Most important features for a recording computer?

les_paul

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969
I'm moving towards home recording and I'm looking to buy a computer to do so. What are the most important features/minimum requirements to track guitars, bass, vocals, and digital drums from a program like EZ Drummer? I'm not currently looking to track other people; just myself at home.
 

Captngeetch

Silver Supporting Member
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1,016
I would suggest a Mac. Lots of talk about the New Apple M1 CPU’s. There is a thread about it currently. Lot’s of people going for the new Mac Mini M1 8gb. There is a 16gb. Version on the way. I know you say you are currently not planning on tracking others, but now is the time to think and plan ahead. Setting up a home studio and recording can be as addictive as heroin. Once you start, you can end up getting bitten by the bug lol. And as far as the computer is concerned, going bigger now is not a bad move. Even if you give up on it, you will have an excellent box for other uses. CPU, RAM, SSD are important. Inputs are too. What’s your plan for the Audio Interface ? Thunderbolt or USB. You need that info so you can be sure to have the ports you will need.
 
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les_paul

Member
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969
I would suggest a Mac. Lots of talk about the New Apple M1 CPU’s. There is a thread about it currently. Lot’s of people going for the new Mac Mini M1 8gb. There is a 16gb. Version on the way. I know you say you are currently not planning on tracking others, but now is the time to think and plan ahead. Setting up a home studio and recording can be as addictive as heroin. Once you start, you can end up getting bitten by the bug lol. And as far as thw computer is concerned, going bigger now is not a bad move. Even if you give up on it, you will have an excellent box for other uses. CPU, RAM, SSD are important. Inputs are too. What’s your plan for the Audio Interface ? Thunderbolt or USB. You need that info ao you can be sure to have the ports you will need.
Thanks for the info! I currently have a Scarlett 2i2 USB interface but I'm open to building around the computer if I need to.

Maybe the more appropriate question is where should I spend bigger money?
 

Boblets

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10
I think the most important criterion is the quality of what is recorded.

The computer is important but not overly so. Any computer with DAW software and an audio interface will work. More tracks, more memory perhaps.
 

Captngeetch

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,016
Well the 2i2 is a great interface and will work perfectly for your stated goals. Everything will go through the computer, so it is pretty important. Starting out with a great machine is a leg up IMO. You have a good interface and the guitars etc already, so at this point the computer is the most important part. I’m a Mac user. They, IMO seem to be the goto recording system. Not a knock on PC based setups, but Macs have zero issues with drivers etc. To each his/her own though. We have both types of users here, PC and Mac. And they are both happy with their choice. I own a Windows box too, but my older Mac blows it out of the water performance wise. Your choice of DAW is important too. Either will run just about any. With the except of Logic & Garage Band being Mac based. Of course as boblets points out, the quality you put in is pretty important too
 

eclecto-acoustic

Coal-hating feral hippie
Platinum Supporting Member
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I'm moving towards home recording and I'm looking to buy a computer to do so. What are the most important features/minimum requirements to track guitars, bass, vocals, and digital drums from a program like EZ Drummer? I'm not currently looking to track other people; just myself at home.
Basic breakdown.

CPU single-core speeds - real-time instrument processing like synths and guitar amp sims.
CPU multi-core speeds - overall track count and the ability to have more plugins running at once.
RAM - sample-based instruments like drums or sampled synth sounds.

Hard drive speed will only be a factor if you have an old school mechanical drive from a laptop that spins at 5400 RPM. ANYTHING higher than that is an upgrade enough that you won't have to worry about it for your uses. SSDs, for the normal users among us, benefit the home studio mostly by way of being quiet.

USB2 is all you need. Don't be drawn in by claims that Thunderbolt or USB3 interfaces will appreciably impact performance. USB2 has enough speed and bandwidth to transport more simultaneous tracks than most anyone even has inputs for.

If you are getting most of your sounds outside of the computer and just using it as a digital tape machine, basically any computer still running can do what you need it to do.
 
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I'm using a five year old Win8 laptop. I/O is a Behringer X32 with ASIO interface, running bidirectional on a single USB port (16 in, 16 out). No major issues, though I had one issue one particular time where I ran out of buffer several times in a row while tracking. Restarting the laptop solved it, and it has never recurred. For "one man band" sort of recording and even fairly track-intense mixing it's fine.
 

Billinder33

Member
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1,841
Hard drive speed will only be a factor if you have an old school mechanical drive from a laptop that spins at 5400 RPM. ANYTHING higher than that is an upgrade enough that you won't have to worry about it for your uses. SSDs, for the normal users among us, benefit the home studio mostly by way of being quiet.
In terms of the mechanics of recording, you are correct. But the overall user experience of a full SSD system is a massive improvement - lightning fast reboots, speed of launching new apps and loading projects, plugins, and samples, general file retrieval, etc.

