Comparing Linux Audio distributions

I am starting this thread because I greatly miss a website that compares the common Audio Distributions. Here are the few things I have found out so far. Maybe you can help improve this.


  1. Ubuntu Studio
  • Largest Distro in terms of users (according to distrowatch.com) and ressources (Canonical: official Ubuntu derivate).

  • Nonetheless Linux musicians seem to recommend either KXStudio or AVLinux. What puts them off Ubuntu Studio I cannot determine.

  • Seems to make no attempts to help include VST plugins.

  • Not rock stable. I get sporadic kernel panics, ardour or jack crashing.


  1. AVLinux
  • Based directly on Debian and XFCE, but on an old version (release from Nov '14 is based on Debian Squeeze from mid 2011).

  • probably the biggest but also very unfocussed software selection, i.e. includes LibreOffice, Emacs and FileZilla, but no MuseScore

  • large number of plugins.

  • ships with ArdourVST

  • Opens wine on start, which asks for nonexisting Mono and Gecko packages.

  • outdated design (irrelevant)

  • is marketed as a Live-Distro rather than an Installation. Also marketed as a distro for weak computers. This makes me sceptical, but does it have practical consequences?


  1. KxStudio
  • KxStudio is based on Ubuntu (LTS) with KDE.

  • large number of plugins, focussed software selection.

  • Not rock stable. I get sporadic kernel panics, ardour or jack crashing.

  • seems well maintained but, like all Linux audio, suffers from extreme shortage of manpower (effects of this i.e. Release from 2014 still comes with the release notes from 2012).


  1. Musix
    Musix is an Argentinian distribution. Because much of its environment is in Spanish I have not attempted to use it.

I think that the most stable and fastest system I ever had was Fedora/CCRMA some years ago, but the life cycle of the Fedora is in my opinion to short when stability and peace of mind are first concerns. The last 5 years or so, I have used plain Kubuntu LTS distros and the last year or so, I have connected the KxStudio repos to my OSes. The KxStudio repos are well maintained and very up to date.

So why just not consider using a familiar favorite distro with a RT or low latency kernel and, depending of the package system, connect a repo like KxStudio, Ubuntu Studio or CCRMA? I notice that people get kernel panics and all sorts of crashes and so on, but I must say that I do not often experience this problems - and I also see that Windows and OSX users have this problems as well. The good thing about mainstream distros is that many people use them and they are well supported… …and the main vendors have (probably) tested their stuff on them as well.

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Mainstream distributions were not designed for audio, and are not well suited to running applications like jack and Ardour. There are typically many areas of setup not done optimally for audio: plugin paths, real-time or low-latency kernel settings, CPU performance governors, memory locking options, ownerships and permissions.

Ubuntu Studio keeps crashing and you can’t understand what puts people off?

AV Linux doesn’t have to be installed on “weak computers”, and it runs like a champ on my 6 core AMD CPU with 8GB of RAM and system partition on SSD. It’s supplied as a live-distro because that’s the easiest and safest way to check if it runs on your hardware, but you are definitely expected to install it if you are going to use it seriously. The Wine messages go away after installation. They happen because AV Linux supports Windows VSTs under Linux, and comes with the Win-VST enabled version of Ardour as an option. This is important for some users because it opens up a huge range of plugin software which wouldn’t otherwise be available. Oh, and AV Linux doesn’t keep crashing either :slight_smile:

The next release of AV Linux will track Debian testing and hence be much more up to date. As with KX Studio, the manpower shortage is a problem (Gmaq is entitled to a life!), and there may be some waiting for that to come. But current version runs well for me and is going nicely with Ardour 4.0 rc1

Hey, relax man! I’m not saying that dedicated AV distros are unnecessary or bad, I have not said that I don’t understand “what puts people off” either. Are you trying to start a flame war or something?

I’m just mentioning that mainstream distros can be used together with relevant repos and that I have no problems with it. That’s relevant information and nothing to be upset about.

I have not said that I don't understand "what puts people off" either. Are you trying to start a flame war or something?

Take a look at the first post in the thread and the comments under Ubuntu Studio, Anahata’s response likely wasn’t directed to you.

