Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

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Nuri
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Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby Nuri » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:39 pm

Hi,

I'm new here and I would like to know the current state of the art about LIVE MIXING with Linux.

I'm currently thinking about "putting my whole band in the DAW".
The band is a classic pop/rock band with drums, bass guitar, 2 electric guitars and 1 singer. The singer plays one of the guitar, we are also 4 members in the band.

We play with in-ear monitoring, always, also in the rehearsal. In any situation, in-ear monitoring.
The drummer plays with metronome. Always.
Our own songs are highly composed and they have a fixed structure. No place for improvisation, not even for a live gig, not even for a guitar solo :mrgreen: .


1. My goals

I want to get rid of:
- the digital mixer (Soundcraft UI24R)
- Windows 10 and all the expensive plugins, allthough Reaper is a very nice piece of software (and affordable!).
- struggling with the "hardware" mixer of the Soundcraft UI24R and the software mixer of Reaper
- making plugins presets for the studio and then new presets for live because the hardware for studio is not the same as that for live gigs
- a lot of cables...

I want to put all signals of all musicians into one single computer that does ANY- and EVERYTHING: studio, live, rehearsal, experimenting...

On top of that, I want to "magnify" the arrangement of the songs by using live automation for live gigs.
For example:
- make the first guitar wide stereo on the refrain and then mono again 20% on the right canal during the verse
- put the drum toms +2dB up for a particular fill or break
- enable a psychedelic delay on the vocals for one sentence and then disable it
Ok? Of course we don't have our own sound engineer!


2. The hardware

I think the RME HDSPe RayDat could be a nice base to start with, coupled with 3 Behringer ADA8200 (or maybe 2 Ferrofish Pulse 16).
I've not already chosen a PC hardware. It will be something like a Core i7 or a Xeon E5 with a suitable motherboard.
No dedicated GPU, no wifi
Something reliable from http://www.da-x.de.

INPUTS:

Bass guitar is preprocessed through a Line 6 Helix LT.
Guitar 1 is preprocessed through a Kemper and a bunch of analog stomp boxes.
Guitar 2 s preprocessed through a Line 6 Helix.
--> 3 line level signals
Drums and vocals as usual with microphones.
--> 9 microphone level signals
TOTAL: 12 inputs

OUTPUTS:

4x stereo outputs for the in-ear monitoring.
--> 8 line level single outputs
Guitar 1 and 2, the bass guitar and the vocals as stereo outputs (for the main mixing console).
--> 8 line level single outputs
Each drum microphone as single output (for the main mixing console).
--> 8 line level single outputs
TOTAL: 24 outputs

If there is no main mixing console at the gig, I will use 2 main outputs (R+L) direct to the main sound system.


3. The software

I think KXStudio is at this time the best choice under Linux. Over the past years, I tried AVLinux and Ubuntu Studio but, for me, KXStudio delivers the best experience out-of-the-box and the Cadence suite is really awesome and makes Jack easier to manage (and understand).

Ardour will be the master of the system, giving metronome signal, managing automation of effects/plugins/level/pan and structuring all events occuring during the songs :roll: . I love Reaper too but this not really usable because of the plugin management (Win VST... :twisted: ).

For the plugins, I will go 100% Linux, mostly using Calf but also other LV2 and LADSPA. I do not want to struggle with wineasio, linvst or any complicating bridge or semi accomplished piece of software to accommodate some Windows strangers :x .


4. The man

I'm the bassist of the band and I'm more or less "in charge" with the hardware and all the technical stuff.
The 2 guitarists feel also involved.
I'm not a Linux power user but I use Linux (mainly Ubuntu) since 2007 for everything... excepted for music production, like many other users :wink: .
I'm not able to compile a kernel by myself but I'm also not afraid by Linux and its complexity (from a non-dev point of view).
I'm an Open Source and technique enthusiast


THE QUESTION:

Will I waist my money and my time trying to get a system with acceptable latency (<10ms roundtrip latency, or less :| :?: )?
We are musicians and latency is a critical thing for us.

