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Music Media

Making Music with Linux : Mastering, Bandwidth, and Synthesis 117

In the first part of Slashdot's 'Making Music with Linux' series, we discussed the possibilities of using Linux as an audio production operating system. While we lamented the lack of a fully-functional audio suite for Linux, we saw the silver lining in the cloud of patience, and witnessed a great number of free sound tools that were well on their way to greatness. In this installment, we talk a little more about high-end audio mastering, low-end sound transport, and using Linux as a tool for sound synthesis. Part II of a series.

Burning a CD under Linux is super-easy, and there are quite a few programs that make it possible under Linux. X-CD-Roast is a popular tool, and is used constantly by Linux enthusiasts to burn their own multi-session content onto a compact disc. The problem is that there is still no Linux equivalent for the huge multi-track mixer you'll find at professional recording studios. If you're hoping to mix down tracks and perform studio-quality takes and 'bounces' of your work, you're going to need an expensive chunk of professional digital audio hardware. Once you've got your finished master, you'll have no problem making as many copies as you want using your Linux machine. Until we have a real-time mixdown utility, the waiting game wins again.

The world of low-bandwidth sound transport is wide open on the Linux platform, except for the glaring exception of not being able to play Windows Media Player sound files on your machine. Although the 'media darling' of sound transport is the mp3 file format, there's no denying the fact that mp3 provides solid sound quality and a small file footprint. Mp3 still isn't the answer to all of our prayers, however. No matter what anyone tells you, mp3 is not CD-quality sound, and tends to boost the mid-range in most tunes.

When you're living with a low-bandwidth target, the sound you're streaming is secondary in importance to stretching that stream over a maximum number of clients with the least amount of lag. RealPlayer suffers from the same mid-range band pass issues as mp3, but in the grand scheme of things, you're a lot more likely to encounter RealPlayer as an option when you're surfing. Producing RealPlayer content is easy to do and easy to host, but the downside is that it's not free. RealProducer will run you $149.95 from RealNetworks.

Joseph Ottinger, Linux-savvy musician, shares his thoughts on streaming audio. "I choose mp3 because of the high quality and decent compression. Real's stuff is nice because it's streaming, but even on a fast connection, that stuff sounds like it's ground up. Microsoft's streaming format is worse, lacking even more of the fundamental sound's depth and clarity. The problem with mp3 is Napster. Napster makes it easy to send and find mp3's. A lot of people trade though, so people rip stuff at low quality just to get their numbers up and their bandwidth down."

Csound is a wonderfully portable and versatile sound synthesis package written entirely in C. Csound uses two files to work its magic; a score file that basically acts as a timed-event trigger file, and an orchestra file to interpret what voices it should use to play the score. This is a classical approach to sound synthesis, and can be used to either generate a sound file or, if your system is fast enough, to send the output directly to a DAC on your system's soundcard. If you like, you can even use a standard MIDI file to act as the score file. Csound has about a bazillion extensions, and nifty gadgets that use it.

For those interested in using their Linux machine as a powerful tool for creating original instruments and sounds, they'll find a friend in Cecilia, a wonderful sound synthesis tool that sits right on top of Csound, without you having to get your hands dirty. Cecilia provides real-time signal processing on sound files, live input, or can work as a software synthesizer on its own. If you're in love with real-time resonance or envelope filters, Cecilia lets you configure the software synth to the limit.

Next time, we discuss Linux sound hardware and support, and we're going acronym-diving! Find out what OSS and ALSA are, and why they've got something to do with those big speakers you bought. We'll also navigate the treacherous waters of musical notation with Linux. If you know of any fantastic audio production programs, please let us know! See you next time...

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Making Music with Linux : Mastering, Bandwidth, and Synthesis

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Same story everytime .. yawn
    Linux + lowlatency-patches delivers audio-perfromance _AT_PAR_ with BEOS (I measured 2-3ms WORST CASE PERFORMANCE)
    Very problably the lowlatency patches will go into kernel 2.4

    see the testresults, patches, comments and analysis at my page []
    Benno Senoner
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I recall a little computer called the Amiga that was somewhat big in this field as well :) Man I miss MED.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What kind of support is there for the high end recording cards? Like the Event Gina/Darla/Layla
  • by Anonymous Coward
    UltraMaster's Juno-6 shows that linux can be the platform for realtime synthesis. It is free too, with source code. It basically is a fully functional 80's style analogue (simulated) synthesizer with MIDI support. Go linux. You can check it out at []

    David Mansfield

  • but it is not enough for Linux to ape whatever MS and MacOS does.
    This wording unfortunately shows the popular way of thinking. Did MS write your sound programs, or are they just there because of market share?
    Please don't misinterpret this to read that I think MS RULEZ! or that LINUX SUX!
    We won't, if you promise to remember not to be loyal (by saying things like "Microsoft has better sound programs") to a company who gains loyalty by market share.
  • The problem with Real Time response has nothing to do with writing the thing in assembler. You can write buggy non-deterministic code in any language and in many ways "big computer" assembler encourages this. Most true real time operating systems these days are written in C (e.g. RTEMS or eCos - both are open source examples).

    The big problem (OS/kernel level patches aside) is, I suspect, more the _way_ Linux applications are generally built. Most "big computer" (i.e. Windows, Linux, etc) programmers don't understand how to build deterministic real-time code. From a conventional app standpoint you would never contemplate pre-allocating all dynamic memory structures, tasks, etc but this is absoutely necessary to provide the necessary deterministic response required of a real-time program. Most app developers will choose the solution that provides the highest speed for the common case - real time systems often take a performance hit on the common cases to ensure that *all* cases meet the deadline. Designing a multi-threaded application to be responsive, not suffer priority inversion, etc,etc is tough.

    One of the good things to note though is that there is a lot of Open Source real-time work going on out there with RTEMS, eCos and RTLinux providing a sound platform for developers to learn and use real-time techniques.
  • >I think what has been lacking is a real scene that drives the need for
    >tracking utils. North America (which slashdot is pretty centric too)
    >has never been a huge hot bed of demo's and music. Sure, there were
    >arists making some cool stuff here but the tracking/demo parties held
    >in North America were never as big/good as the European counterpart.

