If you want to build a custom PC for audio production, then choosing the right motherboard that complements the rest of your system well is an essential factor to consider.
The issue here is that there are a ton of choices ranging from affordable motherboards all the way to premium models. So which one do you choose? The one you choose depends rather on your budget as well as your level of production/expertise.
There are many levels of PCs that you can build. Do you want to build a mid range, high performance or perhaps a workstation build for your audio production? All these are important considerations when choosing the right motherboard.
The choice of the motherboard will almost certainly depend upon the choice of your CPU too.
In this article we will look at the best motherboards for audio production and also talk about how to choose the right one in the FAQ section below.
Comparison of Top Motherboard for Audio Production
|ASUS ProArt Z490|
|ATX||5 x Audio Ports|
120 dB SNR
|ATX||5 x Audio Ports|
120 dB SNR
|Asus AM4 |
|ATX||5 x Audio Ports|
108 dB SNR
|Gigabyte B550M |
|mATX||5 x Audio Ports|
|mATX||3 x Audio Ports|
Realtek ALC887 codec
|mATX||3 x Audio Ports|| |
List of Best Motherboards for Audio Production in 2021
We have selected the following motherboards as highly suitable for audio production. We have selected budget and premium models from both Intel and AMD based setups.
- ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR – Premium Motherboard with Thunderbolt 3.0
- ASUS Prime Z490-A – Intel LGA 1200 – Recommended Mid Range Intel Motherboard for Audio Production
- ASUS AM4 TUF Gaming X570-Plus – AM4 – Recommended AMD MOBO
- Gigabyte B550M AORUS PRO-P – AMD AM4 – Low-Mid Range Motherboard
- Gigabyte B365M DS3H – Intel LGA 1151 – For Affordable Intel Setup
- Gigabyte GA-A320M-S2H – AMD AM4 – For Affordable AMD Audio Workstation
The intention of this article is not to provide you with suggestions on how to build your entire audio production studio. Built in motherboard sound cards ARE NOT a replacement for professional external audio equipment and interfaces.
Hence, while we do make mentions of the sound card built into the board, this guide is for the system build and NOT on the sound quality of the motherboards.
Also Read: Best CPU for Audio Production
1. ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR – Premium Motherboard with Thunderbolt 3.0
A high performance motherboard for professionals. Offers 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Most of the motherboards out there are catered towards gamers. However, occasionally you will comes across rare specimen that are designed for creators, specialists and producers.
ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR is one such motherboard that is particularly designed to cater to professionals like Audio producers.
The motherboards features the Intel LGA1200 socket suitable for the newer 10th and 11th Gen Intel processors. Being a professional grade motherboard, it is based on the premium Z490 chipset.
Hence it allows for overclocking the CPU easily as well as offers support for higher performance RAM. One key point to note is that this motherboard features an excellence phase power design of 12+2 VRMs making this an excellent choice for top of the lines Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processors.
One of the biggest attraction of this motherboard is that it offers 2x Thunderbolt 3.0 ports. In addition to that it offers enough a plethora of PCIe expansion slots which you can use for additional add in cards such M.2 SSD expansion cards for more high speed storage in RAID configuration.
There are plethora of other attraction this motherboard such as the 10G LAN as well as a bundle of application that facilities your work.
So in short, if you are looking for a high quality option with a plethora of functions catered toward creators, then this is one of best motherboards for audio production for the Intel Z490 chipset.
Built-in Sound Card Details
This motherboard features 5 audio ports with one optical out.
It also features Realtek S1220A codec with 120 dB SNR
2. ASUS Prime Z490-A – Intel LGA 1200 – Recommended Mid Range Intel Motherboard for Audio Production
An ATX motherboard with Intel LGA 1200 socket. Built for 10th and 11th Gen Intel processors.
If you have a decent budget to spare for your Audio workstation, then this is another highly recommended option for an Intel setup.
This motherboard is a mid range motherboard featuring a full ATX form factor and an LGA 1200 socket. This is the socket used by the latest 10th and 11th Gen Intel Processors.
But the real beauty of this motherboard lies in its high quality construction as well as its high end components.
Like the motherboard above, this offers the latest high performance Z490 chipset. Motherboards with these chipset are suitable for high performance processors from the Intel Core i7 and the Core i9 series.
This motherboard has an excellent phase power design, which is another common feature among motherboard with Z series chipsets. It also offers phase power design of 12+2.
