[RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

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[RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Francesco Napoleoni
Hi everyone

Following my question about JACK and tempo transmission over a network, I felt
the time is right for me to share some ideas about possible setup(s) of a
studio mainly based on free software. The key idea is that such a studio is to
be distributed among many hosts connected together with a fast local network.

While the infrastructure should run primarily on FLOSS software, we should not
shun proprietary tools, allowing a certain grade of interoperability between
different systems (OS and applications).

I don’t really know if I’m telling nonsense, but these ideas stem from my own
experience over the years: the main use case for me is to make music for
videos, being assisted in score and parts preparation, as well as
“quick” mockup creation.

Since money has always been tight for me, but I am a musician with enough
curiosity and a certain experience with computers, I have been fiddling with
Linux and music software for many years.

What I’m trying to demonstrate is that the effort of integrating FLOSS and
proprietary s/w with the great possibilities of modern and inexpensive h/w
could give a professional great flexibility and relative ease of use, while
keeping “low” costs and minimizing licensing and forced obsolescence woes.

Basically, what I am trying to achieve is a network mainly made of Ethernet
cables (while minimising audio cables), with the following nodes:
* a master (or maybe better, a “conductor” ;-) ) machine controlling and
transmitting the transport information, ideally a tablet or a minipc with a
touchscreen showing the “big clock” and the “big buttons” (transport controls)
* another machine (the router) with audio h/w and a DAW, receiving audio data
from the network. The same machine could also host a notation software,
perhaps
* optionally, a machine showing a synced video
* N >= 1 hosts running synths, virtual instruments, rocket launchers,
microwave ovens getting the lunch done while I’m thinking of these things...
;-)

On the FLOSS side, I think there are many of the right tools to implement my
idea, I’m using them since many years. Here’s a incomplete list of them:
1) JACK (obviously ;-) )
2) Cadence/Claudia
3) Carla
4) Qjackctl (gives me the “big clock” and the “big buttons”)
5) Ardour
6) MuseScore
7) Xjadeo

While all of these tools do a great job (*really* great), there is still a big
plumbing and tuning work to do. Actually this is the hardest part.

#####

Personally, being a classical trained musician, I tend to compose using a
notation software, with close attention to score neatness: I still prefer my
music being played by humans rather than virtual gizmos. But I’m a “poor man”,
so my great score is also to be “hashed” into a MIDI file, whose tracks are to
be assigned to virtual (grrrr...) instruments, which in turn are to be mixed
together, and the whole composition synced to a video.

Since I cannot afford buying an expensive Mac nor can I pay for a plethora of
licensed software, the challenge is to achieve similar results with
alternative means.

With this post I hope to start a constructive discussion about the potential
of FLOSS music software and practical uses of it, instead of or in conjunction
with other kinds of software, in professional environment.

ciao
Francesco Napoleoni
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Sam Kuper
On Sun, Feb 21, 2021 at 05:15:23PM +0100, Francesco Napoleoni wrote:
> Basically, what I am trying to achieve is a network mainly made of
> Ethernet cables (while minimising audio cables), with the following
> nodes:

A nice idea indeed.

I have been aiming to achieve something similar in the long run.
Ideally with entirely libre hard- and software, eventually.  It will be
a while before I achieve libre hardware and do away with audio cables,
though!


> * a master (or maybe better, a “conductor” ;-) ) machine controlling
>   and transmitting the transport information, ideally a tablet or a
>   minipc with a touchscreen showing the “big clock” and the “big
>   buttons” (transport controls)
> * another machine (the router) with audio h/w and a DAW, receiving
>   audio data from the network. The same machine could also host a
>   notation software, perhaps

Here, I would do things differently.

I think the primary machine should host the sequencer (or DAW, depending
on features needed).

If you want a peripheral device for transport controls and time display,
fair enough.  But this machine need not (and for simplicity/reliability,
probably *should* not) run a sequencer or DAW itself.  Instead, it could
be something like a Mackie Control, or a hardware or software clone
thereof: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/mackie-control-universal
(Maybe an Arduino or Teensy-based clock with 7-segment LED displays and
transport buttons; maybe a tablet running Replicant and some suitable
app from F-Droid, if such exists.)  It should only need to communicate
to/from the primary machine via MIDI: traditional MIDI cables, or
MIDI-over-USB, or some kind of MIDI-over-IP, but still just MIDI.

This is a much more maintainable approach, IMO.

> * N >= 1 hosts running synths, virtual instruments

As per my message in the other thread :)

All best,

Sam

P.S. I am writing this offline.  Perhaps someone else has already made
the observations above.  Sorry if so and I seem to be duplicating their
effort.  I'll only find out once I am back online and sync emails.

