Are you looking for a computer for Home Studio or home studio mixing?
Maybe your current computer is a bit old, and you feel its limits when producing your music?
Or perhaps you want to equip yourself to start in a home studio by investing in a real machine that will allow you to record your demo or your album in optimal conditions?
In this case, it’s perfect: you’ve come to the right place!
With computers moving so quickly, it’s hard to know which one to buy, especially when you have special needs.
And the point is, while computers are high-speed today, not all are suitable for music production or home studio mixing.
I have prepared this detailed guide to help you choose the best computer for your home studio.
The goal is to save you from spending dozens of hours comparing models and specs on the net without knowing which computer to buy for your home studio.
Here are the topics that we will cover in this article:
- The criteria for choosing computers for home studio and music production
- Our #1 tip for home studio and computer music
- The best computers for home studio and computer music
- Accessories for your home studio computer
The Criteria for Choosing Computers for Home Studio & Music Production
Of course, when you are looking to buy a laptop or desktop computer to play music, you have to pay attention to all kinds of criteria.
Because casually, the software commonly used in home studio uses a lot of resources. Less than gaming or video, but still not bad.
Here are the main criteria you should take into account before deciding on your next home studio computer.
Mac or PC?
This is often the big question when it comes to computers: some prefer the Apple brand, while others prefer the Windows interface.
Objectively, it is an endless debate that mainly boils down to differences in tastes and priorities.
But when it comes to home studio recording, which one is better?
It is often said that Macs are more reliable and faster. Well, they really aren’t. Maybe it’s because they all come from the same brand, whereas PCs are produced by many different companies with different quality standards.
In fact, a lot of recording studios use MacOS, and a lot of recording studios use Windows.
Moreover, the majority of studio software, such as DAWs, is compatible with both macOS and Windows.
How to decide between the two operating systems, then?
For me, the first thing to consider is the budget: Macs are significantly more expensive.
If you have a small budget, it is much more recommended to go with a Windows PC rather than going to a Mac (although you can buy a used Mac).
Then ask yourself the question of your experience with each of the two systems: working in a home studio can be complex, especially when you are just starting out.
That’s why I recommend that you choose the platform with which you are already comfortable.
That way, in the event of a problem (I am thinking in particular of all that is computer configuration), you will already be quite familiar with the interface.
Laptop or Stationary?
Another important question, which you can answer by asking yourself the following question:
Do I need to move my computer on a regular basis?
If you are sure that your computer will remain on your desk – for example, if it is only dedicated to your home studio – opt for a desktop computer.
Indeed, the power/price ratio is much more interesting, and in the event of a problem with a component in the future, repairs will be much easier to implement.
However, if you are going to move your computer from time to time, record your group in the rehearsal room, or surf the internet at the local cafe, I can recommend you to take a laptop.
Note that a laptop screen is small, which can quickly get tiring when working on the mix.
That said, if your goal is just to record one or two musicians, that shouldn’t be a big problem.
As far as possible, I recommend that you move towards desktop computers of the “tower” type.
Of course, this will be a bit restrictive in terms of mobility, but above all, it will allow you to work with a more powerful and potentially more reliable machine in the long term.
The Storage Device (Hard drive, SSD, etc.)
Now let’s move on to everything that is components inside the computer.
Maybe the subject interests you, but maybe not at all! It’s true; it can be a bit technical and a bit off-putting.
That said, a bad choice of home studio computer or music production computer, in general, can have a powerful impact: high latency between your sound card and your PC, crackling in the sound.
Also, here are some tips regarding the main components of computers, starting with the storage device – which is an aspect too often overlooked by home studio beginners.
Indeed, recording and producing music implies that you are going to have large audio files. Your software must be able to access it very quickly in order to be able to play it in real-time when you click on the “play” button.
So yes, a number of things are stored at the RAM, which we will talk about right after, but the storage device is just as important.
Storage device technology
Overall, there are two big techs:
- “classic” hard drives;
The latter is much faster and has a longer theoretical lifespan. On the other hand, they are a little more expensive.
Both options work well for the computer home studio – however, my preference is necessarily for SSDs, which are much better performing.
However, if you choose to make music with a computer that has a conventional hard drive, make sure that the latter spins at a minimum of 7200 revolutions/minute (7200 rpm).
Avoid hard drives spinning at 5400 rpm, which are not at all suitable for home studio use.
The size of the storage device
Make sure the size is sufficient: the storage is kept to a minimum on some PCs. For example, we often see small SSDs, which will certainly make the computer responsive but will not allow you to store your audio files.
For me, the minimum required to work in good conditions is one terabyte (1 TB).
However, a 512 GB disk will be usable but will undoubtedly involve the use of additional external storage in the short or medium term.
It takes a lot of resources to generate sounds and effects in real-time. Often more than “mainstream” computers can provide.
So, it is important to select a computer with a powerful processor that can perform many calculations in a limited time.
