Best Processors for Music Production

Whatever it is that you do on a computer these days, you should have at least somewhat decent components in it. However, some activities would require more power and features. If you’re into music production, you’re fully aware that you need decent RAM specs, a solid-state drive, additional hard disk storage space, and a powerful CPU. With this in mind, we did some digging and singled out our picks for the best processors for music production.

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Last Updated: 10/7/2021

In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top 3

7 of the Best Best Processors for Music Production

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X 16-core, 32-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

While the 5950X isn’t actually the best processor for music production in terms of raw performance, let’s be realistic here. Are you actually going to drop several thousand dollars on an insane 64-core processor? Probably not. So our definition of “best” in this list is going to be “best for you, probably” and not based solely on performance. That’s why we chose the 5950X, AMD’s 16-core, 32-thread processor that’ll set you back just under $1000.

This bad boy is all you need to handle your music production workflow, whether you run a full recording studio or you’re still crankin’ out beats from the bedroom. It has PCIe 4.0 support and can be overclocked to a blistering 4.9 GHz. If you’re a gamer, this is a no-brainer purchase since you’ll also be able to run the latest and greatest at 100+ FPS. You get the best of both worlds.

Features & Specs

♦ 16 cores, 32 threads
♦ Max Boost up to 4.9 GHz
♦ AM4 socket connectivity
♦ 72 MB cache memory
♦ 105 Watts
♦ Can support DDR3
♦ PCIe 4.0 support
♦ Great for gamers, too

Cons
  • Not cheap (but still doable)
Pros
  • Wickedly fast
  • 16 cores
  • Great for gamers, too

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core, 24-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

AMD is one of the biggest manufacturers of processors and other computer-related equipment of all time. To tell their story, we’d need to go all the way back to the late 1960s when they were founded by Jerry Sanders. Being such a large company, they’re practically the only competitor to Intel when it comes to CPU production. Since 2006, after acquiring ATI Technologies, they broke out into the GPU market. Ever since then, Nvidia and AMD pretty much hold a duopoly when it comes to graphics processing units.

AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X can be best defined as the “beast on a budget” processor. It packs in 12 individual cores and an impressive 24 threads in total. Each core has a base frequency of 3.8 GHz, and they’re capable of delivering a whopping 4.6 GHz with overclocking. There’s a total of 70 MB of cache memory and the processor itself is designed to work with DDR4 memory, although DDR3 is also supported. It can withstand temperatures to up to 95 degrees Celsius and it’s cooled down by the Wraith Prism cooler. The only downside of this processor is that there are better options out there, if you have the coin.

Features & Specs

♦ 12 cores, 24 threads
♦ Base frequency of 3.8 GHz, Max Boost up to 4.6 GHz
♦ AM4 socket connectivity
♦ 70 MB cache memory
♦ Comes with Wraith Prism cooler
♦ Can support DDR3
♦ PCIe 4.0 support

Cons
  • Better options out there
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Cooler is included
  • Great for gamers

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X 8-Core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

The Ryzen 7 5800X is another great solution if you’re looking for the best processor for music production. If you’re not ready to spend that much on the Ryzen 9 but still want great performance, then this one is perfect for you. It has 8 cores and 16 threads, which is still more than enough for professional audio production. Cache memory is at 36 MB and it’s capable of boosting up to 4.7 GHz. Just like the Ryzen 9, it’s cooled using the Wraith Prism. This one is definitely lower on the performance scale, but great value for what you’re paying. Check it out.

Features & Specs

♦ 8 cores,16 threads
♦ 36 MB cache memory
♦ Boost up to 4.7 GHz
♦ AM4 socket connectivity
♦ Wraith Prism cooler
♦ Great value for the money
♦ PCIe 4.0 support

Cons
  • Better options out there
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Cooler is included
  • Also good for gamers

AMD Ryzen 5 2600X

AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X Processor with Wraith Spire Cooler - YD260XBCAFBOX
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

It’s safe to say that AMD is crushing the processor game right now. After all, they have something for everyone and at a price point that can’t be shaken. Last up for AMD is the Ryzen 5 2600X. This is the budget of the budget selection of AMD’s best processors for music production, and definitely the least expensive. While it only has 6 cores and 12 threads, this little guy will still take you far in your beatmaking capabilities.

