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This section covers questions related to PC and associated hardware required to use FL Studio and Plugins.

2014/01/29, viewed 42764 times
The purpose this article is to focus your purchases to provide the most performance for music production. Since real-time audio processing and synthesis are key, a fast CPU and a soundcard that has a manufacturer supplied ASIO driver should be your top priorities.

Laptop vs Desktop/Tower

Generally laptops have lower price to power/performance compared to desktops. They also limit your options for expansion and upgrade components. Of course, laptops can be used but you should have a specific requirement to be mobile with your music making/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 not on it (see Quiet PC below). The main factor is the box 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.

Operating System

FL Studio will work on Windows XP upward. We recommend Windows 7 64 Bit or Windows 8 64 Bit. Note that Windows 8 it's relatively new (as of 2013) so there may be the usual hassles with driver compatibility, although it 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. The best value for performance is usually to be had 2-3 levels down from the top models. As of 2014 the i5 and i7 Intel processors, specifically the i7-4770 & i5-4670 (and previous generation i7-3770 & i5-3550) represent excellent price/performance ratios. Power users should check the i7-3930K. NOTE: Moving from these upper-mid level CPUs to the top of the range generally only gains you 10-15% improvement in the face of a 200%-400% price increase. 

NOTES: A 10% performance gain is 'just noticeable', you won't be impressed with this sort of improvement. 20% increases in speed or more are generally needed before a CPU feels faster in use. FL Studio utilizes multi-core CPUs.

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 the Creative X-Fi Titanium Express street price is around $70 USD (don't go below this model, you are looking for a card with the EMU20K1, EMU20K2 or CA20K2 chip ) OR the Sound Blaster Z PCIe. You may be surprised we are recommending a consumer soundcard, however the ASIO drivers are excellent, it has very wide compatibility with Windows XP through to Windows 7 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 enough. 16 Gb is only necessary if you typically use lots of sample based instruments (each running Multi-Gb orchestral libraries & ROMpler style plugins for example). In most instances having more than 4 Gb of RAM does not make FL Studio run faster. We'd suggest starting with 8 Gb and expanding it later if you need to. Make sure you select memory that leaves room on the motherboard for expansion (many mother boards install memory sticks in pairs so use 2 x 4 Gb sticks, leaving two slots free, rather than 4 x 2 Gb, for example). Installing more than 16 Gb of RAM is unnecessary for almost all music production purposes, spend the money on your CPU, audio interface, video card or plugins. EDIT: RAM prices have fallen dramatically and 16 Gb is probably only a few more dollars (~$40) than 8 Gb, if that's so, then why not.

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.

Video Card: Look for a video card with two DVI or DVI + VGA 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 64 Bit Home Premium or Higher is known to work very well with FL Studio and, more importantly, peripheral devices. There is no performance or operational impact on FL Studio. If you have no other requirements outside FL Studio, Windows Home Premium runs FL Studio exactly the same as Ultimate OR Windows 8.1 (any edition) will be required if you want more than dual-touch as it delivers full multi-touch performance. Again we recommend the 64 Bit route here.  

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 two 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.

www.silentpcreview.com & www.quietpc.com

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.

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