    You're right. Outside of the Amiga crowd there never was much interest in North America in techno-crap which made the 70's disco song "Disco Duck" sound good.....In case you missed the sarcasm, "Disco Duck" was *HORRIBLE*
  • >
    >(a) what's wrong with techno?
    >(b) some of the members of tracking groups were excellent musicians.
    >don't knock their talent just because you think it makes a good quip
    >on slashdot.

    (a) People like you asked the same thing about Disco.
    (b)On the other hand there *WAS* some good stuff that came out of Disco. Be hard presed to say the same about techno though.
    After all what's the techno equalant to "The Bertha Butt Boggie"
  • So, Windows will never make it because so many secretaries who only know Office 2000 use it?
    Aaron Gaudio
    "The fool finds ignorance all around him.
  • Indeed, I am surprised SLab was not mentioned. It
    handles several aspects of the hard disk recording
    process, and supports many soundcards simultaneously.
  • If you're talking about csound and structured music, don't forget the other formats. MP4 is the official one, but it doesn't seem to be taking off in any way; I think it's too complicated.

    However one format that no-one's mentioned yet are the grand old tracking systems that originally started life on the Amiga. The latest formats (XM, IT) are astonishingly complex and you can do things in them that you've got no hope of with MIDI; and because each file is self-contained, complete with samples, the sound is completely platform independent. More software than you might think supports them thanks to the amazing Mikmod player library (XMMS and WinAmp will both play nearly all tracker files invisibly to the user). There's some decent music out there, too... alas, I don't have the bandwidth to export my monster MOD file collection, but people like Acumen [], Warder [] and Rapture []. Try Rapture's Aurora Borealis [] as a quick and rather impressive demonstration of what you can do with the format.

    And there's lots of tracking software for Linux, too.

  • Well, I'm biased of course ;-), but I highly suggest you throw KDE in the trash can and switch to WindowMaker/GNUstep. Plus, I'm working (slowly) on porting NeXT music and sound applications to GNUstep.
  • So what do you call NeXTSTEP and SGI? ;-)
  • Another one I looked at was Gadget Labs []. Under $300 for one of their 24bit cards. (They have others, but I was checking out that one.) They're based in Portland, Or (about an hour away from me). I called them up and asked about linux drivers, and was interested in buying. Needless to say, I didn't get very far.

    The one mentioned in the last story on this (Hammermill? I forget exactly what it was) asounded interesting too.

  • Let's make sure we are speaking the truth here...Have you heard of George Lucas? He runs this place called Skywalker Sound....? Sound familiar? Anyway, they happen to be running a whole shitload of StudioFrame workstations. On Windows. No doubt you are a macinbred somewhere in your family tree.
  • by Serf ( 11805 )
    No, Gsynth has been dead for a few months now.

    There are a few other projects attempting to do the same thing that appear to have slightly more momentum, including BEAST/BSE (sorry, don't know the URL) and GNU OCTAL [] ( - the guy behind Gsynth is involved with this project now). You might want to check those out if you're interested in this sort of thing.
  • Mm... This really isn't so much of an issue. Soundtracker uses _maybe_ 10% CPU on my system, and, AFAIK, the only bit in asm is the mixer. I don't know how much using the C mixer slows things down, but I expect it's not too bad.

    Or Buzz, a modular tracking system for Windows. The machines (where almost all the DSP work takes place) are usually written entirely in C++, and I certainly don't have any problems with it - I run it under WINE, and I've never gotten it to use more than 50% CPU on a P3-500 (except when I get buggy machines).

    So, no, assembly is by no means necessary, and yes, you can definitely get away with C.
  • Ok, if it _must_ work on a 386 or 486, fair enough, ASM will probably be necessary. But, then again, even rewriting every bit of Buzz in ASM for DOS probably won't get you too far, and won't be very fun.

    I guess what I'd say now would be this: if you already have a dedicated tracking box running DOS trackers written in ASM, what reason is there for you to move to Linux? Or to move anywhere, for that matter....

    Also, Buzz has a lot more functionality than a hardware sequencer, and you don't need a PIII to run it. A P200 should do fine.... On the other hand, it sounds like your needs are met by what you have.
  • So I have like 4 old 8mm tape drives, and a bunch of sound cards. Can anyone see where this is going?

    Does anyone know of a site where I might find information on encoding sound data directly to 8mm tape? I really think it could be done pretty easily - I just don't know if the transport mechanism on 8mm computer tape drives can hold up.

    I was thinking that you could use local HDD to cache files you're working on, and sort of 'archive off' tracks as you aren't using them.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Anyone done this?

  • My lung collapsed twice in 18 months and yet I still smoke. That's dedication! Perseverence!

    (err... maybe stupidity)

    No one likes a quitter, i tell myself in a comforting way...
  • One of the coolest tools I have used for adding audio to websites is Beatnik, and I wish there was a port of the Beatnik [] Player and Authoring Tools for Linux.

    Maybe if we all wrote to Support [mailto] at Beatnik?


  • There is very little need for asm code for making
    music with the current speed of computers. The problem isn't that the code doesn't run fast enough, it is that linux doesn't let one process take all the recources and the kernel cannot pre-empt itself. the low latency patches to linux (by ingo molgnar (sp)) go along way to curing this problem, bringing rock solid audio performance as good or better than systems such as BeOS, and windows.

    the use of RT-Linux, which is hard realtime, can get the latency down to under .2 ms (iirc). currently a number of interfaces are becoming available which will cure the lack of a decent pro audio IO (Hammerfall by which has ADAT lightpipe etc).
  • there is no inherent reason for this to be true.
    IRIX does quite well as a audio platform, and linux is becoming much better in the hard and soft RT category.
  • Which brings up another point: having a computer with a CRT in the middle of my studio sort of negates all of the work I've done shielding components and eliminating ground loops. The 60Hz hum through a guitar pickup is almost as annoying as having someone vacuum the studio during a vocal track (or someone singing during the vacuum cleaner solo).

