If you want to produce music in today’s world then you need to have a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Lots of people still use ADATs or DA-88s, which are modular digital multitracks or analog machines, a good DAW out competes them on every front. They are more cost-effective (cheaper), have more power, more capabilities, and give you a better sound quality. If you already have a decent computer, then you already have a digital audio workstation that can produce a mix as good as big official studios and their $20,000 systems.
If you want a quick answer and don’t want to worry too much about the research, my recommendations are below. Just decide if you prefer using Macs or PCs.
- Mac – Apple Macbook Pro with 2 TB external hard drive
- PC – Asus Zenbook Pro with 2 TB external hard drive
But what is a DAW exactly, and what kind of computer makes the best DAW? Read below and I’ll answer these questions for you, so you can choose the best system for your needs.
What is a DAW?
As I said earlier “DAW” stands for “Digital Audio Workstation”. DAW is just an industry term and when most people say it they are simply talking about the computer, and the software on that computer, you use to record and mix your music. People may also sometimes be including your audio interface (Click Here to read my audio interface guide) along with the computer and software when using the term.
This article focuses on the actual computer you will need for a DAW. I will touch on the software, but for a more indepth look at it please ready my DAW software guide.
Never before have music artistsproducers had this kind of cost effective power and capabilities at their fingertips. Everything you need to launch a successful music career is readily available. You just have to get your equipment together and start posting videos on YouTube. That’s not to say you don’t have to put in a lot of hard work, but your opportunities have never been better!
What Kind Of Computer Should I Get?
The computerlaptop is the heart of your home studio. For the most part any computer bought within the last couple years is more than powerful enough to function as a DAW. A big concern that most people have is whether you should use a PC or Mac. In reality it usually comes down to what kind of computer you already have and are comfortable with. If you are an avid PC user and have never really used a Mac much, then it is probably better for you to have a PC DAW. If you swear by Apple products and are comfortable using a Macbook, then stick with a Mac DAW.
If you have the money it might also be wise to have both a Mac and a PC around the studio. Some of the better DAW software out there only runs on one type of computer or the other. It can be very handy to be able to switch back and forth to use the best software.
You also need to decide if you want to use a desktop computer or a laptop. Desktop computers are usually cheaper , more powerful, and easier to upgrade. They are of course not mobile though.
While there are options for using an IPad or Android tablet as your DAW, I don’t recommend it. They are simply not powerful enough to handle doing any professional mixing work.
Whatever kind of compute you choose, here are the specs you need to look for in a great DAW computer:
- RAMMemory – Get as much of this as possible. Nothing else boosts the speed an performance of your computer like more RAM. You need 8 gig or more.
- Hard Drive – A faster smaller hard drive is better than a large slow one. Hard drive speed affects your ability to playback and record multiple tracks. If your laptop has a slow 4,200 RPM internal hard drive, get a fast 10,000 or 15,000 RPM external drive. A fast external hard drive is always a good idea. Solid state drives are lightening fast.
- USBFirewire Ports – Make sure that you can connect your audio interface and other equipment to your laptop. Some devices use USB and others Firewire. Macs are more likely to come with a Firewire port than a PC, but make sure just in case. If you find you do need a Firewire but don’t have one, you can get an adapter.
- Video Card – Unlike “gaming” computers, video cards are not important on a DAW. Don’t spend extra just to get a beefier video card.
There really isn’t much more to choosing the right computer for a DAW. The best DAW for beginners basically comes down to you using what your comfortable with. You already have enough to learn about without trying to switch to Mac or PC when you’re only familiar with one. Once you get the hang of using mixing software on one, then you can start to think about what other software you want to use and if you need to have a second computer.
Just as important as your DAW is the software you use on it to create your mixes. Be sure to read my next article where I give you the details on some of the available and commonly used DAW software.