production equipment

This page was designed to help anyone who may be interested in electronic music production but doesn't know much or anything about it. It features explanations of all the various components used and some basic but important technical knowledge. To get a quick definition of the various groups of equipment, place the mouse pointer over the highlighted titles in the paragraph below. To find out more about a specific group, click the relevant title in either the paragraph below, or the section link panel panel to the right.

[To find out professional tips on using the different kinds of equipment, click here.]

All music studios use exactly the same types of equipment, just different variations. These types are sequencers, sound modules and synthesisers, drum machines/modules, samplers, effects processors, outboard processors, MIDI equipment, mixing consoles, monitor speakers, microphones and studio computers.

You can even buy programs for under 100 which gives the user control over a whole 'virtual' studio...

Nowadays, thanks to recent technological advances, most of these units can be accurately recreated in programs, or plug-ins, on computers and at a much cheaper price than their hardware counterparts. You can even buy programs for under £100, such as Arturia's Storm Music Studio, which gives the user control over a whole 'virtual' studio, including all of the above mentioned types of equipment.

Of course, the old expression, 'you get what you pay for' is true here as it is everywhere else and spending more money will give you better quality equipment/software and more control over it, but it is still definitely possible to produce good quality music on a budget these days. At a little under £250, Propellerhead's Reason 3 offers far more control and virtual equipment than Storm. These all-in-one computer programs are a good way to find out if making music is really your thing without spending too much money.

Below are the audio equipment group explanations.

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sequencers

The main job of a sequencer is to record and playback data that you feed into it and to allow the editing and playing back of and the adding to this data. Originally, all sequencers only dealt with MIDI events, but nowadays most computer sequencers record and playback audio and MIDI, as well doing a host of other things.

...excellent timing is guaranteed from hardware sequencers...

Modern sequencers can be split into two groups; computer and hardware. Despite often having lower clock resolutions, excellent timing is guaranteed from hardware sequencers, whereas a software sequencer's performance depends on the computer that it is running on and the MIDI interface that is connected. However, software sequencers usually offer far more control and many more possibilities than their hardware counterparts.

You can think of a MIDI sequencer as being a recorder that records note and control information instead of audio.

You can think of a MIDI sequencer as being a recorder that records note and control information instead of audio. This data can then be manipulated, ie. correcting a wrong note or volume, and sent to any piece of equipment connected via MIDI cables, or virtual instruments within the sequencer program. MIDI data can also be manually written into a sequencer directly, avoiding the necessity for a MIDI controller keyboard.

Most computer sequencers can also record audio signals connected to the computer via its sound card. They all provide an array of tools that can be used to edit and manipulate the audio in a variety of ways, ie. reverse, time stretching, normalisation, etc. The quality of this audio very much depends on the quality of the computer's sound card.

In addition to this, many computer sequencers offer virtual audio mixers and include effects and virtual instrument plug-ins. They can often be used with no other equipment to produce reasonable results, although the plug-ins that are 'thrown in for free' with a sequencing package are rarely as good as those purchased separately.

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synthesisers and sound modules

Sound modules are basically synthesisers without a keyboard...

This group of equipment is responsible for the main sounds that are heard in electronic music. Sound modules are basically synthesisers without a keyboard and most fit into 19" racks. Some synthesisers use oscillator generated waveforms as the initial building blocks of sound synthesis, some use sample based waveforms and some offer a combination.

There are usually between 1 and 4 of these waveform generators, with some synthesisers offering more, and several waveform controls, ie. pitch, wave shape, etc. These signals have their levels mixed in a basic on-board mixer and are then passed through one or more filters.

Filters boost or cut certain frequencies, depending on the filter type and cutoff frequency. High pass filters affect low frequencies, low pass filters affect high frequencies, band pass filters cut all frequencies apart from those around the cutoff frequency and band reject filters drastically cut frequencies around the cutoff frequency. Virtually all filters have a resonance control which emphasises frequencies around the cutoff frequency.

After the filter(s), the signal is sent to the amplifier, where a user definable envelope alters the shape of the sound, ie. a fast attack and release for percussive sounds and a slow attack and release for a strings or pad sound. Many modern synthesisers offer different types of distortion for 'grunging' up sounds and a variety of effects.

Most synthesisers include several modulation sources and destinations. An LFO and a synthesiser's modulation wheel are examples of sources and the filter and pitch are examples of destinations. This means that you could assign the modulation wheel to control the filter cutoff frequency for example. You could then alter the frequencies heard as you play and record it all into a sequencer for later playback. Modulation can really bring a track alive.

