Which PC to get for Ableton Live


I'm considering buying a desktop PC just for my audio production. Now, I haven't been in the market for quite some time and am confused what I should look for to have the machine still usable in a couple of years but on the other hand not spend a fortune.

So what are the main performance drivers when using mainly Live?

- number of cores vs. processor speed

- ram vs. hard drive speed

- 32bit vs 64bit (does Live 8 even work with 64bit Windows?)

- anything else I should look out for?


kronk 6 years ago | 0 comments

10 answers

  • chaircrusher
    12 answers
    32 votes received
    6 votes

    Luckily for you, the current state of the art for PCs means that even relatively modest computers can run Live.  

    If you're a Mac user, then buy the best Mac you can afford. Easy enough.

    If you're a  PC user, the answer is murkier.  But more than the CPU or amount of memory you buy, it's important to consider other issues, like:

    1. If you want to use a Firewire Audio Interface, contact the manfucturer of the interface, and ask them for compatible Firewire chipsets known to work with that interface. Most of the time, the included motherboard Firewire ports are not the best for low latency audio. Luckily there are PCI-Express Firewire cards that include the most-desired Texas Instruments Chipsets.

    2. It may be less a concern than it once was, but a video card with dedicated memory will allow higher-performance than a chipset-based video processor that uses dedicated video memory.  This holds true for laptops as well, but people probably get by with integrated graphics just fine.

    There are several companies that build computers tested and optimized for audio applications. I've never bought a computer that way, but some have very good reputations, and the premium you pay is usually not more than 10% or 15% over mass market machines, and if your time is worth anything, it will be worth it.

    6 years ago | 1 comment
  • kleine Ableton staff
    10 answers
    49 votes received
    3 votes

    There's no clear answer to this question but a few facts will help you: 

    - Live is currently a 32bit application but it will work on a 64bit Windows System.This means Live can only access a theoretical maximum of four gigabytes of RAM - regardless of how much you have in you computer. Additionally, Live can only access 32-bit third-party plug-ins.

    For more detailed information about Live's performance under 32-/64-bit operating systems, please see: http://www.ableton.com/pages/faq/general_questions#faq_7_link

    We have no information yet about if or when Live may be released in a 64-bit version.


    - the more RAM and the faster your hard drive, the better in general.

    - Live does not support hyper-threading but multiple Cores.

    - make use of the vast experience of other users in our user forum http://forum.ableton.com and test results from pc- magazines to find a suitable machine for you

    - buy a professional audio interface with low-latency audio drivers

    6 years ago | 0 comments
  • Khazul
    2 answers
    6 votes received
    3 votes

    + 1 to Tarekith's comment and the latest macbook pro and new imac should be good for running windows 7/64 as well - the MBP certainaly is.

    Failing that:
    2nd generation i7 quad core ('sandybridge') CPU.
    intel P67 chipset.
    TI firewire chipset if you need firewire support for an audio interface.
    1600Mhz or fastter memory and 6GB or more memory.
    Windows 7/64. While Live is currenly only 32 bit, a 64 bit system will ensure Live gets over 3GB of memory to use - usually over 3.5GB.
    10,000 or 7200 RPM drives. Maybe even consider SSD for audio projects.
    AMD/ATI based saphire vapour-x series graphics card (good audio friendly performance and quiet)
    A case that doesnt rattle (tap it with finger - if it resonates/rattle - dont buy it).
    A case with good airflow and cooling (poor airflow means fans work harder and get more noisey - audio projects can make the computer work hard).

    You probably will not find an off the shelf computer that meets all of the above. If you custom build - do not get/build an overclocked system unless you really know what you are doing - a 100% reliable and quiet hugely overclocked system is not about just plugging stuff together and getting the biggest fans you can find - it takes a bit of thought and potentially the experience of several failures :)

    If doing a custom build - dont skimp on the case - it can make quite a difference to noise levels. Antec P183 or simila for example is an excellent choice.

    Truly, if you dont want to do a cusom build, then the new iMac might currently be the best desktop audio machine there is right now for average home studio (rather than professional/commercial studio) use and when thunderbolt device become available, should only get better.

    6 years ago | 0 comments
  • redglass
    1 answer
    3 votes received
    3 votes


    I guess you are looking for a Windows System, as you were asking for a PC?

    Some comments suggest buying pretty expensive hardware, like Intel CPU, SSD-HD for System, fast S-ATA HD for Data, fast RAM with more than 4 GB, better 8 GB size.

    This is all true, also to get recommended MB of manufaturers like Asus or Gigabyte.
    But if you cannot spend too much money you can go for a QUAD-AMD System oder try a cheaper Dell-PC, which you can send back, if it is not suitable for your Audio.-Interface and Live-Projects. I know from a guy studio-technician, that he was running his DAW with Dell-300 EUR PC without any problems. It might work or not, but to give a cheaper system a chance is worth to try out, allthough they are mostly Dual-Core-PCs, not QUAD-Core. And Quad-Core (AMD or Intel) are more powerful than Dual-Core, for sure.
    my suggestion:
    W7 prof. 64 Bit
    Asus or Gigabyte Board, Firewire Chip should be recommended by the manufacturer of your audio-Interface
    Quad CPU (Intel or AMD)
    A Big CPU cooler, with 1000 rpm
    Grafik-Unit with 1 GB Ram, 2xDVI/HDMI outputs
    4-8 GB Ram, as fast as you can afford and suitable to your MB
    SSD-HD for your System, min 80 GB, 120 GB better, still expensive
    7200 RPM HD (1 or 2 TB) for Audio Data and Live-Library
    A PC-Case, easy to open, repair or change hardware.
    USB Connectors at its front panel for USB-Dongles and USB-Sticks.