As a comparison: RME Fireface 800 over Firewire to a modern Lenovo laptop with Core i7, Win10, all driver up-to-date, Reaper and Waves Plugins produces TOO MUCH LATENCY for us to play comfortably.
Last edited by Nuri on Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

stanlea
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby stanlea » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:43 pm

With 12 inputs and 24 outputs (low profile...) I think that a hardware device is mandatory. Not necessary a mixing console, but a controller, or a pad. The problem is that you could not benefit of the great RME mixing software, because there is no Linux version. So you need a device that you can setup along with your DAW. Ardour or Mixbus (who share some code) can handle such controllers if you choose them compatible.
Think that mixing live with mouse and screen can be very tricky.

For the hardware, I think that the Ferrofish are way better than the Behringers.

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Nuri
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby Nuri » Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:47 am

Thanks for your answer stanlea!

I realize that my general idea was not good explained in my first post.
The critical point is not the MIXING strictly speaking.
Since I'm the bassist, I will play the bass guitar on stage and not sit somewhere behind my computer to mix the show.
The main subject of my idea is EFFECTS PROCESSING and its AUTOMATION in a LIVE CONTEXT, including software MIX of IN-EAR MONITORING.

Ok... I've made a small block diagram, maybe it will become easier to understand:
(copy and paste it in a text editor so that every line has enough place to be correctly displayed)

Code: Select all

                          Ferrofish Pulse 16                                                  PC running
                 (2 units represented as a single one)                                         KXStudio
                       _______________________                            _________________________________________________
                      |                       |                          |                                                 |
Vocals -------------> |IN 1                   |                          |                               Ardour            |
Guitar 1 -----------> |IN 2                   |                          |                        ____________________     |
Guitar 2 -----------> |IN 3                   |                          |                       |                    |    | ----- Screen
Bass ---------------> |IN 4                   |                          |______________         |    in-ear mixes    |    | ----- Mouse
Kick ---------------> |IN 5                   |                          |              |        |                    |    | ----- Keyboard
Snare --------------> |IN 6           ADAT IN | <----------------------- |   RME HDSPe  | <----- |    Automation &    |    |
HiHat --------------> |IN 7           ADAT OUT| -----------------------> |    RayDat    | -----> |   effects/plugins  |    |
Tom H --------------> |IN 8                   |                          |______________|        |     management     |    |
Tom M --------------> |IN 9                   |                          |                       |                    |    |
Tom L --------------> |IN 10                  |                          |                       | effects processing |    |
OH R ---------------> |IN 11                  |                          |                       |____________________|    |
OH L ---------------> |IN 12                  |                          |_________________________________________________|
  |                   |                       |
  |                   |                       |                     _________________
  |                   |                 OUT 1 | -----------------> |  in-ear singer  |   
  |                   |                 OUT 2 | -----------------> |(mixed in Ardour)|
  |                   |                       |                    |_________________|
  |                   |                       |                     _________________
  |                   |                 OUT 3 | -----------------> | in-ear bassist  |   
  |                   |                 OUT 4 | -----------------> |(mixed in Ardour)|
  |                   |                       |                    |_________________|
  |                   |                       |                     _________________
  |                   |                 OUT 5 | -----------------> | in-ear guitarist|   
  |                   |                 OUT 6 | -----------------> |(mixed in Ardour)|
  |                   |                       |                    |_________________|
  |                   |                       |                     _________________
  |                   |                 OUT 7 | -----------------> | in-ear drummer  |   
  |                   |                 OUT 8 | -----------------> |(mixed in Ardour)|
  |                   |                       |                    |_________________|                  Main mixing console
  |                   |                       |                                                       ______________________
  |                   |                 OUT 9 | ------ DAW processed signal of Vocals (R) ---------> |                      |
  |                   |                 OUT 10| ------ DAW processed signal of Vocals (L) ---------> |     (not part of     |
  |                   |                 OUT 11| ------ DAW processed signal of Guitar 1 (R) -------> | hardware of the band)|
  |                   |                 OUT 12| ------ DAW processed signal of Guitar 1 (L) -------> |                      |
  |                   |                 OUT 13| ------ DAW processed signal of Guitar 2 (R) -------> |                      |
  |                   |                 OUT 14| ------ DAW processed signal of Guitar 2 (L) -------> |                      |
  |                   |                 OUT 15| ------ DAW processed signal of Bass (R) -----------> |  analog or digital   |
  |                   |                 OUT 16| ------ DAW processed signal of Bass (L) -----------> |                      |             Main
  |                   |                 OUT 17| ------ DAW processed signal of Kick ---------------> |                      |         Sound system
  |                   |                 OUT 18| ------ DAW processed signal of Snare --------------> |                      |        ______________
  |                   |                 OUT 19| ------ DAW processed signal of HiHat --------------> |                      |       |              |
  |                   |                 OUT 20| ------ DAW processed signal of Tom H --------------> |            main out R| ----> | (not part of |
  |                   |                 OUT 21| ------ DAW processed signal of Tom M --------------> |            main out L| ----> | hardware of  |
  |                   |                 OUT 22| ------ DAW processed signal of Tom L --------------> |                      |       |  the band)   |
  |                   |                 OUT 23| ------ DAW processed signal of OH (R) -------------> |                      |       |______________|
  |                   |                 OUT 24| ------ DAW processed signal of OH (L) -------------> |______________________|
  |                   |_______________________|                                 |           
  |                                                                             |
  |                                                                             |
  |                                                                             |
  |                                                                             |
  |                                                                             |
  |___________________ ROUNDTRIP LATENCY < 10ms ??? ____________________________|