Practically all modern synthesisers are multitimbral - that means that they can play separate sounds on different MIDI channels simultaneously. Some synthesisers (also known as work stations) have on-board sequencers, samplers, drums and effects and are capable of producing whole songs, but it is often fairly easy to run out of polyphony on these machines.

[Click here to find out about synthesis.]
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drum machines and modules

...a drum module is a drum machine without drum pads...

Drum machines can basically be thought of as synthesisers that specialise in producing drum sounds. In the past, most of the drum sounds heard in electronic music were either from drum machines or drum modules - a drum module is a drum machine without drum pads and usually fits in a 19" rack. Some use samples for their source sounds, but often the best ones use synthesis, ie. a mostly preset synthesiser for each drum sound, or a combination of the two.

They mostly have between eight and sixteen simultaneous, different drum sounds, played either by on-board drum pads, or by using MIDI. Sample-based machines often come with hundreds of 'semi-realistic' sounds to choose from, whereas synthesis-based ones often only provide one synthesis engine per drum pad, although some can vary the sounds more than others. All of them offer a degree of control over the sounds, ie. pitch, level, pan, etc.

Nowadays, samplers are often used for the drums in music because of the infinite variation in sounds available, although there are still modern drum machines being produced, both in hardware and software. There is a link to a good freeware drum module VST plug-in in the about nitetime productions studio page... click here to go there.

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samplers

Modern samplers can be thought of as sample based synthesisers.

Samplers can record, edit and manipulate audio. Modern samplers can be thought of as sample based synthesisers. They have filters, envelopes, LFO's and modulation options in the same way. The difference is that you record your own waveforms or import them from the masses of sample CDs available.

They can be used in a variety of ways, from assigning single sounds to different keys on a single MIDI channel, to assigning a sound loop to a MIDI channel and transposing that sound across the whole keyboard. Most samplers are multitimbral and have multiple audio outputs, so they can play different sounds on different MIDI channels and send them out of different outputs for separate processing in a mixer or computer.

Hardware samplers are beginning to be a thing of the past, with many cheaper soft samplers being available these days. Soft samplers often offer all of the functionality of their hardware counterparts, including multiple outputs, layering (for fatter sounds), keyboard zones (to have a different drum sound on each key), etc.

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effects processors

[To find out about different types of effects, click here.]

Effects processors can be either hardware of software and all provide a selection of effects, with most allowing the user to set, store and recall effects presets. They can be connected to mixers (virtual or real) in two ways. The first is by connecting, or inserting, the effect in between a sound source and it's mixer channel. Effects used like this are known as insert effects and affect only signals from that one source. The second method involves inserting effects onto an auxiliary channel on the mixer and sending portions of signals from other channels to this channel to be processed by its effects. When using this auxiliary effects method, the effects on this channel should generally be set to 100% wet, as the dry signals will come from their original channels and the wet/dry balance is then achieved by adjusting these channels' send levels and the auxiliary channel's output level.

Apart from effects pedals for guitarists, hardware effects processors mostly come in 19" rack units or are incorporated into other hardware items, such as mixers, synthesisers or samplers. They are most commonly stereo, ie. two channels, usually offering a choice between one stereo effect, or two simultaneous mono effects. Six channel hardware effects units for surround sound are available, but tend to be very expensive. As they have on-board DSP, the sound quality of stand alone hardware units usually surpasses that of their plug-in counterparts, particularly when it comes to reverb and mastering effects.

...effects plug-ins that operate in a host sequencer on a computer have the benefit that many instances of each can be used simultaneously.

However, virtual effects plug-ins that operate in a host sequencer on a computer have the benefit that many instances of each can be used simultaneously. They are often more convenient to set up, due to the larger screen space available on computer monitors to display parameters and visual feedback. Furthermore, there is a far wider variety of effects types in plug-in form than there is for hardware units and multi-channel surround plug-ins are common, affordable and even part of most sequencers' default effects set.

Computer effects plug-ins come in many different formats and you have to ensure that any you purchase will run in your sequencer. Steinberg's VST (Virtual Sound Technology) and VSTi (i for instrument) and Window's DX formats are the most popular for use on PC's and MOTU's MAS (MOTU Audio System) and Apple's AU (Audio Units) formats are the most popular on Macintosh's. The RTAS format from Digidesign's Pro Tools is popular in the film industry, but this program requires expensive hardware for best operation and tends to be used less by project music studios.

