Last updated January 26, 2023
As a rule, Steinberg software runs on all standard computers, provided that these satisfy the system requirements printed on the given product’s package. Happily, you’ll see that today's market offers a computer to suit every application and budget. Affordable computers for smaller projects are readily available, as are highly specialized multiprocessor systems for professional applications in the music and movie industries.
Depending on what you wish to accomplish with the software, your computing demands may entail special requirements. These requirements hinge upon the type of project you intend to work on. Several performance-related factors figure prominently, such as sample rate and bit depth, as well as the number of tracks, plug-ins, instrument voices and effects used in a project. So, if you need a computer to produce elaborate projects, ask yourself this question:
"Which computer is right for my application?"
To answer this, you must first determine what it is you want the computer system to do. Depending on the tasks you have in mind, you may be looking at very different hardware requirements: If you wish to employ many VST instruments, happiness lies in fast hard drives, acres of RAM real estate, and a relatively fast processor. If your focus is on pure audio recording, a fast hard disk with a slightly slower processor can get the job done nicely, contingent upon the number of tracks and format. Be sure to take your working environment into account when weighing the relative merits of systems. By and large, you’ll find that the more powerful the system, the higher the noise level. This is because higher-performance hardware generally necessitates more intense cooling. And if you’re aiming to go mobile without mains power to tie you down, be aware that frequently a fast laptop equipped with a gaming-enabled graphics card adversely affects the system run-time because it draws a lot more power from the battery pack. Lesson learned: The fastest system is not always your first choice!
Help is near if you feel that your projects may entail special demands. To assist you in pinpointing the computer system that is right for you, you’ll find some vital tips below that complement the information on Steinberg products’ individual system requirements as indicated on product pages and packaging. This supplementary info will help you zero in on and choose the right computer system and rise to every challenge a project may pose using Steinberg products.
- Hard Drives
- Random Access Memory
- Audio Cards
- Graphic Cards
- Operating Systems
Steinberg's products work excellently with most* standard processors found in PC and Mac computers today. When selecting a processor (CPU), speed certainly counts because it has such a tremendous impact on many processes within the computer. This is why Steinberg applications support multiprocessor/multicore systems and enable very high performance. Below you can find an excerpt of current processors/systems that can cope with today's demands and large projects. If you feel the need to upgrade your DAW, take a closer look at the hardware listed below. Nevertheless, it is of course possible to use slightly older systems depending on the environment and workload.
Some things to consider on the processor architecture:
- A newer processor generation/architecture is usually preferable.
- When mobility is not a priority, choosing a desktop processor model is recommended.
Desktop processor models have a higher thermal design power (TDP) which results in less throttling and thus providing more processing power and stable clock rates over longer periods. Integrating a proper cooling solution for desktop systems can be less complex and offers more options, like water-cooling for high-end systems.
- Mobile processor need to operate more energy-efficiently, and are often forced to reduce the CPU clock more frequently to stay in their specified lower TDP. Dissipating heat may require more complex (and noisy) cooling solutions.
- A higher core count might require a different RAM configuration (dual channel, quad channel) for optimal performance.
- A higher amount of CPU cache (L2, L3) can have a positive impact on the real-time processing.
Type of application (comparing CPUs of a similar price range)
- Low latency focussed operation
Choose a processor with a high base frequency and higher thermal design power to take advantage of a stable clock rate
- Many channels and plug-ins (less priority on low latencies)
Use a processor model with many logical cores. However, note that more than 32 logical cores (multithreading-capable processor with 16 physical cores + 16 "virtual" cores) do not offer a significant additional benefit.
| Intel/Apple Silicon-based Macs
|MacBook Air (M1/M2)||Mobile||8|
|MacBook Pro (Intel Core i5/i7/i9 and M1/M2)||Mobile||4-10|
|Mac mini (i3/i5/i7 and M1/M2)||Desktop||4-8|
|iMac (Intel Core i5/i7 and M1)||Desktop||2-8|
|iMac Pro (Intel Xeon)||Desktop||8-18|
|Mac Pro (Intel Xeon)||Desktop||8-28|
| Intel-based Windows systems
|Intel Core i3*||Mobile/Desktop||2-10|
|Intel Core i5*||Mobile/Desktop||4-14|
|Intel Core i7*||Mobile/Desktop||4-16|
|Intel Core i9*||Mobile/Desktop||6-24|
|AMD-based Windows systems|
|AMD Ryzen Threadripper**||Desktop||8-64|
*important information on performance issues on Intel® Core™ 12th gen (or newer) hybrid-architecture CPUs
**See details on AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X and 3990X support.
The chipset used on any motherboard is one of the most crucial components of a DAW (digital audio workstation). It handles all aspects of the communications between system components (e.g. processor, system buses, periphery) including the integration of the audio devices. Especially on the PC Windows platform, there are several options available, including chipsets from Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA. However, we can tell from our experiences that not all chipsets are equally suitable for demanding audio applications. The need for low latencies and high data transfer rates for hard disks, audio cards and DSP cards can make one specific chipset or motherboard either completely inappropriate or highly recommended for audio production. As this is again a matter of compatibility between all hardware components rather than between our applications and the hardware, we recommend that you contact the manufacturers of the audio and/or DSP cards of your choice. They can provide all the necessary information on compatible and recommended chipsets, as well as the chipsets you should avoid. A well configured and compatible hardware is the most important basis for being able to work satisfactorily with our applications!
