The “LoftStudio” has gotten a major hardware and software upgrade. Because of the fact the old coputer, a DIY Intel i3 computer, decided to call it quits after having been a trusty companion for many years we had to buy a new computer. We bought an Acer Aspire with an Intel i5-9400 Hexacore(!) cpu on board, 8 GB of RAM, a Saumsung 256GB SSD and Western Digital 1TB Sata-disk.
We’re not going to bore you with lots of technical details but in the end we decided not only to upgrade the hardware but the software also. So we’ve installed Linux Mint 20 as well as Ardour6 and of course re-installed Mixbus5. For those that can understand Dutch, here’s an unboxing, test & review video.
For those of you interested: Ardour 6.x now comes with Linux 20, for free(!). It’s available in the Linux Software Manager as a free download. They do ask if you want to support them and as far as I’m concerned I’d say: Do so! If you use it on a regular base, just pay them for their efforts. It’s great software.
Of course we did some testing, after installing all the software. Here’s a video of a short recording session. Including a tip on how to get a nice, full, guitar sound.
It’s been quit here because we’ve been working on recording a few new songs. We finished them the day before the old computer broke down! The new album is getting close. Some of the tracks are available at Soundcloud (some are free downloads!) at https://soundcloud.com/barkingaunts.
A professional DAW for home recording doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg. First of all, there are many free solutions or nearly-free solutions. Like Ardour. It’s free (open source) software, if you’re using an older version that is. Like Ardour 4.x.
Harrison Mixbus is a digital audio workstation (DAW) available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. Mixbus provides a modern DAW model incorporating a “traditional” analog mixing workflow. It includes built in analog modeled processing, based on Harrison’s 32-series and MR-series analog music consoles. Mixbus is based on Ardour, the open source DAW, but is sold and marketed commercially by Harrison Audio Consoles (Wikipedia).
Installation took some time, you really do need to do this “step by step” following the (online) manual and I had some “problems” importing old projects from Ardour sessions (I thought it was compatible, but it isn’t 100% compatible with my Ardour 4.x version). But after about 30 minutes I was already doing my first (test)recording.
Mixbus5 looks a lot like Ardour (no surprise here!) but it’s more advanced. It’s also more demanding (CPU. Memory, Disk). Despite that, I got it workin smoothly on “light” ITX-computer using an Intel® Quad-Core Processor (J1900, 2 GHz) with 8GB RAM. On this machine I’m running Linux Mint as the OS.
Mixbus comes with a ton of features, plugins and the special offer included some additional plugins!
We will be moving soon to another house and there I will be having a bigger (lof)studio. Apart from a bigger room, I most certainly will need bigger monitor screens for this.. in fact, I will need/want two screens 🙂 This is just too much vor only one (small) screen.
I installed Mixbus5 on my desktop computer first for testing but it didn’t run smoothly on my SATA HDD. The disk simply can’t keep up. Mind you, it’s a fast Seagate disk, but SATA just can’t handle it too well.
My dedicated “DAW-computer” (the ITX) has an SSD disk and it runs smoothly. I did have time-outs sometimes, so I’ve installed a little utillity on my Linux ITX computer to prevent it from going in to “sleep” mode and have more performance (full cpu-usage). This fixed the time-outs.
I was planning to have some fun with it this weekend and perhaps create a short video about it but.. i fell ill and on top of that the power supply one of the hosting-servers died on me.. So had to go the the data center and fix that. I will post an update later!
What happens if you let someone who’s got great mixing skills as well is the writer of a good vocal plugin mix your track “just for the fun of it”? Recently we were recording a new song and our friend Jay H. from JHudStudio created an alternative mix. We liked it so much that we have decided to publish this mix instead of our own!
Jay H. is the author of the Vocal King plugin, and some other (free) plugins for Windows DAW’s. He put some good time and effort in our song and (re)mixed and produced it based on the original, unedited, stem-exports from our Ardour DAW. This resulted in an original, creative, mix of our song and we were so very pleased with it!
The song is now available as a free download at SoundCloud. We hope you like it. Feel free to share!
