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  • Amit Zangi

How to choose a computer that is suitable for audio?

Today, the computer is the heart of the studio, providing us with memory, processing, and work comfort. At almost every stage of making music, the computer will serve us. It must be fast, powerful, and stable.

So before we talk about the type of computer, we will first understand what the computer is made of and why it is important to us -

Motherboard: The motherboard is the main surface on which the internal operation of the computer is conducted. Each component must be embedded in the motherboard or linked to a separate component connected to the board. Today, most motherboards come with integrated hardware components such as network card, onboard sound card, Ethernet, I/O ports, etc. Each motherboard is based on a chipset chip responsible for bridging the various information that makes up the computer.

The brain synchronizes and transmits operations between all computer parts and course the electrical voltage, adapted to the processor and the generation of the selected processor.

In laptops, the options are usually very limited because the company that manufactures the computer plans all the parts during the development stages, and most of the parts are soldered and connected to the board, without the ability to change/disassemble/upgrade, in addition to a system and features related to the company itself.

Motherboard Structure (Extended Information):

CPU socket: is designed for the processor and provides mechanical and electrical connections to the printed circuit on which it sits.

For example - Intel Generations 8 and 9 processors are compatible with the Socket 1151 LGA, compared to Intel Generation 4 and 5 processors, consistent with the Socket 1150 LGA.

Memory card slots: The memory slots are compatible with memory models that support the processor model and chipset like the CPU slot.

PCI slots - is a standard bus, fast communication between the motherboard and external components connected to it. For example, personal computers may connect expansion cards to the computer motherboard. An expansion card can be, for example, a network card, graphics card, or USB interface card.

BIOS hardware: BIOS is a hardware and firmware mechanism (software burned into the motherboard chipset) used to boot the computer and run software routines that support input and output. There are different types of BIOS for each computer. Usually, the BIOS settings are entered by clicking the Unique key when the computer is turned on (usually DEL, sometimes F2). The settings change screen works in a similar way to DOS applications. Changing the settings allows, for example, changing the temperature at which the computer will turn off in the event of overheating the CPU.

Simply, it is the "operating system" of the motherboard. All power settings, routing, performance, compatibility, and information, are there. Logging in and changing the BIOS can lead to instability and even irreversible hardware damage for most users.

Processor (CPU) - or in its full name - Central Processing Unit, is a hardware component that executes the commands stored in the computer memory. Modern processors, also known as microprocessors built on a single chip. The processor is the most important component in audio computers. There are currently three major companies that manufacture processors for desktops and laptops - Intel, Apple, and AMD, each of which requires a specific adjustment. For example, in Intel CPUs, you can find different levels of the processors - I3, I5, I7, and I9. I3 processors will be used mainly for more regular tasks like web browsing or simple office work and study. I5 is for the middle class. It will be used primarily for computers for the average user, such as web browsing, simple graphics, design software, and computer games. I7 and I9 will provide maximum power and performance, such as video editing and graphics, working on multiple programs simultaneously, audio software, and computer games.

The processor models are named according to their generation. For example, the Intel i7 8700k processor is a generation 8,  and the i7 7700k processor is a generation 7 processor. The extra numbers usually show the CPU level. For example, 9700k will be slightly weaker than 9900k

Memory - Random Access Memory (RAM) is a general name for a large number of types of computer memory, all of which are characterized by the ability of the processor to access each cell directly in memory by his address, write in it, and read from it. The most common reference to computer memory is its primary random access memory. The most commonly used type of memory today is DRAM. This type of memory is volatile (i.e., explosive) memory, meaning it loses its content when the memory is disconnected from its energy source. In addition, DRAM requires refresh (refresh several times per second to store its contents. Memory speed - measured in MHz). And in short - RAM. "Holds" data in its memory chip while it is turned on and is deleted immediately upon shutting down the computer, programs running in the background such as antivirus, or even the browser you are currently browsing "captures" RAM to be available and allow smooth and fast work.

Memory volume - Memory / RAM volume is measured in GB (GB) and comes in multiples of 4, for example 8,16,32,64,128,256, etc.

Graphics card: A graphics card (GPU) or video card in a computer is responsible for the visual processing that the computer produces on the screen. Some processor models (Intel and AMD) also contain a graphics processing chip, and some need an external video card.

