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Old 01-29-2014, 01:51 PM   #1
cooltouch
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Is there is "best" Linux distro for music production?


I tried doing a search on this topic, but the only hit I got was my "Howdy" intro post from yesterday. So I thought I'd go ahead and toss out this question to the forum to see if there is a particular distribution I should be looking at.

Currently I have two PCs on my home network that share a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. One of them is my digital audio workstation (aka DAW), a computer that I use for music composition, production, and recording, and the other is the one I'm typing on at the moment, which until very recently has been just sitting around doing nothing -- through no fault of its own. It had a bad power supply which I just recently replaced. But now that I have it up and running again, I would like to use it for some experimentation. It has two drives installed, one of which is currently running Windows 7. The other has an older distribution of Ubuntu on it -- about three years old or so. Because it's such an old distribution, I'm thinking about replacing it with whatever will give me the best performance in terms of working with audio and MIDI.

I'm not very conversant at all with Linux. About all I did with this old Ubuntu distro was play around with it some. And then, when I installed Win7, it killed the Ubuntu boot sector, so it's been quite a while since I've even logged into the Linux side of things.

I don't suppose I even need to mention that I'll also be installing a boot manager so that I can go back and forth between the OSes. I've been playing around some with Grub2Win, but for some reason it doesn't find my Linux installation. I need to check into that a bit further.

SO getting back to the music production topic, is there even a significant difference in the way the various distributions would handle audio and MIDI?

I've done some googling on the subject of the best linux distributions and, what I've found is that "best" tends to vary a lot over a fairly narrow time period. Bodhi, Mint, Megeia, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubunto (for laptops), OpenSUSE, etc., all of these and more make the "best of" list at one time or another over a relatively short period of time -- say three years or so in terms of a timeframe. I've got to admit that, just from a name perspective, I already have a bit of an attraction the Bodhi. Not only is its interface supposed to be beautiful, but apparently the Bodhi community are more visual-art-centric (in addition to being a musician and a whole lot of other things, I'm also a visual artist), plus my old Earthlink email address was bodhi at earthlint dot net. I closed my earthlink account some ten years ago or so, so it's naught but a fading memory. Someone else likely has it now. Anyway, I am for sure gonna give Bodhi a look-see. Right now, I'm reading through a "top seven for 2014" list put together by Carla Schroder over at linux.com.

I'm hoping I can reduce the size of this list some, not just to save time but also to save disks if I have to burn copies to disk to try them out.

So, if you happen to use Linux for making music, do you have a favorite? If so, I'd like to learn about it and why you like it.

Last edited by cooltouch; 01-29-2014 at 02:10 PM.
 
Old 01-29-2014, 02:36 PM   #2
rokytnji
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Not sure if this fits your criteria but I'll post it anyways.

http://antix.daveserver.info/music/

I can't say if it is best or not. Only you can decide that. Here is some info on it.

http://antix.freeforums.org/music-re...ter-t4577.html

Me, I just play blues harp as a hobby so I can't really comment on this.
 
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Old 01-29-2014, 04:00 PM   #3
jefro
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The best would be a commercial kernel and apps that are fully "real time." The work on that in open source rt ended a few years ago and now they call it near real time or simply kind of fib and call it real time. All un-needed junk would not be installed.

To be fair, real time is more useful when you wish to play along. If you simply wish to cut and mix then real time isn't a real deal breaker.

The other issue is sound card support. Many of the high end cards are not well supported for linux.

Grub4win isn't a common way to run linux. It is a shoe horn way to fix some odd way of running.

See distro's like ubuntu studio, A/V linux and maybe artistx. Run them in a free virtual machine for a while to see if you like them.

Anyway, Howdy.
 
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Old 01-29-2014, 04:28 PM   #4
k3lt01
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Originally Posted by jefro View Post
See distro's like ubuntu studio
That's the one that sprung to my mind. Having said that If you know what you want you could always just install the appropriate packages to most Linux distros if they are available in their repositories.
 
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Old 01-29-2014, 05:26 PM   #5
Ryanms3030
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I have been testing several of these myself lately. There is actually a Linux Musician forum that is very helpful for this specific topic

http://www.linuxmusicians.com/viewforum.php?f=4

Most people recommend KXStudio, Dream Studio and Ubuntu Studio. I have had some various issues running these on my laptop. I am now running standard Debian install with xfce and just installing the couple of apps that I use since I do not really need the full suite of apps that the music production specific distros come with
 
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Old 01-29-2014, 06:20 PM   #6
cooltouch
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Thanks for the feeback, guys!

rokytnji, I'll give those antix items a closer look once I've settled on a distro.

jefro, I'm gonna try to keep things free for as long as I possibly can. I guess it was maybe 10 years ago or more when I bought a copy of SUSE. Sheer ignorance more than any other reason. I guess I figured it would be easier to install if I bought a prepackaged version. But as I recall it was a real chore to get running and I ended up not liking the interface anyway. Ubuntu was a pleasant surprise by comparison.