    I was in the same boat until I bought my EIZO [] FlexScan L360 LCD panel. I love this thing. I used to turn off my monitor any time I wanted to record a guitar track - and this got very annoying as I'd go through a cycle of

    • Turn off monitor
    • Record take
    • Turn on monitor
    • Play back take, decide to record another one...
    etc, etc... Now I leave it on all the time and there's no buzz from the guitar pickups. And the thing that really sold me on this model over competitors was the dual inputs: I can have my Mac and my Linux PC connected without some messy external switchbox.

    Disclaimer: I have no relation to EIZO, just a satisfied customer.

  • Most server programs make more sense to run under Linux than Windows. Most of the Linux development has been towards being a server OS and then a desktop OS. Windows started as a desktop OS and was then stretched into server applications.

    It just seems obviuos to me.

    Congratulations on quitting smoking, I quit too. :-)

  • Which brings up another point: having a computer with a CRT in the middle of my studio sort of negates all of the work I've done shielding components and eliminating ground loops. Don't use a CRT then. My weapon of choice to control a Linux/*BSD box is a Palm IIIx with a serial cable and VT100 emulator. I've also got an IBM Z50 WorkPad with a term emulator, but the backlight would prolly kick out EM noise too.
  • I've had a lot of fun messing around with UltraMaster's Juno-6. But speaking as someone who has owned a Juno-60 and a -106, it's not quite the same thing.

    What made the Juno line sound so sweet was the onboard Roland stereo chorus. I guess you could patch a Chorus Echo or stomp box to the output of your sound card, but you'd be chorusing a lot of noise, too.

    Which brings up another point: having a computer with a CRT in the middle of my studio sort of negates all of the work I've done shielding components and eliminating ground loops. The 60Hz hum through a guitar pickup is almost as annoying as having someone vacuum the studio during a vocal track (or someone singing during the vacuum cleaner solo).

    If there's going to be noise on a track, I want it to be my noise, not a machine's.

  • UltraMaster's Juno-6 shows that linux can be the platform for realtime synthesis. It is free too, with source code.

    Note that that's "free as in free beer"--before downloading, you're required to agree to a license that prevents redistribution.

    Nothing against this product, I'm sure it's great, I just think it's important to clear this up for those that care about these nuances....


  • Try USB-AAD devices , No custom drivers needed(ha ha, spew coffee)

    Actually it I am hacking away at getting my SonicPort(opcode) to work under Mac and Linux.
    Any one else looking at this route I would sure like some help or hints. Has *any one* got some USB Audio code to raid from?
  • I work for an ISP and I am constantly wishing I had the stability of Linux/Unix/whatever runs better than windows for our streaming media. We use Real products to encode one radio station and windows media player for the other. WMP has only been up for about 3 wks now with no trouble out of it yet, and Real's product stops encoding about once every month for no reason and won't start back up. (RestartWrapper for realplayer coming out soon??)

    Anyway I was told to price solutions for producing audio and video content. Windows Media encoder and the server is free with IIS and RealProducts are EXPENSIVE.

    I want the ease of WMP in WMP format on the stability of *nix/BSD. Oh and free too.
  • Someone needs to mention SLab here [] websites kinda slow but well worth checking out.It wants to be an audio suite.
  • PCI cards designed for the Mac have a different ROM than their PC equivalents. Mac PCI cards technically don't need a ROM (I have a Monster 3D in my Mac that works just fine with the 3dfx Voodoo 1 Mac drivers), but a PC PCI card needs a ROM otherwise the BIOS won't see it.
  • RTMIDI [] (Real-Time MIDI) is a MIDI subsystem for OS/2 that's designed to handle real-time (technically soft RT but in implementation it's very close to hard RT) MIDI processing. It supports a complex "node network" that lets you plug in filters that all run in the kernel (hence the real-time aspect). It was designed with the help of IBM's Computer Music Center [].

    If it were ported to Linux, it would solve a lot of problems in this area.

  • Broadcast 2000 Rocks!!! It is the best audio editing program for linux, thuogh you can edit video as well. Have been using for a while. No complaints!
  • i run a small studio from my puter i use a $400 EVENT DARLA 20 bit 2 in 8 out card with a morola 80MIPS processor which does all A/D D/A converting for me so the CPU can run the rest of the machine and do FX and crap like that. for software i use cakewalk pro audio which is the best PC based recording suite (well except for pro tools which werks on pc's now i believe)

    EVENT does not even have NT drivers for my sound card so how can i expect them to write unix drivers?!

    how hard is make drivers for linux so don't have to reboot my 9x box between TAKES!

    should i get the o reilly book and just start coding? and what language should i write them in?


    Kenny Sabarese
    Left Ear Music

  • BeOS is still miles ahead. Unix/Linux is excellent as a server/networking platform, but it lacks too many features in the desktop area to make it suitable for musicians. This is the kind of people that can't really be bothered with setting up X, or messing with /etc/resolv.conf.

    The thing that troubles me about BeOS is the lacking hardware support, though. Otherwise I'd be doing a lot more with it...

  • their drivers because they won't support Linux. (I kind of paraphrased it.) Being a Gina owner I thought this was rather short sighted of them at first, but then I thought of the Mac hardware/ software model and realized Echo Audio only understands that particular business model.

  • It's cool to hear some useful criticism for a change, rather than empty flames. =P

    Um, how can I argue with that... well, I can't, so how 'bout this; if we can come up with some solid, viable options for:

    hard disk recording/multitracking


    MIDI composing/sequencing,

    and work on making the GUI easier to use for non-techie types, I will by all means try to get people to base workstations around it. Then, perhaps, the market share will become large enough to get some more experimental sound products.

    And then I'll be able to recommend some alternatives... the question is, can I risk it now, or will it take a while before these apps come into existence? Guess I got some research to do...

