When it comes to setting up your home studio, your computer is king.
It’s going to be connected to your gear and play an important part in the music you create.
What PC is best for your home studio?
The good news is that any PC on the market today will likely be able to handle sound recording, mixing, and editing tracks.
However, there are important things to look for in your home studio, especially if you’re a professional musician.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some important factors when choosing your home studio computer.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the home studio PC, we got you covered:
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The Technical Elements Your PC Needs
While most PCs on the market will have the requirements you need to run a home studio, there are some things to look out for so you ensure you’re getting the right equipment.
Let’s take a look at the most important features that should be part of your home studio computer.
The computer processor should have a speed of at least 2.5GHz or higher so that you can work through tasks faster and more efficiently. But it’s not just speed that matters.
The type of processor is important as some are better than others. This is crucial when sound recording because you’ll want to do lots of different functions at once and don’t want the computer to lag.
In addition, to run audio software you’ll need a computer with at least a dual-core CPU.
If you’re keen on recording a lot of music, such as if you’re a professional musician instead of a beginner, then you’ll need a computer with a quad, multi-dual, or quad-core processor.
You should have sufficient storage for your music tasks, and here bigger is better. You want to have a computer that boasts 1TB of storage.
While this might not be needed right now if you’re just starting out as a musician, if you’re going to be expanding and doing more tasks at a later stage then it will come in very handy.
Whatever the case, choose more than one hard drive. You’ll thank yourself later, especially if you’re a serious musician.
One hard drive will carry the operating system and audio data tasks and then you’ll need a second hard drive for your software. This will prevent your computer from crashing under the pressure.
How to choose the right hard drive
Because you need to record audio, you’re going to need to choose a hard drive that can meet your needs. Look for these features in a hard drive:
- Enough spindle speed. This speed basically refers to how fast the hard drive spins, and it should be 7,200-rpm if you’re keen on recording and playing back audio.
- Strong seek time. Seek time is basically how long it takes the drive to locate data you want to find. Obviously, you’ll want this to be really quick, so choose a hard drive that will be able to do this in less than 10 milliseconds.
- Good buffer size. Quick crash course: a buffer is a memory unit in your computer that stores data as it gets transferred. You should have a computer hard drive with a buffer size that’s 8MB.
- The right type of interface. Another thing you should consider is USB 2.0 hard drives. These are sometimes not compatible with audio-recording software, so you should rather choose FireWire.
Pro Tip: Choose a solid-state drive (SSD). These are like flash drives but they work fast and don’t make a noise. This is important because you don’t want your studio computer to create interference with your sound recordings. You’ll be surprised how noisy a computer can sound when you want your studio to be dead quiet. A good ballpark figure is to have 256GB of internal storage in your HDD or SSD.
This is an important piece of equipment that you need in your home recording studio if you’re a professional musician.
An audio interface is basically just a box that enables you to plug various things into it, such as headphones, mics, and speakers.
However, it’s also the spot where your mic’s signal will be translated into computer language.
Some audio interfaces will have buttons or knobs so you can adjust your speaker and mic volume in a snap, or they’ll do such tasks in a bit of a fancier way with the use of a control panel.
The important thing to ensure is that your audio interface is transparent.
This means that it won’t create interference when you’re recording your sounds, and a higher-end audio interface will ensure this so it’s a good investment to make.
And, don’t forget, you need to ensure that your computer will have enough ports for everything you need.
One of the most important is to give you the opportunity to connect your audio interface because the two go hand in hand.
You might not think your home studio computer screen matters much, but it really does.
You should aim for a screen that has at least 1920 x 1080 resolution because then you’ll be able to see all the details much better.
In addition, the screen should be big and bright with minimal bezels so that you can see everything clearer, but don’t stress too much about the screen’s actual dimensions because there’s a more important thing to consider: you’ll probably need to add another monitor.
One computer monitor might not be enough, that’s why sometimes music professionals use two monitors on the same computer.
Imagine if you have to do many tasks simultaneously, such as using a synth while keeping DAW open. It can help you to have more than one monitor.
It also makes it easier to look at everything at a glance when your studio is set up in this way, without having to fuss with lots of files and programs on one screen.
Before you can go ahead and connect more than one monitor to your computer, you have to be sure that your computer can handle this setup.
The good news is that most graphics cards can handle the pressure of two monitors that are plugged into the back of the PC.
If your graphics card doesn’t have the ability to do so, then you’ll have to buy another one.
However, don’t just rush in and buy a graphics card without first making sure that the computer has enough space and you have a good enough power supply unit for it!
In addition, when choosing an extra graphics card, make sure it’s in the same product family as the one that’s already in your computer as this will enable you to connect them using CrossFire or SLI.
These programs will ensure that your cards perform at their best.
If your computer can’t handle having a second graphics card (it happens, such as if your computer doesn’t have PCI Express slots in its motherboard), then you’ll have to work around this issue.
To do this, you’ll need to purchase an external adapter that basically works like an external graphics processor.
As Popular Mechanics explains, these devices trick the computer’s internal graphics processor to think it’s connected to a long monitor.