As such it has 12 VRMs for the processor and 2 for the RAM giving it a top of the line stability.
Other than that, this motherboard offers plethora of features including the much coveted thunderbolt header which can be used to connect a thunderbolt port.
It also offers latest ports such as USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C and plethora of PCIe connectivity.
While for a newbie this motherboard would be an overkill, if you are serious about your workstation, then this is the best motherboard for audio production in our opinion.
Built-in Sound Card Details
This motherboard features 5 audio ports with one optical ou.
3. ASUS AM4 TUF Gaming X570-Plus – AM4 – Recommended AMD Motherboard for Audio Production
A midpriced AM4 motherboard with an exceptional value for money. Features the X570 chipset.
Next, we have a midrange motherboard that we personally find to be the go to option for most who plan to build an AMD audio rig.
ASUS TUF series has a reputation of featuring only the most long lasting and sturdy components. From its 6 layer strong PCB construction to certified military grade chokes. This motherboard reeks of heavy duty quality from all corners.
The higher the quality of the components, the less they are prone to accidental damage as well as to system errors.
The main highlight of this motherboard is the X570 chipset. This is the premium desktop grade motherboard chipset for AMD PCs at the moment.
It features the latest PCIe v4.0 bandwidth across both the CPU as well as the general PCIe lanes. Hence it theoretically doubles the transfer speed as compared to the older PCIe 3.0 based motherboards.
A practical advantage to note, for instance, is the fact that this can support the newer Gen 4 NVMe SSD that can top the speeds of 6.5 GB/s compared to older Gen 3 NVMe SSDs with 3.5 GB/s typical transfer speeds.
In the end, if you are are looking to build a high perf, yet mid-priced option, then this is the best motherboard for audio production.
Built-in Sound Card Details
This motherboard features the Realtek S1200A codec with 108 db SNR. It supports 5.1 surround sound with it 5 audio ports. It also has an optical S/PDIF for certain protocols like Dolby.
The audio controller on this motherboard is shielded from outside noise with a “TUF” Audio Cover.
4. Gigabyte B550M AORUS PRO-P – AMD AM4 – Low-Mid Range Motherboard
A mid range motherboard for intermediate to professional Audio production builds.
If you are looking for a middle of the road build and you do not want to spend too much on a motherboard, then we highly recommend this option.
This motherboard features the B550 chipset. In terms of functionality and price it lies between the A and X series AMD chipsets for desktop PCs.
The important point to note is that this offers PCIe v4.0 CPU lanes and hence conforms to the newer higher bandwidth PCIe bandwidth.
The motherboard is compatible with all Ryzen processors supporting the AM4 socket including the newer Ryzen Gen 5 processors. It features the plenty of connectivity including USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports.
Unlike the motherboards above, this motherboard has an mATX form form factor. It is smaller and has a fewer PCIe slots, but most Audio Productions builds do not require a high degree of expandability anyways.
One of the best parts about AMD B series is that it offers overclocking and high speed RAM support despite being a mid range chipset series. The same Intel B series does not offer this.
5. Gigabyte B365M DS3H – Intel LGA 1151 – For Affordable Intel Setup
A functional and a highly affordable motherboard for 8th and 9th Gen Intel Processors.
If you do not care much for a high end setup and you just want a very functional motherboard for audio production, then we recommend this.
This motherboard is also a great option for those who plan to invest on a dedicated sound card or DAC of their own and do not want to rely on the built in sound card.
This is basically one of the most affordable mATX motherboard for the processors based on Intel LGA 1151 socket i.e 8th and 9th gen Intel processors. Great for those making a budget build.
The built in sound card on this is not the best out there. However, given the budget, it allows you to save enough to procure a high end external or internal standalone sound card.
Other than that, this offers reasonable expandability with 1 X16 PCIE slot, one X4 slot and one X1 slot. It also offers a decent amount of SATA ports so that you can connect multiple hard disks. It also offers a single M.2 slot for SSD.
Another important point to note here is that this motherboard features an mATX form factor. Since mATX motherboard are smaller than the standard ATX motherboards, you can choose to go for a smaller PC case.
The benefit of the smaller case is that not only is it cheaper, it allows for a compact PC build.
All in all, if you are looking for a budget option for Intel based system, then this is the best motherboard for audio production in our opinion.
