Support of audio interfaces under Linux

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Support of audio interfaces under Linux

Postby j_e_f_f_g » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:09 pm

Be careful in any assumptions you make in regards to Linux audio support because frankly, most Linux audio support is done by unpaid volunteers, and as such they typically do "just enough" support to get basic functionality, but not much more. For example, just because an audio interface supports 24-bit resolution (under windows or MacOS) doesn't mean that Linux supports that. If support for the Tascam and M-audio is achieved (under Linux) by virtue of usb-audio 1.0 class compliance, then note that this means the device is limited to stereo 16-bit 48KHz capture/playback. (usb-audio 2.0 class compliance allows 24-bit, more channels, and higher sample rates. But offhand, the only interface I'm absolutely certain supports 2.0 class compliance is RME's Ucx interface. And whether ALSA's 2.0 class-compliance actually works is debatable. I've not personally seen evidence I'd trust on that). To support 24-bit on the Tascam or M-audio, the ALSA driver must go beyond class compliance, and instead support the interface's proprietary protocols. The ALSA driver may not do that.

And just because an ALSA or FFADO web page lists a certain device is "supported", take that with a very big grain of salt. For example, before I bought a MOTU Ultralite interface, I checked that the FFADO page said it was "supported". What I later discovered is that only the first version, not the later two versions, is supported. Typical of linux's lack of uptodate, accurate info, the web page didn't document that. So I did some more research and discovered from the ALSA support page that the EMU 1616M is "fully supported". And sure enough, after I bought one and tried it with linux, I discovered that ALSA "fully supported" it only at 16-bit, not its 24-bit operation. Another example of linux audio's "quasi-support" is that the Focusrite Saffire 24 DSP "works"... except for none of its DSP effects.

I can't directly answer your question about those 3 devices you're considering, as I've not tried them myself. But I can tell you that, unless someone has one of those devices, and tests that the features you want actually work under linux, then the safest tact (and unfortunately most probable outcome) is to assume that the features are not supported. If someone simply says he "thinks" that the support "should work", take that as "it probably doesn't since no one can definitively confirm it". And if the "confirmation" is to cite any info on an ALSA or FFADO "support page" then take that as questionable verification since the docs for those projects are deceptively misleading at best. "Support" means something entirely different to an ALSA/FFADO developer than it does to someone who intends to actually use a device's features.

I went back to using Windows for music. I can deal with limited functionality if I'm made aware of it beforehand. But given the outdated, inaccurate, and inadequate documentation regarding the state of linux audio, using linux for music making goes beyond dealing with limited functionality, and becomes a frustrating experience of unpleasant surprises and a relentless parade of problems at every step.

Take the plunge only if someone has already done exactly what you want to do, with the exact same setup, so that you can be sure what issues you'll face, and whether it will even work.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby steevc » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:18 pm

Most of the older USB interfaces (USB 1.1) should work, but many will be limited to 2 channels in/out and 16 bit. If you just want to plug in one instrument and a microphone, then this may be enough to get started. Some can supply phantom power for those microphones that need it.

Some of the newer USB 2.0 interfaces are supported, but I don't know of a definitive list

We do have some info on the wiki. This used to be linked from the forum, but that has yet to be restored since some reorganisation to combat spam. As j_e_f_f_g says, it can be tricky to know exactly what aspects of an interface is supported. This was one reason for starting this wiki page. In some cases it links to discussion of the interfaces by people who own them.

http://wiki.linuxmusicians.com/doku.php ... are_matrix

The ALSA Project lists more cards, but doesn't go into how suitable they are for the home studio

http://www.alsa-project.org/

It's not purely an interface, but I previously used my Zoom H4 for that purpose. It's fiddly to operate, but packs a lot of features, including some reasonable microphones.

