There comes a time about every three or four years when it is smart to upgrade the computer that is the basis for a digital audio workstation. This upgrade ensures you are running hardware that is capable of handling the increasing capabilities of new audio software.
It might surprise most users, but it no longer matters whether you choose a Mac or Windows PC. It’s really a matter of personal preference. I prefer Macs because I’ve used them since the first Mac came out in 1984. But a lot has changed since then.
Sweetwater Sound, the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based pro audio dealer, recommends the following factors in choosing an audio computer:
- RAM — Sweetwater recommends at least 16GB of RAM. If your installation needs a lot of virtual instruments, then even more RAM is recommended. You cannot have too much RAM.
- Storage — A minimum 500GB drive is recommended when using instrument libraries. Solid-state drives are recommended for speed, reliability and low power usage. Internal drives can be augmented with external drives for massive instrument libraries. Also a RAID drive for backup and a pocket-sized solid-state drive is recommended for quick backups and on-the-go use.
- Monitor — When working in the field, the built-in screen on a laptop is fine. But when working in a studio or office, a big external monitor is recommended. It is easier to see details on a large screen and it is less fatiguing on the eyes over time. Two monitors are even better than one. One monitor can be used for the DAW’s mixer window and the other for the track/waveform/edit window. It’s a matter of choice, but for long hours of editing, big screens are better.
- Connectivity — This is important because we all have to connect audio interfaces, controllers, control surfaces, displays, external drives, headphones, mouse, keyboard and other devices to computers. Sweetwater says to be sure that the computer selected supports or can be adapted to the other gear you’re using. This one can be a deal breaker, so consider it carefully.
- Form Factor — Some prefer a laptop, while others prefer a desktop. Either type now offers plenty of capacity for audio editing. In some cases, a tablet, iPad or even a smartphone might work, depending on the editing task. It’s the era of personal choice. Pick and choose your preference.
- CPU Speed — CPU speed today is much less of an issue than it used to be. These days, even modest, off-the-shelf model computers are powerful enough to edit audio. As a rule of thumb, buy the fastest machine you can afford.
Purchasing a new computer today for audio is much easier than it used to be. Consider the above items, buy a decent maintenance policy and enjoy your editing.
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