Nowadays, video cards are processors in their own right. They have their own graphics processor, and they do a lot of the processing work done in the past by the main computer processor. The need stems from the amount of information we are now sending to the screen. This need intensified with the advent of 3D graphics. The video card is built like a standalone computer, divided into a processor and memory. We do not need an external video card or a particularly powerful card in the audio field because audio work does not require visual processing. With video or computer games, you should invest in a medium video card, which will also provide multiple ports for multiple computer monitors if needed. Another important thing to note is that if you decide not to buy a video card, make sure the processor comes with a graphics chip. For example, Intel processors with KS or KF must combine with an external video card.

Storage drive: Hard Drive is a component with a unit or storage unit for information manufactured in a magnetic disk (HDD) or chip based drive technology (SSD). The magnetic hard disk, which has a disk and an arm and is also called a mechanical drive, is cheaper and slower due to the speed of rotation of the disk from the SSD drive and usually comes in particularly large volumes.

SSD is s chip consisting of a memory chip and a controller designed to manage data flow between the storage drive and the computer without moving mechanical parts. Its size can be extremely tiny, fast, and significantly more expensive than the magnetic drive.

What audio work computer do I need and why?

Ask the questions, especially when debating between a desktop computer and a laptop. By and large, a laptop with the same data as a desktop computer will still be weaker in terms of performance. This is because the laptop is built-in microtechnology with extremely tiny parts and, most importantly, operates on battery voltage and limited cooling space. When the battery is damaged over time, or the capacity decreases, the computer can not feed all the power needed to get the best performance, so automatically, the motherboard calculates the amount of energy and distributes the limited reservoir to all others.

The parts, plus prolonged working time for the user, just like animals or humans when doing sports - the heart pumps more blood to more important organs like the brain and the heart itself. The muscles of the legs or arms, or after a big and heavy meal, the amount of blood and energy is concentrated In the stomach and digestion. Therefore, the best performance that a laptop can provide is rarely in 100 percent utilization. And what if we connect to a permanent charger? This can help to some extent, but a sensor on the motherboard gets data from the battery or in a state that works without a battery, so the system is in limited condition. On top of all that, quality cooling and ventilation will be problematic on laptops as they are smaller and flatter. Although advanced technologies today emphasize high performance with less energy of heat and electricity, still, especially the processor reaches levels of 50-90 degrees while working above average on the computer, e.g., working with a web browser when over ten tabs are open and in such a situation, control sensors push more the cooling system in the computer. This action causes the computer to make a noise (similar to the sound of a plane taking off), consuming a lot of battery, and limiting the performance to maintain the heat that the computer can continue to function. In a stationary computer, however, all parts and construction are customizable at any given moment. The power system can be especially smart if you choose a high-power power supply and motherboard. Mainly, all the cases and processors (mostly) will do significantly better work than a stationary computer, especially on a liquid-based cooling. It is an option to upgrade, repair, and optimize. In a stationary computer, you can add and change parts over the years, especially adding or replacing storage drives or upgrading the video card, RAM, and even the processor, to the laptop that is very limited and impossible to upgrade due to welded parts And almost An external drive always requires additional connections. The optimization process is very limited because of a limited BIOS from the computer manufacturer.

In conclusion, a desktop computer will always be superior to a mobile in terms of convenience, performance, and price. Still, the big and invincible advantage is the mobility and comfort of the laptop, especially for people who do not work or are in a permanent place or spend a lot of time getting around. Most of the work on the computer is during transportation and getting around.

True, the laptop will be more expensive with less good performance, but if you buy a luxury model, all the weaknesses of a laptop will be less noticeable. If there is no need for a laptop, the question is very simple and stationary.

So which is better, Mac or Windows machine ??

There is no clear advantage between Windows and a Mac computer, except for a few notable differences, but not to qualify one over the other. In Mac, the operating system is Macintosh or OSX, invented by Steve Jobs in 1984, the first computer accessible to the personal user. After about a year, Bill Gates released Microsoft's "Windows" operating system. Today, the two operating systems are relatively identical in routing and work on the same hardware found in Apple and physical computers. In 2005 Apple switched from Apple processors to Intel processors (and now Apple has come back with the new "M" series).

So what are the significant differences between the two systems?