I ended up getting the Delta 66 (which needs a PCI slot) as I knew it was totally supported. It's 10 year old technology, but totally adequate for my needs.
Steve
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby varpa » Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:35 am

It is unfortunately true that one has to do a fair amount of research to make sure an audio device will work in linux. There is not a single manufacturer which supplies drivers for linux so either one has to be careful to buy either class-compliant USB 1.1 or 2.0 audio devices or carefully check the Alsa sound matrix and ffado (firewire) supported list. Nearly the entire linux OS is written my unpaid volunteers, so it should be no suprise that not all linux works flawlessly. What you do get with Linux is the lack of arbitrary licencing restrictions, and ability to interact (or contribute) closely with developers. Some features of linux audio are quite advanced, for example, Jack, even compared to the mainstream OSes. Also, not all linux distros are equally well suited for professional audio. You'll have a better experience using one which has be optimized for audio like AVLinux, kxstudio, tango linux, etc. Vanilla Ubuntu is not particularly recommended, though if you are willing to get into techinical details any linux distro can be made to work.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby raboof » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:38 pm

j_e_f_f_g wrote:If support for the Tascam and M-audio is achieved (under Linux) by virtue of usb-audio 1.0 class compliance, then note that this means the device is limited to stereo 16-bit 48KHz capture/playback.


FWIW, I have an edirol ua25ex, which is an usb1.1 device (sometimes cleverly marketed 'usb2 compatible'), and does 24bits 48KHz stereo full-duplex in its 'advanced mode'. Indeed at 96KHz it's only half-duplex (only playback or only recording).

usb-audio 2.0 class compliance


Last I heard usb-audio 2.0 class compliance is a bit of a mess, and afaik most usb2 audio cards are not actually class-compliant, but require drivers specifically written for that card.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby j_e_f_f_g » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:36 am

raboof wrote:edirol ua25ex does 24bits 48KHz stereo full-duplex


That's because this Roland USB interface is one of the few where someone added support for Roland's proprietary stream protocol (to ALSA's usb_audio driver). For this Roland model, the ALSA driver doesn't rely solely upon usb audio class compliance. It actually supports the proprietary operating mode of this Roland model.

I finally got so completely fed-up with ALSA's exceeding poor-to-practically non-existent support documentation that I grabbed the driver sources and figured out what was actually supported in code. I know ALSA is a volunteer effort, and therefore one legitimately can't expect any support -- which is a definite hurdle to using Linux in any sort of professional musical capacity. But let's be frank. The obvious cut-and-paste job on all of the individual "support details" pages for ALSA's "supported cards" screams "this is a hobbyist project done by folks who are either unable or unwilling to spend more than a minute to provide even a minimal level of documentation". It's an atrociously bad effort, and reflects very, very badly on ALSA's overall quality.

From my perusal of ALSA's driver sources, here's my conclusions about Linux audio support.

Because the usb-audio 1.0 standard itself limits operation to 16-bit, 48KHz, 2 channel audio, any USB audio device for which ALSA doesn't have proprietary support is stuck at this limit. It doesn't matter if the interface is technically capable of better (and does do better under Windows and Mac OS). Under Linux, it's stuck at performing like a 1990's era Sound Blaster card. And this is currently how the vast majority of usb interfaces are supported under Linux (ie, usb-audio 1.0 class compliance). So what are the most "professional" usb interfaces where ALSA has proprietary support? Sadly, that Roland model is it. The second best would be the M-audio Fast Track Pro series, although personally I think they're hardly "pro". They're cheaply constructed, and noisy. Sure, the now-discontinued Roland fares poorly when compared to today's pro usb gear such as RME's ufx/ucx/babyface, Motu's traveller/ultralite, Apogee's ensemble, Lynx, Roland's current offerings such as the octa-capture, etc. But at least it was actually constructed adequately for pro use, and had good noise/distortion specs at the time it was new. Now I know there are people who are happy with things like those M-audio, Alesis, mackie, lexicon, focusrite saffire usb interfaces (and gear made by companies who have no notable experience making pro music gear). But let's be real. That's hobbyist stuff that is cheaply constructed, and sounds poor, compared to actual pro gear such as the examples I cited earlier. It's great if folks find them useful. But frankly, I've got 20 year old gear in my studio that's better than that low budget hobbyist stuff.

