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There are so many great pre-built desktop computers out there and they are much cheaper than laptops. If you are on a budget of sorts and want something really powerful, keep reading on to check out the best desktop computers for music production in 2021.
Here are the best computers for music production:
1. Apple iMac
The best Mac for music production
If you have not used an iMac, I can almost guarantee that you have heard of them. Apple’s iMacs are some of the most powerful desktop computers for music production. Because they are so powerful, they come at a pretty big price. This model iMac has a six-core 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 21.5-inch Retina 4K display, and a Radeon Pro 560X graphics processor.
It comes with a magic mouse and keyboard, and is designed for everyone. It has dark mode, easier screenshots, useful built-in apps, and Stacks. If you are not familiar with Stacks, it is the new desktop feature in macOS Mojave that helps organize clutter by putting your desktop files into stacks. This can be beneficial for producers who have a lot of icons on their desktop and like to launch files and programs from there rather than from the main program menu.
|Image credit: Apple Check Amazon||
If you ask me, getting an iMac is super worth it. It may be expensive, but it is a workhorse of a computer. I have found that really all I have needed in terms of computers for my studio is an iMac, and if I want to have something that is portable, I can just use a cheap laptop. In general, I’d call the iMac the best computer for music production if you want something that’s tried-and-true and not going to break your wallet.
2. HP Envy 34″ All-in-One
The best desktop PC for music production
This HP Envy 34-inch not only is an all-in-one computer, but it also has a curved screen. The ultra-wide QHD LED backlit micro-edge monitor QHD (3440 x 1440) makes it to where you can fit so much more on the screen, making it a perfect choice for producers. It also has built-in quad speakers and dual passive radiators with Bang & Olufsen power. No tower means that this computer doesn’t take up a ton of space.
As for features, it has an 8th generation six-core Intel Core i7 processor, a 1 TB hard drive, and 16 GB of RAM. Amazon Alexa allows you to just ask and Alexa can check your calendar, create lists, answer questions, play music, control your smart home and much more, making it easy to control many different things in your studio without having to get up from your computer.
As for the keyboard and mouse, it includes an HP Premium Lifestyle Wireless keyboard with volume control and optical mouse with nano-dongle kit. This computer will allow you to multitask and work more efficiently with such a big screen.
|Image credit: HP Check Amazon||
The HP Envy 34-inch all-in-one computer is an amazing choice for those producers who want a good computer for making beats. The speaker technology and wide screen make it an ideal computer if you are using your DAW a lot. I highly recommend it.
3. Dell XPS 8930 Tower Desktop
The best tower desktop computer for music production
The Dell XPS 8930 Tower Desktop is a powerhouse that will absolutely be capable of running your DAWs efficiently. It’s got an 8th generation Intel Core i7 six-core processor, 16 GB of memory, and both a 2 TB hard drive and a 256 GB solid-state drive. It also has 4 GB of video memory that is powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card.
The XPS 8930 is extremely quiet and has thermally-controlled fans that are designed to meet Dell’s acoustic limits, which make it a great computer to use in the studio. Quiet fans mean that if you need to record in the same room that you’re using the computer, you’ll have less background noise.
The six-core processor makes this computer an ideal choice if you do a lot of multitasking on your computer while in the studio as well. If you’re the type of person who uses their studio speakers in the studio and uses computer speakers for non-studio related entertainment, this XPS also has Waves MaxxAudio technology with MaxxSense, which makes the speakers adapt to your environment, leaving you with a fuller sound.
|Image credit: Dell Check Amazon||
This computer is a producer’s dream. It can handle a ton of plugins, DAWs, etc, with no problem while remaining exceptionally quiet. I’d say it’s the best desktop computer for recording because of this, especially if you have a home studio or you’re a bedroom producer.
4. Microsoft Surface Studio 2
The best touchscreen all-in-one computer for studio
Easily the most expensive computer on this list, the Surface Studio 2 by Microsoft is probably not on your personal list of computers you’d want to look into. However, before you knock it, at least take a look at the specs; you’ll find that there’s nothing out there on the market like it.