    Seablade
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Ah, sorry Anahata. Thanks Seablade!

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Thanks all! I get sporadic crashes with any Ubuntu-derivate, including KXStudio. Hence I could not see why people kept recommending the latter but seemed to keep ignoring Ubuntu Studio. I am also a bit intimidated by having to tweak a regular distro myself for audio production. In the best of all cases it will cost a lot of time - time that people like Gmaq have already invested. I did get my hardware run much more quickly on dedicated audio-distributions. Seems I will be waiting for the new version of AVLinux then.

For the record, Seablade is correct - I was referring to the comment in the first post - apology accepted :slight_smile:

In some ways an audio distribution is like a server - it doesn’t have to be the latest version of everything, but it does need to be stable and reliable, and good at doing a specific set of jobs.

@Artur: I haven’t tried Ubuntu Studio, but I’m sure I’ve seen reports on this forum that suggest it’s not been very well set up. I think that’s why, among Ubuntu-based audio distros, KX seems to get a better press. I don’t remember the details, but searching the forum might turn up some clues if you’re interested.

see also http://libremusicproduction.com/articles/advantages-choosing-audio-orientated-linux-distribution
I suggest to coordinate with the LMP guys. it’d be great to come up with a good resource.

Quick comments on the original article:

AVLinux is an appliance. The main idea is that you never touch the system itself, just turn it on and use it as is. That’s also the reason why it includes some unrelated tools that may come in handy (eg emacs).

As opposed to e.g. KXStudio which is more a ‘classical linux distro’, install, uninstall & update packages. KXstudio in particular is a “rolling” distro with almost daily updates.
AVLinux vs KXStudio is a matter of mentality: There are likely more bugs in KXStudio but you also get fixes for those quickly as well as newly released software. AVLinux is always “behind”, but well tested and you know what you have.

Both KXStudio & AVlinux do include default setup and configuration. UbuntuStudio is basically just Ubuntu with a few extra packages preselected for installation, but there is no dedicated pre-configuration or special audio-setup.

Getting this system-setup right is the hardest part, which is why we mainly recommend AVLinux or KXStudio.
There are countless details from pulseaudio/jack integration to disabling locatedb when playing live, from cgroups to rtirq… anahata mentioned a few more, but either way that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Every GNU/Linux system can be tweaked for pro-audio, but it requires expertise and time to do so.

I have not looked at Musix since 2009 so I can’t comment on that. There’s also ArtistX, PlanetCCRMA, TangoStudio and a lot more…

Most (if not all) current ardour developers are also using debian.

But it’s not something we can recommend to a musician or producer who’s may be new to Linux and just wants to play or record.
Yet if you know your way around, Debian/jessie is indeed great starting point. +1

Answer is included in your question. If you can’t speak spanish, and don’t want any “crashing distro”, the only one of the 4 you are suggesting is…

I think the 64bit AV linux will be the “2015” one that’s going to track Debian testing, and it may be some time coming. See http://geekconnection.org/remastersys/forums/index.php?topic=3533
but also
http://geekconnection.org/remastersys/forums/index.php?topic=3557.0

I compile most software locally
I guess anybody who is comfortable doing that is not going to have too much trouble dealing with all the tweaks required for a decently performing DAW, starting with any vanilla distribution!

I used KXstudio with Ubuntu for a while, and AVlinux/Debian before that. For various reasons I’ve switched back to Planet CCRMA. I compile most software locally, Fedora’s been great providing up-to-date resources.
OTOH, if building from sources isn’t in the cards, I recommend any of the focused distros already mentioned. Glen has a 64-bit AVLinux now, definitely worth a look, and of course falkTX has done great work with KXstudio.

My two pfennigs.

dp

Another audio distribution based on Debian (and it seems to me it’s a nice one) is TangoStudio: http://tangostudio.tuxfamily.org/en/documentation/tango-debian.

I have been using it for a while on some computers (both old and new ones) and it has not yet crashed. I like it better than UbuntuStudio - and on my systems TangoStudio has been running at least as stable and reliable as KXStudio.