    Also, the attitude of the big companies in regards to driver support really is going to have to change. Echo Audio flat out says on their web site they have no intention of supporting Linux drivers. How's that again? Reminds me of Nvidia's "commitment to Open Source". Bah.

    What would help, I suppose, would be to organize something to help move the hardware manufacturer's along a bit, maybe hold a "Drive for Drivers" or something.

  • You guys listening to this? This is your customer base! WE WANT LINUX DRIVERS. We don't want to beta test your NT drivers. We don't want to have to reverse engineer your Windows drivers. But we will if we have to.
  • Linux != music. Simple as, time sharing is not the same as realtime processes. Miss a beat and your shagged
  • You obviously aren't familiar with the Augan II. Its a pro-level, $$$$ DAW built around Linux and X. See There are lots of other reasons why your observations are a little off base, but the Augan is the most compelling.
  • Digidesign's H/W isn't really all that special. There are lots of A/D, D/A boxes out there that can do at least as good a job as the 8810 and its cousins. The DSP Farm is just a bunch of stock DSP chips - the Creamware Pulsar is vastly more interesting for DSP work. No, the golden jewel in Digidesign/Avid's toolchest is the ProTools SOFTWARE. Its slick, but more importantly, it reflects man years of accumulated studio experience. Very little else comes close (though the Ensoniq Paris stuff, and Sonic Foundry's ACID, even if its way more limited, come close).
  • I love linux. I love all of the things it can do and windows can't. I love saying linux. I love that knowing linux makes me look smart. However, linux is NOT an end-all tool for everything. Not everything can be done using it.

    I don't want windows driving my car, operating my microwave, or monitoring my life-support system.

    I don't want linux driving my car, operating my microwave, or monitoring my life-support system.

    Partly because windows crashes, and linux drivers wouldn't allow me to get the most of the hardware. But more importantly, because some things work fine without them. Certain tools are used for certain jobs.

    I understand the comparison of "windows has more than we do", but I don't personally know any musicians who use windows to mix anyways. And besides, if we wish to rise above windows, we need to shoot past it, not shooting for equality. Strive to be better, and do what you are good at.

    Software is great, but without the right hardware it still works like shit. And PC's just don't (IMHO) have the available hardware for what I want to do musically.

    Just my opinion. I could, of course, be wrong.

  • I have actually tried this program now. It is called Broadcast 2000. it is more tailored for Video but it can do DVD-Playback. Edit multiple sound streams merge them and do a lot of REALLY neat stuff.

    The interface is a bit kludgy but overall it is a very impressive application.

    It is GPL'd and it "could" be better but it performs VERY good.

    Here is the linkBroadcast 2000 []
    Give it a try? :-)


  • I love linux. I love all of the things it can do and windows can't. I love saying linux. I love that knowing linux makes me look smart. However, linux is NOT an end-all tool for everything. Not everything can be done using it.
    It makes you look smart? Really.. most people just give me strange looks and classify me as odd. Like Li? liiinu? Linux? What is that...

    And no Linux cannot do everything and some people still argue about just where Linux needs to be going.

    However... as a serious digital media workstation I think some serious commercial support such as an App like Renderman would be a boon to linux(Random BSD Plug:And FreeBSD since it can emulate Linux ;-). No your right I do not want everything running on Linux. But when it makes sense yeah I want it.

    Partly because windows crashes, and linux drivers wouldn't allow me to get the most of the hardware. But more importantly, because some things work fine without them. Certain tools are used for certain jobs.
    Really? Linux and open source drivers tend to be MUCH better than the windows counter parts. If there is a Linux driver then there is a *GOOD* chance it is much better than a windows driver for the same hardware.

    There are some areas this is not true and mainly I think. Sound and Video and this is rapidly changing. So that is no longer a good claim, maybe a couple of years ago yea I woulda said this is annoying. But now its quickly becoming another Linux Myth. Before anyone flames I know there are areas that need to be fixed here.. But overall its getting MUCH better.


  • I have a recording studio. A few years ago I got rid of all my 8track reel-to-reel machines and replaced them with a digital sound card. I have the Echo Audio Layla now ( That can record 8 tracks at once while playing back simultaniously 10 tracks of audio.

    With recent softwares in WINDOWS (yuk) such as Cakewalk, Sound Forge, CoolEdit Pro, etc., I can actually playback more than 32 tracks of audio WHILE recording 8 more on just my Pentium II 450MHz, 192MB ram, and my single Layla sound card. I am able to install another Layla inside this machine and beable to double my recording tracks, but playback tracks is more limited to the I/O (hard drives, CPU, etc.) than number of tracks your soundcard can playback.

    Now I am FORCED to use windows. Not ONLY because there are no complete packages for linux or other OSs (besides macs which have Pro Tools), but also because the INTENSE stuff that I do with Cakewalk or the other programs are actually the DirectX Plugins that I have.

    I have MANY reverbs, compressors, gates, loudness maximizers, grapic eq's, parametric eq's, etc.. Without those, no matter how usable the program is, I cannot live without my specific reverb's, eq's, compressors, etc.. It's those things that seperate a garage studio to a professional studio (and of course the knowledge on how to use them and when) ..

    I am VERY hopefully to get windows off my studio computer soon. But I do not see it in the near future. Unless I could use those DirectX plugins with a linux based application.

    I know that right now there are NO drivers for the sound card I have for linux. I talked to Alan Cox a few times about this specific card. He said the manufactures are not working with him and he will not do anything to design a driver he does not have specific information on. Again, I have the Echo Audio Layla ...
  • One thing that people have got to admit... RA Server actually makes sense under Linux. Whereas, you sort of scratch your head for a minute using it under windows.
  • I think the dividing line here is what you're doing with your music. I do both home recording and live. I need a few cheap boxes for shows -- you don't really need fully-functional realtime for anything else (but it can be quite nice).

    I can't spend a lot of money on computers. At the same time, part of this whole rant is this: legacy realtime apps have been written in ASM, and thus cannot be easily ported to Linux.