To me, latency is a big deal. I want to be able to play along with the music, not just for practice and grins, but when I'm laying down an audio track with my guitar, for example, I have to be properly synced with everything else or it will just get impossible in a big hurry. I've been doing some googling since I posted the above message and I've been learning some stuff. There'a a linux group called the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) project, and here's their homepage:

http://www.alsa-project.org/main/index.php/Main_Page

I checked a compatibility page they have and they make drivers for thee different old sound card architectures I own, which are no longer supported by Windoze. I scanned through a file on one of them and it appears that I'm gonna get to learn how to compile stuff to get the drivers to work, though. But I guess this is something that any Linxu user worth his salt knows how to do anyway, eh?

Here's hoping that latency isn't a problem, though. I hope not. I recall doing some recording like 15 years ago? Just plugged my guitar amp's line out into an old Sound Blaster Live! card's Line in, and recorded as I played along with some rhythm tracks I had scored out. I didn't know from latency back in those days, and it weren't a problem neither. As I said, here's hoping.

Thanks for that tip on grub4win, jef, I reckon I'll keep looking. Got any recommendations?

I'll also take a look at the distros y'all mention. Take a look over at ALSA and see if they have any recommendations also.

Thanks for the heads-up, Ryanms3030. I think I'll be joining them directly Mebbe I'll see you over there.
 
Old 01-29-2014, 08:16 PM   #7
jefro
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Most new distro's install their loader. Usually it is now grub2 and if you read what the installer is saying, it works pretty good. Be sure to have your windows backup media tested and a good back of any important data. This is the reason for a virtual machine so you can play and learn a bit first. This way you can test 10 or 20 distro's.

Some of the media type distro's for this task now default to the near real time kernel. It tends to be OK but fails on some systems.

I can't remember the company that had a lot of linux support for sound. M-audio?? Maybe something else, Line 6 is OK for windows but still a few bugs in linux sometimes. It would be best to have hardware device where the work is off loaded to it usually.

Latency and sound quality are tied together. Hard to get best on both.


You can always play to a click track or drum track and record then match it to other work. Even if you have to use a small metronome outside of the computer.


Ryanms3030's suggestion of linux musician forum should be a good source.

Last edited by jefro; 01-29-2014 at 08:18 PM.
 
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Old 01-29-2014, 08:24 PM   #8
CharliesTheMan
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@cooltouch, I found Linux Mint Mate to be very easy to install and use to get used to Linux again after being strictly Windows for quite a while. I ran it a week or two, read many tutorials, did many things just to learn to do it, I may have never done it out of necessity. Along the way I broke a few things, and fixed them, which is how I learn lots of stuff without realizing it.

A lot of the distros are similar enough that I think it's safe to tell you to try out a few distros that look interesting even if they aren't studio or recording specific. Get used to the package updates and package installations, programs available, package repos, desktop environments, settings, etc. You'll find likes and dislikes quickly, then you can research different distros and reviews and talk to other linux heads, and find something that hopefully is in the direction of your likes, and strays further away from your dislikes.

I recommend Linux Mint Mate (Mate is the desktop environment, ie interface) and Open Suse with the KDE desktop environment. Don't hold prejudice against Open Suse because of your experience a few years ago. I strayed away from it because of old articles, then finally decided to try it after choosing other distros many times, and its come a LONG way since last time you tried it I bet, it's probably totally different in a good way.

For the installation part, I used this method for dual boot http://www.linuxbsdos.com/2011/04/23...and-windows-7/

It's not actually any special extra software to get besides the grub2 stuff that's packaged on the Linux installer (live disc or USB, I like Live USB because it's so easy). Oh and one more thing, you had massive headaches because you installed Linux and then Windows. Windows destroys everything in it's path, it's the shotgun approach to your hard drive. But Linux installed after Windows doesn't have that problem, it shares a hard drive nicely and Windows boots great from the grub2 bootloader stuff.

When I turn on my computer its set to give me 30 seconds to choose Linux or Windows, and if I don't choose anything it defaults to my choice. I installed it next to an enterprise client's Windows 7 system and didn't have a single issue with shrinking the windows partition or changing up the MBR. I have since reinstalled other distros using exactly the same partitions as I created the first time (didn't make new ones) and at least 4 distros later it's still going strong.

