While the Mediastation X-76 uses embedded Linux within some of the 11 in-house developed DSP cards, it is a hard disk based system with commodity computer components. Of course the value of commodity parts is that they're affordable and users can upgrade them.
The eleven Lionstracs DSP cards are the result of two years and $500,000.00 U.S. of research and development. The basic system includes two wavetable DSP cards with 128 voices on each card. These cards run the sam9708 firmware which is common in high end keyboards. The system can be ugraded to run four wavetable cards, 512 voices. The X-76 is tentatively scheduled for release in April, 2004.
Of course the OS is Linux based, with low latency and preemption patches to the kernel and it runs Alsa. With Alsa the system is able to run Jack Audio Connection Kit (JACK). Jack is a low latency audio server that automatically detects hardware ports and user defined application ports. So, routing data from one application to another is simple. Jack also inludes jack_transport where Jack clients are automatically synced to each other. Any jack client can initiate transport commands.
Any available Linux audio applications can be run on the system. Lionstracs will package and maintain a selection of GPL licensed applications including audio, midi and video. Plus, there's modem and ethernet capabilities so software upgrades are "free" (GPL) and automatic.
There will be three unused pci slots available on the basic X-76 system. These pci slots can be occupied with professional grade audio cards like those from RME. So you can build the workstation into a 24 track recording studio.
With JACK and an RME audio card, the user can start Ardour (DAW), JAMin, (audio mastering tools) and Rezound (destructive wave editing). Jack enables routing of the audio chain and syncs the transports. In this scenario the audio source to the mastering tool is multitrack. Very cool!
The X-76 has two hardware transports that can be mapped to any application transport. Of course these applications include sampler, DAW, midi sequencer, etc. One of the included applications is the Lionstracs full featured DJ mixer/player.
Because Linux is a multitasking environment, in live performances a midi sequence that's playing can be fed into the Seq24 based style player where the beat can be changed from rock to reggae on the fly.
The X-76 is designed for live performance where navigation speed to application interfaces is vital. There are 120 configurable hardware buttons on the top panel. The use of a mouse is not necessary.
It also has a 116db dynamic range analog mixer matrix with master, cue and eight stereo in/outs. In a live situation you mix multitrack DAW to stereo_out:1, hardware transports to stereo_out[2,3], sampler_out:4,mic_out1and2:5, etc. This is typical functionality required in DJ/House control systems. Of course it would also be simple to sync MIDI control light mixers and beyond this, the X-76 video outputs can feed projector systems, etc.
The disk based sampler includes time stretch, pitch correction and beat matching algorithms that are usable to +/- 30% without audio artifacts.