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What’s the Best Computer for Podcasting & Audio Production?

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Is there such a thing as a “best computer for podcasting?”. There’s rarely ever a one-size-fits-all answer to questions like this. There are a few different factors to think about – namely, what your needs and budget are.

When deciding what computer or laptop to get to produce your podcast (or any audio) a lot of depends on what DAW (digital audio workstation, or audio editing software in plain English!) and plugin software you use. Often, upgrading the computer you already have will be fine. But what if you need to buy again from scratch? Let’s take a look at how I think about buying a great audio production computer.

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Editor’s Note

Our ‘Best Computer for Podcasting’ guide was originally written in 2018. We update this post periodically to reflect changes in technology, and to answer any questions that hadn’t been covered yet.

What’s the Difference Between a Laptop & Computer for Podcasting?

In another article, we went through some suggestions to get a person started on their quest for a laptop for podcasting.  However, some people may not want a laptop and may be looking for a desktop PC. 

What’s the difference, you may be thinking?

Generally, a desktop PC can be custom built or pre-built (the ones from the store are ready to go) and will have more resource power and ability for future upgrades as they arise, or when the funds are available to do so.  With a laptop, there are not many parts that can be replaced should they fail. This affects upgrades, too.

I like to call building desktop PCs “future-proofing”, due to the customization ability.  However, the key factor to always keep in mind is that all parts need to remain compatible with each other – see your local computer shop to always check before purchase!

podcaster on his computer

Why Choose a Desktop PC for Podcasting?

As mentioned already, you can, generally, get a more powerful machine in a desktop compared to a laptop.  You can also upgrade it slowly to make it more of a workhorse. 

Often, once you start getting into production on a laptop, the recording process itself can cause a fan to rev like crazy, which means it gets into your recording and makes it noisy.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come across this in audiobook recordings from laptops that ruined the performance with excessive fan revs.  Plugins in editing can also be resource-hungry – meaning they need heavier performance from the CPU and RAM.

A DAW such as Audacity or Reaper may not be as resource-heavy, but you need to keep in mind that there are several other processes and programs that need to be running at all times just with the Operating System alone.  You then tack on others like having a browser open, extensions, anti-virus software, etc… The resource pool can run out pretty quick these days even on an 8-gig RAM computer.

Lastly, if you invest in a desktop PC, and if you’re a gamer, your machine can multitask in your downtime!

Desktop PC for Podcasting Resources

When I use the term “resources” I’m talking about the symbiotic relationship that the RAM and the CPU share.  Back when I was new to desktop builds, I was under the myth of “the higher the RAM the better off you are”.  This isn’t necessarily true.  Well… it is and it isn’t.  Even if you invest in 64 GB of RAM, but your CPU is “slow” (i.e.: not that many cores, and a lower base speed), your RAM won’t be utilized properly. 

What does this mean? It means you can still overload your system so that it causes freezing or crashing.  This may all sound overwhelming right now but don’t fret.

A sad podcaster giving money to his computer

This is a personal preference, but I would recommend a custom build or pre-built machine that has 16 gigs of RAM and a 6-core CPU like AMD Ryzen 5 5500 6 Core.  AMD brings high-performance CPUs at a way more affordable price.  I use them in my custom builds, and I feel they perform nicely. A quad-core CPU is the bare minimum.

Eight gigs of RAM is a “waste” if you want to invest in a desktop PC and would be better suited to a laptop – though you’ll likely run the risk of revving fans whether in a laptop or desktop.

RAM is more affordable these days as well.  Back in the day, I used to pay $80 CAD for a stick of 8 gigs, and now, for just a bit more, you can get 32 gigs of RAM.

Brands like Corsair and Kingston are great for RAM.

Other Considerations for a Desktop Build for Podcasting

You don’t need a top-of-the-line video card, but you don’t want to completely cheap out either – I learned this the hard way.  Even though we are working with audio, DAWs (especially when auto-scrolling and using iZotope RX’s editor) are surprisingly heavy on graphic resources which can impact your machine’s performance.  Learn from younger Sarah’s mistake!

You can also swap out fans in a desktop PC for “silent” fans.  They aren’t truly silent, but much better than the stock fans.  I’ve had good results with Noctua fans.  Just be sure they can fit in the case prior to purchase. My case is huge, and it barely fits.  Again, when in doubt, contact your local computer parts store.  These would be considered a luxury purchase, not a necessity.

If you have the budget, invest in 2 SSDs – one dedicated JUST to the Operating System, and one just to storage of files and session files from your DAW.  This will help your machine run more efficiently.  Try to get minimum 1TB – files and installed software add up a lot quicker these days.

The prices have really come down since SSDs first appeared on the market, and watching for sales can help too.  You can start with one and add another later as long as the case can fit it and the motherboard has the connections to add more.

Check your DAW Requirements to Figure out Your Minimum Spec

The Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) you choose has a huge effect on the computer you need. Remember to check out our podcast editing software article if you’re still trying to choose one for producing your show.

  • Pro Tools Studio for instance is a pretty resource-intensive program and requires a quad-core processor (Intel i5 or better) in order to run. For the average podcaster, a Pro Tools capable system is likely overkill.
  • Adobe Audition, by comparison, will run on nearly any system with a multicore processor and 4GB of RAM or better.
  • Reaper does not have specifications for its software, and is often said will run on a potato.
  • Audacity, like Reaper, has quite low requirements, asking for 2GB RAM and just 1GHz processor speed.

A non-DAW option for recording, editing, producing, and publishing your podcast is Alitu. Alitu is a web app, so if your computer is good enough to connect to the internet, it’ll be more than capable of running all of these processes, without the need for additional software.

