This article will discuss the best GPUs for music production, sound design (for games and films), and audio engineering in 2023.
A GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is a specialized type of microprocessor designed to handle complex mathematical computations and graphical rendering. Unlike traditional CPUs (Central Processing Units), designed to perform various general-purpose computing tasks, GPUs are optimized to handle many small, parallel tasks simultaneously.
GPUs are commonly used in various applications, such as video games, scientific simulations, and machine learning, where they can dramatically accelerate processing times and improve performance. In recent years, GPUs have also become popular for cryptocurrency mining, which involves using the processing power of GPUs to solve complex mathematical problems in exchange for digital currency.
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Does a GPU help with music production?
While having a powerful GPU may not directly affect your music production process and the quality of sound, as DAWs primarily rely on the CPU cores, RAM, clock speed, and storage speed, it could still enhance the music production experience, especially when using visualizers and plugins that utilize more GPU power.
It can also facilitate real-time interaction with music, like live-streaming audio production/engineering classes/tutorials, live mixing/production sessions, etc. Additionally, audio plugins and instruments that rely on GPU power are becoming increasingly commonplace, including those utilizing virtual and augmented reality.
Audio plugin development demands more GPU power, making a good GPU essential for future-proofing production setups for the latest technology. Composers of film scores and video games also require a powerful graphics card, as do music producers who double as sound game designers requiring middleware like Wwise or FMOD, which demand substantial GPU power.
Next, OpenGL is an open-source, cross-platform graphics API widely used to create high-performance 2D and 3D graphics in music production software and plugins. It provides a standardized way to interact with a computer’s graphics hardware, allowing for faster and more efficient rendering of complex graphics.
In music production, OpenGL can create visualizers and other graphical representations of sound, such as spectrograms and waveforms, enabling producers and engineers to analyze and manipulate audio in real time.
Consider the example of Nuendo, a DAW with built-in support for various middleware solutions like Wwise and FMOD. This enables audio designers and composers to easily import their audio assets into Nuendo and use middleware to test how the audio will sound in the final product. Integrated middleware support eliminates the need for a separate computer to test audio in context, saving time and increasing efficiency. You can adjust the audio in real-time and get immediate feedback on how it will sound in the final product.
Modern developers are increasingly utilizing GPUs in music production and processing due to their high efficiency in performing parallel processing tasks, which is ideal for handling the large amounts of data involved in audio processing. Audio plugins can take advantage of the power of GPUs, allowing for faster and more efficient audio processing.
Developers are also creating software designed for GPU-based audio processing that can perform tasks such as audio analysis, sound synthesis, and virtual instrument processing much faster than traditional CPU-based software.
The use of GPUs in music production is a relatively new development, and research and development are still ongoing. A powerful GPU is essential for VR or AR applications that require high frame rates and low latency, rendering 3D models and environments. However, prioritizing a fast CPU, sufficient RAM, and fast storage for music production is usually better if on a tight budget.
Top 6 Best GPUs for Seamless Music Production/DAW 2023
1. ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 OC (Best Choice)
The ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 OC is a graphics card with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 896 CUDA cores, and an overclocked GPU.
It is designed for gamers and creators who want high-performance graphics at a reasonable price. The card has a dual-fan design that delivers efficient cooling and features customizable RGB lighting. It supports DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, and DVI-D video outputs and can handle resolutions up to 7680×4320.
In addition, NVIDIA G-SYNC technology is supported by this card, enabling synchronization of the display’s refresh rate with the GPU, which leads to smoother gameplay and less input lag, enhancing the gaming experience. The card supports OpenGL, which allows for faster and more efficient rendering of complex graphics, making it ideal for creating visualizers and other graphical representations of sound.
Its compact size also makes it suitable for smaller form factor systems. Overall, the ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 OC can significantly boost graphics processing power for music producers and engineers.
- High Clock Speeds
With a base clock speed of 1485 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1830 MHz, the ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 OC can provide fast and smooth performance, even when dealing with complex music production software.
- 4GB GDDR5 Memory
With 4GB of GDDR5 memory, the graphics card offers abundant storage space for music files and samples, enabling efficient processing and seamless performance during music production tasks.
