The pleasure or necessity of the news?
The first thing to consider is whether you really need a new computer. The fact that your computer feels dull is often about the hard drives being overloaded, with everything from old system files to programs that are no longer used. Sometimes it is enough to reinstall the operating system for the computer to come to life again. Still, upgrading existing memory, processor and hard drives can do the trick. The second-hand market is also not to be forgotten, both from an economic and environmental perspective. We live in a toil and waste society and electronic gadgets are undoubtedly one of the biggest culprits. Therefore, think twice or three times before you buy a new one.
What is important?
Basically, there are three things that determine how fast a music computer is:
- The processor
- Internal memory
- The hard drives
Which motherboard, graphics card, power supply or other one you choose does not matter in practice, as long as the different parts are compatible with each other. Something they pretty much always are if you buy a finished product and do not build it yourself.
Motherboard (Gigabyte Z390)
How fast processor do you need?
First and foremost, do not stare blindly at specifications, as all modern processors work more than well for music production. That being said, a processor with at least 6 threads is to be recommended, which most people have today. Intel’s processors are in the ninth generation and today’s i5, i7 and i9 are significantly faster than just a few years ago. AMD has also updated its processors significantly with the Ryzen model, which today works excellently for music production. The equation is simple: The faster the processor, the more plugs can run simultaneously before the computer goes to its knees.
Processor (Intel Core i9)
You do not forget the memory, do you?
When it comes to choosing a hard drive and internal memory, the motto “more is better” applies. Plenty of internal memory means that information can be stored temporarily for quick access, which means that more programs can be running at the same time while maintaining performance. Here I recommend at least 16GB, preferably 32GB if you work with large projects and samples. Nevertheless, a fast hard drive allows programs and sampling libraries to load more efficiently. Two internal hard drives are a good starting point, of which an SSD drive for operating systems and programs. SSDs are a faster alternative to traditional mechanical hard drives and are based on a technology not entirely different from that used in USB sticks, completely free of moving parts. An external hard drive for backup is also a great idea.
RAM (Corsair DDR-4)
Out on the fan?
For those of you who need to be mobile, the choice naturally falls on the laptop. The bitter truth, however, is that laptops offer less power for more money and are cumbersome to upgrade. They also have a tendency to become hot and loud when they are heavily loaded. A desktop computer is therefore always recommended if you do not intend to record on the go.
A quiet computer is a prerequisite when recording, especially if you are sitting in the same room as the workstation. Fans from power supplies, processors and graphics cards are the most noisy, which is quite easily fixed. Step one is a well-damped computer case, followed by a fanless graphics card and an efficient power supply. The next step is to review other cooling with as quiet fans as possible, both regarding the computer box and the processor. Of course it costs a little more and requires some finesse, but is definitely worth it in my opinion.
Computer case (Fractal Design Define R6)
Which connections you need depends entirely on what you want to connect in the form of sound card, MIDI keyboard, keyboard, mouse, screen and other hardware. As a PC user, USB-3 and USB-C are standard (although Thunderbolt is on input), while Thunderbolt-3 rules on the mac side. On paper, the Thunderbolt-3 is faster than USB, but the difference is largely non-existent when it comes to plugging in sound cards, for example. Popular Firewire was discontinued in 2013, but still lives on in many music studios equipped with slightly older sound cards.
Last but not least
PC or Mac? In simple terms, you could say that the only thing that separates a PC and a Mac is the operating system, software and not least the price. The content, that is, the hardware, is the same. The choice between PC and Mac therefore depends on what you feel comfortable with, rather than what is “best”. In general, a PC is cheaper than a Mac with the same performance, easier to expand, but may require a bit of fuss to work optimally. Mac is a well-known brand with good build quality and stylish design, which, however, is a little more expensive and difficult to upgrade and expand.
In summary, a modern music computer should have:
- A fast processor. At least i5 but preferably Intel i7 / i9 or Ryzen 7/9.
- 16GB frame, but preferably 32GB.
- A motherboard with all the connections you need.
- At least two hard drives, of which a fast SSD of at least 250GB.
- Quiet graphics card and fans as well as muted computer box. Fractal Design is a good starting point.
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.