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The 5 best desktop computers for music production in 2024

In a world where you can make music with an average laptop, tablet, or even smartphone, having a high-quality desktop computer not only shows your commitment, but will most likely lead to more sophisticated and ambitious music production, thanks to the power and speed these machines offer.

Quick recommendations

The Dell XPS 8960 offers fantastic value for money, so I’d recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade their music production with a solid, reliable desktop computer that can be upgraded over time.

The Mac Studio needs no introductions; thanks to its immense power and seamless compatibility with Apple software, it can be an invaluable companion for content creators of all kinds.

Finally, if your budget is tight, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q is a great option to make the most of it: it’s a powerful, compact, and fully customizable machine that can deal with demanding music production tasks.

Contents

Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Why you should trust me

I’ve been making music for the last 20 years. Starting from a cracked version of Ableton, then moving to Fruity Loops (now FL Studio), then Cubase, and now Studio One, I’ve used most of the popular DAWs available these days.

Marco Sebastiano Alessi, author and contributor at Higher Hz

Therefore, I’m fairly familiar with the requirements necessary to make the most of these powerful workstations.

I was also lucky enough to record albums in high-end recording studios in the UK and Europe, where I saw audio engineers pushing the limits of their machines to bring to life unique and complex music productions.

All these studios had one thing in common: reliable and powerful desktop computers designed to last for a long time and perform each task at the speed of light.

How I chose and tested

All in all, there are just a few things to look for when buying a computer destined for music production:

  • excellent multitasking performance,
  • low-latency audio processing,
  • power-efficient plugin running.

To find all of this in a desktop computer, you must consider the CPU, RAM, storage, motherboard, and operating system the machine offers.

CPU

Multi-core CPUs like AMD Ryzen and Intel Core series have been on the frontline when it comes to lightspeed performance.

choosing a CPU

I know there’s a debate going on as to which one is best for music production, but I’ve seen both performing in real-time, and to me, the differences in performance are negligible.

I’ve always used Intel Core for my home studio productions and never had an issue with that, but many artists told me AMD is ideal for multithreading-enabled DAWs.

Memory and storage

When it comes to RAM, things are simple: the more, the merrier. 16 GB to 32 GB is ideal for large music projects with multiple tracks and high-quality samples.

I’d also recommend using an SSD as an external hard drive for fast and efficient backup of your productions.

Motherboard

A high-quality motherboard allows you to attach multiple high-speed USB or Thunderbolt devices, which is important when using external audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, and whatever else you use for production.

It enhances the characteristics of your CPU, RAM, and storage system, so it should be powerful enough to make the most of your system’s capabilities, no matter how large and complex your productions are.

choosing a motherboard

Look for a motherboard with enough slots for RAM expansion and that supports high-speed storage solutions like NVMe SSDs and enough USB and possibly Thunderbolt ports for your audio equipment.

Best value: Dell XPS 8960

  • CPU: 13th Gen Intel Core
  • RAM: up to 64 GB DDR5
  • SSD: up to 2 TB M.2 PCIe NVMe
  • OS: Windows 11 Home/Pro
  • Upgradable: Yes
Dell XPS 8960 desktop computer
Image: Dell

The XPS 8960 is a reliable, no-nonsense desktop computer that can meet the needs of even the most sophisticated music producers.

It comes with a range of 13th generation Intel Core processors, capable of handling the most CPU-intensive tasks like mixing and mastering with ease. The XPS 8960 has up to 64 GB of DDR5 memory, up to 2 TB of fast M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, and an additional 2 TB SATA HDD.

The wide range of port selections includes USB slots (Type-A and Type-C) for quick data transfer and connectivity to professional audio interfaces and MIDI instruments, plus standard HDMI and DisplayPort for multiple display setups.

When carefully customized to your needs, the Dell XPS 8960 offers the best compromise between budget and excellent performance. Plenty of upgrade options too that allow you to prolong the life of your machine for years.

What I like

  • Plenty of configurations to choose from.
  • Value for money.
  • Easily upgradable.

What I don’t like

  • Aesthetically not the best.
Buy Dell XPS 8960 at: AmazonNewegg

Best budget: Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Pro
  • RAM: up to 32 GB DDR4
  • SSD: up to 1 TB NVMe
  • OS: Windows 11 Pro
  • Upgradable: Yes
Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q tiny desktop PC
Image: Lenovo

If space is an issue and budget is tight, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q is a fantastic compact yet performing desktop computer for music production.

With a six-core Ryzen 5 Pro CPU onboard, rest assured you can run your audio workstations and all your plugins without worrying about crashing your machine.

Thanks to ample configuration and connectivity options, up to 32 GB of RAM, and 1 TB of NVMe SSD storage, you can transform this tiny desktop into a professional music studio.

Built to last, fully-customizable, and with a highly-performing cooling system, the ThinkCentre M75q is an excellent option if you’re on a budget.

What I like

  • Budget-friendly option that still performs well in the studio.
  • Compact and reliable.

What I don’t like

  • Might not be able to process most demanding mixing projects.
Buy Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q at: AmazonNewegg

Best Mac: Apple Mac Studio

  • CPU: Apple M2
  • RAM: up to 64 GB (M2 Max), 192 GB (M2 Ultra)
  • SSD: up to 8 TB
  • OS: macOS
  • Upgradable: No
Apple Mac Studio computer
Image: Apple

Mac is a go-to option for many professional and hobbyist music producers alike, and for all the right reasons: Mac machines offer not only immense power but also seamless compatibility with their software environment that makes them reliable and performing for years after purchase.

