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  1. #1

    Linux Box for recording audio via usb interface?


    Building a Linux low latency box to use with an usb interface to record guitar, bass and vocal. Very uncertain what route to choose here.

    Option 1: Get a new(ish) laptop and run Xen hyper visor bare metal. That should give me ability to run all any OS at any time. And the os for recording and mixing could be really focused on that task with very little overhead meaning almost all cpu could be dedicated to the DAW. So far it looks like I will run Reaper just because of license costs. In my head I see Debian or debian based distro, with low latency kernel and openbox and of course the DAW software. And really nothing else but a terminal and text editor.

    Possible problems: Its been a while since I toyed with Xen. And I can't remember nor could I find a solid answer to how well a virtual machine loans itself to low latency tasks.

    Q 1: Have anyone run into issues with a VM under Xen in regard to low latency or any audio problems, I will use audio interface also?Been years since I played with VM's, back then I used vmware. It seems there was sometimes issues with graphic cards and audio, but we are talking close to ten years ago so I can't really say for sure.

    Q 2: Will running a DAW in a VM over Xen in general cause any known issues or problems? Any audio quality degradation is a no go, the same for noticeable latency. Just try to play along a recorded track with delay from what you hear to what you play - staying in time because horrible hard.

    Option 2: Buy dedicated hardware for the recording pc. A headless box would do just fine, could be hooked up to a monitor or even a large TV. It seems there are no clear answer to what hw to get. What is the cheapest hw one can get away with for recording? Ask different people and you get different answers.

    I don't imagine I will run really really complicated multi-tracks with tons of effect on each single track. A typical session would contain a drum track, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, vocal, vocal chorus and sometimes I will double the lead vocal. Add some clever use of other instruments in a few sessions so we are at 12-15 tracks at the most. Most likely 6-12 tracks on a regular basis.

    I got a low latency usb interface that I use of instruments and microphones, so I need to have hardware fast enough to keep up during recording even with sw effects running. Notice I will not do all tracks in one take. I will lay em down one by one.

    Then the rest is working with the post mix and finally bouncing the session to a usable file format.

    If it it wasn't for the heavy price tag of the Intel Nuc's I would just get one and be done with it. But I think they cost too much for me wallet.

    I've looked briefly at a mini-itx setup:

    Item Product Name Price
    ITX-Mini Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty X470 Gaming-ITX 169$
    Amd Ryzen 7 CPU Amd Ryzen 7 2700 CPU 149$
    SSD M.2 HP 512 GB 59$
    Ram Ecc/Reg Micron 2 x 16 GB RAM 153$
    Case Silverstone Milo 53$
    PSU Apeivia 300w PSU 29$
    Total -- 611$



    Even with rather high specs I think the cheapest option is to build a new rather then upgrade laptop. And if I build I don't have to worry about any problems with any hardware, peripherals or latency. If I feel crazy I might even do a dual install with one audio/recording distro and one for daily usage.

    Q 3: What about the Ryzen 7, is that overkill you think?

    Q 4: What components would you change to get an even lower price, while still keeping a responsive rig, with low latency audio during recording?

    But let us see how far we can push the price down without smashing the performance and latency. I picked more or less these components just to make an example here. Its been years since I upgraded pc and bought hw. I have fallen so far behind I don't even have a clue what to get. Last time I bought a multi core cpu, we still used ninja cooling towers.

    If you got suggestions for other CPU, motherboard m.2 etc let me know. I am not dead set om mini-itx. But I prefer mini-itx.

    Reg/Ecc ram is a must. Does wonders for stability. The rest I can care less about and swap out with whatever seems to get the job done.

    Sorry for the borderline OT thread. I've asked at my guitar hang-out but over there people know everything about guitar related stuff, and even the most complicated DAW's. But hardware not so much.

  2. #2
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    I am not sure I can answer all of your questions, but personally, as someone who has produced music using Linux - I would not use a VM. If it works ok then great, but I have found native support is good and I would imagine it is better for latency over a VM. The good thing is that you can test out a load of software for free. You want to use JACK for low latency, but I really like Linux for producing music. I have a Ryzen 7 2700X and it is good.

  3. #3
    Then I will not update to a newish laptop. I will do a build, just to be certain I don't add any latency.

    If no one got anything to add or any clever ways to save some dollars on the hardware I will put in the order upcoming weekend. I'll give it a couple of days just to see if others got some clever money saving tips for the listed components. Could be one or more components could be swapped without degrading the system performance.

    These two Q's are still not answered:

    Q 3: What about the Ryzen 7 2700x, is that overkill you think?

    Q 4: What components would you change to get an even lower price, while still keeping a responsive rig, with low latency audio during recording?

    Item Product Name Price
    ITX-Mini Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty X470 Gaming-ITX 169$
    Amd Ryzen 7 CPU Amd Ryzen 7 2700 CPU 149$
    SSD M.2 HP 512 GB 59$
    Ram Ecc/Reg Micron 2 x 16 GB RAM 153$
    Case Silverstone Milo 53$
    PSU Apeivia 300w PSU 29$
    Total -- 611$
    Last edited by piergen; 4 Weeks Ago at 09:50 AM.

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  5. #4
    Linux Newbie
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    -->
    You could potentially get a cheaper motherboard. You should also be fine with a Ryzen 5 if you do not need the extra cores (Quad core is still good) - I run a lot of VMs so like to have extra cores, but it costs more. You can drop to 16GB of RAM to save money - I have never found anything that needs even 16GB (apart from multiple VMs). I expect if you went for a Ryzen 5 with 16GB, you would save over $100 - adding a cheaper motherboard would save a fair bit more. I would probably then get a slightly better PSU.

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