    Personally, I believe that mixing routines should be written in ASM regardless -- but they don't need to be in the app. Throw them in a library somewhere.

    This just applies to my situation. I know a lot of people in this situation. Most of my musical friends have no computers and little money. They're interested in using computers for backup. The only solution for them is something cheap.

    Sadly, I don't have all I need. I need to be able to code in the environment I'm using for real time audio. I started coding in Linux and it spoiled me, I won't touch DOS now... I like to write programs quickly to do little jobs.

    Despite what a lot of people believe, I do believe that efficiency must be kept up in the core of real-time apps. Remember when this stuff was done on Amigas? Nine Inch Nails used an Amiga last I checked.

    script-fu: hash bang slash bin bash
  • I patently disagree. Buzz won't run on my 386 or my 486, therefore I can't take it with me, therefore it's not good enough for me.

    ASM does improve mixing routines quite a bit. By comparing different apps (some in c, some in asm) on a low-end machine, you can see that ASM really makes a difference.

    The thing is, I can buy a tracking box and use traditional stuff on it for very little, if I use mostly ASM based apps. Otherwise it's going to cost me how much? I can get a hardware sequencer cheaper than I can get a fully-functional PIII.

    script-fu: hash bang slash bin bash
  • There is a project at GNU to develop a Buzz-like tracker. It's moving along well and should be usable within a few months.

    check The OCTAL Home page at GNU.ORG []

  • Why thank you very much, sir. You may be correct in the way that I, myself, lack interest in music, but I hardly believe this is the case throughout the Linux community. As the userbase grows, the culture of the Linux community grows as well. I know I am able to picture a hardcore Linux user with a garage band. Sure, we can always use Wine to run sndrec32.exe and record up to 60 seconds of sound in the revolutionary WAV format, however, I have the faith that a useful recording suite may one day make it to Linux. And if we can't bring recording studios to Linux, we can always bring Linux to the mixers in the recording studios.
  • i tried out this program, and it looks really nice, but most of the functionality pictured on the screen simply doesn't work... the sound was crackly and there seemed to be zippering all over the place... a good effort i think, and a good start, but i wasn't impressed with the quality. no offense to david@ultramaster... perhaps MIDI support in Juno-6 would attract more users, that would make it much more usable for live sound applications. -m
  • As a student of music, I probably wouldn't know anything about linux or computers at all if i hadn't stayed inside all summer about 10 years ago learning everything I possibly could have, but -- being who I am now, a geek, a student, and a musician, I think as with any learning process it will take time for things to catch on.

    Yes, audio software in Linux is lacking... but, think about what people were using to master CD's about 10 years ago. I could be wrong, but DigiDesign didn't exist then. People used outboard gear to master the first CDs... I still know people who do it this way, who don't care about Dithering, Noise Shaping, artifacts, etc.

    I would love to use linux to generate sounds for my computer music compositions... as i said in the previous discussion, i used phazor a few times. Just because linux doesn't handle live processing that well doesn't mean it can't act as a synthesis tool... synthesis algorithms are going to be the same no matter what OS you use...

    Here in our department at U of Richmond we've gotten a grant ( we got the grant!! ) to develop a Granular Synthesis app under linux this summer -- i would like to see a system that generated Granulated Sounds in real time -- now that would be impressive!

    Overall, it's a start, right? we have to get someplace. I've heard the U. of Virginia has a number of linux boxes (probably running Csound) in their computer music department... anybody know anything about this ? We are in the infant stages, GLAME looks cool, and various people have started writing things... we should stop reaming out what's availible and HELP THEM! :)

    For me, a good place to start would be standalone synthesis tools that output aiffs or wavs. That's how I compose anyway, and I sequence in ProTools or Studio Vision.

    --matt euphoria []

    P.S. email me if you know of any availible source for granular synthesis :)
  • I also got a response from Echo saying that Echo support is low on their priority list. I don't understand this, I can't see how it would be a bad thing for them to make it possible for more people to use their cards. Do they think they are the only people capable or writing software for their cards? It couldn't be that they have anything precious to protect in the code, because the cards just doesn't do that much. So what's their problem? It seems that they just don't understand business.
  • There is in fact a lossless compression scheme out there. Shorten is a compression format that provides no loss to the origional WAV file. The files sizes are not small, you should use a high speed connection to transfer them. Etree has been using the format for almost 2 years now, mostly trading live concerts of taper friendly bands. (phish, gd, kvhw, moe, sci, etc)
  • doesn't matter what happens in what industry - Atari will always be the killer in this business
  • I use the Digidesing Audio Media III card with Cool Edit Pro under Windows NT. All that is really needed to take advantage of this card would be the drivers.

    ecasound is a very cool multi-track editor for Linux. It lacks a good GUI, but it is very configurable and does a lot of great processing.
  • It seems to me, as a musician, that the only real keyboarding thing around is using Bachs corrupt system. I think it would be wonderful to make a protokeyboard that would allow all the keys to function only in one key, giving it more range and variation. Then by changing the key via an electronic switch, you could change modes. Perhaps a linux music maker would be the catylest to allow this oportunity. Ideas?
  • Yes, but this is irrelevant. We're talking about high-end digital audio. I work with this stuff all the time, my digital I/O is via Motu 2408 [], a card which is considered an absolute bargain at $1000. ASM doesn't help anything, it helps performance a little, by completely destroying portability. I'd much rather have something that can be ported to run on new/different architectures than something which runs incredibly fast on one low-end chipset and doesn't run at all on anything else.
  • I asked several of the digi tech guys about this at the 1999 Winter NAMM (yah, almost 15 months ago, now), and mostly they just looked at me funny. The one guy who'd ever HEARD of Linux said something best paraphrased as "we're still getting our WINDOWS support stabilized, man, why would we want to take on another platform?"

    I pestered them for hardware info on their AMIII cards, just to get a foot in the door, but never got anywhere productive.

    digi's a very strange company, VERY proprietary about their hardware and software, and, like most of the MI industry, VERY myopic about their computing platforms.
  • In a comment posted to part I of this series [], I talked about an article I wrote for Electronic Musician about the state of music hardware and software for Linux as of about this time last year.