So... my main question is:
Can this nowadays be achieved with current PC hardware in 2018 and Linux low-latency kernel?
Of course, Ardour runs several LV2/LADSPA plugins in every track. For example:
- kick drum with gate, compressor, EQ, bass exciter, sometimes reverb
- snare with compressor, EQ, sometimes reverb
- guitar 1 with EQ, sometimes reverb and exciter
- .....

Or do I still need some much more expensive DSP solutions (Apple Mac, Universal Audio, Antelope...)?

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khz
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby khz » Tue Oct 30, 2018 10:03 am

Possible/Realizable
Important would be (IMHO)
  • RT kernel
  • limits.con
  • /dev/shm
  • realTimeConfigQuickScan
  • rtirq
since they are time-critical tasks (band live mixing) test the optional optimizations. Test individually and take what works best for you.
A lean distribution (only the most necessary programs/services/...) would be useful.
See signature for more meta info.
FZ - Does humor belongs in Music?
GNU/LINUX@AUDIO ~ /Wiki $ Howto.Info && GNU/Linux Debian installing >> Linux Audio Workstation LAW
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Nuri
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby Nuri » Tue Oct 30, 2018 12:21 pm

Possible/Realizable

:) Interesting!
Do you mean roundtrip latency < 10ms is possible?
I know that the A/D and D/A converter of the Behringer ADA8200 (as an example) cause about 1,125ms latency (also 2,25ms for the converting of the whole input/output path).
For the Ferrofish Pulse 16, I read the following specs in the user manual:
- INPUTS: 0,16ms @48kHz
- OUTPUTS: 0,25 @48kHz
- ADAT I/O: 2 samples, that is about 0,04ms @ 48kHz
Total is under 0,5ms (it's pretty good! :shock: )

Important would be (IMHO)

RT kernel

:| Errrrr... I read here in the forum that the RT kernel brings no improvement compared to the low-latency kernel, only more stability problems.
Who should I believe?!?

A lean distribution (only the most necessary programs/services/...) would be useful.

I've already tested https://studio1337.pro/ but... everything is "lean"!
The file manager is lean, the window manager is lean, the documentation is lean... :?
And it looks horrible. Nothing in the GUI is consistent (mess of GTK2/3, Qt, Windows Wine...).
I never managed to get something really working but I can give it one more try :roll: .

See signature for more meta info.

Thanks, very useful. To be honest, I don't understand everything yet, particularly the /dev/shm stuff... but maybe someday...

