Thoughts on these silent PCs for recording?

Chelonian

Member
I want to record with a silent PC. Does anyone have an opinion about these offerings, for example:


For example, this one:

Is 8GB RAM with an i5 and a 512 SSD for $307 shipped.

That going to be enough for music recording? And general use (web use, mainly).

I figure there will be zero fan noise or hard disk access noise (since it's an SSD). I am a bit concerned about coil whine, though.
 

Dave Matthews

Dave's not here
I have a Surface Pro 6 with 8gb of ram and would consider it barely capable. You'll need 16gb ram minimum IMHO.
 

Chelonian

Member
Surface Pro 6
Wow, I'm surprised, given people were recording music capably back when 4GB of RAM was considered a lot. What about it is "barely" capable? What does it struggle with? (and do you mean just music, or web browsing as well?)

Also, that's a tablet, rather than a computer. Does that distinction matter here?
 

Dave Matthews

Dave's not here
Wow, I'm surprised, given people were recording music capably back when 4GB of RAM was considered a lot. What about it is "barely" capable? What does it struggle with? (and do you mean just music, or web browsing as well?)

Also, that's a tablet, rather than a computer. Does that distinction matter here?
Understood.
My main issue is with drum plugins. That seems to eat the processor/ram. Otherwise everything seems to run/load fine.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I've got 12GB of ram with an old (4th gen) I5 3.2GHz processor for my recording system. It works fine for what I do. The amount of RAM needed will somewhat depend on how many and what type of plugins you plan to use. If you do lots of stuff like midi synths and virtual instruments, then you'll need the extra memory. For basic compression, EQ, etc, then you can get by with 8gigs. Yes, people were recording with 4GB back in the day, but the software has become much more complex with more capability, which puts a higher demand on the system.

The computer you referenced is an Intel i5-3317U which is a 3rd gen I5 running at 1.6gHz. It's a 10 year old processor. It won't be anywhere close to today's I5 running at that speed. Be aware that you will not be able to easily upgrade it to Win 11, since it's not a supported processor, so it's planned obsolecense. I wouldn't consider it a "gaming computer" by any stretch unless you are playing old games! For comparison, a 12gen I5-1245U which runs at the same speed will be 300 to 500% faster.

There are ways to use a system with a fan. My I7 laptop is pretty quiet, unless I'm really stressing it. It wouldn't interfere with any of my recording. I run a desktop system with a hutch area for the computer. I opened up the back for cooling and it doesn't cause any issue recording vocals in the same room with the computer 10ft away.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
First thing is you don’t buy computers on Amazon unless you really understand what you are buying. Remember, Amazon specs are well, er, often less than hones. After all, fanless doesn’t mean silent, it means it generates heat convection cooling can manage, and that usually means low power, slow speed processing. Water cooling doesn’t mean silence either. My son has a gaming computer and while it looks pretty it’s noisy. Bigger fans, lower speed rotation is the key to lower noise, but I’d not factored in how noisy my graphics card would be, and it’s noisier than the cpu fan! You’ve also got to realise that audio computing means big storage requirements, both in RAM and drives. Two at least. Even a 500gb c drive will get full with each application you install nowadays being bigger and bigger. Only last week, I had to add another 4Gb drive for yet more samples. RAM wise, my 16Gb struggles now when you load a few sample packages. My drum needs as Dave mentioned, are actually a middle use instrument, but loading some of my latest native instrument stuff can take 30 seconds to load, and during that time, I have to wait. Once this happens a few times in a project, your available memory starts to shrink quickly. A good trick is to go to a computer shop and listen to various computers they have built for sale and see which are quietest. Find out what their cooling is that will give you a steer.
 