PS - I'm a Louisiana boy, we don't see much of that thar open source in these parts lol. PM me if you have any more questions, I'm a novice but willing to help or at least make some crap up on the fly
 
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Old 01-29-2014, 08:41 PM   #9
k3lt01
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Originally Posted by CharliesTheMan View Post
PM me if you have any more questions, I'm a novice but willing to help or at least make some crap up on the fly
It is always best to keep the "help" in the public forum rather than using PMs to do so. That way everyone can help and learn at the same time and nobody needs to make up any "crap on the fly".
 
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Old 01-30-2014, 11:03 AM   #10
DavidMcCann
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For music production I'm told (I'm no musician myself) that a low-latency system is a good idea. Certainly those distros that specialise in music use a low-latency version of the Linux kernel. AVLinux and Ubuntu Studio are examples with good reputations.
http://www.linuxquestions.org/review...p?product=2270
http://www.linuxquestions.org/review...p?product=2159
 
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Old 01-30-2014, 12:13 PM   #11
CharliesTheMan
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Originally Posted by k3lt01 View Post
It is always best to keep the "help" in the public forum rather than using PMs to do so. That way everyone can help and learn at the same time and nobody needs to make up any "crap on the fly".
Ah ok sorry about that, that's a good thing though. I'm really glad to hear it. I'm used to hearing "Take it to PM's this isn't the place" on some other forums on different topics. Thank you for the insight and pointers k3lt.

@cooltouch, one other note I thought about. We did quite a bit of testing on audio production/editing along with video production with Linux a few years ago with a business that I had. It was one of those cases where proprietary for our needs was so expensive when we needed something custom, that it was worth having someone on payroll that could tinker with open source. A few of my editors were surprised what was produced with Linux, with what we were doing the quality was possible but it came down if it was worth spending the time on learning to use and tweak what was available.

Last edited by CharliesTheMan; 01-30-2014 at 12:18 PM.
 
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Old 01-30-2014, 12:51 PM   #12
cooltouch
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Hey David, as a musician I can confirm that a low-latency system is pretty much a requirement if the composer is adding any sort of real-time audio to the mix. Such as playing a guitar along with the recorded music, be it MIDI or audio, or singing. Jefro pointed out that a person could record to a click track. While technically that is feasible, musicians are not robots. We always perform best when we have something to listen to as we are performing. So a click track would not be acceptable to me, personally.

Charlie, thanks for the input on Linux Mint Mate. I was reading through a few "best of" articles yesterday, and a ZDNet article from 2011, I believe it was, had Mint listed as the top choice in distros for that year. I went to their website and had a look at their GUIs -- or I guess Linux folks call them "shells" -- and Mint looks nice. I failed to mention in my above note that I ran across another set of forums called Linuxmusicians.com, the URL being self-explanatory as to purpose. I found a recent thread on this topic where a majority of the respondents liked an Ubuntu flavor called KX Studio, which if I've got this right, is a KDE shell using a Studio version of Ubuntu or something? Sorry, I'm still pretty deficient in Linuxspeak.

I'll take a look at your dual boot method. Currently what I've got going with the grub2 boot manager is an oddball affair -- first grub2's interface appears, but it's only showing Win7. It isn't showing the Linux partition -- or drive, actually. And then when I select Win7, it boots the Win7 boot manager, which shows Win7 and some other device I don't recall now. I really don't care what I end up using, just as long as I can dual boot. The one you have set up sounds like it works much the way the Win7 boot manager does -- 30 second time out and then it boots the preferred OS. I have a Win7 boot manager set up on my other desktop so I can dual boot between Win7 and XP. In years gone by I used one that would default to the last one used, or at least it could be set to default that way. Sometimes I prefer that method.

So anyway, thanks for the tips, have a muffaletta on me, and some of them fine beignets next time you're at Cafe Du Monde. Meanwhile, the wife'll mix up a big ol' pot of her extra special seafood gumbo -- best this side of the State Line, I kid thee not -- if you ever find your way up this-a-way (or down as the case may be).

Jefro, by "loader" I take it this is the equivalent to what I'm referring to as a "boot manager?" I need to find out more about setting up a virtual machine. Back in my days as an OS/2 pilot, I used to use "DOS boxes" on a regular basis -- which were virtual DOS machines. Easy to do on OS/2 -- you just clicked on an icon that opened up the box window. I have a freeware utility that runs in Windows called MagicDisc, which emulates a CD or DVD. All you have to do is have MagicDisk mount the .iso and Windows thinks you've just inserted a CD or DVD into a drive. So if I could run the distro's as an .iso's, I reckon I might be able to check them out that way? Dunno about how well it would work to try and run Linux inside of Win7, but I guess it might be worth a try. If you mean something else by a virtual machine, could you point me toward something where I could find out more about it?

