Computer build for music production?

I am thinking about building a pc for recording and producing music. This will be my first build, and there are so many things to consider. I need it to be able to handle decent to high level music software at good speed. I won't use it for any gaming or work with videos, it will just be for music. I don't know my budget yet because I am still raising money, but it will end up being pretty limiting, say, 500-600? Can I do it for this price? What parts would you recommend? As for the different general components, what should I spend my cash on and what should I not worry about? Intel or AMD? ANY input on the subject would be appriciated a lot. Thanks.

This is what I would do:

AMD all the way - you don't need a powerful APU, or a discrete GPU, so your budget opens up lots of opportunities. Unless you have a better one in mind, the ASUS Xonar STX is one of the best consumer sound cards on the market. It is better than anything that HT Claro or Creative will make for that price, and the sound quality is just absolutely insane. A case is a case - it will work. Rosewill is a reputable company, and that PSU is completely modular - no mess! I put in an SSD because that one is a great price for the speed and size, and it will make everything much faster. Will you ever use 2TB of HHD? Probably not, but if you want to get a 1TB or 2TB drive later, in a month or two, that will work. But, for now, 256GB will store everything perfectly fine. Definitely go SSD. Sorry I went $11 over - I think it is worth it. You could get a cheaper case, though. Hope I helped!




Brennan Riddell

I don't know what would be necessary for music editing but I'll recommend a real nice system for your budget. This will give you excellent performance.

For a CPU get:


Graphics card:


Power Supply:


For a Optical drive get anything you want


Sound Card:


Intel vs AMD is going to depend on wether or not the software you will use is able to utilize multiple threads. One of AMD's strong points with Bulldozer and Piledriver is multithreaded applications in addition to value. If your software can make use of multiple threads, you're going to be hard pressed to justify Intel over AMD in any sort of budget build. However, I'm tempted to side with Intel on the recommendation so you won't have to invest in dedicated graphics, as AMD's FX-series CPU's don't feature integrated graphics, and neither do their lates 900 series chipsets, though some of AMD's older chipsets do feature integrated graphics.

Will you be overclocking? And why components do you need (operating system, keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc)?

I doubt a dual-core chip won't cut, at least not if there is any sort of transcoding involved.  Transcoding my music library into OGG format took my 2500k about 90minutes. Transcoding the same music library on my Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz would've taken over 4 hours. Mind you, that Core 2 duo machine had an SSD (Corsair Force F60), while my desktop was storing the files to a regular 7200 RPM hard drive. And working with uncompressed audio can take a lot of space.

However, I'm not really an expert, and not 100% sure what goes into audio production either, though I had a roomate once who made his own music...

If you plan on using something like Pro Tools or similar you'll want at least a quad core.  Its best for handling high bitrate audio with zero lag.  Dubbing tracks is terribly frustrating when after recording you have to adjust and compensate for the CPU lag and all. I know because I used to edit on a Core2Duo.

Also, those programs tend to be a bit RAM hungry so you would want at least 8gb, but that should be a standard anyway.

Thanks for everyone's help. @jerm I don't really know much about that stuff yet. I will probably get a cheap keyboard and mouse, and I want to get a monitor that's at least 22", but that's all I know. I don't know if I will be overclocking it because I don't really understand how it works and how to do it. What are your suggestions on this stuff? and could you explain the intigrated graphics? thanks a lot, sorry I'm such a nube.

for your production are you recording into the soundcard or processing the sound outward, do you require a multichannel interface(more than mono left/right), do you need something with an asio chipset, are you clocking/syncing midi? buying a soundcard for music production is different than buying a soundcard at bestbuy. you'll realize that when your kernel buffers fail you and your latency with asio software has a lag that kills your real time production. it's important to know what kind of production you're doing. what kind of software you're using and is it in a pre/post chain. these questions/answers would all yield different hardware. 