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outboard processors

The name outboard simply refers to a processor that is external to the mixing board.

The name outboard comes from back when mixing consoles were called 'mixing boards' and simply refers to an audio processor that is external to the mixing board. They come in many different variations and virtually all fit into the industry standard 19" racks. Technically speaking, effects processors are also outboard units, but there is one main difference between them and the other outboard types below. This is that outboard processors affect or manipulate the input signal directly, whereas effects units usually add to the original signal. Compressors, limiters, noise gates and expanders all affect the dynamic range of an input signal.

outboard processors  •  compressors

Compressors are used to even out the average level of an input signal by first reducing its dynamics and then boosting the result.

Compressors are used to even out and/or raise the RMS (Root Mean Square), or average level of an input signal by first reducing its dynamics and then boosting the result. They have a threshold level that sets the point at which compression begins, an attenuator to bring down the level of the signals that pass the threshold and a ratio control that determines the amount of compression that will be applied per decibel over the threshold, ie. the ratio of input level against output level.

Compressors also provide attack and release controls to adjust the 'shape' of the compression and a make up gain control to 'make up' for the attenuated signals. They can be used to maintain good dynamics control, but are often overused these days - not every sound will benefit from compression. The banner below shows a complete mix before and after compression.

Compression example
compression - audio waveform before and after
[Note how the solid red RMS level has been increased in the processed audio, once the 4 dB gain has been 'made up'.]

Multi-band compressors are generally used for mastering/final stage mixing and can be thought of as several compressors in one unit. The 'band' in multi-band refers to a band of frequencies and a three band compressor will have separate compression control in three adjustable frequency ranges, usually bass, mid range and high frequencies. In today's musical climate of over maximised and over compressed pop music, five band compressors are now fairly common. These allow tight control over sub bass, bass, low mid, high mid and high frequencies. Although meant for processing full mixes, multi-band compressors can also be used to exactly control individual sounds with excellent results, ie. keep a main sound right at the front of the mix.

[Click here to find out about compression techniques.]

outboard processors  •  limiters

Limiters are more suited to treating finished tracks than individual sounds.

Limiters can also raise the average, or perceived level of a signal although they are more suited to treating complete tracks than individual sounds. Essentially, a limiter is a compressor with a pre set ratio of between 10:1 and infinity:1 (depending on the unit or plug-in) and usually a very fast attack and release setting. Only the threshold level is usually adjustable and it is used to control the amount of limiting applied to the source.

They are only really supposed to be used to stop, or limit, the signal from passing a certain level, ie. 0 dBFS when recording from analogue to digital, but many people now use them to make CDs sound as loud as they do these days. Of course, the amount of limiting needed will depend on the audio signal being processed, but it is advisable to 'squash' no more than two or three dB out of a signal with a limiter for most transparent results. The banner below is a graphical representation of limiting a complete mix.

Limiting example
limiting - first showing a reasonable two dB of limiting, then an excessive further two dB
[Note how there was very little audio information in the top two dB that was initially limited... only the loudest peaks
were removed. The next two dB of limiting reduces the dynamics too much and produces a mix that is 'too loud'.]

outboard processors  •  noise gates

Noise gates can open and close to allow sound to pass or not.

Noise gates are used to clear unwanted signals, ie. mains hum and microphone spill. They can be thought of as gates that open and close to allow sound to pass or not. A threshold control sets the level that will open and close this gate. Attack and release controls are also commonly provided, to alter the time that the gate takes to open and close.

Most gates [can] facilitate tempo synced, rhythmic gating.

Most gates include a key input which allows triggering of the gate from an external source to facilitate tempo synced, rhythmic gating... click here to find out more about rhythmic gating. Some gates have range controls to allow signal levels to be dropped by specified amounts, instead of cutting them out altogether like a standard gate. This is known as 'ducking' and is commonly used on radio stations to 'duck', or 'reduce the level of' the music whenever the presenter speaks. Noise gates with ratio controls are also known as expanders.

[Click here to find out about noise gating techniques.]

outboard processors  •  expanders

Expanders are mostly used to increase the dynamic range of an input signal.

