Everybody knows the importance of workflow and how it affects our creative process. Because of that, we need to minimize the chances of having unexpected problems when it’s time to record. So today, in this article, we will see tips to set up our low-end PCs to maximize workflow and creativity.
How do I optimize old PC for music production?
To optimize your PC, you need to focus on background apps, energy consumption, up-to-date drivers, and visual effects. It is also crucial to have as much space as you can on your hard drive. Another thing to notice is that if your PC isn’t clean and doesn’t have good ventilation, it won’t work as expected.
Now let’s see some ways to optimize your PC
See if our pc is set to a high-performance plan
Disable all unnecessary background apps
Turning off let apps run in the background will give your processor more space to work.
Turning off “get notifications from apps and other senders” is another way to help reduce CPU consumption, and it also helps to stop annoying notifications popping up every time.
Adjust windows visual effects
This last step is the most important because graphic settings consume a lot of CPU usage. I recommend adjusting for best performance or clicking in custom and untick all settings.
Sometimes not having updated drivers can cause unexpected problems. Windows updates and some PC manufacturers offer system update utilities that handle various updates at once. These often do not include the exact GPU driver that you need. It’s always recommended to install the graphics drivers directly from the manufacturer’s website.
Check your hard drive to see if you have sufficient space available; 10% of the area must always be free of use. If this rule isn’t applied, you can experience problems with your PC.
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How do I use my low-end PC effectively?
To use a low-end PC effectively, you need to focus all the available resources on your priority tasks; this means disabling all background apps that might be using CPU power and doing the same for visual effects like shadows, fades, and round corners.
Can I produce music on a low-end PC?
It’s possible, but you need to know how to manage your resources and know your limitations. Many producers have done it and achieved excellent results even with cheap recording gear. The only thing that matters is transmitting a vibe to your audience.
Now that we have learned how to optimize our PCs, we need to talk about DAWs. First of all, be aware that DAWs such as Avid Pro Tools and Cubase 8-9-10 are unsuitable for low-end PCs because of their graphic consumption.
The best options for you will be Ableton Live, FL Studio, Reaper, or Studio One. Depending on the type of producer you are, you can be more interested in a beatmaker-friendly DAW or one in which multitrack recordings are more accessible. That’s why here you can see an elementary table with points that you might be interested in:
Low CPU Consumption
Low Graphics Consumption
Bundled Effect Plugins
Support for ARA2
How do I avoid CPU Overloads?
To avoid CPU Overloads while producing music, you can do things like lowering your sample rate and increasing the buffer size. Also, you can try something like reducing polyphony on synths, freezing tracks, or processing various channels in one bus to avoid using multiple plugins in multiple tracks.
Now we are going to list and talk more in-depth about the things you can do to avoid a CPU overload:
Sample Rate and Bit Depth
Setting up your session in 44.1khz 16bit will help you a lot. With this configuration, your CPU will have less information to process, and the files in your hard drive will weigh much less than a 48khz 24bit recording. This is a significant improvement that won’t change the audio quality of your production.
Increasing your buffer size will improve your PC performance; that’s a fact. This comes with a problem, latency. But, depending on the situation, you won’t notice this problem. For example, latency won’t be something to worry about if you are writing in a piano roll or mixing. But suppose you are recording audio through your interface. In that case, the best option is to use direct monitoring to hear your recording before processing and converting it to a digital file.
The graph shows why very long buffers don’t make a difference in performance – This proves that a buffer of 10ms (almost 441 samples) is enough. Here we can see CPU load against Buffer length and how the curve isn’t that different after a 10 ms buffer.
Third-party plugins usually consume more CPU than stock plugins. That’s why you need to get used to working with the tools you have within your DAW. Plugins like the ones in Waves bundle or Fab Filter won’t keep your CPU usage at a low level. One solution might be hard processing essential instruments and then bouncing that audio to a new track. This way, you can save a lot of CPU and still use any plugin you want.
The send feature consumes CPU; you should be aware of that. But if you plan to apply a lot of processing in your session, grouping channels and applying plugins there can make a difference. Why would you EQ and compress two guitar tracks separately when you can make a stereo bus and process them? Questions like this are the ones you should start asking yourself to save resources. Just be creative. You can do a lot with buses.
Limit polyphony on synths
By Reducing polyphony on your plugins and multisample instruments, you will have fewer voices in use, and because of that, less CPU consumption.
Turn off all unused plugins.
It is crucial to be aware of every bit of processing that we are doing in our session.
Freezing means that a temporary audio render of your track is created. Converting your channel to audio will relieve your CPU from processing your VSTs. That’s graphics and audio! This will be your go-to option when finishing a midi file with any VST.
In Ableton Live, you have the option to freeze tracks:
If your DAW doesn’t have this option, you can solo your midi track and bounce it to your hard drive to put it back in your session as an audio track.
FL Studio and Ableton Live
These DAWs are the most used nowadays by producers and beatmakers; we will give these users some specialized tips:
- Turn off the Spread function: Some devices have a Spread parameter (Corpus, Operator, Sampler). When Spread is in use, it generates two voices per note, which doubles CPU processing.
- Turn off warping in Simpler: Or use a more CPU-friendly algorithm.
- Set reverb in “ECHO” mode: Echo mode uses minimal CPU resources to process reverbs, High delivers the best audio quality.
- Turn off Hi-Q mode on audio clips: When turned on, “HI-Q” improves the Sample Rate conversion when pitching audio files at the cost of a higher CPU usage. Please turn it off when necessary.
- Enable smart disable: This fantastic tool automatically turns off any VST that is not in use.
- Turn off “Keep on disk” mode: Keep on disk will pre-load your sample into your FL Studio memory to avoid problems reading from your hard drive, But it should be enabled if the user has less RAM.
- Reset time stretch mode to “Resample”: When many samples are in stretch mode, you use more CPU, so you should change to resample mode if your CPU is overloading.
- Multithread Support: Turn on both multithreaded generator processing and multithreaded mixer processing. You can find it when clicking audio settings in the CPU apart.
What is the best DAW for a low-end PC?
The best DAW for a low-end PC is Reaper. It is a very well-optimized software whit most of the things you need to produce music. It has a low CPU and graphics consumption, and also you can install it in Linux, which is a great advantage for users that work in this alternative operating system.
I have tested this DAW with an old laptop, and the performance was excellent, even with midi files. Of course, if you want to record more than eight audio tracks simultaneously, you will need an upgraded pc.
On the other hand, Reaper might not be for everybody; it all depends on the type of production you want to do. If you are a beatmaker, your best choice is either Fl Studio Or Ableton.
It is vital to be aware of your limitations; that’s the starting point. These tips shown here will help you get a better performance out of your PC and, consequently, have a fluid workflow. If you can, try this advice before running to your local PC center to buy expensive equipment. Maybe your computer can work better, and you can use your money on more exciting things such as midi controllers, a better interface, a new instrument, or something that can improve your production and audio quality.
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Franco is a music producer and sound technician from Argentina. He is specialized in Indie music and electronic music