When purchasing a new computer, there are many things to consider as far as the hardware in your machine is concerned. There are always minimum specs that are listed from the manufacturer, but they are just that, minimum specs. This article is here to help guide you in your purchase to get the most out of your new system.
Minimum specs are listed here:
1. The CPU:
The CPU or processor of your machine is going to be the most important factor when it comes to system latency and the ability to process audio. When using effects plug-ins and running at a low Device Block Size, you will want to have the most powerful processor that you can afford. It is recommended that you go with an I7 processor or higher with 4 cores or more. Make sure that the processor supports Hyperthreading and that it natively runs at 3.0 Ghz. or higher. When we say "natively" we are referring to the speed at which the processor runs, prior to invoking any type of "turbo" technology. This is because at certain temperatures, your system might be set to disable any "turbo" technology or over-clocking. This means that when your system gets too hot, it will be limited to the native speed of the CPU.
2. Memory (RAM):
Our minimum requirements for RAM or memory are 4 GB. One thing to consider is that the operating system alone is usually going to eat up about 2 GB of RAM or memory. The biggest user of memory are virtual instruments. If you are going to be working with a number of VST instruments or virtual instruments, those patches are loaded into RAM and this is where you will need more in your system. If you are just recording audio, you can get by with less RAM. It is not a bad idea to have 8 GB of RAM or more. If electronic music is your thing and you are working with virtual instruments, it is not unheard of to have 32 GB of RAM or more, depending on how many tracks you are going to be working with.
Another thing to consider when purchasing RAM or memory is the data rate that it communicates at. You will see a rating such as DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, etc. DDR4 will be the fastest speed.
***When your computer uses a piece of the hard drive as memory, this is called virtual memory. It is not uncommon for people to disable virtual memory on their systems when using SSD hard drives. If this is the case, you will need more RAM/memory in your system to accommodate the pagination that is done by the operating system.
3. Hard Drives:
One thing that is commonly overlooked when purchasing a new computer is the speed at which the hard drive runs. You will want to go with a 7200 RPM hard drive or faster. SSD drives are recommended as they have much faster write speeds. The SSD drives can be more expensive, but are definitely worth considering.
***Stay away from 5400 RPM hard drives. They are too slow for working with audio applications. You may be able to use one at first, when there is not much data written to the drive, but as you fill up the drive, it starts to write to the outer sectors of the drive and this is where they become too slow. The further out on the drive that you write too, the further the needle on the platter has to travel per rotation, thus making the random write speeds too slow for audio. You can compensate to some extent by increasing your Device Block Size, but eventually you will reach a point of diminishing returns. You will find the 5400 RPM hard drives in cheaper laptops ($500.00 USD or lower) because they reduce the amount of power consumption to allow for a less powerful battery and system.
4. Graphics Cards:
When looking at graphics cards, it is important to consider the amount of video RAM that it comes with as well as the highest resolution that it supports. Video RAM or video memory is different from system RAM or system memory. It is the memory that your graphics card uses for running graphics. Studio One uses a high resolution and has a high dpi. You will want to purchase a system that supports at least 1 GB of video memory. It is recommended that you look for a system that has at least 2 GB of video memory and supports HD resolution. (1080p)
Make sure that you keep your computer in a cool environment. If you are building a system, pay the extra money for the higher-end thermal paste. You also want to make sure that your system has a fan that exhausts out the back. If you need multiple case fans in your system, you can put an air intake fan on the front and an exhaust fan on the back. If you do this, just make sure that you open it up once in a while and spray the dust out with some compressed air. Heat can not only harm your system, but can also prevent it from over-clocking our going into a "turbo" mode. This will greatly reduce the performance of your machine.