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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

David W. Jones


On February 21, 2021 3:51:05 PM HST, Sam Kuper <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Sun, Feb 21, 2021 at 05:15:23PM +0100, Francesco Napoleoni wrote:
> > Basically, what I am trying to achieve is a network mainly made of
> > Ethernet cables (while minimising audio cables), with the following
> > nodes:
>
> A nice idea indeed.
>
> I have been aiming to achieve something similar in the long run.
> Ideally with entirely libre hard- and software, eventually.  It will
> be
> a while before I achieve libre hardware and do away with audio cables,
> though!
>
>
> > * a master (or maybe better, a “conductor” ;-) ) machine controlling
> >   and transmitting the transport information, ideally a tablet or a
> >   minipc with a touchscreen showing the “big clock” and the “big
> >   buttons” (transport controls)
> > * another machine (the router) with audio h/w and a DAW, receiving
> >   audio data from the network. The same machine could also host a
> >   notation software, perhaps
>
> Here, I would do things differently.
>
> I think the primary machine should host the sequencer (or DAW,
> depending
> on features needed).
>
> If you want a peripheral device for transport controls and time
> display,
> fair enough.  But this machine need not (and for
> simplicity/reliability,
> probably *should* not) run a sequencer or DAW itself.  Instead, it
> could
> be something like a Mackie Control, or a hardware or software clone
> thereof: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/mackie-control-universal
> (Maybe an Arduino or Teensy-based clock with 7-segment LED displays
> and
> transport buttons; maybe a tablet running Replicant and some suitable
> app from F-Droid, if such exists.)  It should only need to communicate
> to/from the primary machine via MIDI: traditional MIDI cables, or
> MIDI-over-USB, or some kind of MIDI-over-IP, but still just MIDI.
>
> This is a much more maintainable approach, IMO.
>
> > * N >= 1 hosts running synths, virtual instruments
>
> As per my message in the other thread :)
>
> All best,
>
> Sam
>
> P.S. I am writing this offline.  Perhaps someone else has already made
> the observations above.  Sorry if so and I seem to be duplicating
> their
> effort.  I'll only find out once I am back online and sync emails.

Linux Laptop Orchestra

http://l2ork.music.vt.edu/main/



---
David W. Jones
[hidden email]
authenticity, honesty, community
http://dancingtreefrog.com

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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Len Ovens
In reply to this post by Francesco Napoleoni
On Sun, 21 Feb 2021, Francesco Napoleoni wrote:

> studio mainly based on free software. The key idea is that such a studio
> is t  be distributed among many hosts connected together with a fast
> local network.

sounds wonderful but...

> While the infrastructure should run primarily on FLOSS software, we should not
> shun proprietary tools, allowing a certain grade of interoperability between
> different systems (OS and applications).

There seem to be few proprietary tools that allow interoperability between
anything (os, machines, applications), it seems most tools are monolythic
and expect to do everything in one bag. Certainly no one wants to support
their tool working with someone else's... "nobody else makes tools just
buy mine." There are more foss tools that expect to connect to other
applications, though even there we find a move to one big app to do it
all. Support of how other tools do something is hard to impossible.

> Basically, what I am trying to achieve is a network mainly made of Ethernet
> cables (while minimising audio cables), with the following nodes:

That one confused me. Maybe I don't think big enough but I have trouble
imagining in my home studio even at 20x20 feet (maximum size if I cleaned
up) ever gaining anything from using a network connected audio interface.
The mic has to have an audio cable somewhere, why add a latency extending
network? Maybe I do not understand your particular setup and you have a
number of rooms with people colaberating. A collage or other institution
perhaps.

> 1) JACK (obviously ;-) )

I would add the zita tools in here. In particular zita-njbridge. You may
wish to look at sonobus as well for slightly wider networks.

> Personally, being a classical trained musician, I tend to compose using a
> notation software, with close attention to score neatness: I still prefer my

In my case, dyslexia has prevented me from being able to do much more than
point out which note is which, certainly site reading in real time has
elluded me for 50 years. So live playing is an essencial part of my music
world. Memorization and chord charts with some standard methods of moving
from one to the other. This generally works best for me playing with
others in a live situation and so I try to record for a live sound and
feel (something like make it up as you go, I suppose). All that to say I
do different music more of a folk inspired style.

> music being played by humans rather than virtual gizmos. But I’m a “poor man”,
> so my great score is also to be “hashed” into a MIDI file, whose tracks are to
> be assigned to virtual (grrrr...) instruments, which in turn are to be mixed
> together, and the whole composition synced to a video.

I started out this way, I had 8 tracks of audio on tape. I gave one track
up for time code strip and gained 32 virtual midi tracks (two sequencers).
The tape was master. but now that I can have countless tracks (I have yet
to use even 20). I have found myself not adding any MIDI instruments,
prefering to use what analog I have. I have not even added a drum track
with the drumpads for some years.

> Since I cannot afford buying an expensive Mac nor can I pay for a plethora of
> licensed software, the challenge is to achieve similar results with
> alternative means.

Yeah, I guess so. Certainly I would feel better about spending a few k on
mics than computer :)  However, I choose to sound however the tools I have
sound. I feel it is ok to be unique. I prefer a good DX7 piano over a
piano sample, the DX7 voice will be more expessive if less realistic
(though pianoteq does pretty good at both). It seems to me to be better to
aim for an instrument that sounds real but not identifiable rather than
try to copy a "real" instrument and have it sound lifeless.

> With this post I hope to start a constructive discussion about the potential
> of FLOSS music software and practical uses of it, instead of or in conjunction
> with other kinds of software, in professional environment.

