[GLLUG] Seemingly Simple Question

Jan Henkins jan at henkins.za.net
Wed Nov 4 16:09:34 UTC 2015

Hello Leo,

On 2015-11-04 15:21, Leo Francisco wrote:
> Yep, in fact I also would have to get a USB interface if I wanted to
> experiment with audio production under Linux. The Focusrite Sapphire 
> series are all reported to work perfectly under Linux as it's USB2 
> class
> compliant. My friend has one, so I can test it before I get my own and
> they have decent pre-amps.

Well, there you go! There is no better recommendation than what you can 
see working with your own eyes (and ears)! :-)

> Great advice there on all fronts. I think I'm going to go for T410 and
> max it out at 8GB RAM and an SSD like you recommended. It's 
> considerably
> cheaper, so I can go for a larger SSD. That should be faster than what
> I'm used to, as my Macbook Pro only has a Seagate Hybrid Drive which
> isn't a proper SSD.

I'm not sure whether the T410 can handle more than 8Gb RAM, but I would 
be sorely tempted to see whether it is possible to lift RAM to 16Gb and 
"downgrade" to the fastest spinning rust drive available. There is 
something to be said for fitting your entire Ardour/Bitwig/Reason 
project into memory. Still, nothing wrong with 8Gb RAM and a decent size 
SSD! :-)

> Is Ubuntu Studio ready to go in terms of audio recording/Jack
> configuration? I haven't had the chance to test it yet. The combination
> of Jack and a real time kernel has so much potential. Can't wait to 
> play
> more with Bitwig studio as well. I use Ableton on OSX, so I could
> foresee myself completely moving to Linux for audio some day.

Yes, Ubuntu Studio 14.04 LTS and 15.04 (will test 15.10 coming weekend) 
Jack works out of the box. You will still have to tweak values to get 
the best out of your particular hardware, but the default setup is 
already usable. Studio comes with a "low latency" kernel, not a 
"real-time" one. I am not sure when this came about (and what the merits 
of low-latency vs. real-time is), but in practise things works 

I have downloaded BitWig a week ago, and is in the process of playing 
with it in demo mode. Very nice indeed, albeit a bit expensive for the 
likes of me (I am not currently a pro musician, although I was many 
years ago). Ardour4 is worth getting to know as well, and it is also 
cross-platform (Mac/Win/Lin). The current code-base for Ardour4 is so 
solid and feature-rich that I really battle to find a reason for BitWig 
for my level of usage. You might find things otherwise, since BitWig is 
huge on streamlining workflow and so forth.

OK, enought babble from me. Suffice to say that you will find pro audio 
on Linux to be in excellent health these days, and a real adventure (in 
a positive sense) when it comes to things like VST plugins (no AU plugin 
capabilities, that remains a Mac-only thing).

Jan Henkins

> On 04/11/15 10:38, Jan Henkins wrote:
>> Hi Leo!
>> Legacy does not always mean "bad"! :-) Still, I would seriously
>> suggest that you start budgeting for a more modern USB2/3 audio
>> interface, and research what works with Linux. Latency over USB (even
>> USB1) is not what it used to be, you can get near zero latency with
>> Ubuntu Studio on an old 64-bit Linux machine. I mostly use an external
>> USB2 (backwards compatible to USB1) ART Tube interface on both my
>> Ideapad Z360 (1st-Gen i5, probably the same age as your Apple) and
>> much older Thinkpad X200 (Core2-Duo), and I rarely get any XRUNS
>> recording at 24-bit 48k. I do get XRUNS on the old X200 (but not on my
>> Z360) when I use my Edirol interface and record at 24-bit 96k, but
>> that is mostly due to the age and slowness of the USB chipset in the
>> old Thinkpad.
>>>> My question is mainly, which one do people recommend for my use
>>>> case? I do a lot of lugging equipment around the UK (and Europe), so
>>>> that would push me towards the X220.
>> The X220 is an exceptional machine with reportedly excellent battery
>> life [1]. I can remember reading a review of it written by Cory
>> Doctorow (SciFi writer/digital activist) where he sung its praises. He
>> uses Ubuntu exclusively, so there is no issues with Linux
>> compatibility [2].
>>>> I've seen the more expensive X220 occasionally for sale with a i7
>>>> but the T410 with only an i5. My Macbook has a dual core i5 with 8GB
>>>> of RAM and 1TB hybrid drive and has a similar form factor to the
>>>> cheaper T410. Would there be a big performance gap between the i7
>>>> X220 and the i5 T410? I will go for an SSD in either and a good
>>>> trackpad is a must.
>> There will be a big difference in performance between the two from a
>> normal computing perspective, although the T410 is also a fine
>> machine. However, I don't believe that the performance differences
>> between the i5 and i7 CPUs will make a massive difference for music
>> production, because the real bottle-neck would be I/O related (USB or
>> FireWire bus, as well as speed of HDD), and of course RAM. Therefore
>> an i5 spec T410 with a decently specified SDD won't neccessarily have
>> to stand back to an i7 spec X220 with a "spinning rust" drive. If you
>> do only one thing, upgrade whatever laptop you use to the max with
>> RAM, so that you get as much in memory as possible. That way you
>> minimise hitting the HDD, which is always the slowest part of the data
>> chain.
>> One last point - as good as your old Firewire audio interface might
>> be, it is going to start seriously impacting your future technology
>> choices. If getting rid of the Firewire interface is not an option,
>> consider getting yourself a cheap desktop machine for home production
>> use that is easily upgradable with a Firewire interface card, which
>> would mean that you can still use the audio interface for home studio
>> purposes. By contrast, USB interfaces are becoming scarily good these
>> days, and they are also getting a lot smaller and lighter. My ART Tube
>> interface is a relic by comparison, and almost three times the weight
>> (as well as twice the size) of it's (sadly non-tube) replacement
>> model. Also, USB interfaces are also relatively cheap, you can get
>> excellent interfaces between £80-£300 depending on your use-case. How
>> many interface channels do you need?
>> Last thoughts: Your choice between the T410 and X220 is largely
>> academic IMHO, they are both "boringly good". If you are
>> price-sensitive, the T410 might be the best immediate choice, although
>> the technical excellence of the X220 could be the winning factor in
>> the end. I would play a pricing game between the two, pricing up the
>> individual upgrade paths and doing a post-upgrade pricing comparison.
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Jan Henkins

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