ALSA support for usb audio interfaces is currently what I'd call "strictly hobbyist". This may eventually change when more devices appear supporting the 2.0 version of the usb-audio standard. (Hopefully this will happen soon due to the iPad). Note that just because a device claims it's usb 2.0 doesn't mean it implements usb-audio 2.0 standard. The former means only that it physically attaches to a usb 2.0 port. The latter means that it inputs/outputs audio (wave) data using a particular set of "messages". Think of it this way: Just because you have a MIDI controller that can physically attach to your computer's MIDI port, doesn't mean the controller's sliders and buttons "auto-map" in software such as Logic or Live. In order to auto-map, the controller must also implement a particular set of messages. usb-audio compliance means that a usb device "auto-maps" to doing wave recording/playback one particular standard way. But there are two versions of usb-audio. Version 1 limits your audio to 2 channels, 16-bit, 48KHz. The newer, not-yet-industry-widespread version 2 allows more channels, higher bit rates, and faster sample rates. To date, the only usb interface I'm sure does version 2 is RME's Ucx. I don't know whether ALSA's vers 2 code even works, but if it does, the RME Ucx is frankly the only modern, pro level usb interface that Linux would support today. All other usb options are hobbyist quality by today's standards.

What about firewire devices? Well I also took a look at FFADO's sources, since the FFADO folks aren't much better at documenting their support than the ALSA guys. First I'll say that, today, I would never buy a firewire device that wasn't also usb capable. Firewire is on its way out. Secondly, the FFADO codebase is just... yuck. It's C++ so it can never be integrated into the kernel. It's totally undocumented, so it's never going to attract new developers. They're totally rewriting it again, so I expect lots of formerly working stuff to break soon. And a major ALSA dev is writing a competing firewire support to be integrated into ALSA. There are some new interfaces that support both firewire and usb, but like most linux audio support, FFADO is firmly stuck in the past, and doesn't support these newer "hybrids". For example, the firewire-only version of the MOTU ultralite and traveller models are supported -- not the current Mk3 hybrid versions. My conclusion is to avoid FFADO, and don't buy a firewire audio interface to use under linux, even if a hybrid model.

That leaves one last option: PCI and PCIe cards. Once again, linux audio support is stuck in the past. It supports some pro cards such as RME, but only the older PCI versions and not the newer PCIe versions. This may be very important. New intel motherboards do not natively support the PCI cards. Yes, you can physically plug in the card and get audio. But the performance will be horrible, with terrible latency and audio glitches.

Conclusion: If you expect/want working pro audio on linux, right now today, then buy an RME Ucx and pray that the guy who wrote ALSA's usb-audio 2.0 support actually tested his code. Otherwise stay with Windows or MacOs until/unless there appears another 2.0 compliant usb interface, and ALSA works with it.

One other option: ALSA does tend to support motherboard audio chips. Most of the new chips now have SPDIF optical and/or analog input/output. Buy a pro audio interface or mixer you can use standalone, and has digital I/O, such as a MOTU ultralite. Run your computer's digital in/out to the interface's digital in/out. You'll be using the interface's pre's, effects, converters, etc. All your computer will be doing is transferring raw wave data. You'll be bypassing the inferior motherboard audio "sound".

most usb2 audio cards are not actually class-compliant, but require drivers specifically written for that card.


Right, as I detail above. But the iPad supports 2.0 class compliance, so we're likely to see more 2.0 compliance soon. This is the one and only thing I currently see as being capable of at least bringing linux audio support beyond its 1990's soundblaster era quality. (Although support for DSP settings will likely still lag).
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby wolftune » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:49 am

j_e_f_f_g wrote:Right, as I detail above. But the iPad supports 2.0 class compliance, so we're likely to see more 2.0 compliance soon. This is the one and only thing I currently see as being capable of at least bringing linux audio support beyond its 1990's soundblaster era quality. (Although support for DSP settings will likely still lag).


But USB 3.0 is full duplex. So when class-compliant audio comes out for that, we should be set! Right?
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby steevc » Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:37 am

raboof wrote:FWIW, I have an edirol ua25ex, which is an usb1.1 device (sometimes cleverly marketed 'usb2 compatible'), and does 24bits 48KHz stereo full-duplex in its 'advanced mode'. Indeed at 96KHz it's only half-duplex (only playback or only recording).


I thought you had it wrong about 24bit support in duplex, but reading the ALSA wiki clarified this. I didn't know about the advanced mode support, but have added some details to http://wiki.linuxmusicians.com/doku.php ... ol_ua-25ex

We get a lot of questions here about whether a particular interface is supported, but it always seems to come back to the same old (literally) candidates that have been listed here forever

http://wiki.linuxmusicians.com/doku.php ... interfaces

There are other interfaces that are viable for the home studio and may be available for good prices, but we need to fill in some details at the wiki (or somewhere convenient). The ALSA wiki has lots of technical details on drivers etc, but someone who is primarily a musician just wants to know what will give them the features they need, e.g. microphone preamps, MIDI, more than 2 channels, and if all those features are supported.

