The Asus Eee PC is unlikely to be your first choice of laptops for music. But it’s small, it’s cute, and it’s ridiculously cheap. Some CDM-reading computer enthusiasts are biting, as we found out in March when we asked you if you had turned the Eee PC into a music box.

On the Linux side, you’ve got lots of options. Best among these, CDM reader Dan Stowell has put together a comprehensive tutorial on using SuperCollider, the powerful, free sound synthesis engine. You can even add custom GUIs using a free Java-based tool. There are also plenty of DIY environments for music working nicely (Csound and Pd included, as well), meaning the Eee can very quickly become a programmable, dedicated sound machine and synth for the price of the cheapest closed-box, name-brand piece of music gear.

Linux also supports various music tools that lend themselves to a lower-end machine, like music tracker MilkyTracker. Check it out in videos on the Eee: Eee-PC MilkyTracker Xandros, more. (Thanks, emrox!)

The surprise is, full-blown Windows software holds its own. From the NI forums, a group of intrepid Guitar Rig 3 users have fired up XP and have a pretty usable, self-contained Guitar Rig computer:

Guitar Rig on Eee PC [Native Instruments forums; thanks to Jahmal Tonge for the tip!]

The trick is, you do need modded video drivers to make use of 1000×600 resolution, thus accommodating the user interface. Forum members also suggest avoiding the newer Atom model as they believe it will be slower. Then again, while this proof of concept is tantalizing, I’d probably hold out for more-powerful mini PCs coming out — and the fact that music works this well on this machine means it only gets better from here.

Computer Music Magazine did do a review of the Eee, and were a little more practical about the Eee’s downsides (though the resolution hack here helps at least with that problem). But then, the other way of looking at this is that the Eee is just the beginning. Plenty more budget mini-laptops are coming; already machines from HP and others close the gap with “conventional”, pricier laptops. Linux distributions may soon target these configurations (Ubuntu has promised a “remix”), and Microsoft has committed to keeping XP and Vista going on these machines, as well. And that means the price divide with computer music is getting erased fast.

  • Bix

    I have been thinking a lot about this lately. It's a bit more expensive, but the HP Mini-Note 2133 rocks 1.6Ghz, 2GB of memory, expresscard 54 slot, and 1280×768 resolution on an 8.9" screen. for about $750USD. Paired with the RME HDSP expresscard, you would have quite a rig in your standard-sized laptop bag.

  • So the funniest thing of all (for me) Is I just read a great article giving entire specs for the Eee, and the FIRST thought that popped into my head was how I could incorporate it into my studio environment to run vsts, etc…

    Great post! Kick ass video.

  • Thomas

    The only thing that kills me on the eee is the resolution. Even with modded video, 600 pixels is barely enough to fit FXpansion's Guru on the screen.

    And forget Ableton. It could maybe hold 4 cramped tracks and the browser.

    Other than that, it would be great way to sequence some beats on the go without having to carry a larger notebook. It beats the MPC 500.

  • I've had an EEE PC for about two months now and use it to sketch up dj sets in Ableton Live as well as to run Rebirth which is free and works very well given it was made for far less powerful machines. I have even recorded clips using the audio in, mind you i have upgraded my EEE PC to have two gigs of ram and an 8 gig sdhc card, but it is possible to very easily use the eee pc to run music software though if you're using Ableton it's a good idea to convert your tracks to .wav to avoid conversion and unnecessary writes to disk on the flash drive

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  • I almost bought an EEE rather than a macbook, but they don't have firewire.

  • sxa

    Ive tested ProTools 7.4 on my eee701 (at 900Mhz and higher screen resolutions via AsTray Plus) with an MBox Micro, and I could get 6-8 tracks playing back without problems; enough for editing anyways, and the whole thing with Micro and earbuds, will actually fit in the pocket of my combat pants, which is nice.

    Im intending to try out Guitarport with it as well at some point this weekend.

    Apart from that, Ive tried it with demos of a few things. Until the driver hacks came along, the main issue was screen resolution, but I could run smaller projects in the demo versions of FL7, Reason3, Reason4 etc. R3 works better than R4 it has to be said. Tunafish works quite well on it as a minimal VST host.

    Synthmaker and Synthedit both run fine, if you want to knock up effects in the cafe or library, and Ive also got the KarmaFX modular running on mine without problems.

    I'd also suggest installing a few applications like Bram Bos' Tuareg2 and Lunchbox Battles, for those spare five minutes where you have time to just mess around building loops or samples in something minimal.

    Audacity works well as well, btw, if you need basic audio editing for free.

    I'm also intending to pick up a 7" or 8" touchscreen for mine, for trying some DIY Kaoss-pad type control.

  • ok. Why are you dissing on the Atom. Its not even out yet nor have the specs been released. But what I dont get is you said the atom will be slower when it will be 1-ghz. The current model can only go up to 900mhz and even then the system comes set to 650mhz.

    Just trying to defend my purchase.

  • mcpepe

    Do you need a USB soundcard?

    I own a RME FF400 but is Firewire…Can you use it without a soundcard?

  • I saw a report that dell is coming out with an EEE-sized laptop soon too, further legitimizing the form factor. Great news for all of us!

  • And there’s also a lot of older, self-contained software designed for just such spex. Consider Dreamstation for example: 32 channels of quality synth/sampler sounds, and it used to run fine on my 600mhz Pentium.
    And it’s now freeware!

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  • I've bought an Eee pc 900 yesterday and installed Ableton 7, Reason 4 and Fl Studio 7 on it. When using the stock soundcard with the highest latency setting, you can record and play projects of considerable size and complexity. I made a little video to show the results. Sorry for the bad video and audio quality.

    I didn't have a good camera at my disposable at the time.

  • I hadn't heard of anyone using the Asus Eee PC for CDM work before. Maarten's video (above) does show whats possible.

  • Good post. I have some more information about the ASUS EEE laptop on my own site. Some advantages and cheap offers for everyone. Check it out thanks.

  • leadtowill

    Pd-extended was easy to install with the Debian i386 build, endless fun!

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  • Mike

    I use Amplitube UNO on Dell Inspiron 1000 with Audigy 2 ZS PCMCIA or M-Audio Audiophile USB to record electric Guitar. Works perfect! Also Samplitude 10 SE works great. Maximum memory on this Dell (With Windows XP)is, pitty, 256 MB!!! No firewire…

  • Cheap Used Dell Comp

    It be great if Dell offered OS X.Service procedure is also much better as Dell did years ago.

  • Bekah

    Does anyone know of a sequencer with a built in instrumant library that can be used on the eeepc and has a free trial version? I have downloaded one called fleximusic composer and another called Quartet but every time I click on them it just comes up with 'open with' and there is no compatible program to open it with.


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