Hardware recommendation

Hi. I’m looking for renewing my computer, and get it right in order to have a sistem working nicely with Ardour. My intention is to work with multiple audio and midi tracks, and virtual instruments and processor plugins, without having xruns or crashes, or at least the minimum. I’d appreciate any suggestion on CPU (Brand, number of processors, velocity, etc), RAM, type of HDD, Motherboard,…
I would install my current OS Ubuntu Studio 20.04 and Ardour 6.7. My Audio interface is a M-Audio Fast Track Pro.
Besides that, is it advisable to switch to Mac computers? I’ve never had a Mac, and I’ve always used linux for audio production and windows for generic use. Is it really worth the difference of price?
Thank you

What’s your budget?

In general, AMD seems to be winning the CPU arms race, but the top end Intel CPUs still hold their own. You want a minimum of 16gb of RAM, ideally 32GB or more if you’re working with large sample libraries (DrumGizmo and the like). You want a SSD, not an HDD - this single thing will be the largest performance boost you can get.

In general, https://www.tuxedocomputers.com/en/ seems to make some pretty banging prebuilds for Linux for specific audio purposes - look for their MIDI desktops.

Macs are overrated, but I am extremely biased against all things Apple. My former bandmates swore by MacOS and its walled garden, and then complained about Logic. Go figure.

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Thanks. Aren’t there compatibiliities issues with AMD CPUs?

That was a while ago. The core support for Zen Ryzen CPUs was rolled into the kernel in 2019.

I’ve run a Ryzen ThreadRipper 2950X system for nearly two years. I’ve never had to think about compatibility, except when setting up a macOS VM.

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I’m running an AMD CPU with Kubuntu w KXStudio running both the latest ardour and Mixbus.

Sorry to be the voice of AMD dissent but my AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX has been kind of a nightmare with Linux (it’s fine with Windows). It has improved to being fairly decent with more recent kernels but I would never buy another one personally…

Well, the ThreadRipper series is out of my budget. I’d rather go for a Ryzen 5 3600 or similar. I’ve almost made my mind on AMD due to your comments, but Glen’s post has been a jar of cold water :laughing:
I guess unanimity is impossible.
Thanks guys

Have a look at Ardour Manual | The Right Computer System for Digital Audio.

The bottleneck is not usually the CPU, nor RAM, but graphics card and other peripherals. This is particularly true if you need low latency when recording.

Since you mentioned “motherboard” I assume you’re looking for a desktop (not a laptop), is that correct?

How is your soundcard connected to the system? USB ? PCIe?

The issue with AMD CPUs is that you are pretty much stuck with AMD or nvidia graphics, neither of which have reliable drivers for Linux that play well with low latency system (I bought Intel with onboard graphics again for that reason).

gfx details

nvidia’s binary driver cannot be used with preempt-rt, and nouveau is useless for pro-audio apps: It crashes when an app opens multiple GL windows.

AMD drivers are not much better, some can hog the bus for some time, causing x-runs.

Is that still the case? AMD drivers have been open source for quite a few years, although I think there are two branches of AMD drivers now, for older and newer cards, so there may be some differences in behavior depending on which generation of card is in use.

What kind of problems have you had? Linus T. has been running a Threadripper system for the last few years, so it seems unlikely that any kind of general problem with Threadripper would stay around for very long.
Do you keep your system ROM (aka BIOS) up to date? I know a lot of people don’t bother, but there are lots of bugs that slip through, especially with newer systems, that get fixed in ROM updates. Things like incorrect ACPI table population can direct the OS to use the hardware incorrectly, so it looks like the OS is at fault but really is just doing what the system indicated should be done.

Have you seen him use it? :slight_smile:

For the work he’s doing the he needs almost the exact opposite of what is required for a reliable low latency pro-audio production system.

It came up last week on #ardour IRC. I’ll let @paul answer, although his issues was also related with multi-head setup.

Right, which is why I was curious what specific problems Glen had seen.
And general desktop and server use are throughput oriented rather than RT, but there is a surprising amount of crossover with telco and financial server use cases. AMD hasn’t made much inroad into telco yet, but I think they are doing well in financial trading.

Just to be clear, my point being that Glen’s problems are more likely to be specific to the vendor or model of motherboard he is using, which I think tends to mesh with what others have reported. It is not generally useful to say “AMD processor X works well” or “AMD processor Y” has caused problems, but “Dell computer model Blah with these options works well at this latency” or “ASUS motherboard model 22ZZ caused problems for me until I stopped connecting through USB port 4” would be very useful.

If I can piggyback on this thread with a related question: can anyone recommend a fanless laptop for Linux that I could use for recording with Ardour? The new M1 Macbook Air is an obvious choice for on-location recording as its very capable and has no fan, but I’d rather use Linux for this purpose and have more ability to replace/repair components on into the future.

Hi Chris,

Updating the EFI Firmware/BIOS was the first thing I did and i have the latest revision. I didn’t chintz out on RAM or motherboard (Gigabyte X399 Aorus) or any of the components, they are all highly recommended bits…

My particular machine is 24C/48T and with both RT and lowlatency Kernels I had random but constant complete system freezes to the point of having to hard boot, sometimes even 3 times per session… Also very weird problems like it generating bad checksums for my ISO’s regularly for no apparent reason, using other PC’s and Virtualized environments with the same version of software these checksum problems were non-existent so it was something about the Threadripper machine… The logical things to guess were bad RAM or power supply issues etc. etc. but then I needed to install Windows 10 for some Video work and enhancement software I needed and this computer was as solid as a rock with Windows Drivers so there were no actual hardware issues. The latest thing was the Airwindows Plugins bringing a 24 core machine to it’s knees on a 12 track session… partially the fault of Airwindows coding but the same session runs at 30% DSP load on an 8 year old i3 laptop…

In fairness I will say a using Liquorix Kernel 5.11 on this particular machine has helped a lot but it still freezes and locks up about once a week on the Linux side.

I spent big money on this build and it’s been flaky AF… I’m back to lease-return Intel office PC’s in the future…

You should be fine with that. I’ve been using a Ryzen 5 3600 successfully with AV Linux (from Gmaq !) both current and the previous versions of the OS. Performance may vary with motherboard components, of course. The processing power is overkill for Ardour unless you’re running hundreds of plugins, but it’s handy for rendering videos. It may also be useful to know that it’s worked well for me with both RT and low-latency kernels.

Not a Laptop, but a Rasberry Pi 4 is an option here. - Then move to a desktop for mixing later.

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Thanks, although I think RPi is limited to 48/16 and I’m generally recording at 96/24. I am flexible on sample rate, less so on bit depth.

RPi is not limited in that way. You just need a 2nd audio interface. My Hifiberry DAC+Pro XLR will do 192/24. Nice little card with those lovely connectors.

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The RPi’s onboard soundcard is playback only and crap, but there are USB ports.

I use a RPi4 n a fanless enclosure with a USB soundcard (PreSonus 1818VSL on the USB2 port) and sometimes an external SSD on the USB 3 port.
It works reliably even at low latency. I mostly use it via ssh (remote X), but when using a USB keyboard I also connect it to the other USB3 port (does not interfere with audio).

Since it doesn’t come with a keyboard and display it may or may not fit your bill, if you want a compact system though.

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