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thomasjespersen • 2 weeks ago

I do not intend to build an Audio Workstation but I would like an PCIe soundcard for gaming/videos/music (listening). Would the choices you show here be appropriate? Would all of them work so that I just pick whatever I want to pay for it?

Daniel • 2 weeks ago

For folks that are not audio professionals, we would actually generally recommend skipping the sound card. Onboard audio on motherboards has come a very long way in the last decade or so, and tends to be nearly indistinguishable from even relatively high-end sound cards except in very-high-tier arrangements (such as room-scale surround sound systems). And the issues faced by onboard audio (e.g. electrical interference, insufficient power to drive high-end monitors, etc) are better solved by other components, such as an external DAC/Amp, than by introducing another internal part.

But if you're certain that you want a sound card for your system, then yes, the recommendations in the third section of the guide above would work as well for general media consumption as for workstation usage (and would be compatible with any motherboard, provided it has at least one unoccupied PCIe slot).

thomasjespersen • 1 day ago

Thanks. The reason I asked it because I have a Mac Mini at home right now and even if I am not an audiophile I can easily hear that its soundquality is far above what I have on my motherboard.

Dieqo • 2 weeks ago

Hello, I am looking to buy a laptop for music production. I am just getting started, but plan to have this laptop for at least 4 years, so I want to futureproof it so that when my projects get more advanced, it can still handle them. Do you think the 2019 MacBook Pro 13 Inch i5/16gb/256gb will be able to work smoothly with advanced tracks with many plugins? (The ssd will only be for software and other plugins, then I will buy an external drive for everything else.) Also would the $350 upgrade to the i7 over the i5 be worth it?

Daniel • 2 weeks ago

While it's hard to quantify the exact hardware needs of a broad set of plugins for any given software (particularly for Macbooks, which we have limited research about), the facts that (1) you know you'll be working with complex arrangements and (2) you're aiming for future-proofing---make it likely that the i7 would be a sensible choice. This is especially true because mobile/laptop CPUs nearly always skew less powerful than their similarly branded desktop siblings. For more info comparing Macbooks to alternatives, the only resource we have that really covers that topic is the laptop section of our OS comparison guide.

Samrat kundu • 1 month ago

Hello sir,
I'm from India. I wanna build a pc for music production on Cubase and video editing on premiere pro..
My budget isn't so high.. It's like midrange build.. I've 2 options right now.. Please suggest me which one should I go with. I'm a beginner right now also a student. I would be able to upgrade the CPU before 4years..
i7 8700 + iGPU + ASUS tuf B365m Plus gaming
Ryzen 5 3600 + a minimum GPU for display only + Gigabyte B450 Aorus Elite
I'll upgrade the GPU within couple of months..

So which one would give me better performance and would be longer run for 4years easily?

Daniel • 4 weeks ago

So, the i7-8700 has the higher max speed, whereas the 3600 has the higher base speed. But they have the same core and thread count, and their overall performance is very similar.

So ultimately I would say your choice should come down to 2 factors: which one costs less, and which part do you think you'll upgrade first in the future? If one of them is noticeably cheaper, I would recommend going with that one; it's a close enough call that you won't regret it.

If the prices are pretty close together, though, then it depends whether you plan to upgrade the CPU first or the GPU first. If you plan to upgrade the GPU first, then it makes more sense to get the i7-8700 due to its (marginally) better performance. But if you plan to upgrade the CPU first, then you should get the R5 3600 as its likely they'll stick with the AM4 socket for at least one more generation of chips (so you may not have to get a new motherboard to upgrade).

Samrat kundu • 3 weeks ago

Thank you sir for the reply..
Well i7 8700+iGPU and ryzen 5 3600+ low end GPU..
Both setup would be done in same budget..!
Bt I was worried about that Asus Rog B365m Gaming or Asus Tuf B365m would be good choice for i7 8700.?
Because in my budget I couldn't consider a Z series mobo..!
I wanna run i7 8700 on all core 4.3ghz..
So what should I do please suggest..

