Choosing the right computer for recording is one of the most crucial choices, especially at the beginning of music production. I would say choose the right machine at first so you wouldn’t have to upgrade later on. Unlike other equipment, a starter computer does not exist. GO for PRO.
To choose the right computer for music production in your bedroom, you must consider these factors:
- How serious you are with music production
- What you will use
the computer or laptop for (purpose)
- Music Production
- Sampling or Beat Making
- Bedroom only or Mobile and Live
The right computer should always meet your needs without you, the user, looking for anything more. A Windows computer will be the right choice at first if you plan to upgrade components, such as RAM, HDD space, video cards, Etc.
Most Mac computers already have good specs and do not need any upgrades depending on the model. They are usually more expensive, but considering the features, I say it is worth every penny. Features such as multi-tasking, components like the Magic Mouse, and how its immune to most viruses make Apple computers the first choice for music production.
THE RIGHT COMPUTER
The right computer will always depend on the functions of meeting your purpose. For music production, you will need at least 8GB of memory to be able to run data-heavy software and hardware.
Music production requires high memory for running the software, including the main DAW or Digital Audio Workstation, Third-Party software, and the hardware.
The hardware you might be connecting to your computer will be devices such as audio interfaces, external effects, and Midi controllers. Connecting equipment is essential for recording instruments such as guitars, bass, piano, and vocals.
Besides choosing the right computer, you will need to select the right software for recording. There are various digital audio workstations and third-party plugins to choose from, depending on your operating system.
Some software is Mac exclusive, and the same goes for Windows. Either way, whichever operating system you choose to go with, you will find the suitable software needed.
A Digital Audio Workstation or DAW is the central console you will need for recording. Remember the massive consoles you see in music videos or movies you can find in recording studios. You won’t need those anymore in the digital age; all you need is a DAW to substitute that large console.
The DAW is where you record all the audio tracks from instruments (live or digital). The DAW is where you record, edit, mix, and master tracks that you can render and export as a song.
Almost all DAWs work the same, with each of their unique features. There are free DAWs such as Audacity which works for both Windows and MAC. You can export the final tracks as almost all audio file types like Mp3, Wav, M4a, etc.
DAWs are data-heavy software that requires suitable processors and memory to run without crashing.
If you are not sure about which DAW to choose, you can always try them for free. Some companies let you download and try a particular product for seven days until you decide to buy the full product.
Virtual Studio Technology or VSTs are essential types of software that are needed to enhance music production. Some VSTs require higher computer specs to run, so choosing a suitable computer is also crucial when running VSTs.
VSTs often need the DAW to run because most of the time, they are third-party software. Meaning, VSTs are not stand-alone apps like your main DAW.
VSTs can be
virtual instruments such as:
- Stringed Instruments
- Wind Instruments Etc.
- Audio interface
An audio interface is essential when recording instruments and vocals. You can use an audio interface to record vocals by using a microphone.
For recording instruments like guitars and bass, you can plug it in directly to the audio interface and record direct signals coming from the guitar’s output.
You can also record the guitar by using a dynamic microphone and placing it close to the speaker of the guitar amp. This method is much more difficult to master than direct input recording.
Essentially, the audio interface translates audio to what a computer understands so it can capture the sound. A suitable audio recording file has to have a 16 to the 24-bit sampling rate.
The reason you need a suitable computer is to maximize the use of devices such as audio interfaces for high-quality recording.
- MIDI Controllers
There are various types of Midi controllers for recording and for playing live as well. The most common MIDI controllers producers use for recording is a keyboard type of Midi.
A keyboard Midi controller is used to play and record virtual instruments found in computer software. It can be any instrument from synths, pianos, and even string instruments. You can play these different types of devices in keyboard fashion.
For example, you usually play horn instruments by blowing on the piston and positioning your fingers. With a keyboard Midi controller, you can play a trumpet or saxophone by pressing the keys.
You can emulate the playing style with the use of dynamics, vibrato, and the pitch/ modulation wheels on a midi keyboard. The instrument sounds are recordings of the real instrument. At some time, you can develop the right technique for it to sound like the real thing when you play it.
Your budget is a significant factor in purchasing the right computer for recording and music production. If you are pretty low on the budget side, a Windows computer will be suitable for you.
Consider that you are not only buying a computer. You will also need to purchase the necessary software and components for recording. Assuming you have all the required recording components, $1000 should probably be enough for buying not the best computer for recording music. A suitable and good-enough computer or laptop for music production will depend on its hardware, brand, and features.
If you do not have enough money to purchase the right computer, do not rush. You can always save up more money until you have enough to buy the computer or laptop you need. If you want to start music production with a low budget, it’s up to you as long as your happy.
Let’s look at some products and compare the pros and cons of music production.
