Find our picks below for the best CPU for music production. When shopping for your new studio rig, you’ll want to consider exactly how much performance and what features you require.
When shortlisting a CPU for music production, opt for at least a quad-core processor. A dual-core might be sufficient for basic audio projects, but a quad-core Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 will make the music production process much smoother.
One of the first questions you might be asking is if AMD or Intel is better. While AMD has had success over the years, right now Intel is currently leading benchmarks with their latest 13th generation “Raptor Lake” processors.
The new range of Raptor Lake processors include the Core i5-13600K, Core i7-13700K and Core i9-13900K. For most music producers, the i5 will be sufficient, but check out the beefier processors if you run considerable audio projects with a ton of sample libraries, VSTs, plug-ins, etc.
While the AMD Ryzen 5000 is decent too, unfortunately the current prices can’t be justified. Considering you will have to purchase DDR5 memory (Intel is compatible with the older DDR4 memory) and expensive motherboards, it might not be worth it for most. More affordable B-series motherboards should be released soon, which might tip the scales once again.
Since the latest Intel 13th generation is compatible with previous-gen 600-series motherboards, you might be able to add one of these processors to your existing machine and give it some extra life. Just make sure your motherboard is compatible before making a purchase.
Intel said older motherboards don’t impact performance, so you might be able to get the best CPU for audio production without breaking the bank!
DAW software for music production can be quite resource-intensive. Depending on the software, plug-ins, VSTs and number of instruments or tracks, you’ll want something quite powerful coupled with enough RAM.
Most modern Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software unfortunately don’t take full advantage of multi-core CPU optimization. Processors with strong single-thread performance are ideal, but the core count is definitely still beneficial.
Best Processor For Music Production
It wasn’t long before Intel took their position back as the best processor for music production. The Core i9-13900k offers insane performance and is the perfect addition to any studio rig, if your budget allows for it.
In single core performance, this processor was excellent. Since most DAW don’t take advantage of multi-core and only make use of one core, using the Core i9-13900k in real world audio sessions was a breeze.
With a 24 core CPU like this, you have 48 threads all able to be dedicated to their own individual Ableton channel before you’d have to start splitting the workload.
While this is still aimed at higher-end users, its much cheaper than AMD’s flagship processor. A no-brainer if you can afford the $600-ish pricetag. There’s no bundled cooler, so don’t forget to buy one.
Best AMD Processor
Just released at the end of September 2022 to compete with the latest from Intel, the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X is a beast of its own, if you would rather go with the best AMD processor.
While the benchmarks indicate performance is similar, this CPU comes with a price tag around $700. You also don’t have the option of DDR4 as the new AM5 motherboards only support DDR5.
Best Mid-Range CPU for Music Production
For most music producers, the Intel Core i5-13600K hits the sweet spots in terms of price and performance. It supports both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, so you might be able to use this in your existing machine. There’s no bundled cooler, but you’ll want to invest in something that is quiet in the studio.
Best Mid-Range CPU for Music Production with Integrated Graphics
The AMD Ryzen 7 5700G is targeted at gamers, but it also makes a brilliant process for general purpose use and music production. Since it’s got an integrated GPU, you won’t need to purchase a graphics card separately.
This late Zen 3 CPU runs fairly cool, with only a 65W TDP, so this might be a perfect choice if you’re building a mini music production PC. It’s also got a bundled cooler, and is compatible with some AM4 motherboards.
Best Budget CPU for Music Production
While the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X might be 2 years old, it’s still a capable music production CPU. This is a perfect choice for beginners in music production. However, you’ll need to watch the amount of CPU-intensive plugins, since that might put a little strain on this $150 processor. This uses the AM4 socket, so there are tons of upgrades available down the line.
Best Budget CPU for Music Production (Alternative Choice)
The Intel Core i5-10400 is also 2 years old and 2 generations behind, but it still competes fairly well with AMD’s last-generation AMD Ryzen 3 3300X. For beginner and hobbyist music production, this should be a sufficient purchase – especially if you can find some of the components second hand.
The number of CPU cores that you need for music production will depend on the specific software and hardware that you are using, as well as your personal workflow and preferences.
In general, music production software can benefit from having more CPU cores, as this can allow the software to make better use of parallel processing and handle more tasks simultaneously. However, the exact number of cores that you need will depend on the specific software and hardware that you are using, as well as the complexity of your projects and the level of performance that you require.
As a general rule, a CPU with at least 4 cores is a good starting point for music production. However, if you are working on complex projects or using resource-intensive software, you may benefit from a CPU with more cores.