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khz
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby khz » Tue Oct 30, 2018 1:17 pm

Nuri wrote:Do you mean roundtrip latency < 10ms is possible?

Nuri wrote:I think the RME HDSPe RayDat could be a nice base to start with, coupled with 3 Behringer ADA8200 (or maybe 2 Ferrofish Pulse 16).
I've not already chosen a PC hardware. It will be something like a Core i7 or a Xeon E5 with a suitable motherboard.
No dedicated GPU, no wifi

!vote Ferrofish Pulse 16

Code: Select all

 .config - Linux/x86 4.18.12-rt Kernel Configuration
 > Device Drivers > Sound card support > Advanced Linux Sound Architecture > PCI sound devices
  │ │    < >   RME Hammerfall DSP Audio                                       │ │ 
  │ │    <M>   RME Hammerfall DSP MADI/RayDAT/AIO                             │ │ 
...
  │ │    < >   RME Digi32, 32/8, 32 PRO                                       │ │ 
  │ │    < >   RME Digi96, 96/8, 96/8 PRO                                     │ │ 
  │ │    < >   RME Digi9652 (Hammerfall)                                      │ │ 
 
 .config - Linux/x86 4.18.12-rt Kernel Configuration
 > Device Drivers > Sound card support > Advanced Linux Sound Architecture > FireWire sound devices
   │ │    < >   RME Fireface series support                                    │ │ 

https://www.alsa-project.org/main/index.php/Matrix:Vendor-RME (HDSPe PCI Card. I am using an AIO.) >> https://packages.debian.org/stretch/alsa-firmware-loaders >> https://www.rme-audio.de/english/techinfo/hdsp_tmsoft.htm :-D Possible IMHO.
Depending on simultaneously used: channels, routings, effects, ... . The hardware used and how well the LAW is optimized.
~10ms ;-)

Nuri wrote:For the plugins, I will go 100% Linux

:-D

Nuri wrote:I read here in the forum that the RT kernel brings no improvement compared to the low-latency kernel, only more stability problems.
Who should I believe?!?

GNU/LINUX@AUDIO ~ /Wiki $ Howto.Info wrote:You can install/uninstall multiple kernels using the package manager. The kernel to be started can be selected (and tested) in the boot manager (Grub/...).

I have been using an RT kernel for 18 years without any problems.

@distribution Any distribution, Metainfo GNU/Linux Debian installing >> Linux Audio Workstation LAW (Whereby Debian-stable_netinstall would make sense since very stable == reliable.)

@shm - JACK/Audio2RAM is everything! ;-) -

@--all IMHO
FZ - Does humor belongs in Music?
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Markus
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby Markus » Tue Oct 30, 2018 1:30 pm

DAW-wise I would try not to over-complicate things in the first place. Signal processing has to appear track-wise, although one can group things to reduce DSP load, e.g. all tom tracks can be EQ'ed in the dedicated tracks and then be sent out to a bus doing compression. Every downmixed bus simplifies the monitor and FOH mix.

Effect processing otoh can be done in FX busses, so a single reverb or two should be enough to get a homogeneous wet signal for the whole mix. You're already sending pre-processes signals to FOH so the sound engineer isn't able to control the amount of wet FX on a single track. I would try to send a stereo sum containing all FX together with dry but signal-processed signals.

You have to reduce DSP load significantly to get a low latency mix. Whatever can be grouped - should be grouped. Keep in mind that in a live situation none of the audience will be able to distinguish between a lexicon and a FOSS reverb as long as you don't perform at the opera in Sydney. So reducing amount of reverb plug-ins (which is quite some load on the CPU) is mandatory.

You should set up a huge monitor mixing console cause it doesn't eat up your CPU but makes in-ear monitoring a much better experience. Every musician on stage should have his own 16/24-channel mixing section in the DAW for a custom mix - which includes panning (drummer wants to have the hihat on the left channel while others might prefer it on the right).