It’s not just storage that you have to worry about. You should have enough computer memory to store files so that the machine doesn’t have to keep making use of the main hard drive.
This is where your RAM comes in. Make sure you choose a studio PC that has at least 8GB, but 16GB is even better.
External Sound Card
This equipment can be highly useful in your home studio. Basically, an external sound card is what translates the music into something you can actually hear.
Your computer requires bits in order to communicate a song, which is basically a bunch of 1s and 0s.
This computer language needs to be translated, and that’s why a sound card can help to do that.
However, a sound card also works in another way, by inputting sound into the computer. So, you’ll use a microphone to record sound and this will be sent to the sound card.
The sound card works by amplifying the electric current to translate it into the computer language (those 1s and 0s again) so that the computer can make sense of it.
There are many benefits to adding an external sound card to your home studio computer and it’s easier than having to add internal parts to the machine.
By connecting a sound card to your laptop, you can create a surround sound. In addition, on your computer, you can connect to your Home Theater sound system. Imagine that!
Pro Tip: Generally speaking, sound cards will improve the overall audio quality of your computer. However, if you have a sound card but you don’t have the right speakers, you won’t be able to tell that there’s better sound quality. So, always make sure that your sound card is supported with the right gear.
Don’t DIY Your Current PC
average PC on the market today will be able to run everything you need for your
home studio, but that doesn’t mean you should decide to upgrade your current
machine’s software and boost its memory so that you can use your music software
along with all your other personal apps.
You might be wondering why not, but there’s a good reason for this.
If you’re going to be using a computer to record music, you should have a computer that’s only used for that purpose.
It might sound crazy (and expensive), but it makes sense if you consider that running other apps on your computer can interfere with your audio applications.
This will make the system less stable, which is something you don’t need when trying to be creative.
So, keep your current computer for your life and business, and have a new model solely for your music business.
Should You Use Mac or PC?
When it comes to music recording, the question of whether Mac or PC is better is a debate as old as the ages.
Some parties firmly believe Mac is better, while others insist that PC rules the home studio.
Let’s put an end to that debate once and for all. Now, ultimately the decision to use Mac or PC really comes down to your personal preferences.
Some people just feel more comfortable on one over the other. The good news is that there’s no right answer when it comes to which one is best for music recording.
With that in mind, however, there are some things you should consider when questioning if you should go with Mac or PC.
- You can upgrade your PC. You can always make changes to your PC over time, depending on what you need. This is a great thing if you want to save up money first as there’s always the chance to improve it as you go along.
- Mac makes it easy to be versatile. The software you use on your Mac can easily be sent between devices, and that’s also the case for audio software. So, if you have an iPad, you could send it from your Mac to your iPad in a few seconds, which helps you become more versatile.
- While both Mac and PC can run the software you’ll benefit from in your music production, such as Ableton, Pro Tools, and Digital Performer, you should consider what you want to run on your computer because they’re both limited when it comes to other types of software. For example, you can’t run GarageBand and Peak on your PC, and you can’t run Sonar and Sound Forge on your Mac.
Can You Use A Laptop For Your Home Studio?
If you don’t have a desktop computer, you might wonder if you need one for your home studio or if you can just use your laptop to get things done.
The good news is that you can use a laptop for your home studio instead of a desktop PC.
In fact, it has some benefits that you won’t find on your desktop, such as how easy it is to carry it around with you.
That said, you have to make sure that it will be able to cater to your needs.
This doesn’t have to be a hassle – simply use the same information that we outlined for choosing the best computer for your home studio. The same specs apply to your laptop.
Although all this is good and well, there are some drawbacks to relying solely on a laptop if you’re serious about producing music.
Desktops can make this task much more comfortable, such as because they’re not positioned right in front of you so you won’t have to deal with noisy fan issues that can cause interference in your recordings.
In addition, it’s worth bearing in mind that laptops have internal parts that do overheat much easier than those of desktops.
However, are desktops really faster?
Sadly for all laptop lovers, the answer to this is yes. As pointed out by Business Insider, a desktop that has similar parts to a laptop will give you much smoother and faster performance.
The reason for this is because desktops contain full-size parts and these are more powerful than the parts that have been specifically designed for laptops.
Can you use a gaming computer to produce music?
While you might think a gaming computer can be useful when it comes to producing music because it has strong specs, it can be a noisy machine.
This is because its fans work hard, and this can interfere with the quality of your music recording if you’re recording music with the use of a microphone.
What’s the easiest recording software to use on your home studio computer?
There are many options available to you.
Some of the best ones include Audacity, Garageband, and Presonus Studio One 3 Prime. Audacity and Presonus are completely free, while Garageband is budget-friendly.
If you’re building your own home studio, you’ll need the right computer to help you create and record your music.
By reading this guide, you will be able to make the best choice when it comes to finding the best computer for your music production needs, such as by taking into account issues such as storage space, computer memory, as well as others.
After reading this article, you will hopefully also have a bit of a better idea when it comes to making tough choices regarding your gear, such as choosing between Mac and PC, as well as how to set up more than one monitor on your computer without a fuss.