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What is the best cpu for music production right now
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What is the best CPU for music production

The computer hardware marketing is constantly changing and so is the software.
Fortunately we are living in a time where hardware performance is increasing faster than the software demand when it comes to digital audio workstation software.

Is it time to upgrade your DAW with a new CPU and will it actually make a difference?

Important reasons to upgrade you DAW computer:

  • Your software struggles and max out your hardware
    • Freezing tracks is ok but not if it is too many tracks.
  • The upgrade performance gain is close to double
  • You have the money it takes to upgrade your music production cpu


What to look for when upgrading your CPU

CPU specifications might seem like nonsense but it is not that hard to get the basics.

The important CPU parameters are:

  • Number of cores
    • Physical and logical cores
  • Single Thread Rating
  • Watt Usage listed as Max TDP
    • Yearly running cost might also be estimated

How to read the CPU specifications

AMD Ryzen 3900X specifications
AMD Ryzen 3900X specifications

The most important specifications on the Ryzen 3900X CPU in the chart above are:

  • Clock speed
    • The frequency of the CPU cycles. Higher is better
  • Turbo Speed
    • The overclocking capabilities
  • No of Cores
    • The number of physical single cores in the CPU followed by a logical cores specifications. 2 logical cores per core means Hyper threading. Hyper threading is a technique where the operating system see 2 cores that can run virtually simultaneous.
      More cores is better.
  • Typical TDP
    • The watt usage. Lower is better.

Single Thread Rating

Since all new CPU's have 8+ Cores the best CPU is probably one with a high Single Core Rating and might be found in the top of this list. The best price/performance is usually a little down the list.

Best CPU for your music production computer. Single Thread Rating Performance chart
Best CPU for music production?. Passmark Single Thread Rating chart. The red arrow marks the score.

Heavy software algorithms requires single core performance and lots of tracks requires lots of cores.

  • Heavy plugins require fast cores
  • Lots of tracks and plugins require more cores

The best is off cause lots of fast cores but if you run many software instruments and heavy plugins Single Thread Rating is important.

For many years Intel has been ahead of AMD with the best CPU's making faster and more reliable CPU's. Recently AMD has made a lot of progress and even overrun Intel on Core count.

For some time the Intel I9 9900K has been a good choice for digital audio workstations and still is. There is a new 9900KS model with slightly better performance.

Intel i9-9900KS vs AMD Ryzen 9 3900X Chart
Intel i9-9900KS vs AMD Ryzen 9 3900X. 9900KS has better single core rating but 3900X has more cores.

CPU Mark is a relative score that can be compared between CPU's. Is listed in the chart the 3900X scores over 10.000 points more than the 9900KS but that does not take single core rating in account. 

Though AMD is closing the gap The 9900KS til has slightly better single core rating compared to the 3900X model but the AMD Pro 3900 beats even 9900KS.

For crunching heavy plugins 9900KS is slightly better but the 3900X has 10.000 extra points from the 4 extra cores for a higher track count in your production projects. If you are struggeling with UH-e Diva or Repro the 9900KS is your choice.

The Conclusion

If you have and older CPU that scores around 8000 to 12000 points in this CPU list you might bennefit from a cpu upgrade but it propably also goes for Motherboard, Cooler and RAM.

The i9-9900K, i9-9900KS or Ryzen 3900X are at the moment good CPU choices for a music production computer upgrade.