Computer required for composing

Hi all,

I am looking for a desktop computer to run Sibelius 7 on and someday FL 11, Symphobia 2, or other VST's etc.. (Can't afford these right now, but would love having them down the road). I'll pretty much be running the $99.00 version of Sibelius, pro-tools, and free or cheap VSTs I can find.

I found a guy on craigslist who is selling PCs for around $155 and they seem to exceed all of the system requirements for Sibelius, but not sure if they will be able to handle everything else further on down the road. Also want to mention that I do have a 1 TB external HD right now, so I'll have that to play with as well. I figure I can pick up a cheap monitor at Goodwill along with a keyboard and mouse at Bestbuy for cheap or something. 

One of the PCs he is selling is: 

Dell Optiplex 760 MT desktop PC

~Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4ghz Processor (Quad Core)

~4GB Ram

~160GB hard drive
~DVD RW ROM drive
~Intel GMA integrated graphics, Supports dual monitor
~Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit loaded with Product key and disk! 

Am I overly excited about this? Because this is really affordable for me right now and if it's good enough* to run Sibelius smoothly, I'll pick one up right away.

*I'm not looking for a crazy powerhouse PC right now. I just want something so I can run Sibelius again (my mac laptop broke recently) and get to composing! That being said, I don't want to spend $155 on a piece of junk that is going to stall, delay, and run choppy. I'm not super skilled in the area of computers so I'm asking here. Thanks guys and gals!

You need to be a member of Composers' Forum to add comments!

Join Composers' Forum

Email me when people reply –


  • When you start to use some of the better vst plug-ins, you need 24-32 GB's of RAM to simply run some of the libraries such as CineStrings for example. Music tools always force me to upgrade my computer.
  • Sorry, don't have any real advice to offer here, but ... wow, reading what Rodney wrote, makes me wonder how much of those GB's of resources are actually needed to produce an audio file. As a (rather cynical) software developer, my suspicion is that half of those resources are devoted to eye candy, and the other half are needed only because people want instant feedback from the virtual instruments.  I'm an old-fashioned weirdo, and work primarily with batch-processing and other scripted audio generation methods, and I only need a tiny fraction of these GBs to produce reasonable-sounding output.  Granted, the audio I can produce can't be compared to what these fancy libraries can, but even then, I suspect that once you cut away the eye candy and the instant response, you could produce audio of the same quality with the same underlying samples, yet with only a fraction of the resources it currently "needs".

  • In my estimation, just the fact of having a GUI already consumes about 20-30% of a program's total resources. Playback also takes up a lot of resources, because in order to avoid stuttering the program has to keep everything in memory -- i.e., all articulations of all samples of all instruments used, etc.. Plus it has to do the sound rendering in real-time, meaning it requires a lot of CPU power too, especially when it has to mix a large number of instruments playing simultaneously.

    A batch-processing program, OTOH, requires much less, because (1) it doesn't necessarily need to keep all instrument patches in memory at once (it can render each instrument's part one by one, then merge them at the end), and (2) it's not constrained by real-time requirements, so if the CPU is slow, it just takes longer to produce the audio file (maybe a bit longer than it takes to actually play the piece, if your computer is low on memory / has a slow CPU).  Once the audio file is produced, it doesn't take much resources to play it back.

    The advantage of batch processing is that even on a slow computer with very little RAM, you can still produce audio files of equal quality. (Arguably, one could produce better quality, because you can do so much more when you're not constrained by instant response time.)

    The disadvantage, of course, is that you lose instant feedback and real-time response.  Apparently, this is a big deal with today's instant-gratification generation, but I'm perfectly OK with letting the program do its thing in the background while I take a coffee break, or browse online (participate in flamewars on this forum, etc., :-P).

  • Thank you guys for the feedback. Much appreciated. 

    The guy is also selling a machine with 8GB (can be upgraded to 16GB) of RAM for $250. That seems like a pretty decent deal. This way, I can spend less up front and upgrade later if I choose. I know it's still not 24-32GB like Rodney was saying, but it will have to do. I suppose I could save up for a machine with 32GB of RAM and 500GB HHD but given my finances, this might take forever. 

    I feel like even the 4GB of RAM machine might be ok for my needs. I really only want to run Sibelius right now. I can't really afford any VSTs or anything right now and who knows when I will be able to do that. I just really want to get back in the game and start composing. 

  • H.S.,

    What is an example of a batch-processing program?

  • Had an ad for Fry's Electronics pop up on me today saying they're having one of their blowout sales.  Had refurbed computer for 79$.  I don't know the details, but it mite be worth looking at.  Just a thought.


  • Will do, Chris. Thanks!

  • I have been off the forum for awhile due to finding steady work. I'm back now! and would like to let you all know that I have a full-time job and I have begun to build a proper machine for recording music. I'm saving money to build an x99 system with an i7 six-core processor and 32GB of ram to start with. Just thought I would give everyone an update. Thank you all for the help and support!


  • Congrats Bobby.  Sounds like the new machine will be a beast.  Best of luck with all of it.

  • When we buy a new computer, with a new Intel chip, we might want to know where the minerals that compose it come from.  It may be worth asking the maker, or the company  representative.


    All Intel chips are made from "coltan"  (short for columbite-tantalite).  The increase in demand for this mineral has helped fuel an ongoing series of civil war flare-ups in Congo-Kinshasa.   Over five million total have died in these conflicts, that involve militias and forces from about seven or eight neighboring countries, some of which are directly and indirectly funded by the US and US allies. 


    Coltan that comes from Brazil, Australia, or other parts of the world are not tainted by this "blood diamond like conflict."  (Sometimes, called a blood-coltan war).  See the documentary called "Blood in my Mobile" (coltan is used in mobile, or cell phones, as it is in intel computer chips).


    It's fair to ask, how complicit are we in these wars, when we buy cell phones and computers made from the minerals that are being fought over in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo—Kinshasa)?

This reply was deleted.