Guide To Building A Music Production PC 2019
PC vs Mac, the never-ending battle of music making computers. What matters the most here is your personal choice and what you are used to working on. Whereas Macs come pre-built to the spec based on your order, PCs are usually built based on a choice of components. But even though there are some amazing music PC builders out there, this post will focus on helping you build your own music making PC.
First things first, how much are you willing to invest in your PC? PCs can range from $400 to $5000, it all depends on what you want and how big your budget is. Let’s say you’re a working composer willing to invest a whole lot of money, because this is your main workstation PC it needs to last at least 5 years. One thing I learned is that buying the most expensive components will not give you the best results. The price tag doesn’t guarantee quality, trust me. I built my PC for a little under $2500, and I can still upgrade it if I want, because everything can be replaced.
If you don’t know anything about PC components, these are the important ones:
- Processor (CPU)
- CPU Fan (Cooler)
- GPU (Graphics Card)
- Hard Drives (HDD)
- Power Supply (PSU)
- Case (Housing)
The Processor (CPU):
A question as old as “Mac or PC”, do you choose Intel or AMD. Personally, I would always go with Intel as it is an industry-standard for music production due to its greater processing power. AMD is a lot more affordable but the processing power sometimes just isn’t enough to push your big orchestral template smoothly. This is all based on personal experience.
The best solutions from Intel are i7 5960x, i7 6700k and i7 7700k.
The best solutions from AMD are Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen Threadripper 2950.
The CPU fan stops your CPU from overheating with a lot of help from the thermal paste you get with it. The best solution is to find a fan that is really quiet because you don’t want any noise coming out of your computer while working. Imagine you are recording an acoustic guitar and you can hear hum from the fan on the recording. That’s just plain bad. Thermaltake and Noctua make awesome coolers with really low noise ratio.
Thermaltake Engine 27 has 1500-2500 RPM at an excellent 13-25 dBA noise.
Noctua NH-L9i has 600-2500 RPM at 14.8-23.6 dBA noise.
RAM memory is probably THE MOST important thing for a music production PC. You’ll need a lot of it. The more RAM you have, the better your PC will work with all of those heavy-weight sample libraries like Spitfire, EastWest and Orchestral Tools.
DDR4 is the latest and greatest and the best ones come from G. SKILL and T-Force. There are also more affordable options from Kingston Hyper X series. The number of RAMs in your PC depends on your motherboard and how much it can support, so keep that in mind.
You choose your motherboard based on your choice of CPU. Some of the big names out there are Asus, Gigabyte and MSI. The best motherboard option for you is something that’s heavily marketed for gaming because it can take a lot of RAM and a very powerful CPU. This is the hub for all of your components.
MSI has Gaming Series, Asus has ROG and TUF. Those are the ones you would want. MSI Gaming Series X99 can support up to 128 GB of RAM DDR4 which is quite enough. Plus it is built for Intel CPUs and natively supports USB 3.0 and 3.1.
Graphics Card (GPU):
Another infinite battle is between Nvidia or AMD. It all comes down to personal choice as both brands make some amazing cards. If you are a working game composer you might want to invest in a good graphics card in order to test your music to unoptimized game build, so something like Nvidia Geforce GTX 1600 Ti series or AMD Radeon RX 580 series will do the trick. If you are working on films, then a little less powerful ones from the GTX series will do.
Hard Drives (HDD):
SSD, it’s all about SSD these days. They used to be rather expensive, but nowadays you can get them rather cheap with a lot of storage space. Kingston, Verbatim and Samsung are the brands to look out for. You will need a lot of Hard Drives. One is for your system (C partition), and it should be around 256-500 GBs. The others are for samples and your projects. Hard Drives for projects don’t need to be an SSD, but they should be fast enough, something around 7000 RPMs like Western Digital Caviar Black.
Power Supply (PSU):
None of these selected components will do their job if they don’t get enough power to keep them running. This is where power supply or PSU comes into play. Let’s say for example you bought all of the components that are suggested, you will need a PSU of 850W-1000W to power all of them properly. The best and quietest PSUs come from Seasonic and EVGA.
The Case (Housing):
This is where you decide on the visual identity of your PC. But keep in mind that it is more important to have a case that can accommodate all of your components than actually looking cool. Let’s say that you will add more HDDs later on, or maybe some PCI cards like UAD, so besides motherboard slots you’ll need actual space in your case for all of that. The best and most elegant looking cases come from NZXT, Fractal Design and Cooler Master.
These are your core components for every music PC out there. We haven’t included audio interfaces because you are not likely to buy them together with your PC. We wanted to concentrate solely on the actual DAW machine.
If you use a PC for music production you will naturally use 64bit Windows 10 Pro as your OS.