Knowledge Base

views: 436263
This article will focus your purchasing dollar to provide the most performance for music production. Real-time audio processing and synthesis are key, a fast CPU and an audio interface that has a manufacturer supplied ASIO driver are your top priorities. 

Laptop vs Desktop/Tower

Generally laptops offer less power/performance compared to desktops at the same price-point. Laptops also limit your options for expansion and upgrades. Of course, laptops can be used but you should have a specific requirement to be mobile with your music production/performance. If not, definitely go the desktop route. NOTE: By desktop we mean a 'full height tower' style case that will probably live under your desk (see Quiet PC below). The optimum case will fit full-height PCI/e expansion cards for greatest flexibility. You need room for at least - 2 x hard drives, a full size graphic card & a soundcard.  Suggestion: Buy a relatively inexpensive netbook for mobile computing, and basic FL Studio idea-sketching, and get a good desktop PC for music production.  The combined cost of these two will likely be similar to one laptop powerful enough to replace a desktop.

Operating System

FL Studio will work on Windows XP upward. We recommend Windows 10 64 Bit, Windows 8 64 Bit or Windows 7 64 Bit. Note: Windows 8 or 10 is required if you want to use more than the dual-touch available with Windows 7. 

Specifications (in descending order of importance)

CPU: The CPU is the primary factor in your ability to run FL Studio with large complex projects. Yes FL Studio utilizes multi-core CPUs but, beyond a certain point, more is not necessarily better. Read the section: 'The logic of audio processing' in the manual to learn why. In light of this, the best value for performance is usually to be had a few levels down from the top models. We don't recommend spending more than $500 on a CPU solely for music production! 300 to $400 USD is the sweet-spot. 
 
  • Intel - The i7-8700K and i7-7700K (and non-K variants) are stand-out processors with: 1. Reasonable prices < $400, 2. Reasonable heat output - 95W TDP and 3. fast single-core performance, win-win-win. 
  • AMD - The Ryzen 1700X and 1800X with their 8 cores are providing good performance. See the this Looptalk thread .
 
Choose your own - Search for a CPU with the fastest single-core performance you can afford, in a package with 4 to 8 physical cores. Here's how we grade multi-core scores for CPUs with 8 or less cores - Weak: Less than 4,999. Medium: 5000 to 8,999. Strong: 9000 to 14,999. Very strong more than 15,000. For example: An 8 core CPU (14,400) with a single core score of 1800 is probably less well suited to music production than a 6 core CPU (12,000) with a single core score of 2600, since much of what happens with audio-processing can't be computed in parallel. Ideally, you need a CPU in the Strong or Very Strong category.
 
Psychology - When comparing benchmarks, a 10% performance gain is 'just noticeable', you won't be impressed with this sort of improvement, so don't bother. 20-30% increases in speed are generally needed before a CPU feels noticably faster in use (for a while). Of course, the bigger the percentage jump, the happier you will be.
 
CPU Laptops:  The same principles apply as above. Aim for a CPU benchmark score of 6,000+ from a quad-core CPU. Two great laptop CPUs are the i7–4720HQ and  i7-4810MQ. Chose your CPU then go looking for laptops with that spec.
 
CPU performance reality check - Show respect for your CPU and don't throw 30+ high-cpu load plugins at it and then wonder why it chokes. Audio processing, as performed by DAW software, is one of the most CPU intensive tasks done in real-time on computers today. It's more CPU intensive than 3D games, that offload a lot of work to the video card GPU. Each audio stream needs real-time calculation of at least 44100 samples PER second multiplied by the number of plugins you are running multiplied by their own internal shenanigans. But, all hope is not lost, limitations breed creativity, work with what you have and rejoice in the democratization of modern music production. 
 
Audio Interface (ASIO): Of almost equal importance to the CPU is that your soundcard / audio interface supports ASIO drivers. ASIO is a software device driver standard that allows FL Studio direct access to the soundcard rather than communicating via the Windows operating system (as with the standard Windows driver). This will mean a significant performance advantage when running FL Studio. Look for a sound card for which the manufacturer has written custom ASIO drivers (check the specifications for mention of ASIO or ASIO2 support). NOTE: ASIO is all about software to hardware communication efficiency and performance here has little to do with the capabilities of the underlying hardware.
 