I have probably turned it into something about artistic choices. Still, I
think a real world example of what you are trying to do or have already
done. along with position of artists, producers, etc. including real
distances. Are there doors involved? Separate groups of people working on
film and audio?

As I said above, the idea of using network outside of snake replacement in
a large venue, broadcast studio, or some other comercial enterprise sounds
interesting, but a more filled out explanation may be helpful too.


--
Len Ovens
www.ovenwerks.net

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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Brandon Hale
In reply to this post by David W. Jones

As someone who has worked with and was in the Linux Laptop Orchestra for over 6 years, I had to bring this up: I wrote the software infrastructure for Dan Tramte's Woman Technologist Shifty Eyes and we used jack transport over local Ethernet to sync video with xjadeo on that piece. Believe it or not, it works! With the Linux Laptop Orchestra, there is a main Ethernet switch that every computer plugs into, so if you go that route I would definitely use one. Even a small one would help.

I can't say we ran into any major problems with doing jack transport over the local network, and everything remained in sync. There is a big however though: every laptop in the orchestra is the same model and has the same components. So, maybe it wouldn't work so well if the computers were all different models. I'm not sure. If you have any questions about how that worked, definitely send me an email. I worked on and wrote my own piece for the Linux Laptop Orchestra as well that synced the computers together using pd-l2ork. Reach out if you have any questions on how the orchestra works!

Brandon Hale

On 2/21/21 9:21 PM, David W. Jones wrote:

On February 21, 2021 3:51:05 PM HST, Sam Kuper [hidden email] wrote:
On Sun, Feb 21, 2021 at 05:15:23PM +0100, Francesco Napoleoni wrote:
Basically, what I am trying to achieve is a network mainly made of
Ethernet cables (while minimising audio cables), with the following
nodes:
A nice idea indeed.

I have been aiming to achieve something similar in the long run.
Ideally with entirely libre hard- and software, eventually.  It will
be
a while before I achieve libre hardware and do away with audio cables,
though!


* a master (or maybe better, a “conductor” ;-) ) machine controlling
  and transmitting the transport information, ideally a tablet or a
  minipc with a touchscreen showing the “big clock” and the “big
  buttons” (transport controls)
* another machine (the router) with audio h/w and a DAW, receiving
  audio data from the network. The same machine could also host a
  notation software, perhaps
Here, I would do things differently.

I think the primary machine should host the sequencer (or DAW,
depending
on features needed).

If you want a peripheral device for transport controls and time
display,
fair enough.  But this machine need not (and for
simplicity/reliability,
probably *should* not) run a sequencer or DAW itself.  Instead, it
could
be something like a Mackie Control, or a hardware or software clone
thereof: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/mackie-control-universal
(Maybe an Arduino or Teensy-based clock with 7-segment LED displays
and
transport buttons; maybe a tablet running Replicant and some suitable
app from F-Droid, if such exists.)  It should only need to communicate
to/from the primary machine via MIDI: traditional MIDI cables, or
MIDI-over-USB, or some kind of MIDI-over-IP, but still just MIDI.

This is a much more maintainable approach, IMO.

* N >= 1 hosts running synths, virtual instruments
As per my message in the other thread :)

All best,

Sam

P.S. I am writing this offline.  Perhaps someone else has already made
the observations above.  Sorry if so and I seem to be duplicating
their
effort.  I'll only find out once I am back online and sync emails.
Linux Laptop Orchestra

http://l2ork.music.vt.edu/main/



---
David W. Jones
[hidden email]
authenticity, honesty, community
http://dancingtreefrog.com

Sent from my Android device with F/LOSS K-9 Mail.
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Francesco Napoleoni
In reply to this post by Len Ovens
Aaahhh, this is the kind of discussion I wanted... :-)


> There seem to be few proprietary tools that allow interoperability between
> anything (os, machines, applications), it seems most tools are monolythic

Well, I wouldn’t say this anymore: looking at the current market, we have an
increasing offer of techonlogies aimed at distributing the different parts of
a/v processing. We have ReWire being around since many years, just to name
one, but I’m thinking more of Dante Network, which I believe to be the future
standard for studio connectivity. Just have a look at

https://www.audinate.com/meet-dante/what-is-dante

and it will be immediately clear what I’m talking about.

> > Basically, what I am trying to achieve is a network mainly made of
> > Ethernet
>
> > cables (while minimising audio cables), with the following nodes:
> That one confused me. Maybe I don't think big enough but I have trouble
> imagining in my home studio even at 20x20 feet (maximum size if I cleaned
> up) ever gaining anything from using a network connected audio interface.

As an example, in my studio I have a 16 channels audio mixer, which I found to
be of little use over time, since I dropped my old bands in favor of composing
activities. Now I find myself using more and more MIDI synths and virtual
instruments, which I can easily mix in Ardour. By now I barely use 4-6
channels, while my gear is getting older and noisier.

At this point I could get rid of this mixer, and all of the cabling,
patchbays, hardware synths and effects, buy a smaller one just to have the
analog inputs for a couple of microphones and a bass amp. It would be directly
connected to the audio interface, and that would be all for my needs. Less
noise, less clutter, less dust...