A 4.2 GHz overclocking speed is still a force to be reckoned with, and just like the others, it includes the Wraith Prism cooler. If you’re an entry-level producer building your first PC geared specifically towards music production, this is your processor. Very good performance, without the hole in your wallet.

Features & Specs

♦ 6 cores,12 threads
♦ 19 MB cache memory
♦ Boost up to 4.2 GHz
♦ AM4 socket connectivity
♦ Wraith Prism cooler
♦ Excellent value for the money

Cons
  • May be underpowered for complex compositions
Pros
  • Extremely affordable
  • Cooler is included
  • Low investment

Intel Core i7-11700K

Intel Core i7-11700K
Intel Core i9-10850K Desktop Processor 10 Cores up to 5.2 GHz Unlocked LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series chipset) 125W
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Alright it’s time to talk about Intel. Intel is currently the biggest CPU and motherboard producer in the world. They are known for working with Dell, Apple, HP, and Lenovo. Just like AMD, they began their work in the late 1960s, and have slowly but surely built a real Silicon Valley empire. Intel was founded by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, famous semiconductor technology pioneers. The company is currently the second-largest semiconductor chip manufacturer, right behind Samsung who dethroned them in 2017.

The Intel Intel Core i7-11700K is a state-of-the-art computer processor, capable of delivering very good performance. With its 3.6 GHz of base frequency and an impressive 5.0 GHz overclocked frequency, they are right up there with AMD’s Ryzen. However, the obvious difference can be seen with the number of cores and threads, as well as with the cache memory. The i7-11700K has 8 cores and 16 threads and the total cache memory of 16 MB. The downside is that it doesn’t come with a cooling fan. Nonetheless, it’s optimized for great performance and beats AMD’s processors in raw speed.

Features & Specs

♦ 8 cores, 16 threads
♦ 16 MB cache memory
♦ 3.6 GHz base frequency
♦ 5.0 GHz boost
♦ Great performance for price
♦ Fan not included

Cons
  • No cooler included
Pros
  • Relatively affordable
  • Great performance for price
  • PCIe 4.0 support

Intel Core i9-7920X

Intel i9-7920X
Intel Core i9-7920X X-Series Processor 12 Cores up to 4.3 GHz Turbo Unlocked LGA2066 X299 Series 140W
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

The Intel Core i9-7920X is another great solution by Intel if you want to get yourself one of the best processors for music production. This 9th gen processor features 12 cores and 24 threads, with a base frequency at 2.9 GHz. Overclocking this one will get you up to 4.3 GHz. With a slower base frequency, to get the best from this one you’re going to want to overclock. This processor has a 16.5 MB cache. While it is a little older, it still provides some of the best performance for what you pay.

Features & Specs

♦ 12 cores and 24 threads
♦ 2.9 GHz base frequency
♦ 4.3 GHz boost frequency
♦ 9 MB cache memory
♦ Supports DDR4-2666
♦ Great performance for price

Cons
  • No cooler included
  • A little dated
Pros
  • Relatively affordable
  • Great performance for price
  • Intel Optane Memory Supported

Intel Core i5-11600K

Intel Core i5-11600K
Intel Core i5-11600K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.9 GHz Unlocked LGA1200 (Intel 500 Series & Select 400 Series Chipset) 125W
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

The last, but not least, we have the i5-11600K. Now, you shouldn’t be discouraged to get your hands on this one because it’s not an i7 processor. It does have 6 cores and 12 threads, with each core capable of 4.9 GHz when overclocked. It makes up for lack of cores with speed. The base frequency is set to 3.9 GHz and the total cache memory 12 MB. This one also has PCIe 4.0 support. This is definitely a budget option but don’t let that discourage you. It’s more than enough for the basics.

