Choosing A Computer for the Home Studio

Choosing a computer that is suitable for the home studio may seem difficult with all the options available on the market.  With new models outperforming their predecessors, yet becoming cheaper every year, there is some important choices to consider when investing in yours.

Laptop vs Desktop

First, you need to ask yourself is whether or not mobility is a priority for you and your work.  If you don't have the luxury of a designated recording space in your studio, then it may be wise to consider using a laptop as your primary workhorse.  This will allow you to pick up and record in any place imaginable.  Some people may argue that laptops are not powerful enough to run such heavy processing, but nowadays a laptop with the right technical specifications will suffice.  Screen real estate is often the big issue with this choice, so consider going for a laptop with a larger screen.  The desktop computer is for the person who does the majority of their work within the confines of their own studio.  They are less portable, but offer higher technical capabilities, at a lower cost in comparison to their laptop counterparts.  After deciding on a laptop or desktop, the choice lies in whether you should go for a Mac or a PC.

Mac vs PC

The debate between Mac and PC is an avid topic in home studio circles.  Some people will have you believe that a Mac is the only way to go, and others will swear by their PC.  The truth is, the choice between Mac and PC is a trivial one.  As of today, most programs, plugins, and interfaces are compatible with both systems.  Keep in mind that for the few exceptions to this rule, there are likely a ton of alternatives that are compatible with the system you choose.  Go with the operating system that you know the best because at the end of the day, learning a new operating system just isn't important enough to waste your valuable time on.

Technical Specifications

The next thing you are likely to consider are the technical specifications of your computer.  The best buying philosophy is to invest as much as you can budget, as you can prolong your need to upgrade by doing so. Don't just buy the shiniest device on the market.  Make sure you go under the hood of contending computers, keeping an eye on the CPU (central processing unit), the RAM (random access memory), and the HD (hard drive).

CPU

The CPU is best imagined as how your computer handles the workload it is given.  If you have a single-core CPU and you are browsing the web, working on a document, and working in a recording session, your single core will have to perform all of these tasks. The more cores you have available, the better your computer can divide the load when multitasking.  Some processor heavy applications like the DAW utilize multiple cores, allowing a single program to share the workload across more than one core.  Processors also have a number associated with them which is the clock speed of a single-core, measured in GHz.  This number is essentially how fast a single core can process tasks.  You will want to pour your resources into getting the best processor you can afford, as this is one of the most crucial aspects of your computer's performance in regards to the home studio.  

RAM

Your next priority should be getting as much RAM as you can budget.  RAM is the available memory your computer has to operate programs.  If you can imagine your HD as being all the memories that you have ever thought in your brain, stored away for safekeeping, then RAM is your ability to pull those memories from storage and use them to complete a task.  Once the task is completed, the memory goes back into storage and frees up the RAM to carry out a new task.  Having a high amount of RAM is a priority for a computer designated for the home studio, so get as much as you can afford.

HD

Probably the last thing you will want to consider is the HD type and size that you will need.  There are currently two different types of drives, each with positives and negatives.  The HDD (hard disk drive) is essentially a spinning disk that can read and write information.  Having a large HDD is relatively cheap, but the noise created by the spinning disk may be undesirable during the recording process if you’re working near the sound sources being captured.  The solution to this problem is currently an expensive one.  The SSD (solid state drive) is a no-noise alternative.  It can read and write information in the same way that a USB drive can.  The SSD is also a more reliable solution, but the price tag for SSD memory may be enough to make you lean towards the HHD.  With the ability to expand your storage capabilities, your money might be best spent on a smaller SSD with the intention of an external SSD in the future.  In the end, this is the least important of the three technical specifications, so spend what you can and don't fret over not getting a ridiculous amount of SSD storage space in the beginning.

These guidelines should help you find a computer that is a perfect fit for both your needs and your budget.