Daniel • 3 weeks ago

It wouldn't necessarily make sense to go for a Z-series motherboard regardless, as the i7-8700 is a locked processor and cannot take advantage of the overclocking capabilities of the Z-series chipsets. Either of those B365M boards you listed should be totally fine choices (both feature the same onboard audio processor, so there should be no noticeable difference for music production work).

Jordan Garza • 1 month ago

Fantastic information. Thank you for your time and effort putting this guide together. I do apologize as this is most likely a silly question, but would a 2.9 ghz Intel i5 9400f 6-core CPU and 16gb of 3000mhz be sufficient for a project studio build. This is my first time building a pc and I would like to make sure the build is worth the investment of capital.

Daniel • 1 month ago

Yes, an i5-9400F should be a reasonably solid choice for an audio production PC. In particular, the performance of the 9400F should fall in between the performance of the R5 2400G and R7 3700X in the 'Starter' and 'Home Professional' example builds in section one above. Just be sure to pair it with a compatible motherboard (such as a Z390---or an H310 or B360 with a BIOS update, where applicable).

Truth • 2 months ago

You never talked about the used computer market and also an audio workstation does not need the things a gaming machine would and the machines you talked about are more gaming PC rather than Audio machines. I have an Intel DG45ID with a Core 2 Quad Core 3.0 GHZ CPU, 8GB DDR 2 and those 3 things cost less $120 and this system can run a 100 tracks with effects and VI with no problems. I built my 1st PC in 98 and I was there when hardware was way behind the software needs.... but now Hardware is far beyond the needs of software so there is a ton of great used pc parts at dirt cheap prices.

Byron Wilson • 1 month ago

I’m 19 and I’m building my own studio. Any recommendations or a pcpartpicker link that shows the best route to go for pro tools 12 for a home studio. I decided to not waste money on something that’s not worth it

Daniel • 1 month ago

If you're just starting out, then our recommendation would be to go with the least-expensive, 'Starter Audio Workstation' example build at the top of the first section in the article above. It's very likely that such a PC would have enough power to handle your entire workflow, and you would be able to upgrade at some point in the future if it seemed truly necessary. (That said, if you have a more specific budget in mind, which is not captured by any of the three example builds there, then we could advise you on how to upgrade or cut back from one of them as needed.)

Byron Wilson • 1 month ago

Thank You For The Reply, I Will Go with the Starter Audio Workstation. As Long as it can handle the new pro tools and plenty of plugins I won’t need anymore future upgrades

Daniel • 2 months ago

You're absolutely correct that folks can get better prices than what we list in the article if they're willing to buy used hardware. The builds in our big guide articles are kept updated to always use new-in-box, up-to-date components. Folks interested in considering used hardware should also check out our intro blog post on buying used parts.

Eric Cates • 2 months ago

Y'all gotta be kidding me! I have a 2012 Dell Inspiron with an i5 processor 8g RAM, 2tb internal hard drive and a 4tb external. I have two midi controllers, a USB audio interface, Cubase, FL studio 20, pro tools, and reason..... I have maybe $300 in the PC itself, and because I run a modded version of Windows 10, I have near zero latency and no underruns even when I'm running CPU heavy plugins ... $2500 is what I'd spend to build a console with the PC components built in, plus, I can make your DAW integrated within windows 10 because I can write batch scripts, so I have no bloatware, and the DAW loads everything super fast cuz, it's integrated.... If people spent more time on learning how to do things correctly, then you'd have better producers cuz they don't need a second job to pay off the PC

Daniel • 2 months ago

If I've found the correct model, it seems like the relevant Dell PC has an i5-2310. That's still a reasonably solid quad-core CPU for many purposes, and is only about 30% less powerful than the R5 2400G in the 'starter audio workstation' example build in the first section of the article above.

That said, I can't find that model for less than $400 refurbished anymore---and the price difference between that and the starter build corresponds reasonably well to the difference in performance, component quality, age, and features (like the self-built having an SSD and 16GB of RAM) between those computers.

Peter Wong • 2 months ago

Computer's motherboards are not designed for digital audio and analog audio too, The system have more than three ground loops , CPU to 24 Pin 12 V is connected that must disconnect it and CPU must use one PSU independently ; and GPU has the same problem and must must use one PSU independently too. SATA HDD or SDD power supplies have ground loops with the motherboard, and it must use one PSU independently, The ground loops make low frequency jitters about 1 Hz to 10 Hz that you can hear from the music data.

