You are here

Suggested specs for PC

For anything relating to music-making on Windows computers, with lots of FAQs. Moderated by Martin Walker.

Suggested specs for PC

Postby musicallyinclined » Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:43 pm

Hi all,

Hope this is the right forum. I am looking to finally get stuck into home recording. Like many starting out I don't want to go crazy with what I'm spending but on the other hand I want to spend enough to have worth while equipment. I figure I better start with getting a decent PC as I've only got a laptop.

Could anyone suggest minimum specs for a PC? I'm imagining the main considerations are processer, ram and HDD/SDD? I'm not really sure what my requirements will be musically. I'm going to start messing around with pop synth type tracks. Will probably start for one of the 2 i/o USB interfaces with a couple of mics and midi keyboard controller and expand from there. Would like to go for Cubase Artist (anyone know if Cubase users are still a slave to those pesky USB licence key things these days?) though Studio One looks quite appealing these days as well. I'd like to be able to get some fairly decent orchestral VSTs as well. That's my only thoughts at the moment!

Thanks.
M
musicallyinclined
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:35 pm

Re: Suggested specs for PC

Postby resistorman » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:40 pm

Out of curiosity, what are the specs of your laptop? Have you tried using it?
User avatar
resistorman
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1075
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:00 am
Location: Asheville NC

Re: Suggested specs for PC

Postby musicallyinclined » Sat Dec 07, 2019 10:15 pm

Hi,

I've got MacBook air (most recent edition) which will get some stuff done but it's limited on I/o ports and I think I'd like to set up a proper work station.

M
musicallyinclined
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:35 pm

Re: Suggested specs for PC

Postby LoveMonkey3833 » Wed Dec 11, 2019 10:23 am

I would get a minimum Intel I7 9700k cpu if you want to go Intel. If you want to go AMD get a Ryzen 9 board. Both of those I would get a Mobo that has Thunderbolt in case you have to use it in the future. On Intel's Z390 only Gigabyte Designare has Thunderbolt. On AMD Only Asrock has Thunderbolt for their Ryzen 9 chips at present. Just in case you want to upgrade your interface in a year(if you stick with it you most likely will) to lets say a UAD Apollo(probably the best bang for your buck as you can buy software to use on your interface that replaces outboard gear like thousand dollar preamps and compressors, which I'm assuming you do not have???). Start there and save to get everything else. This way you won't have any problems in the next 5 years when you want to add something, or upgrade something! Get an NVME 1tb ssd for your OS drive, get a 1tb regular SSD for your recording drive, then get a 4tb HD for all your synth stuff and samples, you can always add more HD's/SSD's later so don't worry if all you can start with is the 1tb NVME and 1tb SSD as that's only $200 for both right now! You will need at least 3 hard drives in total when you work with samples(like the orchestra stuff Spectronics or whatever else) and VSTI type synths or whatever format you use. You'll want a bare minimum of 32gb Ram when you work with samples and virtual instruments! Everything in the Computer aspect is in "Bigger Is Better" attitude with very few exceptions. You'll want great cooling as well so don't skimp on your cpu cooler. You don't ahve to get a $1000 water cooler, but I'd at the very least get a Noctua NH-D15 bare minimum! Also Don't skimp on a cheap power supply as that's super important that you don't blow up your computer or any gear that's connected to it! I've had that happen in the past, and I don't care what any of these key jockeys say....YOU CAN BLOW YOUR USB/THUNDERBOLT INTERFACE UP BY SHORTING OUT YOUR COMPUTER! They'll say..."Maybe 10 years ago that happened, but they have so many protections now..."blah blah blah. That's bull shit as it just happened on a 1.3yr old build with a cheap Rosewill PSU in it. Fried his UAD Appollo 8x or whatever 3rd gen number it is. Basically killed about $6000 or more of gear! So back to my point.. Get a PSU with a 10yr warranty minimum of Gold status, and get more power than you could possibly need, as adding things to usb ports, adding more usb ports, and running it super hot, will double your psu consumption most likely! So 1000watt minimum is what I'd do. Evga, Corsair, Seasonic are the brands I'd go for. Ram is Gkillz Tridentz RGB or Corsair Vengence LPX or LPX Pro RGB if you want lights. Get plenty of cooling in your case as you can Overclock easily nowadays and that makes it run hot! So you've gotta have plenty of fans and good air movement in your case. But it can't be preposterously loud, as it will make noise if you've got it close to a hot condenser mic. And your mic WILL pick that up.So you gotta go for a good balance. Best one I've found that has air flow, comes with some bitchin fans,(Including a 280mm side fan that blows directly on the cpu, that means a shit ton of air extra cooling to keep your cpu chill) and isn't preposterously loud is Rosewell Thor V2. Best case you can get right now for that! Big though,so if you really need to worry about size well then let me drop you a hint that the girls never say to your face, but always talk about it behind your back.....SIZE MATTERS! And it matters here too! But you've gotta move the extra air in that case as well so toss in a couple Noctua NF12 fans(or whatever their stupid number system is), or the Skythe fans(some one bought them out but the fans are still the 2nd best in the industry, might be better at moving more air than the Noctua's as there are 3 ways to measure computer fans-1.how much physical air they move/measured in CFM above 50 is good, 2.how fast they are RPM's, 3.how quiet they are. And if those are too expensive(when you buy Noctua's fans not only are they quiet and do they cool excellently, but they last forever-I've have the same fans I bought in 2003 in my new build so that's 6 different builds I put them in! On intake fans you want high cfm's on outake fans you want high rpm's, I think I could have that last bit backwards as I always get it confused..