- Dual Fan Cooling
Regarding GPU temperature, the ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 OC features dual fan cooling, which can help keep the graphics card running cool and stable, even during extended music production sessions. In addition, its 0 dB Technology allows the fans on the graphics card to stop spinning when the GPU is operating below a certain temperature threshold. That helps you work in silence without unnecessary auditory interruptions and intrusions.
- Overclocking Capabilities
Designed with overclocking in mind, the graphics card allows users to enhance performance by pushing clock speeds and memory bandwidth to even greater heights.
- GeForce Experience for real-time audio/video streaming
GeForce Experience is a software application developed by NVIDIA, designed to optimize and enhance the visual experience for users of NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards. That is especially helpful for mix engineers/producers with remote clients who want to do live online mixing/production. Often it’s hard to live-stream DAW sessions in real-time, but the software makes that easier.
- Multiple Display Outputs
An HDMI, a DisplayPort, and a DVI-D are some of the GPU’s output connections, allowing you to connect multiple displays for improved workflow and productivity.
- Advanced NVIDIA Turing Architecture
One of the key features of the Turing architecture is its ability to support real-time ray tracing, which allows for more realistic lighting and shadows in games and other applications. The ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 OC utilizes this feature to provide more immersive and lifelike game visuals, making the gaming experience more enjoyable.
Another important feature of the Turing architecture is its use of Tensor Cores, specialized processing units designed for AI and machine learning applications. This allows the graphics card to perform certain tasks, such as video editing and image processing, more quickly and efficiently.
While the graphic card has some strengths, it also has some weaknesses. One of the main cons of this card is its price. It is relatively expensive compared to other GTX 1650 models, which may not justify the slight increase in performance. The card’s power consumption is relatively high compared to other GTX 1650 models, which may result in higher electricity bills.
Furthermore, the card’s limited VRAM can be a disadvantage when working with large audio files or high-resolution samples, as it can result in slower processing times and reduced overall performance. Lastly, the card’s cooling system may not be ideal for music production as it can create additional noise in an already acoustically sensitive environment. Additionally, high power consumption may lead to higher electricity bills for long music production sessions.
2. EVGA GeForce RTX 2080
Designed for demanding gaming and professional applications such as audio/video live streaming, video editing, and 3D rendering, the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 stands as a high-end graphics card that meets the needs of power users.
It features NVIDIA’s Turing architecture and offers advanced ray tracing and AI capabilities for highly realistic lighting and graphics. The card has 8GB of GDDR6 memory, a 256-bit memory interface, and a Memory Speed of 15500 MHz. It has 2944 CUDA cores and supports real-time ray tracing, providing highly realistic lighting effects.
Multiple display outputs are included with the card, such as HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB Type-C for VR headsets, providing flexibility for connecting to various displays and devices. It requires an external power supply and features a high-performance cooling system to ensure stable operation even during demanding tasks.
- High-performance GPU
Capable of handling complex graphics and computational tasks required for advanced audio processing, the RTX 2080 features a powerful graphics processing unit that delivers high performance and speed.
- Real-time ray tracing
Real-time ray tracing is a rendering technique that allows for the simulation of the physics of light in real time during the rendering process. It enables the creation of more realistic lighting and shadows in a virtual environment by simulating the path of light rays in a 3D space. The card supports this technique, which can enhance the quality of visualizations and other graphical representations of sound, such as spectrograms and waveforms, allowing audio engineers to analyze and manipulate audio in real time.
- AI-assisted audio processing
Tensor Cores provide AI-assisted processing that allows for advanced audio analysis and processing. This feature can benefit audio engineers who use machine learning algorithms for sound synthesis, noise reduction, and audio restoration tasks.
- High-speed memory and bandwidth
Because of its high-speed memory and bandwidth, you can transfer and access data faster with minimum latency and lags with the card.
- Multi-monitor support
By supporting multiple monitors, the RTX 2080 offers a highly flexible and convenient setup for audio engineers working simultaneously with multiple applications and windows. This feature improves workflow and productivity, as users can easily switch between applications and reference materials without switching between windows or losing focus on their work constantly.
The EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 is a powerful graphics card that excels in many demanding applications, but it also has some weaknesses that are worth noting. One of the main cons of this card is its high price point, which could be a barrier for many producers. The card’s high power consumption can also lead to higher electricity bills, which may concern some of you.