Now the interesting part: I have used Linux for almost 15 years for all my
works, and over time I have seen many great projects grow, as well as hardware
support. Nowadays I can connect a control surface to my workstation and use it
with Ardour or Non Mixer. I can write music for a full orchestra in MuseScore
and send MIDI data to a Kontakt instance running over Wine, or even a
dedicated Windows host.

Just to add some more spice, I am experimenting with the excellent MIDI
filters by Robin Gareus to have complex instruments such a string section with
bowed and pizzicato parts, or a drumset, directly mapped to a bunch of
different MIDI tracks in Ardour, coming from a single staff in MuseScore.

Even for a small project I end up having at least 50-60 tracks (audio and
MIDI), which grow far over 100 with orchestra. This is a non trivial load for
a single workstation, and even if it can handle them, I would find myself
using many applications on the same machine, with all the fiddling between
windows, upgrade or crash nightmares involved. Such a setup would only
transfer the clutter inside the PC.

Fortunately there are solutions: for example I can run MuseScore on my laptop,
have it synced with the main workstation by means of JACK, and send MIDI data
to Ardour for recording, with the minor hassle of manually transferring the
tempo map. Ardour can in turn route such data to the virtual instrument on
another machine (one or more), and receive the resulting audio stream.

As you can see the matter is getting quite complex, and could justify by
itself the effort to set up a network. Not to mention the (partial)
elimination of a single point of failure.

The good news is that almost all of this can be done with FLOSS software and
relatively inexpensive hardware, in a tidy, repeatable and easy to upgrade
way. I see the big advantage...

> I would add the zita tools in here. In particular zita-njbridge. You may
> wish to look at sonobus as well for slightly wider networks.
> [...]

Yep, another interesting tool. Actually a quite orthogonal setup which makes
use of zita-njbridge is MultiJACK

https://github.com/ponderworthy/MultiJACK

which aims at squeezing even the last CPU cycle by running multiple instances
of JACK in a single machine, if I understood it correctly.

> I have probably turned it into something about artistic choices. Still, I
> think a real world example of what you are trying to do or have already
> done. along with position of artists, producers, etc. including real
> distances. Are there doors involved? Separate groups of people working on
> film and audio?

No. One man in one room, getting the job done alone. But with the potential of
remotely communicating with a filmmaker, a producer, other musicians...

This seems to be the current trend among professionals, as the budget for
music gets lower and lower. Why hire an orchestra, a studio, a conductor, one
or more arrangers, and so on, when a composer and a Pro Tools and Kontakt nerd
(even better if the two coincide) could do (apparently) the same with a
fraction of the budget? Personally I loathe this trend, but I (and many
others) must be ready to face it. And let’s remember that my choice of using
mostly free software makes me an outsider...

> As I said above, the idea of using network outside of snake replacement in
> a large venue, broadcast studio, or some other comercial enterprise sounds
> interesting, but a more filled out explanation may be helpful too.

Well, I think my arguments should be a bit clearer now. Or not?

ciao
Francesco Napoleoni
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Francesco Napoleoni
In reply to this post by Sam Kuper
> Here, I would do things differently.

Certainly, Sam! I think it depends on your needs. In my reply to Len Ovens I
tried to explain a bit better my current setup and my ideas on how to improve
it.

Anyway I’m happy to read different ideas, I posted here on purpose! ;-)

ciao
Francesco Napoleoni
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Paul Davis
In reply to this post by Francesco Napoleoni


On Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 11:15 AM Francesco Napoleoni <[hidden email]> wrote:
Aaahhh, this is the kind of discussion I wanted... :-)


Quick take: I think it's really only your insistence on using laptops that forces most of this complexity on you.

Get a powerful desktop system. Run everything on one machine.

Yes, there are Rack patches that will eat even a Ryzen ThreadRipper, but for the most part a powerful, large multicore system these days will run everything you want on a single machine.

As far as synchronizing different applications, is this really a common workflow? Yes, once Hydrogen was the goto solution for linux drum stuff (and it's still a GREAT application). But with the advent of things like DrumGizmo, you can now avoid the multi-application-sync-communication issues and do most of each stage of musical production inside a single application.

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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Andrew Luke Nesbit
On 22/02/2021 18:37, Paul Davis wrote:
> Get a powerful desktop system. Run everything on one machine.
>
> Yes, there are Rack patches that will eat even a Ryzen ThreadRipper, but
> for the most part a powerful, large multicore system these days will run
> everything you want on a single machine.

Pardon me for jumping in late to this thread.

I am waiting for Milan, which shouldn't be far off.  I intend to build a
workstation based on this generation of AMD Zen.

It probably doesn't quality as a "poor person's machine according to the
subject however".  On the other hand, I do believe that it should be a
good basis for a professional level setup, if I've read the specs right.

Does anybody have any thoughts about this?

Andrew
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Anders Hellquist
I am also waiting for Milan to take off..

Have 3 avb devices and a avb switch as well as a bunch of Intel I210 Nics and I am following all openavb/Milan projects closely.

I also try to encourage a certain vendor to step up the interoperability game between vendors and also start supporting Linux for real.