So buy list-
CPU= Intel I79700k(minimum) AMD Ryzen 9 3800(minimum and it's the best for speeds right now, but I've always had problems with AMD on my workstations in the past. So much so that even though this cpu rips Intels ass to bloody bits, I can't do it until many people prove that it's a super stable system that won't make my shit go bonkers!)

Cpu Cooler=Noctua NH-D15(minimum Be Quite has one that's a close second, and so does 1 other company but I forget their name, and they both don't top this cooler so, what's a savings of 10$ really cause that's what you might be able to save)

Motherboard=Intel Z390 Gigabyte Designare/AMD ASrock with thunderbolt

Ram=Crucial Vengence LPX 3200 32gb/G Skillz Tridentz RGB 3200 32gb(minimum 32gb 3000mhz)

Hard drives=1tb Nvme card that writes at least 1800mb/s higher is better, 1tb SSD for your music drive to write/record to, and 1xHD with a shit ton of gb/s in it for storing all your samples and all that jazz, WD Blacks are the best for regular HD's(or they used to be)and Toshiba's are 2nd best. Best equals a balance of speed/read write, and reliability so they don't break and take a dump on you while you've got clients in the studio(had that happen with 3 Seagate drives before...never again as I had to pay$400 to get it retrieved for the client out of my own pocket of course!

Power Supply Unit
-1000 watt minimum with a 10yr warranty and at least Gold standard, Evga, Crucial, Seasonic are the best right now. Seasonic is number 1, then Evga, then Crucial in terms of reliability!

Case-Make sure you case has plenty of fans already in it, and has plenty of options for mounting fans the way you want, oh and make sure you've got enough room to put that huge cpu cooler and motherboard in your case! Will be very, very tight in a mid tower! Also the Thor V2 has 2 front knobs so that you can control your fan's for recording and turn them down if their too loud, and for mixing you can crank them up! I use those controls on almost every recording session, otherwise I just leave them maxed out! But they are very useful! Best case ever!

Case Fans-Noctua NF-series gotta fit them where they can go, if it's an option of more little fans vs. bigger fans, get the bigger fans as they move more air. Which would you prefer 4x8inch speakers or 2x12" speakers? The 12's move more air and will give you a fuller, richer sound which a majority of the time best. Here you want the biggest fans you can get, instead of a bunch of smaller fans!

