dirstro for musicmaking and ardour

This has maybe been asked a bunch of time but here I go:
I’m currently using an mac but I have been playing around with some linux distros and Im thinking about using some linux distro on my old PC.
But with all that huge forest of linux distros, I just can’t seem to decide what would be best to use for music making/recording.
any ideas?
best on old computers-best for ardour-best in keeping updated with music softwares(ardour,jack…etc) and so on?
Is the Ardour team recommending anything or in somekind of co-working with any of the distros?
do tell your experience and let the arguments begin :wink:

mucho linux funtimes!

AVLinux (http://bandshed.net/AVLinux.html) or kxstudio (kxstudio.sourceforge.net [currently down but the isos are here : http://sourceforge.net/projects/kxstudio/files/Live ] ) are good distros to try out first.

A second and a third for AVLinux. Fantastic support, from the distro creator. He is a musician first. Glenn has created a wonderful platform for Linux Audio. If you wish to create music first and be a geek second then AVLinux is for you.

“I am not only the president of the company… I am a member too”.

I’d strongly recommend AVLinux too (although I should declare an interest since my software is included with it). Consistently high standard of technical support (on the rare occasions when it is needed), a comprehensive set of applications, plugins etc. and a helpful and knowledgeable community of users. And of course, don’t forget to make a dontation to the project if you find it useful.

I use Dream Studio, no problems so far.

I maintain Dream Studio (dream.dickmacinnis.com). It’s built on Ubuntu, and as such is compatible with a huge amount of programs and PPAs, and has out of the box JACK support and realtime permissions.

brilliant, brilliant and brilliant!
finally I’m looking at something that works for me!
I’m checking out these distros through virtualbox to test drive and reading and it’s fantastic.
thank you guys for fast responses.
now finally I get to use the linuxdsp that I’ve been so jellous at you guys , being from mac world and all :wink:
please do keep on giving ideas on this post.
Im having problems installing some things but that’s the fun thing and beauty of linux that you learn and completely are able to control what you want in the system.
Brilliant I say again and again!
I wish thought that there were some idiot proof videos or manuals with pictures on how it would be best to install or set up the systems for halfbrainers like me,for example for AV Linux but I’m enjoying the learning prosess.
please do feel free to post links or posts about installing.

again awesome!
takk fyrir (like we say here in Iceland)

Gentoo is one of the big ones and so is good for documentation and getting help on the gentoo forum. It’s infinitely customisable. I don’t think anything else gives you quite so much control over the software you install on your computer. You can choose cutting-edge versions or stick with the mainstream ones - it’s good to have that choice for audio.

You will need to learn a little bit about linux, more so than some other distros, and all software is compiled so it takes longer to install (and update). Not a big problem though on today’s multi-core processors.

@mcgruff :good point,Yes I have to say that Gentoo is also really interesting me, to have all that control is definetally worth the time and effort.

Being a beginner though is making it so hard for me to know exactly what to do to make it best for my needs but I can’t wait to be good enough in linux to also start using gentoo.
for now I’m playing with AV Linux (looking great) also setting up kxstudio and then I’ll give the dream linux a tasting.
fo sho linux tastes good! making my OS X get boring hahaha

and do keep this discussion open!


Firstly I’d like to say thanks for the positive comments above, It’s nice to be mentioned in good company with Dream Studio and KX Studio.

I feel it should be mentioned that the current AV Linux 4.2 release came stock with an ArdourVST build with Wiimote support, to be honest there have been mixed results with this version due the reliance of VST plugins on Wine. You may find it best to uninstall the included ‘ardour-vst’ package and install the ‘ardour-i686’ package from the Synaptic Package Manager to enjoy Ardour in a pure and more stable Linux context.

Work is finishing up on AV Linux 5.0 which will have many new features, increased ease of use and the best FLOSS software and Commercial Linux Demos (including the latest linuxDSP) in their latest reliable versions. It is my hope to offer the latest VST and native versions of the Ardour 2.X series (hopefully Ardour 2.8.12) and provide a trouble free base to both build and use Ardour 3.0. Harrison Mixbus is already well supported in AV Linux 4.2 and of course will continue to be in AV Linux 5.0.

Best of luck in your Distro hunting Stinni, please don’t hesitate to ask if you need help over at the AV Linux forums.

So let me ask a new variant of this question (or at least new to me):

I’m something of a Linux newbie. I’ve had a desktop box at home running Ubuntu for a couple of years now, but I"m not someone who enjoys futzing with modules and settings for the fun of it. I just don’t know my way around. But I’ve heard great things about Ardour, and it fits my budget :slight_smile:

I AM pondering buying a brand-new, clean hard drive and dropping it into my existing PC to build a machine from the ground up as a recording box, probably using Ardour. My goal isn’t so much to learn to make Linux do wonderful things as to get a decent recording setup going on a mac-and-cheese budget.