Yes, I have also considered plain Debian and compiling. But the Audio Distributions are taking a lot of work from your hands, I can see. I guess I am looking for what is most painless and will require as little maintenance as possible, but allows me to stay up to date at least with regard to stable/LTS releases and major software overhauls (Ardour 4.0). I seem to have more problems with upgrades on Ubuntu systems than on Debian. I also know Debian better as a system. So I think I will stay with my old Ubuntu Studio Installation as a workhorse until the new AVLinux gets released. And I will keep using kxStudio on an alternative partition to do some testing in the meantime. In their current versions, I think this is my favourite. Thank you all for your comments.

It’s exactly this article, that x42 recommends, that made me wonder about AVLinux - the fact that it is considered an “appliance”. I don’t have much use for a live-version of a studio, since I tweak the system and the controls a lot before I can work smoothly (apart from the fact that external media boots and works slower; and makes the computer less mobile). And if AVLinux is designed foremostly as a live-system, I wonder what drawbacks (if any) that might show if I run it as an installation. Infrequent Updates? Lots of unnecessary software [x]? Difficulties with dist-upgrades?

@Artur

Appliance in this case does not refer to the LiveCD aspect of it, which I believe Glenn intended for demonstartion purposes primarily. Appliance in this case means it is built for a specific purpose and tuned for that purpose. It will have more specific updates primarily, so don’t expect it to keep up to date with bleeding edge of Office Suites (Probably a bad example, he might:) for example, but to be more focused on stable releases of audio software.

      Seablade

After you’ve installed AV Linux you can tweak it as much as you like (at your own risk as usual).
Ardour and Libre Office can be upgraded safely to the latest version. Debian repository packages are less safe to upgrade, though it is often safe to add new packages. Dist-upgrade is NOT recommended. Removing packages Is usually safe.

I run an audio distro based on Gentoo: Gentoo Studio (gentoostudio.org). I’ve gotten both good compliments and helpful suggestions for improvement. My goal with it is to provide a non-bloated, user-must-customize-to-his-own-hardware rt kernel and lots of audio programs, including hard-to-find utils and fun stuff. There’s a manual install and tarball install guide, but I always recommend the tarball because over time I’ve solved many problems getting software installed and working.

It’s Gentoo, though. That means it’s a rolling release distro, so your options are either never update, or put up with an occasional update bomb thrown down the pipe (there’s a recent one with qt5 and multilib). I totally get why las doesn’t want to support it, but I love that Gentoo is essentially LFS with a PM. Nothing else gives me as much fine-tuned control over my audio workstation. If any of you give it a try, you’re welcome to come at me with comments and suggestions. :slight_smile:

For what it’s worth, I’m rather happy right now running Mixbus 2.5 on CentOS 7. Very stable. But I’m also not doing a lot of stuff that is requiring super low latency these days; my typical Mixbus session is also entirely mixdown work these days.

I have and have used several versions of AVLinux, and it works very well if you can dedicate a machine to it.

Hi :slight_smile:

You can already see from the comments above, that everybody has strong reasons to stay on the system they have chosen :slight_smile: There are as many opinions as there are people.

However I think that UbuntuStudio is a much better system than what has been said here. I’ve used it since UbuntuStudio 12.04 on all my three laptops, and I have never had a single problem with it. It has worked wonderfully with Ardour and my audio interfaces (Alesis IO2 and IO4).

UbuntuStudio is also great for newbies, since you don’t have to configure anything, just fire up QJackCtl, start Jack and Ardour and begin recording and editing audio :slight_smile:

One thing to note if you have your computer connected to internet and you decide to use AVLinux: you don’t automatically get security updates. This a bad choice in todays hostile internet environment. Your workstation might be stable but compromised. This “feature” made me not choose AVLinux :slight_smile:

AVLinux user manual says: AV Linux strives to live up to these ideals by avoiding having an update manager push updates onto the user’s system. Any updates or changes to software on AV Linux are completely at the user’s discretion.

I also tried Debian with KXStudio and this combination worked well. The only problem I had, was that Spotify Linux client refused to work on Debian 7, it works on UbuntuStudio. Spotify is great when you try to learn new songs or new guitar licks, etc.