Since first experiencing SSD almost 10 years ago, I couldn't imagine going back to any spinning disk.... even a hybrid system with SSD as the OS drive and spinners for file storage. Spinning disk is a dinosaur with no upside other than cost, and even that's dissipating. Aside from replacement of legacy devices, I'm not sure that spinning disks will even available 5 years from now.

IMO, someone buying a new computer is better off just biting the bullet on cost and going full SSD.
 

Atmospheric

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3,739
Mac with at least 8 cores, 32GB RAM, SSD storage. Currently, the M1s top out at 16GB. Wait if you can. No one should mess around with spinning hard drive platters at this point. SSD is the way to go.

Given that any computer should be a 5+ year investment, I don't like to scrimp on CPU, RAM or storage. That can easily bite you later and force another investment. Doubling what you think you might need in those areas up front is smart money to me.
 
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Atmospheric

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3,739
Well the 2i2 is a great interface and will work perfectly for your stated goals. Everything will go through the computer, so it is pretty important. Starting out with a great machine is a leg up IMO. You have a good interface and the guitars etc already, so at this point the computer is the most important part. I’m a Mac user. They, IMO seem to be the goto recording system. Not a knock on PC based setups, but Macs have zero issues with drivers etc. To each his/her own though. We have both types of users here, PC and Mac. And they are both happy with their choice. I own a Windows box too, but my older Mac blows it out of the water performance wise. Your choice of DAW is important too. Either will run just about any. With the except of Logic & Garage Band being Mac based. Of course as boblets points out, the quality you put in is pretty important too
A longtime friend made the switch from PC to Mac. Why? He was doing a remote recording on a Windows laptop and it just choked. I think he was doing 12 simultaneous tracks. We're both tech guys, so I'm sure the Windows box had lots of RAM and CPU. It was crunch time, so he bought a MacBook Pro and said it had no trouble whatsoever handling the live remote session. He hasn't looked back.
 

hw2nw

Silver Supporting Member
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2,460
Whatever ecosystem you're in, I would stretch and get as much CPU/processing as you can stomach. 16GB preferably if you're getting into virtual instruments/MIDI/drums and/or mixing. SSD internals and external too if you can.

I like to buy a machine to work for 5-7 years, and I don't mess with lots of OS/software upgrades. The object is to have a rock-solid dependable computer that won't fail in the middle of an important session!
 

Mister Natural

Gold Supporting Member
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1,664
...What are the most important features/minimum requirements to track guitars, bass, vocals, and digital drums...
that it not be a laptop - very few guys with fairly modern desktop-machine studios have trouble
- jack of all trades machine is a master of none
best of luck
 
Messages
986
I'm moving towards home recording and I'm looking to buy a computer to do so. What are the most important features/minimum requirements to track guitars, bass, vocals, and digital drums from a program like EZ Drummer? I'm not currently looking to track other people; just myself at home.
i5 chip and 8gb of RAM.
 

eclecto-acoustic

Coal-hating feral hippie
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
10,492
In terms of the mechanics of recording, you are correct. But the overall user experience of a full SSD system is a massive improvement - lightning fast reboots, speed of launching new apps and loading projects, plugins, and samples, general file retrieval, etc.

Since first experiencing SSD almost 10 years ago, I couldn't imagine going back to any spinning disk.... even a hybrid system with SSD as the OS drive and spinners for file storage. Spinning disk is a dinosaur with no upside other than cost, and even that's dissipating. Aside from replacement of legacy devices, I'm not sure that spinning disks will even available 5 years from now.

IMO, someone buying a new computer is better off just biting the bullet on cost and going full SSD.
Of course, I completely agree. I just caution newer recordist against the feeling that they have to go all out for a music machine. The reality is that most people really don't need much in terms of performance.

@Atmospheric I'm not picking on you, but I would offer caveats. My machine has 16 gigs of RAM and can easily run a few sample-based synths and a big drum library all at once. 32 gigs is certainly nice to have and will eventually become a necessity, but the option there is to get a machine that allows for user-upgradeable RAM. I can add that other 16 gigs when it becomes necessary, and saved some up front cash in the process.

Too many people think they have to buy too much machine. By all means, consider the future when you buy. But there's more to it than just buying the most you can right now. I kept my last desktop PC rocking for 12 years simply by wisely choosing components that would allow for a long series of upgrades. 3 CPUs, 4 GPUs, 3 sets of RAM, 2 power supplies, all purchased and installed incrementally as my workload demanded. Heckuva lot cheaper than a few new computers.

that it not be a laptop - very few guys with fairly modern desktop-machine studios have trouble
- jack of all trades machine is a master of none
best of luck
As above, I obviously dig my desktop machines, but this isn't always true. Laptops can come with issues with thermals, but they aren't all as badly designed as Intel Macs. I'd recommend that a buyer consider strongly how much they value portability. If they absolutely must have it, be prepared for the compromises including the extra cleaning, the extra setup to negate power saving features, and choose a model with as many replaceable parts as possible.

But many people straight up GIG with their laptops, especially keys players. They can be every bit as reliable...just gotta know your way around it.
 




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