Best computer for Music Production 2018

Posted by Esteban Miranda on

Do you know that audio processing is one of the most CPU consuming tasks that people do on their computers today?

If you don´t, here with Top Music Arts, we´re going to help you choose the best one for you!

Always giving you some tips and guides, as always.

The common debate comes up, Mac or PC? Desktop or Laptop or even Tablet? Well with the technological advances made in the last years, we will highlight the top computers, in their own types, and a summary of what they bring to the table.

Here we’re looking for the best computer for music production and recording, right? So you have your music production gear; keyboards, speakers, microphones, and most importantly, the ideas storming around in your brain; but what about the actual computer to act as the main tool of your entire digital music production setup?

When it comes to a music making a computer, we want to make clear that, it isn’t too big of a deal which one you get.

When we say that, we mean what kind, type, brand, etc. You could also follow our lists for “must haves” so you ensure that you have a computer that can actually handle the modern-day digital music production setups, however, there is a vast majority of models to choose from, that will work perfectly fine.

How to choose your computer for music production?

The main thing you should have in mind is your budget, as perhaps assumed, this is our first and foremost, the biggest deciding factor. Although you don’t necessarily have to drop thousands of dollars on your music making a computer, the higher you go, the better the overall quality components you are going to get. And that also will positively be reflected in your workflow.

Many of you reading this article may be just starting to build a home studio, so keep in mind what other gear you need to balance your money out. To have a fast and easy, however, shouldn’t take more than a thousand bucks (and maybe lower).

If you’re a starter musician buying your beginners music gear, you may want to save some money and go for a more budget-friendly computer for a start. However, we do recommend saving up as much cash and being as patient as you can, since a computer will be a long-term investment, maybe for the next 5 or so years.

 As stated previously, they’re also the main piece of a home studio, without a solid music computer, your other gear won’t even work properly and will prove to be useless.

 

Mac or PC?

When it comes to music production, this debacle is quite overplayed. You need to understand that in the end, both are merely just computers. And what´s really important is what they are packing, which components they have. But we´ll get there soon enough.

There is not a preferred “brand” of a computer for music making! 

With a Pc with the same (or better) components than a MacBook Pro, for example, you will have the same outcome, but the main difference would still be the OS.

 

 

      VS

 

 

 

 

And that brings us to the next common question

 

What DAW are you using?

Do you have your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) picked out yet? If so, this may steer you towards a specific Mac or PC choice.

You can go with Mac if you’re planning on using Garageband or Logic since they are Mac-only. FL was only available for windows, now it´s available for 10.11 and later. The same happened with pro tools, but inverse, it was only for mac until some time ago.

Also, you can choose a daw that works with both, but you should double-check your preferred software’s compatibility before buying.

 

Laptop or desktop?

Here’s another debate when it comes to computers for music. Nowadays, I’ve heard of a lot of producers using their laptops at home considering how powerful and capable they’ve become in recent years.

One of the biggest deciding factors for a laptop vs. desktop choice is if you’re planning on traveling or live performing.

If this is so, we’d recommend you to grab a laptop, since it’ll work amazing for these purposes as well as it can hold its own while you’re at home\in the studio making some tunes in between gigs. Otherwise, grabbing a powerful desktop PC\Mac has a lot of potential.


Pro-tip: Use a notebook stand, or a stand with cooler, to help your setup and prevent overheating problems.

 

Are pre-built computers any good?

We all know many computer junkies out there, who frown at those who buy computers that already have their insides picked out. If you’re in the mood to just get going on making some tunes, and you don´t like to deal with all the details, pre-built is the way to go.

Creating your own music computer does give you some flexibility when it comes to doing a little more work and researching the best RAM, hard drive and processor you’d like to mix and match with (which can probably save you a few bucks in the long run as well).

However, many pre-built PC’s in the market are still amazing for recording and producing music, so if you aren’t into learning how to make your own computer right now, don´t worry. We’ll leave that up to you.

 

 

Our checklist for computers for making music

In order to get a feel for what specifications we actually need in our computers, let’s first compare with some of the most popular music software out there and what minimum system requirements they ask for. We can then use this as a guide to see what the absolute minimum is.

Going above is always a good idea, since a lot of software out there, update quite frequently and sometimes increase their requirements, and you want to be set for the long-term, not just the “minimum”, and have computer problems the next year.

Let’s review the three most popular software out there right now in Pro Tools, Ableton and Logic. Pro Tools is by far the most demanding software, so if you aren’t using it but still want a computer that supports it, you’ll be in the clear for literally anything else out there.

 

Pro Tools

Operating System: Windows 8.1 or higher, Mac OS X 10.11.6 or higher
Processor: Intel Core i7
RAM: 16 GB (32 GB ‘recommended’)
Hard Drive: 15 GB (installation only)
PCle slot for HDX or HD native cards
 
Ableton Live 10
 
Operating System: Windows 7 or higher, Mac OS X 10.11.6 or higher
Processor: Intel Core i5
RAM: 4 GB (8 GB ‘recommended’)
Hard Drive: At least 10 GB
 
Logic Pro X
 
Operating System: macOS 10.12 or higher
Processor: Intel Core i5
RAM: 4 GB or more
Hard Drive: 6 GB for installation
Graphics: OpenCL-capable, Intel 3000 or later
 
FL 20
 
Operating System: Windows 7 or higher, Mac OS X 10.11.6 or higher
Processor: 2 GHz Intel Pentium 4 / AMD Athlon 64 (Intel Core i5 Recommended)
RAM: 4 GB or more
Hard Drive: 4 GB for installation
 

Now that we’ve analyzed the “minimum requirements”, and the key word here is “MINIMUM”, let’s organize it all into a checklist for you to use when shopping for the best music production and recording computer.

