How Will I Know If A Computer/Laptop Is Good For Music Recording?

When someone asks advice about where to buy a good computer for music recording and mixing, many will simply suggest buying a Macbook Pro, and for those with the cash, and who are into the world of Apple, this is a good option. However, having a fruit emblem on your casing is not a guarantee of worry free audio. To get a high-quality Mac you’ll shell out well over $2K for the basic Mac Pro (With the needed upgrades, 7200rpm drive, and Warranty). Even the lower-end low-powered macs are expensive; and you will still find the experience of something like running ProTools, REAPER, or Logic a frustrating chore.

The standard Macbooks just don’t have the architecture to handle real-time audio processing. (Neither do most ‘standard’ PC’s). If you were to shell out the same amount of cash for a PC that you do to purchase a Macbook Pro, you could easily afford one of the high-end ‘Engineered-For-Audio’ PC computers, and you wouldn’t have to worry about it.

If you purchase a specialized Audio-Computer of the PC version, from Creation Station, PC Audio Labs,  ADK Pro Audio, or the like, you’ll pay roughly the same amount.

I’ve been using PC’s for recording/editing/mixing/mastering for years. (Ever since I sold my Atari computer, a couple decades ago!) I currently use a Lenovo T Series, it’s my 4th music-creation computer. However, not even all Lenovo’s will handle real-time audio production. To figure out which ones will, you’ll need to do some homework.

One way to get information on a Notebook/Laptop computer is to have a look at NotebookCheck.net and search a computer’s specs for something called “Delayed Procedure Calls”, or DPC’s. It is one MAJOR indicator as to whether or not a computer can run real-time music production software.
Just click in their search bar, type in the name of your computer model, and add “+DPC” (without the quotes).

More important than the brand-name of a computer (Mac or PC) is a basic set of fundamentals: a multi-core processor, speed = 2GHz or faster, a 7200rpm drive is a must-have, and very low DPC’s. If your DPC check goes into the red, it’s very bad news. (See below)

How Do I Check My Computer’ DPC Latency?

To check your DPC Latency, simply download the small utility at http://www.thesycon.de/dpclat/dpclat.exe and launch it. No software installation is required. Use the DPC Latency checker on your PC to determine if it will be able to run real-time audio. (The majority of computers, regardless of price, can have DPC interruptions which will wreak havoc with your audio):

Use the DPC Latency checker on your PC to determine if it will be able to run real-time audio. (The majority of computers, regardless of price, can have DPC interruptions which will wreak havoc with your audio).

Let it run for several minutes and it will give you a read-out of your DPC levels in colored, bar graph form. In general, green is great! Yellow bars are not so good and red bars are total audio interruptions.

If you have occasional red-bar-spikes, it still may not be caused by your hardware, per se. Check the website above for some suggestions on “tweaking” your settings to reduce DPC’s. It is entirely possible that your computer processor’s IRQ’s are causing the traffic jams. You may be able to temporarily disable specific processes (Battery widgets, automatic updates, etc…), and have much better results.

It may also be helpful to ‘tweak’ settings on any computer you’re using for real-time audio. Just to keep processes from interrupting real-time audio streaming. These processes are not an issue when you’re emailing or simply streaming content, but they can cause pops, clicks, and annoying interruptions when you’re dealing with streaming real-time audio.
Search Google for: “optimize my computer for audio” to find a list of recommended tweaks.

Take it from personal experience, try to avoid costly hassles I experienced. Don’t buy a music computer unless it will pass the basic ‘litmus’ test.

Posted on: March 23, 2016, by : jafmusic

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