Best Motherboards for Music Production

Best Motherboards for Music Production – While you won’t need a particularly esoteric hardware list for a digital audio workstation, the example builds you’ll see below are still pretty unique.

Many of the build guides here on CGDirector focus on visual production pipelines — pipelines that tend to take advantage of multi-threaded CPU processing and GPU acceleration.

Meanwhile, audio production favors single-threaded CPU processing with almost no GPU acceleration.

OVERVIEW

It’s also worth noting that there’s a fair bit of audio equipment that doesn’t fit into the scope of this build guide. It’s hard to give generic advice for things like microphones and mixers, but many system builders will still want to account for those purchases in their overall budget.

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ROUND UP

Your digital audio workstation is an important part of your audio pipeline, and you can definitely benefit from taking the time to plan out a well-tuned build. It won’t make you a better musician but can make it easier to focus on the work that matters.

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1.ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR

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2.MSI Z39MSI Z390-A

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3.Gigabyte B550M AORUS PRO-P

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4.ASUS ROG Crosshair

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5.Asus Prime Z390-A

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6.Gigabyte GeForce GTX

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7.Gigabyte Gv-N165SWF2OC-4GD

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8.MSI MPG Z390 LGA1151

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9.ASUS AM4 TUF

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10.GIGABYTE GA-A320M-S2H

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Best Motherboards for Music Production – BUYER’S GUIDE

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CPU vs GPU

Audio processing is inherently sequential and frequently real-time. It requires a high degree of computational accuracy, and a lot of it can’t be parallelized.

Hitting the performance limit of your CPU can cause playback errors known as buffer underruns — pops, cracks, and other audio artifacts which, while they won’t show up in the final export, will make it harder to dial in your production.

This means that digital audio workstations are fairly unique. They focus almost exclusively on single-thread/single-core CPU performance, with extra attention paid to things like cache sizes and RAM bandwidth limitations.

GPU-based audio processing is rare, and mostly limited to experimental projects; for audio, your GPU’s mostly there for the sake of supporting your displays.

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Memory and Storage

Audio files are large, hard to compress, and hard to stream from disk. Audio takes up a lot of space, both on-disk, and in-RAM, and the aforementioned reliance on live playback and production means that memory limitations can lead to painful bottlenecks.

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Display

While you won’t have to deal with the costs associated with wide-gamut displays, most DAW software benefits from having some additional screen space for all of the tracks and controls you’ll end up working with.

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Cases and Fans

We don’t normally cover computer cases in-detail, as there are a lot of subjective factors to consider. For audio workstations, however, there are two fairly important details to consider: Size and noise.

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Memory

The internet is full of articles offering different takes on how much RAM you need for audio processing — as I said above, it’s a popular topic — and the recommendations they give run the gamut from a mere 8GB to a full 128GB.

Before we get to our own recommendations, let’s explore the reasons behind this spread.

The amount of RAM you’ll need for digital audio production will depend on how many plugins and sample libraries you regularly use.

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Storage

For SSDs and HDDs the standard advice applies: Get at least one of both, and spring for a second SSD as a scratch disk if you can.

Keeping your applications and operating system separate from your project files will make it easier to upgrade your storage later on.

That said, you’ll probably get more use out of your SSDs than your HDDs, outside of backups. You’ll want everything you interact with frequently — (especially!) samples, project files, plugins, etc — on your fast storage, and you’ll only throw projects onto your archive disk once those projects are fully trunked.

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Motherboard and Sound Card

I’m pairing motherboards and sound cards together here, as the main concerns (outside of the usual size and PCIe speed concerns for motherboards) are similar: I/O, EMF shielding, and audio latency.

But I need to back up a bit. Do you actually need a sound card?

While internal sound cards were mandatory back in the day, improvements in onboard audio processing and the rising popularity of fully external audio interfaces make traditional sound cards somewhat redundant, as media generalists rarely need them and audio producers tend to favor the EMF shielding, I/O accessibility, and amplifier quality that external interfaces offer.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Which Chipset Do We Recommend?

If you are building a desktop PC, then we highly recommend that you either invest in the Z series Intel motherboards or the X series AMD motherboard for audio production.

These have a better overall quality and have the power design to handle the high performance processors without any issue. If you plan to overclock or require more PCIe lanes to support more SSDs or PCIe add in card etc, the Z and X series are again the go to choice.

Of course, it is not uncommon to find most professional audio producers using workstation PCs and hence you would be compelled to invest in the large and the premium X or the TRX40 chipset motherboards to cater to the powerful processors.

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WRAP UP

Building your first PC is a fun, rewarding, and extremely stressful process. Are all the components going to work together? Did you overlook anything? You can use PC Part Picker to view compatible PC components and create mock PC builds, but there are 4 things to consider before building a PC for music production that PC Part Picker isn’t going to mention.

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