For new Linux users audio can be a shock. Many newbies that ask for support on forums have a perfectly working system, but are prompted to think otherwise by the not-really-straightforward way audio on Linux works. This post is an attempt to summarize and clarify how Linux audio works on a standard modern Linux installation.
It has been a while since the latest Ubuntu Studio 16.04 has been released. I couldn’t resist to make a live pen-drive with it and boot it on my Apollo. I also wanted to see how it performs with respect my Arch Linux. This is not going to be, however, a full review (like for ArchBang). The reason is that I did not install the system. I think that the only way to fairly compare OSes is to install them on the same hardware. I lack, sadly, a test computer. My Apollo is all I got and I must stay productive with it…
Anyway, lets have just a quick look at the features and let’s see if we can figure out what Ubuntu Studio 16.04 has to offer!
In the Linux ecosystem there are literally hundreds of distributions. According to DistroWatch, we have 277 actively developed distributions (the actual number is likely lager). Only few of them are “pro audio” distributions, but there is still plenty to choose from for people interested in doing music on Linux. During these last 10 years I have been hopping from a distribution to another. As such, I think it might be useful for you if I reveal which one is the Best Linux Audio Distro ever existed!
Many resources can be found online to guide through the process of proper Pro Audio Linux configuration. However, very often they are obscure, especially for beginners. I will then collect the most useful resources in this page so that they can be retrieved easily (and I don’t forget about their existence). I will categorize the resources based upon how much they are distro-specific.
A very simple way to probe the Linux ecosystem is by having a look at DistroWatch.com. If we go to the Search Distributions page and select “Multimedia” as Distribution category we will find only 10 active distributions. However, only few of them are developed with “pro audio first” in mind. Also, not all the distributions of this kind are on DistroWatch. For this reason, I will list here the distros I bumped into along these years. I did not try all of them (yet) but I will give my impressions for the ones I tried.
So, I did some test of my new Entroware Apollo and got some nice results. Running on GNOME 3, realtime kernel and nothing much more (not even by boosting CPUs) the system performances are already very good, although none of the stability definitions have been respected.
I recently purchased an Apollo 1000 from Entroware, a young British company specialized in Linux computers. I had it with Ubuntu 15.04, not really my favorite Linux distro, but I needed a working Linux environment quickly to replace my old Presario CQ61, that seemed close to death (still alive and well though…). Only in the last days I have been able to install Arch Linux and do some audio configuration. The results are quite promising!