Furthermore, the card’s limited VRAM may be a disadvantage when working with large audio files or high-resolution samples, as it can result in slower processing times and reduced overall performance. This can be particularly problematic when working with multiple tracks or running multiple plugin instances simultaneously.
Finally, the card’s cooling system can be loud, which can be a concern for those working in a quiet music production environment.
3. Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 5700 XT
Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card is built for high-performance computing and visuals.
It features the Navi 10 XT GPU with 2560 Stream Processors, 8GB of GDDR6 memory, and a memory clock speed of 14 Gbps. It also has a boost clock speed of 1925 MHz, making it a powerful option for demanding applications.
Regarding audio engineering, the Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 5700 XT can provide a fast and efficient rendering of complex graphical representations of sound. Its high processing power can benefit plugins and virtual instruments that rely on GPU acceleration for improved performance.
- GPU architecture
Built on AMD’s RDNA architecture, the RX 5700 XT delivers efficient performance and high-quality visuals. This architecture is optimized for parallel processing tasks, making it an ideal solution for managing large amounts of data involved in audio processing. This makes the RX 5700 XT a reliable and powerful graphics card option for audio engineers and professionals requiring high processing power and efficient data management.
Packed with 8GB of GDDR6 memory, the RX 5700 XT provides fast and efficient memory access for complex audio processing tasks.
- Cooling system
Dual-X Cooling Technology’s PULSE cooling system features two large fans and a heat pipe-based cooling system, which keeps the GPU cool even under heavy loads. This is important for maintaining stable performance during long audio processing sessions.
One of the key benefits of Dual-X Cooling Technology is its ability to maintain low noise levels while providing excellent cooling performance. The dual fans are designed to operate quietly and efficiently, even under heavy load, which is a great feature for any audio/music work.
- Display outputs
Regarding display output connections, the device supports multiple display outputs, including HDMI and DisplayPort, which can be useful for audio engineers who need to connect multiple monitors for visualizing audio signals and waveforms.
You can use the RX 5700 XT with audio processing software, including popular digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, and Pro Tools.
The Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 5700 XT is a mid-range graphics card suitable for music production, but it also has some cons worth noting. One of the main cons of this card is that it requires a high-wattage power supply and can run hot, which can be a concern for some of you.
Additionally, the card’s cooling system may lead to some noise, which can concern those working in a quiet music production environment. Regarding gaming performance, the card is generally solid but may struggle with ray tracing and other advanced graphics features. While it can handle most games at 1080p or 1440p resolution, it may struggle to maintain high frame rates with more demanding games or higher resolutions.
Further, it may not be the best option for recording engineers who work with hundreds of tracks or require a lot of VRAM. The card’s 8GB of VRAM is sufficient for most tasks but may be a limitation for those working with large audio files or high-resolution samples.
Finally, some existing customers have reported driver stability and compatibility issues, which can lead to crashes or other issues. While these issues are relatively rare, they can frustrate producers who rely on the card for their work.
4. Zotac GeForce RTX 3050 Twin Edge OC
Offering affordability with performance, the Zotac GeForce RTX 3050 Twin Edge OC graphics card boasts an array of essential features that enhance audio and video live streaming, audio visualization and graphing, AR/VR-enabled audio plugins, and Open GL capabilities.
Utilizing a dual-fan cooling mechanism, the card effectively keeps the GPU temperature in check, thus ensuring stable system performance when demanding audio and music production workloads. The graphics card’s factory overclocks can also provide additional performance benefits when working with GPU acceleration software, such as video rendering or certain audio processing tasks.
Lastly, it features 8GB GDDR6, 2560 CUDA cores, 14 Gbps memory clock, and 1807 MHz (Boost) engine clock speed.
- NVIDIA Encoder and Decoder
Equipped with an NVIDIA encoder and decoder, the graphics card can relieve the CPU from video encoding and decoding responsibilities. As a result, CPU usage decreases, and overall system performance sees a noticeable improvement.
- CUDA Cores
Featuring CUDA cores, the graphics card excels at handling compute-heavy tasks, including audio processing and rendering, which are typically found in film sound editing, composition, and audio middleware software applications. The graphics card also supports DirectX 12 Ultimate, which can benefit certain video editing applications requiring the latest version.