So if you were going to recommend a distro for a rank newbie to Linux, do you have any pointers?


MitchBerg, were you not able to read the first posts in this thread?


Yep. I read 'em.

Like I said, I’m new to Linux. I don’t entirely understand them.

So I take it that if I were to try, say, DreamStation, I could run something that’s about as maintainable as Ubuntu for a newbie who really doesn’t want to noodle around with things, and includes all the dependent apps like Jack and so on, right? And - if the DreamStation site is to be believed - Ardour basically installs with DreamStation and runs without a whole lot of muss and fuss?

Thanks in advance…

Most of the things that are relevant for your decision doesn’t depend on being new to Linux or not. You’ll have to learn a lot of things anyway. What is Jack? How do I get lowest latency with it? How does routing work? How do I use Ardour like a pro? How do I get VSTi to work with Ardour 3 and MIDI? I could extend this list easily.

AVLinux is a good distro to start from if you do audio and video production mainly. Why?

  • It’s got a lot of software and add-ons pre-installed and ready to work with.
  • You are able to checkout the latest SVN of Ardour3 without being a geek. A good howto does exist already.
  • AVLinux does not get on your nerves with updates every day. Sounds bad, but it isn’t. Never change a running system. I can’t count how many times I corrupted my system, because I couldn’t resist being up to date.
  • AVLinux starts as a live system. You can try it before touching your system.

If you haven’t got a dedicated system for audio production, it might be better to use another distro. I like Ubuntu for things I use for everyday life. But I gave up using it as an audio workstation.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your own experience and decide on your own.

Thanks, Mario. That was very helpful.

I will be rebuilding a desktop box as an audio production machine; I have a couple of Windoze and another Ubuntu box for day to day stuff and work. I do, by the way, have all sorts of experience producing music - on Windoze and Mac PCs running things like Audition and Cakewalk, and before that on good ol’ tape. So routing and mixing and all the “Musical” stuff is easy. The Jack and VSTI stuff is new, so I guess I’ll get to learning it…

So the choice for me seems to be between DreamStudio and AVLinux. The thought of being able, more or less, to drop either onto a clean hard drive sounds like a good start.


I just joined this forum to ask exactly these questions and I’m downloading from ( http://bandshed.net/AVLinux.html ) right now thanks to the excellent information here.

To expand the subject slightly (if this is appropriate here) suppose I was to buy a new laptop to run AVLinux alone as a single purpose machine dedicated to audio eg Jack, Ardour and Hydrogen plus midi soft synths etc, as the heart of a studio, could anyone recommend a specificaton suitable for creating large multitrack recordings and mixes? Say that budget is a consideration but not extremely limited.

If no such laptop could possibly exist at the moment, what else should be included (external drives, for instance) to make this work?

Regards to you all, Chazza.


I think one of the misconceptions that is still quite persistent out there is that an Audio Workstation requires a new fast computer, this is really not the case, in fact brand new latest tech computers are often not the way to go with Linux at all because the Linux Kernel and other factors relating to hardware support often have a development lag of a few months because proprietary hardware vendors are not exactly breaking down the door to provide source code for Linux developers to create hardware drivers. There was a recent thread on this forum about someone who had an existing firewire device and couldn’t find a new laptop other than a macbook that actually even had a firewire port on it so if anything going the latest greatest route can actually be heading in the wrong direction.

On the AV Linux site you will see that one of the mandates of AV Linux is to keep older computers productive as long as possible, this is why a lighter desktop environment is used among other system attributes. Truthfully if you don’t already have the laptop than you may want to consider something 2-5 years old with a CoreDuo or AMDx2 processor. Other than that I’d suggest a 7200RPM Hard Drive… the bigger the better, although backup drives are dirt cheap to archive finished projects on. For a graphics adaptor go with Intel if you can, nVidia would a second choice followed by ATi. Proprietary Video drivers in Linux are constantly improving but there is no guaranteed blanket support for all chipsets. Wireless stuff is pretty well supported but Broadcom WiFi chips are problematic and even more so with newer kernels so avoid Broadcom wireless if possible. Another advantage of a slightly older laptop is the likelihood it will still have a FireWire port on it which brings up another area where Linux shines…a great choice of good used hardware cast off by Windows and Mac users. Ebay etc. is loaded with great used firewire interfaces that are now well supported under Linux by the ffado firewire drivers, most of them are one or two models old and are being sold simply because something newer came out. I recently picked up a Mackie FireWire interface for a little over half of the new cost and it works like a charm with Linux.

I’m not saying it is a bad idea to buy a new laptop to build a Linux/Ardour based workstation, I’m just suggesting it may not be either necessary or in the best interest of achieving the goal of setting up the best Linux D.A.W. with the most hardware choices in the here and now. Something to be aware of is that USB-2 audio devices are very poorly supported under Linux due many manufacturers penchant for ignoring ‘class compliance’ in their designs and hope for future USB-3 devices to have widespread support is very dim. Your best option for Multiple I/O with a laptop under Linux currently is still FireWire.

