Have you been searching for information about a computer for music production?
Sometimes it’s hard to know the best music production computer, as a lot of the information out there talks about video games and video editing when it comes to building your own computer for music production.
This video breaks down what I look for in a music production computer specifically for FL Studio and making beats, but I’ll break down the basic components here in this article.
The Basic Parts of a Computer for Music Production
Every computer has these components:
- CPU (Central Processing Unit)
- CPU Cooler (Air or Water most often)
- PSU (Power Supply)
- GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)
- Storage (SSD or HDD)
CPU (Brains of the Computer)
The CPU is a chip that plugs into your motherboard.
There’s two very important things to understand when choosing a CPU.
First, is that the CPU goes with your Motherboard’s socket.
Second, and specifically for music production, is the Single Core Speed of the CPU (thanks Image-Line for the info!)
The CPU is what does all the calculations that happen when you use your computer, whether that’s intense stuff like making music, or simple stuff like watching a video.
For brands, at the time of writing I’d personally recommend Intel to my students looking to build a custom music computer for FL Studio.
You want to buy a good CPU for music production for two reasons:
- It will run your music program amazing
- You won’t have to upgrade for MANY years (so it might cost an extra $200-300 today, but may save you 4-5 years of not having to upgrade!)
A CPU must be cooled, because they get VERY HOT.
So the CPU itself (the chip) plugs into your motherboard, but you must make sure you install a CPU cooler onto the CPU so you don’t destroy the CPU!
There’s two popular types of CPU Coolers today..
I’ve always chosen an Air CPU Cooler because there’s less moving parts, and less risk of damaging a computer being that no water will come near the computer!
Water cooling back in the day was mainly only with custom water loops, which costed A LOT OF MONEY, time, and high-risk of leaks.. but today you can purchase an all-in-one water cooler.
All-in-one water coolers have a pump in them (which can fail), and liquid, which can leak.. they can keep your computer cooler at certain points, but a high-quality CPU Air Cooler is a great choice, too.
At the time of writing, CPUs are running quite hot from the manufactures design, so hopefully CPU efficiency improves soon to reduce heat, which makes cooling easier.
Motherboard for Music Production
When choosing a motherboard, you must decide what CPU brand you want first, such as Intel or AMD, as a single motherboard is not compatible with both companies.
For Intel, I would recommend the Z Chipset, as these are typically built overkill, and depending the timing of the computer market, can actually be similar in price to lower-quality motherboards!
For example, at the time of writing the Z790 is what I’d look for (this is for Intel computer builds only).
What makes a motherboard for music production better than another one?
Higher-end motherboards for music often have more USB ports, and better quality VRMs (Voltage Regulator Module). A better VRM means your computer should be more stable under high-demand.
An expensive music production motherboard usually offers more slots to plug in components, like more storage slots, and PCI slots, too.
You do not need a super expensive motherboard for music production, but it’s important you understand the family model of Intel motherboards (or AMD Motherboards).
You’d typically want to stay away from the low-end of the motherboard line-up, but you can get away with a middle-of-the-road model if your budget is tight.
In short, a motherboard is where we plug in all of our computers components, like the CPU, RAM, Storage, Graphics, and even the power supply.
There usually isn’t a huge performance difference of a cheap vs expensive motherboard.. it’s mainly just stability and connectivity you’re paying for.. which will allow your computer to last you much longer in terms of being very versatile of adding equipment.
RAM for Music Production (Random-Access-Memory)
There seems to be A LOT of discussion about how much RAM you need for producing music.
This question really depends on the type of music you make.
If you want to compose music, the VST Libraries you use are often quite RAM hungry, so you’d want more.
If you’re just making beats, like I teach here, then you may not need as much.
Most often people say 16 GB of RAM, but with today’s standards, and DDR5 RAM becoming much more affordable, I would say 32 GB Minimum just for the sake of keeping your new computer build for music production upgrade-proof for many years to come.
For composing music, you may need 64 GB, or even 128 GB depending how intense you go with your film compositions.. the easiest way to see much you’ll need is to load up a project you currently have, and open the Windows Task Manager, and look under the Performance tab, which will show you your usage.
When choosing RAM for a computer, there’s a couple things to be cautious of:
- Height Clearance
- RAM Speed
- RAM Latency
RAM Height Clearance
Some RAM sticks can be quite tall! So you have to be careful about what RAM model you buy, as it might interfere with your CPU Cooler!
Some RAM models specify if they are low-profile.
RAM Speed (JEDEC Standard)
It’s important to know that JEDEC is an organization that sets RAM speed standards for stability, while also thinking about performance.
At the time of writing, DDR5 fastest speed is 5600 MT/s.
What this means is that when you go to buy your RAM kits for a music production build, you may be tempted into overclocking, or enabling the XMP-Profile (overclock RAM).
With computers being so fast with today’s standards, I will not be enabling XMP on my next computer upgrade to prioritize stability over a small percent in gains (performance).
For example, if you look on Amazon for DDR5 RAM, you’ll notice some RAM Manufacturers offer faster than 5600 MT/s, like 6400 MT/s, or even 7200 MT/s..
This is what we call “ram overclocking”, because the current fastest speed the JEDEC Standard has released is 5600 MT/s.