The mood of the song, as well as the style, is probably a “60’s” or “70’s” feel, in the vain of Bob Dylan, The Byrds and so on. Drums were created using Ditigtech TRIO, Bass, guitars and vocals by Rudy. Recorded using Ardour (Linux). Mixed & produced by Jay H. from JayHudStudio.
Installing Ardour, the Digital Audio Workstation, on Linux Mint or Ubuntu isn’t too difficult if you follow the steps shown in these tutorial videos.
Before you jump right in and start installing Ardour, you will need to download and install Jack Audio Server. Search for qJack or Jacl on your installer and install it. After that, configure it as it is shown at the website. You can edit the configuration files using a text editor like NANO from the command line or a graphical text editor. Please do apply them as you are told over here:
It’s slightly outdated since they use an older version of Jack but you will find the settings in qJack when you go to Setup → Settings → Advanced.
There’s a good reason to follow these steps because it will help you to install and configure realtime audio (and you will need this!) in a correct manner. The Realtime Audio will even turn a system with an onboard sound card into a good mixing and editing machine. For recording, I use a dedicated machine with KXStudio/Ardour with a 4-channel USB interface (Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD). But you might even be able to use a standard soundcard for recording (I have not tested this!).
Now you can install Ardour. And that’s easy! Open your software installer, type in [ Ardour ] in the search field (no brackets) and install it!
In the video below I will show the above mentioned steps.
– Audio (voice over) recorded using Ardour 4.0
– Video recorded with “record my desktop” and edited with kdenlive.
Did you ever want to record authentic sounding surfguitar and never found a good plugin to achieve that ‘surf sound’ with your guitar? Cranked up the reverb..? Searched for plugins creating the sound? Well,.. there’s no need to do this. In fact, lot’s of reverb won’t get you there in the first place. And there’s probably not a single plugin on the market that can recreate that sound. You’ll need to have a “chain” of three VST’s to create this sound. Here’s how to do this.
But, before I tell how you can create the “surf” sound (more or less) in your Home Studio (DAW) using a few free VST plugins, some about the music and why we, in the Netherlands, can relate to this type of music so well despite the fact it’s Californian.. It’s a sound so familiar to us Dutch people! Not because of the Shadows (although they were very popular in the Netherlands also) but because of the “Indo-rockers”!
Lot’s of reverb here but on the surfguitar you hear a “drip”.. or “slapback”. That’s what makes the surfguitar sound so unique. Oh, and for those that watched the full video: the man sounds like a genuine hardrock guitarist at some parts! Amazing considering the fact it was in the early sixties!
Now what, you might ask, is Indo-rock? From Wikipedia:
Indorock is a musical genre that originated in the 1950s in the Netherlands. It is a fusion of Indonesian and Western music, with roots in Kroncong (traditional Portuguese-Indonesian fusion music). The genre was invented by Indo repatriates in the Netherlands after Indonesian independence on August 17, 1945, and became popular especially in Germany. Indorock is one of the earliest forms of “Eurorock”. Its influence on Dutch popular music was immense.
So Indo-rock was around even before the surfguitar sound! Some even think that the “surfrock” sound was influenced by indo-rock because many of the Dutch Indonesians also had (have) relatives in Hawaii and the USA. But I’m afraid we’ll never be able to prove that.
And here’s another one. The Tielman Brothers, the most famous Indo-rockers of the Netherlands. A rather wild bunch! Ever seen a drummer play guitar with his drumsticks? Or a guitar player using his feet on the guitar? Check the below video!
I could go on and on about Indo-rock, the roots of it and so on. I won’t. As Wikipedia noted, it’s influence was huge on Dutch popmusic and the people from Indonesia had a big influence on our culture also (and still have today).
As you can imagine, these guys createdDutch Rock & Roll ..!
CREATING THE “SLAPBACK” SOUND!
Okay so here’s how to do it. As you might have guessed by now, I’m not trying to get a very pure ‘surf’ sound, I more likely got close to the Indo-rock sound (I hope). But if you play with the settings of the free VST’s below, you’ll get the surfguitar sound for sure.