Concretely, for a home studio computer, this means:
- a processor speed of at least 2.6 GHz (ideally above 3.0 GHz)
- a processor with at least four cores (6 or more cores is much better)
Concretely, if we look at the Intel processors that equip many PCs on the market: preferably go for Core i5 or Core i7, and avoid Core i3, which will be too far.
On the other hand, there is no need to go for more powerful Core i9 type processors unless you really have the budget: I think the performance gain for a PC desktop is quite low.
Random-access memory or RAM is where data is temporarily stored when using a computer. For example, other web pages that you may have opened in your browser are stored in RAM.
In the case of a home studio computer, and typically if you do computer music using Kontakt-type samplers, the samples are often stored in RAM.
Therefore, if you have too little of it in your machine, you run into serious problems. Concretely, you need a minimum of 8 gigabytes of RAM.
12 or 16 GB will be much more comfortable.
And if you want to do like me and make sure you have a machine that remains relevant in the future, go for 32 GB.
Note: Most commercial models do not have as much RAM.
You have to check for each model, but adding one or more RAM modules is often possible to improve the computer.
It could also be an upgrade that you will do in a few years, or only if you run into problems.
Of course, the audio connections present on the computer are not important since you will probably be using a dedicated audio interface in your home studio.
However, it’s important to be careful with anything USB (or Thunderbolt) connection – especially if you’re planning to buy a laptop PC.
As long as it is a question of connecting a mouse, a keyboard, or a USB key, it is always possible to use hubs to multiply the USB ports.
However, if you plug too many things into your hub, performance can deteriorate, which is necessarily a problem when talking about an audio interface.
So make sure you have enough ports available on the computer you choose!
Our #1 Tip for Home Studio Computers
A little further in the article, you will find a selection of computers particularly suitable for the home studio.
Beforehand, I would like to recommend what I think is the most relevant approach for a home studio, as long as you have a little space and are not too technophobic.
What I recommend to you
For me, the idea for a home studio is to set up or have a stationary computer set up. Yes, it can be a bit scary if you’ve never ordered this type of thing: maybe you even feel that off-the-shelf computers are a more reliable solution.
However, in this article on home studio computers, I think I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t mention computer building as a serious solution for music production and mixing.
And this for many reasons :
- At the same price, a stationary PC will be much more powerful than a laptop PC;
- At equal power, a “custom” fixed PC will be less expensive than a commercial PC;
- The components of commercial PCs are not always the last. For example, when version 10 of the Intel i5 processors are on the market, many already installed PCs are still on version 9;
- A stationary PC allows you to work in better conditions (screen size, power, more connections, etc.) in a home studio than a laptop PC.
But if I mount my PC, I won’t know which part is compatible with which other?
Yes and no.
Of course, it takes a minimum of interest in the subject to understand what each piece is for. But for all that is compatibility, there are some great tools – the “configurators” – on the big computer hardware sites that allow you to select the parts for your computer while ensuring compatibility.
Zero risks, therefore – and if in doubt, you can always give the brand a call for a little advice.
The Best Computers for Home Studio & Music Production
If you do not want to embark on the small adventure of custom PCs – which I fully understand – fortunately, many computers can meet your criteria of computer for home studio & music production.
Therefore, we will show you some of the recent models that can be used without any problem in music production, starting with laptops and ending with tower desktop formats.
Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 4600H, i5-9300H (3.0 GHz base clock, up to 4.0 GHz max boost clock)
Storage: 256 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD (Boot) + 1TB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
Don’t be surprised by the gamer-oriented design: our performance needs for music mean that laptops for computer music and home studio are often also suitable for video games.
With this laptop computer from HP, you leave in good condition to work.
The processor is rather powerful since it is a Core i5 which can go up to 4.0 GHz. It is also supported by 16 GB of RAM, which will be sufficient in many computer music situations – even if you load sample banks.
Storage level, the 1TB SSD is mounted in NVMe, which will optimize the speed with which you will load and save your files.
An AMD Ryzen 5 4600H graphics card completes the package: admittedly not the best card there is, but it will be more than sufficient for all your music production applications and will even allow you to play from time to time.
In short, a good laptop for making music in a home studio context at a fairly reasonable price.
Processor:10th Gen Intel Core i5-10300H Processor
Storage:512GB NVMe Solid State Drive
With this MSI, we move into another higher-performance laptop for Home Studio.
Indeed, this laptop incorporates a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10300H Processor, of course very efficient today – but which will, in a way, increase the life of the machine.
This time there are 16 GB of RAM, very sufficient for computer music and mixing.
Storage-wise, a 512 GB SSD will allow you to start working without any worries – however, I imagine that it will have to be upgraded in the long term or added external hard drives / SSDs because audio files take up space!
Finally, the integrated graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti) will, of course, facilitate the display of certain plugins but will also allow you to play gaming if you wish.
In fact, it is a powerful laptop ideal for home studio and computer music.
Processor: 8-core M1 chip
Storage:512 GB in SSD
If you rather want to orient yourself towards the Apple universe, I recommend you to have a look at the MacBook Air with the famous M1 chip designed by the brand.