We had this kind of setup realized with Ardour/Calf for rehearsal purposes and it worked great. 24 channel input section, a couple of groups for toms, overheads, stereo-mic'ed amps, brasses, percussions and keyboards and a huge amount of monitoring busses. I was working with RME hammerfall on 24 channels in/out @ 2.33 ms latency on a quite dated i7 with a couple of EQ's, compressors and reverbs. BTW I never reached this latency with a Windows box running Cubase with built-in FX.

And you should probably re-consider your overall sound processing - the need for an exciter on a guitar channel sounds like severe problems in the signal chain before entering the DAW, even if there's quite some stomp boxes and pre-processing involved. Only do processing if *really* needed. Things will get evened out by the location, the amplification, the speakers and the audiences ears, no need for overcomplicated DSP processing.

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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby glowrak guy » Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:46 pm

Lots of good advice in your post! The more things
that are right from the start, the fewer things
to fix at the end. The foh guy shouldn't have
to play pinball during a show. :wink:

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Nuri
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby Nuri » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:34 pm

@ Markus
Thank you very much for all these good advises!

Particularly the FX busses and the software setup (downmixed tracks, reverbs, etc.) have now reached my attention :oops: . Until now, I was not really aware that a lot of things (tracks, FX) could (and should) be simplified on the software side without causing any load on the CPU.
:idea:


Last days, I've thought deeply one more time about the whole configuration, software and hardware.

Software

Because the other members of the band (and me too since 2011) are used to Reaper, I think it would be better to stick with Reaper.
I've tried the (experimental) version for Linux and everything seems to run very good and stable now.
JACK and ALSA capabilities are built-in and that is really convenient:
JACK for all real time purposes (rehearsal and live) and ALSA to mix at home.

On top of that, Reaper comes with its own small VST and a lot of JS plugins (without GUI, like these from http://www.airwindows.com/category/free/). All are low on CPU resources, what is very good for my goals.
I'm only missing a good hall/room/ambiance reverb that does not eat my CPU. Any advise?
The ReaVerbate of Reaper sounds not so good in my ears. I'm looking for something like the Freeware EpicVerb, which is very nice but not available as a LinuxVST plugin.

I've also reconsidered the choice of the OS and now think that AVLinux could be a better choice because of the built-in and pre-configured RT kernel.
It comes with XFCE and is lighter than the old KDE4 of KXStudio.

Hardware

I've started to make a configuration. At the moment it looks like this:

CPU
Intel i7-9700K because of the very good single core benchmark of 2855 points :twisted: .
https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i7-9700K+%40+3.60GHz&id=3335
And because it's a 8 cores CPU without hyperthreading. Paul Davis (Ardour dev) means it's better without hyperthreading:
http://www.manual.ardour.org/setting-up-your-system/the-right-computer-system-for-digital-audio/
(search for "hyperthreading")
Drawback: this CPU can only manage 16 PCI Express lanes but it's enough for one single RME HDSPe Raydat.

GPU
built in the i7-9700K.

Motherboard
ASUS Prime Z270-P because it's cheap and from Asus :wink: .

RAM
I will go for 4x4GB DDR4-2666 CL15

Housing, power supply and fan can be "stolen" from the old audio pc of the band (pentium, 2GB RAM , :cry: ...)

Any suggestions or comments about the hardware?

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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby sysrqer » Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:36 pm

khz wrote:I have been using an RT kernel for 18 years without any problems.

Really? When did it first appear? The earliest I can see is 2007.

I would agree though, RT is probably be best for this scenario. While I generally would say the difference is minimal, if you can notice any at all, it should reduce any xruns even further and in a live situation that's essential.

People have problems with it for various reasons, the same way they have problems with certain interfaces and pieces of software...there are a lot of variables involved. I haven't heard of it being unstable but it doesn't work (easily) with all graphics card drivers and any kernel can have a bug.

From my point of view sticking with Reaper is a wise decision. Ardour is fantastic and can be very stable but it can also randomly disappear on you, depending on what you are doing (those variables again). Personally I have found Reaper to be much more stable and reliable.

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Nuri
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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby Nuri » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:15 pm

I would agree though, RT is probably be best for this scenario. While I generally would say the difference is minimal, if you can notice any at all, it should reduce any xruns even further and in a live situation that's essential.

