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I'm thinking of buying a new computer to run Studio One 5. What are some things that I should consider?

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.  

Studio One 5 minimum specs are listed here:


1.  The CPU:

The CPU or processor of your machine is 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 get 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 (SMT for AMD, as Hyperthreading is Intel's way of saying SMT) 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.  The highest number for the DDR 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.  If you are going with a mechanical drive, you will want to go with a 7200 RPM drive connected to a Serial AT (SATA) port. If you are considering a Solid State Drive(SSD), please review the information below. 

SSD drives on SATA are recommended as they have much faster write speeds.  The SSD drives can be more expensive, but are definitely worth considering.  

SSD drives are also available in NVMe storage format, which are much much faster than SSD SATA drives. This is because the NVMe drive has a more direct connection with your motherboard. DATA does not have to travel through the SATA controller. 

NVMe storage can be used in some standard PCIe motherboard slots much like a graphics card, but most NVMe drives use the M.2 form factor shown below. You will need to check your motherboard specs to see if NVMe is supported, and which type of NVMe can be used. 



USB drives can be hit or miss, as the USB bus itself could be the bottleneck on performance of streaming real time audio. USB ports can use a shared bandwidth(Hub), or have dedicated bandwidth(Direct). You would always want to use a direct USB connection to the computer, not through the front USB port.  If your computer has USB 3 ports, and you have either a hybrid SSD or 7200 rpm mechanical drive connected over that USB 3 port, it could perform well. However, internal drives are best.

If you are looking at a MacBook Pro, The MacBook is one of a select few laptops to carry USB 3.1. USB 3.1 can technically transfer data between the MacBook and peripherals like USB hard drives at maximum speeds of up to 10Gbps (Gigabits per second), which is 2x faster than the current USB 3.0.


***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 inner sectors of the drive and this is where they become too slow.  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) 

5.  Heat:

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 or going into a "turbo" mode.  This will greatly reduce the performance of your machine. 

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