To create the ‘slapback’ or ‘drip’ sound you will need to understand that back in the days they didn’t have much to work with. Guitar amps were pretty simple. They didn’t have nice spring reverb or digital reverb. If you wanted effects, you’d need to put them in front of the chain. So using a reverb on your guitar amp or adding it on a track does notwork well!
You will need the following VST-/effects chain beforethe amp or amp VST.
Delay – Kjearhus, free VST
Reverb – Kjearhus, free VST
Tremelo – SimulAnalog RednefTwin
Of course you can use other VST’s, as long as it’s a delay, reverb and Tremelo. Don’t “copy” the settings and expect miracles. Every guitar is different, every setup is. But it’s the chain I’ve got here and that’s what you’ll want to ‘copy’.
The delay has to be set to “analog”, very short, not sync’d and add some low cut and high cut (to your liking).You don’t need much. It will create the needed short slapback. Play around with it to get it as you like it.
Next up: the reverb.
I like a huge reverb, set to about 25% to the mix. This is, of course, a matter of taste. For a genuine surfguitar sound you might need to turn it up even more.
I use the “Rednef Twin” VST plugin. It’s a Fender Twin 1969 (Guitar amplifier). So close to the era we’re looking for. Apart from that, it has a Tremelo (speed, intens) available.
It’s a free VST and if memory served me well I’ve downloaded it from SimulAnalog’s website. It’s part of the “guitar suite” and one of the VST’s I probably used the most.
It doesn’t look like the most (commercial) VST’s but it works very well. There’s a good reason for it’s “looks”. From the website:
“This suite is not a commercial product. It is born inside an academic research project about the modelling of electric devices, and then applied to the musical instrument field as an evolution of the techniques currently available in some commercial units. Its most important feature is the extremely high precision of the simulation, which is about indistinguishable from the original sound“.
Some time ago I was discussing recording software with an online friend of mine. He stated that “none of the professional studios uses Linux”. Or similar words. Is that so? Is recording using Linux not professional?
I happen to have a ‘recording career’ at my home studio using Windows software. I’ve used many programs over the years like LogicStudio (back when it was Windows-based, using Windows2000), QuartzStudio, EnergyXT, Audacity, Magix Music Maker and Mixcraft.
They are all Windows-based. I recorded using Windows2000, WindowsXP, Windows7 and Windows 8.1. Apart from recording with the above software there’s also a long, very long, list of programs I’ve tried and tested. So far Mixcraft has been the most productive Windows-environment for me.
I’ve also used Garageband on a macbook (not mine). That’s a rather nice recording environment also but too expensive for me (a macbook that is). Apart from the fact I’m not that experienced with Apple.
Finally – I have over 30 years of experience as an IT-professional. I worked with many platforms like MsDOS, OS2/Warp, AS400, Windows (3.11, NT, Win2000 up to Windows10), AIX, FreeBSD (UNIX), RS600, Linux (debian. centos, ubuntu). So, yes. I know some about computers and operating systems.
I’ve also worked with other studios in the past. All three of them used ProTools. Period. As I was discussing this with one of the studio owners and asked why he wasn’t using Windows (he had a Windows computer for other tasks) for recording he said to me: “I would need to buy new hardware again. I’m not going to do that”.
So, .. quality of the Windows, or Linux, platform does not seem to be the reason. It’s the investment they will need to do when switching to another platform for recording.
About a year ago I decided to stop recording in my living room (I had been doing this for years) and create a studio in one of the empty bedrooms. For this I decided I wanted to have a dedicated computer.
Since I have a lot of experience with Linux (I have a webhosting company) I decided to give Linux a try. There was no big investment needed except for a new computer. I started with an audio distro with Ubuntu including Ardour. Ubuntu was giving me issues though, since it was having troubles with my brand new computer. It didn’t support the BIOS too well so it seems. It crashed every 15 minutes. So did Windows10, btw.
The Ardour digital audio workstation is a beautiful creation. You can group tracks arbitrarily (great for streamlining editing), it supports unlimited tracks (until your computer keels over), it has a soundcard picker if you have more than one, processes at 32-bits internally, supports very flexible signal routing, support networked audio, and a way lot more (Linux.com).