    When starting installation of software and drivers, don't forget to optimize your settings for a good audio-performance, e.g. http://www.focusrite.com/answerbase/en/article.php?id=1071

    Good luck with your choices for hardware!

    6 years ago | 0 comments
  • channelite
    5 answers
    8 votes received
    2 votes

    I built an AMD Phenom II based desktop PC for $700 for use with Live 8.  It has 4gb of ram, Windows 7 64bit, 500GB had drive.  I also bought a SIIG firewire card which is Texas Instrument based to use with my Motu 828 mk3 audio interface.

    Live starts up with it's CPU meter at 3% and when playing my most intense Live set it doesn't go higher than 20%. The PC is really smooth, no crashes.



    6 years ago | 1 comment
  • nebulae
    11 answers
    64 votes received
    2 votes

    Khazul has some good specs and suggestions. If using Firewire, a TI Chipset is a MUST. Also, a quiet case and CPU/Ram issues have all been discussed well. 

    The question remains, which brand to get. IMHO, with a PC, you have two options: build your own, or get a well-built machine by a reputable company SPECIFIC TO YOUR TASK, which in this case is audio. If you go the latter route, then I would recommend going with http://raincomputers.com/ or http://www.reyniersaudio.com/ or http://www.shop-sonica.com/. They are more expensive, but they are designed and tweaked for audio. 

    I have built my own PCs for over 12 years, and I feel comfortable researching parts. I shop almost exclusively at Newegg.com. I'm currently considering building a new PC, and here's what I would get:

    1. i7 2600k
    2. Asus P67 Motherboard
    3. Corsair ram, 8-16 gigabytes
    4. A fanless video card
    5. A quiet case by Antec or the NZXT H2
    6. Nexus quiet case fans
    7. Replace the stock CPU fan with Zalman or something quieter
    8. SSD drive for your system Drive, western digital 7200rpm Sata6 drives for audio recording and data/sample/loops/Library storage
    9. Windows 7 x64, so that you are future proofed for about 3-5 years.

    6 years ago | 4 comments
  • mr.waltonfl
    2 answers
    4 votes received
    1 vote

    I bought an Aurora R2 and upped the ram (to 16g), video card (to 2g), and hard drive (to ssd).  It has a 3.2ghz i7 processor (quad core).  I can't really answer most of your questions, but I can detail how well my setup works so you can compare to others.  I've never used live on another pc so I have nothing to relate it to.

    The whole setup cost me about $1500 bucks (without monitor, firewire audio interface, monitors, cables, midi controllers etc).  I consider $1500 bucks not to be a fortune, but I don't know your particular financial situation.  If thats out of your range ignore my post.

    Ableton at idle shows 1% usage, with a plethora of midi and audio tracks running simultaneously (while running several other programs) I have never seen it break 50% usage.  Please note that my computer has a significantly easier time with ableton now that I am using a firewire audio interface, which I did not include in my pr estimate.

    However, my midi controller keyboard has a slower response time than my friends 13" MBP.  Not sure what the hell is up with that but it's hardly noticeable.

    My pc is quick and works fine, but let me inform you that I maintain my computer regularly; if you aren't at least in some ways a techie, please consider buying a 13" MBP.  You will be happier unless you really know your way around a PC.  I obviously support PC, but, damn, mac's are just plug and play in such a convenient way.

    6 years ago | 0 comments
  • sach160
    3 answers
    1 vote received
    0 votes

    Lots of good advice here. As macs aren't overclockable, with the new sandy bridge processors you'll get much better performance from a PC (or hackintosh) as these processors were made to be over clocked. The key things in my opinion are - 1. Get a system with a 2600k processor. I know nothing about overclocking so bough a system pre-overclocked and would recommend this route to anyone who doesn't want to invest the time into learning about overclocking. My system runs at 5ghz at low temps and noise.2. Get a system with high quality components, especially the motherboard (I'd recommend the Asus p8p67 pro). I used to have a dell which gives you good bang for the buck but they use a lot of low quality components and I found I'd run into all kinds of audio issues, - I haven't had any problems with my new system.

    6 years ago | 0 comments
  • diablo0ne
    2 answers
    -1 votes received
    -3 votes

    any system you buy will be taxed hard by Live. Just because you have reccomended or above specs doesnt mean you wont encounter resistance. If you are even thinking about using LIVE in actual live performance environment, you should beware that LIVE can crash even top-notch systems. You will need a very expensive machine to eliminate that possibility!!

    btw, not to step on toes, but get a MAC for sure. Even if its a used book off craigslist! upgrade the ram and your better off than you would be with any Personal Computer.  I told this too my bandmate who is rocking a new PC with better specs, and my system is performing much better than his already.  get a mac no matter what! PCs are made to get viruses or so it seems.  dont take my advice though, do some additional research and you will see.

    6 years ago | 0 comments
  • Tarekith
    8 answers
    33 votes received
    -11 votes

    Get a Mac.


    (sorry, had to be done)

    6 years ago | 2 comments

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