Testing 3.0 - A Sneak Peek at 64 Studio 3.0 and Ardour3

This week, I present two Studio Dave mainstays, the 64 Studio media-optimized Linux distribution and the Ardour digital audio workstation (DAW), both of which are in the late stages of development toward milestone releases. I invite my readers to take a look at what's coming our way in 64 Studio 3.0 and Ardour3.

Caveat lector!

The obligatory warnings: Please note that this software is in a pre-release state. Testers are welcome, but don't expect the stability or finished feature set of a final release. You will be using the software at your own risk.

64 Studio 3.0

I'm testing 64 Studio 3.0 beta2 on my HP G60 notebook. The machine's CPU is an AMD Turion X2 clocking at ~2 GHz; the internal hard disk is a 250G SATA drive; graphics are handled by an nVidia GeForce 8200M; sound is managed by the ubiquitous Intel HDA audio chipset/codec.

64 Studio is designed for 64-bit processors, but a legacy version is available for i386 CPUs. I have been unsuccessful in attempts to install some other 64-bit distributions on this machine, so I tried the i386 version first. I aborted the installation when the installer told me that no installable CPU could be found for my system. Later I discovered the workaround for this message, but I opted to try the 64-bit installation. To my happy surprise, the system installed without a problem. I rebooted the box and soon saw the familiar login screen for 64 Studio. Unfortunately, it was displayed at a 640x480 video resolution, courtesy of the default VESA graphics driver. Apparently the kernel nv driver doesn't like the 8200M, so I was either stuck with VESA or I could install the nVidia binary driver.

I used the excellent Synaptic utility to install the 2.6.29 source package, then I copied the existing kernel configuration (in /boot) to the source directory at /usr/src/2.6.29. The nVidia installer needs to find a configured source tree, so I ran sudo make oldconfig and then installed the nVidia driver. I removed /etc/X11/xorg.conf, ran nvidia-xconfig to make a new video configuration, rebooted, and soon saw the familiar nVidia splash screen, followed by the 64 Studio login. Figure 1 shows off the new rez and 64 Studio's new look.

Figure 1. The Hardy Look of 64 Studio 3.0

The 3.0 release marks a new stage in 64 Studio's development track. Previously, the system has been built on a stable Debian release, but the wait for Lenny frustrated many users and developers. Thus, the distro maintainers decided to switch the base system to Ubuntu, specifically the 8.04 release (a.k.a. Hardy Heron). In another move forward, the system developers have adopted a real-time kernel built on the 2.6.29-rt track. uname yields the following information about my current kernel:

  dlphilp@64studio:~$ uname -a
  Linux 64studio 2.6.29-1-multimedia-amd64 #1 SMP PREEMPT RT Fri Feb 20 23:08:51 UTC 2009 x86_64 GNU/Linux

I've run only some lightweight audio tests, but I'm impressed so far. I'm testing two audio devices with the system. I've mentioned the onboard HDA chipset, and I have an Edirol UA25 attached to a USB port. Figures 2 and 3 display the settings dialog in QJackCtl for each driver. The UA25 is working with its Advanced mode on, its Limiter off, and its sample rate set to 48 kHz. Both devices operate with ~8 msecs latency, but there is little comparison between their audio quality (the UA25 is the clear winner). The HDA also suffers from a problem with its microphone input. The level is unbearably high and apparently uncontrollable. I'm still looking for a solution and welcome suggestions from readers. The UA25 performs without such troubles. Given its better performance, the UA25 is likely to be my primary device, but it's good to know that the onboard device is viable.

Figure 2. JACK Settings for an HDA Onboard Audio Chipset

Figure 3. JACK Settings for an Edirol UA25

Incidentally, when it detects a multiprocessor CPU, 64 Studio defaults to jackdmp, a version of JACK tailored for multiprocessor systems. I haven't used jackdmp before now, and I am impressed with its performance. Another coup for 64 Studio 3.0 !

The distro is loaded with an excellent selection of audio/video production software, and the maintainers particularly want feedback on the base system (that is, the system as it's set up by a fresh install). I took things a bit further and installed a complete development environment as well. I've already built and installed the latest libsndfile, which I needed for building and installing Ardour3 (see below). Everything's gone smoothly, and I've had no problem finding any required tools and utilities.


