[LAD] [LAU] So what do you think sucks about Linux audio ?

William Light wrl at illest.net
Tue Feb 5 23:56:26 UTC 2013

on Tue, Feb 05, 2013 at 09:58:14AM -0500, Dave Phillips wrote:
> Greetings,
> I've been reading a lot of negative (read: vitriolic) commentary
> about the world of Linux audio development and applications. I won't
> bother to say where, just "the usual places" will have to suffice.
> Of greater interest to me is the commentary itself - it seems to
> boil down to the following plaints and lamentations (in no
> particular order) :

i'd like to weigh in on some of these as well.
as i post here infrequently, a quick bit of background on me: i am an
electronic musician who also records real instruments, though
infrequently. i have been running Linux exclusively throughout my music

i use renoise at the moment.

you can listen to my music at http://soundcloud.com/visinin if you'd

> Too many distros.
> Too many audio-optimized distros.

i can't comment on these, having been using the same distribution (arch)
for the past 4 or so years.

> Not enough native plugins, esp. instruments.

absolutely an issue. my workhorse plugin is Loomer Aspect (a
semi-modular synthesizer), which is a native Linux VST. I own several
more Loomer plugins and have been considering picking up a license for
DiscoDSP Discovery.

extent of the jam recently released his Digits synthesizer VST for linux
as well (http://extentofthejam.com/ if you haven't seen it), which is
nice. regardless, though.

Linux audio has this problem of critical mass. when energyXT came out,
nobody really released much new stuff. it was all jorgen porting stuff,
and then jucetice. highlife, discovery, loomer plugs...all fantastic,
certainly, but there's not much of it.

it will be interesting to see what happens if and when bitwig is
released. a lot of people are using JUCE now, and that makes porting at
least possible.

> Inconsistent support for VST/VSTi plugins.

renoise's plugin support is pretty good. i would really like LV2 support
but that's not my decision to make.

> Too many unstable/unfinished applications.

in order, i've used beast/BSE, seq24 routed into a bunch of fluidsynths,
csound with blue, some toying with ardour, energyXT and finally renoise.

some software i just never got working. i never figured rosegarden out
(but for a long time it couldn't do instrument plugins), compiling MusE
was hit or miss, LMMS is good but I had XT and renoise by then...and
every time i use ardour i crash it somehow. it doesn't seem to like my
little micro-editing aphex-twin-wannabe style.

> Too many  "standards" (esp. wrt plugins).

i really like LV2 but the documentation is nigh-impenetrable. i've made
a few comments to this effect on drobilla's blog, and i agree that an
LV2 book would go a long way.

side note: did anybody else see pitracker? somebody wrote an LV2 synth
host that runs on the raspberry pi.

> Poor external/internal session management.

haven't tried any, i work entirely inside my host.

> Poor support for certain modes of composition (think Ableton Live).

absolutely. everybody likes to use ableton live here, but i still think
we're missing a really good NLE. hell, i own a REAPER license and use it
through wineasio occasionally just because it's so comfortable. i've
tried ardour3 but i crash it every time.

> Lack of support for contemporary hardware.

i have to disagree here, actually! i would first like to shout out
daniel mack of caiaq for ensuring that all of the native instruments
audio interfaces work on linux, and fantastically well at that. i
recently picked up a focusrite saffire 2i2 and have had no problems at
all with it.

that said, the more pro it gets, the worse the support. i won't even
touch FFADO, i'm sorry, it's just never worked for me. i sold an echo
audiofire2 after i couldn't make it work and i have a secondhand
ultralite mk1 that just gathers dust.

it's interesting to me that manufacturers are starting to make
class-compliant devices just to make them work on apple's iDevices.

also, modern midi controller hardware works on a driver level but very
few programs support it.

> Confusion re: desktops, and GUI toolkits.

as a dwm user, i will stay out of this one. i don't really like either
gtk or qt though, which sort of limits my options.

> Too difficult to set up audio system.

i don't have any issues and i generally run vanilla kernels. lately i've
been playing with the -ck patchset with BFS and have been very happy
with it. i'm comfortable playing live (both djing with xwax and doing
live monome sets with my own software, rove) with this configuration.
maybe i'll drop the JACK buffer size a little.

> JACK is a pain.

at least it's not pulseaudio. also, i haven't had any trouble setting
JACK up since i ditched my firewire interfaces. *that* was a nightmare.
but JACK on ALSA? buttery smooth.

JACK could perhaps be a bit better about autodiscovering soundcard
parameters. maybe my memory is failing me here, but i faintly recall
having issues when JACK couldn't get the sample format it wanted.

> Too much conflict/fragmentation within the development community.

maybe? i feel like it's a lot better than it used to be now that there's
just more software around.

it's interesting to me that free (source and/or beer) music software on
OSX and windows has come further than it has on Linux. off the top of
my head:


is it because of the userbase? is it because of the maturity and
availability of toolkits on other platforms? buzz's website has been
around since 2000. what was audio on linux like then? i'm thinking it
might be the userbase, or at least that makes more sense.

anyway, i've written quite a bit more here than i've intended, but i'm
absolutely up to discuss any of it.

thanks again, dave. you've been a fixture in this scene for as long as i
can remember.


> I'm not so interested in comments on the commentary, I have my own,
> but say what you will about the list. I figure that most denizens of
> these lists already have ready replies and responses to these and
> other criticisms, many of which have been voiced here previously.
> What I'm more interested in is what *you* think is missing most or
> just plain wrong about the situation. Please, try to speak your
> piece without flames or dissing other developers and/or their work.
> Frankly speaking, I've had enough of that crap, and I'm most
> thankful these days for such forum amenities as "mute user" and
> autodiscard, along with the standard filters found in mail clients.
> <aside>
> I'm reminded of John Cage's comments regarding the behavior of the
> NY Philharmonic when they destroyed his equipment during the premire
> of Atlas Eclipticalis, something to the effect that his concerns had
> ceased to be musical and had become social, i.e. that he had to
> figure a way to allow people to be free yet behave themselves with
> respect towards the common goal (e.g. Cage's music and property).
> I'm going to guess that he was still working on that up to his
> death.
> </aside>
> So, in your honest and bold opinion as user and/or developer, what
> do we lack most and what can we do without that we already have ?
> Please feel free to expand your remarks as you like. I'm planning an
> article on the topic and will likely use selected comments, subject
> to approval of course.
> Best,
> dp
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> Linux-audio-user at lists.linuxaudio.org
> http://lists.linuxaudio.org/listinfo/linux-audio-user

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