Building your own computer to run recording studio software has many advantages but also some disadvantages. It is not difficult but if you are not familiar with computer hardware this is not for you.
Before you jump in and decide to build a computer for home or studio recording, you should decide if building a computer is right for your needs.
Benefits Of Building Your Own Computer
Drawbacks Of Building Your Own Computer
This is the most important component. You should select your sound hardware first (after choosing recording studio software) for many reasons. It's easier to build the computer around the soundcard. And you can select components that are compatible with it or at least recommended. In particular this applies to motherboard and chipsets.
It's much more difficult to find the right soundcard that has all the features you want than to build computer to be compatible with it. Take some time choosing the soundcard. Visit the website of the manufacturer of the soundcard you intend to buy. Check recommended configurations, find any specific needs they may require. Sometimes there will be issues with certain styles of motherboard chipsets, slots, etc. Once you establish the exact specifications of the soundcard, the rest is easy and pretty straightforward.
A case can be a fairly simple purchase but you should know that you will want to have a silent computer. Therefore you need a case that is big enough to have proper ventilation. The best approach is to have few large but slower fans that will not cause much noise. Smaller fans need to be fast for the same effect and this is where the noise comes from. Make sure the selected case has enough places or already mounted fans (at least 120 mm in diameter). Maybe you will need a 19" rack mountable case. Check in your studio where you will place the computer.
Usually cases have already built-in low cost power supply. Remove it unless it is a high-quality and powerful power supply. Computer power supply powers all components in computer. It must be powerful enough to deliver enough current needed for the biggest consumers: processor, motherboard and hard disks. Do not buy cheap power supplies and make sure they have a large fan which should have some control. When the power consumption is low the power supply will not heat much and fans don't need to spin fast. Power supplies can have two fans, one at the bottom to and one at the back which shoots hot air out of the computer. Power supply can be very noisy so look for silent power supplies. There are also fan-less power supplies available. Go for it if you can afford it.
Motherboard is a device which connects all computer components together. The are designed for a specific CPU (processor) and RAM (memory). There are two major manufacturers of PC processors, Intel and AMD. Both work well in recording computers but you have to select a compatible motherboard. Don't buy the cheapest motherboard. Look for reputable manufacturer, performance, reliability and compatibility with your soundcard. Make sure the motherboard gas a FireWire connection - you will need it for some audio hardware.
The processor will actually run your recording studio software. You need the fastest processor around. Faster processor means better performance. It will cost you money but you are not building a cheap computer, you are building a fast and reliable computer. You need to run your programs smoothly with as few delays as possible. Sooner or later your processor will be slow comparing to the newest stars on the horizon. You want your computer to last for at least few years, so invest in a top processor you can afford.
Processor Heat Sink and Fan
While computer processor runs it consumes power which generates heat. A lot of heat. The processor needs to be cooled down to work at safe temperature levels. The processor is cooled with a large heat sink and a big fan. The fan speed is controlled by the motherboard so when the processor load is high the fan rotates faster. Look for the biggest heat sink and fan that fits on your processor and in your case. The bigger the fan, the slower it will run for the same effect. Ant the slower it runs, the quieter it will be. Go for the lowest amount of noise as possible.
RAM or memory is where your software and data are stored while processed by the processor. RAM is a fast and temporary storage where everything what your software does is actually taking place. Each application or recording studio software you run consumes some amount of RAM. The more RAM you have, the better your programs will run and more applications you will be able to run at the same time. Go for the maximum amount you motherboard supports.
This is not a vital component in your computer. You need it to generate picture you will see on the monitor. All average and above video graphics cards are fine, just don't select one with fan. Look for a fan-less graphics card. You really don't need another source of noise. Graphics card that aim gamers are not suitable for recording studio.
Hard drives are storage for your software and data. Make sure you will have enough capacity for your work. It is best to have separate drives for system and data. You can do it with one drive and two partitions but the best approach is to have one disk for system and one or more disks for audio storage. You can also combine multiple disk drives into one large volume with redundancy (RAID disk array), so when one disk fails you don't loose data.
Almost any DVD recorder is fine. You will need it for playing CDs, DVDs and for backup.
Go for one that fits into your studio. Make sure it is big enough so you will be able to read text from some distance. Usually the bigger, the better.
Keyboard, Mouse, Etc
Less important, just make sure you are comfortable with them. They are the interface between you and the computer.
Building a computer is quite simple. Here is a quick overview of what needs to be done.
This is it. It takes about 20 minutes to build you custom computer. Now it is time to install the operating system and your favorite recording studio software.