I've added a page for the RME UCX. I wasn't aware of that one. Looks like a nice piece of kit, at a professional price. Their site even mentions Linux! ANyone got one?

http://wiki.linuxmusicians.com/doku.php ... reface_ucx
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby j_e_f_f_g » Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:04 am

wolftune wrote:USB 3.0 is full duplex. So when class-compliant audio comes out for that, we should be set! Right?


Not sure what you're getting at here. The primary difference between usb 1.1, 2.0, and 3.0 are that each successive version can transfer data faster and more efficiently than the previous version.

But that's not the issue here. The issue here has nothing to do with latencies or audio dropouts under linux versus other systems. ie, It's not a data speed issue. Rather, it's about feature support (or lack of it under linux). For example, under Windows, my MOTU Ultralite shows up as a USB audio device, and every program can use it. On the exact same computer running linux, ALSA doesn't even recognize it's an audio device, and no audio program can use it. Why? It has nothing to do with whether the MOTU is attached to a usb 1.1, 2.0, or 3.0 port. It has everything to do with the fact the MOTU is not usb-audio compliant (neither version 1 nor version 2 usb-audio). To operate the MOTU, the OS must have a software driver that "speaks" MOTU's proprietary language. Windows has that. MacOS has that. Linux (ALSA) doesn't.

As another example, my EMU 1616M interface does 24-bit audio with DSP hardware effects such as compression, EQ, reverb, etc, under Windows. On the same computer running Linux, it can do only 16-bit, and all the DSP hardware effects are gone. Why? Again, it's not an issue with data speed. It's the fact that the Windows driver is fully featured -- written to control all the features of the card. But the Linux (ALSA) driver for the EMU 1616M? Well, to quote a comment in the driver source code, written by the author, it's "too much work to support 24-bit operation" and DSP configuration. So those features "disappear" under Linux. And of course, to really rub salt into the wound, someone cuts and pastes all that useless drek about editing config files into ALSA's "support details" page for the EMU 1616M, marks the device as "supported", and doesn't mention these limitations. After all, any enduser is going to peruse C driver source code to discover whether the hardware actually works, right?

As another example, at one point, certain M-audio usb interfaces did 24-bit sample resolution, and more than 2 audio channels, under Windows. But under Linux, they were limited to 2 chans 16-bit. Why? Because these interfaces speak 2 languages. One language is called "usb-audio 1.0 class compliant". When speaking this language, the device is limited to 2 chans of 16-bit 48 KHz. It's a limit of the language (ie, stream protocol). Lots of usb audio devices (including ones made by other manufacturers) happen to speak this rudimentary language. So a single, usb-audio 1.0 class compliant driver can support many manufacturers' models. But with such a generic driver, all are limited to 2 chans of 16-bit 48 KHz audio, even if some models technically can support better. Now M-audio thought "we designed it to do better, so let's make it possible". Because the "usb-audio 1.0 class compliant" language doesn't support better, M-audio designed their interfaces to also speak a second, proprietary language where it's possible to do, for example, 4 chans of 24-bit 96KHz audio.

So guess which language the M-audio Windows driver speaks? The second, full-featured language. Guess which language the M-audio Linux driver speaks (because it's not really an M-audio specific driver -- it's a typical "this is just gonna be quick and rudimentary so it supports a bunch of generic budget hardware at the most basic config" linux solution)? Yep.

Later, some ALSA dev went out and spent $80 to upgrade his 1990's sound blaster card to one of these cheap M-audio things. And then he added the second proprietary M-audio language to the generic ALSA usb driver. So now Linux supports better... for a couple M-audio interfaces. But there are other devices that have their own proprietary second languages to support better (and they all have Windows drivers that support this), but are left out in the cold under linux. And worse, ALSA's "support details" web pages may list them as "supported". But what's a person supposed to conclude about linux if he, for example, buys a $650 UsbPre2 touted as "linux supported", and then discovers it has the feature support of a $1 used Sound Blaster 16 audio card under linux?

