When operating a digital audio workstation, it is imperative to choose a laptop that will not roll over and die.
Multitrack computer audio recording requires a lot of power. Due to the complexity of multitrack recording, the stress you apply to your computer during the recording process is well more than that of most tasks. It is not only the DAW (digital audio workstation) software that is the culprit either. There are many factors. The number of tracks and plugin usage of the project also affect computer performance. Believe me, I have pushed the limits of my digital audio workstation in the past. It is not fun when the computer does not have enough power to handle the recording project. So when choosing the right laptop computer for your home studio, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
1. Processor Speed – I think this is self-explanatory. Multi-track recording is already a slow process to being with. Why would you want to add more frustration to that?
2. RAM – To state it simply, RAM is the memory used to run programs on your computer. And with so many different things happening simultaneously while tracking and mixing audio into a recording program, an adequate amount of RAM is necessary. I have 6GB of RAM in my computer. That seems to be plenty. I wouldn not suggest going below 2GB. That may suffice for recording and mixing just a few tracks together in your recording program.
3. External Hard Drive – I did not realize the importance of this until my internal hard drive crashed. Because everything was being stored on the same drive that the computer’s operating system was running on, it was just too much. Think about it… running a digital audio workstation and the operating system while simultaneously having to access large WAV files and multiple plugins. That is a lot of action! So better to be safe than sorry. Adding a second hard drive will save you a lot of headaches. And some people even suggest adding a third hard drive for even better performance. I haven’t felt the need to do that just yet. I’m satisfied with one extra drive. Now my operating system resides on the internal laptop hard drive, and my digital audio workstation, plugins, and WAV files are located on a 7200 rpm external hard drive. It’s best to not go below 7200 rpm. The rotation speed is essential. And for space, the more GB the better, of course.
4. Monitor Size – Go for a laptop computer with the largest monitor possible. When consistently adding tracks and plugins in your recording program, the screen gets full quickly. I have a 19” screen and I still like to add a second external monitor.
5. Operating System – This is more of a personal preference. It seems that most recording engineers out there prefer MACs over PC’s for computer audio recording setups. I, however, have always been a PC fan. Most DAW software and plugins exist for both operating systems, so either is an adequate solution for multi-track recording.
So there you have it. Five important things to take into consideration when choosing a laptop for to power your digital audio workstation. It is a difficult journey, so save yourself some frustration and be adequately equipped for your sessions. A little knowledge goes a long way. You do not have to be a computer audiophile to be successful at the audio recording process.