Expanders are mostly used to increase the dynamic range of an input signal. They work like compressors in reverse - instead of attenuating signals that pass above the threshold, they boost signals that are under it and the ratio control is therefore responsible for the amount of boost applied per dB below it. Again, attack and release controls are usually provided to shape the effect. Expanders are not widely used these days as one of their main uses is providing lifeless, dull solo instrument recordings with a more appealing dynamic range.

outboard processors  •  equalisers

Equalisers (eq) can boost or cut selected frequencies of an input signal.

Equalisers (eq) can boost or cut selected frequencies of an input signal. Their purpose is to attenuate any problem frequencies present in a signal, or to boost desirable ones, ie. to bring a sound to the front of the audio stage, by increasing the high-mid frequency range. As they are actually a kind of filter, they can also be used for effect, particularly when the frequency is swept and (if the eq is digital) recorded/played back in a sequencer.

There are different types of equaliser, with each having different attenuation and boost patterns.

There are different types of equaliser, with each having different attenuation and boost patterns. All have frequency and cut/boost amount controls, but parametric (peaking) equalisers also have control over the bandwidth, which is basically the width of affected frequencies. Bandwidth is also known as Q and when a bandwidth value is low, it is called 'narrow' and its respective Q value will be high. Another popular type is a shelving equaliser, which increase or decrease all of the frequencies above or below the cutoff frequency by the set amount. Low shelf equalisers affect low frequencies and high shelf equalisers affect high frequencies. The different types can be seen graphically in the banner below.

Equaliser types
equaliser types - high shelf, low shelf, parametric


Hardware equalisers come in many 'flavours'. Due to differing circuitry among other things, most will sound slightly different. Some people prefer clinically clean and accurate equalisers and others prefer old original analogue equalisers that introduce minimal but pleasing distortion to the signal. Equalisers can cost as much as £5000 but it is arguable whether they are £4900 better than a £100 unit. Cheaper equalisers can still certainly do the job well. These days, most mixers and computer sequencers/plug-ins provide reasonable equalisers, so hardware units are needed less and less.

[Click here to find out about equalising techniques.]

outboard processors  •  microphone pre-amplifiers

...pre-amps amplify the low level signal that comes from a microphone to a full line level signal...

Microphone pre-amplifiers (mic pre's or pre-amps) amplify the low level signal that comes from a microphone's output to a full line level signal that can be connected to a mixer or sound card. Units are most usually produced containing between one and eight pre-amps. There is a vast difference in quality between current available models and the things to look out for when buying one are a high dynamic range (more than 100 dB), low distortion (less than 0.01%), a flat frequency response (+/- 3 dB over at least 20 Hz - 20 kHz) and ample boost gain (40 - 60 dB).

outboard processors  •  voice channels

Good voice channels can be thought of as one channel of a professional mixer...

Good voice channels can basically be thought of as one channel of a professional mixer and often include a microphone pre-amplifier, a comprehensive equaliser section, a compressor and a gate. As with microphone pre-amps, quality varies enormously, so look for the same high specifications listed above if you are thinking of purchasing one. When connected to a computer sound card, they are a great way to get a good, clean microphone or line level signal into the computer.

outboard processors  •  enhancers/exciters

Enhancers can raise the RMS, or apparent level of frequencies, without raising the actual peak level.

Enhancers or exciters use various techniques, such as adding a multitude of extra harmonics to an input signal to enhance certain selectable frequencies or frequency ranges. They are different from equalisers in the way that they can raise the RMS, or apparent level of frequencies, without raising the actual peak level. Although a multi-band compressor can also raise the perceived level of a certain frequency range, an exciter does it differently, ie. the extra harmonics that are introduced actually 'thicken' the sound instead of simply boosting the level.

outboard processors  •  vocoders

Vocoders can be thought of as a kind of voice synthesiser.

Vocoders (derived from voice, or vocal coders) can be thought of as a kind of voice synthesiser. They have an oscillator, or basic synthesiser section, which is used as a carrier signal and an input that works as the modulator signal. This signal is often a vocal, but any sound can be vocoded, with drums often sounding particularly good. Vocoders work by comparing the level contained within many narrow band frequency ranges from the modulator signal and imposing this information on to the carrier signal. When vocals are used as the modulator signal, the result is a talking synthesiser. To improve intelligibility, vocoders often come with a noise oscillator that reproduces some of the vocal's natural sibilance.

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midi equipment

MIDI is the industry standard communication protocol that practically all modern electronic music production equipment uses to pass information...

Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is the industry standard communication protocol that practically all modern electronic music production equipment uses to pass information to and from sequencers and each other. This data can hold information about musical notes that are played and the style in which they are played, or information to control various changes in a synthesiser sound or an effect, etc.

As such, virtually all electronic musical instruments have MIDI ports with which to communicate with each other. There is however, a certain group of equipment whose sole purpose is to generate and/or merge MIDI messages and these include MIDI controller keyboards, control surfaces and patch bays.

[Click here to find out about MIDI, or here to find out about MIDI messages.]

midi equipment  •  controller keyboards

MIDI controller keyboards' ... sole purpose is to trigger sounds from external sound sources...

MIDI controller keyboards can be thought of as synthesisers without the synthesis. That is, they do not generate any sounds internally. Their sole purpose is to trigger sounds from external sound sources, such as sound modules, via MIDI connections. As sound modules have no keys with which to play their sounds, either a controller keyboard, or a sequencer must be used to play them. Note that one MIDI keyboard is all that is needed to play sounds from many sound modules, if they are all set to different MIDI channels. Many controller keyboards also have knobs or sliders that send control change messages to the sound sources, which can alter the sounds in a variety of ways.

midi equipment  •  control surfaces

A MIDI control surface has a large number of knobs and/or faders that can be assigned to send different MIDI messages to control MIDI-capable sound generators.

A MIDI control surface has a large number of knobs and/or faders that can be assigned to send different MIDI messages to control MIDI-capable sound generators. There are often enough separate controls to allow them to be assigned to every major sound parameter of the sound source. This allows the user to program or edit new sounds using the control surface, which is a vast improvement to the programming interfaces on most sound modules. The more controls the user has, the quicker sounds can be programmed.

Furthermore, control surfaces are very versatile and allow presets of the different MIDI setups to be stored and recalled. This makes it easy for one control surface to control all of the sound sources in a studio and even computer sequencers.

midi equipment  •  midi patch bays

A MIDI patch bay is like a junction box for MIDI cables. It allows the connection of (up to) eight separate MIDI input and output pairs. It provides the means to merge the MIDI data and to send any input signal to any output and vice versa. Virtually all modern MIDI patch bays are known as MIDI interfaces and are designed to be connected to computers, to provide a MIDI connection from the computer to the studio equipment.

MIDI interfaces allow the connection of up to 8 MIDI inputs and outputs to a sequencer, providing 128 separate MIDI channels.

Each sound source (depending on the unit) can be assigned to work on between one and all 16 MIDI channels. In a small studio with only a few pieces of equipment, it is quite possible to work from one MIDI input and output, by assigning each item to work on different channels. For larger studios, MIDI patch bays/interfaces are essential, allowing the connection of up to 8 MIDI inputs and outputs to a sequencer, providing 128 separate MIDI channels. This allows multitimbral instruments to use up to sixteen MIDI channels each and also provides a way to send data such as generated controller information or patch backups from the equipment to a sequencer for recording.

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mixing consoles

Mixers always [have] a master level fader that controls the overall output level.

Mixers/mixing consoles are only really necessary when a studio has more than a few pieces of equipment. They come with between four and hundreds of channels, with each having an audio input (often with a microphone pre-amp) and level control (usually a fader), pan and equaliser controls, plus auxiliary outputs to send signals from the channels to external effects units or headphones. There is always a master level fader (or stereo pair) that controls the overall output level. Better mixers also feature different paths, or busses, that the signals can be sent down to allow for sub-mixes or mix groups to be created and/or to be sent out of different outputs.

...digital mixers usually provide a noise gate and a compressor on each channel...

In addition to these facilities, digital mixers usually also provide a noise gate and a compressor on each channel, as well as on-board effects. They can also provide far more control and channels than their equally priced analogue counterparts and most will even allow recording of fader/knob movements (auto mix) to be played back in time with a sequencer using MIDI. They all provide a facility to recall all of the settings in a mix at the press of a button, which is a huge bonus if you will ever need to return to a previous mix.

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monitor speakers

The quality of monitors is extremely important for music production.

The quality of speakers, or more accurately monitors, is extremely important for music production. Every speaker will colour the sound slightly, with the most neutral generally being the best. If you can't afford good quality monitors, it is absolutely essential that you listen to copies of your mixes on as many different audio systems as possible to give you a better idea on how they actually sound, as they may well not be accurately reproduced in your mixing environment.

