Looking to buy a new computer for recording

Discussion in 'Computing' started by RKWMT, May 31, 2018.

  1. RKWMT

    RKWMT Active Member

    May 31, 2018
    Hi There,

    My (admittedly fairly minimalist) recording setup was recently written off in a fire. I am awaiting a payout from the insurance company, and this gives me an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again from scratch.

    The hub of all of this will of course be the computer. I have been umming and erring over this for a long time and feel I need some guidance.

    About my usage - I did a lot of producing of bands about a decade ago before I decided that this was all very silly and became a lawyer instead. However, I've never lost the passion for producing and have kept it going on the side all these years later. I intend in a few years time when I move my family out of London to buy somewhere I can set up a small home studio and start recording bands again on a semi-pro basis.

    For reasons of space I'm looking at a laptop, but I'm not averse to an all-in-one solution. I know desktops are the true professional choice, but I'm not setting up a fully-functioning pro studio here

    The music I like (and therefore would opt to produce) is generally guitar-based bands; I'm unlikely to be building multi-layered soft-synth soundscapes. I do, however, have an electric drumkit and use Superior Drummer and would like to be able to upgrade to 3.0 in full and take full advantage of it.

    So my question is this - how powerful do I need to go to future-proof myself and not find that when I eventually get into my home studio I have something which can't actually keep up with the demand?

    I have put together a laptop on PC Specialist which has the following specs:

    Processor (CPU)
    Intel® Core™ i7 Six Core Processor i7-8700k (3.7GHz) 12MB Cache
    Memory (RAM)
    32GB Corsair 2400MHz SODIMM DDR4 (2 x 16GB)
    Graphics Card
    1st Hard Disk
    500GB WD Blue™ 3D NAND 2.5" SSD, (upto 560MB/sR | 530MB/sW)

    Is this complete overkill?

    Would this refurbished laptop from Dell actually do the job just fine?: http://outlet.euro.dell.com/Online/...+ttPQTOFto5zRsoUsAFzK/PHjmha8AxcpVqQITtF7y8Gk

    Any input would be much appreciated. FWIW I intend to buy an apollo twin duo as my starting interface while it's just me at my desk in London.

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Well-Known Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    Your Dell link says "sold out", so we can't see the specs of the refurbished model you had in mind.

    For two audio channels only, you are not going to need huge processing power. Much more important is to have separate disk drives for your audio data and the operating system/DAW. If it were me in this position, I would notch down on the full laptop spec and spend the saving on a 2TB USB3 external disk drive. I would also have an external hi-res monitor for use during mix sessions so you can spread your working windows over two screens.

    Which DAW did you plan to use?
  3. RKWMT

    RKWMT Active Member

    May 31, 2018
    That's annoying - it wasn't sold out when I posted the link so someone's obvious snapped up the deal! As far as I can recall it was an i7 dual core 3.9GHz with 32 GB RAM.

    Split drives is easily done and that is useful info.

    I will be using Reaper in the near future, because I cannot justify buying Protools when it's just me at home, but if I want to do something properly I'll have to upgrade to Protools.

    When I move to the full studio I will want to be able to record full live drums, so it will be much more than two channels of audio. Whilst I won't be using many synths I will be using plugins, so I don't want to run out of processing power for decent reverbs etc.

    Can you give me a ballpark of the kind of processor which is likely to be up to this sort of task? I'm working on the basis that 32GB RAM is to be preferred, but if 16GB is adequate then that opens my options up quite a lot.

    Many thanks.
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    An 8 core/16thread processer would handle a typical live band’s worth of tracks and plugins. I’ve used an 8 core and 4 core intel Mac tower at the studio for that type of thing and it was ok. The newer (2014- ) plug-ins really put the hurt on the quad core. The 8 core ran more healthy, although you could max it out before you might be done, depending on workflow.

    I’d shop 8 core minimum if I wanted 3 years rock solid, or 16 core for 5 years rock solid performance. I would opt for the six core i5, vs the 6 core i7, considering the i5 six core is one of the highest performance per dollar in the current line.

    Ram- 32 is healthy with the option to upgrade to 64. Make sure you buy the appropriate size sticks if you plan to upgrade. Which would probably be what you already spec’d, 16gb sticks. One new synth or high tech plugin could really change the drain on your otherwise healthy system, by then ram will drop in price further. Also crucial ram has a lifetime warranty on all their sticks if I recall correctly, this is something worth considering, if corsiar or the other brands don’t.

    PSU- I didn’t see one specd. This is one of the most critical components of the machine.

    SSD- id consider switching to NVME m.2 drives instead of sata 3 ssd, and also go Samsung 960 evo over any other options. The current crop is over 1500mbps, transfer speeds, and costs about $15 more. A basic $100 motherboard will have at least one M.2 slot, and usually you can find one that has 2 of them for about $30 more.

    You could go m.2 for the OS drive, then run two sata ssd drives in raid 0, which doubles (combines) your speed and capacity, showing theoretical numbers closer to NVME m.2. With an eye on the future, especially with a fresh start, I’d shoot for m.2 for all drives. OS the minimum, and if you have a large sample library, the sata 3 drives in raid make sense.

    Intel vs Ryzen. You can do a ryzen 8 core 16thread build with a decent psu and fast drives in the $800 range. And equally spec’d intel machine would add around $300 to that. Performance wise ryzen seems to stand well to intel on benchmarks. If I need to save some $ and not sacrifice performance, this is a perfectly respectable way to go.

    Reaper is an efficient daw and runs smoothly and reliably on even modest systems in my experience. Pro Tools requires your computer meet their minimum specs, and realistically will take any amount of cpu power you have. If you’re seriously considering pro tools you’ll want to make sure you lean on the strong side with your computers power.

    With so many step by steps out there, you may consider assembling the PC yourself. It’s very simple, and everything just snaps together. A novice could do it in two hours or less. Where pc techs are most valuable, is their knowledge of components comparability and specs, and getting the thing running well. The assembly is far simpler than the R and D. It might allow you to save money, or get a more powerful system.

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