There is more music creation technology out today than ever before. Smartphone and tablet apps, laptops, desktop computers, if you’ve got any of these, then the chances are that you can record and produce some music. Computers have always been the most powerful and reliable recording and production technology. Still, it can be daunting to pick out the right computer equipment for your home studio with so many options available.
That’s what this article addresses – we’ll look at some of the factors to consider, specs to look out for, and types of computers that make for a great recording and production setup without breaking the bank. Your computer is likely the piece of equipment in your studio that gets the most use, so if there’s one piece of equipment that’s worth investing in, this is it!
1. What kind of computer do I need for music recording? For production?
Every computer has different design focuses. Different specialties, as with any other gear, the vital question to ask before investing in it is, “What are my primary needs that this needs to cover?”.
For recording music, it’s essential to consider the capability of the computer to handle incoming recording. The computer’s sound card comes into play here – having a good sound card for your computer helps prevent latency issues as your computer records incoming audio. Mac computers, in particular, are great recording computers because of their stock sound cards.
Often, gaming computers are considered an option for music recording or production computers – after all, they’re powerful computers. However, these types of computers often have loud fan volumes, making them difficult to use in recording scenarios. For production purposes, gaming computers have massive power with regards to CPU and RAM, so if an open-microphone recording is not one of your needs, these can be great computers for production.
Computers with pre-loaded or stock music production software can also be a great computer choice for recording and/or production. Mac computers, in particular, come with GarageBand pre-installed (and Logic Pro X for a bit more upfront), so these are music-ready computers.
The question of laptop vs. desktop is also an important consideration. While dedicated stationary desktops are often much more powerful than laptops, they lack the convenience of portability. If you’re a musician or producer on the go, then a mobile setup is something to consider – newer laptops, like the MacBook Pro or the ASUS ROG STRIX GL553, are powerful laptops that make great portable setups.
2. What computer specs do I need for music recording? For production?
CPU: Your computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is the brain of the whole operation. Whether it’s running plugins, recording audio, analyzing, or editing sound, any type of processing relies on the CPU. This is the most important spec for your computer and shouldn’t be undermined! Like RAM or storage, other computer specs are often more easily upgradeable after purchase, but the CPU is more challenging to upgrade. For recording or production, the more cores your CPU has, the more efficiently it will perform tasks. Similarly, the higher the processing number, the more powerful the computer. For recording and production, I’d recommend a minimum of 4 cores for the processor.
RAM: The Random Access Memory, or RAM, is responsible for the computer’s short-term memory. It is also mainly responsible for the speed of the computer, especially running software or accessing files. Higher RAM is also great for production because quick access to samples, loops, or other files is smoothest with more RAM. Most DAWs have RAM requirements too – Logic Pro X requires a minimum of 4 GB, whereas Pro Tools requires a minimum of 16 GB. Generally, a healthy minimum is 8 or 16 GB of RAM, depending on your software requirements.
Storage: Music recording and production requires a ton of storage space. Software, sound libraries, project files, they fill up a hard drive quickly. It can be tempting to purchase a bigger built-in hard drive for your computer, a smart compromise to make is spending more upfront for CPU and RAM and using an external hard drive. This is a great expandable way to keep a large amount of storage available. An important distinction to also make is a solid-state drive (SSD) vs. a hard-disk drive (HDD). SSDs are a newer technology that make storage accessibility very quick, and while they’re often a bit pricier than HDDs, they’re worth the distinction.
3. What is the best computer (for the money) for music recording? For production?
With so many options available, which is the best computer to invest in? Depending on where you’re at with your studio needs, sometimes learning to maximize your current computer’s efficiency is best! Smart changes like optimizing the audio buffer size and length, using multithreading, and bussing your effects can help sessions run smoother and maximize your computer’s capability. Though, if you’re wanting to improve on your current setup, then here are some of the best investments you can make for a powerful home studio computer, considering performance and budget:
- Apple iMac – Likely the most popular computer for music recording and production, this computer covers all the bases. A baseline 16 GB of RAM, various processor SSD storage options, and a beautiful screen. It can handle most, if not any, session thrown at it.
- Dell XPS 8930 – This is a powerful, and less expensive, machine for non-Apple users. 6 core Intel i7 CPU, 32 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD and 2TB HDD – this is a powerful all-around machine that makes for a great studio investment.
- Apple MacBook Pro – If portability is a must for your studio computer, the MacBook Pro is arguably the best laptop for recording and production. With a variety of baseline specs that can rival most desktop computers, it is a powerful computer for on-the-go sessions.