AET 2050 - DAW Production

3. Computer Systems for DAWs


  1. Differentiate between real time and non-real time computer systems.
  2. Give basic descriptions of the main operating systems used for DAWs.
  3. Define and give examples of the basic computer components.
  4. Define the functions and important parameters of hard drives in relation to DAWs.

The Computer Defined

The heart of the Digital Audio Workstation

A system that manipulates data, stores the data, and communicates with peripheral devices to accept commands or give out information.

Executes a given set of instructions (a program), accept inputs, perform processes, output results, and likely store or recall information.

Real-time processing

Communicates with the outside world through interfaces or ports. The speed at which data passes depends on the application:

Key Components of the Computer System

OS (Operating System)

There are two primary operating systems in use today: Windows and Mac OS. Lesser-used systems include Unix/Linux and BeOs.

Mac OS


What system to use?

Choosing an OS is an important decision. Points to consider:

Staying Current


Hardware Overview

Block diagram of a basic computer system containing the basic functional blocks and the busses that interconnect them:


Computer architecture can be broken into three main categories or functional blocks:

  1. the processor (CPU)
  2. memory (RAM and ROM)
  3. interface to the outside (I/O)



CPU (Central Processing unit)

Expansion slots


Hard Drive


I/O and communication ports

Digital Signal Processors (DSPs)

What is important for DAWs?

Consider the options that are needed (or not needed) for audio processing.

Desktop vs laptop

Computer's Components