    Since then, I've cleaned up the ASCII version of the article, and placed it online myself, since EM's parent company can't seem to run a website to save their lives.

    Please check it out [], but maybe wait a bit -- it's only a DSL line, and I'd prefer people not mirror it, since _I'm_ even publishing it without explicit permission.

  • This package is pretty good for basic recording/effects processing on a single stereo track...pretty basic, but good. I don't think that it is maintained anymore, since the last maintainer, Nick Bailey, has no reference to it on his home pages. It is written in TK/TCL + a tiny bit of C as a graphical interface to SOX. Very well done.

    I've been using to digitize the songs that the person who has been recording in my studio.

    Farrell J. McGovern
    3Light Studio
  • Avoid the soundblasters. The soundblaster 2^n cards are limited at -2dB for recording so you only get 15 bits for recording and noise.
  • Or at least I made the first server available to the public which would stream live mp3 to any number of listeners - over a year before Nullsoft grabbed all the glory with Shi^Houtcast ;-)

    Ok... hardly commercial quality - but it was good fun... and there is one thing about my original server that set it apart from anything else I've seen - The whole thing was implemented in abotu 15 lines of bourne shell.

    Sometimes linux leads the way, sometimes it follows, but when it follows it does it better.
  • A few underrated/underknown projects:
    • RTcmix [] - a real time sound synthesis/processing language/library. RTcmix is dope. I don't think the newest version (2.1), which adds really good Linux support, is publicly available yet, but it should be out the door real soon if it isn't yet. RTcmix can be easily interfaced with applications, because it can listen for commands on a TCP/IP socket. Trust me, it's very cool, and much easier to use/learn than CSOUND. Dave Topper ( is the primary maintainer or RTcmix, as far as I know.
    • Max - jMax [] was released by IRCAM [] under the GPL recently, but it needs crazy work in order to get to the state that the Mac version is in. Max is probably the coolest music application ever written. For those of you who don't know, it is a visual programming environment for real time control of anything MIDI controllable. Work is underway, as far as I know, to hook up RTcmix to Max as a signal processing engine (similar to MSP).
    • Rt [] - Paul Lansky's real-time digital mixing program is a fabulous tool for mixing sounds. I haven't used it for performances yet, but it is damn good for constructing certain kinds of pieces. Several attempts at porting to Linux are in progress, but none of them are terribly stable yet. Check out Dave Phillips' page [] for more info.
  • Echo has announced earlier on their web site that they are not supporting OpenSource for their line of cards. I don't know if this means the driver will never be available or if they just won't OpenSource them and maybe provide a binary at some point. Check their website for more information.

  • jazz 4.0 was released and it is open source. So I got it and fired it up. It was a little difficult to get started up. It comes configured for Also I think so I had to change it to OSS and then I had problems with it starting up and not finding my synth device. I then looked at my MAKDEV script and discovered sequencer2 was comment out. Not sure why RH6.1 does this though, but I uncommented this out and ran the script and I was off and making music. Then my roommate came in and wanted me to put this score in and so I did and he was impressed. It has a piano that allows you to pick your notes, and also allows you to set up drum tracks. The help has to be downloaded seperately but I just played with it and learned how it works. I did not think it was that difficult to do. However I do recommend that they should not hard code the sequencer. They should probably make it an option in their option file. I mean if you have an option file why not really make use of it. I'd love to see them move away from the motif interface, and to qt or gtk. I love to see Rosegarden do the same thing too.This is just my 2 cents, but I think that this time next year linux will be a real good and viable option to Windows, in all aspects. But by then Mac OS X will be out and I may need a new Mac instead of a PC. OS X sounds hot. The power of UNIX OS with a windows/Mac like GUI.

    send flames > /dev/null

  • There is an opensource driver in ALSA for among others, RME's hammerfall ( It has digital io for i believe 3 adat lightpipes and something like 52 channels. see the page for full details and what not.
  • I've got high hopes for GLAME []... the internals are starting to to look good, and there is a lot of activity. Now we need some audio experts to come in and lend their knowledge to make this a great tool.

    ANd a question - what soundcard would you use for processing with linux?
  • In the multitrack HD recording area, Paul Barton-Davies is working a on a promising looking application called Ardour, developed synchronously with the ALSA RME Digi96 driver. This looks like the beginning of Pro Audio sound support under Linux, and we all know it only takes one application to get the ball rolling :)

    His other project Quasimodo is even more ambitious - a modular synth system, where the modules are written in CSound code. This makes a whole bunch of modules instantly available, and I can see an application like this being embraced by the audio/DSP Education sector, where CSound is used to test pretty much everything. I'm mentioning theses programs not because I have any affiliation with the project, but Ardour and Quasimodo are two of the most promising Linux audio applications out there, and it's a shame not more developers are working to get them finished. []

  • I wonder if anyone has spoken to Digidesign about supporting their Pro Tools hardware. You can pick up older Pro Tools III hardware I/O for a good price these days (compared with the latest Pro Tools/24 stuff), and while they are PCI cards "designed for the Mac," I don't believe that there's anything specific to the hardware itself that would prevent x86-based Linux drivers from being written for them (even for LinuxPPC! My prayers are with you, Jason!) Then again, I could be wrong...

    I'd be willing to work on this project, as I've found out that I may not be able to bring my G3 Mac with me to my new abode for space considerations, but I still want to have my Pro Tools audio setup....

  • Actually, the Pro Tools hardware works on the PC, as well as the Mac. They have NT Software for it, though it's still not as nice as the Mac stuff. Actually, I don't believe NT is robust enough in general to use for music production. 95 is actually better for this type of thing.

    I have a side job as the computer tech for a small recording studio. I'd love to use something other than Windows, but unfortunately, multitrack audio support is very difficult to find on other platforms. BeOS probably has the most potential, because of its real time scheduling and large file size capability. BeOS handles large files really well. I've heard that its limitation is somewhere around 5 pentabytes or so, which should be sufficient for quite a long time.

