[LAT] Setting up a performance synth

Brian Bergstrom boilingbergstrom at gmail.com
Thu Jan 14 13:16:59 EST 2010

I use an old Thinkpad T21 P3-900MHz as a live MIDI controlled synth and 
sampler.  It has been working well with 64 Studio 2.1 on it using Jack, 
AMSynth and Specimen.  I use a Ozone USB audio interface and MIDI 
controller in one.  I just installed the new Karmic Ubuntu Studio on my 
beefy production machine and it is working great there, but it does have 
a larger footprint.


On 1/14/10 11:00 AM, linux-audio-tuning-request at lists.linuxaudio.org wrote:
> Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2010 16:55:42 -0500
> From: David McClanahan<david.mcclanahan at gmail.com>
> Subject: [LAT] Setting up a performance synth
> To: linux-audio-tuning at lists.linuxaudio.org
> Message-ID:
> 	<977676ab1001131355x1ec62682mf78b8faa15dc68cd at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> Hi,
> I'm trying get a Dell 7000 laptop(with about a 3G harddrive) to be a
> synthesizer. Yes it's older(How old is tooo old?) Yes its slower(How slow is
> too slow?) But it's what I've got and I'm not convinced it can't do the job
> yet.
> Anyway when I say "synthesizer", I mean
> 1. It's tweakable(like a minimoog etc) as in has ADSR, filters, and the like
> that can be controlled(via midi) on the fly.
> 2. It doesn't crack and wheeze(or xrun all over me)
> 3. It's doesn't lock up when I bend over to tie my shoes.
> 4. It's midi controllable
> I have managed to install Ubuntu and crippled piece of Ubuntu Studio(Karma I
> think). I say that it's crippled because a full installation took up more
> disk space than I had so I took some things off(using the normal packaging
> mechanisms 'apt' etc). The realtime kernel is still present however along
> with the Jack stuff. The sound works-I can play an mp3.
> But soft synths like Bristol either don't work or lock up the machine. I
> managed to get Bristol to partially work by starting the network loop
> interface, but even then it was sluggish and eventually locked up the whole
> machine. Same goes for PD and Zyn.
> Fluidsynth(qsynth) works but it's pretty easy to cause xruns(and the pops).
> So here's my question/comment.
> Is it worth trying to get something working on this(or another)
> distribution?
> I'd like to just get something working but these distribution(Puredyne,
> Ubuntu Studio, etc) seem to have a heavy footprint and they don't seem very
> configurable. Ubuntu seems heavily coupled to GNOME, PulseAudio, LASH and
> stuff for which I have no clue what they're for. As a side question, from
> the perspective of sound synthesis, is Jack useful? It seems to provide
> interprocess communication between audio apps. I can see it being useful if
> you have multiple apps talking audio to each other. But if you have a single
> process soft synth and ALSA what's on top of the hardware how does Jack
> help?  m-dist might be an exception. It worked on my desktop but locked up
> on my laptops.
> OR would it be better to build a dedicated synth on a hard realtime
> platform.
> Has anyone just adapted Linux to just boot a computer as a dedicated
> synthbox(or engine) with little or no other I/O concerns to get in the way?
> I don't care if I can play Space Invaders and write my resume at the same
> time. I've got a Roland JV1010 tone box and I doubt it has 10th of the
> processing power or memory of the Dell and yet it doesn't crack or wheeze. I
> don't even care if it drove the display. As long as it acted like a stable
> hardware synth and was midi controllable I could get along. Maybe such a
> thing already is out there.  I've looked but had no success.
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