When buying the best CPU for music production, you will want to consider both the price and performance. A middle-range processor might be sufficient for your needs. Regardless, our picks and tips below will help you choose the best CPU for music production.
No matter what your budget is for building a new music studio PC, we have selected 3 choices from AMD and 3 choices from Intel. Your selection will be based largely on how much you’re willing to spend and the level of your music production skill.
In general, DAW software used for music production is quite resource-intensive. Depending on the software, plug-ins, VSTs and number of instruments or tracks, you’ll want something quite powerful.
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.
When shopping for a new CPU, you will want at least a quad-core processor for music production. A dual-core might be sufficient for basic projects, but a quad-core Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 is recommended.
Popular DAW software like Ableton Live requires a dual-core at the minimum, while Pro Tools requires an i7 with 32GB RAM. The clock speed should typically be above 2.4GHz, but the faster the better!
If you’re wondering to go for AMD or Intel – there’s no obvious choice. The new Intel 12th generation competes squarely against its AMD counterparts. In benchmarks, the Core i9-12900K sometimes beats the pricier Ryzen 9 5950X, including single-threaded performance, which is important for music production. It supports DDR5 too, but there’s a high cost for new technology. The i7-12700K is naturally another fantastic choice.
For the mid-range users, there’s no going wrong with the $289 Intel Core i5-12600K. This is great for hobbyist music producers and beginners without breaking the bank. It casually beats both the Ryzen 5 5600X and Ryzen 7 5800X in various benchmarks. With above-average single-threaded performance, it’s also a natural choice for music production DAW.
For a similar price, we can’t rule out the AMD Ryzen 7 5700G. It’s got an integrated graphics card, which means you don’t have to purchase a separate GPU. A great choice if you’re planning to build a mini music production PC too.
Best High-End CPU For Music Production
If you’re a professional music producer or all-round media maker, then the Intel Core i9-12900K is an absolute beast. While it requires an LGA 1700 socket motherboard and DDR5 ram to get the most out of it, this is a worthwhile investment if you want the latest tech.
When it comes to music production performance, this might be the fastest processor out there. The single-threaded performance is unmatchable, even for the more expensive AMD Ryzen 9 5950X.
Best High-End CPU For Music Production (Alternative Choice)
If you’ve got a large budget, the flagship AMD Ryzen 9 5950X is another fantastic choice for music production and resource-intensive tasks. However, prepare to pay just shy of $700ish for this fast processor!
The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X features a whipping 16 cores and 4.9 GHz boost clock, making any DAW software or video editing seem like a breeze. It’s also worth checking out the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, which costs $250 less. This was our first pick, until the i9-12900K came along.
Best Mid-Range CPU for Music Production
The latest mid-range Intel Core i5-12600K is sufficient for most music producers. However, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of a Z690 chipset motherboard, which is quite expensive right now. Saying that this is still a brilliant investment.
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.