The Surface Studio 2 is an all-in-one computer with a touchscreen, and it’s even slimmer than the iMac. It features an Intel Core i7 processor, and depending on what model you get you can either choose to have a 1 TB or 2 TB solid-state drive and either 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM. The Surface Studio 2 is powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 card with 6 GB of memory.
Now, not only does this computer have a touchscreen and is an all-in-one, it also folds like a tablet, so you can use it in pretty much any orientation. This makes it extremely ideal for producers who want an all-in-one and want to be able to fine tune automation and other elements of their project files. There’s nothing else on the market that has this type of power in something so versatile. Don’t pass by the Microsoft Surface Studio 2.
|Image credit: Microsoft Check Amazon||
This thing is a beast. I’d get one myself if I didn’t already have a reliable computer. I can see so many uses for this thing; it would be a great computer to use to record, great for mixing and mastering, and great for beat-making. With the stylus and touchscreen, it enables you to make music in great detail. I’d say overall it is an ideal computer for making music.
5. Apple Mac Mini
The best portable desktop computer for producers
The Apple Mac Mini is exactly what it sounds like: a miniature Mac. It’s essentially everything you get in an iMac, just in a box (no screen included) instead of a tower or an all-in-one.
The Mac Mini has a quad-core 3.6 GHz Intel Core i3 processor, and it’s configurable up to a six-core 3.2 GHz Intel Core processor that boosts to up to 4.6 GHz. As for memory, the starting amount of RAM is 8 GB, but it’s configurable to 16, 32, or 64 GB.
The storage is configurable too; you start out with a 128 GB SSD but can upgrade to 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB. The graphics card in this thing is an Intel UHD Graphics 630 card. Overall, the Mac Mini is a great choice for a budget computer in a very small package.
|Image credit: Apple Check Amazon||
If you want a desktop computer that is actually portable (aside from a screen), this is the one you should get. It has everything you might need for making music, and if the specs aren’t where you need them to be, you can upgrade. Because of how small it is, the Mac Mini is the perfect computer for a home studio with not a lot of space.
6. Lenovo ThinkCentre M720 Tower
The budget computer for beginning producers
The Lenovo ThinkCentre M720 Tower is a very solid choice for a desktop PC for music production. It has an Intel Core i5 six-core processor, 8 GB of RAM, and for storage it has a 250 GB solid-state drive. The graphics card is an Intel UHD Graphics 630 card.
This desktop tower is definitely in a more affordable price range, but it is more than able to run your plugins, DAWs, and other programs you might need to use in order to successfully make music. It doesn’t come with a screen, but the tower does have 8 USB ports and multiple display ports. If you need to connect the computer to multiple screens in your studio, the ThinkCentre is a good option for that.
|Image credit: Lenovo Check Amazon||
The ThinkCentre M720 Tower is a suitable PC for music production and has everything you’ll need. I’d say it’s a good desktop computer for beginners as well as people who are on a budget.
7. Acer Aspire TC-780
Another good budget option for music production
The Acer Aspire TC-780 is yet another cheaper option that doesn’t give up quality as the price decreases. The Aspire features an Intel Core i5 quad-core 3.0 GHz processor and 16 GB of RAM. The Acer Aspire comes with a 256 GB solid-state drive as well as a 1 TB hard drive. As for graphics, it has an Intel HD 630 graphics card.
It also has plenty of USB ports for your audio interface and MIDI instruments. All of these specifications should give you more than enough for what you need, and with 16 GB of RAM you shouldn’t have a problem with the computer crashing or getting bogged down while you’re using a lot of programs.
|Image credit: Acer Check Amazon||
The Acer Aspire TC-780 is even more of a steal than the Lenovo ThinkCentre. I definitely recommend that you check this one out, especially because of the price for how much it comes with. It’s a great PC worth buying if you’re not interested in something more expensive.
Laptops vs. desktops
Laptops and desktops both have their advantages and disadvantages as well as specific uses for certain scenarios. Here we will focus on the different factors that make desktops stand out from laptops and vice versa.
Desktops are a lot cheaper than laptops. They have many more component options which allows for them to start at a lower price but still be super-powerful. Laptops have a wide variety of components as well, but are still more limited than desktops, which makes them extremely expensive. Since they are smaller, it takes more expensive components to get a more powerful laptop, etc.
