Knowledge Base

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The aim of 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 an audio interface that has a manufacturer supplied ASIO driver should be 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.

Operating System

FL Studio will work on Windows XP upward. We recommend Windows 8 64 Bit or Windows 7 64 Bit. Note: Windows 8 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 2015 the Intel i5 and i7 Intel processors, specifically the i7-4770 or i7-4770K, i7-4790 or i7-4790K, i5-4670 or i5-4670K, i5-4690 or i5-4690K. Extreme power users should check the i7-4930K or i7-5930KNOTES: 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. FYI: When comparing benchmarks, 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. All processors listed above are between $200 and $550 USD. Don't spend $1000+ on a CPU! Around $250 to $350 is usually the sweet spot.  Choose on your own - Look at this list of CPU benchmarks and make sure whatever you choose has a score of at least 7000, of course more is better.

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 from Windows XP to Windows 8 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). 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. When installing 8 or 16 Gb of RAM make sure you do so in a way that leaves a pair of RAM slots free for future upgrades (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 150-250 GB SSD 'boot drive' (holding the OS + programs) and a 1 or 2 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 or 8 64 Bit are known to work very well with FL Studio and, more importantly, peripheral devices. There is no performance or operational impact on FL Studio by moving from the cheaper editions to the 'Ultimate/Professional' edition. Windows 8 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 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.

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. 

 

Inspiration

 


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