    If there was a Linux distribution with a different filesystem (Ext2 doesn't like large files, by large files I mean multiple gigabytes), hardware support for 4 and 8 track audio cards (I've got an Antex Studiocard and a Gadget Labs 8/24 card), and some software that musicians can use comfortably (my brother, who runs the studio, is a drummer, not a computer person) we'd be set. Unfortunately, we're not even close to there yet.
    P.S. Cool edit pro for Linux would be really cool. But without all the other pieces to support it, Syntrillium would be wasting their time.

  • There are apparently several []. I have used SLab [] and it's quite decent. Certainly full featured. I haven't used it enough to know if it's ready for primetime, but if it's not, it must indeed be close.
  • First of all, this may have already been mentioned, but there's an excellent linux audio site here [].

    As for soundcards, I'm not heavy into PC-based recording, but I know names like Creative and Turtle Beach are NOT the choice picks.

    There's a report [] on PC sound cards at PC AV Tech [] that does some real quantitative comparisons, and includes some pro cards. The summary is here [].

    As for brands, start with

    Somebody mentioned older Pro Tools hardware available cheaply, but I don't know if that's usable without the Digidesign software.

    I think most pro applications and users would be covered by the brands above. I know the basement hobbiest may not go for those cards, but I think most people coming from a music/studio background will.

    Are these brands supported under *nix? It's hard enough getting stable drivers for some pro cards for NT or 9x. I don't imagine that there's the audio equivalent of the gaming industry pushing manufacturers to release hardware specs so that open drivers can be written by the community.

    I have to think that driver support for the pro audio cards will be a critical issue in the near term... I would even consider getting involved in this type of project over the summer once I'm finished school (12 days until I finish classes for my EE!!).

    Still, I'd love for somebody to correct me.

  • I think what has been lacking is a real scene that drives the need for tracking utils. North America (which slashdot is pretty centric too) has never been a huge hot bed of demo's and music. Sure, there were arists making some cool stuff here but the tracking/demo parties held in North America were never as big/good as the European counterpart.

    That being said the main point it Linux is at the point where the hardware support can work well with tracking. Linux has a great potential and that isn't being tapped.

    The biggest area is in the ALSA-Project. There is a fair amount of chatter around the new RME support. Another company which I think get's looked over but is already supported by ALSA are the Hoontech products. Hoontech makes some of the most unusual sound products I've seen. With the ability to expand Digital and Midi I/O and insanely cheap prices I think the poor mans (linux) mixing console is near.
  • One big problem I've noticed in real time audio for Linux lies in the code. Decent trackers for DOS are written in 90-100% assembly. It seems no one who does sound development for Linux is prepared to write a lot of assembly routines.

    There's a real-time virtual 8-track called Goat Studio (or Goat Tape, by some) that come with the source. It's for DOS, and it's got a chunk of assembly in it. I would port it, but I'd have to learn two styles of ASM for the x86 -- which I don't have time to do. Goat Studio is very useful for laying down tracks, since it uses full duplex to play the non-muted tracks for you while you record one. The only physical limitation is that you can only record one track at a time, but this won't concern most solitary musicians.

    Back to the point. Many real-time apps must be written in ASM since the processing has to be fast, perhaps you can get away with C these days, since we're no longer dealing with 386s, but PII/400s -- but I still keep a 386 with a tracker and some other stuff on it to bring to tracking parties (like MGF []). I'm not going to take my best box on the road with me if I'm going to need it for something else, but a 386 or 486 plus a soundcard I can pick up for nothing.
    script-fu: hash bang slash bin bash
  • my golly, I'm still recording with my bash script that 'cat's from '/dev/dsp' ;)
  • Anyway I was told to price solutions for producing audio and video content. Windows Media encoder and the server is free with IIS and RealProducts are EXPENSIVE.

    I want the ease of WMP in WMP format on the stability of *nix/BSD. Oh and free too.

    Real offers the free "basic version" of Realserver 7 [] for Red Hat and its clones. &nbsp Catch is that you're limited to 25 streams (and something else is missing, I think). &nbsp I have it running on Mandrake 6.5 and Red Hat 6.1 and although I haven't really put it through its paces, it's still a nice piece of work - and for free! &nbsp To do the live streams, you need RealProducer 7 [], which they also offer as a free basic version for Linux. &nbsp This product is unfortunately beta (or better, alpha) and needs a little work - but I'll putz around with it some more.

    The one reason why I prefer Real's products is the fact that you have more granular management of bandwidth consumption - critical for dial-in users with slow modems, and I've seen some WMP stuff that is REALLY crap! &nbsp You also get a real nice web interface to configure and graphically monitor the server.

    As an ISP, I expect that you'd obviously have far more than 25 simultaneous streams, but if you distribute 25-stream licenses across several cheap Linux boxes, you'd save yourself some bucks... &nbsp It would probably make sense to distribute this kind of stuff anyway.

  • I am going to build or buy a Linux box and was wondering what Sound card is best supported in Linux? Preferably one that RedHat 6.1 will autodetect and configure for me.

    If you pick a Sound Blaster card (including the recent Sound Blaster Live!), then you'll be pretty safe and good to go. &nbsp I setup the basic version of RealServer 7 on Red Hat 6.1 and stuck in a cheapy Sound Blaster 16 ISA card (in an EISA slot) and RH's "sndconfig" utility found it right away. &nbsp This is in preparation for giving RealProducer 7 a shot. &nbsp I found that RealProducer doesn't seem to like ALSA drivers (prefers the OSS drivers), so if you have a Sound Blaster card, you probably won't have much of a prob.

    Also, does anyone have any recommendations for what Video Card has the best combination of speed 2D/3D, OpenGL implementation, and open source drivers (though they don't have to absolutely be open source, it is a preference)

    As for video cards, I'm not into that stuff but Matrox cards are supposedly very good and have decent Linux support.

