a wider range of products, so long as the hardware manufacturer provides a driver for it.


You can think of an OS as having a central HQ, controlling things, and various departments handling specific tasks. So the HQ might want to make some music, so it sends the commands to the audio department. Maybe it wants to save a file, so it sends a command to the disk department.


Macs do not, intrinsically, have lower latency. It depends on the speed of the processor and the quality of the driver, and probably others too.

Macs are built as a singular unit with a comprehensive plan for the parts, so everything is built to mesh together (the entire Mac someone has in front of them is one puzzle). PCs are built for modularity, so companies that build audio cards and audio interfaces create their own software to fit onto it, like you would be able to put different clothes onto your body as long as they fit. But that means there is processing software interacting with the OS, whereas you wouldn’t really have that same step with Mac.

Still, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Mac is a clear winner, because there are certain “tiers” of product performance within Apple that would get outpaced by a PC that’s much more purpose-built (like skimp on a video card since you ideally wouldn’t game, design, or browse online on a production workstation). Additionally, you’re looking at processing speeds now that are higher than 5, 10, 15 years ago that it’s harder to perceive a difference resulting from latency

Sorry people, I’m trying to understand, but computers are rather complex.