Slouching Raymond

Active member
I just have an ordinary i5 laptop. You can hear the wind blowing through it, but it is not intrusive.
I had some experience of working with dinky little PC104 pc cards (the 104 refers to the number of pins on the AT bus).
The little cards stacked on top of each other. They were fanless, and did occasionally overheat at times.
The amazon pc is very dinky, but looks like it will need an external laptop-style power source.
I read about a small Apple M2 pc recently. Perhaps they have the performance and quietness you seek.
 

markmann

Member
I have a question... how important is it to have a silent computer? The HP laptop I use for recording is definitely not silent but as long as my LDC mic is not aimed straight at it it has never been a problem. I have definitely had issues with the furnace, dehumidifiers, sump pump, dog barking, door bell, etc, etc, but never the laptop.
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
My PC tower has one of those 3-inch fans - the PC is always powered up and I never hear it. My laptop has fans I can hear but not even close to interfering with mic recordings. I only hear it when there are no other sounds - it sounds like it's in the next room.. water faucet or toilet running.
 

Pinky

and The Brain...
Another vote against this particular purchase. If the price is too good to be true, it's because it is. Definitely applies here.

I'm running a standard AMD Ryzen 5 based PC under my desk with a large aftermarket heatsink/fan that is barely audible even when doing heavy workloads. When tracking with few plugins running, it's silent since it's not using much processing power and the fans spin slowly until heat is generated, then spin up to cool the processor. 99% of the heaviest workload is when synth and drum virtual instruments are loaded, and since I'm not live tracking with a mic when those instruments are running the little bit of fan noise isn't an issue.
 
Last edited:

Chelonian

Member
I've got 12GB of ram with an old (4th gen) I5 3.2GHz processor for my recording system. It works fine for what I do. The amount of RAM needed will somewhat depend on how many and what type of plugins you plan to use. If you do lots of stuff like midi synths and virtual instruments, then you'll need the extra memory. For basic compression, EQ, etc, then you can get by with 8gigs. Yes, people were recording with 4GB back in the day, but the software has become much more complex with more capability, which puts a higher demand on the system.

The computer you referenced is an Intel i5-3317U which is a 3rd gen I5 running at 1.6gHz. It's a 10 year old processor. It won't be anywhere close to today's I5 running at that speed. Be aware that you will not be able to easily upgrade it to Win 11, since it's not a supported processor, so it's planned obsolecense. I wouldn't consider it a "gaming computer" by any stretch unless you are playing old games! For comparison, a 12gen I5-1245U which runs at the same speed will be 300 to 500% faster.

There are ways to use a system with a fan. My I7 laptop is pretty quiet, unless I'm really stressing it. It wouldn't interfere with any of my recording. I run a desktop system with a hutch area for the computer. I opened up the back for cooling and it doesn't cause any issue recording vocals in the same room with the computer 10ft away.

Thanks. I have never used any plugins so far. I basically have recorded in Audacity and just applied effects to tracks. I have no idea if I will use plugins or not. What would determine if I one would use them?

I'm just trying not to buy the latest and greatest computer if it's going to be overkill for my needs. I've done some passable "sketch" quality recording using a $15 Tracfone and a 4GB Pentium 2 with no SSD. On the other hand, I do not want to be fighting my computer the whole way. I'm just trying to see where the middle ground is. Maybe your 12GB system would be that? Roughly how much does that cost? And is it desktop or laptop? Is that the one in the hutch?
 

Chelonian

Member
Another vote against this particular purchase. If the price is too good to be true, it's because it is. Definitely applies here.

I'm running a standard AMD Ryzen 5 based PC under my desk with a large aftermarket heatsink/fan that is barely audible even when doing heavy workloads. When tracking with few plugins running, it's silent since it's not using much processing power and the fans spin slowly until heat is generated, then spin up to cool the processor. 99% of the heaviest workload is when synth and drum virtual instruments are loaded, and since I'm not live tracking with a mic when those instruments are running the little bit of fan noise isn't an issue.
Could you point me toward a comparable system online? I have no idea what your system is like and what that might cost (new or used). Thanks!
 

Chelonian

Member
I have a question... how important is it to have a silent computer? The HP laptop I use for recording is definitely not silent but as long as my LDC mic is not aimed straight at it it has never been a problem. I have definitely had issues with the furnace, dehumidifiers, sump pump, dog barking, door bell, etc, etc, but never the laptop.