Are the extra compenents (Operating System (Windows 7), monitor, keyboard/mouse) included in the budget, or is the $600 just for the computer and the hardware inside? Or better yet, do you have any previous computer hardware that you can re-use?

Overclocking is pretty much a performance boost, by increasing the number of instruction cycles the CPU can process in 1 second. However, this may result in instability, increased power draw, increased heat output, and can potentially shorten the life span of the CPU. Normally these are non-issues for mild to moderate overclocks, but all but the mildest of overclocking requires an aftermarket cooler.

The frequency of instruction cycles (typically measured in GHz) is determined by a bus/base clock and a CPU ratio/multipler (Base clock x CPU ratio = CPU speed in MHz). On an unlocked CPU, it's as simple as going into the EFI/BIOS and increasing the multipler/CPU Ratio. On my Core i5 2500k the base of 100 and has a multplier of 45 (default is 33); 100x45= 4500MHz, or 4.5GHz Depending on the magnitude of the overclock, you may have to increase CPU voltage to combat instability, which in turn increases heat output and power consumption.

i would say lightning fast ram and an intel cpu as music production is a single-threaded application job, with something like protools. also a dirt cheap dedicated gpu so your not using a shared that borrows your system resources, a dual ssd set up is good one for OS APPS the other to record too. as for sound card you got two roots generaly something like an like an asus essence on a jack converter which is more of a comercial approach or something like an RME or E-MU audio card, which are industrial grade. it really depends on your needs like how many channels you need and what type of music you plan on makking which dictates the equipment you will hook it up to and what kind of ports you need.

I wasn't including those in my budget. Just the hardware inside.

So are you telling me that after my system is set up with a quality cooler, overclocking is as simple as quickly changing the settings on my computer? Thanks for your help.

I'm not sure of the difference between recording into the soundcard and processing it outward. I was planning on getting a single-channel interface. I will be doing midi stuff, but I don't know what an asio chipset is. Could you explain this stuff? I know I'm a nube. thanks a lot.

With my experience with recording (Cakewalk Sx3 and ADOBE Audition)...

My 1st advice is use nothing but an SSD. Buffering latency CAN and WLL hose a demanding file.

I've been able to record on a dual core 4050e but it was a nightmare. Proc power is needed also.

RAM....lots of it. As much as you can afford.

A good quad core. at least 8 gig ddr3 and even a small SSD (for starters) is good. Storage will become an issue as the files get larger. Onconverted files are HUGE so expect to get a larger SSD.


I am planning on using a lot of channels in the software. I'll have a usb and midi keyboard. I will also want to record other instruments with a mic, one channel at a time. thanks.

asio: audio stream input output... you generally want a card with low lag time. if you use a midi keyboard and use it to trigger a massive generated effect on your computer then you're at the mercy of hardware/software buffers.. you want a small lag time.. asio is different in the sense it re-routes your IO on individual audio streams.. asio also adds to the lagtime. what will end up happening is you'll at somepoint need two of the soundcard you bought.. do yourself a favor and look for soundcards like this. these cards are meant for audio production and you'll learn to appreciate the design when you figure out what ASIO is.

this one below is higher quality..

the inputs/outputs

gime a few I will toss up a suggestion.

its a bit overkill, but I do alot of audio encoding and some minor editing and i can tell you i went from an [email protected] to an [email protected], and it made a HUGE differance with proper encoders.

the sound card should work well, there are other choices, but be aware, maudio has a horrible rep with drivers(infact, its the biggest reason I refuse to use them for any build anymore, when you have to used modified drivers from other card makers......) 

there are ALOT of choices for audio cards, also could get an external sound board  usb or firewire(what most true pro's I know use) 

but this card would work well(asked a buddy who does audio work, he said asus or HT Omega for a home audio rig, even told me to tell you not to get m-audio with their driver issues....they just dont update them properly...) 

you could go with a 5800k apu but, honestly, what i spec'ed out would work better due to more cores, you could drop back to a 8320 but, the cost dif is so small, i would get the 8350....

Just throwing this out there.