Digital Audio Workstations have become popular in recent years because a software-based studio is significantly less expensive than a real studio. If you are recording directly into the workstation, a quiet workstation is essential so that no fan or hard drive noise gets into the recording.
Digital Audio applications such as Cakewalk and Sony Acid Pro are highly CPU reliant so the faster the CPU, the better.
At least 1GB of RAM is necessary for these types of applications. If you plan on using a large number of loops and samples, plug-ins or other programs simultaneously with your digital audio application then your machine will need more RAM to cope.
Because of the large amount of screen real estate that these programs can take up, 2 or more monitors is the way to go. Most video cards today – even budget ones – can run multiple monitors.
As with photography and videography, the best configuration is to have one drive or set of drives for the operating system and applications and another for your work files. This ensures that your audio files have the quickest possible pathway to the CPU and you won’t lose them if the operating system files become corrupt since they are on separate hard drives. If you are using video you should consider a third drive or set of hard drives for this. If you are involved in projects that have a large number of audio tracks then you should consider using hard drives in a RAID configuration – that is using two or more hard drives simultaneously. Hard drives in this configuration have a significant speed advantage over single hard drives and they offer redundancy, too.
The application you are using should give you all the information you need on which is the best sound card. Motherboard-based sound is usually insufficient.