I don't know. Right now, my desktop computer, when running, is clearly audible in my small (10x10) room. When I turn it off, there's a sense of "ahh" that it's off. I don't want that getting into the recordings, particularly for quiet/acoustic parts. I want a clean recording. Plus, really, the computer noise is annoying to me just when I am using it for any purpose. I find I often drown it out with a desk fan anyway, which is a more "even" sound (but obviously, that can't be on in a recording). I just want silence, really. I assumed an 8GB fanless PC with an SSD would provide that, but people seem to suggest its too underpowered.
 

Dave Matthews

Dave's not here
I don't know. Right now, my desktop computer, when running, is clearly audible in my small (10x10) room. When I turn it off, there's a sense of "ahh" that it's off. I don't want that getting into the recordings, particularly for quiet/acoustic parts. I want a clean recording. Plus, really, the computer noise is annoying to me just when I am using it for any purpose. I find I often drown it out with a desk fan anyway, which is a more "even" sound (but obviously, that can't be on in a recording). I just want silence, really. I assumed an 8GB fanless PC with an SSD would provide that, but people seem to suggest its too underpowered.
Don't get me wrong. My Surface Pro 6 has 8gb ram and runs Reaper and Samplitude Music Studio well. It's the drum plugins that create issues, more so in Samplitude than Reaper. Recording vocals, or guitar is no issue.
 

Folkcafe

Active member
If you look at the CPU of that thing, you'll find it is one released in 2012. The dead giveaway is the serial ports and 4000 integrated graphics. We use computers like these for digital signage occasionally when I can't get the Lenovo Mini computers. The Lenovo's off lease refurbed are a pretty good deal. I use them as office computers and have built down and dirty DAW's for some friends looking to dabble in recording. About the same price category and much quieter than a full desktop. Cubase and Ableton works on the late model M series pretty well with an I-5. Just always look up the CPU model with the release date to figure out how old the tech is.

I went M1 Mac Mini for audio and ditched the PC.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
Something akin to this Dell would be a much better choice vs the "silent PC". Yes, it is more money, but it is current generation, expandable if you want to add another SSD and should be good for another 10 years.
Dell Inspirion 3910
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
In a few of my YouTube videos people have commented that they can hear the fan, and if you turn the volume up you can. In my home studio, rather than my work one, the computers are behind a door, and it’s much quieter. In the video studio one of the lights has a fan that is soooo annoyin. Funny how our noise floors are now so low we can hear this. However, as we moan constantly about the noise rejecting properties of all those layers of sheet material, rooms within rooms and rubbery insulation, it is silly to then stick even a quiet computer in the room that probably means you could have saved a lot of money on the walls!
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
I've got an 8 RAM 3.3G HP with 250G SSD - had it for 2-1/2 years, and the SSD is getting full, I need to pull all the finished/released song folders off of it (all backed up X 4 on USB drives now). But the point is, I can run multiple VSTi's, EZ Drummer and 3 ReaVerb instances and never have an issue. The fan is only for the CPU, and can't hear it at all.
 

markmann

Member
I don't know. Right now, my desktop computer, when running, is clearly audible in my small (10x10) room. When I turn it off, there's a sense of "ahh" that it's off. I don't want that getting into the recordings, particularly for quiet/acoustic parts. I want a clean recording. Plus, really, the computer noise is annoying to me just when I am using it for any purpose. I find I often drown it out with a desk fan anyway, which is a more "even" sound (but obviously, that can't be on in a recording). I just want silence, really. I assumed an 8GB fanless PC with an SSD would provide that, but people seem to suggest its too underpowered.
If your computer noise is heard on your recordings that does suck. If I had a desktop like you I would use some sort of sound abatement or move the processor into a closet. Have you tried moving the unit? I assume it's a tower case or something similar? I have a laptop only because I need it to be portable.
 

Chelonian

Member
I've got an 8 RAM 3.3G HP with 250G SSD - had it for 2-1/2 years, and the SSD is getting full, I need to pull all the finished/released song folders off of it (all backed up X 4 on USB drives now). But the point is, I can run multiple VSTi's, EZ Drummer and 3 ReaVerb instances and never have an issue. The fan is only for the CPU, and can't hear it at all.

Thanks for the data point! Could you tell me the specs of that machine? What's the model name and processor?
 
Top