The ultimate computer for music production

What should you look for when hunting for the ultimate computer for music production? We take a look at the system requirements for your next home studio computer.

Mac Pro - ultimate computer for music production

What should you look for when hunting for the ultimate computer for music production? We take a look at the system requirements for your next home studio computer.

In the modern home studio you need a powerful computer for music production. Your DAW software should run quietly while recording music. What are the minimum system requirements for your next music production computer?

Mac or Windows for music production?

Windows or Mac computer for music production? The choice is yours! (Photo: Tranmautritam on Pexels.com)

Many artists use the Apple MacBook Pro on stage. But you can also use a Windows PC for music projects. The choice between macOS and Windows is a matter of taste. Both operating systems are great for music. Is Logic Pro your favorite music production program? Then you are dependent on the Mac. Most other DAW software is available for both Windows and macOS.

Tip: The best music software for beginners
Still no idea which program to use for music production? For more information, read The best music production software for beginners.

What are the system requirements for a music production computer?

The hardware components like CPU, RAM and storage are much more important than the operating system. Perhaps you already own a great computer for your home studio. Let’s take a look at the system requirements of Ableton Live, which is popular among electronic music artists:

Minimum system requirements Ableton Live 11

Windows

  • Windows 10 (Build 1909 and later)
  • Intel® Core™ i5 processor or an AMD multi-core processor.
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 1366×768 display resolution
  • ASIO compatible audio hardware for Link support (also recommended for optimal audio performance)
  • Access to an internet connection for authorizing Live (for downloading additional content and updating Live, a fast internet connection is recommended)
  • Approximately 3 GB disk space on the system drive for the basic installation (8 GB free disk space recommended)
  • Up to 76 GB disk space for additionally available sound content

macOS

  • OS X 10.13 or later (more on macOS Big Sur)
  • Intel® Core™ i5 processor (more on Apple silicon and the M1 chip)
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 1280×800 display resolution
  • Core Audio compliant audio interface recommended
  • Access to an internet connection for authorizing Live (for downloading additional content and updating Live, a fast internet connection is recommended)
  • Approximately 3 GB disk space on the system drive for the basic installation (8 GB free disk space recommended)
  • Up to 76 GB disk space for additionally available sound content

Other DAW software probably will have the same minimum system requirements. If necessary, check the system requirements of your favorite music software on the website of the respective manufacturer.

Summary minimum system requirements for music production

For music production, your computer must have at least:

  • A powerful Intel Core i5 processor or higher.
  • Minimum 8GB RAM.
  • A flash drive with at least 256GB of storage space (for samples, etc.).

Does your computer meet the minimum system requirements? Then you can use it for your home studio too. You can always go for an upgrade later.

Shortcut: shopping list for a new home studio computer
Do you need a new computer for your home studio? Then go for a modern system with the following specifications:

  • Intel Core i9 processor.
  • 16GB RAM or higher.
  • 512GB flash drive or higher (OS and music software).
  • Extra hard disk with 1TB storage or higher (samples and music projects).
  • Remember: A faster processor, more RAM and more storage is always better. Within your budget, go for the most powerful processor, the largest amount of RAM and the most flash storage possible.

    What kind of computer do I need for music production? A desktop or laptop?

    desktop vs laptop - ultimate computer for music production
    A desktop is usually more powerful than a laptop.

    The desktop computer is usually more powerful than a laptop. Often prices for desktops are lower too. That’s why I always use a desktop in my home studio. This way, I can run more CPU-intensive plug-ins, such as effects and synthesizers.

    Do you also want to make music while on the go? Then consider a laptop. You can work on new songs on the go, just like your favorite EDM artists. Always opt for a laptop with a flash drive. They are less sensitive to impact on the road than those with a traditional hard disk.

    Silent computers for the home studio

    Computers often make a lot of noise due to hard running fans inside. While recording with a sensitive microphone, the computer noises can end up in your recordings. You can solve this by placing the computer outside the studio.

    In addition, there are companies who build silent desktops and laptops for music production. They are not the cheapest, but your DAW software and plug-ins will run fine.

    silent computer components for music production
    Silent computer components are important for music production, such as Bequiet’s.