Now there's an international committee to oversee all usb standards. These folks noticed the proliferation of all these secondary, proprietary audio languages, and they concluded "maybe we should update our own usb-audio compliant language to do better". And they did. Voila. Version 2.0 usb-audio. But it's a matter of too little, too late. (ie, The usb-audio group exhibited a lack of leadership). Just about every manufacturer whose interface does better already did his second language in the hardware, and wrote his Windows and MacOS drivers to support it. It's a lot easier/cheaper to just tweak the hardware/language/drivers as needed for new models, rather than replace all that work with 2.0 compliance. Of course, that will mean, as usual, what little proprietary support ALSA has will stop working with newer M-audio interfaces, and those will be back to 2 chan 16-bit. After all, that ALSA dev already blew his hobbyist music budget on his Fast Track Pro, and that $80 interface has to last another decade or two, so no one's updating the ALSA support. And want to bet that the ALSA M-audio support details page will omit this info, and once again mislead linux users about the real working state of linux audio support?

But here's where the iPad comes in. Yes the manufacturers have their proprietary Windows and MacOS drivers done, but not iOS drivers (nor Android drivers if that ever gets serious about audio). And since iOS already has a generic 2.0 compliant driver, a manufacturer won't have to pay for costly new driver development... if only he adds 2.0 hardware support. He won't do it for linux. But he very well may for iOS, because iPad customers don't spend just $80 every two decades. But linux will benefit because ALSA also has a generic 2.0 compliant driver (which I suspect is woefully untested, but perhaps may sort of work... typically with reduced functionality that may satisfy folks with $80 interfaces).

But even this is not a panacea for linux's lack of audio support. Note that 2.0 compliance allows a driver to set higher rates and bit resolutions, and more channels. But it doesn't specify, for example, DSP settings. So whereas your next $80 interface may miraculously support maybe 4 chans of 24-bit audio under linux, you'll likely find yourself still saying something like "Damn it, I still can't turn the reverb on or off like I can on Windows. And the ALSA support page still doesn't tell me useful stuff like that, but instead tells me how to edit a config file that doesn't exist because it's pretty much deprecated by pulse audio on most every distro". Useful that.

And that's what I meant in my quote to which you replied.

Usb 3.0 interfaces will have no bearing upon linux audio support.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby raboof » Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:37 am

j_e_f_f_g wrote:
raboof wrote:edirol ua25ex does 24bits 48KHz stereo full-duplex


That's because this Roland USB interface is one of the few where someone added support for Roland's proprietary stream protocol (to ALSA's usb_audio driver). For this Roland model, the ALSA driver doesn't rely solely upon usb audio class compliance. It actually supports the proprietary operating mode of this Roland model.


Correct. The 'advanced mode' goes beyond mere class-compliance, and is supported by linux.

I agree the ALSA information on what exactly is supported is pretty bad. It's a wiki, and I've updated a couple of entries before, but it's still quite the beast. Also, there's quite a bit of overlap with other sites that try to document Linux' support for all USB devices (http://www.qbik.ch/usb/devices/ used to be that but it's entirely down now - and wasn't doing much better).

It would be nice if we could 'crowdsource' this better.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby danboid » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:17 am

That edirol with 'advanced' ALSA support has already been noted to be discontinued, the RME UCX is way out of most hobbyists price range (plus I don't think anyone here has confirmed this does work as well as we might hope with JACK/Linux anyway - big gamble) and I've just noticed that the LM wiki makes no mention of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and 2i4.

I have read on the net that the Scarlett devices are USB 2.0 class compat and also heard of successful 24/32bit recording with JACK. They're 1/8th of the price of the UCX and Focusrite are one of the very few manufacturers to have co-operated with Linux (FFADO) devs by providing specs and docs to help with driver development. Yes, its not entirely full support but at least they have enough sense to help the Linux community provide support for their hardware and aren't almost anti-Linux as most manfrs oddly seem to be.

The reports I have read for the Scarlett devices have all been for the 2i2 and I've yet to hear of anyone having used a 2i4 under Linux but I presume they'll be largely the same internally so I'd expect (hope) the 2i4 to work just as well but with the added benefits of having a mix dial, MIDI ports and more outputs.

Anyone here tried the 2i4 with JACK yet? I may just take the plunge and find out the hard way as it seems like our best bet for a good quality and affordable USB audio device.
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby steevc » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:36 am

danboid wrote:That edirol with 'advanced' ALSA support has already been noted to be discontinued, the RME UCX is way out of most hobbyists price range (plus I don't think anyone here has confirmed this does work as well as we might hope with JACK/Linux anyway - big gamble) and I've just noticed that the LM wiki makes no mention of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and 2i4.


