Ardour on Ubuntu

Ardour running on Ubuntu

Linux naysayers get mighty grumpy about all the Ubuntu hype. I can certainly imagine some Ubuntu fatigue, but Ubuntu is actually gaining some real traction in a way that previous attempts to be a “Linux for the rest of us” have not. For that reason, it’s significant that there’s an Ubuntu release for creatives — not just one niche group of people, like audio, but for multimedia creative work in general. We’ve seen Ubuntu Studio before, but the big news is that you can go and download it now, and give it a shot on your Intel Mac or PC:

Ubuntu Studio

Note that there’s no live CD version, so you will have to install it to try it (though if you’re curious about Ubuntu, you could use a live CD of that).

We’ll be testing Ubuntu Studio CDM over the summer, both for the music and motion side. I will say, though, the music and audio end of this release seems to pale in comparison to Ubuntu Studio’s video and graphics tools. There’s Ardour, yes, a terrific DAW, and built-in JACK support. Other than that, though, the choices are generally far weaker than what’s available in commercial and even free closed-source software — or, for that matter, even other Linux audio distros. Compare the 3D application Blender, or Cinepaint for video, which easily stand alongside commercial tools. On the other hand, there are lots of terrific music packages that just didn’t make it into Ubuntu Studio — and that’s okay, because it’s not necessarily that hard to install the other apps. And there is a full complement of JACK audio utilities and some neat toys (trackers and whatnot). The big remaining question will be how the distro itself does in terms of performance and ease of use, which we’ll definitely be testing here.

Beryl on Studio64

Help! My studio is on a big, spinning cube!! Beryl, the 3D window manager, running with Studio 64 — a reminder that, hype aside, Ubuntu really isn’t the only game in town — especially for audio and music on Linux.

Before we get into another boring Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux argument, I have to say one sure-fire potential use for this is as an educational tool, as a common-denominator OS-with-apps everyone could use. So I’m eager to try it out regardless. It’s telling that Ardour just got renewed funding from SAE, the audio school — more on that soon.

If you are focused on music and audio, two other distros for me really stand out. One is the Debian-based 64 Studio. It’s been around a lot longer than Ubuntu Studio, it’s got audio performance as a major priority, and has a deeper set of tools and tweaks for audio users. There’s also Stanford University’s Planet CCRMA at Home, a tried-and-tested academic distro filled with unusual sound tools that you can’t get anywhere else. I saw the CCRMA folks at Maker Faire, and they were showing off their distro. The students really loved it, and I think one key difference is that there are real “killer apps” there that don’t live on Windows and Mac, all ready to run.

Ubuntu Studio still looks very polished, though, and if mixing in visual work appeals to you, it should definitely be on your list. Full audio package list. And “Swiss Army audio editor”? I wasn’t aware the Swiss issued audio editors to their soldiers, but I can’t say I’m surprised:

aconnectgui – graphical ALSA sequencer connection manager
audacity – Swiss army audio editor
ardour – Digital audio workstation (graphical gtk interface)
beast – music synthesis and composition framework
bitscope – diagnosis tool for JACK audio software
creox – real-time guitar effects
denemo – A gtk+ frontend to GNU Lilypond
timemachine – JACK audio recorder for spontaneous and conservatory use
gtick – Metronome application
hydrogen – Simple drum machine/step sequencer
jackbeat – audio sequencer
jackd – JACK Audio Connection Kit (server and example clients)
jackeq – routes and manipulates audio from/to multiple sources
jack-rack – LADSPA effects “rack” for JACK
jack-tools – various JACK tools: plumbing, play, udp, ctl, scope, clock
jamin – Audio mastering from a mixed down multitrack source with JACK
jdelay – A small command line JACK app you can use to measure the latency of your sound card.
lilypond-data – LilyPond music typesetter (data files)
lilypond – A program for typesetting sheet music
meterbridge – A collection of Audio meters for the JACK audio server
muse – Qt-based midi/audio sequencer
vkeybd – Virtual Keyboard program
qjackctl – User interface for controlling the JACK sound server
puredata – realtime computer music and graphics system
rosegarden4 – music editor and MIDI/audio sequencer
timidity – Software sound renderer (MIDI sequencer, MOD player)
seq24 – Real time MIDI sequencer
shaketracker – MIDI sequencer with tracker GUI
sooperlooper – Looping Sampler LADSPA plugin
swami – SoundFont editor
csound – powerful and versatile sound synthesis software
tapiir – A tool for real time audio delay and feedback effects
freqtweak – Realtime audio frequency spectral manipulation
mixxx – A digital DJ interface (for beat-mixing)
terminatorx – A realtime audio synthesizer
xmms – Versatile X audio player that looks like Winamp
xmms-jackasyn – JACK Output plugin for xmms
xmms-modplug – ModPlug plugin for XMMS
zynaddsubfx – Realtime software synthesizer for Linux
fluidsynth – Real-time MIDI software synthesizer
bristol – vintage synthesizer emulator
freebirth – Bass synthesizer/sample player/sequencer similar to Rebirth
qsynth – fluidsynth MIDI sound synthesiser front-end
tk707 – drum sequencer for a sound card or MIDI device
linuxsampler – software audio sampler
wired – A professional music production and creation free software running on the Linux operating system.
linux-image-lowlatency – Low latency kernel