Now, this standard does get updated over time, but it may be another 3-4 years until then.. so if you look at your CPU, it will show supported Memory Types, and that’s what I’d base my RAM purchase off of.
RAM Latency CL
When DDR5 was released, people were cautious because of its higher CL timings, as well as DDR5 being expensive at the time..
But surprisingly, DDR5 rapidly improved, and the cost has dropped significantly, and the DDR5 timings are becoming better.
Now.. I’m not an expert on computers, but from what I understand, latency is important for that “snappiness” of a computer.
So you’ll want to look for 5600 MT/s with the lowest CL timing, but just understand that the cost can go up quite a bit for super low CL timing.
Power Supply for Music Computer
The PSU (Power Supply) is probably the most important thing in your computer.
If you don’t have stable power, then you don’t have a computer that turns on (or is stable!)
For many years it was recommended to purchase a power supply that was “efficient for your system”.. but what I’ve learned over the years is this is not what you want to do.
Buy a power supply that is MORE than what you need so that the fan doesn’t kick in, or cause the PSU to become hot under normal load.
For example, if you use an online computer watt calculator, let’s say your current computer requires 700W.. I’d recommend a 900W-1000W.
Do you know how many computers I’ve owned and the power supply was the cause of the noise?
Sometimes PSU’s can have an “eco mode” so the fan only turns on when required, but if your PSU can barely handle your computer under light loads, that PSU will let you know it’s there through its fan noise, or squeals of the windings inside!!
More expensive PSU’s are also often modular, allowing for a cleaner computer wiring look..
Graphics Card for Music Production
Get this.. you don’t need a dedicated graphics card for music production.
Read that key word there.. dedicated graphics card.
Today, CPU’s have a built-in graphics card, known as discrete graphics.
I highly recommend buying a CPU with a discrete graphics card built-in, because this is all you need for music production, and is 100% silent!
If you do video editing, or play video games, or stream your beatmaking, then you’ll probably want a dedicated video card..
But for most people, you can get away with the low-end 40-Series NVIDIA cards and be super happy for years to come.
I want to clarify on this discrete graphics though.. and I’m only speaking for Intel CPU’s, as that’s what I know and have researched over the years.
Intel CPU’s offer different classes of the same model.
Let’s look at i7-13700K
i7 is the family (there’s i3, i5, i7, and i9). The higher you go, the more performance, but also higher-cost, and they run hotter, too.
At the time of writing, Intel will be changing this i7 naming convention.. but the same concept will generally apply.
After i7, the 13 means the 13th Generation.. so that model has been released 13 different times with various upgrades along the way.
The 700 is the SKU number, which as you start to learn Intel’s naming convention, relates to its performance (GHz), and how many cores that CPU has.
But the letters are what I want you to focus on.
If you buy an Intel Chip with the letter F at the end, I do not recommend this, because it does not have a discrete graphics chip built in!
For example, i7-13700KF:
K means the CPU is unlocked, and you are able to overclock it. (I often go for the K model, but don’t overclock.. as it gives a little more performance than the non-K model).
F means no discrete graphics.. it might be $50 cheaper, but YOU WANT those discrete graphics.
What if your graphics card fails? You still have the discrete chip to tie you over!
Or.. what if your graphics card doesn’t have the right display output port for your computer monitors?
If you have both a discrete graphics chip (built into the CPU.. doesn’t have the F in the model number), and a dedicated graphics card, you can plug your computer screens into both graphics cards and have tons of computer screens.
So in short, for music production you do not need a dedicated graphics card. The discrete graphics built into your CPU are sufficient, and will save you A LOT of money.
If you do want a graphics card for music production, I’d only recommend low-end ones because they run quieter and cooler.
Also, make sure to buy graphics cards with AT LEAST two fans (3 is better) for optimal quiet.
Storage for Music Production (SSD and HDD)
SSDs are FAST hard drives, but they are expensive.
HDDs (hard disk drives.. spinning platter) are slow, but you can get more storage more affordable.
We’re finally transitioning where SSDs are becoming more affordable, and we’re even seeing 4TB models (this is awesome!)
But sadly, for most of us, we are still using our two hard drive setup..
An SSD for our main OS (operating system like Windows), and our main applications like FL Studio that we want to load and start up fast.
However.. if our SSD is too small, that means we put many of our sounds and VSTs on a HDD, which can bottleneck our speed because an HDD takes more time to search for the files, or it might be sleeping and has to spin up (wake up) to find those files for you.
If you can afford it, and your files aren’t overly big (like under 1.5 TB), I’d look into a single 4 TB SSD, and you get ALL the performance benefits, and ease of use with just having one hard drive to use and backup.
For SSDs you can purchase the SATA type, which plugs into your motherboard with a cable (and these are still super fast compared to HDD), or you can get the bubble gum stick style.. but make sure you are getting NVMe, not SATA in the bubble gum stick (unless you’re aware and know what you’re getting).
Everything You Need to Know About Music Production Computer Parts..
So there’s a straight to the point article about the best parts for a music production computer.
You may also want to think about a silent computer case with sound dampening material, and make sure to buy PWM fans if you buy additional fans for cooling to have full control over fan speed.
If you need help, you can always book me to help.