Best Configuration - What to choose to run Ardour?

Hi Guys,

I am new to this site but I am sure this must have been asked million times before. I have a Linux workstation, 8GB memory, 6 core CPU, Plenty of hard disk space. I would like to start using Ardour in my home studio. I will most likely be recording everything myself so I don’t need a lot of lines in. I’d say 4 -6 max. I am trying to find out what setup would give me the best value/performance.
Which interface: USB, Firewire or PCI, would give me the lowest latency and best sound quality?
What surface/mix would be the best value?
Can I please ask for your opinions?

Any of USB, firewire, or PCI can work – of course, in general, quality is going to scale with price. The issue with linux is which devices are well supported. Here is a good reference for that: I think it is also helpful to use an linux distro optimized for audio such as AVLinux, kxstudio, dreamstudio, etc.

you can also check for checking the linux support for any hardware of your choice…

I agree with Ed – life is definitely better if you use an audio oriented distro. I use Kxstudio and I love it.

Thanks guys. As far as Linux goes I have had plenty of work and private experience. I have been using it since 1995. I have used SUSE distribution for some time now as I am more comfortable with RPM based distributions. I gave Debian a go several years ago (pre ubuntu), found some serious issues, lost some hardware as a result, never went back.
I will check out those links. Are USB devices still considered inferior when compared to PCIe or Firewire? Is latency a problem when recording for example two - three tracks at the same time while playing back another three - six tracks?
I don’t think I will be using a massive amount of tracks but I know that I often use up what ever available - if it’s there so you never know.

I have been looking at Focusrite Saffire Pro 24. Anyone has any experience with the Focusrite Saffire pro line?

And probably something like Behringer B-CONTROL FADER BCF2000. Any comments on that?

Or If I choose USB then maybe something like Focusrite Scarlett 18i8.

This is my last one (I hope) any opinion on Echo Audiofire 8?

I have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 which is very well supported by ffado, works great for me. Nice instructions how to use it under linux here: I know a lot of people use Behringer BCF2000 here is a Dave Phillips article about using it in linux:

Excellent. Thank you Edward.

My son uses Saffire Pro 24 under windows. Would it be possible (if I need more power) to connect that to a second firewire interface and run both of them?

OK. I had a talk with “the guy” from my music shop and he says that since firewire is on the way out and about to be replaced by thunderbolt, I should get USB instead. I am really considering Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 now. The specs seem pretty good and it is supposed to work as well. Any experiences? Anyone?

I am using an 8i6 under windows and recently ubuntu studio 13.04 started supporting it (it seems it supports 18i8 also) but it lacks the Scarlet Mixer application and you may have to use the jack-mixer a lot to make it work… i am still working on it to make it work under linux. but straigh forward input to record functions are possible…

@Edward Diehl - Did you manage to record st 96Khz with Saffire Pro? I decided to go for Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 and I read there are some problems with recording at 96Khz.

What firewire controller do you have? Not all firewire controllers work well with ffado see
I can only record at a max of 48k with my Saffire Pro24 which I believe is due to the fact that my laptop uses a Ricoh Co Ltd R5C832 PCIe IEEE 1394 Controller which are known not to work so well with ffado. For my use, 48k is ok. Use ffado-diag to see what controller you have. For best support of firewire devices I recommend using the ffado users email list:

Hi, if you can, try RME UCX…
Im doing that since a few days… great…

I have Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 chip

A bit late on the draw, but here’s my two cents’ worth.

If you’re going for a permanent studio installation, I highly recommend M-Audio’s Delta 1010 or Delta 1010LT. Both are PCI interfaces with 8 analog INs/OUTs, and both incorporate MIDI in/out and S/PDIF in/out.

The 1010 has a 1U rack module that connects to the PCI card via a standard PC parallel cable (DB25 to DB25). All analog inputs/outputs are balanced TRS, and can handle balanced, line-level IN/OUT as well.

The 1010LT has a “squid” harness that plugs into the card, so it’s a bit messier and more fragile, but if this is a permanent installation, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. The biggest drawback is that most of the analog I/O is unbalanced, line-level via RCA connectors. The 1010LT does have one advantage over the 1010: Inputs 1 & 2 are balanced XLR and incorporate reasonably good mic preamps. The 1010 has no mic preamps.

Both are based on the ICE1712 chipset, which allows direct hardware monitoring for minimal latency. When used properly, this gives them a huge advantage over some of the USB and FW interfaces.

Also, I’ve heard a number of success stories in syncing two or more Delta cards, but I’ve never tried it myself.

I went to the shop today to pick up my Saffire PRO 40 that I had on layby. Turns out that another salesman sold it to someone while I was paying it off. They gave me Scarlett 18i20 to try and if it does not work I have to wait till another Saffire PRO 40 arrives. Anybody has any opinions/experiences with Scarlett 18i20? I haven’t been able to get it working in Linux yet. Is the quality affected by USB interface?