- Display Connectivity
With a single HDMI 2.1 port and three DisplayPort 1.4a ports, the graphics card supports multiple displays, which is highly advantageous for audio-video applications that require multiple displays.
NVIDIA Shadowplay, an integrated live-streaming tool, is included with the Zotac GeForce RTX 3050 Twin Edge OC, enabling you to capture and broadcast gameplay or desktop activities with minimal impact on system performance. This feature proves valuable for live-streaming audio and video content, including concerts and podcasts.
The graphic card supports OpenGL 4.6, the latest version of the OpenGL API. This can be useful for audio and video applications requiring OpenGL for improved graphics rendering and performance.
While the graphic card can handle general use quite well, it has some important cons. The primary focus of music production software is on processing audio, not graphics, making the RTX 3050 overkill for such purposes. Additionally, the card’s cost might not be justified if you don’t require its high graphical capabilities.
Its power consumption exceeds less powerful or integrated graphics solutions, potentially leading to increased energy costs and higher system temperatures. Furthermore, like other GPU models in recent years, the Zotac GeForce RTX 3050 Twin Edge OC may be difficult to find due to high demand and supply chain issues.
Finally, the card’s size and compatibility could pose issues, as it may not fit in all computer cases or work with every power supply. For music production and general use, investing in a less powerful graphics card or using integrated graphics if your CPU supports it may be more cost-effective and allocate more resources towards a faster CPU, more RAM, or larger storage capacity.
5. Asus Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti OC 8GB
With its roots in the NVIDIA Ampere architecture, the Asus Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti OC 8GB graphics card is meticulously crafted to offer exceptional gaming and content creation prowess.
It features NVIDIA’s Ampere architecture and support for ray tracing and DLSS, enabling realistic spatial audio effects in games. The graphics card also has 8GB of GDDR6 memory, a 256-bit memory interface, and a boost clock speed of 1740 MHz. Additionally, its support for Open GL can improve the performance of audio-related applications. At the same time, its dual-fan cooling system and 2.7-slot design can help keep temperatures low and reduce noise levels.
Featuring 4864 CUDA cores and a boost clock speed of up to 1740 MHz, the Asus Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti OC 8GB boasts a performance that can handle gaming at 1440p and 4K resolutions with impressive smoothness and responsiveness. The graphics card also has 8GB of GDDR6 memory, which can handle demanding workloads such as video editing, 3D rendering, and machine learning.
These qualities can support audio AR/VR plugins, enabling immersive audio experiences in virtual and augmented reality applications.
Equipped with a dual-fan cooling solution, the graphics card boasts two 90mm fans that dissipate heat while maintaining low noise levels efficiently. Also, the fans come with a dust-resistant barrier, ensuring that the graphics card’s lifespan is extended.
Featuring three DisplayPort 1.4a ports and one HDMI 2.1 port, the Asus Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti OC 8GB can support up to four displays concurrently. Moreover, with support for HDCP 2.3, the graphics card enables uninterrupted and secure content playback.
- Film Sound Development applications
When it comes to film sound development applications, the high-performance capabilities of this graphics card render it an ideal choice, particularly when working with large audio files in digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Pro Tools and Nuendo. The graphics card’s support for Open GL provides added ease when working with 3D audio plugins and spatial audio tools.
Equipped with the Asus GPU Tweak II software, users can monitor and control the graphics card’s performance, complete with fan control, RGB lighting, and performance monitoring features.
- Ray Tracing
With dedicated hardware for real-time ray tracing, the Asus Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti OC 8GB empowers users to achieve strikingly realistic lighting and shadow effects in games and content creation applications. The graphics card also supports NVIDIA DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling), which can improve ray tracing performance while maintaining high image quality.
That can help deliver high performance for game audio development applications such as Wwise and FMOD Studio, which can help to improve the audio quality and overall gaming experience.
The Asus Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti OC 8GB is a powerful graphics card that excels in gaming and other demanding applications, but it also has some cons worth noting. One of the main cons of this graphics card is its high cost, which may make it difficult for some of you to justify the purchase.
While the RTX 3060 Ti is a powerful graphics card, it may not be the best option for film/game/visual musicians requiring advanced graphics features such as ray tracing or intensive computing at 4K resolution. While it can easily handle most games at 1080p or 1440p resolution, it may struggle to maintain high frame rates with more demanding games or higher resolutions.
