This is an ultimate guide to choose the audio recording computer. When you will complete reading this guide, you’d be able to choose the right configuration for your audio recording computer that helps you record a quick and precise session.
Let’s dig into this ultimate guide for choosing an audio recording computer.
How to Choose Audio Recording Computer
20 years ago there were huge size mixing consoles used to record audio. Not even mixing consoles but all the recording hardware was big in size. The only reason behind the size of those audio recording equipment was they were analog hardware.
But thanks to them who invented those tiny computer chips, now we are able to record complicated recording sessions with just the personal computer or iPad and an audio interface.
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Computers are now capable of handling 2-tracks simple sessions to 100-tracks complicated sessions. However, how much tracks it will handle and how fast your work will be done, it all depends on your computer’s configuration.
Price also matters, when choosing an audio recording computer.
Computers with high configurations cost you much more than simple ones. On the other hand, there are computers you can get with just a few hundred bucks.
There are some important things you should see in a computer before deciding to buy for your home studio.
Let’s dig into it…
Branded or Assembled
First thing first.
Whenever we want to purchase something, the very first thinking comes into our mind is should we choose a branded product or a non-branded one.
In terms of branded and non-branded, we can divide computers into 2 categories.
Branded and Assembled.
Though, assembled is not exactly non branded, because the hardware we use in assembled computers is actually branded but as you know, we can choose different brands as different parts of the computer and assemble them in a chassis.
On the other hand, branded computers are those who belong to just one brand. That means the whole computer belongs to one brand.
Its another thing that most computer manufacture companies import the core parts of the computer from other companies, so eventually the branded computer is also assembled under a logo of the company.
The result is, you have to pay more for those so-called branded computers.
However, exceptions are always there like Apple don’t import computer parts to assemble.
They manufacture the same in their factories. Still, some computer parts need to be imported by Apple-like companies, such as processors, etc.
Anyways, let us see the pros and cons of branded and assembled computers.
Pros of branded computer
- You’ll get a warranty and service.
- Long-lasting hardware components.
- In some cases performs better then assembled computers.
Cons of branded computers
- Costs much more than assembled computers.
- Warranty voids if you update components from third party service.
- Much more costly then assembled computers.
Pros of Assembled Computers
- We can assemble every component as per our needs.
- Assembled computers are easy to upgrade.
- They are cheaper than branded computers.
Cons of Assembled Computers
- You get separate warranties for every component which is hard to tackle.
- Assembled computers are not as durable as branded ones. The operational life of the assembled computer is shorter then branded computers.
Windows PC or Mac Operating System
When it comes to the operating systems, we can divide audio recording computers into 2 main categories.
Windows PC and Mac systems.
Now, here newbies get confused in choosing between two. In this section, we will discuss all the features of Windows PC and Mac systems so that you could be able to decide which one to choose for your recording studio.
Features of Windows-based PC
- Generally, all assembled computers run on the Windows operating system. So the first benefit of Windows-based PC is you can assemble your PC as per your need.
- Now you know that Windows PCs are assembled ones so the price of a Windows assembled PC is really affordable. However, branded PCs also use windows operating system so is you choose to go with branded windows PC then be ready to invest some extra bucks.
- Even you choose a branded Windows PC, the price becomes very affordable as compared to Mac systems. You get the same configuration PC with just half of the price then Mac systems.
- In my personal opinion, the Windows operating system is easy to use for newbies.
Features of Mac Systems
- The first-ever benefit of Mac systems is you get an exceptional performance over Windows-based PCs. Mac systems are tweaked for professional work like music production, video editing, etc. So when you buy a Mac system for audio recording, it performs better than Windows PC.
- Mac systems are durable and last for years. Hardware designed by Apple is long-lasting.
- The design is extraordinary. You feel it when you work on Mac.
- Ideal for processor savvy work.
- My personal opinion – When I mix my songs on both the computers, always I get better mixing in Mac systems. I have tried it several times and every time I got the same results.
CPU or Processor
CPU or Processor is the heart of a computer. All the calculations are being done inside the processor so we can say the speed of a computer is directly proportional to the power of the processor.
You know that in any professional work, speed is one of the most crucial things which we can’t ignore. In the audio recording field, we really can’t ignore the speed of a computer.
But in audio recording, the quality of CPU not just affects the speed of work but the quality of a track.
Yeah, the quality of the CPU decides your track’s quality. Let us understand it with an example.
You know that a computer converts the audio signals to electrical data and store them in storage devices such as HDD.
Now suppose if your audio interface transmits the data towards a CPU which is not capable of processing such a huge amount of data at any given time then some of the data will be lossed during transmission.
As a result, you’ll get low quality audio.