Built in Sound Card Details
The motherboard offers 3 x audio ports i.e line out, line in and mic. Hence it can accommodate a 2.1 stereo system. It uses the inferior Realtek ALC887 codec compared to the Realtek S1220A codec found in some of the previous motherboards.
6. Gigabyte GA-A320M-S2H – AMD AM4 – For Affordable AMD Audio Workstation
An affordable AMD AM4 motherboard for basic audio workstation or for those wanting to installing a separate sound card.
This is similar to the motherboard above, however, it is based on the AMD AM4 chipset. Basically this is an an ultra affordable motherboard that is excellent for those who wish to install a separate sound card of their own.
There are budget motherboards and there is this Gigabyte GA-A320M-S2H. This is an ultra-budget motherboard that is excellent if you want to build the most economical setup using an AMD system.
The key here to realize is that this motherboard just serves as a skeleton for you to add premium components on to it.
The money you save on this motherboard can be used to procure high end sound cards with high DNR and sample rate.
Besides, if you are a beginner audio producer and you just need a motherboard to run all the important software, then this can serve you quite well.
Being a micro ATX motherboard, it is smaller than the ATX options and thus the system should have a smaller footprint as a result.
The motherboard features minimal specs with just 2 x DIMM slot for a max of 32 GB, which is more than enough for running any audio software.
In short, if you want to keep your expenditure on a motherboard to a minimum and use the money saved on other components, then this is the best motherboard for audio production.
Built in Sound Card Details
This motherboard only offers 3 audio ports suitable for 2.1 stereo system.
Additional Resources for Audio Production
What To Look For in the Right Motherboard for Audio Producers?
When choosing the right audio production motherboard, the first and foremost important consideration is what your budget is, what your level of expertise is and how complex the projects you work on could get.
If you are mixing multiple tracks, effects and seriously putting the PC in the position where it can stress out, then you would obviously need to invest in a better and a newer CPU for starters.
Investing in a good processor would, in turn demand that you invest in a good motherboard to have parity in performance.
This, along with many other factors, decide what motherboard to go for. We review some below:
Deciding on the Socket is the First Step
One of the first things that you should look at when getting the right motherboard is the Socket obviously. Depending upon the processor you have, the socket on the motherboard changes.
So for instance the following are the more common sockets:
- LGA1151: For Intel 8th and 9th Gen processors
- LGA1200: For Intel 10th and 11th Gen processors
- LGA2066: For Intel for Workstation Grade Intel Core Extreme Processors
- AM4: For AMD Ryzen Gen 1 to Ryzen Gen 5 processors
- sTRX4: For AMD Workstation Grade AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors
Chances are that when you are building a PC for audio production, the right processor for the job would be the first component that you procure.
Hence depending upon your choice of CPU, you would then look for the right motherboard socket.
Chipset Defines the Quality of the Motherboard
Next, the most important consideration is the chipset of the motherboard.
The chipset directly relates to the quality of the motherboard and hence reflects its price point.
There are many things that differentiate one chipset from the other, they are as follows (among other factors):
- PCIe version
- Amount of PCIe lanes available
- PCIe Slot configuration
- VRM quality and phase power design (to an extent)
- Overclocking ability
- Memory channels
- Max SATA ports
- RAID configuration and support
- USB and port configuration
- Built in WiFi support
Both Intel and AMD have long running chipset series for different levels of use case.
They are as follows:
- Intel Desktop Grade: H, B, Z series with H being the budget series, B being the mid range series and Z being the high performance series of chipsets.
- Intel Workstation Grade: X series chipsets. Motherboard featuring these chipsets only work with Core Extreme or Xeon processors.
- AMD Desktop Grade: A, B, X series with A being the budget series, B being the mid range and X being the high performance series of chipsets.
- AMD Workstation Grade: TRX40 chipset. These harbor the expensive AMD threadripper processors.
Which Chipset Do We Recommend?
If you are building a desktop PC, then we highly recommend that you either invest in the Z series Intel motherboards or the X series AMD motherboard for audio production.
These have a better overall quality and have the power design to handle the high performance processors without any issue. If you plan to overclock or require more PCIe lanes to support more SSDs or PCIe add in card etc, the Z and X series are again the go to choice.
Of course, it is not uncommon to find most professional audio producers using workstation PCs and hence you would be compelled to invest in the large and the premium X or the TRX40 chipset motherboards to cater to the powerful processors.