Oh and

CPU Paste=KingPin KPX is best or Gelid GC eXtreme(Minimum)You'll find things saying liquid metal is best< only problem is it eat's through the metal covering your cpu, and then Thermal Grizzly-only problem is with TG that you have to replace your thermal paste on your cpu every 3-6 months as it dries out after that and you'll fry your cpu! I personally won't replace my paste ever, so it's gotta last 10yrs or so. The Gelid lasts longer than the Kingpin, but the Kingpin has lasted 5years so far and doing just fine so...Don't skimp on this either, it's not worth the $5 or $10 bucks! You will get a benefit when it comes time to mix your tracks, especially when using multiple vsti instrument tracks, samples, and vst or effects on large mixes-or anything above 50 tracks give or take, but you could max out your cpu power after as little as 15 tracks if you've got cpu crazy plugins running like Acustica Audio's stuff, and that crazy expensive 500$ reverb plugin, plus your VSTI's. Trust me even with these bitchin new cpu's you'll eventually max that shit out!

And last is the GPU..
I'd go with AMD as their single thread performance is better than Nvidia's and that equates to more cpu power to run on your effects instead of your screen! It's very minimal, but hey every minimal thing counts when you have large sessions! I got a AMD Sapphire 590x card for $160 on BFriday. Couldv'e gotten a better NVidia card for gaming but I don't need to game on this computer, and even if I did, this card can run full throttle on all the latest games, so who cares really(Ran it on all max with new Call of Duty game had 80+fps, last Battlefield game and last Star Wars game-not the brand new one that came out 4 days ago, all on every setting maxed out) and I had like 80 something minimum fps on a 4k screen so.......
User avatar
LoveMonkey3833
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Sep 26, 2017 9:25 am

Re: Suggested specs for PC

Postby CS70 » Wed Dec 11, 2019 12:36 pm

musicallyinclined wrote:Hi all,

Hope this is the right forum. I am looking to finally get stuck into home recording. Like many starting out I don't want to go crazy with what I'm spending but on the other hand I want to spend enough to have worth while equipment. I figure I better start with getting a decent PC as I've only got a laptop.

Could anyone suggest minimum specs for a PC? I'm imagining the main considerations are processer, ram and HDD/SDD? I'm not really sure what my requirements will be musically. I'm going to start messing around with pop synth type tracks. Will probably start for one of the 2 i/o USB interfaces with a couple of mics and midi keyboard controller and expand from there. Would like to go for Cubase Artist (anyone know if Cubase users are still a slave to those pesky USB licence key things these days?) though Studio One looks quite appealing these days as well. I'd like to be able to get some fairly decent orchestral VSTs as well. That's my only thoughts at the moment!

Thanks.
M

The rule of thumb is that for physical recording (that is, when the sound source is outside the computer, like a microphone or a keyboard synth etc) you don't really need anything too special, so long your interface has direct monitoring. The only attention in this case is that all components "play ball" together and do not periodically overwhelm the CPU or the busses with too much data.

Whereas for actually using the computer as an instrument and record the output (like with software synths), you do need a machine both capable of high throughput and with enough cpu power to be to able to process the signal as you play it, coupled with an interface with well optimized drivers and using a fast, possibly bus-based communication protocol.
That's because generally you will need to monitor the processed sound, not the input - so direct monitoring doesn't help, and latency is really a killer for playing.

So the answer to your question depends mostly on which of the two types of usage you're most likely to experience.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6243
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Suggested specs for PC

Postby Pete Kaine » Wed Dec 11, 2019 12:54 pm

I agree with a lot of that, but there are a few things I'd maybe question.

LoveMonkey3833 wrote:On Intel's Z390 only Gigabyte Designare has Thunderbolt. On AMD Only Asrock has Thunderbolt for their Ryzen 9 chips at present.