In the list, I will include some computers that have a low price, but will still have the minimum requirements for music production.
- Apple iMac Retina 5k
A good reason for choosing an Apple computer is the multi-tasking capabilities it has to offer. The large 27-inch screen and retina display of the iMac will help you maximize your workflow.
Most modern music producers, professional or amateur, prefer a MAC for recording because of the simplicity that meets functionality. This computer is suitable for all music production functions including, all-around music production and beat making.
- 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory that is good enough to run all your favorite Digital Audio Workstation software and numerous VST plugins all at once.
- You can upgrade the RAM to 16GB for an extra $200 and up to 32GB for an additional $600.
- 1TB Fusion Drive Storage so you can store tons of audio stems for your music projects.
- Magic Mouse 2 that can you can upgrade to a Magic Trackpad 2 for an extra $50
- Magic Keyboard
- Radeon Pro 570X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
- 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation with an Intel Core i5 processor, Turbo boost up to 4.1 GHz
- 27-inch display
- 5k resolution with Retina display
- Apple MacBook Pro
If you want a smaller Mac Computer that is good for recording, the MacBook Pro is one of the best Apple laptops. The newer versions are much thinner than, the older models but still has the same powerful processor. The thinner versions, however, stripped-down CD drives and USB ports, which doesn’t affect the functions if you’re going to use the computer for recording.
- 32GB RAM perfect for operating data-heavy recording software
- AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics
- The 15.4-inch screen that suitable for a laptop
- 4TB maximum storage to store all of your recording files and stems
- 4.2 lbs. light so it is easy to carry around
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Apple Computers:
- Simplicity meets function
- Processing power
- Sleek and elegant style
- Multi-tasking features
- Fewer malware and viruses
- Garageband and other free software bundles
- Large display
- Integration with other Apple devices
- Consistent hardware integration
- Fewer compatible software and apps
- Non-upgradable hardware
- Fewer connection ports
Here is an example of a PC build that is suitable for your recording needs.
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor
This CPU is a Fast PC for gaming as well as music production. This computer is highly rated, and you can get it at a very reasonable price of $329. The maximum memory the Ryzen can support is up to 64GB.
Note that the CPU does not include the components when you are building a computer. You will have to buy the RAM, Operating System, Video Card, Sound Card, Hard Drive, etc. separately. In a CPU, you are purchasing the processor or from the name itself, the CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT.
Building computers are more common on Windows OS as Apple is the only company licensed to use MAC OS.
Asus PRIME X570-P ATX AM4 Motherboard
It has four memory slots, that can support up to 128GB of memory.
G. Skill Trident Z RGB 16 GB
These memory sticks come in two 8GB of RAM sums up to 16GB of DDR4-3600 memory that is enough for all your recording needs.
HP EX920 512 GB Solid-state drive
512 GB is enough for starting recording. Although you can always upgrade storage space when you are building a PC. You can also get external hard drives for easier data transfer.
- Video Card
Sapphire Radeon RX 570 4GB PULSE VIDEO CARD
This video card is sufficient for recording purposes and more.
Fractal Design Meshify C ATX Mid Tower Case
It is a nice case that has excellent ventilation. The all-black design is very sophisticated and simple.
- Power Supply
EVGA SuperNOVA G3 650 W
The SuperNova is a modular power supply that makes cable management more accessible and neater. It is efficient and quiet and suitable for heavy-duty CPU use.
Note: This build only includes most hardware and processors needed to run the computer functions. You can choose the monitor, keyboard, and mouse of your choice.
- Operating System
Windows 10 Pro
The current Windows OS is most capable of fulfilling your applications such as recording, editing, mixing and mastering music, as well as pictures and videos. Make sure you get the Windows 10 Pro version for more advanced features and applications.
- PC AUDIO LABS MC MOBILE 10
This laptop is quite an unknown brand in the mainstream world. However, this is an excellent example of a Windows PC that has enough processing power to match an Apple Computer.
The design of this computer looks like it came straight from a science fiction movie. If you are into high-tech looking gadgets from the future, this is a suitable choice for you.
Not only does the design look futuristic, but the specifications are also quite remarkable.
- 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H Processor (2.6GHz) with 6 Cores that can be upgraded up to 8 Cores
- Intel HM370 Express Chipse 15.3
- 13.6” Full HD Display
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 with 8GB GDDR6
- RAM is 16GB that can be upgraded up to 64GB
- 250GB SSD Storage
- Window 10 64-bit
- Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- Full-Size Color Illuminated Keyboard
- 6 in one Card Reader
- Weight 5.8 lbs.