But then again,
Depending upon your budget and your intentions, you can invest in the more affordable series as well. For instance, if you are a beginner student, then by all means even the H series from Intel or the A series from AMD should suffice.
The following chart sheds some light on how one series differs from the other.
Thunderbolt 3.0 and Newer Gen USB 3.2
Many producers and editors appreciate having plethora of high speed connectivity ports.
While thunderbolt 3.0 ports are a bit rare to find, you can certainly find them on the more premium motherboards particularly designed for creators.
As for the high speed and newer Gen USB ports, that depends upon the chipset you invest in.
The size of the motherboard defines how many peripherals you can attach to it as well as he overall size of your computer.
Motherboard sizes are referred to as form factors. The most common sizes are ATX, Micro ATX and MINI ITX.
The largest of the common desktop form factors is the ATX with a dimension of about 12 x 9.6 inches. Micro ATX comes at 9.6 x 9.6 inch size range and finally, the mini ITX is the smallest of them all at 6.7 x 6.7 inches dimension.
There are larger still form factors like the EATX which generally cater to the workstation grade Intel Core Extreme or the AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors.
Of course, the smaller the motherboard, the less expandability it will offer. For instance, the mini ITX motherboards only offers a single PCIe X16 slot for expansion.
Hence, if you choose to have a graphics card as well as a standalone sound card installed, you would not be able to do so due to the single PCIe slot the mini ITX has.
If you are an audio producer then chances are that you wouldn’t quite need more than single PCIe x16 card for graphics card. In fact, many audio producers do not find a dedicated GPU necessary at all. So you can use the single PCIe x16 card on the mini ITX motherboard for just your sound card.
ATX and Micro ATX motherboards, on the other hand, offer reasonable expandability.
Also Read: Best Motherboards for SLI
Rest of the Hardware
If you have budget constraints, then we recommend that you keep your budget for motherboard at a reasonably minimized level.
Your primary investment should be done on the more important components like a good processors or a high amount of RAM.
Perhaps you can also install SSDs as they can certainly give boost to your PC performance.
However, minimum isn’t necessarily the ideal configuration. Therefore, it is recommended to have 8- 16 GB of RAM, or at least an Intel i5 or Ryzen 5 processor if you are truly serious about building a workstation.
Also Read: Best Motherboards for Graphic Design
Do You Plan to Use the Built in Motherboard Sound Card or Have an Audio Interface?
If you are a beginner without a dedicated studio, audio production equipment or an audio interface, you may choose to get started with just the built-in motherboard sound card.
If you choose to go this route, then there are few drawbacks to note:
Many professionals find that the built-in motherboard sound card is prone to noise generation and hence they resort to separate standalone audio interface instead.
On top of that, sound cards, be it built in or dedicated ones installed on the PCIe slots, have minimal I/O ports for a typical recording studio.
Other important consideration are high quality preamps and latency. Dedicated Audio Interfaces tend to solve all these issues but they can get expensive particularly for beginners.
Hence it is important to gauge your requirements.
Also Read: Best Desktops for FL Studio
Note on Channels
You need to understand that not all motherboard built-in sound cards are created equally.
The first and foremost important consideration is the amount of audio channels you wish to hook up.
There are typically three different configuration found on motherboards
- 3 x Audio Ports: for 2.1 sound system
- 5 x Audio Ports: for 5.1 Surround Sound
- 6 x Audio Ports: For 7.1 Surround Sound
DNR, Impedance, and Sample Rate
Of course, if you are very particular about the built in sound card, then you have to look into its Dynamic Range value, the Impedance and Sample Rate supported.
All these are very important factors about any sound system as they entail the size of the supported audio system, how loud they can be and the quality.
Again, if you are not a beginner, than we would recommend you invest on a good Audio Interface over the built-in sound.
A good motherboard can facilitate your audio production rig, however, before you delve into getting one, you have to study how one motherboard is differentiated from the other.
In this article, we briefly had a look at some of the important consideration when choosing the best motherboard for Audio production as well as looked at the motherboards that are highly reviewed for this matter.
The point to note here is that the choice of the components, including the motherboard, entirely depends upon your budget and what you wish to achieve.
If you are a beginner, we would recommend you keep things simple. Alternatively, if you are a pro then you can look into some of the more advanced models DEPENDING LARGELY upon what processor you invest in.