    I am mid-level user who can compile my own kernel and I have 4 or 5 Linux boxes, but none with high end video or sound. Thanks for any help, Fox

    Kernel compiling is fun... ;-) &nbsp Although I've discovered that most of the latest kernels shipping with the "Red Hats" (like Red Hat 6.x and Mandrake 6.x/7.x) are precompiled with sound modules enabled, so you might not have to do anything. &nbsp It's also preferable that you load your sound as modules anyway...

  • by reaper ( 10065 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @06:01AM (#1176478) Homepage Journal

    Sorry to say this, but I know plenty of musicians who use windows for music production. Live. Even such "Kiddie Grade" programs, like MixMan Studio, are amizingly effective if you use your own samples, and throw a little beat matching with wax on it. Most of the Mac stuff is production quality, and the BeOS stuff is still not too well known.

    So why is linux good for this? Simple:

    • Multithreaded across multiple processors. Win 98 can't do this, and NT won't support a lot of hardware, or run some of the software.
    • Efficiency. Running X with a lightweight WM, and very little other stuff will generally beat out Windows in terms of OS overhead, and available clock cylces to mix it up wit' (,yo!).
    • Stability. I have had stuff crash on stage for me. Uncool.

    OK, so what does windows have going for it? Glad you asked:

    • Lots of software. 'nuff said.
    • Support for peripherals. Nothing sucks more than the sound chips in a laptop. Almost any outboard processor would be better. The real high-end stuff like the Event Layla, won't run on Linux. Forget USB devices.

    So if I wuz going to sit down and write my ultimate appz for live performance, what would I do? 1] KeyKit [] for MIDI support. 2] Something like TerminatorX [] for loops, but with the ability to sync to a clock. 3] a software synth like re-birth. Add some turntables, and my board, and life will be good.

    opinions? Am I wrong? Better ideas?

  • DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) have to fit specific needs to be interesting to many musicians. There are a few serious obstacles for home studios and pro studios before Linux as a DAW operating system can be a viable choice.

    Aside from the fact that I can't get Linux drivers out of Event (actually Echo Audio) for my Gina/Darla/Layla cards (strangely enough, I can get BeOS drivers and even NT drivers now) here is a short synopses of why I, a lowly amateur musician, won't be looking at Linux as a Music OS for a long time.

    I am not a big MS fan, but music composition/ sequencing/ sampling/ recording/ effects software (lots of categories here) for Windows 9x is pretty decent. I've played with a lot of them, and they work. Doesn't mean I won't look at other choices though, primarily because Windows crashes frequently. The plugins architecture is an excellent touch. (i.e. a reverb plugin becomes available in all DirectX-compatible recording programs when it's installed.)

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of energy that could have gone into interesting Open Source music projects has been used by programmers writing music shareware/freeware for Windows. AudioMulch, Anvil Studio, and many others, are good examples of excellent, innovative (especially AudioMulch) software written for poor working musicians without high budgets. And, yes, they are only for Windows, sadly. I'm not sure why, except that for a long time it was difficult to get sound cards working under Linux.

    Why do most of the projects I see on Linux just copy other software? Why can't somebody write some audio software for Linux that just blows my socks off? I've seen some pretty freaky, damn cool programs come out for Macs, hell, even Windows, in the last year or two. They were innovative. They weren't knockoffs of software on other platforms. Maybe I'm not looking in the right place, but it is not enough for Linux to ape whatever MS and MacOS does.

    Even if some cool audio programs were written for Linux (and I know there are some available), I don't think I would use Linux for my multimedia stuff yet. Why? The desktop environments and GUIs are (how can I put this without getting flamed) not quite comfortable to work in yet.

    Fonts are aliased, widgets are inconsistent, etc; maybe it's just the fact that I use KDE (should I switch to Gnome?), but it just plain doesn't do it for me yet. And yes, I know, "but that's what I love about Linux, is it's totally customizable." Well, not everyone wants to have to customize every damn thing on their system just to get it to work, Spunky.

    Even Netscape (a universally available browser under Linux) looks like crap compared to certain Windows browsers. Why is this??? It's not like it's a 1.0 release or something. And please don't tell me to copy my Windows TT fonts into the appropriate system directory in Linux; that is just another in a long line of things I shouldn't have to do to make Linux work out of the box. If I won't do it, you better believe most musicians (no offense to pro musicians out there) won't even know where to start.

    I don't know how the latency issues are compared to BeOS or Windows, and quite frankly I don't think I care. Even under a high latency system like Windows 9x I have been getting acceptable results, probably because I don't use MIDI stuff.

    Please don't misinterpret this to read that I think MS RULEZ! or that LINUX SUX! because hopefully we are all intelligent enough to realize that is not what I am saying at all. If I thought that, I wouldn't have multiple boxes running multiple OS's and wouldn't be hanging out at Slashdot in the first place.

    Don't get me wrong, I would love to see somebody come along and fix these things in the next generation of Linux distros. But the fact is, I need music software/hardware support in 1997, not in 2003 (it has been around in one form or another for 20+ years now). I love Linux for my servers, but for a DAW it needs a serious, or maybe just a whole bunch of tiny tweaks ;-) makeover.

  • by Listen Up ( 107011 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @07:01AM (#1176480)
    Here is what the real problem is with audio and Linux. I am not going to be taking sides on this issue, so please don't flame me as such. Linux, as far as I know, cannot process realtime audio. This has do with really, really bad latencies in the kernel (especially)and underlying subsystems with prevent realtime audio from working in Linux at all. This is the same story with WinNT. I purchased BeOS because of its incredible audio applications and its ability to do things with audio and video that I have never seen before. So being curious I decided to do some research on the subject of why other OS's cannot do things such as realtime crossfading and realtime input/output/mixing. If you do some honest research you will discover a lot of things that will really open your eyes. Most notably that although everyone here loves Linux, it was never meant to be or designed to be a realtime audio processing OS. Has anybody else done real honest research into this topic like myself?

"Remember, extremism in the nondefense of moderation is not a virtue." -- Peter Neumann, about usenet