And all PSU haven't EMI filter in outputs. I added EMI filters in fans , CPU 12V , GPU 12V , SATA 12V. 5V, 3.3V , If no EMI filters that I can hear noise when 80 F degree at room.

Luuta • 5 months ago

Presonus Studio One is a strange omission, but otherwise a very good guide

Jack Kolar • 2 months ago

I'd like to see where they think S1 - 4.5.2 falls in this requirements mix. there are lots of complaints on the blog about performance, which all should be easily fixable - but with exactly what change?

Luuta • 2 months ago

My current pc runs on a second generation Pentium 3 or maybe it's a 5. In any case, it's over a decade old but until recently the memory and cpu were just about coping. Problem is I now have a number of apps that always run and that can't always be turned off, such as RAID drivers, VST installation checkers, such as PACE, Asio drivers and the like. Windows 10 is also increasingly hogging space and resources. A lot of other things can be manually turned off, but the CPU and RAM are now often between 80 and 100% and I've had a few BSODs. So, for a while, I've been slowly buying the parts for a new pc.

It's a miracle Studio One 4 runs at all, but it does run and manages to run fairly smoothly on medium sized projects (30 minutes, orchestra and rock band instruments), which is amazing. It struggles with more resource hungry instruments and on bigger tracks, but it's still not bad going.

However, it is limiting and now it's becoming annoying, because i keep hitting the resource ceiling.

What I'm saying is, there are a lot of things that are at play when trying to run a DAW a pc. I have Goodsync running because I've lost too much stuff in the past and still do on my phone when I forget to back up. I have iTunes, video software, antivirus, Google etc.. all this stuff loves running constantly and a lot of are complete resource hogs. The right mixture of cpu and memory, a good mobo that makes the most of them, overclocking potential, device and software conflicts, the audio interface that you use. I have to place mine carefully, or it gets interference from the pc and the UPs device.

Inevitably, as DAWs expand, they'll use more resources. As with any software, you get rounds of additional functions and then optimisations, but at some point, your gonna have to either stop upgrading the software, or start upgrading the hardware.

And of course, on top of the DAW you have ever increasing VST memory hogs that you're then running on top of that.

Not to mention hardware compatability.

So, it's not easy for DAW manufacturers to hit that sweet spot, where they offer improvements and extras, but not so many that their customers need to upgrade their hardware. And while everyone else is also vying for the same resources, not least Microsoft itself.

Jeremy Papke • 6 months ago

Some good info, but there are several issues with this ...

1st) is that you recommend a Shure SM7B, however a Scarlett interface doesn't provide enough gain to use one effectively. Hopefully, people who pay the money for the SM7B won't skimp on the choice of interface.
2nd) is that your top build recommends an AMD CPU/motherboard, but you did not let people know that this means they won't be able to use Thunderbolt (Intel proprietary IP), which is the de facto standard going forward for audio interfaces. This is a big deal, and one i'm currently dealing with.
3rd) is that there is no thought given to how quiet the build is. Most home studios will have the PC in the same room as the recording is taking place, and this should be a consideration for the cases chosen.

Cody Jay • 2 months ago

I mostly agree with you, but how exactly is thunderbolt "the standard" for audio interfaces?
1. The thunderbolt connector is dead and replaced by USB-C.
2. Almost all current thunderbolt interfaces also have a USB connector with a USB interface.
3. Most probably if they put Thunderbolt USB-C on new interfaces, it will also be compatible with the USB standard.
So yes, I would recommend Intel as you said but not for the thunderbolt reason.

Daniel • 6 months ago

Great points! Especially the one about sound concerns in the case choices. Next time we do a sizeable update to this article, you can rest assured that your advice will be factored in.

Nathan • 4 months ago

When will the update be?

Daniel • 4 months ago

Tough to say. As of right now, LI is in the process of designing and implementing a redesign of the site. The most important change this will bring is compatibility of Logical Increments with mobile devices (probably our most common complaint from users), but it will also bring along numerous quality-of-life improvements throughout the site.