Solid-State Disks and Hard Drives
As a rule, Steinberg products may be employed with every hard disk or Solid-State Disk found in contemporary computers. The capacity to enable elaborate projects involving many audio tracks and serve as a delivery medium for sample content destined for VST instruments that work with disk streaming technology hinges upon the following factors:
- Solid-State Disks (SSD)
Solid-State Disks offer the best performance by far. SSDs use flash technology exclusively and thus do not need any mechanical components. They come in different form factors for SATA or PCIe connections. The latter is supported by the SSD M.2 standard and depending on the setup allows for very high transfer rates. The advantages are obvious: the access times are much lower than those of regular hard disks and the data transfer rate is higher, which makes them the first choice for sample content streaming. In addition, they are extremely robust and silent. However, SSDs are still rather expensive and most do not offer the same storage capacity as conventional hard disks. When using SSDs, current macOS and Windows 10 operating systems should be the preferred choice as they automatically detect a SSD and make certain optimizations for best performance (e.g. disable defragmentation, support of the TRIM feature).
- Hard Drives
Rotational speed: If you’re looking for professional-grade performance for audio systems running scores of tracks, you will find what you’re seeking in hard disks running at 7,200 RPM minimum.
If you are working with large libraries and the storage capacity is the most important factor, S-ATA 10,000 RPM hard disks or SAS hard disks with up to 15,000 RPM can certainly help prevent throughput bottlenecks while offering large storage space.
Another strategy for boosting audio data throughput entails using several hard disks. Experience teaches that partitioning makes good sense: Dedicate one hard drive or Solid-State Disk to the operating system and installed applications, and the other to audio data. If you wish to make extensive of use of sampler plug-ins, you could even devote a further hard disk exclusively to sample content delivery.
For some time now, so-called hybrid hard disks that utilize additional internal flash memory are an interesting alternative. These devices combine the advantages of an affordable price tag with an improved performance compared to regular hard disks. The flash part of these "SSHDs" shorten the access times to access the disk content by caching often used data. Apple's "Fusion Drives" make use of this combination as well and can be found in many systems at least as an option.
However, in most cases, Solid-State Disks (SSD) have proven to be the better solution nowadays.
Cache: Hard drives come with a buffer memory called a cache. It also influences hard disks’ access speed. In the main, it can be said that the bigger the cache, the better the hard disk’s capacity to handle large amounts of data. Large cache sizes have proven very useful for applications in the audio field. If you wish to use the hard disk for streaming sample content, be mindful of its cache size. Along with rotational speed, cache size has an immediate impact on the amount of individual samples you can load at a time, say, while VST instruments (for example HALion) are being played. Currently, hard disks with 32 to 128 MB cache are the most common choice.
Interface: The access protocol for hard disks is particularly important if you want to run an audio workstation tweaked for top-drawer performance. ATA debuted as a parallel protocol, but a serial version (S-ATA) was introduced to replace it. It is the preferred standard used today for Mac and PC systems. S-ATA revision 2.0 and 3.0 are boasting even higher data throughput rates and optimized disk drive addressing (for example NCQ, short for Native Command Queuing, a related technology "borrowed" from the SCSI world).
SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) as the successor of SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) is also a very high-performance solution. However, the components are rather expensive, and thus this option should only be considered in exceptional cases. If you are entertaining this notion, be aware that heat and noise build-up is a factor with such systems. If you intend to set up an ultra-efficient media server for a studio network or carry out epic recording sessions with hundreds of tracks, SAS is certainly a good choice. Alternatively, you can connect several S-ATA hard disks in a RAID system and use it to serve the same purposes.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
For contemporary Steinberg applications, nothing less than 8 GB RAM are recommended. However, all up-and-running applications and the operating system access the main memory simultaneously, so installing more RAM is highly advisable. You will find that even sizable main memory acreage of 8 GB won’t suffice to deliver satisfactory system performance for larger projects. This is because VST instruments and audio projects load audio samples into the main memory and read them there. If you don’t have much RAM installed, less material can be buffered there, and more data must be handled via the slower hard disks. This means access takes longer.
As a rule of thumb, it is recommended to plan with nothing less than 1 GB RAM for each logical CPU core available in the system.
Audio devices are available on the market today for all leading computer interface
- USB 2.0
- USB 3.0
Now, which of these interfaces should you choose? That depends largely on the type of application and computer system. What’s important is that ASIO 2.0 (PC) or Core Audio (Mac) compatible drivers are available for whatever audio device you have set your sights on. These drivers serve to achieve very low latency on both platforms and are therefore highly recommended. Particularly when working with VST instruments and auditioning the recording signal via the software, driver-induced delay may not exceed a few milliseconds; anything higher is noticeable and quite annoying. Alongside a well-configured and powerful system, the audio card’s driver is one of the most vital components of a good DAW. It takes both to attain latency as low as 1.5 ms.
If your system offers sufficient support for Thunderbolt operated audio interfaces, this might be a recommendation at least for high-end systems.
The dark days of incompatible graphics card drivers are for the most part history. All three leading graphics cards manufacturers (AMD, NVIDIA, Intel) today offer solid drivers, so these vendors’ products are viable options. However, it is important to install the core drivers only! Additional software components (e.g. GeForce Experience) can have a negative impact on the performance.
It is also important to mention that many of our applications use hardware accelerated rendering for the graphical user interfaces (GUI). Therefore, using rather old low-end cards is not recommended. Instead, aim for modern middle-class solutions with sufficient VRAM (2 GB+) for best results!
For details and requirements, please have a look at the dedicated article on the video engine.
Operating systems for Apple computers
We generally recommend the current version of Apple's operating system. Unless noted otherwise in the system requirements of a specific product or in the compatibility charts published in the Help Center, this version is best suited for current Steinberg products.
Operating systems for Windows systems
We recommend using Windows 10/11 (64-bit) for our current product range. Please have a look at the system requirements on our website and on the product boxes for additional information!
You can find a comprehensive article on how to optimize a Windows system here.