I'm very much aware that latency and sound quality are -- well, let's say, proportional to the inverse square of each other, if you will. But I've found that with a fast Win7 system that has plenty of RAM and using the right set of drivers with a good audio interface, the latency can often be gotten down as low as 10 msec, and sometimes even lower, without negatively affecting sound quality. Fortunately when it comes to latency, when you've exceeded the minimum required amount of delay, it quickly becomes obvious. It isn't really a gradual thing, such that sound quality is slowly eroded.

You mentioned M-Audio. They are one of the very best when it comes to audio cards. I have an M-Audio Delta-66 with OMNI box installed in my DAW. I bought that card back in about 2000, paid a lot of money for it, but it has been well worth it. It is so well designed that, as long as I can continue to find standard PCI slots in future motherboards, it isn't ever going to be obsolesced. It's a 24/96 card, which is studio-quality, has great DACs and ADCs, a dead quiet sound level, and plenty of EQ headroom. I just did a bit of googling on my card. Apparently M-Audio has not written drivers for Linux for it, but ALSA has, and by a few accounts I just read, it works well in Linux. But from what I've read, the SPDIF channels don't work. Not a big loss for me, I've never used SPDIF.

Actually, I'm rather excited about getting to try out a few of my old Soundblaster cards and a Yamaha XG card in Linux, since they are all supported by ALSA drivers. That should be a treat. Haven't heard those cards make any sounds since the dark old days of Win98 with its frequent BSODs. I came to hate that version of Windoze, but at least Creative had drivers for it.

I've been picking up quite a bit of useful information from Linuxmusicians.com. I can recommend the place. Besides the distros they recommend, there's at least one I want to try out -- called Bodhi, it's known for a couple of things: the "beauty" of its GUI and the fact that it can be run on machines that were low tech a decade ago. Yep. You can run this puppy on a reasonably fast 386. And if you go here:

http://www.bodhilinux.com/

Click on the video's play button and check out the soundtrack. If you've got a good set of speakers, crank it up. Tell you what, if they put together that sound track using Bodhi, I'm sold on it. I'm gonna ask 'em about it -- see if it was done in Bodhi or not, and if not, what.

I'll let y'all know once I know more and once I've had a chance to sort through your suggestions.

Last edited by cooltouch; 01-30-2014 at 12:58 PM.
 
Old 01-30-2014, 01:13 PM   #13
cooltouch
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Originally Posted by CharliesTheMan View Post
Ah ok sorry about that, that's a good thing though. I'm really glad to hear it. I'm used to hearing "Take it to PM's this isn't the place" on some other forums on different topics. Thank you for the insight and pointers k3lt.

@cooltouch, one other note I thought about. We did quite a bit of testing on audio production/editing along with video production with Linux a few years ago with a business that I had. It was one of those cases where proprietary for our needs was so expensive when we needed something custom, that it was worth having someone on payroll that could tinker with open source. A few of my editors were surprised what was produced with Linux, with what we were doing the quality was possible but it came down if it was worth spending the time on learning to use and tweak what was available.
Hey Charles, well to be honest, the extent to which I'll likely be using my Linux box will be as a host for the sound cards, which will be connected to the DAW's MIDI network. Given that MIDI operates independent from the systems within which it resides -- much like SCSI does -- I don't see Linux as throwing any sort of significant road blocks in my path. Just as long as the sound cards work, that's pretty much all I'm gonna care about.

There is Rosegarden, however. That piece of software has me intrigued and I plan on finding out more about it.
 
Old 01-30-2014, 04:41 PM   #14
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Not much difference in the way loaders in dos days are from today. Same ideas.

I forget that other name brand that is good and has linux support. darn. I think it is a German brand. I'll try to look that up again.
 
Old 02-10-2015, 09:48 AM   #15
turfreijer
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Hi Cooltouch,

A bit late but better late then never.
I'm using AVLinux for a few years now as a fulltime professional musician and I must say it is the best I came across.
It's really designed with a pro musician in mind. Believe I tried several and this distro is based upon Debian, don't go for Ubuntu based distro's. They will eat up your resources, and then you might as well go for Windows and Cubase or whatever software you need.

I have very good experience with AVLinux so I can recommend it to anybody.

Sorry for the late reply but maybe it helps.

regards,
Dave
 
  


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