In Mac, there are specific compatible programs that work only on OSX, for example, "Logic Pro", which Apple owns, and it is not possible to work with it in the Windows system. Macs are designed and built by Apple in a very specific way, so the number of models is limited, which on the one hand, is good when the operating system is precisely adapted to the hardware in the computer. Therefore, performance and stability have always been prominent in Apple computers. And of course, the price tag is especially high because the price includes the design and the name, Apple's exclusive support and warranty, the operating system that comes free of charge with every computer and has almost everything for any average user needs, without installations and messing with settings, with a very easy and simple user experience. Apple machines can run Windows simultaneously and always be valuable in buying and selling a used computer.

On the other hand, the heavy price adds to the upgrade limit, which is usually impossible without sending it to a qualified technician. If it is even possible, it will also cost quite a bit. Those who have no previous experience in this system will have to learn how everything works, especially MacBook Pro that comes with USB C connections only, which requires external hardware such as a USB hub or hard drive.

Conversely, Windows operating system Familiar environment, and a huge variety of computers and different configurations, with dozens of the world's leading companies in the field of computers. Today the newest Windows operating system is more mature than ever, very stable and easy to work with, convenient and fun to use, so the competition of those who are more stable today with middle-class computers and above achieves identical results, physical will be significantly cheaper with similar specifications to Apple computers, and usually come with a license For the Windows system, Office, support and warranty of the software from Microsoft and hardware from the company that created the computer. As we have seen before, Macs have exclusive software, and in audio, graphics, and video, no audio DAWs are compatible with Windows only. The most notable benefit of Windows is the support and compatibility with software and games that do not support Apple's system. For gaming, a Windows computer is recommended. Of course, companies that produce computer games or 3D content will aim to Windows (usually). be aware that is a lot of windows bases machine with excellent specifications at a low price. that will come with extremely poor build quality, low screen quality, and probably a limited warranty, pampering support, both long-term durability and better performance.

Bottom line - if you are going to work with Mac-compatible software only, then, of course, you should aim for Apple. If the software you are working with also supports Windows, there is no straight reason to go with a Mac because it's Apple, and the brand is specifically cataloged in audio. In addition, you should check the compatibility of the hardware you will be working with and make sure that everything supports the system you choose. Thunderbolt (USB C) products will be an advantage on Macs, and choose to your liking with the tips mentioned in the article.

What is important to note before choosing a computer?

We need a computer with specifications and optimization in audio, especially for audio software. The most important part of the system will be the processor. The audio software is written so that when you start working with plugs and channels, the processor divides itself according to its cores and clock speed, which means that to enjoy a powerful computer, it is important that the machine will have a powerful CPU. Intel's I7, I9, and Apple's "M" series are the best according to performance tests today, which come with several cores and a clock speed of up to 5ghz per core. Here you can feel how much the computer responds to the load so that the clock speed is higher per core. The processor will process faster data in the audio software, especially for a high amount of plug-ins. In the past, the recommendation was to divide the plugs into groups of 5 in each channel, and if you want more than five plugs on the same source, you should open another channel and divide five plug-ins between them. Multi-core processors are good at processing video and graphics, which is not the case with audio software, and that means - you need to invest in a processor with as high a clock speed as possible over the number of cores. A 2.4Ghz processor with four cores will be less efficient than a 4.2Ghz processor with two cores.

Memory - the more, the better, especially with your work characterized by many virtual tools. Memory "stores" the information (and it's a lot of data) from any VST, and the more space it has, the way it will store more data and run the system faster.

It is better to note that this category will have more memory than speed.

Hard Drive - As a primary drive that will store your operating system and sound software, invest in an SSD as fast as possible. The minimum volume is 256g. The more, the more freedom and less worry about storage errors. As an additional drive on which we will store all the information, materials, projects, sound libraries, and samples, enough in a mechanical drive with a large volume and reading speed of 7200prm (rotational speed which affects reading and writing speed), important to clarify, virtual tools and sound libraries, it is recommended to store in SSD drive to improve performance and workflow. Still, of course, many libraries weigh a lot. An SSD drive with enough volume will be very expensive, so you can think of a storage drive for libraries that you regularly use to have an SSD and everything else left in the mechanical drive, but you can work without problem with the libraries in the mechanical drive.

In the end, the right and safest thing to do is get a service from a lab or computer technician who specializes in sound. With stability, performance, quiet, visual, and convenience, you will get the best results from budget selection, parts selection, assembly, installation, and optimization.

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