Build A Powerful Daw Computer

Advances in software and hardware have made it possible for musicians of all types to record professional quality albums in their homes. Gear that would have previously cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and taken up lots of space can now be had, in virtual form, for just hundreds of dollars. It takes a powerful computer to run these virtual studios; the good news is that most computer users can put together a useful digital audio workstation on any kind of budget.


1. Choose quiet components whenever possible. The first consideration when building your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) computer is the computer case. When recording music with sensitive microphones, silence is golden. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a rack-mounted case such as that used by Carillion turn-key DAW computers, but do yourself a favor and select a case made of solid materials that doesn’t rattle. Pick a case that doesn’t have a lot of fancy lights and fans; you want to keep your hardware cool, but over-the-top cooling systems make for a lot of background noise.

2. Another source of noise is the power supply, which is equipped with a fan to keep it cool. Many desktop PC cases come with power supplies, but if you have a little extra money, you’d be smart to invest in the quietest power supply you can get. By making the diameter of the fan larger, these power supplies use less effort to move air, resulting in quieter operation. A power supply like the Nexus 4090 is a solid bet for an affordable, quiet PSU.

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3. Once you’ve got the right case, you need to fill it with the right components. The most important piece of computer hardware is the motherboard, which holds the processor. Whether you choose AMD or Intel, try to get the most up to date, powerful processor and motherboard you can afford. These are the core of your system and you will be able to make upgrades on top of them later, but when your motherboard is broken or out of date, you’re going to be shopping for a whole new system. When shopping for a motherboard, be sure to check out how expandable it is. Make sure there are enough PCI slots in the back for all of your add-on hardware. Also, when building a workstation for computer audio, get a separate graphics adapter to handle all the graphics processing tasks. These cards take the load off of your memory and processor, resulting in far fewer audio glitches and errors. Many motherboards have on-board graphics adapters. Do not use them if you are serious about recording.

4. Install two hard drives on your DAW. This is essential for clean audio recording. One drive will hold your operating system and audio applications, and the other will hold all of your audio data. Keeping these two categories separate greatly reduces the chance for latency and error while recording. Do not just install one drive and create a partition for a virtual drive; get two physically separate drives. Drive prices are so low these days that you shouldn’t have much problem getting enough space. Before you run out and grab the cheapest drive on sale at Best Buy, do some research and find out which hard drives have the best track record as far as data loss and failure.

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5. Install your software, including your operating system. Since you want to keep this computer as clean as possible, install only the software you need. Once everything is installed, make sure that your operating system is not using too many of your hardware resources. This means checking to see if unnecessary programs are starting up when the computer starts and if the OS is trying to access the Internet randomly. Also, turn off all of the unneeded visual effects that are part of the operating system’s default settings; this includes window animation, shadows behind the icons and window transparency. The more memory and processing power you can devote to audio recording, the better.

6. The most important step to creating a powerful DAW computer is keeping the PC dedicated as an audio recording tool. If at all possible, do your Internet surfing and term paper writing on another computer. You want to keep this computer clean and fast, without any distractions or clutter.