There is now http://wiki.linuxmusicians.com/doku.php ... e_scarlett

The only reason those were not on the LM wiki is that I hadn't put them there ;) But anyone else could do so. I've tended to add stuff when I hear of it working for someone and include links to the forum discussion or blog posts. As has been said, the ALSA and ffado lists will tend to just say something is supported if it at least gets some sort of sound in and out, but we need more. We have our own wiki and do whatever we want with it. My intention was that the 'hardware matrix' would go into details about what features do/don't work and what tweaks are required.

I doubt Linux audio support will improve unless someone can get paid to write the drivers. Linux pro-audio is a small market. It looks like even Ardour struggles to get enough donations to employ one developer. Hardware support has improved, but for most audio gear it just does the bare minimum to be usable for simple I/O. I'm interested to know how good USB 2.0 class compatible support really is and how much hardware implements it. The manufacturers may not even make it obvious.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby j_e_f_f_g » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:59 am

steevc wrote:the RME UCX looks like a nice piece of kit


At a street price of around $1700 USD, it may seem inexplicably expensive to hobbyist musicians. But RME is largely considered a "gold standard" among pro musicians. RME is the stuff you see in real professional recording studios. The hardware is very high quality -- demonstrably better than the $150 stuff people typically recommend for Linux. RME is to the Windows platform what Apogee (or Pro Tools, in terms of mindshare) is to the Mac. The UCX even has hardware-based DSP such as reverb, and it's relatively new. (The Babyface is the only newer RME usb interface, which unfortunately doesn't appear to be 2.0 class compliant. Pity since it would be a less expensive, but still indisputably pro, choice if it worked with linux). Unlike things such as the Edirol units which are no longer even manufactured (and indeed, Roland dissolved Edirol, so the latter doesn't even exist), the UCX is very much a current model. It really makes Linux look bad when the "best pro-quality" audio interfaces you can recommend are discontinued products one can buy only used on ebay or craigslist.

The EMU 1616M is not upto RME's standards, but it's way ahead of the m-audio, alesis, lexicon, mackie, and other such hobbyist stuff. Creative Labs even still sells a PCIe version. The 1616M or 1212M (not the 0404 and similiar toys) would also be good to recommend for pro linux use... if only the ALSA emu driver weren't so woefully substandard. Given the awful-and-not-improving emu driver, these interfaces should never be recommended for linux. Forget what the ALSA web page says. Consider them "unsupported".

Lagging behind the EMU are the M-audio cards such as the Audiophile (which I also own and use under linux) and Delta cards. These all work fine under linux. The Delta 1010LT (ironically not the much more expensive non-LT version of the 1010) has the best specs of all the m-audio cards. But they are PCI only, no PCIe versions. As such, they should never be used with new intel chipsets, such as a Z77 based motherboard, or they will perform horribly. Still, if you have an old PCI-only system, a Delta 1010LT is the best viable choice for linux, and still be able to legitimately claim your system is "semi-pro audio" (and not have a Windows-using pro musician laugh).

All other ALSA/FFADO "supported" options are either dated (in features/specs) models which are no longer in production and can be purchased only used, models that do not work well with modern motherboards, and/or models whose specs are demonstrably worse than the aforementioned models. That's why I say the RME UCX is the only legitimately pro interface that could theoretically work under linux, and not function like it was a 1990's Sound Blaster 16. But that's theoretically. Yes, RME do mention linux support on the web site. But note that the official position on the UCX is that it is untested on linux and should work if ALSA's 2.0 usb class driver is correctly written and tested. That's a big if. Frankly, my experience with linux audio support is that it is more often buggy, poorly tested, and incomplete, than it is otherwise. When it comes to linux audio support, I recommend one always assume that something isn't supported or working, until demonstrated otherwise. Now the UCX has been tested with an iPad. So it definitely works with a properly written 2.0 usb class driver like Apple's iOS has. But is ALSA's usb class driver written to the same standard, or is it like ALSA's partially-functional EMU driver? Nobody knows. With that in mind, I think the description should be changed from:

Should work with ALSA

to...