Because of its ongoing development, I'll skip explications and go straight for the screenshots. Figures 4 and 5 show off the two most-requested features: MIDI integration and explicit support for VST/VSTi plugins. Figure 5 also displays Ardour3's support for the emerging LV2 Linux audio plugin standard, a most worthy successor to the LADSPA plugin API.

Figure 4. Editing a MIDI Track in Ardour3

Figure 5. Ardour 2.7.1 does LADSPA, VST and LV2 plugins (in JAD 1.0).

Thanks to the work of Javier Serrano Polo's Vestige Project, Torben Hohn's FST software has dispensed with the Steinberg header files and now compiles without proprietary code. Thanks to this revived and renewed FST Project, a VST-capable Ardour can be distributed openly and legally, a most welcome and long-awaited development.

However, despite its present popularity, the VST standard just might get some competition from the LV2-based plugins. The collection of compliant plugins continues to grow, with some impressive examples of LV2's capabilities available now (see Krzysztof Foltman's MultiChorus plugin in Figure 5). Incidentally, the not-so-invisible hand at work here belongs to Dave Robillard, who somehow manages to work on a variety of his own projects while he supplies Ardour with its LV2 and MIDI edition support.

This extended support for plugins also is available in the 2.7.x and the soon-to-be-released 2.8 series of Ardour2's public releases. Interested readers should note that VST support is currently available only for 32-bit builds of Ardour, while LADSPA and LV2 plugins are equally at home on 32-bit or 64-bit systems. The new MIDI editing capabilities are unique to Ardour3 and will not be backported.

By the way, to indicate some of the gyrations often required to build software at this stage, I had to compile and install up-to-date versions of the Raptor and Redland libraries (including liblrdf and librasqal), liblo (Steve Harris's library of OSC functions) and the indispensible libsndfile. Most of that stuff is needed by the latest LV2 support packages. Versions of all these components are available in the Hardy repos, but they aren't quite current enough for projects out here on the edge. Building and installing these packages isn't difficult, though it is a task that is more easily accomplished if you know what you're doing. The project maintainers will gladly help any serious tester, just be sure that you already know how to set up and use a software development environment.


That's it, that's all I'm going to show you for now. Expect a full profile of Ardour3 when it's been released, but until then, it would be inappropriate to review features and functions that may change before the software's public release. I know it's a tease, but I want readers to know that some important development is going on in these projects, development that may have a great impact on the Linux audio world. 64 Studio 3.0 promises a new world of kernel capabilities, and Ardour3 will assume the status of a complete professional DAW. Linux sound software is indeed looking and sounding better all the time.


Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.


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studio64 640x480

chan's picture

Tried the 64Studio Live CD last night, on bog standard nvidia/amd/acer, got only a 640x480 frisbee. PCLinuxOS, Mepis AntiX, and Suse live media all detect 1280x1024. Its time the S64s lose the lame debiuntu gfx detection (if they are to be taken seriously). Windows/mac musicians still justifiably scoff when they read that dedicated audio distros
can't even set up a proper vga display out of the box. It should be the highest of linux priorities.

Presonus FP-10...works well

Anonymous's picture

Hi all,

I am using a presonus FP-10 (firepod 10, i.e. last years model, using freebob [~2 ms latency @ 96kHz sampling]) successfully in linux for audio production along with Ardour and jack. I will have to try the multi-threaded capable jack version here soon and anticipate the MIDI integration in the latest versions of Ardour. I find the "Hardy" build to be the most stable system for audio in my studio. There have been some struggles with the latest rt kernels, so I will have to try the new 64 Studio...thanks for the writeup and information. ;) And yes, write your favorite audio equipment groups to request they offer Linux support...Presonus' new equipment is NOT linux compatible... :( I had to special order the older version...we must be heard (in quality production and in writing). ;)



J. Hricko's picture


Great article as always. 64studio rocks even harder!

So, you went with a USB interface for the laptop? Did you consider the firewire version? I've talked with gear salesfolks, and they usually say for multitracking, firewire works better. And I would think using a firewire interface for singular task of dealing with the audio, and allow USB to do it's thing.

I'd love to see an article on audio interfaces that work with Linux (why is that such a hard thing to get right?.....). The ffado Device support database has an awfully small percentage of devices that have "Full Support". Don't these manufacturers know how cool Ardour (and linux) is?

re: interfaces

Dave Phillips's picture

Alas, the notebook doesn't include a Firewire port. :(

Re: manufacturers: Some companies do get it, some are actually hostile about it, but I think the rest are still waiting to see more growth in the user base before they commit resources to Linux support. Patience, grasshopper, and be sure to write to manufacturers you'd like to support. Tell them that if you can get Linux-ready capability from their hardware you'll be happy to spend your money on their gear. If they don't hear from us they won't know about us.



Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

64studio and Ardour

Alex Stone's picture

I'll add here that i've had a great run with 64studio 3.0 (beta 3) 64bit, and although i'm looking forward to the release proper, i'd be quite happy sticking with the version i have. It's been terrific, and importantly, does what it says on the tin, reliably.
My setup's a little different in that i added, from source, Alsa 1.0.19, and Jack2 (Jackmp) 1.9.1, but the kernel version is the same, as the 2.6.29-RT version, and when i did the standard install, and tested it, everything worked fine.

It's my view, based on my own very modest experience, and experiments with other media oriented distros, the 64Studio team have hit the jackpot in terms of a combination of reliability, smooth and powerful operation, and at least here, little to nothing in the way of errors, with the standard install.

I don't think we're the only ones waiting for Ardour3, and it's wealth of new features.
I'm a big fan of the LV2 format, and hope to see it take off in a big way with developers, replacing the VST workarounds. As a native 64bit user, i'm reluctant to add anything 32bit to my studio build, and LV2 offers the opportunity to keep it all....pure.

So a big plus 1 for the update.

We have the best of both worlds.
A stable multimedia distro, using a state of the art kernel and sound framework, and an installation that cruises to a smooth, pain free, result. |
And, of course, the opportunity to dip the toe in the testing waters, and see the growth and maturation of new features, and apps, if we want a taste of the bleeding edge.

Lots of enjoyment, and reliable daily use to be had!



Good news...

zak89's picture

When the final release comes out it should be an "apt-get" away! No need to reinstall.

Oops, I forgot...

zak89's picture

Arg. I forgot the main question I was planning on asking. How is Ardour3 for stability? I understand that it is unlreleased, I am just wondering if I am going to have it, say, crashing halfway through every single take? Did using VST plugins cause any issues?

Of course, I may as well just try it and find out...

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

Hi Zak,

To cut to the chase: No, it's not stable. Ardour3 is most definitely NOT to be used in any production scenario, and the developers will very quickly remind users that the software is not even at the beta testing stage. The only reasons to use Ardour3 at this point are to assist in finding and eliminating bugs and to test new features and suggest improvements. No release date has been suggested and there's no point pressuring the devs to commit to one.

The VST plugins I tested seem to work fine, but I only tested some freebies. I don't own any of the big-name plugs, sorry.

All that being said, I urge any and all intrepid testers to give Ardour3 some trial runs. The program is getting more complex, and the interaction of its parts is getting rather complicated. More eyes and ears are welcome, see the Ardour Web site for more details on how to contribute to the project.



Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

Oops, I forgot...

zak89's picture

Arg. I forgot the main question I was planning on asking. How is Ardour3 for stability? I understand that it is unlreleased, I am just wondering if I am going to have it, say, crashing halfway through every single take? Did using VST plugins cause any issues?

Of course, I may as well just try it and find out...

Nice overview!

zak89's picture

I just started running the beta of 64Studio 3.0 (I'm the guy that responded to your inquiry on the correct rt-kernel). Did you have any problems with the missing kbuild package that I mentioned? I was wondering because I may have to dig into the innards to get my wifi working with 64Studio.

As for Ardour3, the features you mentioned are just too good to pass up! I'll be installing it on my laptop when I get a chance. Speaking of laptops, do you have problems with overheating while recording on your HP? My Dell Latitude seems to hold up fine, but I have heard of laptops failing bad while doing audio recording.

Thanks for the article!


Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

I've experienced no overheating on my HP notebook, but I've tested only some very lightweight recording setups. I use my Edirol UA25 for audio and MIDI I/O on that machine, it works fine with the Advanced setting On and sr=48k.

One thing to note: The machine runs warmer with 64 Studio than with plain-vanilla Ubuntu 8.10. Apparently Intrepid has some better CPU fan controls.

Re: 64 Studio and kbuild: I worked around the missing kbuild by installing the source package myself. Free helped out with some advice, and I had no trouble building and installing the proprietary nVidia driver for the 8200M chipset. So far the new 64 Studio is a treat and working like a champ.



Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.