I agree :D
Even if the RT kernel brings minimal improvements, I have to use them!

I haven't heard of it being unstable but it doesn't work (easily) with all graphics card drivers and any kernel can have a bug.

I will build a dedicated PC for RT scheduling. It means, no dedicated GPU and no Wifi.
I will also use a kernel without meltdown/spectre patches (AVLinux kernel is obviously aware of this) that bring problems with the RT kernel (I read it somewhere, I've not tested by myself).

Personally I have found Reaper to be much more stable and reliable.

I agree! I use Reaper since 2011 and its stability was never a problem.
As you wrote, Ardour is fantastic but Reaper is... more fantastic :lol: .
For my goals, I will also use the high configurable GUI of Reaper:
- add buttons to show/hide in-ear mixes of each musicians
- add buttons to show/hide automation tracks

Any advice about a good reverb (room/hall/ambience) in LinuxVST or JS plugin format?

What do you think about my hardware config?
(my previous post)

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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby khz » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:31 pm

sysrqer wrote:Really? When did it first appear? The earliest I can see is 2007.

Ok then about 10 years. Time passes .... . ;-)
sysrqer wrote:it doesn't work (easily) with all graphics card drivers

Nvidia and RT Kernel is such a case. IMHO
FZ - Does humor belongs in Music?
GNU/LINUX@AUDIO ~ /Wiki $ Howto.Info && GNU/Linux Debian installing >> Linux Audio Workstation LAW
    I don't care about the freedom of speech because I have nothing to say.

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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby sysrqer » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:00 pm

Nuri wrote:
Any advice about a good reverb (room/hall/ambience) in LinuxVST or JS plugin format?

What do you think about my hardware config?
(my previous post)


I tend to use impulse responses for reverbs but mverb is quite nice. I've read that dragonfly hall reverb sounds good but I haven't tried it yet. Reverb is one effect that I don't like creating from scratch so I don't give most linux algorithmic reverbs as much of a chance as I should. There's a nice springy reverb in this jsfx - https://geraintluff.github.io/jsfx.

For the hardware I'm not sure, get a fast hard drive and investigate that the parts work well with linux. I think if hardware is very new then it might not work properly or be supported. The ins and outs I'm sure are possible but I don't know what's available for those kind of needs.

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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby Nuri » Wed Nov 07, 2018 10:36 am

For the hardware I'm not sure, get a fast hard drive and investigate that the parts work well with linux.

I don't understand why the hard drive should be fast, since almost everything occurs in the RAM (does it?!?).
I have an "old" Samsung EVO 840 SSD which can certainly do the job.

I have already discovered an incompatibility in my hardware config:
the i7-9700K can only run on a mainboard with an X/Z/H3xx Intel chipset.
So... the ASUS Prime Z270-P is out of the game!

And, also important: the BIOS of the mainboard with 3xx chipset must be updated to correctly run with a i7-9700K.
Last edited by Nuri on Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Live mixing with Linux - State of the art 2018

Postby sysrqer » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:42 am

Nuri wrote:
For the hardware I'm not sure, get a fast hard drive and investigate that the parts work well with linux.

I don't understand why the hard drive should be fast, since almost everything occurs in the RAM (does it?!?).
I have an "old" Samsung EVO 840 SSD which can certainly does the job.

I have already discovered an incompatibility in my hardware config:
the i7-9700K can only run on a mainboard with an X/Z/H3xx Intel chipset.
So... the ASUS Prime Z270-P is out of the game!

And, also important: the BIOS of the mainboard with 3xx chipset must be updated to correctly run with a i7-9700K.

I expect in your case you can do without the hard drive advice and I don't know much about how DAWs process audio in that respect but even if it means your band and the soundman not having to wait a few minutes for you to boot up can be worth it (project will load faster, generally more responsive etc). An SSD was what I meant though, you'll be fine with that I'm sure.

The i7-9700K was only released last month right? I would steer clear of that, it'll be overpriced and potentially might not be supported by even the latest kernel (I can't actually find anything about it in relation to linux). Get something older and use the saved money on soundcard.


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