Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 1, last updated 6/25/2013
Desktop or laptop with a fast processor, Mac or
Windows operating system.
RAM – at least 2 GB.
Hard drive – a fast hard drive (separate and in addition
to the operating system hard drive) dedicated to audio
storage, at least 7200 RPM.
Audio interface (i.e., sound card)
External audio interface with XLR connections. The
audio interface may also serve as a MIDI interface.
Dynamic microphone with XLR connection.
Possibly a condenser microphone as well.
Cables and connectors
XLR cables for microphones, others as needed for
A MIDI piano keyboard, may or may not include
additional buttons and knobs. May have USB
connectivity or require a MIDI interface. Possible all-
in-one devices include both a keyboard and basic audio
Monitors with flat frequency response (so you hear an
unaltered representation of the audio).
Closed-back headphones (for better isolation).
Analog or digital mixer, as needed.
Loudspeakers with amplifiers and directional/frequency
responses appropriate for the listening space.
Table 1.1 Basic hardware components for a DAW and live performance setups
A desktop or even a laptop computer with a fast processor is sufficient as the starting
point for your DAW. Audio and MIDI processing make heavy demands on your computer‟s
RAM (random-access memory) – the dynamic memory of a computer that holds data and
programs while they're running. When you edit or play digital audio, a part of RAM called a
buffer is set aside to hold the portion of audio data that you‟re going to need next. If your
computer had to go all the way to the hard disk drive each time it needed to get the data, it
wouldn‟t be able to play the audio in real-time. Buffering is a process of pulling data off
permanent storage – the hard drive – and holding them in RAM so that they are immediately
available to be played or processed. Audio is divided into streams, and often multiple audio
streams are active at once, which implies that your computer has to set aside multiple buffers.
MIDI instruments and samplers make heavy demands on RAM as well. MIDI creates the sound
of any given musical instrument by means of instrument audio samples that are stored on the