Features & Specs

♦ 6 cores and 12 threads
♦ 3.9 GHz base frequency and 4.9 GHz boost
♦ 12 MB cache memory
♦ Intel 500 series & select Intel 400 series motherboards
♦ PCIe 4.0 support

Cons
  • No cooler included
Pros
  • Extremely affordable
  • Great performance for price
  • Onboard graphics

How to find the Best Processors for Music Production

We could go on for days about specific CPU details and specs that come into play here. However, we’ll try to keep things brief and as concise as possible, singling out the most important features you need to know of. We also looked into some comparisons online using different services to come up with the list. This list was made with performance-to-cost ratios in mind.

While doing research on the best processors for music production, one should consider some of the basic features, like the number of cores and threads, as well as the average and maximum clock speed.

There are some discussions whether higher speeds or more cores work better for recording, producing, and mixing music. However, it would all depend on the kind of digital audio workstation you’re using and what kind of a project you’re running. Higher speeds will handle single processes faster, but more cores and threads will do more tasks at the same time.

Number of cores and threads

The first thing you should always look into is the number of cores and threads. While we all know how important the cores are, threads do sequences of instructions that tell your computer what to do. Cores and threads work in pairs. With more threads, the CPU can work more than just one process at any given moment. Sometimes, processors with more cores and processing speed might not be as powerful as those with more threads and fewer cores.

For music production, you’ll most likely require more threads as they’ll allow more processes to happen at the same time. After all, you’ll have a bunch of different tracks and VST plugins running simultaneously. Of course, the number of cores and threads can significantly increase the price.

Clock speed

For those who might not know, core speed or clock speed is always measured in Hertz (Hz for short). The frequency at which cores operate is of great importance to the speed of the running processes. However, things aren’t that simple anymore and a higher frequency core won’t necessarily make everything go faster.

While it is still an important indicator of overall speed, you should always look into “instructions per cycle” specs on a processor. Most of the quality processors these days can go way over 3 GHz (gigahertz), sometimes even over 4 GHz. That being said, the frequency is just one of the indicators and the overall performance will still depend on the number of cores and threads in a processor.

Cache memory

What also makes one product the best processor for music production is the amount of cache memory. To put it simply, cache memory is similar to the standard storage or RAM of your computer. The cache of a processor is a small, temporary storage memory unit that it uses to quickly access programs and other data.

The CPU uses this small amount of storage in some cases because it’s faster than using RAM. When accessing data for a specific program, the CPU will first start checking in its cache memory. This way, faster operation is ensured. Technically speaking, the more cache memory, the higher the chances it will do things faster. These days, CPU caches can go up to 70 MB.

Cooling solutions

Operating at such high speeds for prolonged periods of time, it’s only obvious that processors will heat up. With an adequate cooling system, a CPU should not reach temperatures above 65 degrees. The processors we’re talking about here will need some serious cooling solutions. This will all depend on the processor’s thermal design power.

If your processor comes without a cooler, then you must find an appropriate one for its thermal output. Otherwise, you’ll be at risk of permanently damaging your CPU due to high temperatures. When looking for an adequate cooler, you should look into all the specs of the CPU and precisely determine what cooler will be sufficient for it.

Compatibility

Compatibility with your computer’s motherboard will be one of your primary concerns. You don’t want to spend money on both the CPU and the motherboard just to find out that they’re not compatible with each other. The type of socket for the CPU on the motherboard will ensure a successful connection between the two components.

This is something you should be careful of especially when buying the newest processors. For instance, AMD Ryzen 9 requires an AM4 socket on your motherboard. This one also supports the Zen and Excavator family of processors. If you’re building your computer based on the processor that you want, start from there and then get an appropriate motherboard for it. There’s just no other way around it.

Best Processors for Music Production: Concluding Remarks

Whatever it is that you want to do, the first thing you should always have in mind is your budget. This is what will determine what kind of processor you’ll be looking for. The next thing to consider is the type of work that you’ll be doing. If you expect to have loads of tracks, live vocal recordings, and VST plugins included in your DAW project, then you might want to consider a processor with more threads. But at the end of the day, you can’t really go wrong with any of these. Guaranteed they’ll be enough for recording and producing music.

Thank you for reading, and we hope this provided some value and insight on your search for the best processor for music production!

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