I have been using ArchBang Linux for a while now, almost 3 years. So, I am able to give my impressions of its audio capabilities and workflow. This is my first review, so I have not developed a scheme yet (a part for some definitions)… but I think it will form by itself the more I go on. So, let’s dig into ArchBang! I start from answering the most basic questions:
What is ArchBang Linux?
ArchBang Linux is a rolling release distro based on Arch Linux. It comes already with a minimally but effectively configured openbox as a window manager. Click on the logo at the start of the post to be redirected to the ArchBang website.
Why ArchBang is cool?
Well, if you are comfortable with Arch, the system you would like to setup is not way different from Arch+openbox+audio software/configuration and you don’t want to spend too much time installing/setting up then ArchBang is for you. In less then one hour you will have a pure and simple Arch+openbox installation with just the basic configuration needed to make it work smoothly. All the rest is up to you and your wishes!
Is ArchBang beginner friendly?
No. ArchBang, as its father, requires to manually take care of the system. Basically, every maintenance has to be done from command line (unless you install some specific software… from command line). The user is in charge of the system. Negligence and poor comprehension of the actions done on the system will result in instability and erratic behavior.
Is ArchBang stable?
Yes. It is usually stated that rolling release distros are way less stable. This is not my experience. Yes, it happens that some bleeding edge software pulls in some bug or regression sometimes. However, the documentation and the community provide a deep support. Just keep track of the news pulled out on the Arch website and ArchBang forums, do the required manual interventions and keep track of the changes you do to the system. Doing so, it will stay rock solid and responsive for years!
The CrocoDuck’s point:
Answered the most basic questions, it is time to talk about the system on a deeper level. What are the strengths of ArchBang from the audiophile point of view? Well, first of all pacman. It is the package manager and it makes you able to access and install in a simple way tons of software, both from repos and AUR. Most of the audio software you may like to install is just ready for you, and you will like the ArchAudio repos! Also, pacman is the perfect tool to take care of a rolling release, as it gives plenty of information and tools to manage the system and deal with any possible problem: the action performed by it on the system are clearly stated, it can deeply configured and makes regression possible and simple. ArchBang is very simple, coming with just a minimal setup. This means that most of the configuration will be done by the user, completely free to tune the system to achieve his/her goals. This is very useful, as the Arch documentation applies completely to ArchBang as well and there is plenty of information to prepare your system to all you need, also audio. Good compromises can be achieved as well: I use my laptop for science, browsing, gaming and music (and blogging). This flexibility comes at the drawback to have to spend some time to tune the system. As an example, have a look at this post I published on LinuxMusicians. It may seems daunting but actually are all simple actions. Still, we can say that ArchBang is not ready for pro-audio just after install.
The CrocoDuck’s Official Rate:
To help the readers (if any) to visualize I think that a small number of ratings will be helpful. Based on what said above I propose these ratings:
- Packages and Package management: 9/10. A huge amount of software is ready to install and pacman is just awesome. However, some package in the AUR may be slightly lagging the release and something marginal, but interesting, might be missing.
- Beginner friendly: 4/10. I think that an inexperienced user will have too spend a lot of time getting confident with Arch first. Not your choice if you are a beginner and want to make music straight out of the box, but a good choice if you want to learn Linux as well.
- Documentation/Support: 10/10. The Arch Linux documentation is up to date, deep, rich of examples and explanatory while not being so long to make difficult to get to the required points. It reads effectively and you will find your solution in there for the vast majority of your problems. Arch and ArchBang forums are full of friendly and kind people, but make sure you have made your research on the documentation before to post a question: it is quite annoying to have to direct people to the page they should have looked at first…
- Audio stability: 8/10. Configured it? Then it is highly likely that it will be rock solid. I got plenty of 0 xruns sessions which were hours long, regardless of the load on the system, operating on practically lowlatency conditions.
- Audio ready after install: 5/10. Nothing else to say: you start with audio configured and accessible to all your desktop apps, if your device is compatible, of course.
- Stability: 8/10. It is basically very stable, even after years, but some regression can pop up here and there. See here for an example.
The scores talk by themselves: the Official CrocoDuck’s Pro Audio Seal of Approval is totally deserved!