Where possible, avoid internal/on-mother-board sound-chips as we can't guarantee that the ASIO4ALL generic driver will work with these (although it usually does). If you don't have the specific need to record external instruments / vocals (where you should buy a dedicated music production oriented audio interface), we suggest a Soundblaster Xfi Titanium (PCIe) OR the Sound Blaster Z PCIe  (make sure whatever you get has ASIO at 44.1 kHz 16 and 24 Bit). You may be surprised we are recommending a consumer soundcards, however the ASIO drivers are excellent, they have very wide compatibility from Windows XP to Windows 10 64 bit, plays nicely with the widest variety of Windows software and the A/D & D/A converters in it are excellent. See also 'Choosing a soundcard'.
 
RAM: 8 GB is probably enough. 16 GB is likely more than you need. 32 GB is only needed if you use lots of sample-based instruments, each running Multi-GB orchestral libraries & ROMpler style plugins. Don't install more than 32 GB of RAM, for music production. Spend the money on your CPU, audio interface, video card or plugins. If you have 4 or 6 slots, try to leave pairs of RAM slots free for future upgrades as RAM usually installs in pairs. 
 
Hard Disk Drive (HDD): SSD (Solid State Disk) vs Traditional (Magnetic disk)? SSD's are great for achieving fast boot times, initial program loading and with programs that thrash the HDD (FL Studio does not thrash your HDD). The biggest factor for music production HDD's is hosting audio files and sound libraries. For most users will need a 1+ TB HDD. While a SSD will load projects faster, you don't load/save projects all that often so we rank a SSD fairly low on this list of priorities. Any traditional 7200 RPM HDD should serve you well, given large SSD's are still prohibitively expensive. The smart solution for now is to have a 250~500 GB SSD 'boot drive' (holding the OS + programs) and a 2 ~ 4 TB magnetic HDD for your personal data.
 
Video Card: Look for a video card with two DVI or some combination of DVI + HDMI + Display Port outputs (see also Quiet PC below). This will allow you to run two video monitors. Any modern Video card will perform similarly. FL Studio work-flow is significantly improved with two (or more) video monitors.
 
OS: Windows 7, 8 and 10 x 64 Bit are all known to work very well with FL Studio and, more importantly, peripheral devices. There is no performance or operational advantage for FL Studio by moving from the cheaper 'Home' editions to the 'Ultimate/Professional' edition. Windows 8 or 10 will be required if you want more than dual-touch as it delivers full multi-touch performance. 

 

Quiet PC

Having a quiet PC is very important since you need to hear all the sounds in your mix. We recommend browsing the following sites, they have lots of useful information and can be used to specify components in your shopping list even if you don't build your PC yourself.

A comprehensive review site is - www.silentpcreview.com 
 
The following commercial websites are provided for your information. Both offer pre-made and custom build quiet/silent PC solutions and have international shipping: www.quietpc.com (UK based with global shipping) and www.endpcnoise.com (USA based with global shipping)

Generally the main sources of noise are case fans, video card fans, power supply fans and the CPU fan. Mechanical hard drives will make clicking sounds, consider SSDs (Solid State Drive), although very quiet mechanical drives are available and represent much better value for money. Simply opting for low noise versions of each component in your PC need not cost any more money and can have a huge impact on the noise performance.

Setup

The FL Studio manual has a thorough section here on maximizing the performance of your Windows based PC when running FL Studio.
 
Reality Check - Please take responsibility for what you are doing! 
 

1. OPTIMIZE: Make sure you really have worked carefully through the optimization settings posted here2. RESPECT: Don't throw 100's of plugins at your CPU wonder why it chokes. Audio processing, as performed by DAW software, is one of the most CPU intensive things done in real-time on computers today. It's often more CPU intensive than even 3D games, that offload a lot of work to the video card GPU. Each audio stream needs real-time calculation of at least 44100 samples PER second multiplied by how many plugins you are running multiplied by their own internal shenanigans. 3. FEAR: Not all 3rd party developers fully optimize their plugins and whatever plugin you are using may just be a nasty and or buggy CPU hog. 4. HISTORY: Your grandfather used a four-track tape recorder and made albums like A Hard Days Night and Aftermath that changed the face of modern music. Even the lowliest of modern PCs will put that 4 track to shame. Limitations breed creativity, work with what you have and rejoice in the democratization of modern music production. 

 

Summary

 

Just in case it was not clear, the information above basically says. 1. Choose the fastest CPU you can afford (this is critical). 2. Make sure you have an ASIO Audio Interface and 3. Add at least 8 GB of RAM but no more than 32. Build your PC around those elements.  

 

Inspiration

 


Image Line Support Team