Minimum processing requirement to use Audacity

I am looking to buy the quietest computer possible for voiceover work in a home studio. Asus have just released a hybrid device (a tablet with detachable keyboard running off Windows 8.1) with a new Intel Atom processor which requires no fan, hence no noise; 2GB RAM but only 32 or 64GB SSD. Does anyone know if this is sufficient power and storage to run Audacity? I think the old Atom would have been difficult, but would appreciate any advice before I shell out £350! Thanks in advance, Nick

I don’t know, but I think it will work…

The only critical things are recording and playback. Any “processing” that Audacity does is just number crunching. It’s not working in real-time, and a slower computer will be slower, but no less accurate.

I’ve been playing around with audio since I had a 100MHz (0.1GHz) machine running Windows 95 (and IIRC with DOS before that). Modern computers are fast enough for video (with audio), which is more demanding than audio.

But here’s the big catch… It also depends on what the operating system is doing and what other background applications (and drivers & services) are running. (i.e. Sometimes Wi-Fi can slow-down your computer even when you’re not uploading or downloading.)

The computer hardware itself is plenty fast-enough for 1 or 2 channels of CD quality audio. But, it’s a multitasking operating system, so here’s how it works -

When you are recording, the audio data comes streaming-in at a constant rate. But, the CPU & data bus (and hard drive, etc.) might be off doing something else (maybe just keeping the display updated & checking for keystrokes or mouse movement. So the data flows goes into an input/recording buffer (holding tank). When the CPU gets around to it, it reads the buffer in a quick burst. If the operating system doesn’t get back to reading the buffer in time, you get buffer overflow, and a glitch in your recorded audio.

When you play back, the data gets written into the output/playback buffer in a quick burst, and the audio comes streaming out of the buffer at a constant rate. If the operating system doesn’t get around to re-filling the buffer in time, the buffer “runs dry”, you get buffer underflow, and a glitch in playback.

The amount of audio data also makes a difference. i.e. Stereo requires twice the amount of data as mono, and 24-bits/96kHz is three times as much data as 16-bit/48kHz.

There is usually some ability to adjust buffer size. (I think that depends on your audio interface & drivers). Bigger buffers are better, unless you are monitoring yourself with headphones through the computer. Buffers add latency (delay), so people are frequently trying to minimize buffer size.

If you need to monitor yourself while recording, the best solution is to use hardware that allows direct “zero latency” hardware monitoring. (You can still monitor a backing-track from the computer, if you are singing to a backing track, etc., but the monitoring of yourself should bypass the computer.

Many thanks, DVDdoug, for your very interesting response.
We will be using a Focusrite sound card so I’m hoping we wont have a latency problem with the headphones. But your comments about problems with the buffering worry me a bit. Think I will have to do some more searching online!
BTW, can I ask you (since you clearly know alot about hardware) if you know of any not-too-expensive laptops which you would think would work in a home recording studio, i.e. normally quiet enough not to interfere with the recording?..when I say not-too-expensive, I mean not in the Macbook Air category!
Thanks again for any help.
Best wishes

2 GB RAM is not enough if your projects are going to be an hour or more long. That’s only just enough RAM to run the operating system, Internet Explorer and e-mail (assuming this is a 64-bit computer). See the Audacity requirements: Audacity ® | Download for Windows .


MacBook Airs are fancy-pants iPods. Not used for serious production. The portability and lightness are what cost the bux and people run into production horsepower problems very quickly.

That’s a heavy as a Buick, lead-lined MacBook Pro that I’ve been using for field recording along with its sister. They make little or no noise and they have an excellent Stereo Line-In and Out. Or at least they used to. That was the machine I used to write the first Overdubbing tutorial. Both machines have SDDs.

That’s an actual broadcast radio shoot in a soundproof conference room.


Should we merge this thread with ?

I wouldn’t personally. They are two different users with slightly different questions. You could search for similar questions and make them into one topic with the same reasons not to do that.