So far I’ve recorded lot’s of songs using it, including the 2nd album of Mirjam Tamara. The song below is one of the tracks recorded at the studio. Mixing and mastering done with Ardour.
So it worked out pretty well for me. Question still stands. Is recording with Linux professional or not? Well, listen to the above and you’ll be the judge. Or some of the other tracks recorded with Ardour – for example this track.
PRO’s and CON’s of Linux Recording
I’m not a die-hard Linux fan and I’m not biased. If the new setup didn’t work out for me back than, I would have installed Windows with Mixcraft. Since I know that works fine too. For me, it doesn’t matter what operating system I use, as long as it works well, stable and gets the job done.
..”there is loads of excellent free music software available for Linux. Arguably much better than the free audio software for Windows” (Envato)
I still use Mixcraft a lot for mixing sometimes and recording a quick demo. It’s a great program and it’s not too expensive. So if you’re on a low budget, allready have a windows-based system and need a program to record go get it. The official website can be found here: https://www.acoustica.com/mixcraft/.
Linux is Open Source software. So, .. it’s free. No license fees;
Linux is super stable! Some deny this, but let’s face it. Over 80% of all the webservers on this earh run Linux. Android is Linux-based. Even Microsoft and Amazon use Linux. If Linux would be unstable, they’d never use it. Period.
Ardour is also Open Source. The Ardour recording software that comes bundled with KXStudio is also free;
It supports USB audio, just like Windows does. So I could simple re-use all of the other hardware (mixer, amp. speakers and so on);
It’s a complete distro. Meaning: the download contains all you need to get going;
KXStudio/Ardour comes with a lot of plugins. Reverb? Compression? Mastering? EQ? It’s all there. And lots and lots more. And yes, free…
Need more plugins? “Google is your friend”, ..
It’s easy to use;
It supports multiple inputs at once (2 on USB since USB is only 2 channels);
After the installation I managed to get it working within about 15 minutes. I did my first recordings the same day. Didn’t need to look at the (online) documentation. Especially, of course, since I’ve got previous recording experience. If recording is new to you, it will be hard to start on Linux. It will also be hard to start on Windows. Or Apple’s platform. You’ll need to learn a lot. No matter what platform you use.
When you’re used to recording with Windows and have a Windows-based DAW you probably have some VST’s you like. They say they won’t work on Linux. At least, not without a lot of hassle. Well, .. is that true? Steinberg has been changing the recording world in the past. And it’s doing so again. Steinberg brings VST to Linux. And, according to the manual (yes, Read The Fantastic Manual aka RTFM) Ardour does support VST 2.x.
Windows VST’s are (of course) NOT supported.
Difficult to use!
Some claim Linux is difficult to use. Well, if you’re a long time Apple user it isn’t. If you’re a staunch Windows user you might need to learn some new stuff but you’ll learn after some time.
IS IT PROFESSIONAL?
Okay – so I said you shold be the judge based on the audio provided and based on the pro’s and con’s.
Most important question to ask: what is your goal and budget? If you’re aiming to record demo’s or your bands first album, you could of course invest thousands of dollars or euro’s in a professional recording setup. Or go to a professional studio and record a few weeks over there. You’ll be burning a lot of money. If money ain’t no issue for you, don’t even consider starting home recording. Go into an expensive studio, don’t look at what they use for recording and be creative.
We’re talking home recording here. If you compare the free Linux distro’s to the free Windows solutions, linux distro’s will beat them (see quote above). Hands down. Superb audio. Easy to use. You’ve got all the tools you need. It can use old hardware.
Professional studio’s use ProTools most of the time (see before) but there are also studio’s using Windows-based solutions or .. Linux based solutions. The aim is to get the best audio possible recorded to a computer. You can do that on any platform these days. So yes. It’s professional. The fact it’s got no paid-for license model doesn’t mean it’s not professional. Not at all.
There are other distro’s available. Ubuntu Studio is a very well known distribution and it’s available here: https://ubuntustudio.org/
As I’ve mentioned, it didn’t work (back than) on my Celeron based system. Might work very well on other systems. Just download and test. It’s free anyway. 🙂