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What to Look for in a DAW Computer

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/15/2010

A DAW, or digital audio workstation, is more than just audio editing software. If you're looking to get into audio editing and DAWs, here are some tips on what to look for in a DAW computer.

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    DAW Computer

    A DAW computer, or a digital audio workstation computer, is more than just a computer with a software application that lets users do digital audio editing and producing. A DAW computer is an entire system of software and hardware that work together to provide an efficient and powerful way for users to produce and edit digital audio tracks. Here are some tips on what to look for in a DAW computer.

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    Power

    Power doesn't just mean processing power. In a DAW computer, there must be DAW software that can handle even the most sophisticated audio editing tasks. It's a given that DAW software applications have a high learning curve, so a DAW computer must have software that has a learning curve that is relative to the user. Beginners should concentrate more on learning more basic DAW software before they move on to more sophisticated ones. On the hardware side, the DAW computer must be fast enough to accommodate all the processing that DAW software applications are executing. In short, the software and the hardware must have the power to work together, keep everything running smoothly and give the user a great audio editing experience.

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    Software Features

    A DAW computer must have a software application that at least has the basic audio editing tools and features like automation, recording, MIDI support, cutting, copying, pasting, and support for multitrack and stereo mastering. Most popular DAW software applications already have this covered so it's all a matter of which program can cater specifically to one's needs or which program can offer more features. There are several popular DAW software programs that can be purchased, but there also free ones that are recommended for beginners who are just trying things out.

    Here's a list of the Top 5 Digital Audio Workstation Software you can choose from.

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    Hardware Features

    First thing to consider about the DAW hardware is the space inside the case of the CPU. This may seem inconsequential but it's important for future upgrades or just simple maintenance of the system. More room inside the case means it's easier to install new hardware, remove existing hardware, add more memory and make connections. A good power supply and a quiet set of fans are essential to keep the hardworking hardware cool and safe from power outages. Onboard sound chips may sound like you're getting a good deal, but its quality is far inferior to full pledged sound cards. A quality sound card is essential in a DAW computer. Without it, the DAW computer is just a measly sound player and sound recorder, and not a very good one at that. Finally, a smooth running DAW computer has enough RAM to keep all the processing in check. More RAM means better performance.

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    Open to Possible Future Upgrades

    As one develops their audio editing skills, they will eventually move on to more sophisticated DAW software and upgrade their existing DAW hardware. For this reason, a DAW computer must be expandable in both areas of software and hardware. It must be easily modifiable when hardware upgrades are needed or new hardware parts are to be added. The DAW software, if one chooses to stick with one and not install a new program with more features, must be capable of extending its functionality using add-ons or plug-ins.