I'm testing the Asrocks currently and 5 out of 6 interfaces are working so far, so they appear to have done pretty well.

On Z390 there are plenty of boards that allow for the slot in card option and the Asus Deluxe board also has them on the board itself. Be aware that being onboard in this context means that they just strapped the AIC onto the board, rather than it being built into the chipset itself, so it's still going through the same controller routing that AIC would be. I mention that, as it's still possible for them to get it wrong (Z170 GB worked great, Z270 was a car crash) to check with user groups of your Thunderbolt hardware before making that buying choice.

Cpu Cooler=Noctua NH-D15(minimum Be Quite has one that's a close second, and so does 1 other company but I forget their name, and they both don't top this cooler so, what's a savings of 10$ really cause that's what you might be able to save)

To note the Bequiet in question will push the 9900K to 5GHz and it'll do it slightly quieter than the Noctua. The Nocuta pushes more air overall and it makes it slightly noiser, although you'll probably get 5.1GHZ out of it for your troubles without it breaking a sweat. The Noctuas are great, although just not my preference when recording in the same room, although we strap them to insanely overclocked video editing rigs all day long.

Ram=Crucial Vengence LPX 3200 32gb/G Skillz Tridentz RGB 3200 32gb(minimum 32gb 3000mhz)

The chips are rated to 2666MHz and you tend not to see audio gains by going above this figure. If you're otherwise editing video, rendering or gaming however, the extra RAM speed might make a difference.


Power Supply Unit
-1000 watt minimum with a 10yr warranty and at least Gold standard, Evga, Crucial, Seasonic are the best right now. Seasonic is number 1, then Evga, then Crucial in terms of reliability!

Crucial? They don't make PSU's, you mean Corsair?

Agreed on Seasonic in general and the Prime range is in a league of it's own.

EVGA's good units were built by Superflower, although they've moved away to cheaper production faclities over recent years and the fans on the G3 were horrible, so currently I don't tend to favour them.

Corsair's good units are built by Seasonic, the other 80% of their range come from factories that I wouldn't consider to be in the same league as Seasonic or Superflower.

Also, a 1000W seems rather overkill unless your running a high-end GPU and overclocking everything. A 9900K, board, RAM etc.. is going to be pulling less than 400W even with every single USB port and PCIe slot taken up. I'd maybe give it 1.5X - 2X to the estimate so, perhaps 700w - 800w in order to ensure the fan never kicks up above 20% total RPM.

And last is the GPU..
I'd go with AMD as their single thread performance is better than Nvidia's and that equates to more cpu power to run on your effects instead of your screen! It's very minimal, but hey every minimal thing counts when you have large sessions!

I'm not sure I follow, how does it equate to more CPU power in this context? If you're offloading the screen rendering to a dedicated card, then it is what it is, the CPU shouldn't be getting impacted no matter if you use a 230, 550, 590 or a X5700.

If your running a couple of 4K screens then perhaps a X560/X580 or 1650/1660 super is where I'd look, but otherwise for a pair of 1080 FHD screens pretty much anything over £50 is going to be fine for general workstation usage.
User avatar
Pete Kaine
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3185
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester
Kit to fuel your G.A.S - https://www.scan.co.uk/shop/pro-audio

Re: Suggested specs for PC

Postby Wonks » Wed Dec 11, 2019 1:01 pm

And don't forget a keyboard with a carriage return/enter key so you can put things in nice, short, readable paragraphs. ;)
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 10889
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Correcting mistakes on the internet since 1853

Re: Suggested specs for PC

Postby jaminem » Wed Dec 11, 2019 2:03 pm

musicallyinclined wrote:Would like to go for Cubase Artist (anyone know if Cubase users are still a slave to those pesky USB licence key things these days?)

Yes, they still use the elicenser…
jaminem
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1135
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 1:00 am