Obviously laptops are more portable than desktops. Desktops usually have an additional monitor, and that makes it much more difficult to transport. Even if it is an all-in-one computer, it was definitely not meant for carrying around with you. Laptops were designed to be portable and compact.
Desktop computers have ‘bigger’ processors, which means they are more powerful as well. This makes them much more ideal for producers. Laptop processors can be powerful too, but you are going to end up paying a much higher price for a laptop with that much processor power.
If you are wanting a full-size keyboard, desktops are the way to go, especially if you use the number keypad for things like shortcuts to navigate through your DAW. Laptop keyboards are a bit more limiting.
Desktop monitors are usually pretty big, and a lot of them have the capability to connect to additional monitors as well, or even a TV screen if you are in need of something that big. If portability is your main priority, a laptop screen will still be good-quality and you should be able to connect it to external sources just like a desktop.
Since desktops have powerful processors, they use much more power. Laptops have a battery that can be used if you are not wanting to use a power cord, whereas desktops do not have that option.
Desktops are easier to upgrade by far. RAM and hard drives are pretty much the only things that can be upgraded in a laptop, whereas in a desktop you can update the graphics card and so many other components. Desktops also have more space in the tower for you to work with rather than staying cramped.
It is not difficult to set up a desktop, really all you have to do is plug in a screen and keyboard into the tower and plug the tower into the wall. If you have an all-in-one it is much easier than that and you can just plug the all-in-one into the wall. Laptops are about as easy as all-in-ones and are even easier if you are setting it up and the battery is already charged.
Repairing desktops are much easier than repairing laptops. With desktops, you can purchase the hardware from most computer retail stores. Repairing a laptop usually requires going directly to the computer manufacturers and ordering the parts from there or another online laptop parts store.
With this information, feel free to determine which computer is best for what you are needing. Your production needs may be more geared towards using a desktop computer if you need a lot of power and do not care about portability, or you may need a laptop if you are really focused on transporting your music and gear with you. Honestly, if you are not wanting portability, getting a laptop is not a very good value if you can get something so much more powerful for much cheaper.
This leads me into the next portion of this guide: the other alternatives like making your own computer from scratch.
If you are really on a budget and like to tinker with things or build things, making a computer is something you will really enjoy, and you can make a super powerful computer for a fraction of the cost of getting an already built desktop computer.
Making your own computer
Building a computer is a fun endeavor that can save you a ton of money. Getting started, you should know what things you will need, and an understanding of what each component does is also useful.
The motherboard determines how big your tower will be and also what other types of components you will need to get based on compatibility. It establishes things like memory and storage technology, how much processing power it can handle, and the number of modules that can be installed.
CPU sets the expectations of how your computer will perform. Memory and storage are what feed the processor, and then the processor uses the memory and storage to carry out what you’re asking the computer to do. When picking a good processor, the higher the GHz, the faster it will be.
RAM holds temporary information and data that your computer uses. Having a lot of memory can make your computer run really fast. With music production, you need as much RAM as you can get. Just remember that your computer can only hold a certain amount of RAM (established by the motherboard), so you shouldn’t get more RAM than your computer is compatible with.
Files and other data that need to be stored long term are stored on the hard drive or solid state drive. Both a hard drive and solid-state drive serve the same purpose, but solid-state drives are much faster and way more efficient than hard drives because of the way they write data onto the drives. A lot of producers have external hard drives to use alongside their computer’s storage drive.
Taking this information as well as other resources like YouTube videos, you can build a really nice computer for what you’re needing. Computer parts are much less expensive than pre-built computers and you can easily buy parts from online retailers. The average computer build costs around $500-$700, although this price can definitely go up based on what you’re wanting.
You have a wider selection of parts as well, so if you really want to customize things not only based on the computer’s hardware, but also aesthetically, you can even buy colored lights and other pieces to make your computer look cool.
If you’re in need of a new computer for your studio and don’t know what to pick, hopefully this article has shed some light on whether or not you should get a desktop or laptop, and if you go with a desktop, whether or not to get a pre-built one or build your own. There are advantages and disadvantages to both; the choice is up to you.