The Mac Studio, as the name suggests, is a powerhouse for any kind of creative pursuit. It can withstand the most demanding plugins thanks to the highly performing M2 CPU system and a RAM upgradeable up to 64 GB (192 GB with M2 Ultra chip).

Even at the standard 32 GB, the Mac Studio is a phenomenal machine that can help you bring to life complex compositions, so I wouldn’t invest too much on expensive upgrades if you’re just starting out.

Upgrades are expensive, and it doesn’t come with a mouse and keyboard. Then again, the Mac Studio is reasonably priced in its standard version (12-core M2 Max) and can be an inseparable companion in your music production for years to come.

What I like

  • Best value-for-money option for macOS users.
  • Available in various configurations.

What I don’t like

  • Not upgradable.
  • Pricey when compared to Windows desktops.
Buy Mac Studio at: AppleB&H

Best all-in-one: HP Pavilion 27 All-In-One

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen or Intel Core
  • RAM: up to 16 GB DDR4
  • SSD: up to 1 TB
  • OS: Windows 11 Home/Pro
  • Upgradable: Yes*
HP Pavilion 27 All-In-One touchscreen desktop computer
Image: HP

Elegant, powerful, and not insanely expensive, the Pavilion series has powered my workstations for a few years now, starting from the laptop version up to this performing desktop computer.

A great thing about the Pavilion 27 All-In-One is the touchscreen option, which allows you to expand and scale down elements of your mix with more precision than when using a mouse and keyboard.

Another crucial aspect is the possibility to choose between AMD Ryzen and Intel Core processors, giving you full control over how your machine works.

Plenty of USB ports make it easy to connect multiple MIDI devices, and the 16 GB of RAM is more than enough for complex audio engineering tasks. Finally, the 1 TB SSD option further increases speed for those who need fast access to larger libraries of samples and project files.

While not top-of-the-line, the HP Pavilion 27 All-in-One PC is one of the best desktop computers in terms of value for money, capable of satisfying the needs of most creatives out there without breaking a sweat.

What I like

  • Good performance for a great price.
  • Touchscreen.
  • Option to choose between AMD and Intel.

What I don’t like

  • Not much room for customization.
Buy HP Pavilion 27 All-In-One at: AmazonNewegg

Best high-end: Apple Mac Pro

  • CPU: Apple M2
  • RAM: up to 192 GB
  • SSD: up to 8 TB
  • OS: macOS
  • Upgradable: Yes
Apple Mac Pro computer
Image: Apple

The Mac Pro and the Mac Studio share similar specs, such as memory and storage capacity; however, the Mac Pro features the incredible M2 Ultra processor, plus an extensive array of connectivity options.

To me, the Mac Pro is the pinnacle of desktop computers for creatives of all kinds, and I have no doubts music producers will get everything they need from such a powerful machine. For a price.

Bear in mind the Mac Pro is designed for professionals in need of extreme processing power, such as animators and video producers, so it comes with plenty of advanced graphic features that music producers might not need.

The performance capabilities of the Mac Pro are undoubtedly impressive, but with a starting price of $6,999, it’s way more expensive than the Mac Studio mentioned above.

Therefore, the Mac Studio represents a more practical solution for music production professionals who want the best of Apple’s technology without the extra expense of the Mac Pro.

A fully upgraded Mac Pro can reach way above the $10,000 mark, which only the most extravagant music producers might consider.

Still, it’s a phenomenal machine, one you could use for years, perhaps even a decade, without having to upgrade your hardware. That in itself is a statement of how powerful and futuristic the Mac Pro actually is.

What I like

  • Everything you’ll ever need from a desktop computer.

What I don’t like

  • Ridiculously expensive.
Buy Apple Mac Pro at: AppleB&H

Pre-built or building a custom PC?

There are obvious advantages and disadvantages in opting for a pre-built computer, and the same goes for a custom-built one. Here’s my take on this much-debated topic.

Pre-built computers offer immediate, out-of-the-box performance, which can be perfect for those who don’t have the time or knowledge to delve into the intricacies of computer building.

They also come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which means you can get the entire computer or parts of it replaced should you have any issues. Finally, pre-built computers are fully compatible with their components, so they’re stable and reliable from day one.

On the downside, you can’t customize and upgrade a pre-built computer as much as you would with a custom-made one. They may also not be as flexible in terms of compatibility with additional software or hardware, restricting your options for music production.

All in all, these types of computers are ideal for those who want to focus exclusively on making music and are looking for a machine they can use right away and will perform well without any customization.

Going for a custom-built computer allows you to choose each component based on your production requirements. For instance, if you’re a music producer, chances are you won’t need a high-end GPU, so why pay extra for one? You can invest more in a powerful motherboard or expand your RAM instead.

In this way, you can upgrade components individually over time, prolonging the life of your setup and updating it depending on your needs and new technologies.

The main downsides are the lack of warranty for the computer as a whole and the responsibility to troubleshoot it on your own whenever an issue arises.

It’s not worth it if you ask me, but I’m just a drummer-turned-producer, so I’m definitely not the smartest or techiest in the class.

This is a path I’d recommend to tech enthusiasts, producers with specific requirements looking for the best performance for their budget who can deal with all the technical aspects of building a computer from scratch.

Recent updates

  • Feb 22, 2024: Updated text for clarity. Verified that all the recommended PCs and all-in-ones are still widely available. Minor changes in structure.
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