Thinking About Buying a New Studio Computer? Read this.
Friday January 12, 2018. 10:56 AM , from Sweetwater inSync
What’s the most important piece of gear in your studio? The case could be made for monitors, microphones, DAW software, or even the room itself. But if I had to pinpoint one piece of gear that was the beating heart of today’s studio, I’d go for the computer. Without a computer, most of our studios would be far less useful for recording and producing music. So it makes sense to ensure that you have the best computer for your needs that you can find.
Let’s begin our discussion of computers with a disclaimer: Mac or Windows PC — not gonna go there, don’t care. I’m personally a Mac guy and have been since the Dark Ages when computers were steam powered. But I’m going to sidestep this part of the conversation by recommending that you go with what works for you. These days it’s really just a preference thing; the platform you choose will not impact the music you make, so go for what you know and like.
So what is important when choosing a computer and its associated peripherals? Here’s my list:
I recommend at least 16GB of RAM. If you’re running a lot of virtual instruments, then even more RAM is good to have. My MacBook Pro music computer maxes out at 16GB, but I’d have more if the machine had the capacity.
Today’s virtual instrument libraries can quickly fill up a hard drive. I have a 500GB drive in my computer, and I consider that the minimum if you’re using instrument libraries. As it is, with that size drive, I have to pick and choose which instruments to keep on the internal drive. (I like to have a self-contained computer that I can pick up and take with me, so I can work in coffee shops or wherever, without requiring an external drive.) I highly recommend solid-state drives for speed, reliability, and low power usage. I augment the internal drive with external drives: a large one for massive instrument libraries, a RAID for backup, and a pocket-sized solid-state drive for quick backups and on-the-go use. I also recommend an external drive for recording and playing multitrack audio, though I’ll be honest: with an internal solid-state drive, I’m perfectly comfortable working on the internal drive and have never had an issue.
Even though my MacBook Pro laptop, of course, has a built-in screen, when I’m in my studio or office, I always connect to a big external monitor. I find it far more efficient to be able to see big mixes and to edit audio and MIDI tracks and music notation on a large screen. If your computer supports it, then two monitors are even better. I like to place the DAW’s mixer window in one and the track/waveform/edit window in the other.
This is a big one, since we have to connect audio interfaces, controllers, control surfaces, displays, external drives, headphones, mouse, keyboard, and more to our machines. In my case, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt are critical for my current gear. Make sure that the computer you choose supports or can be adapted to the other gear you’re using.
5. Form Factor
I prefer a laptop these days, since I do so much of my work away from the studio. And, today’s laptops offer plenty of power for what I do. If mobility isn’t a concern, then a desktop or “stationary” machine will likely offer more connectivity and expandability. Depending on your needs, a tablet, iPad, or even a smartphone may do the job for you!
6. CPU Speed
Why is CPU speed so low on the list? Largely because it’s become far less of an issue than it used to be. Even a modest off-the-shelf current computer is powerful enough to create a lot of music. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t go for the fastest, most tricked-out machine you can afford — as with RAM, where more is better, with your computer’s CPU, faster is always better.
If you have questions about which computer to buy for your studio or which external drive or any peripherals, contact your Sweetwater Sales Engineers at (800) 222-4700.
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