For electronic dance music, the bass frequencies are very important, so having speakers that can accurately reproduce signals down to at least 50 Hz is essential. All credible speakers should be able to play signals up to at least 20 kHz. When buying new monitors, remember that quality is far more important than power. Ideally, they should not colour/change the sound.

Many consumer speakers have bass ports to boost the low end, but this is often detrimental for monitors, as it can effect the speed of transients and distort the bass. Look at speaker specifications to compare their frequency responses. Flatter is better, so anything like 50 Hz (or lower) to 20 kHz (or higher), +/- 3 dB (or lower) is good. This means that the response lies within 3 dB over or under the optimal curve (flat) over the whole frequency range.

...active speakers perform much better than the equivalent passive & amplifier...

Studio monitors are all either passive, or active. Passive monitors are far more common and need an external amplifier to boost the input signal to speaker level. Active monitors have built in amplifiers and usually separate ones for the bass and treble. As these amplifiers are designed to be perfectly rated for the speaker drivers, active speakers perform much better than the equivalent passive & amplifier set up.

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microphones

...microphones pick up the tiny vibrations of sound waves and transform them into electrical signals.

There are many different kinds of microphone, but they all facilitate the recording of acoustic sound. They work by picking up the tiny vibrations of sound waves and transforming those acoustic signals into a continuous, minute electrical signal. Speakers work in exactly the opposite way, but in the same way, microphone quality can make a big difference. These days it is possible to get a good quality microphone for under £100 and a very good quality one for little more than £300. Valve microphones, which add a 'warmth' to the signal, cost more - good ones start in the region of £500, but bargains can be found.

...microphones with large diaphragms often produce the best results for recording vocals.

The diaphragm in a microphone is responsible for registering the incoming vibrations from the sound waves. High frequencies can produce extremely tiny vibrations and larger diaphragms can pick these minute fluctuations up better. Therefore microphones with large diaphragms often produce the best results for recording material with important detail in the high frequencies, such as vocals.

A polar pattern describes the direction in which any given microphone will pick up sound. A microphone with a cardioid pattern only picks up signals from in front, a bi-polar pattern will pick up signals from in front and behind and an omni pattern will pick up signals from all around. There are other polar patterns, but the most useful for recording vocals in a project studio or at home is a cardioid, hyper-cardioid, or super-cardioid (different widths of frontal pick up).

There are also different methods of acoustic to electric transfer, but without going into the whole story, suffice it to say that the main two are dynamic and condenser, or capacitor microphones. Dynamic microphones are more rugged and durable but less sensitive and accurate with high frequencies and are more suited to stage performance. Condenser microphones often have larger diaphragms, so are better suited for recording clean, crisp vocals, or certain acoustic instruments and practically all studios will have them.

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studio computers

...the faster your CPU clock speed is and the more RAM you have, the more tracks, soft synths and effects plug-ins you can use.

Today's computers are very fast and manufacturers have used this fact to make very high quality music production software. It is entirely possible to make music on an older computer, but its lower specifications will allow less creation. There are ways to get around this, ie. freezing, or recording VSTi's as audio, then bypassing them to free up DSP, but the faster your CPU clock speed is and the more RAM you have, the more tracks, soft synths and effects plug-ins you can use.

Problems may arise when you are running a sequencer package with plug-ins, maybe a soft sampler, some soft synths and effects on a home computer that is also having CPU cycles taken up by internet connections and anti-virus software and several other applications and using a built in sound chip on the motherboard, etc. This is a far from ideal situation, but one that is going on everywhere none the less.

If you will be recording with a microphone in the vicinity of the computer, it is a good idea to fit your hard drives into noise suppression enclosures...

It is advisable that anyone serious about making music on a computer buys a separate one just for this purpose, or at least changes their current computer over to a dual boot system. The music computer or operating system should have no internet connection, anti-virus software, non-music software, or unnecessary devices installed to interfere. All of the CPU's processing power will then be available for music making. It is also a good idea to get a good quality sound card, which can now be purchased for around as little as 80.

If you will be recording with a microphone in the vicinity of the computer, it is a good idea to fit your hard drives into noise suppression enclosures or similar, to considerably reduce the operating noise that is heard from them. Also, fan noise can be reduced by fitting larger, slower fans instead of those fitted as standard. Finally, audio software uses very little graphics processing, so even a 64k graphics card is ample and fitting one without a fan is beneficial.

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