  • Processors: This is a tough one because a 3.0 GHz processor is a huge difference if it’s let’s say dual-core or quad-core. The processor is extremely important (besides RAM or an SSD drive listed below), because it allows us to work in a quicker, more fluid manner, as well as merely to handle the “processes” we need while we make our music.

In our opinion, the faster you can work, the more ideas you can get out of your head and into your music. You also don’t want your computer clogging up during a crucial moment of creation, especially if you’re recording and there’s a blip in your track and you have to re-do it all!

We would go with at least a 3.0 GHz processor that is at least a quad-core, more specifically, an Intel Core i5 would be great.

 

  • RAM: There must be at least 8 GB. Any higher you go in the RAM department is always a plus, so be our guest. For this year we’ve just increased this from 8 to 16 because Pro Tools now has a minimum requirement of 16 GB! RAM is short for Random Access Memory, which is responsible for storing temporary data to act as the “working memory” of our computer. This is important because just like our processor, music software needs to constantly “work” with each action you partake in, calling for not only “enough” working memory but fast enough so we don’t experience any glitches or lag.

 

  • DRIVE: At least 500 GB of hard drive capacity is recommended. This is up to you, as some say 1TB at least; however, 500 GB is pretty hefty if you aren’t downloading sound banks and storing them on the computer or using the device for anything else (such as work, school, images, and videos). Keep in mind, however, a lot of VST software plug-ins and effects are very demanding in regards to hard drive space. We actually use both our internal hard drives as well as an extra external hard drive with about 2 more TB on it (we have thousands of VST’s and sample packs).

 

 

Make sure at least some of your hard-drive is SSD (Solid-State Drive). This is very important because SSD helps process data much faster than regular HDD. And your computer will start in seconds!

A big enough screen to work with (15″ and up), but that really comes down to your personal preference and whether or not you’re on a laptop or desktop computer.

We don’t think video cards matter at all unless you’re editing videos on the side. The stock card in most pre-built computers is good enough since nowadays most computers will come with some great video cards that support most types of video work or video games. You can easily get away with a less powerful graphics card (GPU) here to save a little money.

 

When processing audio, most signal and effect chains have to happen sequentially. Basically what that means is that you want a processor (CPU) with fast single core performance. DAWs still take advance of multiple cores though (for example Intel Quad Core). 8th generation Intel i7 processors are the best (but more expensive), but also 7th gen versions aren’t far behind.

For the most part, these will be Windows-based PC’s, but there will be a couple great options from Apple.

 

 

There are tons of choices for your producing audio recording studio computer. We´re just going to highlight a selection of well-known brands with specs that will perform well at a reasonable price.

Without making it look like a shopping site!

 

All-in-one

All-In-One computers look great and save space, but the downside is that they tend to use laptop-like components to save space and keep heat production down. The best in this type we think is this one:

Apple iMac Pro 27

Type: All-in-one Desktop with Monitor
Screen Size: 27 inches
Max Screen Resolution: 5120x2880 pixels (Retina)
Processor: 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W
RAM: 32 GB DDR4
Storage: 1000GB Flash Memory Solid State
Connections: Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports, 10GB Ethernet
DVD RW drive: No
OS: Mac OS High Sierra

These computers are killer deals and have the perfect specs for audio production.

 

Laptops

Laptops are the favourite type of computer for many of us, this one is the best one for us:

Dell XPS 15 

Display: 15.6" Touchscreen
Storage: 1000 GB SSD
Memory: 16 GB
Processor: Intel Core i7, Quad-core, 2.8 GHz
OS: Windows 10 Home
Connections: Bluetooth, USB-C 3.1, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, HDMI

 

As far as speed and performance, this laptop gives the MacBook a run for its money, especially given the price point. If you’re a PC guy this just might be a great deal for you!

 

 

Desktop Computers

The benefit of desktop computers is that you tend to get the best performance for the price.

These usually don’t come with a monitor so you will need to keep that in mind when choosing one.

Here is our selection for the best one:

 

Acer Aspire TC-780A

Processor: 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7
RAM:  16 GB DDR4
Memory Speed:  2400 MHz
Hard Drive:  2 TB SSD + HDD 5400 rpm
Graphics Coprocessor:  Intel HD Graphics 630
Chipset Brand:  Intel

Operating System:  Windows 10 Home
Dimensions:  
15 x 6.9 x 16.3 inches 

 

Top Must Haves:

 

1 SSD: With all the newest advancements in technology as of late, this is really where you should be as far as hard drive space in today’s market. There are high-end plugins out there that take up 100 GB of space alone and that’s just one plugin. Having a terabyte in today’s day and age will ensure you stay competitive with the latest and greatest plugins but also have at least 50 GB of space for your computer or device to operate efficiently. You can have 1ssd and 1hdd for storage of banks and such, but it will be a huge plus to have an SSD in your setup!

 

8 GB of RAM Minimum: A lot of the mixing and effects plugins used today can take quite a toll on your computer’s memory. Having at least 8 GB of RAM (16 GB is ideal) will help to ensure your computer won’t freeze up or slow you down.

 

Best Processor (you can afford): Remember this is essentially the brain of the computer and it needs to be up to a certain standard to be able to get your ideas out quick, fast, and in a hurry. At a minimum, I’d say an i5 processor (at least) would do. Ideally, though, I would go after an i7 Quad Core processor for optimal activity.

 

 

 

 

 


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