Just some things to consider…

MitchBerg: DreamStudio is configured automatically for low-latency audio use by all users, and comes with 1. custom Ardour and Cinelerra UIs that match the rest of the desktop and 2. out of the box pulseaudio-jack integration (if you don’t know what this is about, just do a search for “pulseaudio” on these forums, and you’ll see that this is one of the features that Ubuntu is sorely lacking).

Other than that (and the default installation of all the synthesizers, effects, and graphics and video apps you need to complete a project), DreamStudio IS Ubuntu. It comes as a liveCD (so you can test it first) with the exact same installer, base system, and look as stock Ubuntu. What this means is that not only will you know how to use it already (settings, etc. are all in the same place), but any of the thousands of PPAs and DEBs designed for Ubuntu will work out of the box.

Dream Studio will not bug you for upgrades every day either. Any upgrades that happen between releases (in April and October) are either bugfixes and security patches (for anything EXCEPT multimedia apps like Ardour), which is a good thing, or the latest versions (like Ardour) of multimedia apps, so you always have up-to-date versions of the software you need (including all added functionality). Because of this, Dream Studio is a semi-rolling release, where a new version is released every six months, but there’s no need to switch to the newest version of Dream Studio as all new features are backported to stable versions where at all possible.

Different strokes for different folks, as they say, but I just thought you might like to have all the info before proceeding…

I'm not saying it is a bad idea to buy a new laptop to build a Linux/Ardour based workstation...
In my opinion it is a bad idea, but it depends....

I used a good notebook as a DAW for the last few years. On the one hand I liked the portability and flexability of my machine. On the other hand there are some downsides I couldn’t stand anymore. Thus I decided to spend a few bucks to build a dedicated system. The reasons were:

  • The fan speed of my notebook changes with cpu load. Most of the time one can hear the fan cosiderably. As I use a large diaphragm microphone (which is very sensitive) for some parts of making recordings one can hear the fan on each recording. This is very annoying espacially when the noise changes. My new system was build for being silent and you can’t hear it even if it’s under 100% load. It is not possible to build a notebook on your own and you aren’t very flexible in making a good choice when buying a new one.

  • Carrying the notebook around is a great thing when you need it elsewhere (like in a practice room). Carrying the notebook back to the place you do your home recordings gets on your nerves more and more. Moving your machine from the living room (1st floor) to your home studio (3rd floor), placing the notebook on the table (being annoyed because of the stuff you haven’t tidied up), plugging all needed cables in,… Now I turn on the machine and I am done.

  • Ergonomics: Using a touchpad or just the keyboard is a bad idea for a DAW. I got used to use a touchpad and I really like it. But a mouse does it much better. A fixed monitor like that ones on notebooks is a real show stopper and not very comfortable if you are working on a DAW for a long time. And: You can’t imagine how much more fun you will have with a proper dual screen configuration.

  • Flexibility: Imagine you just spent 1500 bucks for a good notebook (instead of 500 bucks for a nearly silent PC). After you took your new system home you realize that the onboard graphics card is crap for the use with some distros. Too bad, you loose. Getting a new, powerful sound card or just one that is not USB or Firewire? You loose. Want a bigger display?. You Loose.

  • There will be a time where you want to try another distro for your DAW or you just want to update your operating system. It is a lot of work to put everything in place anyway if you do this with your DAW. But it’s much, much more work to do this with a system that you use for everyday work as well. I assume one uses a notebook not only as a DAW than for everyday work as well, while you wouldn’t buy two notebooks (one for DAW, one for the rest).

For sure, there are other cases where a notebook is a good decision. In my case I would never use a notebook for DAW again. To be honest I didn’t buy the notebook just for DAW than for all the stuff I do day by day. I’m glad to write these lines on that notebook and that I have another machine now to do audio stuff with.


Just to clarify, I wasn’t really suggesting that a laptop was the best way to go in general for a DAW, but since chazza specified a laptop in the post I was answering my focus was how to get the most out of a laptop. I certainly don’t disagree with the points you made however I am currently doing the opposite and recently am migrating my own recording setup from a Desktop based DAW to a laptop/firewire scenario. In my experience it’s pretty easy to use a USB mouse to get around the touchpad and setting up proper Dual head display with the ‘arandr’ tool and Xorg Intel Graphics drivers is ridiculously easy even if the displays are mismatched sizes, I do realize that it requires proprietary drivers for nVidia and ATi which is a little more involved. Anyway I don’t disagree, there a many other merits to a desktop DAW probably most importantly the greatly expanded hardware choices…Whatever works I say. :wink: