A computer is often one of the first things that you need to get in order to start producing music. This will host your audio recording software and possibly video editing software. Most people often take a pre-built PC out of the market and make distinctions between laptops and desktops. What’s better? Or what should you be buying? Well, this completely depends on how you’re planning to use the PC. Going over the distinctions between PC and laptop is imperative and knowing the specifications of your PC is undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects of purchasing your computer.
A Laptop or a Desktop?
Now the main difference between those two is pretty obvious, portability. Having a laptop means that you can take it anywhere and work in just about any environment. This means that projects will not have to be delayed just because you are out of town or out about somewhere. There is a catch to this advantage however. The main catch of this is the pricing and the quality of hardware that you can get from laptops. The specs on a laptop differ greatly from a desktop. For example, they are more expensive to obtain and not as up to date as desktops. This is mainly due to the fact that laptops have a very constrained interior which requires way better technology to get to the same footing as a desktop with large amounts of space in a case to work with.
This makes the laptop way more expensive to obtain, but with the advantage of portability. According to various tests made, the same model of a processor can have around a 28% increase in performance within a desktop PC. The good news is though, the gap between both types of computers is shrinking very quickly, this gap used to be way bigger about 5 years ago, and laptop manufacturers soon hope to make both platforms stand on equal footing.
TL;DR If you’re on a budget and don’t require portability, get a desktop PC. If you require portability and are willing to spend a markup, a laptop is the way to go.
As the central hub of the computer, also known as a central processing unit, it is responsible for the processes that your computer is responsible for. This includes the amount of information that the computer is able to handle at once. Most synths and instrument software use a lot of processing power. Processors have two major brands that most people use, these are Intel and AMD. A lot of users are moving to AMD from Intel in the recent age as they (AMD) have proved to be quite decent competitors with some of their processors beating out Intel equivalents in performance. However, they are mostly used for gaming and excel in that field.
Right now, one of the best deals on the market is the Intel i5 10400. This processor is rated among the giants, sporting an integrated graphics card similar to the i9 9900K. This means that you will not need to purchase an external graphics card which saves you a ton moving forward. Especially with its price at $199 it is a steal and will get you everything you need.
TL;DR if you’re on a budget and need a high functioning processor, the Intel i5 10400 is the way to go. If you’re looking for the best CPU for your build, the i9 9900K is currently the best out there.
The second most important part of a computer in terms of music production is its Random Access Memory (RAM). This part is responsible for reading and writing information in real time, the higher it is, the more information your computer will be able to remember. In that sense, it is most often used when storing different tracks for use or audio files that can be transferred over in an instant. To be able to store this much data in music production, you will need a large amount of RAM. With most high end PCs going upwards of 32GB, you’ll be fine with 16GB. However, that is the minimum. For everyday use, a PC usually only needs 8GB, however, music production requires a lot of information to be available at real time and at the same time for your use, which is why RAM needs to be really high.
TL;DR if you’re on a budget, a 16GB is the minimum you should look for. A 32GB is the most optimal, however.
Your storage has many different types, being external or internal, HDD or SSD or even hybrid. In music production, you are looking for a combination of external and internal. HDDs are often way cheaper than SSDs and you can get a way higher level of storage with an HDD for a cheaper price. This is mostly because an SSD is faster than an HDD at retrieving data. A 500GB SSD with a 1TB HDD hybrid is often the most popular choice, even for music production. If any more is required, an external HDD can be bought, which could cost you about $50. Of course, the amount of space you need is based on your workload or the amount of projects you’re planning on working on. With a higher workload, you may be looking at getting a 2TB HDD which you can get for not that much higher than a 1TB.
TL;DR the storage is highly dependent on your workload. The most famous option is a 500GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, you can get an external HDD later if needed.
It is also worth to note that working with lots of audio files, especially in high resolutions like 48k, can quickly fill up your hard drive. So thinking of a strategy to offload these big files to an external hard drive is a good idea.
Monitors and Graphics
Graphics cards are often not that important when considering a PC for music production. They are mostly used for gaming and visual design. Unless you are planning to use the PC for these features too, it would be cost efficient to get a graphics card on the cheap end of the spectrum. An example of a good graphics card could be a GTX 2060. It is pretty cheap and can support any graphics needs. A GTX 1660 can also be used if you’re on a budget and really don’t need a graphics card. However, if you are still interested in getting the best graphics, the best consumer grade graphics card in the market currently is an RTX 3090 with the best value and performance going to the RTX 3070. Good luck finding any graphics cards however, since it is currently suffering from a huge shortage as of writing this article.
For the purposes of a recording studio, you’d be more than well off with an integrated graphics card. These are hybrid processors that host graphics cards at the same time which means you don’t need to purchase a discrete card for your graphical needs. Intel UHD 630 is available in both the aforementioned processors.
In terms of monitors, you should be looking for size over visuals. This means finding a larger monitor or getting multiple monitors instead of looking for high refresh rates (hertz) or response times. Being able to see more of your project is essential and having multiple monitors is even more essential for music production. It is often recommended to go with three monitors, but two can be pretty decent too. Having a monitor for your tracks and one for your synth management could prove beneficial with multitasking being done more effectively.
TL;DR Integrated graphics are good enough for a recording studio. Monitors should prioritize size with 3 being the optimal amount. 2 monitors if you’re on a budget.
Mouse and Keyboard
You’re mouse doesn’t need to be anything special but try finding one with more features instead of accuracy and tracking technology. For example, find one with side scrolling features and lots of mouse buttons. This will prove useful when you need to scroll through timelines or tracks. The mouse buttons can also be used to record whenever needed and can be used for a lot of features whenever needed plus it can be bound by you to make things easier. As for your keyboard, you don’t need anything too fancy. You could look for one that is comfortable to use with a few macros on the side to be bound to any specific functions. You could also get a separate small macro keyboard which could have extra buttons that you can bind in addition to a normal everyday keyboard.
A music production PC heavily focuses on processing power and RAM with storage and graphics being less prioritized. In order to produce music more conveniently, you’ll need to process information fast and have information available at all times. As a result, there are two builds that you could go for. Either the pricey route or the budget route. Both builds will be listed below. For more information on microphones or speakers, check out some more of our articles on mellostudio.com/blog.
Processor: Intel Core i5 10400 ($199)
Graphics Card: Intel UHD Graphics 630 Integrated
Storage: 1TB HDD 500GB SSD Hybrid (Optional 2TB external HDD)
Dual-Monitor setup 24 inch
Processor: Intel Core i9 9900K ($360)
Graphics Card: Intel UHD Graphics 630 Integrated
Storage: 2TB HDD 1TB SSD Hybrid (Optional 2TB external HDD)
Triple-Monitor setup with one large overall 60-80inch monitor