Check DAW Plugin Requirements

Another factor that determines your computer needs is the requirements of the plugins you use with your DAW. Common plugins like iZotope RX or Ozone require more resources to handle the intensive processing the software does to your audio. Virtual instruments and synths like Kontakt often require more RAM in order to handle the number of audio samples processed and keep the latency to a minimum.

What’s Latency?

This is something that comes up a lot in audio production circles. Not surprisingly, because it is important. But if you follow our CPU recommendations below, you’ll find it shouldn’t be an issue.

Latency is the time between the input and output of a sound. It is the difference between when you press a key on your keyboard and hear a sound played from your monitors. It is also the delay between speaking into a microphone and hearing your voice played from your monitors.

Every system has some latency. But as long as the latency is below 20ms, your ears won’t notice the delay.

What to Look for in a Computer for Podcast Production

The two most critical factors that affect your computer’s ability to process sound are RAM and CPU. Other factors, like drive speed can help, but your memory and processor are the key factors in how smoothly your system, and therefore your DAW operates.

Memory Recommendations

For most podcasters, 16GB of RAM would be overkill. If you do sound design or run a lot of high-end graphics systems or games on your computer, more RAM is better. But for the average user, 8GB of RAM is enough to meet most system requirements and have plenty of space to load stock plugins and audio.

More RAM means more tracks and more plugins.

Processor Speed & Type

Your central processing unit (CPU) is the brain of your computer. It takes data from the system memory and processes the calculations and machine language that allows your computer to perform its tasks.

A faster processing speed means the computer is able to complete each of its tasks faster. More processing cores are the equivalent of having more than one processor, which means your system is able to process more calculations at once. This leads to less stuttering, lower latency and the ability to handle more powerful plugins on more tracks at once.

Best Computers for Podcast Production: Our Recommendations

We’re happy to make some recommendations here, but remember, on something like computers, it’s impossible for us to actually try them all out. We’re basing this on advertised spec and reviews. So, if they work as advertised, they should do the job very nicely!

The information above is helpful if you want to venture down the road of a custom build, and can give you a starting point if you don’t have access to a place that can build one for you. 

The irksome thing with prebuilds is that they can have a few high-quality parts but then “cheap out” on others in the same unit.  A good starting point for prebuilds is to search for “gaming desktop”.   

Below are some suggestions for pre-built desktop computers for podcasting solely based on specs. I’ve not used any of them and can’t guarantee performance.

Common Myths Around Audio Production Computers

Mac v. PC

Mac v. PC is the Coke v. Pepsi of the computer world. At one time, there was a wider division between Mac and PC in terms of capabilities and especially available software. However, as Macs picked up the Intel chipset over Motorola and as software programmers began developing more for both OSX and Windows platforms, the differences became less and less meaningful.

Ultimately, the answer to the Mac vs PC question depends on user preference and budget. If you are already a PC or Mac user who is satisfied with your operating system, there’s no real gain to switching between them.

You can opt to buy an Apple computer for the first time, but they are definitely on the pricey side.  Currently, there are some software compatibility issues with their M1 technology.  As a personal opinion, I’d hold off while more software developers catch up and iron out the kinks since it is very new tech.

Is Pro Tools the Industry Standard?

Yes! And no! It all depends on the industry.

For the music recording industry, as well as film and TV, Pro Tools is hands down the most common software you will see in studios around the globe.

If you produce EDM, you’re more likely to work in Logic or FL Studio. If you work in gaming sound, the standards are murkier, with some working in Pro Tools, and some working in some other DAW of their choice.

Across the board, I am seeing more and more sound designers make the switch to Reaper. And in podcasting, no standards for software choice currently exist.

More and more, like the Mac v PC argument, the tools you use to create your podcasts or music are largely dependent on personal choice and the needs of your production.

Again, check out our Best Podcast Editing Software roundup for a full range of options here.

The Best Audio Computer Add-On: SSD Drives

One often overlooked factor that can have a profound effect on your system performance is the hard disk drive (HDD).

Swapping your current drive with a Solid State Drive (SSD) can significantly increase the performance of your system. This is because, like RAM or a thumb drive, data is stored digitally instead of being written to a plate on the internal drive. This leads to faster seek times and a drive that operates much faster.

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Editor’s Note

I installed my first SSD myself about three years back, and it’s the one thing that made the biggest difference to how well my computer runs. It’s amazing, everything runs so much quicker, from simple spreadsheets up to huge Audition projects. I don’t go without one now!

For a good quality SSD you could install yourself (make sure you’re comfortable doing so – don’t wreck your computer!) or just ask a local computer shop to do it for you. You can usually pick up a 1TB SSD for between $80 and $100.

DAW Alternatives?

Whether you’re running a PC from 1998 that can barely process a word doc within an hour, or if you’re intimidated by the thought of learning DAW-based audio production, then be sure to check out Alitu

Alitu is a podcast-making app that was designed to make recording, processing, editing and publishing as simple as humanly possible. It enables users to create and publish a podcast without knowing the slightest thing about audio production.

You can even publish your podcast with Alitu, and it’ll auto-generate episode transcriptions for you, too. For a full rundown of its features, check out how to make a podcast with Alitu.

Best Computer for Podcasting: Conclusion

This is based solely on personal experience, but if you are in the position to budget or save for a custom build, then this is the way to go for the best bang for your buck.

Here, you’ll have little to no manufacturer bloatware eating your processing resources, and part replacement is much easier, too.  Many computer parts stores can help you pick out parts and assemble them for you.

You can do prebuild but READ, READ, READ all their spec charts, research reviews from multiple sites, and double check if they can be upgraded/modified.  You can end up with a nice machine, but it may take a bit more research on your end. Hopefully, with the information provided here, you can make a better-informed choice.

Think of a desktop PC as a long-term investment.  You don’t need to drop a ton of money, but if you go down this path make sure you start with a sturdy foundation!

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