Building PC to run Cubase LE AI

Hi all - I am new to this forum and returning to music after a long break.
I’m in the process of putting together a DAW. My last studio was 30 years ago and I’m going through a fairly step learning curve, coming from the era of 8 track tape recorders, analogue synths, samplers and rack mount effect processing units.

I purchased a Surface Book 3 laptop with 16 Gb of RAM a few months back and have tried using this with Cubase LE AI. I am having issues with processing even when only doing fairly minimal MIDI and audio track recordings. Even transferring audio recordings from old cassette tapes to audio was causing dropouts as in small sections of music were missing on mixdown. The specs of the Surface Book 3 are 10th Gen Intel quad Core i7-1065G7 1.3GHz (8M Cache, 3.0GHz Max Turbo) with 16Gb RAM. I believe the issue of using this laptop as a DAW is the Turbo feature and the variation in processing power ranging from 1.3 to 3.0GHz. depending on demand.

My first question is - Is anyone else having issues with this type of setup, and if so are there any tweakings that can be done to fix the issue? I have been told that under power management there are some USB settings that can be configured to boost performance, however this USB setting option does not appear on the Surface Book.

My second question relates to if there is a need for me to upgrade to another PC. If compiling a PC from scratch, what should I look for in terms on components to have a well functioning DAW? I am doing home studio work only which will consist mostly of internal MIDI instruments, external synths and occasional audio recording with lots of effect processing. My style of music is ambient/orchestral and will potentially involve some high end sampling libraries ie: Spitfire audio? How much RAM, size and type of processor, type of HD etc should I aim for. Any feedback would be very very useful as a guide.

Thanks for your help.

Paul Widdicombe

On the surface book you could do with enabling the steinberg power plan as Cubase does not work well with cpu throttling.

If you want to build your own then take a look at SCAN who build PCs designed and tested to work with audio. You can see what components they use and build your own. I have done that in the past but these days I find that for not a lot extra you get a guarantee and it’s built for you. You can even customise them before purchase. I’ve also used cclonline as they are close to where I live. Both these are uk but the parts they use if you build your own can be sourced in any country. Depending where you are there may be audio pc builders or it may be much cheaper to do it yourself.

Thanks for your reply. Pardon my ignorance but by enabling the power plan do you mean use the 5 V DC power source instead of from the laptop?

The power plan is enabled from within Cubase. It keeps the processor at 100% so will impact the battery. I would have it plugged in to avoid this. There are also lots of other tweaks that can be done. Search windows optimisation for audio or something similar. Laptops are usually the worst offenders for problems. I would say it was even more important when buying a laptop to make sure it has been proven to work with audio well. Mainly because it’s not as easy to change components that could be causing the problem.

So I would activate the cubase power setting and then use the 5V external power source to run the UR22C?

I’m talking about using the laptop power adapter. That’s what I thought you meant. If the UR works on usb power then keep it that way. If it doesn’t then use an adapter. I know my desktop gives enough power over usb but I don’t know if your laptop does.

The laptop has always been connected to power so I’m not sure then if the issues I’m having with the UR22C relate to power supply.
Is it still worth trying the external power supply and can I plug a micro USB to USB cable into an iPhone charger?

Hi Paul,

What mkok is referring to with “Power Plan” are settings within Windows that governs power management of different computer components, the CPU in particular. You can find these power plans here: Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Power Options
It is commonly recommended that a DAW is configured so that Windows does not put the CPU in a low power state to conserve energy but instead tells the processor to always run at 100%. (There are further settings in BIOS to disable “Speed step” etc.)
If you change all these settings to favor computing power over electrical power, then your batteries will not last as long and mkok was recommending you to keep your computer plugged in, and not run it off of batteries.

Is this where you looked?
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It is also recommended that you disable the setting “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power” in the Device Manager.

You will have to do that for every entry under “Universal Serial Bus controllers” that expose this setting.

The Surface Books are great for go-places-and-type uses. It’s not as well suited to media creation.

In general, you’ll end up wanting more/faster storage and CPU, especially CPU, as well as available ports, so something like a desktop, or at least a mini-desktop, would be better. You’ll also want a non-“mobile” CPU, because the non-mobile ones have higher performance (but use more power, so must be plugged in, of course.)

If you want samll and unobtrusive, you could check out the Intel NUC 12: Intel NUC 12 Extreme Kit ('Dragon Canyon') Review | PCMag
Add RAM to it (16 GB might be enough, but I’d go for 32) and a M.2 drive (I’d go for something like a Samsung 970 2TB drive at least.) You’ll also need a graphics card – I’d go for whatever low-cost fan-less PCI-Express card you can find, anything will be quite capable enough for Cubase. (Personally have had better luck with NVIDIA than AMD graphics hardware, FWIW)

Then plug in your external interface, monitor, keyboards, and enjoy! The CPU has plenty of oomph for most projects you’re going to want to make.

If you want a step up from that, you could build something on a motherboard with a Ryzen 9 5950X, but then you’re starting to run into questions about cooling – and probably want to buy the system from some integrator that ends up costing more (but can do a very neat job.) One of the benefits of the Ryzen over the Core is that all the cores are “high performance” whereas the Intel chip has 8 “high performance” and 8 “efficiency” cores. If you load up your projects with channels and plug-ins, that could help.

Anyway: For Cubase, CPU capability is by far the most important. Then, get a fast disk, typically an M.2 NVME disk, of sufficient capacity – at least 2 TB. Then, make sure you have enough RAM. 16 GB will be enough for now, 32 GB will be no worries for a long time. Then, make sure it’s all in a case/form factor you can live with – if you have a desktop microphone and record in the room in question, whether it has fans, and how loud they are, will matter. (Also, putting sound treatment on the walls of the room, and getting good-quality studio monitor speakers, will improve your work as well, but those weren’t the things you were asking about :slight_smile: )

Thanks mlindeb, I discovered that the surface book does not have default high performance power options without doing a command prompt - even after to doing that to turn high performance on it is limited and doesn’t have the USB options. I have set it at high performance mode.
I’ve managed to turn off the save power on all USB hubs. Thanks for your help. Will see how this goes.

Thanks Jwatte, I somehow think this maybe the way to go. I had bought the surface book a few months back and it was unfortunately before I decided to look into setting up a DAW. I had recently read a review that expressed similar opinions as your own that it is not suitable as a music/media creation machine.

You can still do a lot with a modest but recent machine, as long as you don’t have a list of bloatware wasting your CPU resources in the background.
Optimizing a laptop can be tedious, but start by opening “Task Manager” go to the “Startup” tab and start disabling about everything that is not essential to your DAW work.
You can probably disable 95% of apps listed there, and add them back later only if you actually miss something.
Disable also everything “automatic”, and just do regular updates manually, as needed.

Have you tried using your interface (UR22C) usning the external power supply? I have had issues with dropouts using a laptop USB bus to power my interfaces in the past.