    Which processor should I choose for music production?

    The processor (CPU) largely determines the speed of the computer. The more powerful the processor, the easier your computer can perform intensive tasks. Some synthesizers and effects plugins require a lot of computing power. If the processor can’t handle it, they’re useless for your music. For example, it’s not possible to play a synthesizer live with your midi keyboard.

    Intel: always a good choice

    The Intel Core i9 processor is currently an excellent choice for DAW computers.

    You’re always on the safe side with Intel. The latest Intel Core i9 processors are currently the fastest and best option while building your ultimate computer for music production. Do you have less budget? Then you can go for the less powerful Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. Make sure that it has at least 4 cores.

    What is a multi-core processor?

    The modern multi-core processor is equipped with several computing units (cores). The more cores the CPU has, the more computing tasks it can handle simultaneously. For example, DAW software can assign multiple calculation tasks to different cores. This way, everything runs more smoothly. The more cores your CPU has, the better. A processor with 4 cores is a minimum requirement for music production.

    How much RAM do I need for music production?

    RAM components
    You need at least 16GB of RAM for music production. More is always better!

    More RAM is always better. Are you going to work a lot with samples and audio recordings in your tracks? Then buy a computer with as much RAM as possible, of course within your budget. A good starting point is 16GB of RAM, but 32GB or 64GB is always better while working with sampled instruments.

    How much storage do I need?

    Your computer must have enough storage to install your DAW software, sample packs, and music projects. The amount of content that comes with DAW software is mind blowing. If you install Ableton Live with all sample content, it takes up no less than 76GB of space. Other DAW software will not be different. That’s why a flash drive of at least 512GB is highly recommended for music production. A larger flash drive is obviously much better.

    Install a second hard disk

    External hard disk for music projects and samples
    External hard disks provide more storage space for music projects and samples.

    In case you don’t have a large flash drive then installing a 2nd hard disk is a great option. Both internal or external via USB. Many desktop systems already have a 2nd hard disk inside for documents, video and music. Then you can also install your samples on it. Are you recording with a laptop? Then an external hard drive for samples is the way to go.

    Tip: only install the samples you need!
    
    Personally, I work with the basic installation of Live 11. I only install the sample packages and software tools which I really need. It saves a lot of disk space for recordings, my favorite samples and plug-ins!

    Which monitor do I need for music production?

    Desktop: go big

    Install a nice large screen of at least 27 inches in your home studio. This way, you can see much better what’s going on in your DAW software while making music. You can also opt for 2 or more screens, if your budget allows. For example, you can view your tracks and mixer on different screens.

    Home studio with multiple screens
    A home studio setup with multiple screens.

    Laptop: at least 15 inches for music production

    When purchasing a laptop for music production, you should pay extra attention to the size of the screen. You need at least a 15-inch screen for your favorite DAW software. In addition, pay attention to the finish of the screen: matte or glossy. A glossy screen is brighter, but works less well in sunny or artificial light conditions. A matte screen works a lot better in rooms with artificial lighting.

    Once in the studio, you can use your notebook in combination with a large external screen. Then a small screen is no problem at all.

    Do I need a graphics card for my music production computer?

    Your home studio computer doesn’t need a graphics card for music production. The graphics chip of the motherboard displays your DAW software perfectly on screen.

    Do I need a sound card for music production?

    You can run DAW software with the onboard sound chip of the computer. Windows users can install ASIO4ALL to reduce latency. This way you can even play synthesizer plug-ins with a USB MIDI-keyboard.

    External USB audio interface for music production
    An external audio interface for recording vocals, instruments and other sound sources.

    However, if you want to record external instruments such as vocals, guitar or synthesizer, you need an audio interface. The audio interface features line and XLR connections. This way, you can easily record vocals, instruments and other external sound sources.

    Which connections do I need?

    Don’t forget to check the connections when buying a new music production computer. Your mouse, keyboard, audio interface and MIDI keyboard will easily take up 4 USB ports. So it’s nice if you have some USB connections left for other peripherals. For example your external hard disk or second MIDI controller. You may also consider a USB hub to connect multiple devices at the same USB port.

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