If that ever happens, lots of cool stuff will happen.. at least that's what I hope will happen.

Regards, Anders


On Mon, Feb 22, 2021, 20:37 Andrew Luke Nesbit <[hidden email]> wrote:
On 22/02/2021 18:37, Paul Davis wrote:
> Get a powerful desktop system. Run everything on one machine.
>
> Yes, there are Rack patches that will eat even a Ryzen ThreadRipper, but
> for the most part a powerful, large multicore system these days will run
> everything you want on a single machine.

Pardon me for jumping in late to this thread.

I am waiting for Milan, which shouldn't be far off.  I intend to build a
workstation based on this generation of AMD Zen.

It probably doesn't quality as a "poor person's machine according to the
subject however".  On the other hand, I do believe that it should be a
good basis for a professional level setup, if I've read the specs right.

Does anybody have any thoughts about this?

Andrew
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Len Ovens
In reply to this post by Francesco Napoleoni
On Mon, 22 Feb 2021, Francesco Napoleoni wrote:

> Aaahhh, this is the kind of discussion I wanted... :-)
>
>
>> There seem to be few proprietary tools that allow interoperability between
>> anything (os, machines, applications), it seems most tools are monolythic
>
> Well, I wouldn’t say this anymore: looking at the current market, we have an
> increasing offer of techonlogies aimed at distributing the different parts of
> a/v processing. We have ReWire being around since many years, just to name
> one, but I’m thinking more of Dante Network, which I believe to be the future
> standard for studio connectivity. Just have a look at
dante was what I was thinking of when I made my comment about "why use
network and mic cables" because dante seems to be about using network to
join DAW to preamps/analog audio. For what you describe below, netjack,
rtpmidi are probably the best open and available right now options. The
only dante options currently available for Linux seem to be get a dante
audio card ($$$$$) or use the linux AES67 driver and use some other device
(windows or mac computer) to set up connections. This is aside from the
cost of dante hardware. (in my book a mac computer is not a poor man's
anything) Many people have a windows computer hanging around (I don't) or
maybe there are android/ios solutions for this. So from my perspective, A
USB 18 i/o audio device is about half the cost of getting the same thing
with dante. Dante works great for a big studio with lots of mics and
recording booths, but unless your synths have Dante out maybe not much use
in your case.

> As an example, in my studio I have a 16 channels audio mixer, which I found to
> be of little use over time, since I dropped my old bands in favor of composing
> activities. Now I find myself using more and more MIDI synths and virtual
> instruments, which I can easily mix in Ardour. By now I barely use 4-6
> channels, while my gear is getting older and noisier.
>
> At this point I could get rid of this mixer, and all of the cabling,
> patchbays, hardware synths and effects, buy a smaller one just to have the
> analog inputs for a couple of microphones and a bass amp. It would be directly
> connected to the audio interface, and that would be all for my needs. Less
> noise, less clutter, less dust...
Ok, so you wish to use many (for some definition of many) soft synths, one
or two per computer to be easy on cpu use and use network instead of audio
cabling. These softsynths would not need any physical audio card or midi
interface using the network instead. Assuming you already have the
machines networked on their own switch, netjack should work fine. Dante
would require buying at least one dante box or one dante audio card and
probably require having at least one computer run an OS dante supported
for connection manager. As AES67 drivers seem to be a thing, an AES67
network may be a possiblilty to mixed with rtpmidi or ipmidi (using Rui's
excelent utility). There is someone doing something like this with four
computers using netjack but I forget his name and webpage. At least one of
his boxes is a windows box and the rest are Linux. (my failing, this
forgetting thing not his)

> Even for a small project I end up having at least 50-60 tracks (audio and
> MIDI), which grow far over 100 with orchestra. This is a non trivial load for
> a single workstation, and even if it can handle them, I would find myself
> using many applications on the same machine, with all the fiddling between
> windows, upgrade or crash nightmares involved. Such a setup would only
> transfer the clutter inside the PC.

Orchestral stuff is like that to do it well.

>> I would add the zita tools in here. In particular zita-njbridge. You may
>> wish to look at sonobus as well for slightly wider networks.
>> [...]
>
> Yep, another interesting tool. Actually a quite orthogonal setup which makes
> use of zita-njbridge is MultiJACK

Yes that could be done... the same thought had crossed my mind, though I
am not sure why two jacks per machine (or more) would be better than one.
Jack2 already uses all the cores/threads it can find if it can (routing
allows).

> This seems to be the current trend among professionals, as the budget for
> music gets lower and lower. Why hire an orchestra, a studio, a conductor, one
> or more arrangers, and so on, when a composer and a Pro Tools and Kontakt nerd
> (even better if the two coincide) could do (apparently) the same with a
> fraction of the budget? Personally I loathe this trend, but I (and many
> others) must be ready to face it. And let’s remember that my choice of using
> mostly free software makes me an outsider...

For those in advertizing out there... I have a word for this kind of
music: "channel changer" If anyone reading this advertizes on a radio
station playing computer generated music with the teenager of the week
singing karaoke over top, maybe find a different radio station to
advertize on. This is about "popular" (pop) music but unfortunately that
is my first thought when I see the last paragraph. One hopes you are
creating something better.

