Music production used to exist solely in the realm of high-cost recording studios containing expensive recording equipment. Now, modern digital audio workstation, or DAW, software allows people to transform their computers into fully equipped music-production workstations. Equipped with the right computer, you can create music that rivals some of the most popular records today.
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While Apple computers generally cost more than their equivalent Windows-based counterparts, they offer greater reliability and fewer hardware compatibility issues. Some users do, however, prefer a Windows-based environment, for greater hardware customisation. The choice you make should take into account which music software you plan to use. Logic Pro, for example, is Mac-only, while FL Studio only runs on Windows, as of 2011. Many DAWs, such as Cubase and Pro Tools, run on either operating system.
Laptop vs. Desktop
Three factors come into play when choosing between a laptop and a desktop for music production: mobility, expandability and cost. Laptops make it easy to move your studio around for location recording, collaboration or to set up shop within a larger commercial environment. Desktops, while less portable, are easier to upgrade and expand with additional hard disks, memory and processing power. And, while the performance per dollar in a desktop is greater than a laptop, affordable laptops with the power to undertake serious music production duties do exist, with the introduction of mobile multicore processors, such as the Intel i5 and i7.
While USB ports come standard on all modern computers, many Windows-based machines don't have the FireWire port necessary for connecting many audio interfaces. Some high-end interfaces, such as Pro Tools HD and Apogee Symphony, require free PCI slots, for which you'll need a desktop computer. You also need enough ports to connect MIDI controllers, external hard disks, control surfaces and software dongles.
A good music production computer needs enough power to play many tracks of audio at once, run multiple instances of plug-ins and virtual instruments, and stream large sample libraries on the fly. You'll need a computer with an Intel i5 or i7 multicore processor, at least 4 gigabytes of RAM, and a 7200 RPM internal hard disk with at least 500 gigabytes of available storage. If your music computer only has one physical hard disk, an external USB or FireWire hard disk will give you room to store your session files.
When running a DAW session, it's not uncommon to have three or more windows open at once. Having enough monitor real estate to display mix and edit windows, plug-ins and virtual instruments will improve your session workflow. In addition to a monitor with a resolution of at least 1440 by 900 pixels, a second display lets you avoid constant switching between windows in your DAW software.
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