Unfortunately, that means that---until the redesign goes live (hopefully relatively soon)---any updates have to be implemented and maintained twice, once on the current site and once on the new version. As a result, we're avoiding doing big updates to articles for the time being. (For now, we're just focusing on keeping the part recommendations up-to-date.)

croospin dookstra • 7 months ago

Hey hey hey. theres an MG-1! I love my MG-1. Also awesome article I will be working on a PC build using your guidelines!

Daniel • 7 months ago

Thanks for saying so. Glad you like the article!

Loue Massacesi • 8 months ago

Yes! Buttt! By omitting AMD's 1700X, 1800X & TR1900 CPU's from your charts, you remove viable, lower cost, high power 8 core options as well as the only lower cost Quad Channel Memory option. Lots of people will go with 1st Gen Ryzen 8 cores, and many will also run LINUX which can make better use of AMD's resources and architecture than Windows does and costs nothing. All of these things I am currently considering.

Not to mention the exclusion of the higher end of AMD's FX 8 cores, Specifically the FX 8370 which is a monster at 5mhz and still worth considering for many of us that still have them and want to repurpose them into DAWs. It's the most practical way of getting your money's worth when you upgrade your main system. The only problematic issue being which OS?(MS vs Linux)
I would love to remove MS from the equation all together, But is Linux ready to handle the job with fewer issues? Is there a Linux Distro that is good enough to replace windows and run CUBASE Natively... One can hope?

realestatebanking • 4 months ago

Indeed have you considered a hackintosh setup? This way you can run your Linux box for everything except do music on mac style system? P.S. My only recording experience is on garage band primarily and pro tools doesn't run on Linux supposedly. I'm not sure why I even want to run protools other than it seems more proffesional yet thats only because of its popularity I have never even run the thing lol so I dont know why I have to have it so bad quite honestly???

Loue Massacesi • 4 months ago

Why would I do that when most Pro's, Semi pro's and home studio's are abandoning Mac & Protools?(mostly due to costs and slow development & patch distribution) which is so frustrating when you paid a premium for the hardware and App(Mac & Protools both). Besides I'm computer literate(25 yr I.T. career) So I don't require a turnkey system meant for non computer literate users. I have previously built 2 PC based DAWS for my home studio's(1 analog Synth Workstation & 1 hybrid DAW tied to a fostex multitrack tape deck) using Windows XP & Windows 7, and I'm currently building my sons a pure digital rig and studio. For now it will be based on the AMD FX 8370 on an ASUS M5A99FX Pro mobo with 16 gigs DDR3 1866mhz ram[4x4gb ram]~(1st upgrade will be to 32 gigs of 2400mhz ram) dual booting Win 8.1 & Linux (And hopefully in 2 years upgrading to an AMD ThreadRipper 8 core with 64 gbs of DDR4 3400 ram(8x8gb quad channel) running strictly Linux..... if they work it out)
Older versions of Macs O/S are Linux\Unix based, but O/S10 was the first mac O/S that operates more like MS Windows and can be run on current PC's, Thus many Mac OS/10 users migrated to PC's over the last few years to save thousand in hardware costs and improved upgrade path.

And if you saw Cubases most current DAW suite, you would see a whole new level of professional performance supported by timely App upgrades & patches not to mention the amazingly flexible interface and support.

Daniel • 7 months ago

What you're noticing about the CPUs is a result of this article having only 3 example builds, while most such articles on our site have 4 or more. If we were to ever add another example build to this article, it would probably fit in between the 'Starter' and 'Home Professional' builds (somewhere around the $900-1200 price point)---and it would probably feature an AMD Ryzen chip.

James Hoelscher • 6 months ago

That range, $900-$1200, is exactly where I'm looking to land honestly. I've been at this a while, have a prebuilt computer with an i7 now, but its been trucking along for about a decade now. I want to update, but I'm more of an "avid hobbyist" than a home professional. I'd be very interested in that build if you ever add it!