It is true that some users still encounter rare plugins display problems, which the editors will surely correct. In that case, this new processor works very well and will be perfectly suited to use in a home studio.
On the other hand, the built-in RAM and SSD will give you good performance – although the addition of external storage systems will undoubtedly be felt quickly (but this is often the case with laptops from Apple).
In short, if you want a MacBook for your home studio, I highly recommend this model!
Processor: Intel Core i7-10700 (2.9 GHz base, up to 4.8 GHz with Turbo Boost)
RAM:16 GB of DDR4 Memory
Storage: 1 TB in SSD + 2 TB on hard disk
Now let’s move on to “tower” type computers.
It’s difficult to recommend due to a lot of different models, but as there are fewer options available than before, I’ll give it my best shot. This is undoubtedly due in part because portable devices have grown increasingly popular and become an integral component for many people across all walks of life today.
If you’re looking for a high-quality computer, this MSI model is perfect. It has all of the features that one could need, and its power will not be an obstacle in any task!
That said, in this MSI Aegis Tower Desktop, you will find an Intel Core i7-10700 processor, which will work well for computer music and mixing.
The RAM may be a little tight, but you can, of course, open the beast to add a strip (which I highly recommend, especially since the procedure is very simple).
Storage level, on the other hand, you will have all you need for several years, I think, since you have both a fast SSD for the applications and the system and a 2TB hard drive for the storage of files.
In short, with the addition of an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 192-bit graphics card inside, this makes it a good PC for making music at home.
Processor:i7-10700K (3.8 GHz base, up to 5.1 GHz with Turbo Boost)
RAM:8 GB DDR4 memory
Storage:512 GB SSD
If you want a desktop computer in your home studio but prefer the Apple environment, it is towards iMac that will have to turn.
Sure, the prices are spicy, but you get the speed of Mac OS X paired with a great 27-inch display.
Moreover, a large number of professionals use Apple computers in their studio, and the iMac is one of the models that come up quite often in discussions, especially for the home studio.
The model that I recommend here is for me the “minimum” to have to really make a long-term investment.
Indeed, you will find a very powerful processor (i7-10700K with eight cores) and a 512 GB SSD.
RAM will probably be a bit light, at only 8 GB.
Some Additional Accessories for Your Home Studio Computer
Along with your computer, you may need to add some accessories. Here are my recommendations.
Whether as an additional screen for a laptop computer or as a primary monitor for your desktop PC, at one time or another, you will need a large screen to work in pleasant conditions and to minimize visual stress.
You don’t necessarily need an expensive, latest-tech screen in a home studio setting, which will be more recommended for heavy gamers or movie buffs.
In fact, an entry-level model like those from HP (full HD resolution) will be a good investment. Here are the different sizes available:
If you’re already used to using your mouse and prefer not changing it, then that’s completely fine.
On the other hand, if you want to get a new one (at the same time as your new computer, for example), I recommend that you avoid the cheaper brands because longevity will not be there.
Indeed, under your mouse buttons, there are small switches. If you take a low-end mouse, the switches will be low-end, too – resulting in unwanted double clicks after a handful of months of use.
Of course, there are many different models.
However, if you are looking for something solid and at a reasonable price, I suggest you take a look at the Logitech range, which offers products with good value for money.
Read Also: 10 Best Home Studio Headphones
Are desktops better than laptops for music production?
For many years, music production was done exclusively on large desktop computers due to the space and disk size constraints of these machines. However, modern laptops have both the power and storage capacity needed to keep up with a running DAW or video editing program for extended periods of time. This means that because newer laptops are not in a “mobile state,” they can handle the higher electricity usage levels involved with heavy processor use better than a mobile device.
In general, desktops are great for music production as they offer more power and the capacity to work on larger files sizes.
What makes a computer good for music production?
A computer with a powerful CPU, GPU, and plenty of RAM is best. It is also important to have a high-quality sound card. Finally, the more storage capacity you have on your hard disk determines how much music can be stored per song so it’s good to have a fast hard drive too.
Is i7 better than i5 for music production?
This is largely dependant on the mix of different kinds of tasks you use your computer for. However, generally speaking, an i7 processor will be best if you are also doing other things at the same time because it can handle multitasking well.
Is RAM or processor more important for music production?
They function as a team, and it’s hard to say that one is more important than the other. A RAM of 16GB minimum allows for smoother multitasking with many programs open at once, which means you’re more productive. A modern Intel Core i7 8700K will yield exceptional performance and speed for all of your applications and gives plenty of headroom so even if you max out your memory with lots of projects loaded up at the same time, nothing slows down because of it.
Can you use any laptop for music production?
Music Producers tend to use more expensive laptop computers, with a higher RAM and better internal specs, that will be able to handle all the processes involved in running software such as Ableton Live or FL Studio, without crashing. If your laptop is anything less than this you can’t get optimum performance from it. It’s an investment for their craft so they have the right tools for the job at hand.
Here you are. You now have all the elements to choose your next computer, laptop or tower, for your home studio, whether for music production or audio mixing.