So using a good CPU or processor is a wise decision for professional jobs like audio recording.
Now, how to know which processor is ideal for your work? 1st of all, decide how many tracks are you going to use in the future simultaneously – in recording and mixing both.
Intel Vs AMD Processors
If the track count is big, please go for high-speed processors like Intel i5 or intel i7, otherwise, you can go for mid-range processors like Intel i3 or AMD models.
The other thing you must take care of is the processor should have a proper cooling facility. As a professional you know that your computer is going to work for several hours without a break so proper cooling is a must-do thing.
Generally, it noticed that AMD processors heat up quickly as compared to Intel processors. In my personal experience, Intel processors outperform AMD processors in case of long working hours.
Note: I personally use the latest generation i7 processor.
If we talk about Mac computers, you don’t have so many processors to choose from. However, you’ll get i3, i5, i7 and Xeon processors in different models of Apple.
The 2nd most important component in a computer is the amount of RAM. RAM works as a bridge between CPU and HDD to hold on the processed data until it’s saved to the HDD. Now you may ask when we have an HDD to keep our data saved then why RAM?
So here is the answer…
The speed of a processor or CPU is actually a thousand times more than a Harddisk so if we through the data onto the hard disk directly, the maximum amount of data will be lossed.
Here comes the role of RAM. RAM holds the processed data and creates a buffer between high-speed CPU and slow speed HDD until it’s saved onto the HDD.
For professional work like audio recording, we need a huge amount of RAM because we have a huge amount of data to be held in RAM.
Here comes a question in your mind. How much?
Actually, it depends. In my opinion for a 16 track recording, we need at least 8 GB of RAM and as the tracks increased you should increase the amount of RAM.
RAM can be easily upgraded so you can buy a computer with a lesser amount of RAM and upgrade to a higher amount of it as per your need.
Try to get the latest technology RAM always. such as DDR5 RAM is faster than DDR3 RAM so goes for DDR5. Also, go for high-speed RAM such as 1666MHz RAMs
Note: In branded computers upgrading RAM might be a big deal so first calculate your usage and then select the computer model.
HDD or Hardisk
If CPU is the heart of a computer then Harddisk or HDD can be considered as the mind of a system where all the DATA stored.
Choosing a good quality and fast hard disk will be a wise decision for an audio recording computer.
We can divide harddisks into 3 main categories.
- Magnetic HDD or traditional harddisk
- Chip-based HDD or Solid-state drives.
Obviously the 2nd one is much faster than traditional magnetic hard disks. But SSD harddisks cost much more than HDDs.
If you have a budget then I would suggest you go for SSD hard disks as in the audio recording field we need a faster computer and choosing SSD is a wise decision for you.
By choosing SSD you can release a lot of load on the RAM which means a faster computer.
But if you have no budget for SSD then you can go for an HDD. Remember, the quality of audio does not affect the type of storing device.
Just one thing to add, there are 2 types of HDD hard disks available in the market 5200 RPM speed and 7200 RPM speed. Always go for 7200 RPM. and always choose good brands such as Seagate and Western digital.
Connections and Motherboard
So what are you going to connect with your computer?
An audio interface, am external harddisk or a firewire card?
Choosing a motherboard for professional work all depends on your present and future needs. Think of it, you are not going to change your computer in the near future.
So mind mapping is a must before choosing a motherboard. Cause, ultimately you are going to connect all your devices to the motherboard.
Generally in the audio recording, we need to connect several devices with the computer. Most of them are given below with the connection type.
- Audio interface – USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB-C, Firewire, Thunderbolt
- External storage device – USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB-C
- Display – VGA, HDMI, DVI
- Firewire and thunderbolt cards – PCI express
List down your connection types (present and future) and search for a motherboard or computer (Mac, PC) as per your need.
You might think about why I have added a monitor here. It’s not video production then what is the need for a good monitor?
If you are thinking the same, you are wrong. In the audio recording, we have several tracks, controls, and mixers on the same display monitor.
Now think, you have a 15 inch old CRT monitor. Do you control all the components of a DAW in this monitor smoothly? Are you using the zoom in and zoom out feature most of the time to locate the exact edit point?
There are so many advantages to a big screen in audio recording.
You can cascade your mixer and tracks to operate them simultaneously. You can edit with precision. As well as you have less stress choosing a LED monitor.
Here are a few good display monitors to choose from.
Well, now you know the importance of a good quality computer for audio recording and mixing.
If you ask me for my choice, I would go for Mac systems as they are very professional and give you the quality result.
However, if you don’t have that budget to buy apple computers then it’s better to assemble a high configuration PC for you.
Now, it’s time to share your knowledge about audio recording computers in the comment section. It will help the audio recording enthusiasts a lot.
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Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.