Daniel • 6 months ago

Well, fret not! Even though this article currently lacks a dedicated build in that exact range, we do have example builds on the site matching that bracket. Our general build recommendation chart on our homepage, for instance, has balanced builds for just about every budget---including 3 options in the $900-$1200 range.

Eddie Edwards • 8 months ago

i can't find the prices quoted for your various kits anywhere on the internet - the 1500$ kit costs almost 1000$ just for the cpu and graphics card

Carlos Duran • 8 months ago

use pcpartpicker.com to find the best part prices

realestatebanking • 4 months ago

Have you considered ebay for certain parts?? For other parts amazon or newegg though new egg prices are looking to be on the high end relatively speaking now.

Daniel • 8 months ago

Are you outside of the US, by chance? All of the big guide articles use prices in USD. I just checked those parts, and confirmed that the CPU and GPU in that build come to less than $700 (and that the whole build comes to about $1500).

Lolo415 • 8 months ago

Here is a list of my build
Asrock Killer Z370 SLI AC Motherboard
Intel i7 8700K 6 Core CPU
Cryorig H7 Cooler
Samsung 860 EVO 500GB SSD
Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM HDD
XPG Gammix D10 2×8 16GB RAM 3000MHz
EVGA 750 GQ Gold 750W Semi Modular PSU
- I haven't gotten a Graphics Card yet but still planning on getting it. Is this a great build for just music production alone?

Daniel • 8 months ago

Yes, it is! In particular, that list of parts (plus a graphics card) would be nearly as powerful as the 'home professional' example build in section one of the article above.

Lolo415 • 8 months ago

Thanks this is my first time building. One question though, can a Sata splitter connect to a SSD and HDD?

Daniel • 8 months ago

If you mean a SATA power cord splitter, then yes---that should be fine as long as it's a splitter cable that came with your PSU. (For the safety of yourself and your build, do not pair separately-acquired cables with your PSU unless they come from the same manufacturer as your PSU, and state compatibility with your exact PSU model in their description.)

But if you mean a SATA data cord splitter, then probably not; that would only work in some very specific situations (and even then, may impede the read/write speeds of the SSD as the devices would share bandwidth).

Nick • 8 months ago

Woooow, this article was super helpful. And incredible timing because i'm looking into building my own computer soon. Thank you

EmiRizzi • 9 months ago

This is just what I was looking for. Thank you! I'm thinking of a Ryzen 1700 build as it's dead cheap for the crazy performance that you get... and what musician has money (and apt cooling) for an i9 haha Thanks and merry christmas

The GPU actually can be used as a better alternative toa CPU for things like impulse response, fast fourier transform or other process where many complex calculations occur at the same time. While a CPU processes things in a linear fashion (one calculation at a time at very high speeds), a GPU can take multiple calculations at the same time. Unfortunately, my point is rendered useless as GPU support for audio processes laid out above is practically non-existent. Sad, because the potential is very very high. One could get the CPU to do all the track recalling and simpler linear plug-ins, while the GPU works on complex IR loading, etc. in the background.
In any case, a decent GPU will help you with those sexy multi-monitor set-ups and metering, freq response graph visualization and if you're working on scoring for videos. Perhaps even things like MaxMSP if you work with video analysis for audio. :)

hesido • 3 months ago

Problem with GPU is latency. While it's monstrously fast for all floating point calculations (very high throughput due to parallelization), the latency may be deal breaker. Very good for offline renders but understandably software makers would focus on cpu when allocating programmer time. Also less headaches for optimization.

Nic • 10 months ago

Why you haven't delved into the processor power hogging requirements of VSTi's is strange, considering how many come prepackaged with DAW's. Also your soundcard section is seriously light on Firewire (still revelant) and or /Thunderbolt?

Daniel • 10 months ago

Thank you for your feedback on the article. I'll pass it along to the author, so he can consider it at some point soon.

Anon • 10 months ago

I think it'll be a good idea to add Cakewalk by BandLab (previously Cakewalk SONAR Platinum) to the listing. It used to be a purchasable DAW but after its acquisition by BandLab, it was re-released for free. So, it's basically a premium DAW for free!

Daniel • 10 months ago

Great tip! I'll add it to the article some time in the next week or so. Thanks for letting us know!