Choosing a Laptop for Music Production: Things to Look For
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Choosing a Laptop / Computer
The first thing that you need in any computer based studio is to have a computer, or a laptop. Without going into the debate of computer vs Mac, it is best to keep in mind that anything you build is made specifically for music.
So a good configuration would be a computer or a Mac with at least 2GB ram, and enough hard drive to store the music that you will create. You should have a CPU that is as powerful as you can afford.
You can use a laptop or a desktop but whatever you buy just make sure that is built to a very high spec, and if you can, keep it reserved only for music.
You don’t want a situation where you install some non-music related software, and it interferes with the various sound related settings of your computer.
Can You Use A Laptop?
Yes, as long as the specs are good, but then it can turn out to be more expensive than a desktop. Besides, for the same price, a Laptop may also offer a smaller screen size. If you are into serious audio work, you will find that the screen size on most laptops is not large enough to give you a good view of all the tracks and windows.
You can go in for a laptop with a bigger screen size but then it definitely costs more.
Even the hard disk is generally slower to access on a laptop than on a desktop. This can be a major hindrance while doing serious audio work, but you can bypass this problem by going in for an external firewire hard drive, specifically meant for music purposes.
The plus point of a laptop is its portability, especially useful if you’ve a compact/mobile studio!
Optimizing Your Computer
So why should you optimize your PC for music production? To get better performance of course!
If you are buying a new computer, chances are that the computer might be more optimized for office applications and probably for gaming, and not necessarily for music.
However, you can turn your computer from an average computer to a music making machine, by following some simple steps.
Make it habit to turn-off Wi-Fi before every gig, as it is observed that it can cause audio dropouts. Why? Because if the computer is trying to connect to an unstable network, it could cause CPU spikes which can result in audio dropouts.
So if you are a DJ or using your laptop for live music, you may want to turn it off.
BIOS & Other Updates
The first thing you should do is update the BIOS of your computer. BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System, which is sort of a mini operating system that runs on a chips on the mainboard. BIOS updates will improve the performance of the motherboard by fixing any bugs.
You can update the BIOS by visiting your computer manufacturers’ website and downloading the latest BIOS updates for your exact model.
Usually, you can also download other updates from these support pages, such as chipset drivers, which handles operations such as hard-drive and USB operations.
You also need to ensure that all the drivers for your audio interface and controllers are also updated.
Another thing to keep in mind when using PC for music production is to always use ASIO (Audio Stream Input Output) drivers, and not Direct sound or any other drivers.
Make sure whatever soundcard you select, it shows ASIO next to it. If you can’t see any such option, you can download these ASIO drivers from asioforall.com.
However, remember that most of the soundcard manufacturers also provide their own set of ASIO drivers, which are generally of a better quality than the generic ASIO drivers.
Performance Monitoring Applications
Over a period of time, as you install and remove applications from your computer, your computer may not perform at its peak.
In case, you feel that your computer has slowed down, you may install applications that can monitor the performance such as CPU usage, applications / processes that are causing CPU spikes and so on.
Some useful applications include the DPC Latency Checker.
Also, it is always a good idea to disable and uninstall unnecessary programs for optimal PC performance.
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A computer is the heart of any recording studio, be it a laptop or a desktop computer. You can use either but whatever you buy just make sure that is built to a very high spec, and if you can, keep it reserved only for music. The Laptop used for Music Production should have a very powerful CPU. When buying a laptop, you need to consider the strength and power of the computer processor, the amount of RAM, the stability and the available tools for the system.
Most professionals in the industry use a Macintosh computer to record music, but even a powerful PC should do just about fine.