Lesson 25

Computer for Audio Recording

You will need a computer that is powerful enough to handle your recording and mixing and mastering needs. 
There are 3 separate parts of the computer that need to be able to keep up. Your hard drive, your cpu, and your ram.

If you are recording drums, with 7 channels of audio simultaneously, your hard drive write speed needs to be fast enough to write all that incoming data. What if you are recording a full band, live. That could be like 20 channels... and the hard drive needs to keep up with writing it all or else the recording will stop.
The same thing goes for playback. The hard drive needs to be fast enough to read all the track that are being played back simultaneously. 
It’s good practice to record to an external hard drive. Check out lesson 5.14 for more info on hard drive management.

The other bottleneck is your cpu. That stands for central processing unit, and is usually just called the processor. It doesn’t really effect how many tracks can be played simultaneously, but it limits how many effects, or plugins you can instantiate within a project. Each plugin runs on an algorithm that uses processing power. If yo have 20 tracks with 3 plugins on each track.. that’s 60 plugins that the cpu needs to process... plus whatever processing is required for the operating system and any other applications that are running in the background.

The ram is a smal cache of fast access memory. You see, your hard drive stores all the information, but when you need to access that information, but it takes a brief moment to find it, and read it from the hard drive. It’s not instant. The ram memory is extremely fast, and can be accessed instantly. So, in order for your computer to respond instantly, the first little bit of information is stored on the ram. Here’s a practical example. Let’s say you are playing a midi piano. There are 88 keys on a piano, and if each key was sampled at 10 different volumes, then there’s 880 possible samples that could be triggered when you press a key. Those samples are stored on the hard drive, and therefore would require a moment to be accessed and read, which would cause a delay in playing the sound when a key is pressed. To solve this, the first little bit of all 880 samples is loaded into the ram. No matter which key is pressed, and at which volume, the initial sound can be accessed immediately, which gives enough time to read the rest of the required data from the hard drive.

A medium sized project of like 20 tracks with a handful of plugins on each channel can easily overload some computers.

How powerful do you need? Well that depends on how big of a project you want to be able to do. How many tracks, and how many instantiations of plugins will you need? For a small project with say 3-4 tracks, and a few plugins on each track, pretty much any computer will handle that. When you start getting up around 10 tracks, you will probably need a fast external hard drive. Check out lesson 5.14 on hard drive management for more info on this.


There’s also the inevitable discussion of macs and pc’s. Most interfaces and recording software are cross compatible, but there are some exceptions. PCs tend to be more popular when people want to use the computer they already have for they’re studio. 
If you are buying a computer just for audio, I would recommend getting a Mac. They are more expensive, but they tend to run audio a little better. Even a used one that’s a few years old will work. Currently, in 2020, my main recording computer is a 2012 Mac desktop, and my mobile rig uses a 2013 Mac laptop. 
Not all, but most high end studios use macs. There’s also a few more options available for interfaces and software, such as Apogee, GarageBand and Logic Pro, because these are actually owned by apple.