While the card’s cooling system can be loud, which can be a concern for those working in a quiet music production environment, it is still a good choice for music production due to its high processing power and 8GB of VRAM. Finally, some customers have reported driver stability and compatibility issues, which can lead to crashes or other issues.
6. EVGA GeForce GT 1030 SC 2GB (Budget – Quietest)
Ideal for audio recording and music production studio applications, the EVGA GeForce GT 1030 SC 2GB is a budget-friendly graphics card that operates quietly.
Its small size and low power consumption make it easy to install in various computer systems without needing an external power source. The graphics card also features a silent, passive cooling system that produces no noise, making it ideal for quiet environments like recording studios.
With 2GB of GDDR5 memory and a 64-bit interface, it can handle basic graphics tasks and display high-resolution visuals without significant lag or stutter.
- Small Form Factor
Audio engineers with limited space in their recording or production setup will find the graphics card’s small form factor advantageous, as it can be easily installed in various computer systems, including small form factor cases.
- 2GB GDDR5 Memory
With 2GB of GDDR5 memory, the graphics card has ample memory to facilitate basic graphics tasks and display high-resolution visuals without any notable lag or stutter.
- High-Resolution Display Support
Audio engineers dealing with high-resolution audio or video content, like film composers, trailer sound FX editors, and video game sound designers, will find the graphics card’s support for high-resolution displays valuable.
Priced lower than several high-end graphics cards, the EVGA GeForce GT 1030 SC 2GB is a budget-friendly graphics card appealing to individuals looking to enhance their system’s graphics performance without breaking the bank.
- PCI Express 3.0
You can do fast data transfer with the latest PCI Express 3.0 interface that the card uses. In addition, it has an HDMI 2.0b port and a Single-Link DVI port, which can connect to various displays.
- OpenGL 4.6 Support and Microsoft DirectX 12 API
Supporting OpenGL 4.6, a cross-platform graphics API commonly used by various applications and games, and Microsoft DirectX 12 API, a collection of APIs for managing multimedia, graphics, and gaming tasks on Windows, this graphics card is well-suited for a wide range of applications and games.
The EVGA GeForce GT 1030 SC 2GB is a budget graphics card suitable for basic tasks, but it also has some cons worth noting. One of its main limitations is its limited performance. While it can handle basic tasks such as web browsing, video playback, and light gaming, it may struggle with more demanding tasks such as high-end gaming or video editing.
Additionally, the card’s limited VRAM can be a disadvantage when working with large audio files or high-resolution samples in music production. Regarding its use for music production, the GT 1030 may be suitable for basic tasks such as recording and mixing. Still, it may struggle with more demanding software or plugins that require higher processing power. This can lead to issues such as lag, latency, and dropped frames, which can negatively impact the recording or mixing process.
Furthermore, the card’s cooling system is relatively small and may struggle to keep the card cool under heavy load, leading to thermal throttling and reduced performance. Finally, the card is relatively old and may not be compatible with newer software or operating systems.
In conclusion, you are choosing the right GPU for music production, and DAW can greatly enhance the overall performance of your system. The six GPUs recommended in this article, ranging from high-end options like the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 to budget-friendly choices like the Zotac GeForce RTX 3050 Twin Edge OC, each have unique features and benefits that can cater to different needs and preferences.
From real-time ray tracing and AI-assisted audio processing to multiple display outputs and efficient cooling, these GPUs can help you achieve a more seamless and productive music-making experience. If you’re looking for a graphic card that is not too heavy on your pocket but serves well shortly, you can go for the GeForce GT 1030.
However, if you have the resources to go all in and invest in a GPU that truly future-proofs your system and builds your process for futuristic music production applications in VR & AR, or if you are a game audio designer/producer, then the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 and Zotac GeForce RTX 3050 Twin Edge OC are great options for you, due to their powerful graphics processing unit, real-time ray tracing, AI-assisted audio processing, CUDA cores, high-speed memory and bandwidth, and multi-monitor support.
Lastly, the dual-fan cooling solution, connectivity, and support for Open GL of the Asus Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti OC 8GB make it suitable for film sound development applications. I hope the article was of help. Thank you for reading.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.