With current marketing trends that are individualized where each view or
listen is counted, our choice of what we deign to watch or listen to can
push things one way or the other.


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www.ovenwerks.net

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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Lorenzo Sutton
In reply to this post by Paul Davis
On 22/02/21 19:37, Paul Davis wrote:

>
>
> On Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 11:15 AM Francesco Napoleoni
> <[hidden email] <mailto:[hidden email]>> wrote:
>
>     Aaahhh, this is the kind of discussion I wanted... :-)
>
>
> Quick take: I think it's really only your insistence on using laptops
> that forces most of this complexity on you.
>
> Get a powerful desktop system. Run everything on one machine.


I really support this. Although I've been happily using (linux only)
laptops for personal computing and music making since a while, _if_ I
had to set-up a studio-like environment I'd go for a 'desktop' system
for various reasons including better upgrade-ability (try to change even
a battery on a laptop these days...), better performance for audio and
multimedia, more fine-grained control over hardware etc.

Also if you were to make an (even small) investment, take into account
laptops are more and more built with 'planned obsolescence' in mind
while you could still build a desktop which (with upgrades) could last
for years.

> As far as synchronizing different applications, is this really a common
> workflow? Yes, once Hydrogen was the goto solution for linux drum stuff
> (and it's still a GREAT application). But with the advent of things like
> DrumGizmo, you can now avoid the multi-application-sync-communication
> issues and do most of each stage of musical production inside a single
> application.

I'm not 100% sure about this one. Or at lest I think it really depends a
lot on personal preference and 'artistic / creative workflow'.

For instance, in this case the OP wants to use mainly music notation and
IMHO the only two FLOSS applications which offer 'usable' music notation
are either Rosegarden for what I'd call 'sequencer notation' (i.e. MIDI
sequencing with good notation), or MuseScore which is leaning more
towards typesetting, although the playback capabilities are quite good
today. Rosegarden theoretically supports audio but it's really
basiccompared to a DAW like Ardour. Musescore, of course, doesn't
support audio. Both support JACK transport and at MIDI clock so I
wouldn't see anything wrong with using them together with Ardour +
xjadeo + Carla etc.

When I had to compose a synth soundtrack I actually liked being able to
be in a more focused environment for idea sketching and then
composition/sequencing  (mainly Rosegarden + synths) synced to just a
window with the video (xjadeo). Depending on what I was working on I
used both traditional notation _and_ matrix (aka piano roll) as well as
some MIDI keyboard playing. Then moving to a different environment for
mixing and fine synchronization in Ardour (which for instance also
supports SMTP, important for video).

As said this is my very personal take YMMV.

In relation to the Francesco's original post:

One other aspect would be: why such a focus on a network for audio and
not audio cables and some hardware (mixer(s), monitors, etc.). I
understand network for control (e.g. having a mobile device controlling
play/stop/ transport / record of the DAW), but for audio why not just
use (balanced!) cables and stuff? If as I understand this would be a
relatively small studio (e.g. 2-3 adjacent rooms).

Finally, one thing to keep in mind would be compatibility
(interoperability to use a more fancy word), with the 'outside' world:
while wanting to do a 'FLOSS studio' is commendable, you will inevitably
have to send stuff around, so software which is able e.g. to stem
export, or use decently supported formats (MusicXML for scores?), etc.
(I was surprised to learn from one of the people at the studio during
the scoring that they didn't want a FLAC file I sent them because it
'wouldn't work on a Mac' and only AIFF.. but that's another story).

Lorenzo
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

David W. Jones


On February 22, 2021 10:15:38 PM HST, Lorenzo Sutton <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 22/02/21 19:37, Paul Davis wrote:
>
> In relation to the Francesco's original post:
>
> One other aspect would be: why such a focus on a network for audio and
>  not audio cables and some hardware (mixer(s), monitors, etc.). I
> understand network for control (e.g. having a mobile device
> controlling
> play/stop/ transport / record of the DAW), but for audio why not just
> use (balanced!) cables and stuff? If as I understand this would be a
> relatively small studio (e.g. 2-3 adjacent rooms).
>
> Finally, one thing to keep in mind would be compatibility
> (interoperability to use a more fancy word), with the 'outside' world:
> while wanting to do a 'FLOSS studio' is commendable, you will
> inevitably
> have to send stuff around, so software which is able e.g. to stem
> export, or use decently supported formats (MusicXML for scores?), etc.
> (I was surprised to learn from one of the people at the studio during
> the scoring that they didn't want a FLAC file I sent them because it
> 'wouldn't work on a Mac' and only AIFF.. but that's another story).
>
> Lorenzo

Well, nothing's more compatible inside a studio than audio cables. :)

Odd about FLAC and Macs. Macs support FLAC for playback. What DAW were they using on Mac?



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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Francesco Napoleoni
In reply to this post by Len Ovens
> For what you describe below, netjack, rtpmidi are probably the best open and
> available right now options.

Well, for me this is the real challenge: if I can get things done with an
inexpensive network, why in the world should I buy Dante or similar stuff?

