Recording with laptops, USB interfaces and other things

Hi there

I’m completely new to this forum and the whole recording game, but I’m looking to set up my own very small home studio to record my own stuff, which will mostly just be guitars and vocals. I’m keen to use Linux and hardware that explicitly has Linux support via my laptop.

My original thoughts were to go with a USB interface, but reading on this forum the consensus seems to be that USB is very poor for audio recording because of latency issues. Firewire seems to be more favourably reviewed but has its own issues.

Cardbus options seem to be way out of my price range. I was wondering, since the threads I’ve found on USB interfaces are at least a year old, are latency issues still a problem here? I’m probably looking to spend maximum £300. Is Firewire my best option? Any information anyone could give me would be great. Thank you.

Firewire is certainly a good option. In this case, the Echo Audio products are possibly the best supported. They offer a range of devices from (I think) 2 channels, up to twelve channels. The Echo Audiofire4 might suit you?

A couple of things for you to consider and research.

1 Firewire chips. Some are evidently better performers than others. Best rated are recent Texas Instruments (TI) chips. Also good are recent Argere and VIA chips. Most sources I have read suggest keeping clear of Ricoh. You could consider an add-on Express Card like this: for example.

2 If you are new to Linux (you didn’t say), you might save yourself some angst by using a ready to run audio-visual distribution. A good one to look at is AVLinux. It is not too difficult to get a Linux system working well for low latency audio, but you do need to know what to do. A system like AVLinux provides you (more or less) with a working out-of-the-box user experience.

To get Ardour running, you will need to familiarize yourself with Jack, Qjackctl (gui interface for Jack), and FFADO (the firewire audio subsystem).

Hopefully, that will be enough to be going on with…

Have fun! Paul H

I have just had a more careful look at this thread:

It sounds like the USB latency shouldn’t cause too much trouble if I’m only recording 1 or 2 tracks at a time.

The UA-101 seems to come highly recommended in this thread, but is listed as not fully supported on this page:

Other versions of these devices seem to be incompatible, or the devices themselves are obsolete and unavailable.

I am very keen to have something work “out of the box” so to speak, especially seeing as this is my first forage into recording territory. The Tascam US122 purchased on Ebay seems to be a reasonable option. Is there anything newer/better anyone can recommend?

Sorry missed this before I commented.

I’ve been a Linux user for about a year, so by no means advanced, but I haven’t familiarised myself with Ardour/Jack etc. yet, only done some preliminary reading. I was thinking of using Ubuntu Studio but I’ll definitely investigate AVLinux as well.

Thanks for the heads up on the Echo Audio, I’ll certainly look at that as well.

I’m assuming you’re in the UK? You can pick up a second-hand RME Multiface I on ebay for that price (search Europe-wide not just in the UK). You should also have just about enough left over for an M-Audio DMP3, a decent, clean pre (the Multiface doesn’t have any). Or try a FiveFish DIY kit if you want something a little more refined.

The older model Multiface I is, IMO, much better than anything you could buy new at that price: ADDA virtually as good as the newer RME gear, ultra low latency, reliable, and the soundcard mixer software (linux version of Totalmix) is great to work with.

I have 3 USB interfaces. An edirol UA-25, which is fantastic, 2 in 2 out and midi in/out, works great on linux. I can do 8 in and 8 out simultaneously with a latency of about 5ms on my Edirol UA-1000 and the same on my Edirol UA-101.
The Alsa-Project matrix is outdated, the edirol ua-1000 and 101 playback works fine, the only problem I have had is midi output appears in qjackctl but you cannot route anything to it, so midi out does not work. However, this works fine on the UA-25.

Thanks for the replies all.

I actually went with the Tascam on this occasion, simply because I felt a bit more comfortable shelling out a smaller amount for something I can’t guarantee I will commit myself to.

I’ve been sure to get a good quality microphone with all the trimmings though, and if these recordings all work out I will definitely revisit this thread. It’s good to hear that the Alsa pages are outdated actually. Finding Linux-friendly hardware can be tough. Not for a lack of support in reality but rather a lack of information.