The stability of your computer is very crucial when you start getting serious about music production. You can produce music on most of the computers and laptops available in the market with lighter software choices. However, if you are planning to get serious about music production you should consider investing in a computer with at least the following specifications:
- CPU – Intel i3 Processor or equivalent (A higher-powered processor is highly recommended if your budget allows)
- RAM – 8GB memory
- Storage – around 500 GB of storage space, with preferred SSD or NVMe for faster workflow. Audio samples and projects take up a lot of space. You can use less space
- Monitor – at least a 15-inch screen size is recommended so you can see enough tracks and plugins at once. Multiple screens with higher resolution are preferred.
- External HDD or SSD – This is recommended for backup and storage of projects and libraries with good quality hardware like a mouse, keyboard, and power stations for efficient workflow.
To learn more details and make a better choice according to your needs, keep reading.
CPU is perhaps the most important part of music production as it determines how many processes can you perform at a time and how efficient your workflow is. Almost every DAW will work on pretty modest CPUs, such as Intel i3 processors or equivalent, but low-powered processors can struggle when you get beyond basic audio tasks.
Intel i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs are both great CPUs for music production. However, they can be outside of the budget for many budding producers.
The CPU will affect everything in all stages of your audio production, including using a lot of samples at a time or loading up multiple instruments to experiment, recording multiple instruments or mics at the same time, and using multiple plugins for mixing and mastering a song.
With a powerful CPU, you can make all these things much faster and efficient. They are generally divided into two things, clock speed and number of cores. With the higher clocking speed of your CPU, you can do tasks at a faster rate. More cores on the other hand result in multitasking more effectively.
Regardless of the digital audio workstation, you use both of these features to make your workflow effective by any digital audio workstation. So according to your budget, you should get the best possible combination of both.
The most popular choices in the market as of now are Intel or AMD processors. For music production, both will work great, and it will depend more on your budget. Generally, it is seen that AMD processors are relatively cheaper, but you should still look into both before making your choice.
For a laptop, I would recommend taking a little higher-end processor because when compared to a computer, a laptop does lag in performance so it would be better if you go for a higher-end choice for longer-term investment.
After the CPU, the most important thing you will need to focus on is the storage of your computer. Since all your software and sound libraries will be stored in the storage you should invest in good overall storage. A good SSD will also make your system run faster and smoother. Moreover, good storage will keep all your work safe and secure.
With storage, you get two options. A Hard Drive Disk (HDD) or Solid-State Drive (SSD). A good SSD will be more expensive than an HDD but it will come with great benefits of speed, smaller size, and more secured data. If your budget does not allow you to get an SSD you can still go for a HDD but it will be a bit slower loading samples.
An even better option will be to go with NVMe which is a specific type of SSD that gives high-end performance. Although it will be more expensive it comes with a lot better optimization and speed which makes it a superior choice as compared to others.
When it comes to the size of storage you should be looking for at least 500 GB of data space available in your computer. Because of the large sizes of software and big sample library packs, you will require a lot of storage space. It’s better to have extra space than wasting time managing files and folders.
Apart from that, I would also recommend investing in external storage to keep all your important things like compositions and favorite libraries and custom packs always safe with you just in case the primary storage does not work or gets corrupted, and all your data is lost.
How Much RAM Do You Need for Music Production?
You only need about 8GB of RAM for music production. You you don’t need a lot of RAM for music production. CPU and storage space are far more important when it comes to audio.
This is because RAM is only used for the temporary storage of data and not permanent storage and since most of the work is in steps you can get away with just 8GB of RAM. The permanent storage location is more important than temporary because all your recordings will be stored permanently not temporarily.If you work with big libraries of a lot of software instruments at the same time, then you might consider upgrading to 16GB of RAM because loading up instruments every time you want to make an edit or choose a different sound takes up your RAM.
Windows or Mac?
When it comes to choosing the type of operating system to use, both Mac and Windows are very capable of getting the job done effectively. Though Mac machines as a whole have better control of their hardware standards and are more optimized for audio out of the box.
It takes a lot of time and work to choose a computer which fits your budget and does the work you need. Generally, Macs are more expensive than similar windows options available. But Mac comes with added benefits as well for the cost. Mac is much more reliable as compared to Windows since there are only a handful of models available to choose from which means less time wasted. Moreover, since there are fewer machines to work with software support and company support are generally much easier and faster with Mac.
With Windows, you will have to go through all the different options available in the market with different manufacturers to compare them and their specifications to make a more known and educated choice.
This does take a lot of time and effort, but it is worth it if you are on a tight budget because it gets you more in less cost with investing some time. Moreover, Windows PCs are generally customizable so you can make one on your own to save even more and upgrade the parts at any point of time in the future which makes it cheaper.
As long as you are not using an exclusive software like Logic Pro X which only comes in Mac, most of the companies offer excellent customer support for both Windows and Mac. So, for a studio setup, you can prefer to choose any of those two.
During live performances on the other hand, Mac is usually a more reliable option because they are generally easy to replace and get a new one with the same if not better configurations anywhere in case the one you have malfunctioned. It’s not quite as easy to get the exact same Windows model in a hurry.
In general, Macs as a whole tend to be less likely to crash in comparison to Windows, which is certainly a big plus when it comes to live performances. That said, if you choose your Windows machine carefully they can certainly be as reliable as Mac laptops.
Check out our article on Mac vs Windows for Music Production, for even more thoughts and opinions on this subject!
Laptop vs. Desktop?
This choice usually depends on the individual because both have their pros and cons respectively.
If you are more of a traveling musician and like to work on the go then you should go for a laptop. Because of its portability and all-in-one design, the laptop is a perfect workstation for a traveling musician or just a beginner who wants a more flexible workstation. It is a perfect fit for a student or young musician as well because generally, they will not have a permanent home to set up and invest heavily in a computer.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a work beast then you should always prefer a computer as your workstation because it is much more capable to handle big sessions and more preferred in professional setups. Although they are not as portable as laptops, they offer greater performance and expansion options.
Since it is much more customizable you can pick and choose what kind of specifications you want in your workstation to make the best and budget-friendly pick for you. A laptop on the other hand only gives you a few options to choose from and the least amount of customization options.
Consider your requirements and options before making the choice.
What computer do most music producers use?
Many producers choose to work on iMac machines in their studios or a Macbook Pro if they choose to go with the laptop route. Out of the box, Mac machines tend to be more stable and optimized for audio. However, there are plenty of producers that use Windows machines and are very successful.
Some producers like deadmau5 prefer Windows as well because of the flexibility to customize and make the best possible workstation according to what we wants. With proper specifications and requirements met for the software you can have an equally good workflow and results in a windows PC as well.
Is i3 good for music production?
If you are looking to do basic music production like making beats or demos for a songwriter, then it will work. But you should keep in mind that you may be limited to using only a handful of CPU-intensive plugins at a time.
Not all plugins were created equal. The stock plugins that come as part of DAWs can often be extremely efficient and even work well on low-powered CPUs. For example, Ableton Live’s instruments and effects used to work well for me on even low-powered netbooks (these were older machines that had low-powered CPUs)!
Because of the relatively low capabilities of an i3, you may end up crashing your session if you push the software too hard and your CPU cannot take the load. It is also not preferred for mixing and mastering because it probably will not be able to take the load of all the plugins required to get a good-sounding mix.
If you are a songwriter who just wants to get your ideas recorded and use small bits of addition like basic beats to make a demo, then it should work fine. It will also work if you are just a low-budget recorder just recording with a karaoke track.
But I will not recommend going for an i3 processor if you are serious about your musical journey. Even if you are a songwriter who is serious about getting your ideas out and about music, I would recommend going for at least an i5.
Is AMD Ryzen good for music production?
Yes, AMD Ryzen CPU can be just as good as Intel CPU when it comes down to performance. Their performance is quite decent when they are compared to their Intel counterparts. I would recommend you pay attention to the number of cores and processing power of the CPU as explained above because the name is not that important in today’s market.
I would still not recommend you go with the AMD Ryzen 3 in your main workstation. Just like i3, this CPU is also not enough to get the work done other than some basic tasks.
32-Bit or 64-Bit?
Unless your computer is ancient, it’s likely to be 64-bit. It’s been the standard for computing for many years. Although the world has moved on to 64-bit as a standard for computing, there still are some plugins that you may like to use that come in the options of 32-bit or 64-bit plugins.
A computer 64-bit will always be a better option because it will give a more precise audio representation and hence a better sound quality. Because 64-bit computers can access more memory or RAM at a time as compared to 32-bit counterparts, the performance will always be better. If you are choosing a DAW and you have the option of running it in either 64-bit or 32-bit, then use the 64-bit version.
If you are working on a 64-bit machine there is a workaround option to run your older 32-bit plugins using a bridge that some digital audio workstations use automatically to run on your workstation. There is software like jbridge which can be used to run 32-bit plugins on 64-bit software if the digital audio workstation does not automatically use a bridge to run them.
A great music workstation is one that can handle all of your audio processing and get support your audio workflow. As a creative professional, wasting time and breaking the flow because of some issues in your workstation is the worst that can happen.
If you are out of your creative flow, it’s close to impossible to get back in that and it will only lead to frustration and you may not even have the desire to make music anymore.