In other words I want to demonstrate that a carefully designed setup using
entirely or mostly FLOSS s/w can rival in many ways its commercial
counterparts at a fraction of the cost, and without bothering about licensing,
obsolescence and so on. If I had (that much) money, I’d rather give it to
admirable developers like those among you.

> Ok, so you wish to use many (for some definition of many) soft synths, one
> or two per computer to be easy on cpu use and use network instead of audio

Exactly. Indeed I am already running this kind of network, and I can see more
and more ways to expand the current configuration as I go on with my tests.
That’s why I want to share my ideas with the community. ;-)

> excelent utility). There is someone doing something like this with four
> computers using netjack but I forget his name and webpage. At least one of
> his boxes is a windows box and the rest are Linux.

If you ever recall that someone, please let me know.

> Yes that could be done... the same thought had crossed my mind, though I
> am not sure why two jacks per machine (or more) would be better than one.
> Jack2 already uses all the cores/threads it can find if it can (routing
> allows).

Nor do I. I think the explanation he gives on his page about performance is
not really convincing, nevertheless the idea he came up with reminds me a bit
of LADISH concept of “room”, but somewhat more flexible.

> For those in advertizing out there... I have a word for this kind of
> music: "channel changer" If anyone reading this advertizes on a radio
> station playing computer generated music with the teenager of the week
> singing karaoke over top, maybe find a different radio station to
> advertize on. This is about "popular" (pop) music but unfortunately that
> is my first thought when I see the last paragraph. One hopes you are
> creating something better.
>
> With current marketing trends that are individualized where each view or
> listen is counted, our choice of what we deign to watch or listen to can
> push things one way or the other.

I agree with you in general terms, but we all have to face the fact that we
are living in an age of advertising dictatorship: in extreme simplification,
the bigger voice you have, the most you can influence people, usually in a
totally amoral way. But that’s another story...
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Francesco Napoleoni
In reply to this post by Paul Davis
In data lunedì 22 febbraio 2021 19:37:19 CET, Paul Davis ha scritto:
> Quick take: I think it's really only your insistence on using laptops that
> forces most of this complexity on you.
>
> Get a powerful desktop system. Run everything on one machine.

As a matter of fact I *am* using a powerful desktop system: it’s a Ryzen 5
2600X, 16 GB RAM, dual screen, NVMe SSD; the laptop serves as an additional
virtual instruments host and as a video monitor (with xjadeo).

Sure, Seymour Cray would tell us that two oxen are more appropriate than 1024
chicken at plowing a field, but in this case I prefer to think more in terms
of an orchestra: if I can distribute the load among many players and
coordinate them, our symphony would be much better than with a one man band...

The real objection to my argument is if the benefit in terms of productivity
really outweighs the increased maintenance complexity of a multi-machine
setup. It depends.

If we were to record a live band, apply effects, mixing and mastering, we
could manage easily with one machine with enough CPU, RAM and disk space, as
well as a decent audio interface. But with different use cases that rely
heavily on multiple s/w interacting, the “monolithic” approach is not as
acceptable. If you prefer, it does not scale well. Or, at least, this is what
my little experience tells me.

Besides, there is still another issue: many widely used s/w tools run only on
Windows or Mac, and for some of them using Wine on Linux is not an option. We
still could use them if we used a dedicated machine and set up the
communication with our Linux Workstation running Ardour, Qtractor, or
whatever.

ciao
Francesco Napoleoni
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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Manuel Haible
In reply to this post by David W. Jones
 
In my research on Linux audio laptop with high channel count, I decided to use a desktop with a RME HDSPe card.

The only ways I can see, how it might be possible to get many hq i/o channels on a laptop:
 
- The closed AVB-driver.
- Older firmware version of Motu AVB is running at up to 48k.
- Firewire, but Firewire is dead.
- RME Madiface with missing Express Card slot on today's laptops.
- Maybee a tunnel through Thunderbold with a Sonnet Echo Express (this works with Macbooks, but does Linux and Thunderbold?)
- DiGiCo UB Madi up to 48k.
- Using a desktop or RaspberryPi-like single board computer only for it's PCIe slot with RME cards and establishing an ethernet connection towards the laptop with Jack2 or Netjack or Zita-njbridge, plus some wordclock maybe. This adds some latency but might be cool for work on / off the studio.
 
 
In terms of 'contemporary' professional studio standards, this software is missing:
 
- Linear phase equalizer
- Melodyne
- MaxxBass / Rennaisance Bass
- Automatic phase alignment plugin
- Realistic state-of-the-art algorithmic reverb (such as Bricasti, Exponential Audio, TC Electronics)
 
Please correct me, if I'm wrong.
 
For some tasks you'd have to choose alternatives, such as
MuseScore instead of Sibelius

I would add
Ardour, Reaper, Renoise, U-He, Dexed, VCV-Rack, Pure Data, Iannix
to the list, - althought not all are open source or free.
 
Some might be more or less important for Pop or multi-mic Classical recordings.
 



In video postprocessing Linux can't compete with other distros, as far as I am aware of.
Add FFmpeg, Unity and Blender.