Theoretically may work with ALSA, but is untested and therefore support is unguaranteed

I'm deadly serious when I say that, after looking over the ALSA/FFADO sources and seeing the "hobbyist" quality of support, combined with my personal experience with numerous pro gear under linux, one should always assume that linux audio support is lacking or non-functional until demonstrated otherwise. You don't want to encourage someone to assume something will work on ALSA/FFADO without concrete evidence, especially if the guy is going to spend big bucks to test that theory. You should instead instill a more reasonably and deservedly cautious attitude of "invest your time/money on this only if you're fine with the prospect of it not working out... because that's not an entirely unlikely prospect with linux audio".

Again, I mean this sincerely and seriously. This is genuinely my opinion of linux audio support. If we were talking about setting up a web server, that would be an entirely different matter. But we're talking about linux audio, and that frankly merits serious skepticism.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby wolftune » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:31 pm

First, this list seems better than the linuxmusicians one:
http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/current_audio_gear

Second, re: USB 3.0, I am not talking about just speed issues. I was told by someone involved in music hardware that the USB 3.0 spec includes full duplex for class compliancy whereas USB 2.0 did not. USB 3.0 is a shift because of change in the standard that applies to audio. It will have no impact on existing hardware. But when hardware is made to be fully to the USB 3.0 spec it will probably be no trouble to make it fully Linux compatible whereas USB 2.0 hardware is iffy and requires special drivers unique to each piece of hardware. We will have to wait and see, of course, but I'm optimistic.

Cheers
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http://wolftune.com
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby steevc » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:56 pm

wolftune wrote:First, this list seems better than the linuxmusicians one:
http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/current_audio_gear


I agree that one covers a fair number of devices and goes into details on some. But we are free to write as much as we like on the LM wiki. If people can update either wiki with the current support status (with details) then that's useful. I've put up most of the pages on the LM HW matrix page, and that's mainly from what I read hear and on a few blogs. I only have the hardware in my sig that I can actually test. We need to into detail, so you would have something like:
[*] Audio I/O: Supported up to 48kHz 16 bit only
[*] MIDI: Supported with additional driver...
[*] DSP: Not supported

I know most supported interfaces are very low end, but then most people here would have been using a cassette 4-track 20 years ago, rather than a 2" 16 track, or whatever the studios were using back then. Some people may be using more 'professional' gear and we need to know about that too. I suspect that many of the larger scale Linux studios are using either Delta 1010 (one or more) or RME Hammerfall, both ancient, but functional. At least you can get them fairly cheap these days.

If RME could see a large enough Linux market then they might invest in writing and supporting proper drivers, but is that likely? I know certain companies are actively hostile to supporting Linux. They probably won't notice if we boycott them.

Anyway, this thread has diverged far from the original question. We know the situation is bad, and can discuss it in other threads. I'd just like us to expend some energy on building useful resources for those who want to record on Linux and guide them to hardware that can do what they need, at whatever price bracket.
Steve
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Recording via M-Audio Delta 66 (+Omni i/o) and Zoom H4. Got Korg nanoKONTROL and M-Audio Uno for my Casio keyboard.
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Re: which usb audio interface?

Postby danboid » Tue Oct 02, 2012 1:20 pm

steevc:

Thanks for updating the wiki. If I buy one then I'll update it with more details.

capoeira:

Seeing as you mention FFADO the device(s) you recommend must be firewire and the OP specifically requested USB and cheap.

jeff:

As I've just reminded Cap.,the OP is asking about "USB and cheap" - your rants are OT and wasted here. You may have more luck directing them to the OEMs but I think you time would be better spent trying to improve existing drivers and their docs however you can.

Very few people are on this board are under the illusion that Linux's support for pro-audio gear remotely compares to that offered by OSX and Win. It simply can't compare in that department and nor will it until Linux audio becomes much more visible which won't occur until the apps and plugins can compete with the other platforms. Catch 22 you might say.

EDIT

Jeff makes a good point about the iPads and USB 2 class compliance - I too suspect this could be just the carrot required to get audio hardware vendors to stick to the new USB standards, just to get some of the iPad (and as a result Linux) market.

Plus bitwig and A3.0 are almost upon us, qtractor improves on an almost daily basis, Muse shows lots of promise... I think Linux Audio is on the verge of something very good personally. If none of this interests you- Tim Cook or Ballmers cronies will have you back in a heartbeat! ;)
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/kxstudio_manual
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