- Size 14.13” x 10.15” x 1.18”
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a Windows Computer:
- Upgradable hardware
- Reasonable price
- Wide variety of software and apps to choose from
- More connection ports
- Huge selection of devices
- Less integrated external devices
- More complicated in terms of hardware choices
- More prone to malware and viruses
- More involved in terms of installing and uninstalling apps
- Higher maintenance
I will show you a list of computers that are slightly cheaper but do not expect these laptops and computers to have the same processing power as the ones from above. This next list is for starting music producers on a budget.
Here are some computers with lower prices that are good enough for recording:
- ACER ASPIRE E15
Acer is making a name in the tech industry with its new and improved computers. This particular computer is capable of music production despite the low price.
- Intel Core i5 Processor
- 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
- 8GB Memory
- 256GB Storage
- Windows 10 Home Edition
- Long-lasting Battery Life
- LENOVO IDEAPAD 320
(Price: Starts from $279)
The IdeaPad 320 is a convenient, compact laptop that has the minimum requirements for music production. This inexpensive laptop is an excellent budget device that suits your recording and beat making needs.
- 15.6-inch HD Screen
- AMD Radeon R7 Graphics
- Quad-Core Processor
- 8-12GB Maximum RAM
- 256GB Storage
- Many USB Ports
- Bluetooth Connectivity
- HP ELITE SMALL FORM DESKTOP TOWER PC
If you want a desktop for a lower price, consider the HP Elite series Tower PC. It is a compact desktop that has the features you need for music productions.
- Intel Quad-Core Processor
- 8GB RAM
- 500GB Storage
- WIFI Adapter
- 8 USB Ports
- Windows 10 Home Edition
LAPTOP vs. DESKTOP
The only factor when choosing a Laptop vs. a Desktop is size and mobility. If you are setting up a more permanent space for your studio, a desktop is a better choice.
Desktops are much easier to use because of the external mouse and keyboard. The larger screen is more of a breeze to use, especially for editing in the piano roll on a DAW.
Laptops, however, are more mobile and compact. You can bring it anywhere for mobile recording or live playing and whatnot. You can also get an external keyboard and mouse for more comfortable use.
Mobile recording is also a thing these days. You can also use a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet for recording music.
To learn more about mobile recording, click here.
There can be a lot of uses for music production, such as being a DJ, beatmaker, all-around music producer, or editor.
Beatmakers and DJ’s who are not music producers, will not need the same high specs you will need in all-around music production. The same goes for editing podcasts, and YouTube covers, they do not need the top specifications.
All-around music production requires higher specs such as the minimum 8GB of RAM, an excellent processor, and enough external ports, etc.
Consider your purpose before purchasing a computer to make sure you don’t overbuy, or underbuy a laptop or desktop with suitable specs required for your needs.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE
Are you planning to be a professional music producer as a business or just as a hobby? Either way, the right way to go is to buy the right computer for recording.
The advantage of the business is that you will not spend much on upgrading later on. The money can go to repairs or other essential equipment.
If you are buying a computer for recording as a passion and you get good at music production, you can always turn it into a business if you want. And If you buy the right computer that is suitable for a music production business, you don’t have to upgrade later on.
In choosing the right computer the first time, you will save money, save the environment without all the extra material you purchase. You will also save time and space for your bedroom music studio.
Whichever your purpose is, the main idea is to save time and money in the long run by choosing the right computer the first time.
Buying a new computer will cost you money, and you might not have enough left to purchase a DAW for recording. Don’t worry. You will still be able to record with free source recording software.
Apple computers come with a free DAW, Garageband.
For Windows computers, you can download Audacity for FREE.
This DAW comes free with every Apple computer, a more advanced version of Garageband is called LOGIC X PRO, and it costs $200. Garageband is capable of producing quality music if you can get the most out of its features. This DAW has most of the effects that you’re going to need, but having a few third-party VST plugins will help in improving the quality of your music.
- Touch Bar Features for MacBook Pro
- Tons of Helpful Recording and Editing Features
- Sound Library with Instrument Presets
- Guitar and Voice Effects
- Intuitive Modern Design for Optimized Workflow
- 28 Beat Making Drummers
- Powerful Synths with Shape-Shifting Controls
- Easy Share and Rendering Tracks
Audacity is a free source digital audio workstation that you can use to produce quality music and podcasts. Unlike other full-blown DAWs, Audacity does not have many instruments and plugins included. However, it will still work with most of the free VST plugins.
- Export/ Import
- Sound Quality
To learn how to make the most out of free recording software and plugins, click here.
The right computer will depend on the purpose of use. Whether you use it for business or passion, or both. Sometimes the aesthetic of the machine will affect the buyer’s decision too. Always remember, the processor and RAM are the most crucial factor in choosing the right computer for you, especially if you plan to use it for all-around music production. I hope this article helps you decide on what is the best equipment that will suit your needs.