 
 
 

 

On February 22, 2021 10:15:38 PM HST, Lorenzo Sutton <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 22/02/21 19:37, Paul Davis wrote:
>
> In relation to the Francesco's original post:
>
> One other aspect would be: why such a focus on a network for audio and
> not audio cables and some hardware (mixer(s), monitors, etc.). I
> understand network for control (e.g. having a mobile device
> controlling
> play/stop/ transport / record of the DAW), but for audio why not just
> use (balanced!) cables and stuff? If as I understand this would be a
> relatively small studio (e.g. 2-3 adjacent rooms).
>
> Finally, one thing to keep in mind would be compatibility
> (interoperability to use a more fancy word), with the 'outside' world:
> while wanting to do a 'FLOSS studio' is commendable, you will
> inevitably
> have to send stuff around, so software which is able e.g. to stem
> export, or use decently supported formats (MusicXML for scores?), etc.
> (I was surprised to learn from one of the people at the studio during
> the scoring that they didn't want a FLAC file I sent them because it
> 'wouldn't work on a Mac' and only AIFF.. but that's another story).
>
> Lorenzo

Well, nothing's more compatible inside a studio than audio cables. :)

Odd about FLAC and Macs. Macs support FLAC for playback. What DAW were they using on Mac?



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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

David Kastrup
[hidden email] writes:

>  
> In my research on Linux audio laptop with high channel count, I
> decided to use a desktop with a RME HDSPe card.
>
> The only ways I can see, how it might be possible to get many hq i/o
> channels on a laptop:
>  
> - The closed AVB-driver.
> - Older firmware version of Motu AVB is running at up to 48k.
> - Firewire, but Firewire is dead.

It is?  I am using it with my Thinkpad T420 (which has Firewire at its
back, admittedly after I spent about $10 for an assembly having a
Firewire connector rather than a phone modem socket) and the 18 channels
(16 in and Main Mix) of my Mackie Onyx 1620 mixer.

By the way: using an RME Multiface via an Pccard adapter in an
Expressbus-to-Pccard adapter is much lower in latency (about 2.5ms I
think rather than something akin to 10ms), never mind the adapter
stackup.

> - RME Madiface with missing Express Card slot on today's laptops.
> - Maybee a tunnel through Thunderbold with a Sonnet Echo Express (this
> works with Macbooks, but does Linux and Thunderbold?)

Thunderbolt to Firewire adapters are still around from Mac times.

> Please correct me, if I'm wrong.

Probably not all too much.  I know that my gear is not exactly the
youngest.

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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Len Ovens
In reply to this post by Manuel Haible
On Tue, 23 Feb 2021, [hidden email] wrote:

> - Firewire, but Firewire is dead.

After I aquired a FW device recently (no not new) and a PCIe card to make
it work and then found out how stable it is with the ffado backend for
jack... I would say go out and buy a used one and use it.

The ALSA firewire stack (at least for this interface) was not that great
with kernel 5.4 (shakey at best) and now 5.8 - 5.11 doesn't work at all.
I think maybe some of the network audio protocols might be better served
by a jack backend than ALSA module. ALSA/PULSE/Pipewire are focused first
on internal audio. Pipwwire of the bunch, looks the most promising but of
course can be no better than ALSA it rides on. I don't know that ALSA
development has a big focus beyond internal, bluetooth, and cheap USB
1.1/2.0 audio. The focus in Linux audio is making the desktop work well.
Profesional audio is a vanishingly small part of the Linux world. For
desktop work (including skype like applications) low latency is 30ms,
Dante, AVB and AES67 all look for a maximum of 1ms (3ms by the time the
computer can use it). So two different worlds.

So nobody that I know of makes new FW, but used ones are a better buy
than almost any USB box. So dead? maybe not quite.

Perhaps there are boxes that are as good as fw boxes were and maybe when
applying inflation they are similar prices too. So poor man's quality
audio interface might be firewire. In my case add preamps for mics... and
mics. Good preamps and good mics make the computer and interface look
cheap. In the same way that the audio interface makes the computer look
cheap. Might be why macs get used in proaudio as much as they do...
compared to everything else they are still cheap. (as is the sw)

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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Len Ovens
In reply to this post by Francesco Napoleoni
Florian Bador has a similar setup, see:

https://linuxaudio.github.io/libremusicproduction/html/articles/lmp-asks-8-interview-florian-bador.html

about halfway down the page... search for: What is your typical workflow
when making music? His use of "Master" seems to match yours. His master
does no audio work at all but rather logs into the audio machine via ssh
-Y (I think) and just acts as the x server.

There is a picture of 3 of his 4 machines and a little bit of an
expanation of what he does with them (or did at the time in 2015, he may
have moved on by now). I thought I had seen a better or more indepth page
somewhere... but I can't find it. He shows up in #ardour once in a long
while. I think he has started using pianoteq lately over linuxsampler (or
along with?)



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Re: [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Francesco Napoleoni
In data giovedì 25 febbraio 2021 04:35:44 CET, Len Ovens ha scritto:
> Florian Bador has a similar setup, see:
>
> https://linuxaudio.github.io/libremusicproduction/html/articles/lmp-asks-8-i

Thank you!
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